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Summer 2019 / Volume III, Number 2
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The Insularity of the Knowledge Economy

Automation Anxiety in an Age of Stagnation

A cursory glance at Google Trends reveals that interest in robot­ics and automation was far less intense throughout the last decade than interest in proposed solutions to the problems that these tech­nologies are supposedly creating, especially universal basic in­come (UBI). Automation—the process of applying technology and organ­ization to do more with less, with robotics being…

Financing Advanced Manufacturing: Why VCs Aren’t the Answer

In 2013, a group of MIT researchers published a study examining the business trajectory of 150 start-up firms that grew out of technology developed at the university. These were production-related “hardware” firms that actually manufactured things. The firms were able to attract early stage venture capital (VC) funding. They were also able to find the…

McLuhanomics: The Medium versus the Market

Why has digital technology so scandalously betrayed the expectations set by market liberalism? What accounts for the vast divergence between the starring role digital tech was meant to play in the global consummation of market liberalism and the dis­ruptive, discrediting, disillusioning role it actually is playing? Why did liberal experts and liberal economics get it…

Algorithmic Governance and Political Legitimacy

In ever more areas of life, algorithms are coming to substitute for judgment exercised by identifiable human beings who can be held to account. The rationale offered is that automated decision-making will be more reliable. But a further attraction is that it serves to insulate various forms of power from popular pressures. Our readiness to…

The State of the Cities

The New Shame of Our Cities

Perhaps no song has been belted out more often than the one that claims that America is moving “back to the city.” Newspapers, notably the New York Times, devote enormous space to this notion. It gained even more currency when the Obama administration sec­retary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Do­novan, pro­claimed that the suburbs were “over” as people were “voting with their feet” and moving to dense, transit-oriented urban centers. This celebration perhaps reached its crescendo when Amazon initially announced its move to Crystal City, Virginia, and Queens…

Uber’s Path of Destruction

Since it began operations in 2010, Uber has grown to the point where it now collects over $45 billion in gross passenger revenue, and it has seized a major share of the urban car service market. But the widespread belief that it is a highly innovative and successful company has no basis in economic reality. An examination of Uber’s economics suggests that it has no hope of ever earning sustainable urban car service profits in competitive markets…

China’s City Clusters: Pioneering Future Mega-Urban Governance

The coordination of development within city clusters in the Peo­ple’s Republic of China (PRC) is a striking case for organizing institutions, planning, infrastructure, and economic development across many local administrative boundaries in very large urban re­gions, some as large as European countries. To benefit from the many efficiencies that could be reaped from such coordination,…

The Economics of National Development

Nationalism’s Dividends

Here are some facts about China from the World Bank: Since initiating market reforms in 1978 . . . China has expe­rienced rapid economic and social development. GDP growth has averaged nearly 10% a year—the fastest sustained expan­sion by a major economy in history—and more than 850 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty. . . . Although China’s GDP growth has gradually slowed since 2012, as needed for a transition to more balanced and sustainable growth, it is still relatively high by current global standards. There is nothing in the entire history of the world that compares to this Chinese achievement of last forty years, in terms of…

National Developmentalism: From Forgotten Tradition to New Consensus

In response to the rise of “populism,” members of the Washington establishment have adopted a reassuring way to frame the ques­tion of America’s proper relationship to the world. As they see it, Americans are divided into two camps—open or closed, globalist or nationalist, interventionist or protectionist. In this framing, the closed, nationalist, and protectionist camp…

Trade, Antitrust, and Restoring Domestic Competition

Will more restrictive trade policies harm the U.S. economy by shielding domestic businesses against competition? That’s what standard economic theory holds, insisting that pressure from foreign rivals is needed for U.S.-based businesses to continue to in­novate, to create the highest quality goods, and to sell them for the lowest possible prices. Although this theory has…

The Literature of Liberal Exhaustion

Literature as Flattery

In 1934, the Saturday Review of Literature published an ad on how to read James Joyce’s Ulysses. The ad is remarkable for its relationship to reading, democracy, and elitism. On the one hand, the ad dismisses critics who fret over the difficulty of the novel and presents it as a challenge that is rewarding to every…

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