Putting innovation in the foreground

Four loosely related pieces that I’ve read lately: A great Quartz profile of economist Mariana Mazzucato: The central premise of Mazzucato’s work is about the role of the state in innovation. She is an ardent believer that governments should do more than play a passive role in fixing market failures, and be allowed to embrace …

A very good paragraph on superstar firms

Neil Irwin, writing at The Atlantic, excerpted from his book How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World: And among economists, the evidence keeps building that the concentration of major industries among a handful of superstar firms might be connected to deep economic dysfunctions. When there are fewer employers in an industry, for example, they have more power to depress workers’ …

Future of capitalism links

Just a space to link to reading that’s focused on the future of capitalism: Articles Zingales: “Dear Graduates” The Guardian’s “Broken Capitalism” series Paul Polman Bill Gates BusinessWeek: 7 Fixes for American Capitalism Books Jump-Starting America The Value of Everything Can American Capitalism Survive? The Future of Capitalism Rebecca Henderson (forthcoming)

Journalists as analysts

This is a great thread from Ben Casselman, economics reporter at The New York Times and formerly FiveThirtyEight, on working with data. Casselman is careful to note that he’s not an economist and that losing sight of that would lead him to err. But the approach he outlines — humble, integrative, quantitative — is why …

After social media

A couple pieces that made me a bit hopeful for the internet: Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us? – New Yorker Could the IndieWeb movement—or a streamlined, user-friendly version of it to come—succeed in redeeming the promise of social media? If we itemize the woes currently afflicting the major platforms, there’s a strong case to …

Econ 101 and model thinking

There was a bunch of Twitter discussion this week inspired by a Vox article by Dylan Matthews about Raj Chetty’s introductory economics course at Harvard. TLDR: The course is basically a review of recent, large-scale empirical work on important social problems like inequality. And it has little to no theory. I’ve watched some of the …

Prediction markets or crowdsourcing?

Are markets more accurate than polls? The surprising informational value of “just asking” Psychologists typically measure beliefs and preferences using self-reports, whereas economists are much more likely to infer them from behavior. Prediction markets appear to be a victory for the economic approach, having yielded more accurate probability estimates than opinion polls or experts for …

Skills gap, again

An excellent piece arguing against the “skills gap” hypothesis. The conclusion: There is no denying the importance of education and training to long-term outcomes for workers. But that does not mean the solution to stagnant or inadequate wage increases lies in addressing a skills gap. To address the wage problem, Congress and regulators need to ensure …

Technological change and fatalism

“Don’t blame robots for low wages,” writes Paul Krugman. “Automation just isn’t a big part of the story of what happened to American workers over the past 40 years,” he continues. “We do have a big problem — but it has very little to do with technology, and a lot to do with politics and …