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4 months

Economics of Medieval Guilds

Guilds played an important role in the economies of Europe from about the 11th century up through the 16th century, and a continuing if less important role up into the 19th century. Sheilagh Ogilvie, the go-to economic historian on this subject, has a new book out called The European Guilds: An Economic Analysis (published by Princeton University Press and of course available on Amazon, too). For a flavor, here are some comments from the opening chapter: 

4 months

Why US Financial Regulators Are Unprepared for the Next Financial Crisis

The Great Recession from 2007-2009 represented a toxic mixture of failures by market participants and financial regulators. The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 patched some of the holes, but not nearly all of them. At least, that's the conclusion I reach from a three-paper "Symposium on Financial Stability Regulation" in the Winter 2019 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. (Full disclosure: I have worked as Managing Editor of JEP since the first issue back in 1987, so I am perhaps predisposed to find its articles persuasive.) The papers are:

4 months

Middle East Economic Challenges

The Middle East and North Africa region contains about half of the world's proven reserves of oil and natural gas. This has already proven to be a mixed blessing for economic growth in the region, and in a world economy where many countries are making efforts to reduce carbon-emitting sources of energy, a dependence on production of fossil fuels will be even more problematic. Abdelhak, Bassou, Mario Filadoro, Larabi Jaidi, Marion Jansen, Yassine Msadfa, and Simone Tagliapietra consider these isues in "Towards EU-MENA Shared Prosperity," a report co-published by the European think tank Breugel and the Moroccan think tank OCP Policy Center (which receives funding through Office Chérifien des Phosphates, a Morocco-based mining company).

4 months

Netherlands: The #2 Food Exporter in the World

Densely populated Netherlands, with 17 million people and a GDP similar to the state of Illinois, is the second-largest exporter of food products in the world as measured by volume of sales. Frank Viviano explains in "This Tiny Country Feeds the World: The Netherlands has become an agricultural giant by showing what the future of farming could look like," which appears in the September 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine.

4 months

Building Connections with Active Labor Market Policies

"Passive" labor market policies involve paying money to the unemployed, like with unemployment insurance. "Active" labor market policies involve a range of programs to assist the unemployed with finding jobs. In both categories, the US has long lagged well behind other high-income countries. Chad P. Bown and Caroline Freund review the evidence in "Active Labor Market Policies: Lessonsfrom Other Countries for the United States" (Peterson Institute for International Economics, January 2019. 19-2).

4 months

Reducing Health Care Costs in America

The US spends about 18% of GDP on health care. Other high-income countries spend an average of about 11%. Thus, the Society of Actuaries and Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation have created Initiative 18/11 to consider ways of holding down US heath care spending. A first report from the initiative, "What Can We Do About the Cost of Health Care?" (January 2019), doesn't yet offer proposals for action. But it offers a useful sense of what many of the main targets are likely to be of any serious effort to reduce healthy care costs. Here are some of my own reactions and takeaways from the report.

4 months

Why Did Simon Kuznets Want to Leave Military Spending out of GDP?

Simon Kuznets (Nobel 1971) usually gets the credit for doing as much as anyone to organize our modern thinking about what should be included in GDP, or left out. But I had not known that Kuznets apparently argued for leaving military spending out of GDP, on the grounds that it wasn't actually "consumed" by anyone, but should instead be treated as an intermediate input that supported production and consumption. Here's how Hugh Rockoff tells the story in his essay, "On the Controversies behind the Origins of the Federal Economic Statistics," in the Winter 2019 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. [Full disclosure: I work at JEP as Managing Editor.]  Rockoff writes: