August 14, 2017
The rate of productivity growth – the major determinant of long run economic growth – has slowed sharply since the start of the century. The so called ‘productivity puzzle’ is one of the most pertinent macroeconomic questions of our time. Are fast rates of economic growth, the hallmark of the 20th century, a thing of the past? Or is it just another ‘bad attack of economic pessimism’ as economist John Maynard Keynes wrote nearly a century ago? ... Our chart below shows two distinct ‘super-cycles’ in UK productivity growth since the First Industrial Revolution. The first cycle brought about an acceleration in productivity growth over an approximate 70-year period that peaked in around 1870 before a 30-year deceleration thereafter. It ended at the turn of the 20th century during the middle of the Second Industrial Revolution. The cycle of the 20th century followed a similar pattern to the 19th, but with much, much bigger gains in productivity and well being. ... Comparing the western world’s current struggle for productivity gains against the ongoing fast rates of discovery in energy, artificial intelligence and robotics, to name but a few, suggests that we may be back at stage one and could be heading for stage two with rapid productivity advances in a while. ... Once we fully exploit the potential of the current wave of new technologies, the risks to the future seem skewed to the upside.
Seven years in, however, Stripe’s mission is less to send more books, vacuums, and grooming kits into the world than to “increase the GDP of the internet,” Patrick says. To do this, the company is beginning to move beyond payments by writing software that helps companies retool the way they incorporate, pay workers, and detect fraud. It’s part of an ambitious bid to revamp how online business has been conducted for 20 years and to give anyone with a bright idea a chance to compete. ... With Stripe, all a startup had to do was add seven lines of code to its site to handle payments: What once took weeks was now a cut-and-paste job. Silicon Valley coders spread word of this elegant new architecture. ... Although startups appreciated what Stripe was doing, most potential investors did not. How was a small group of young engineers going to alter the internet’s financial structure? Hadn’t they heard of PayPal?
Counterfeiting is a $400 billion industry in China. Factories churn out real Nike shoes just a handful of subway stops from illicit markets selling fake ones, and counterfeit versions of the latest iPhone are hawked in the Shanghai airport before the real ones reach many rural Americans. There are real car dealerships selling knockoff cars and fake Apple Stores where the employees aren’t in on the scam. And black-market goods are a lucrative export, too: China sends millions of pairs of counterfeit shoes to the EU and billions of dollars’ worth of counterfeit pharmaceuticals to Africa and Southeast Asia. ... The Pinkerton Agency got its start fighting counterfeiting nearly 170 years ago when Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish immigrant, busted a gang manufacturing fake money along the Fox River in Illinois. Abraham Lincoln credited the young agency with foiling an early assassination plot that was to take place during the train ride to his inauguration. Throughout the Civil War, the president relied on Pinkerton detectives to handle tasks now performed by the FBI, Secret Service, and CIA.
Despite its boots-and-hat veneer, Prineville, Oregon, is a primary driver of America’s next great boom industry. In 2010, Facebook broke ground on a billion-dollar data center here in Crook County, its first; Apple soon followed. The two tech giants now operate in close proximity to one another, on a bluff just west of town. Stumpy and others have been drawn by this economic influx—but also by Prineville’s incredible outdoor access. From here one can, within a 30-minute drive, catch trout on the blue-ribbon Crooked River, climb at Smith Rock, mountain-bike or backcountry-ski in the Ochoco National Forest, or cycle buttery roads through high-desert juniper and sagebrush. “I fixed up two houses in Maui,” Stumpy said. “I’ve seen Telluride. I could have bought a shack there in ’83 for ten grand.” He believed that Prineville was about to pop. James Good agreed. “Everyone’s afraid of it becoming the next Bend,” he said, referencing the nearby adventure-sports hub. ... Prineville, named for an early settler, was built on timber, and the place boomed in the mid-20th century, thanks to its proximity to the railroad and abundance of pine trees. Timber fallers came to work at five saw mills; ranchers ran cattle; the area became a hub for rock hounds collecting agates in the volcanic high country. Les Schwab, the son of a logger, opened a tire store here in 1952 and gave away free beef to customers in the slow winter months.
“Offering a washer and dryer in-unit is a trend we’re certainly seeing,” says Paula Munger, the director of industry research for the National Apartment Association. A recent survey by the industry group found the addition of washers and dryers to be one of the most common upgrades to apartments in recent years. ... That has posed a problem for laundromats. According to data from the Census Bureau, the number of laundry facilities in the U.S. has declined by almost 20 percent since 2005, with especially precipitous drops in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles (17 percent) and Chicago (23 percent). (While that data includes both laundromats and dry cleaners, laundromats account for the bulk of the drop.) In the disappearance of laundromats, a longtime staple of urban living, one can detect yet another way that cities have changed in response to an influx of higher-earning residents. ... Collectively earning $5 billion each year, as estimated by the Coin Laundry Association, the U.S.’s coin-operated laundromats are overwhelmingly mom-and-pop operations and share a tightly knit history with the American city. ... Laundromats’ margins are further thinning as the price of water and sewage services have risen across the country.
Surely a golfer who drives the ball longer than anybody else is teed up beautifully to compete on the Tour, right? ... Think again. Any weekend duffer will tell you that one of the most frustrating aspects of golf is converting length into low scores. That is the challenge facing Sadlowski: to turn his lightning-strike drives into consistent birdies, enough to become an everyday touring pro. It is a butterfly dream in which no previous golf-ball bomber has emerged from the chrysalis stage.
Earlier this month a fire from a flying lantern torched the roof of the Rio velodrome, badly damaging its Siberian Pine track. After the Games, the city solicited bids for private companies to run the park, but no one bid, leaving Brazil's Ministry of Sport with the task -- and expense. The maintenance alone will cost the government approximately $14 million this year. Rio's new mayor, Marcelo Crivella, has scrapped plans to turn the handball arena into four public schools. And the 31 towers that made up the athletes village, which were set to be transformed into luxury condos, now sit largely vacant. ... Even some of the medals awarded to the athletes have tarnished or cracked, with more than 10 percent of them sent back to Brazil for repair. Rio officials blame poor handling by the athletes. ... Almost a year since the Games closed, the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee still owes $40 million to creditors. Bloomberg reported in April that the Olympic organizers were attempting to pay creditors with air conditioners, portable energy units and electrical cables. In July, the organizing committee asked the International Olympic Committee for help with its debt; the IOC said no.