What should I ask Nicholas Bloom?

I will be doing a Conversation with him, so what should I ask?  Here is part of his official bio:

Nicholas (Nick) Bloom is the William Eberle Professor of Economics at Stanford University, a Senior Fellow of SIEPR, and the Co-Director of the Productivity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research focuses on management practices and uncertainty. He previously worked at the UK Treasury and McKinsey & Company.

Is there anyone whose name is on more important/interesting papers over the last ten years?  Here is a sampling.

So what should I ask him?


How can one profit from uncertainty?

1. Engineers working at tech startups are often promoted to management from software engineering, and have no management training or experience. How should a manager in a fast-growth tech startup, where headcount and thus reports increase rapidly, compensate for their lack of management expertise.

2. What are the most pervasive management myths? For example, are 1:1s useful?

3. It appears that many companies have entirely superfluous layers of management that act simply as meeting holders and communication aggregators between layers. Are these redundant or do they serve a purpose?

$20 billion would be deposited. ... 3 million jobs

Hmmm, basic math says: $20 B / 3 M = $6,667 per job

Oh, it's just the beginning of throwing money down that toilet. There will be billions more spent on tilting at windmills.

Maybe the question to ask him is; will we every get intelligent people in congress again? Perhaps someone who could do math and understand that wind power and solar power cost more in energy than they ever produce?

Are there areas of research where declining productivity and their apparent maturity should lead to a significant decrease in investment, almost giving up on progress rather than pouring even more money into the chase? I am partly thinking of "The End of Science" idea. For example, at some point high-energy particle physics may simply become too expensive to justify low-probability chances of a notable breakthrough.

"may simply become": that's probably in the wrong tense.

Is it more important for the economic future to enable the top X% of talent to innovate and succeed through investment, or to invest such that the living standards of the bottom Y% are directly improved? Indirectly the question is what are the implications for funding the modern administrative and welfare state should innovation plateau? There is always an assumption that growth and innovation will be the engine of growth in governmental funding over time.

How to improve living standards of the bottom half is the most important question.

Subsidize vocational education, national health care, reduce the FICA tax?

Unskilled labor in developed countries is competing with very low wages in China and Eastern Europe which are now rising but still rather low. How can we help our unskilled workers?

My friends in R&D confirm that ideas are indeed getting harder to find. Projects require more people and have lower return on investment. What should be done about this problem? Less regulation favoring special interests, more competition, more efficient government programs with better incentives?

Once I hear the interview, and have a better sense of what he's about, I'll post some relevant questions. :)

Are we seeing Japanification of USA? Massive debt, low inflation, low growth, Older population. And how do you think this debt will be paid off in the coming years - higher taxes or inflation? How has QE contributed to real economy in the last 10 years?

The debt cannot be paid off. The math doesn't work. The simple and best choice is to over a long weekend "print" the $26 trillion and pay off every federal debt and on Monday congress passes a balanced budget law. Don't hold your breath. I would expect congress to raise taxes and spend the extra revenues and then raise taxes again and spend the extra revenue... ad infinitum until the house of cards collapses..

We generally default on about a third of our obligations. The improvement would be to do it more often.

(1) Amid the resurgence of nationalism throughout the world, and considering that foreign IT talent makes up a very large percentage of American corporate brainpower, what would you advise a US president about how to counter this lurking, latent but maybe huge source of risk?

(2) What can American society learn from Chinese society about innovation?

(3) Say you own an alert system about the strategic health of American primacy in innovation, looking forward 10 or 20 or 30 years. You have cards from green (no danger), pink, orange, red (grave danger). Which card do you pick and what are your 3 or 4 top bullet-point reasons for that choice?

("pink" would be better replaced with "yellow")

Given how the Swamp mucked up the coronavirus response (see https://www.gao.gov/reports/GAO-20-625/ ), how can a Republican President regain control of CDC and other agencies staffed by Dems? What about the CIA and other intelligence agencies? What about the Department of Justice and the Department of State?

Please watch the video in this post


about the Long March to capture UK (and US) institutions. Assume that the revolutionaries have succeeded in capturing elite-colleges and universities --for example, your Stanford University-- what strategy do you suggest to recapture them?

Please read this Mariana Mazzucato's column promoting her new book:


in which she claims that the bad guys are ignoring that governments create value while relying on governments to bail them out of their own mistakes. Do you agree that in the past 100 years the U.S. government has been changing its priorities from "creating value" to "redistributing income" (ignore the 2 world wars and the smaller ones, but not the Cold War) or you think that it has been expanding its agenda to include large income redistribution programs? What do you think about the type of IR programs that the US government has chosen, in particular the programs that MM denounces, that is, programs that amount to ex-post insurance (as in David Moss's When All Else Fails - Government as The Ultimate Risk Manager)?

What are his thoughts on higher unemployment payments and UBI? They seem to lower uncertainty for individuals but could harm productivity as people have less incentive to work.

-What will the long term effects of coronavirus be on work from home arrangements? Will it lead to WFH becoming a norm in corporate America?

-What affect will differences in state government policy with regards to coronavirus response (forced business shutdowns, capacity limitations for restaurants/bars, etc, vs more lenient policy) have on brick-and-mortar business formation between different states in the long term, if any?

Virtually all of Bloom’s papers are co-authored, often with multiple co-authors. What is the co-authorship production function? Do co-authors divvy up separable tasks according to comparative advantage? Or do the original ideas in the paper arise out of a process of conversation among the co-authors? Is having a co-author important as a reality check? Is co-authorship a way to internalize and reduce the costs of redundant effort in exploring new area of thought?

Virtually all of Bloom’s papers are co-authored, often with multiple co-authors. What is the co-authorship production function? Do co-authors divvy up separable tasks according to comparative advantage? Or do the original ideas in the paper arise out of a process of conversation among the co-authors? Is having a co-author important as a reality check? Is co-authorship a way to internalize and reduce the costs of redundant effort in exploring a new area of thought?

What would be a realistic strategy to turn the EU into an innovation power?

Invite Israel to join.

Productivity differences between the US and Europe are largely driven by some services sub-sectors. The IT revolution and corresponding management practices are identified as the driving forces behind the greater productivity growth performance of the US in his co-authored paper with Sadun and Van Reenen. 25 years have elapsed since the US has started eclipse Europe in aggregate productivity. The EU has done a lot to reverse the pattern, and according to Thomas Philippon in many sectors competitiveness has improved a lot recently in European countries with respect to the US. Yet aggregate productivity differences between the US and Europe still persist despite the lackluster productivity growth performance of the US since 2008. How does he think?

Ask him about his managerial results from India. If there are huge gains to be made from providing consulting and other practical advise to firms in developing countries, shouldn’t this be scaled up in some way? Also ask why managers (and other practitioners in other settings) tend to unlearn what our experimental treatments teach them, even when they see that they work.

any thoughts about forbes publishing and then quickly retracting
Michael Schellenbergers article about climate change?

You began your career at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an unusual institution that occupies an unique role in British political life (the Guardian describing it as 'The British Umpire' - https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/business/2016/mar/15/british-umpire-how-institute-fiscal-studies-became-most-influential-voice-in-uk-economic-debate). Did starting at the IFS give you an advantage or disadvantage relative to going straight into academia? Why?

(Alternatively... "IFS: Underrated or overrated?")

From Wikipedia.
McKinsey's alumni have been appointed as CEOs or high-level executives at Google, American Express, Facebook, Boeing, IBM, Westinghouse Electric, Sears, AT&T, PepsiCo, and Enron. McKinsey alumni have held positions with Tony Blair's office. Citicorp and Merrill Lynch have also hired many McKinsey alumni. Wow McKinsey&Co.

From Bloomberg

Braun even met with Paul Achleitner, the head of Deutsche Bank AG’s supervisory board, to discuss a tieup, and Wirecard executives last fall commissioned a study by consultants at McKinsey & Co ...

He wants a measure of uncertainty.
Look at the seigniorage tax, the amount of tax the central banks collects to keep a bankrupt Swamp funded. It is still increasing. Our central government is increasingly broke. This is the ultimate cause of the rebellion, and it is not the first time.

There is no magic, there is default.

Three suggestions:

1) You document that many firms are badly managed. What about management consultants, specially the brand name ones that used to hire so many MBAs from top schools like Stanford - what are your thoughts on how they are managed?

2) Your research is incredibly rigorous in documenting how badly managed so many firms are, but your prescription is often less regulation and more competition. It might work, but how do you know that that's the best way to proceed, specially now that so many countries are gridlocked democracies reluctant to deregulate or increase competition any further?

3) Government agencies tend to be the largest and most consequential of all organizations, and they deal with controversial matters under ambiguous mandates. No wonder that they are inefficient, but can their performance be measured or- better yet - improved?

1. If there are large gains to teaching management techniques to companies, can we similarly expect large to gains to personal productivity by teaching personal productivity techniques? If so, how do we square this with the general ineffectiveness of self-help and life-coaching?

2. Bloom argues that the US does IT better. Silicon Valley is presently the most dynamic part of the US. Are these two facts explained by the same factors? Does the US not do other industries better than others? What other things does the US do better than most?

3. If productivity is explained, in part, by trust, and given that we live in a particularly polarized era, can polarization explain the lack of productivity growth?

4. If working from home improves worker productivity, satisfaction, and attrition, then should we expect productivity improvement in at least some sectors of the economy during the COVID crisis?

So much of Nick’s research is Austrian adjacent. E.g. uncertainty, entrepreneurship in management, etc. What does he think about the Austrians, old and new?

In what ways (it any) did his experience at McKinsey shape his academic research?

Tuition at Standard used to be free. Should it be free again? Don't all proles have a right to free education of the highest quality? Or is Stanford primarily only for the white elites and tranny scammers like "Elizabeth" Holmes?.

Basel II and widespread use of VaR. Some scholars, like Roberta Romano and Charles Whitehead, points to Basel as one of the motors of the widespread use of VaR techniques, which ended up harmonizing risk management techniques through firms. This widespread adoption of a 'best practice' might have turned the financial markets less resilient to uncertainty, which might require a diversity of risk management techniques and regulatory approaches. Roberta Romano always points to the value of regulatory diversity to counter uncertainty. How could we increase regulatory diversity and diversity in risk management techniques?

markups and concentration! does he believe the DeLoecker & Eckhout results? Phillippon’s great reversal hypothesis? What does he make of the rise in national concentration coincident with a fall in local concentration (Rossi-Hansberg et al’s ‘industrial revolution in services’)

He seems to have done a lot of work on how management systems evolve.

Now in the Covid-19 era, we have seen our government institutions fail to respond correctly. The WHO, Surgeon General, CDC, and FDA all said face masks won't work for civilians at a time when the scientific literature said they did work and they also had regulations and guidelines demanding mask use my medical staff to protect the staff. They lied to the public as they took the mask supply away from the industry using N-95 masks for health and safety. Most of the quality masks were being made for industrial and manufacturing use, not medical use.

These agencies have now faced the reality that masks do work at dramatically decreasing the growth rate "Ro" (number of new cases per case) of this virus and a key part of the Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean effective response to this virus. Note that the Ro for health care workers calculated from the number of health care workers infected per highly infective cases going into the health care system show as Ro of about 0.05. Mathematically everyone using a mask is about 95% resistant to the virus transmission and is equivalent to adding a vaccinated or a recovered person to the population. Just 70% or so of the population using masks and clean external garments will cause Ro to become less than 1 where the virus spread goes to zero.

Meanwhile, we have the FDA preventing the use of WHO and German developed and approve RT-PCR test for the virus for an extra 30 days to cover paperwork "concerns" at a time when the exponential growth rate of infections had a doubling time of 3 days creating a 1000 times ( 2^10) larger problem and killing a hundred thousand people. This action did protect their little fiefdoms and redirected focus from the CDC's testing failure. Note than any decent biological lab can create these tests in days (given the RNA code of the virus that was published) and it was "unapproved" testing in the state of Washington that exposed massive community virus spread in the state. I understand the researchers doing the testing, that the CDC refused to do under their guidelines, got letters of reprimand from the government agencies for illegal medical testing.

Ask your guest about the application of his management research on the evolution of incompetence in non-competitive organizations to government institutions where there is no competition or failure mechanism (bankrupcy) or real skin in the game by the staff. The question of how to prevent government institutions from evolving from rational goal-focused organizations, like NASA was during the Apollo program, into a self-interested bureaucracy where protecting little bureaucratic fiefdoms and budgets becomes the total focus is a good question that needs answers.

Why extremist parties flourish in times of sharp fall in NGDP?

Has someone found link between rise of extremists in recessions and Schopenhauer's claim that boredom is the root of all evil?

Management (and middle management in particular) in developing countries is one of the largest impediments to the growth of firms in these countries. What would he recommend for finding/cultivating middle management and proper management techniques in countries where the formal education systems are typically lacking.

The economic policy uncertainty index is normalised to a historical mean and is designed to measure temporary uncertainty shocks, but how does Bloom propose to deal with a permanent increase in uncertainty? Does the EPU index need to be re-worked to accommodate a regime shift in measured uncertainty.

What two things will have the highest impact on improving the management of Universities?

We know that management in developing countries can be improved relatively easily. How can foreign firms operating in these countries be effectively incentivized to train more locals in management? Seems to be a particularly big problem with Chinese projects in Africa.

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