Category Archives: Economic development

So Much More than a Tiger

By Bolaji Ojo – The foundation for what Taiwan is today and what will be years from now were laid decades ago by successive leaders in government and private sectors who elevated the island above natural and geopolitical obstacles to ensure its survival.

Taiwan – also known as the Republic of China – is not at risk of extinction. Rapid economic growth catapulted Taiwan into the group of countries economists like to describe as Asian Tigers, but the island plays an even more central role in the high-tech ecosystem.

It is today headquarters to some of the better-known players in the electronics industry, amongst them Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., the world’s biggest chip foundry. Foxconn, the No. 1 global contract manufacturer and a Top 5 high-tech company by sales, calls Taiwan home, as does WPG Holdings, a leading distributor of electronic components. Taiwan is a major supplier of PCBs to OEMs and EMS providers and is host to AU Optronics Corp., one of the biggest suppliers of displays for smartphones, PCs and laptops.

Taiwan’s challenge this time is finding a way to respond to China’s ascendance and staving off rivals elsewhere. Taiwan was one of the forces behind the emergence of China as a heavyweight in the electronics supply chain. The huge investments of money and expertise poured into China by Taiwan, Japan and other Western countries helped to turn the Communist country into a manufacturing hub for the electronics industry. For Taiwan, though, China presents a conundrum; It has become both a beneficiary of and a victim of China’s explosive growth. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Why policy makers should nudge more
By Alex Verkhivker – When policy makers around the world want to influence their constituents’ behavior, they have a few options. They can offer a carrot, such as a tax incentive, stipend, or other reward. They can use the legislative stick by passing a mandate or a ban.

But research suggests they should turn more often to a third tool, a “nudge,” which in many cases is the most cost-effective option.

Nudging is the word used in behavioral science for structuring policies and programs in ways that encourage, but don’t compel, particular choices. For instance, requiring people to opt out of rather than into a program, such as a retirement savings plan, might nudge them toward participating. So might reducing the paperwork necessary to enroll. more>

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Updates from Siemens

Automotive manufacturing and autonomous vehicles
By Dave Lauzun – Automotive manufacturing has been happening for a long time, but when most people think of automotive manufacturing, they imagine a moving assembly line. The moving assembly line revolutionized how vehicle manufacturers produce cars, but it wasn’t always the go-to process.

As vehicles were first beginning to be built at the turn of twentieth century, vehicle manufacturers typically built the whole car at once. It was a time-consuming, costly process that kept cars out of most consumers’ hands.

In 1913, over at Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford wanted to cut down on the time and cost associated with building the Model T. He needed to find an efficient way to build this car, and he came up with idea of being able to “productionize” the Model T through a moving assembly line. In this assembly line, the Model T production was broken down into 84 steps, and employees were trained to do just one step.

The results of this change were enormous for Ford Motor Company. The automaker drastically reduced the time it took to build the Model T from 12 hours to 90 minutes. The cost savings in manpower and time to produce the vehicle on the assembly line also meant the company could drop the price of the Model T from $850 to $300.

How will automakers turn their focus away from research and development and toward the mass production of autonomous vehicles? And, how can that mass production be economically viable for their business and for their customers? more>

Capitalism Redefined

BOOK REVIEW

Theory of Value, Author: Gerard Debreu.
The Origin of Wealth, Author: Eric Beinhocker.

By Nick Hanauer and Eric Beinhocker – For everyone but the top 1 percent of earners, the American economy is broken.

Since the 1980s, there has been a widening disconnect between the lives lived by ordinary Americans and the statistics that say our prosperity is growing. Despite the setback of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy more than doubled in size during the last three decades while middle-class incomes and buying power have stagnated. Great fortunes were made while many baby boomers lost their retirement savings. Corporate profits reached record highs while social mobility reached record lows, lagging behind other developed countries.

These facts don’t just highlight the issues of inequality and the growing power of a plutocracy. They should also force us to ask a deeper set of questions about how our economy works—and, crucially, about how we assess and measure the very idea of economic progress.

How can it be that great wealth is created on Wall Street with products like credit-default swaps that destroyed the wealth of ordinary Americans—and yet we count this activity as growth?

Likewise, fortunes are made manufacturing food products that make Americans fatter, sicker, and shorter-lived. And yet we count this as growth too—including the massive extra costs of health care.

Global warming creates more frequent hurricanes, which destroy cities and lives. Yet the economic activity to repair the damage ends up getting counted as growth as well.

Great debates rage about whether to raise or lower interest rates, or increase or decrease regulation, and our political system has been paralyzed by a bitter ideological struggle over the budget. But there is too little debate about what it is all for.

Hardly anyone ever asks: What kind of growth do we want? What does “wealth” mean? And what will it do for our lives? more>

America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People

BOOK REVIEW

The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, Author: Peter Temin.

By Lynn Parramore – America is not one country anymore. It is becoming two, each with vastly different resources, expectations, and fates.

In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good jobs, and sleep soundly knowing that they have not only enough money to meet life’s challenges, but also social networks to bolster their success.

They grow up with parents who read books to them, tutors to help with homework, and plenty of stimulating things to do and places to go. They travel in planes and drive new cars. The citizens of this country see economic growth all around them and exciting possibilities for the future. They make plans, influence policies, and count themselves as lucky to be Americans.

The FTE citizens rarely visit the country where the other 80 percent of Americans live: the low-wage sector.

Here, the world of possibility is shrinking, often dramatically. People are burdened with debt and anxious about their insecure jobs if they have a job at all.

Many of them are getting sicker and dying younger than they used to. They get around by crumbling public transport and cars they have trouble paying for. Family life is uncertain here; people often don’t partner for the long-term even when they have children. If they go to college, they finance it by going heavily into debt. They are not thinking about the future; they are focused on surviving the present. The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in.

While members of the first country act, these people are acted upon.

Temin uses a famous economic model created to understand developing nations to describe how far inequality has progressed in the United States. For the first time, this model is applied with systematic precision to the U.S.

The result is profoundly disturbing. more>

Robots at the gate: Humans and technology at work


Barclays – Humans have often had a cautious relationship with new technology, particularly when it causes widespread disruption in the workforce. Yet historically, technological advances have not resulted in fewer jobs available to humans, but rather have led to the creation of new opportunities. Farriers and saddlemakers were hit hard when cars replaced horse carriages, but the petrol stations, mechanics, motels and related industries that sprung up created new, yet different, types of jobs.

More recently, the smartphone is a great example of technological advances creating new forms of work. Twenty years ago, mobile app developer was not a job; today, millions of such developers are at work around the world.

One of the most influential economists of all time, David Ricardo, flip-flopped on the issue. In 1821, he stated that while was a general good, he was now more worried about the substitution effect on labor. And the discussion was not always academic – the Luddite movement was an early example of workers resorting to violence to protest the use of technology in textile factories.

As the decades passed, the Industrial Revolution led to a visible, massive improvement in living standards. But the debate – on how technology affects work and whether it is an unequivocal positive – continued to wax and wane.

Machine learning represents a fundamental change. It is a subset of the much-abused term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and is grounded in statistics and mathematical optimization. The computer is fed vast data sets and a few general parameters to point it in the right direction. Then, the machine executes simulations of how biological neurons behave, uses that to recognize recurring sequences in the data, and writes its own rules.

Suddenly, it is no longer limited to applying algorithms that
a human wrote; the machine is designing its own. more (pdf)>

Updates from Siemens

Build your design on the strongest platform Modeling Technology Platform
Siemens – Convergent modeling technology in NX gives anyone the ability to perform faceted-based modeling without the need for data conversion. By combining facet, surface and solid modeling in a single integrated environment, NX eliminates the need for reverse engineering. You can simply model with the topology optimization results directly. Convergent Modeling, compared with traditional modeling techniques, is 10 times faster.

Modeling is amazingly fast and intuitive with NX – you have the freedom to modify 3D geometry without understanding how models were constructed, using simple push-and-pull methods. For greater versatility, you can use synchronous modeling interchangeably with all other CAD modeling tools – on NX models or geometry from any other source. more>

The Failures of Globalism

BOOK REVIEW

Us Vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism, Author: Ian Bremmer.

By Gabrielle Levy – If the six and a half decades that followed the end of World War II were a triumph of globalism, an era of prosperity and peace as the world grew increasingly interconnected, the second decade of the 21st century has seen the rise of a new populism that has pushed back.

Convulsions of anger – at corrupt government elites, at the floods of refugees fleeing sectarian conflict, at the loss of jobs as workers are increasingly replaced by automation and artificial intelligence – culminated in the pair of 2016 events, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, that turned conventional wisdom on its head.

The biggest piece, I think, has already happened. When globalism started, after World War II was over, the United States recognized that we never want to have a flight like that again, so we’ve got to do something about it. We’re going to rebuild our former enemies – the Germans, the Japanese – and we’re going to build the United Nations.

More broadly, as it continues, it’s going to be a lot of opposition to the United States sending troops fighting in other people’s battles, like we’ve seen in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria. It’s going to be a lot less support for immigration into the U.S., unless you’ve got a skill set or a lot of money, and we’re already seeing that start to happen.

And it’s possibly going to lead to more trade disputes, certainly in terms of big technology, where, instead of having one global free market, we end up having much more fragmentation of a marketplace with more strategic sectors.

And some of that is because the United States is not willing to promote free multilateral trade organizations, but some of it is because the Chinese are building an alternative system that has no global free trade at all.

It’s all just going to be linked to Beijing. So when you put that all together, you start to see what the future of this world will look like.

Globalization can turn a virtuous cycle into a vicious one – where globalization improves people’s lives, only to raise their expectations. That, in turn, raises frustrations when those expectations are met.

In China, the growing middle class and the rising wages risk threatening the very economic engine – cheap labor – that made that progress possible. Can developing countries avoid this trap? more>

The Big Shift

How American Democracy Fails Its Way to Success
By Walter Russell Mead – As Americans struggle to make sense of a series of uncomfortable economic changes and disturbing political developments, a worrying picture emerges: of ineffective politicians, frequent scandals, racial backsliding, polarized and irresponsible news media, populists spouting quack economic remedies, growing suspicion of elites and experts, frightening outbreaks of violence, major job losses, high-profile terrorist attacks, anti-immigrant agitation, declining social mobility, giant corporations dominating the economy, rising inequality, and the appearance of a new class of super-empowered billionaires in finance and technology-heavy industries.

That, of course, is a description of American life in the 35 years after the Civil War.

The United States is passing through something similar today. The information revolution is disrupting the country’s social and economic order as profoundly as the Industrial Revolution did.

The ideologies and policies that fit American society a generation ago are becoming steadily less applicable to the problems it faces today.

It is, in many ways, a stressful and anxious time to be alive.

And that anxiety has prompted a pervasive sense of despair about American democracy—a fear that it has reached a point of dysfunction and decay from which it will never recover. more>

Renewing America’s economic promise through older industrial cities

By Alan Berube and Cecile Murray – Despite a robust national economy, deep regional divides persist with technology hubs in the coastal states pulling away from the nation’s industrial Heartland. This growing regional inequality poses serious economic, social, and political consequences for the nation.

The middling performance of communities with historically strong manufacturing cores is a key feature of America’s uneven economic growth. These so-called older industrial cities, predominantly located in the Midwest and Northeast, have struggled over time to grow jobs in new sectors and to boost employment and income, particularly for their communities of color.

They range from very large cities like Baltimore and Detroit, to smaller communities like Schenectady, New York, and Terre Haute, Indiana.

With increasing interest in local, state, and national policies to revive the fortunes of struggling communities, older industrial cities represent promising regions for strategic investment and critical centers for promoting inclusive economic growth. more>