"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Krugman on competitiveness and class warfare

What about trade balances and export sectors?

Competitiveness and Class Warfare by Krugman

For reasons not entirely clear to me, recently I found myself thinking about Lester Thurow’s Head to Head: The Coming Economic Battle Among Japan, Europe, and America. For those too young, or who don’t remember, Thurow’s book was a monster best-seller in the early 1990s; it resonated with many people who feared that America was losing its economic edge, that Japan was an unstoppable juggernaut, and so on. And it also played into the general notion of global economics as a struggle for competitive advantage, which is a perennial popular favorite.
I was pretty critical of that notion at the time, arguing that economic success or failure had little to do with international competition. But what I found myself thinking about was the question of who really did best in the decades that followed Thurow’s book. And the answer is … nobody.
The chart shows real GDP per working-age adult (15-64) in France, Japan, and America since 1990. The demographic correction is important: Japan has lagged economically, but a lot of that is just demography.
What’s striking here is how similar the three look. Japan lagged in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but recovered. France has lagged since 2010, largely thanks to the eurozone crisis and its misguided austerity policies. But given how much rhetoric there is about structural problems here and there, what’s striking is how little divergence there has been among advanced countries.
What this tells you, I think, isn’t just that international competition is far less important than legend has it. It also suggests that economic growth is pretty insensitive to policy: France and the US are at the extremes of advanced-country regimes, yet there’s not much difference in their long-term performance.
But does this say that policy doesn’t matter? Not at all. For while there is not, repeat not, anything like the zero-sum competition among nations so beloved of business types, there really is the question of who gets the gains. U.S. economic growth has been OK these past 25 years; US family incomes, not so much, because such a large share of growth goes to the very top.
International competition is a mostly bogus notion; class warfare is very, very real.

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