Schumpeter on How Amphibial State Capitalism Lacks “Motive Power”

From McCraw’s summary of a brief Schumpeter essay published in 1943 in Seymour Harris’ Postwar Economic Problems:

(p. 424) Schumpeter went on to argue that both in the United States and in capitalist countries abroad, a high rate of public spending during the postwar period would likely evolve into total government control of investment.   . . .    Some industries might be nationalized, and if the government “should try to run the nationalized industries according to the principles of business rationality, Guided Capitalism would shade off into State Capitalism, . . . ”
. . .
The overall result would likely be “an amphibial state for the calculable future.” The amphibial state might well generate frictions among business, labor, and government and would not benefit from the “motive power” of either capitalism or socialism.

Source:
McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Health Care Spending Takes a Large and Growing Share of Income

HealthCareShareGraph.jpg

Source of graph: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

The most interesting part of the article quoted below, was the above graph, that dramatically shows health care’s large and growing share of disposable personal income.

(p. 28) Among employers, the hardest pressed may be small businesses. Their insurance premiums tend to be proportionately higher than ones paid by large employers, because small companies have little bargaining clout with insurers.

Health costs are “burying small business,” said Mike Roach, who owns a small clothing store in Portland, Ore. He recently testified on health coverage at a Senate hearing led by Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon.

Last year, Mr. Roach paid about $27,000 in health premiums for his eight employees. “It’s a huge chunk of change,” he said, noting that he was forced to raise his employees’ yearly deductible by 50 percent, to $750.

For the full story, see:

REED ABELSON and MILT FREUDENHEIM. “Even the Insured Feel Strain of Health Costs.” The New York Times, Section 1 (Sun., May 4, 2008): 1 & 28.

Brain-Controlled Prosthetics Within Reach

MonkeyArtificialArm.jpg “A grid in the monkey’s brain carried signals from 100 neurons for the mechanical arm to grab and carry snacks to the mouth.” Source of caption and photos: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) Two monkeys with tiny sensors in their brains have learned to control a mechanical arm with just their thoughts, using it to reach for and grab food and even to adjust for the size and stickiness of morsels when necessary, scientists reported on Wednesday.

The report, released online by the journal Nature, is the most striking demonstration to date of brain-machine interface technology. Scientists expect that technology will eventually allow people with spinal cord injuries and other paralyzing conditions to gain more control over their lives.
The findings suggest that brain-controlled prosthetics, while not practical, are at least technically within reach.
In previous studies, researchers showed that humans who had been paralyzed for years could learn to control a cursor on a computer screen with their brain waves and that nonhuman primates could use their thoughts to move a mechanical arm, a robotic hand or a robot on a treadmill.
The new experiment goes a step further. In it, the monkeys’ brains seem to have adopted the mechanical appendage as their own, refining its movement as it interacted with real objects in real time. The monkeys had their own arms gently restrained while they learned to use the added one.

For the full story, see:
BENEDICT CAREY. “Monkeys Think, Moving Artificial Arm as Own.” The New York Times (Thurs., May 29, 2008): A1 & A18.

Atlas Statue “Reveals the Powerful Paradox of Strength and Despondency”

AtlasStatue.jpg “The Atlas at Rockefeller Center has years’ worth of lacquer and wax, in addition to the weight of the heavens, to bear. The four-story-high statue will undergo a six-week cleaning.” Source of the caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 31) Of course, he’s angry. Of course, he’s disheartened. The weight of all the heavens has been on his shoulders for 71 years and, according to the mythological timetable, he has exactly forever to go.
But only a close-up view of Atlas, at the base of the International Building in Rockefeller Center, reveals the powerful paradox of strength and despondency created by Lee Lawrie and Rene Chambellan, the artists behind the four-story-high, seven-ton bronze.
. . .
“Everyone reads the substance of things through the surface,” said Jeffrey Greene, president of EverGreene Painting Studios, which is about to begin a six-week cleaning of Atlas, down to the original patina.
. . .
A snapshot staple of any visitor’s souvenir New York album shows Atlas and the 21-foot-diameter armillary sphere on his shoulders (representing the heavens with which he was burdened by Zeus as a member of the losing Titan team), silhouetted in front of the twin spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral across Fifth Avenue.
. . .
On Monday, Mr. Greene said, a translucent scrim will be wrapped around the scaffolding. After that, the statue will get a low-pressure steam bath. Any residue will be cleaned with a gel solvent. A clear acrylic protective coating will be applied and the statue will be hand-waxed to a sheen that is more polished at sculptural highlights and flatter in the interstices.
One block south, Atlas’s popular brother, Prometheus (by Paul Manship), was restored nine years ago.

For the full story, see:
DAVID W. DUNLAP. “Bringing a Smile (Well, a Shine) to a Burdened Statue of Atlas.” The New York Times, Section 1 (Sun., May 4, 2008): 31.
(Note: ellipses added.)

FDR Turned Schumpeter into a Fan of Ludwig von Mises

From McCraw writing about Schumpeter:

(pp. 318-319) The New Deal struck him as still another prelude to authoritarianism. He became convinced that Roosevelt’s program represented a step toward either fascism or socialism, and in either case potential dictatorship. He wrote a friend that Roosevelt was like a child mindlessly breaking a machine because he didn’t understand its design. The president “is going to turn me into a fan of [Ludwig von] Mises,” his classmate at the University of Vienna who had become a free-market fundamentalist and an opponent of almost all government intervention.

Source:
McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.

“The Low Prices Today Seem Almost Ridiculous”

BrooksBrothersSuit.JPG

In 2008 dollars, a basic Brooks Brothers suit cost $788 in 1998 and costs $598 in 2008. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. E1) As luxury fashion has become more expensive, mainstream apparel has become markedly less so. Today, shoppers pay the same price for a basic Brooks Brothers men’s suit, $598, as they did in 1998. The suggested retail price of a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans, $46, is about $4 less than it was a decade ago. A three-pack of Calvin Klein men’s briefs costs $21.50, only $3.50 more than in 1998. Which is the better buy?
Factoring for inflation, each of these examples is actually less expensive today. In current dollars, the 1998 suit would cost $788, the jeans would be $66 and the underwear would be nearly $24.
. . .
(p. E9) Anyone who has spent time walking along 34th Street in Manhattan recently, from Kmart to Macy’s to Forever 21 and H&M, would think that the economic outlook is rosy. Shoppers there are still laden with bags from Payless and Victoria’s Secret, and several said they perceived fashion to be a better buy, with more variety and style at lower prices, than a decade ago.
“You can buy a lot more with your money today than before,” said Joanna Eliza, a recent graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology, shopping on 34th Street on Tuesday. “Stores like H&M and Forever 21 make it more affordable for people who want to be fashionable, and that makes me feel really good.”
Over all, apparel prices have gone down primarily because of two factors: the overwhelming movement of manufacturing to countries with cheaper labor, where the clothes are made, and increased competition between traditional retailers and discounters, where the clothes are sold.
In some cases, the low prices today seem almost ridiculous. Steve & Barry’s sells celebrity-branded shoes and dresses for $8.98 or less. Target offers a silk faille ball gown from Isaac Mizrahi on sale for $129.99. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, promotes an Op T-shirt for 97 cents.

For the full story, see:
ERIC WILSON. “Dress for Less and Less.” The New York Times (Thurs., May 29, 2008): E1 & E9.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

Bad Guys Might Think Twice, If More Good Guys Had Guns

JohnsonKarenArizonaState.jpg

“State Senator Karen S. Johnson of Arizona is the sponsor of a bill permitting firearms on campuses.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A10) PHOENIX — Horrified by recent campus shootings, a state lawmaker here has come up with a proposal in keeping with the Taurus .22-caliber pistol tucked in her purse: Get more guns on campus.
The lawmaker, State Senator Karen S. Johnson, has sponsored a bill, which the Senate Judiciary Committee approved last week, that would allow people with a concealed weapons permit — limited to those 21 and older here — to carry their firearms at public colleges and universities. Concealed weapons are generally not permitted at most public establishments, including colleges.
Ms. Johnson, a Republican from Mesa, said she believed that the recent carnage at Northern Illinois University could have been prevented or limited if an armed student or professor had intercepted the gunman. The police, she said, respond too slowly to such incidents and, besides, who better than the people staring down the barrel to take action?

For the full story, see:

RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD. “Arizona Weighs Bill to Allow Guns on Campuses.” The New York Times (Weds., March 5, 2008): A10.