Entrepreneurs, Not MITI, Decided Japan Outcomes in ’60s, ’70s and ’80s

(p. 164) Ishibashi’s regime was followed in the early 1960s by the “income-doubling campaign” of his associate Hayato Ikeda, who assumed power in 1961 and continued the supply-side thrust. The result was a steady upsurge of domestic growth, with firms and industries rapidly gaining experience in intense rivalries at home before entering the global arena as low-cost producers, and with government cutting taxes and increasing revenues and savings.

It is from this domestic crucible of intense competition with normal rates of bankruptcy far above those in the United States, with scores of rivals in every field, that the great Japanese companies have emerged. At various times during the last three decades, for example, there have been 58 integrated steel firms, 50 motorbike companies, 12 auto firms, 42 makers of hand-held calculators, 13 makers of facsimile machines, and 250 producers of robots. Overlooking this welter are always the crested bureaucrats of MITI, sometimes offering useful aid and guidance–but at the center, deciding outcomes, have always been the entrepreneurs.

Gilder, George. Recapturing the Spirit of Enterprise: Updated for the 1990s. updated ed. New York: ICS Press, 1992.

Honest Indian Economist Wins (Charisma is Not Always What Matters Most)

SinghManmohanAndGandhi.jpg “India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, left, and Rahul Gandhi wave to supporters during an election campaign rally in the northern Indian city of Amritsar May 11.” Source of photo and caption: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A12) “Manmohan Singh will be our prime minister,” said Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress party, at a televised news conference with Mr. Singh. Mr. Singh, in typically low-key fashion, spoke at the same conference in such a quiet voice that his two minutes of remarks were inaudible over the din of the press corps, and he was forced to return to the microphone to repeat them. “The public has expressed faith in Congress,” he mumbled.
. . .
Mr. Singh, who earned honors from Cambridge University in economics and a doctorate from Oxford, was an architect of India’s economic reforms in 1991 that are credited with setting the nation on course for the economic boom it has had over the past few years but that is now slowing. He is widely seen as honest in a system where bribery of politicians and voters is commonplace and more than 1,000 political candidates in the national elections faced various criminal charges.
The election “is an endorsement of the programs and policies initiated by Manmohan Singh,” said Sanjay Kumar, fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi.

For the full commentary, see:
PAUL BECKETT and VIBHUTI AGARWAL. “Voters Give Singh New Political Life — and a Mandate; Decisive Re-Election Presents New Opportunity to Indian Prime Minister; Reaching Out to Rahul Gandhi, and Youth.” Wall Street Journal (Mon., MAY 18, 2009): A12.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the second and third paragraphs quoted above were somewhat different in the print and online versions; the online version is quoted here. The first paragraph is the same in both versions.)

“The American Experiment Was, Literally, an Experiment”

(p. 199) This is politics seen through the eyes of an Enlightened rationalist. The American experiment was, literally, an experiment, like one of Priestley’s elaborate concoctions in the Fair Hill lab: a system of causes and effects, checks and balances, that could only be truly tested by running the experiment with live subjects. The political order was to be celebrated not because it had the force of law, or divine right, or a standing army behind it. Its strength came from its internal balance, or homeostasis, its ability to rein in and subdue efforts to destabilize it.

Johnson, Steven. The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008.

High State Taxes “Repel Jobs and Businesses”


Source of cartoon: online version of the WSJ commentary quoted and cited below.

(p. A17) . . . the evidence that we discovered in our new study for the American Legislative Exchange Council, “Rich States, Poor States,” published in March, shows that Americans are more sensitive to high taxes than ever before. The tax differential between low-tax and high-tax states is widening, meaning that a relocation from high-tax California or Ohio, to no-income tax Texas or Tennessee, is all the more financially profitable both in terms of lower tax bills and more job opportunities.

Updating some research from Richard Vedder of Ohio University, we found that from 1998 to 2007, more than 1,100 people every day including Sundays and holidays moved from the nine highest income-tax states such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio and relocated mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax, including Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas. We also found that over these same years the no-income tax states created 89% more jobs and had 32% faster personal income growth than their high-tax counterparts.
Did the greater prosperity in low-tax states happen by chance? Is it coincidence that the two highest tax-rate states in the nation, California and New York, have the biggest fiscal holes to repair? No. Dozens of academic studies — old and new — have found clear and irrefutable statistical evidence that high state and local taxes repel jobs and businesses.
. . .
. . . , Barry W. Poulson of the University of Colorado last year examined many factors that explain why some states grew richer than others from 1964 to 2004 and found “a significant negative impact of higher marginal tax rates on state economic growth.” In other words, soaking the rich doesn’t work. To the contrary, middle-class workers end up taking the hit.

For the full commentary, see:
ARTHUR LAFFER and STEPHEN MOORE. “Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich Americans know how to use the moving van to escape high taxes.” Wall Street Journal (Mon., MAY 18, 2009): A17.
(Note: ellipses added.)

“Dynamism Has Been Leached From Our System,” But Not from Our Brains or Our Hearts

Sometimes one of Peggy Noonan’s columns reminds us that she was once one of Ronald Reagan’s best speech writers:

(p. A11) I heard a man named Nathan Myhrvold speak of a thing called Microsoft. I saw a young man named Steve Jobs prowl a New York stage and unveil a computer that then we thought tiny and today we’d call huge. A man named Steve Wozniak became a household god as my son reported his visionary ways. It was a time so full of genius and dynamism that it went beyond words like “breakthrough” and summoned words like “revolution.” If you were paying attention, if you understood you were witnessing something great, the invention of a new age, the computer age, it caught at your throat. It was like hearing great music. People literally said what had been said in the age of Thomas Edison: “What will they think of next?” What a buoyant era.
. . .
And for a moment, as I sent and received my first airborne Wi-Fi emails, I was back there. And I was moved because I realized how much I missed it, how much we all do, that “There are no walls” feeling. “Think different.” “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’ ” That was 25 years ago. The world was on fire.
It has cooled. And the essential problem with the crash we’re in is no one can imagine quite feeling that way again. People can remember it, but they can’t quite resummon it.
. . .
I end with a hunch that is not an unhappy one. Dynamism has been leached from our system for now, but not from the human brain or heart. Just as our political regeneration will happen locally, in counties and states that learn how to control themselves and demonstrate how to govern effectively in a time of limits, so will our economic regeneration. That will begin in someone’s garage, somebody’s kitchen, as it did in the case of Messrs. Jobs and Wozniak. The comeback will be from the ground up and will start with innovation. No one trusts big anymore. In the future everything will be local. That’s where the magic will be. And no amount of pessimism will stop it once it starts.

For the full commentary, see:
PEGGY NOONAN. “Remembering the Dawn of the Age of Abundance; Times are hard, but dynamism isn’t dead.” Wall Street Journal (Sat., Feb. 21, 2009): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)

Gladwell Misses His Own Central Message: Long Hard Work Matters Most


Source of book image: http://bharatkhetan.com/akanksha/?p=19

Malcolm Gladwell is on a roll. His three recent books have been best-sellers: The Tipping Point, Blink, and now Outliers. All three books are well-written, and deal with important issues.
I suspect that sometimes Gladwell over-simplifies and over-generalizes. But he often makes plausible, thought-provoking claims, and he presents academic research in a clear, painless way.
In the Outliers book, I enjoyed his examples: the NHL hockey players who are overwhelmingly born in the same three months, the entrepreneurial immigrant Jews entering the clothing business, silicon valley superstars having access to computers at an early age.
To Gladwell, the main point of the book is that over-achievers owe their success to lucky circumstances. But to me, the main point was a different one: in case after case, the successful put in a huge number of hours (about 10,000) of practice to achieve the mastery of their activities.
To use the memorable analogy from Collins’ Good to Great: hour after hour, day after day, year after year, they all kept “pushing the flywheel” to reach the threshold of excellence.

The reference for Outliers is:
Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Co., 2008.

The reference for Collins’ book is:
Collins, Jim. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap. And Others Don’t. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2001.

In the United States “Innovation” Became a Positive Word

(p. 198) “All advances in science were proscribed as innovations.” Jefferson is using the older, negative sense of the word “innovation” here: a new development that threatened the existing order in a detrimental way. (The change in the valence of the word over the next century is one measure of society’s shifting relationship to progress.) But that regressive age was now over, and Priestley–the most forward-thinking mind of his generation–could now consider himself fully at home:

Our countrymen have recovered from the alarm into which art and industry had thrown them: science and honesty are replaced on their high ground, and you, my dear Sir, as their great apostle, are on its pinnacle. It is with heartfelt satisfaction that in the first moments of my public action, I can hail you with welcome to our land, tender to you the homage of its respect and esteem, cover you under the protection of those laws which were made for the wise and good like you, and disdain the legitimacy of that libel on legislation which under the form of a law was for some time placed among them.

Perhaps inspired by the legendary optimism of Priestley himself, Jefferson then added some of the most stirringly hopeful words that he ever put to paper:

(p. 199) As the storm is now subsiding, and the horizon becoming serene, it is pleasant to consider the phenomenon with attention. We can no longer say there is nothing new under the sun. For this whole chapter in the history of man is new. The great extent of our Republic is new. Its sparse habitation is new. The mighty wave of public opinion which has rolled over it is new. But the most pleasing novelty is, it’s so quietly subsiding over such an extent of surface to its true level again. The order and good sense displayed in this recovery from delusion, and in the momentous crisis which lately arose, really bespeak a strength of character in our nation which augurs well for the duration of our Republic; and I am much better satisfied now of it’s stability than I was before it was tried.

Johnson, Steven. The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution, and the Birth of America. New York: Riverhead Books, 2008.