*From Poverty to Prosperity* watch

That's the title of the new and self-recommending book by Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz.  This work has text by the authors, interspersed with interviews with famous economists, including Robert Fogel, Robert Solow, Joel Mokyr, Doug North, Bill Easterly, Edmund Phelps, Amar Bhide, William Lewis, and Bill Baumol.  Here is Paul Romer:

It's the kind of culture that can tolerate rap music and extreme sports that can also create space for guys like Page and Brin and Google.  That's one of our hidden strengths.

You can buy the book here.  The subtitle is Intangible Assets, Hidden Liabilities and the Lasting Triumph over Scarcity.


What a jackass. I would much rather have rap and extreme sports than Google (and, yes, I work in tech). Believe it or not, these things are culture even if the wine sipping, going to the symphony but sleeping through the same Beethoven piece you heard last year "elite" can't admit it (and, yes, I went to conservatory so I know all about that "culture" as well).

I think Kling needs to pony up for a "Premium Ad" so he can get a real recommendation from MR, like Landsburg did. I wish the FTC or someone had a rule about bloggers and pay-to-play.

Seriously, you refer to Econlog all the time, and they to you, but you just give Kling the 'self-recommending' post? He's trying to sell a book!

Not all progress consists of radical breakthroughs and "deviations from the norm". Actually, most progress arguably consists of small, steady incremental improvements that cumulatively make a huge difference.

We celebrate the former kind because it's the kind our culture is good at, while downplaying the latter kind, which is the sphere of those dull anal-retentive meticulous people over in Germany, Japan and China fussing over their engineering diagrams. It's also much easier to look back historically and point to a discontinuous jump rather than a slow steady change without a clear boundary point or transition marker. Finally, it's much easier to construct a narrative that credits and idolizes a single charismatic individual (Steve Jobs!) for a sudden breakthrough than to write an interesting story about large anonymous teams working in obscurity.

But there is a bit of self-congratulatory chauvinism in imagining the American way to be self-evidently superior. The philosophy of "let's break all the rules" all too often leads to "Hey, why should I bother to study all this boring crap? Math is hard". The culture that indulges daydreaming slackers often cannot produce enough of the persevering engineers who are actually capable of turning paper dreams into silicon reality. And it's all too easy to take gradual steady progress for granted, as if it happened all by itself, rather than requiring the same creativity, inventiveness, and persistence that Edison showed when he tried out hundreds of different materials for his light-bulb filaments.

The world would be in very big trouble indeed if all countries reoriented their social and educational systems to emulate these "hidden strengths". It takes both kinds of system, working in tandem, to create a golden age of progress.

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