Assorted links


Regarding the great stagnation.

(who does not yet have a 3D printer)

I don't have the right printer either, but I downloaded the designs :-)

"The Surgical Institute of Reading in Pennsylvania tried to sell itself to a local community hospital. "We couldn't expand, but we thought a partnership would allow us to continue our practice," said its board chairman, Charles Lutz.

But the Federal Trade Commission blocked the merger, saying the sale would decrease competition and could lead to higher costs for patients and the government.

Let's see, reorganizing so you are allowed to expand decreases competition? You just can't make this stuff up."

This type of merger is exactly what happened a few years back in our small community. The merger improved our hospitals local monopoly, and prices rose.

Re #4, it was interesting to see a discussion of data-driven philanthropy not mention Bill Gates, who does that at least as prominently and as effectively as anyone else.

One problem with Bernanke's speech is that it doesn't address "diffusion" - HIS family might have had a dishwasher in 1963, but mine didn't get one for another 15 years. And while cars did get A/C both built-in and added on in the 1960s, as late as the early '80s people would list "factory air" on cars - now it is quite difficult to buy a car without A/C. (Just like it would be hyper unusual to rent a dwelling without electricity.)

And simple diffusion alone is NOT stagnation - because the wide diffusion implies technical progress in manufacturing and distribution that isn't visible. You SEE "everybody has a cell phone now", you don't SEE the thousands of innovations that made that feasible, let alone economical.

What if in the next 50 years there was very little forward motion in "peak" or "leading edge" technologies, but everyone on Earth, no matter how poor, got electricity, hot and cold running water, etc.? Should we call that "stagnation" ????

Sure, there is lots of room to advance the third world towards the median western world standard of living. The issue is whether or not the median western world standard of living can advance. Median real wages in America have been stagnant since the 1970s.

Are "Median real wages in America" the best measure of "the median western world standard of living"?

Some people do not have washing machines or dishwashers even today. I rented a not-so-bad place four years ago that did not have a dishwasher. Lots of city apartments lack them.

I also cannot get over people citing microwaves as a sign of affluence. I remember when my parents got their first microwave -- a massive Panasonic unit that came with an elegantly detailed cookbook whose cover had the most beautiful golden turkey on it. In reality, everything you cooked in that monster tasted like rubber, and things have not much changed for the better. Microwaves may have gotten cheaper, but they are still awful. I probably use one less than once a month.

You and Tyler. I guess you never have leftovers or you spend 30 minutes heating them up in the oven or something?

#6 (and #1). I might buy into your test a bit more, if it were the grandpa test. My grandma buried a toddler from a common illness that mine will almost certainly never contract, let alone die from. Now in the nursing home with dementia, she's been prone to talk about him on occasion ... model that utility loss. But even on the mundane I suspect she would have picked my launch point in time over hers or her kids. I always thought she must have been bitter being denied work she was educated for just being a women, but actually she did well with the options she had and the choices she could make. That is not to say she would have wanted that same choice set for me. You can pick other social groups like African American, Latino immigrants, etc. and out of 1913, 1963, and 2013 I suspect many, many would go with 2013. Oh that's social change, not economic change ... good luck entangling those two.

Now the connection to #1, former troll says the Internet is a great medium to reinvent yourself in. It can be a growing up place...or a refuse to grow up place. Process innovation, either on a personal level or an organizational level of reinvention is huge. We update our computing software and hardware much more frequently than our analytical processes or work flows. Don't get me wrong the last two are in change all the time, but it is so much harder. In the end it's the people who make it happen, but our technologies are enabling process innovation. We may not measure that well either in physical output or utility, but it's there.

Can't have more doctor-owned hospitals, but Catholic church-owned hospitals can charge ahead.

6. The problem I have with the popular test for the stagnation hypothesis, which Bernanke sort of employs, is that it puts the start of stagnation very early. The New York City apartment I live in now, which resembles the one I grew up in, was built in about 1925. We still have many of the original fixtures. Since 1925: the bathroom fixtures (toilet, sink, and bathtub) have not changed; the nature of the cooking apparatus (a gas stove) has not changed; the electric lighting has not changed; and obviously the nature of the furniture has not changed. The major changes are: (i) it appears that original residents did not have a refrigerator (introduced say 1935); (ii) we have room air conditioners (say 1965); (iii) there is a TV (say 1965; flatscreen 2010); and (iv) we have a computer (1990; with internet connection 2001). This examination doesn't support the claim of a recent stagnation.

In contrast, my grandfather was born in the 1890s in a house without running water, electricity, or an automobile. It seems 1895 to 1925 was the real era of transformation.


The most brilliant thing about it is that he might still be trolling.

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