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Tuesday, August 30, 2016
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Incremental improvements to infrastructure offer better value for money

Does it lift your heart to hear that “Britain is uniquely placed to lead the world in a smart power revolution”? Do you share the ambition of George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, to discover “what the government needs to do to become a world leader in 5G infrastructure”? Here's why my heart sank when reading these words in the plans of the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission.

Economic statistics have not kept pace with our needs or new...

Last week’s Treasury report from Sir Charlie Bean on the methods by which national economic statistics are collected confirms that there has been relatively little change since the ONS began measuring GDP 75 years ago in wartime Britain. Yet our data needs - and our ability to collect them through digital sources - has changed considerably.

The limits to productivity growth are set only by the limits...

Robert Gordon’s magisterial book The Rise and Fall of American Growth argues that the years from 1870 to 1970 were the “special century” for technological developments. And that the past 50 years, by contrast, have been “dazzling but disappointing”. Yet, if not much seems to have happened, it is perhaps because we see that much is yet to come.

The move towards a cashless society is bad news for criminal...

Andrew Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, speculated last week about a cashless future in the hope that it might enable central banks to reduce interest rates below even their current near-zero levels. But this also has important implications for the fight against crime.

A liberal education is now more useful than job-specific skills

Technology has made it less important to know, and more important to know what is known. That is why the widespread belief that education should be focused more on the acquisition of job-specific knowledge is especially misconceived in the 21st century.

Look at home to find the efficiency gains from recent technological...

The technological changes that have occurred in the past decade have, from an economic perspective, increased at virtually no cost the efficiency of household production. Trying to account for this kind of development is the considerable challenge being undertaken by Sir Charles Bean's review of the UK's national statistics.

Why do we welcome innovation to products more readily than to...

Children love to play with new toys but hate disruption to their routines. These traits persist in adult life: innovation is readily adopted when it is incorporated in new gadgets but innovation that involves doing things differently is resisted. There are understandable reasons for this.

Technology’s crystal ball offers only a hazy view of the future

Knowledge is more than additive. What we learn when we bring two bodies of knowledge together may be much more than the sum of each alone.

When capitalism and corporate self-interest collide

Adam Smith had not imagined a world in which the Wealth of Nations would cross the world digitally at the click of a mouse. Nor had he envisaged one in which legislation would be drafted by paid lobbyists.

Google’s books drive needs a wider debate

Digital media is the future and two decades from now the book business will look very different.

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