Why I am so optimistic – 3

December 31, 2015, 9:22 am
The future is so bright we need sunglasses. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The future is so bright we need sunglasses. Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The number of people working in manufacturing has been declining for many years. Those job losses will continue at the same time as technology disrupts other industries causing the loss of more jobs.

This is not a new concept. Technological advances have devastated farm employment over the last 150 years.

Prof. Thomas Tunstall pondered Where the New Jobs Will Come From. Sub headline on his 11/4/15 article said:

In 2007 iPhone application developers didn’t exist. By 2011 Apple had $15 billion in mobile-app revenues.

Consider the percentage of the population employed in agriculture over time: Read the rest of this entry »


Why I am so optimistic – 2

December 30, 2015, 9:08 am
200 years ago subsistence agriculture was the norm across the planet. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

200 years ago brutal poverty was the norm across the planet. Not so today. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Previously mentioned when I look at long-term economic trends I am incredibly optimistic. When I look at the headlines this morning or news from the political world, I am very discouraged.

To see one illustration of why I am so optimistic for the long-term, check out a column by Glenn Reynolds at USA Today: Actually, things are pretty good / Free markets and free inquiry have changed the historic ‘norms’ of poverty and violence.

Earlier post summarized in one paragraph what caused this radical improvement.

Here are a final two points from the article I’d like to highlight:

Second, it is possible for us collectively to turn back history.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why I am so optimistic – 1

December 29, 2015, 7:36 am
200 years ago subsistence agriculture was the norm across the planet. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

200 years ago brutal poverty was the norm across the planet. Not so today. Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

When I look at the political news or any news in general I get very pessimistic about our future.

In contrast, when I look at the amazing things happening beyond the headlines in today’s newspaper I feel incredibly optimistic.

Consider that private companies are developing the technology for space exploration. Consider the energy revolution created by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Consider radical changes in technology that are making so many things easier, faster, and cheaper. Consider that anyone that wants to do so can publish their own book, distribute their own music, or create a feature movie.

As a tiny illustration, look at my company and pastimes. Technology allows me to run a high quality CPA practice without any staff. In my spare time I am a publisher and journalist. Anyone in Europe or North America or most of Asia could easily do the same and at minimal cost.

When I look at long-term economic trends I am incredibly optimistic.

For yet one more explanation of why that is the case, consider a column by Glenn Reynolds at USA Today: Actually, things are pretty good / Free markets and free inquiry have changed the historic ‘norms’ of poverty and violence.

Until relatively recently, an illness-filled short life of dirt-eating poverty was the normal condition for practically everybody on the planet. In the last 100 or 200 years life has gotten radically better for practically everyone.

Read the rest of this entry »


“No one wants to be a beggar for life” – “Poverty, Inc.”

December 16, 2015, 7:32 am
consequences facing facts and accept consequence of acts take and face responsibilities

photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Poverty, Inc. is a documentary from a group by the same name. You can see the trailer at those links.

The way we, that is, the developed world, are doing international development is broken. One comment in the movie from an economist in Africa tells the story:  emergency relief is the standard model used for decades to end poverty and suffering.

That isn’t working.

As another speaker says:

“No one wants to be a beggar for life”

I read two reviews of the movie, one from a center-left perspective and one from a center-right perspective. Both praise the movie and share in the criticism of big aid.

The documentary won several awards at a libertarian film festival and then won best documentary at a progressive film festival. Imagine that!

Guess which of the following two columnists made this comment?

It’s almost like anybody with a populist outlook and, you know, a brain between their ears and a heart between their shoulders, has got to look at our current system of international development and aid and say there’s something deeply wrong.

Read the rest of this entry »


To sort through the question of how to share economic and health progress with everyone, check out a book from the winner of this year’s Nobel award in economics

October 12, 2015, 8:12 am
Cover of Prof. Deaton's book, used under fair use, courtesy of Amazon.com

Cover of Prof. Deaton’s book, used under fair use for this review, courtesy of Amazon.com

Why have we seen such dramatic improvement in average wealth and average life expectancy everywhere in the last 100 or 200 years? What has led to a radical reduction in the number of people living in dirt-eating poverty in the last 50 years?

Over the last few years I have focused a lot of my reading on economics and history trying to figure out the answers to those questions. Why?

If we figure out the answer to those questions we can continue in the same direction. If we sort out how we got here, we can share that strategy with those who have not shared in the progress. If you want a different phrasing, we can radically narrow economic inequality within countries and between countries if we can answer those questions. We can help get even more people out of dirt-eating poverty.

I think those goals are in the back of the mind for most readers of this blog.

Read the rest of this entry »


On Unintended Consequences – giving away consumer goods and banning plastic bottles doesn’t do what you would expect

August 17, 2015, 8:22 am

 

consequences facing facts and accept consequence of acts take and face responsibilities

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

One frustrating feature of life is that things are so complex. Doing something to help people or make things better can have unrelated impacts that offset any benefit.  Sometimes doing good stuff can make things worse.

That is called unintended consequences. Here are two more examples.

Giving away free consumer goods may not make life better for poor people…

7/23 – Vox – Buying TOMS shoes is a terrible way to help poor people – Add this article to the vast and growing body of articles explaining that the buy-one-give-one-to-poor-people way to end poverty is doing little to help and might be doing a lot of harm.

Amongst the many points made: Read the rest of this entry »


The problems with celebrity activism? Let’s start with unintended consequences.

July 13, 2015, 8:13 am

Amongst the long list of challenges getting in the way of actually helping the people you want to help, two repeatedly jump out at me.

The first challenge is to avoid unintended consequences. Because humans are so complicated and react to changes around them, you will frequently find that taking one action has some unexpected consequence that undercuts the help you’re trying to provide.

Another challenge is finding out what the people you are helping might actually know about the issue. The people living with the struggle every single day might have some insight that could have helped you while you were in your office figuring out how to fix their problem.

Check out the following article on 7/12 by Georgia Cole, Ben Radley, & Jean-Benoit Falisse writing at Quartz – What’s missing from celebrity activism in Africa? The people.

My summary:  the article explores the long list of problems with celebrities picking a cause, choosing the one single perfect solution that will fix everything, and advocating for their personal preference of policy action.
Read the rest of this entry »