Category Archives: Economic development

How Capitalism Actually Generates More Inequality

By Geoffrey M. Hodgson – At least nominally, capitalism embodies and sustains an Enlightenment agenda of freedom and equality.

Typically there is freedom to trade and equality under the law, meaning that most adults – rich or poor – are formally subject to the same legal rules. But with its inequalities of power and wealth, capitalism nurtures economic inequality alongside equality under the law.

Today, in the USA, the richest 1 per cent own 34 per cent of the wealth and the richest 10 per cent own 74 per cent of the wealth. In the UK, the richest 1 per cent own 12 per cent of the wealth and the richest 10 per cent own 44 per cent of the wealth. In France the figures are 24 cent and 62 per cent respectively. The richest 1 percent own 35 percent of the wealth in Switzerland, 24 per cent in Sweden and 15 percent in Canada.

To what extent can inequalities of income or wealth be attributed to the fundamental institutions of capitalism, rather than a residual landed aristocracy, or other surviving elites from the pre-capitalist past? A familiar mantra is that markets are the source of inequality under capitalism. Can markets be blamed for inequality?

In real-world markets different sellers or buyers vary hugely in their capacities to influence prices and other outcomes. When a seller has sufficient salable assets to affect market prices, then strategic market behavior is possible to drive out competitors.

Would more competition, with greater numbers of market participants, fix this problem? If markets per se are to be blamed for inequality, then it has to be shown that competitive markets also have this outcome. more>

The Liberal Conception Of ‘Freedom’ Is Incapable Of Addressing The Problems Of Contemporary Capitalism

By Andrea Lorenzo Capussela – In a forthcoming book, Branko Milanović identifies four ‘troublesome features’ in ‘meritocratic liberal capitalism’.

In its simplest form, liberal theory – equal rights for all citizens, which guarantee their freedom, which is in turn conceived as absence of interference – has no obvious answer to those problems. For if freedom is non-interference, then it is compatible with both inequality and private domination, at least within certain bounds, as neither directly interferes with people’s individual choices.

Indeed, accepting precarious employment is a choice. And as liberals cannot say that Milanović’s four ‘troublesome features’ pose a fundamental challenge to their idea of a good society, their answer is a Ptolemaic one: sets of diverse, if potentially effective remedies such as redistribution, poverty relief, active labor market policies, civic education, and policing fake-news.

For the liberal conception of freedom is not the only conceivable one. Another notion, equally negative, is the republican or neo-roman one, which views freedom as non-domination. If I depend on someone else’s arbitrary will, or am subject to their enormous and unchecked power, I am not free, irrespective of how that power is exercised.

Hence the paradox of the ‘free slave’, frequent in republican literature: liberal theory implies that the slave who has a kind master is free, as she suffers no interference in her choices; republicans object that this depends entirely on the master’s benevolence, which can be revoked at will and may have to be cultivated: domination and unfreedom remain, therefore, and typically lead to self-censorship and a slavish mentality. more>

Updates from Siemens

Multi-Discipline Data Management for Electronics
Siemens – Integrated hardware and software design and testing on electronic products are now part of a system of delivery needs, which can only be enforced by a tightly integrated and unified multi-discipline platform.

Manage multi-disciplinary engineering teams with an integrated approach to engineering lifecycle management that leverages integrated requirements management, secure supplier collaboration and an engineering management platform that combines mechanical, electronic and software co-design and co-simulation in a single collaborative environment.

Today’s electronic devices are a synthesis of multiple designs—mechanical, electrical, electronics, embedded software and application software. In addition, because of rapid development, many hardware features remain unexplored and under-managed resulting in sub-optimal integration between hardware and software.

The disadvantages of operating in different single-discipline platforms and the increasing role of global suppliers in early stages of design are driving engineering organizations to invest in multi-domain integration strategies to ensure the system works flawlessly. more>

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Self-Driving Vehicles: What Will Happen to Truck Drivers?

By Andrew Yang – You would have to have been asleep these past years not to have noticed that manufacturing jobs have been disappearing in large numbers. In 2000 there were still 17.5 million manufacturing workers in the U.S. Then, the numbers fell off a cliff, plummeting to less than 12 million before rebounding slightly starting in 2011.

More than 5 million manufacturing workers lost their jobs after 2000. More than eighty percent of the jobs lost – or 4 million jobs – were due to automation. Men make up 73% of manufacturing workers, so this hit working class men particularly hard. About one in six working-age men in America is now out of the workforce, one of the highest rates among developed countries.

What happened to these 5 million workers? A rosy economist might imagine that they found new manufacturing jobs, or were retrained and reskilled for different jobs, or maybe they moved to another state for greener pastures.

In reality, many of them left the workforce. One Department of Labor survey in 2012 found that 41 percent of displaced manufacturing workers between 2009 and 2011 were either still unemployed or dropped out of the labor market between within three years of losing their jobs.

This is a good indicator of what will occur when truck drivers lose their jobs. Truck drivers’ average age is 49, 94% are male, and they are typically high school graduates. Driving a truck is the most popular job in 29 states – there are 3.5 million truck drivers nationwide. more>

Updates from Georgia Tech

Finally, a Robust Fuel Cell that Runs on Methane at Practical Temperatures
By Ben Brumfield – Fuel cells have not been particularly known for their practicality and affordability, but that may have just changed. There’s a new cell that runs on cheap fuel at temperatures comparable to automobile engines and which slashes materials costs.

Though the cell is in the lab, it has high potential to someday electrically power homes and perhaps cars, say the researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology who led its development. In a new study in the journal Nature Energy the researchers detailed how they reimagined the entire fuel cell with the help of a newly invented fuel catalyst.

The catalyst has dispensed with high-priced hydrogen fuel by making its own out of cheap, readily available methane. And improvements throughout the cell cooled the seething operating temperatures that are customary in methane fuel cells dramatically, a striking engineering accomplishment. more>

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Is The Monetary System Facing The Risk Of Recession?

By Francesc Raventós – The International Monetary Fund, other economic institutions, politicians, experts, and a good number of indicators predict a new economic downturn. The causes will be diverse but the significant one is that debt worldwide has grown at an exaggerated rate.

According to the report of the International Finance Institute, IIF, global debt is $247-plus trillion, 318% of GDP.

In the 2000s or noughties an expansive fiscal and monetary policy with low interest rates generated significant public deficits, a strong increase in borrowing and created a stock market and real estate bubble that erupted in 2007, forcing central banks to push for a huge monetary expansion – Quantitative Easing – to get out of the crisis eventually.

With a lot of financial liquidity in the market at a cost close to zero, the economy has regained growth and, for now, inflation is under control. But the economic cycle cannot be considered closed until central banks’ debt and interest rates return to normal. Trust in the International Monetary System, and the main currencies remains, but if some day trust in one important currency is lost, the situation would be very delicate.

Now the economic recovery has been achieved, it is time to gradually restore debt and interest rates to reasonable levels (aka tapering). The US Federal Reserve (Fed) has already increased its interest rate and announced that it will continue to do so.

The consequences have been immediate, with the withdrawal of investments from emerging countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, India or Turkey, to invest in American bonds. The European Central Bank (ECB) has also announced that by the end of 2018 it will stop buying debt and that interest rates will rise as the economy improves (but not before the summer of 2019).

What will be the consequences of tapering?

Will it destabilize the economy?

What are the risks of entering a new recession?

Will the current monetary system resist?

How will the governments that are highly indebted deal with recession? more>

The Steps in Creating a Digital Twin

By Don Wilcher – Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are making major impacts in the healthcare, advanced manufacturing, agriculture, and consumer electronics vertical markets. The ability to predict behaviors and trends or classify objects based on physical traits is accomplished through AI and ML technologies. With the aid of an Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure, a digital twin can be created.

Developing a digital twin requires the meshing of physical properties with an information communication technology (ICT) framework and software for data visualization. This data visualization represents real world events and characteristics of physical objects and processes.

In an industrial control process, the ability to monitor physical stimuli, such as temperature, pressure, vibration, and force, is important to the product manufacturer. Such physical stimuli affect the feel, function, and look of the manufactured product. To ensure the quality of the product meets the requirements of the customer, a specification is developed.

The traditional method of using specifications was based on building a physical prototype for testing and data collection. Continuous building of the target physical prototype to adjust the function of the product is costly and time consuming.

However, the digital twin can address functional concerns through a visual representation of the physical prototype. A digital twin is a virtual replica of the physical prototype. more>

Reversing The Globalisation Backlash

By Colin Crouch – In The Globalization Paradox Dani Rodrik argued that we have a choice among democracy, national sovereignty and hyper-globalization, a trilemma, and that we could have any two of these but not all three.

‘Hyper-globalization’ clearly implies the neoliberal ideal of a totally unregulated world economy. Democracy separated from the nation state – the only form of democracy ‘capable’ of dealing with the global economy – implies global democracy, which is impossible to achieve.

A non-democratic nation state is compatible with hyper-globalization, because it implies a national ‘sovereignty’ willing to accept governance by the market and corporate power alone. This seems to lead to the conclusion that we can preserve democracy only by limiting political ambitions to the nation state and seeking to use it somehow to evade globalization.

National politicians need freely to admit that there are problems that are beyond their reach, that they need to cooperate with others within international agencies. Governments’ policies within those agencies must then become fiercely debated within national politics.

Is it unrealistic to imagine a general election in which an opposition made a major issue out of a government’s failure to work with other countries within the WTO to suppress slavery, child labor and inhuman working hours?

If Donald Trump had demanded the incorporation of International Labor Organization standards within the rules of the WTO instead of retreating into protectionism, he would have made a major contribution to good global economic governance. more>

LiDAR Has Applications Beyond Automotive

By Charles Murray – Merlin Friesen, founder of embedded systems developer Golden Gate Research Inc., says that LiDAR is evolving faster than most engineers realize, thanks to the hard work of dozens of startups that foresee a practical future for the technology. “There’s really been an explosion of companies building LiDAR,” Friesen told Design News.

“It’s hard to keep track. There are 70 or 80 companies now. Just in the last six months, we’re seeing new names.”

Friesen’s message might come as a surprise to engineers who follow the auto industry and who understand how costly LiDAR systems can be. But, he said, self-driving cars are a demanding application that call for features that may not be needed in industrial robots and drones. Rotating LiDAR units, for example, are the norm in autonomous car applications, but are unnecessary for many industrial applications. Similarly, industrial units may not need GPS systems, accelerometers, or gyroscopes.

Friesen added that the new, smaller LiDAR units have also made in-roads into other mobile applications. His company has incorporated LiDAR sensors weighing a few hundred grams in drones for mapping.

In essence, the end goal for such applications is not much different than automotive, he said. “It’s very similar in that you’re looking for obstacles, calculating the distance to the obstacles, and then trying to move your device,” he told us. more>

Updates from Siemens

Equipment Design
Siemens – Deliver greater innovation in equipment design at higher quality and lower cost with comprehensive 3D product design capabilities for all Energy & Utility industry verticals. Our 3D CAD solutions provide a fully integrated and intuitive solution suite of broad and deep, best-in-class capabilities.

We enable your design teams to explore multiple design approaches so you can stay ahead of customer demands in rapidly changing industries like shale oil and renewable power generation. Quickly arrive at the most cost-effective, innovative and functional products that today’s Energy & Utility Owner-Operators demand to keep their operations both competitive and compliant.

The Energy & Utilities industry is accustomed to technical innovation and change. However, global megatrends such as the rise of alternative energy and prolonged low commodity prices are having a disruptive effect on the entire industry.

For energy equipment OEMs, changes in the competitive landscape and more demanding customer requirements are forcing improvements in functionality and performance while driving down the total cost of ownership. Equipment designs must be smarter, more responsive, and economical, in addition to exceeding durability requirements under more demanding conditions and operating environments. more>

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