Jim Pethokoukis Asks Art Diamond How to Increase Innovative Dynamism

Jim Pethokoukis recently posted an abbreviated transcript of our conversation on his Political Economy podcast about my Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism book.

Posted by Arthur Diamond on Thursday, August 6, 2020

Transcript of Political Economy Podcast Interview with Arthur Diamond on Openness to Creative Destruction

The lightly edited transcript was posted on July 30, 2020 on the American Enterprise Institute web site.

Yesterday Jim Pethokoukis posted a lightly edited transcript of my conversation with him on his American Enterprise…

Posted by Arthur Diamond on Friday, July 31, 2020

Despite Global Trading Routes, in Year 1000 Most Ordinary People Rejected the Unfamiliar

(p. C8) Valerie Hansen’s “The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World—and Globalization Began” is a gripping account of exploration and ingenuity, sweeping across the economic alliances and great networks of trade that connected disparate regions around the globe. By touching down in different parts of the world at that precise moment, Ms. Hansen reveals the social and economic changes that linked individuals and societies in astonishing ways.

. . .

People navigated along the trading routes from China to the Persian Gulf and East Africa, and from Scandinavia to North America and the Caspian Sea, long before da Gama, Magellan and Columbus. But for most ordinary people life was still circumscribed. Globalization in 1000 may have opened the world to rulers—and busy ports and cities like Quanzhou and Bukhara may have hosted culturally and religiously diverse populations—but there was little sense of a wider, cosmopolitan embrace of a common humanity. “The most important lesson we can learn from our forebears is how best to react to the unfamiliar,” Ms. Hansen writes. “Those who remained open to the unfamiliar did much better than those who rejected anything new.”

For the full review, see:

Karin Altenberg. “Setting The Globe Spinning.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, May 23, 2020): C8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 22, 2020, and has the title “The Year 1000’ Review: Setting the Globe Spinning.”)

The book under review is:

Hansen, Valerie. The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World—and Globalization Began. New York: Scribner, 2020.

For 12-Year-Old, 10 Hours a Day in Mine “Really Meant Freedom for Me”

(p. A15) For Jack Lawson, “ten hours a day in the dark prison below really meant freedom for me.” At age 12, this Northern England boy began full-time work down the local mine. His life underwent a transformation; there would be “no more drudgery at home.” Jack’s wages lifted him head and shoulders above his younger siblings and separated him in fundamental ways from the world of women. He received better food, clothing and considerably more social standing and respect within the family. He had become a breadwinner.

Rooted in firsthand accounts of life in the Victorian era, Emma Griffin’s “Bread Winner” is a compelling re-evaluation of the Victorian economy. Ms. Griffin, a professor at the University of East Anglia, investigates the personal relationships and family dynamics of around 700 working-class households from the 19th century, charting the challenges people faced and the choices they made. Their lives are revealed as unique personal voyages caught within broader currents.

“I didn’t mind going out to work,” wrote a woman named Bessie Wallis. “It was just that girls were so very inferior to boys. They were the breadwinners and they came first. They could always get work in one of the mines, starting off as a pony boy then working themselves up to rope-runners and trammers for the actual coal-hewers. Girls were nobodies. They could only go into domestic service.”

Putting the domestic back into the economy, Ms. Griffin addresses a longstanding imbalance in our understanding of Victorian life. By investigating how money and resources moved around the working-class family, she makes huge strides toward answering the disconcerting question of why an increasingly affluent country continued to fail to feed its children. There was, her account makes clear, a disappointingly long lag between the development of an industrialized lifestyle in Britain and the spread of its benefits throughout the population.

For the full review, see:

Ruth Goodman. “BOOKSHELF; Livings And Wages.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, June 8, 2020): A15.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date June 7, 2020, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Bread Winner’ Review: Livings and Wages.”)

The book reviewed above, is:

Griffin, Emma. Bread Winner: An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2020.

In Most Red States, the Benefits of Opening Economies Exceed the Costs

(p. A4) Two-thirds of confirmed coronavirus cases are in states with Democratic governors. When states are measured by the sheer number of coronavirus cases, six of the top seven have Democratic governors. Together, those six blue states have about half of the nation’s cases, though only about a third of its population.

. . .

“A red-state governor is losing his business in exchange for blue-state lives,” said Angus Deaton, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at a Brookings Institution seminar last week. “So for him, opening up is a no-brainer, which is sort of why it is happening.”

He added: “It is a lot to ask those governors to kill their businesses and their GDP for people who live far away, and who they may not even like very much.”

For the full commentary, see:

Gerald F. Seib. “CAPITAL JOURNAL; Virus Exacerbates the Red-Blue Divide.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, May 19, 2020): A4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 18, 2020 and has the title “CAPITAL JOURNAL; Why Coronavirus Increasingly Exacerbates the Red-Blue Divide.”)

Deaton’s comments quoted above, are consistent with the central message of his co-authored book:

Case, Anne, and Angus Deaton. Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2020.

Small Is Not Always Beautiful

(p. A16) Zaid Kurdieh has so many fava beans growing at his farm in upstate New York that he could send 4,000 pounds a week to the best chefs in New York City. In Kentucky, Robert Eversole and Thomas Sargent planted enough winter greens to fill the all the salad bars at the University of Kentucky and still have enough left over to feed fans at the state’s two major spring horse races.

But the coronavirus pandemic has postponed the Kentucky Derby and shut the university. And in New York, chefs who would normally be shelling Mr. Kurdieh’s fava beans for their spring menus have closed their restaurants.

So these small farmers, like many others across the country who spent decades building a local, sustainable agricultural system, are staring at their fields and wondering what to do now that the table has been kicked out from under the modern farm-to-table movement.

. . .

Farm-to-table — the term has become a fixture in the culinary lexicon — started in the 1970s, when Chez Panisse and a handful of other restaurants hatched what then seemed like a radical notion: Build menus from food grown by nearby farmers who are thoughtful about everything from the seeds they select and the soil they grow them in to the communities they feed.

That idea grew into a pipeline connecting farmers, ranchers and chefs that in 2019 had generated $12 billion in income for small-scale producers including cheesemakers and vintners. Governments, hospitals and schools have come to see the value in buying locally grown food. No Silicon Valley tech company worth its stock price would dare to design a cafeteria without local food.

Since the pandemic hit, that conduit has shut down. The loss in sales could run as high as $689 million, with much higher costs in jobs and other businesses that make up the farm-to-table economic ecosystem, according to a report compiled in March by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

For the full story, see:

Kim Severson. “Farm-to-Table Falters, and Growers Are in Limbo.” The New York Times (Friday, April 10, 2020): A16.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 9, 2020, and has the title “The Farm-to-Table Connection Comes Undone.”)

In Last Decade, Extreme Poverty in World Fell from 18.2% to 8.6%

(p. A15) The 2010s have been the best decade ever. The evidence is overwhelming. Start with the United Nations Development Report. Framed as a warning about inequality, it plays down the good news: “The gap in basic living standards is narrowing, with an unprecedented number of people in the world escaping poverty, hunger and disease.”

The World Bank reports that the world-wide rate of extreme poverty fell more than half, from 18.2% to 8.6%, between 2008 and 2018. Last year the World Data Lab calculated that for the first time, more than half the world’s population can be considered “middle class.”

. . .

Rich countries use less aluminum, nickel, copper, steel, stone, cement, sand, wood, paper, fertilizer, water, crop acreage and fossil fuel every year, as Andrew McAfee documents in “More From Less.” Consumption of 66 out of 72 resources tracked by the U.S. Geological Survey is now declining.

For the full commentary, see:

Johan Norberg. “The 2010s Have Been Amazing.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, December 17, 2019): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 16, 2019, and has the same title as the print version.)

The commentary is related to the author’s book:

Norberg, Johan. Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. London, UK: Oneworld Publications, 2016.

The book by McAfee, mentioned in the commentary, is:

McAfee, Andrew. More from Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources―and What Happens Next. New York: Scribner, 2019.

Jobs Return to “Creative Destruction Parts of the Country”

(p. B5) “If you look, there are a heck of a lot of successful manufacturing parts of the country right now,” Kevin Hassett, the departing chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview. “But look at where they’re being created.”

Mr. Hassett drew a distinction between “creative destruction” parts of the country, where the Great Recession wiped out jobs but others sprung up to replace them, and “destruction-destruction” parts, where jobs have been slow to return. Recent factory job growth, he said, was “not necessarily disproportionately in the destruction-destruction places.”

For the full story, see:

Jim Tankersley. “Growth in Factory Jobs Skips Traditional Hubs.” The New York Times (Friday, June 14, 2019): B1 & B5.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 13, 2019, and has the title “In the Race for Factory Jobs Under Trump, the Midwest Isn’t Winning.”)

Clayton Christensen Wrote Well on Innovation

Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Solution (co-authored with Michael Raynor) was packed with insights and examples on how entrepreneurs and incumbent firms innovate. He wrote several other thought-provoking and useful books, starting with his now-famous The Innovator’s Dilemma. Just a few days ago, I told one of my students from Africa that he should read Christensen’s latest book, which gives wonderful examples of how entrepreneurial innovation in developing countries can help them prosper.

This evening (Thurs., Jan. 24, 2020) I was discouraged to receive an email alert from the Wall Street Journal saying that Christensen died today.

A year or so ago, I sent him a late draft of my Openness to Creative Destruction, which references his work several times. He never responded. Maybe he already was too ill to look at it, or maybe he didn’t like it. I’ll never know. But either way, I thank him for all that his books taught me about innovation.

Christensen’s best book is:

Christensen, Clayton M., and Michael E. Raynor. The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2003.

Christensen’s best-known book is:

Christensen, Clayton M. The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business. New York: Harper Books, 2000.

Christensen’s most recent book is:

Christensen, Clayton M., Efosa Ojomo, and Karen Dillon. The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations out of Poverty. New York: HarperBusiness Press, 2019.

Art Carden Praises “Openness to Creative Destruction”

Economist Art Carden has written a fine review of my Openness book under the title “New Ideas Are the Key to Economic Development.” The review is fair, mostly positive, and well-written. His main reservation is that he sides with many other distinguished libertarians, but against me, on my argument that the patent system should be reformed rather than abolished.

Here is the final paragraph of Carden’s review:

I am glad to see Openness to Creative Destruction appear in print. It strikes a fine balance between detail and a big-picture perspective that, I think, can be read profitably by specialists and students alike. Anyone who wants to understand how the world grew rich and, importantly, what will sustain our enrichment would do well to have this book on the shelf.