Links for the Week Ending 17 November

  • A must read for anyone trying to navigate the future is Tyler Cowen’s 2011 book “The Great Stagnation“, which tackled the two critical modern economic challenges of slowing growth and rising inequality against the backdrop of changing technology-driven productivity. Cowen is now back with a follow-up called “Average Is Over“. For a gist of his latest thinking read this interview for The New Yorker, or better still listen to the hour-long EconTalk podcast with Cowen here.
  • American Prospect’s “The State of Work in the Age of Uncertainty” contains some great graphics showing how the trends Cowen elucidates go back decades. The one US politician who has written most eloquently on this issue is Elizabeth Warren in books such as “The Two Income Trap“. At the minute, her guns are focussed on Wall Street, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the explosive issue of inequality takes her all the way to the White House in the future.
  • In the UK, the question of rising inequality in a modern economy has also moved front and centre of the political debate for both the left and right. The UK government’s recently released “State of the Nation: Social Mobility and Child Poverty in Great Britain” reflects many of Cowen’s themes, particularly two fundamental changes: 1) “growing insecurity among average income families, not just lower income ones” and 2) the fact that “child poverty is overwhelmingly a problem facing working families, not just the workless”. If you don’t want to wade through the report, here is a speech addressing the key issues given last week by Alan Milburn, the former Labour cabinet minister but now the coalition government’s social mobility tsar.
  • I have generally been skeptical that shale oil and shale gas are the “game changers” portrayed in the media. Here is Menzie Chinn at Econbrowser popping another over-hyped aspect of shale—its ability to spark a US manufacturing renaissance.
  • The climate change pressure group has had some success in pushing university endowments to disinvest from fossil fuel. Accordingly, the statement by Drew Faust, President of Harvard University, refusing to consider such action has caused a huge rumpus. Here is Drew’s “Fossil Fuel Divestment Statement“. I don’t agree, but that deserves a blog post.

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