Overall world debt in the last year or two is at its all-time high as a share of world GDP. But there is common pattern that as countries grow and their financial markets develop, their level of debt also tends to rise. Perhaps even more interesting is that the importance of the components of that debt have been shifting. During and after the Great Recession, government borrowing was the main driver of rising global debt. But corporate borrowing has become more important.
Imagine yourself as the profit-seeking owner of a chain of retail stores. Would you charge the same (or nearly the same) price across all the stores? Or would you vary prices according to average income level of consumers who use that store, or according to whether the local economy was robust or shaky, or according to whether the store had geographically nearby competitors?
In the decades after World War II and up into the 1980s, the US economy experienced regional convergence: that is, the economies and incomes in poorer regions (like the US South) tended to grow more quickly than the economies of richer regions (like the US North). But in the 1980s, this pattern of regional convergence slowed down.
Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2017 "for his contributions to behavioural economics". He tells the story of how the field evolved from early musings through small-scale tests and more comprehensive theories and all the way to public policy in his Nobel prize lecture, "From Cashews to Nudges: The Evolution of Behavioral Economics." It is ungated and freely available in the June 2018 issue of the American Economic Review (108:6, pp. 1265–1287). Video of the lecture being delivered is here.
A decade after the global financial crisis circa 2008, the global economy has finally recovered. The Global Economics Prospects 2018 report just published by the World Bank, subtitled "Broad-Based Upturn, but for How Long?" tells the story.
"The way we design, produce, and use clothes has drawbacks that are becoming increasingly clear. The textiles system operates in an almost completely linear way: large amounts of non-renewable resources are extracted to produce clothes that are often used for only a short time, after which the materials are mostly sent to landfill or incinerated. More than USD 500 billion of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilisation and the lack of recycling. Furthermore, this take-make-dispose model has numerous negative environmental and societal impacts. For instance, total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production, at 1.2 billion tonnes annually, are more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Hazardous substances affect the health of both textile workers and wearers of clothes, and they escape into the environment. When washed, some garments release plastic microfibres, of which around half a million tonnes every year contribute to ocean pollution – 16 times more than plastic microbeads from cosmetics. Trends point to these negative impacts rising inexorably ..."
When it comes to peering ahead into the autonomous vehicle future, some crystal balls are better than others. I recommend the recent report written for a group called SAFE by Charles Carson, Erica Groshen, Susan Helper, John Paul MacDuffie, W. David Montgomery, and Richard Mudge, America’s Workforce and the Self-Driving Future Realizing Productivity Gains and Spurring Economic Growth (June 2018).