Intelligent Economic Design

America is poised for another debate over whether its economy evolves or is designed, with Barack Obama’s opponents claiming that everything good in America’s economy has always evolved with no guidance, and that everything bad has been designed by government. If they win, America – and the world – will lose.

BERKELEY – As Stephen Cohen, with whom I wrote The End of Influence: What Happens When Other Countries Have the Money, likes to say, economies do not evolve; they are, rather, intelligently designed. He also likes to say that, though there is an intelligence behind their design, this does not mean that the design is in any sense wise.

The first claim is, I think, incontrovertible. Since long before Croesus, King of Lydia, came up with the game-changing idea of standardized “coinage,” what governments have done and not done to structure, nudge, and put their thumbs on the scales has been decisively important for economic development.

Just look around you. Notice the hundred-fold divergence across political jurisdictions in relative levels of economic productivity and prosperity? I dare anyone to claim that the overwhelming bulk of that disparity springs from causes other than history and the current state of governance.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/hdB8q3r;
  1. Trump & Turkey ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images.

    A Tax Plan that’s All Stuffing?

    US President Donald Trump has set a Christmas deadline for enacting the Republican tax plan, and economic observers are virtually unanimous in judging it a turkey. A scheme that squeezes the middle class and blows out the fiscal and current-account deficits may pass, but it will never fly. 

  2. China corruption Isaac Lawrence/Getty Images

    The Next Battle in China’s War on Corruption

    • Chinese President Xi Jinping knows well the threat that corruption poses to the authority of the Communist Party of China and the state it controls. 
    • But moving beyond Xi's anti-corruption purge to build robust and lasting anti-graft institutions will not be easy, owing to enduring opportunities for bureaucratic capture.
  3. Trump at UN Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    The Dangers of Nuclear Bombast

    US President Donald Trump has refused to recertify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, an agreement that he once predicted would "lead to a nuclear holocaust." Unfortunately, by creating more perverse incentives for hostile regimes to pursue nuclear armaments at all costs, Trump has made the nightmare scenario he fears even more likely.

  4. Adam Michnik Gallo Images/Getty Images

    Europe’s New Eastern Question

    interviews

    Insider Interview

    • With right-wing populists ascendant in Poland and Hungary, and gaining ground elsewhere in the European Union, politics in some parts of the West looks increasingly like politics in Russia.

    • Sławomir Sierakowski, Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw interviews Adam Michnik, one of the intellectual architects of Solidarity and of the transition from communism in Central Europe, on Europe's illiberal turn.
  5. Italy unemployed demonstration SalvatoreEsposito/Barcroftimages / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Putting Europe’s Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work

    Across the European Union, millions of people who are willing and able to work have been unemployed for a year or longer, at great cost to social cohesion and political stability. If the EU is serious about stopping the rise of populism, it will need to do more to ensure that labor markets are working for everyone.

  6. Latin America market Federico Parra/Getty Images

    A Belt and Road for the Americas?

    In a time of global uncertainty, a vision of “made in the Americas” prosperity provides a unifying agenda for the continent. If implemented, the US could reassert its historical leadership among a group of countries that share its fundamental values, as well as an interest in inclusive economic growth and rising living standards.

  7. Startup office Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    How Best to Promote Research and Development

    Clearly, there is something appealing about a start-up-based innovation strategy: it feels democratic, accessible, and so California. But it is definitely not the only way to boost research and development, or even the main way, and it is certainly not the way most major innovations in the US came about during the twentieth century.