Self Help

Concrete Economics The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy - Bradford DeLong

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 31 min read

“If you liked the book, you can purchase it using the links in the description below. By buying through these links, you contribute to the blog without paying any extra, as we receive a small commission. This helps us bring more quality content to you!”



Here is a summary of the key points about concrete economics from the introduction:

  • Successful economies have pursued pragmatic, not ideological economic policies that were concrete rather than abstract.

  • The US has repeatedly enacted policies to shift the economy onto new growth trajectories by opening up new “economic spaces” of opportunity. These redirections have been major and intentional choices, not just emergent outcomes.

  • Governments led these reforms, backed by political forces with a common vision of how the economy should change. Entrepreneurs then innovated in these new spaces in unforeseen ways, transforming and reshaping the entire economy.

  • The choice of new direction was based on a practical perception of where the economy needed to go, not abstract theories. Intellectuals focused on enabling new growth, not validating doctrines.

  • Until the 1980s, each redesign was very concrete and pragmatic, not ideological. The government signaled a direction and cleared the way, then entrepreneurs innovated and expanded that direction in a dynamic partnership.

  • This interplay between pragmatic government leadership and entrepreneurial innovation is what has driven much of America’s economic success over time.

  • The US government has historically played a role in shaping and redesigning the economy, contrary to claims that the economy should evolve purely through unguided market forces.

  • Alexander Hamilton led early efforts to promote industry and commerce in the US through protectionist tariffs and other policies to help develop infant industries. This tilted the playing field and helped industrialize the US economy faster.

  • Tariffs remained high through the 19th century to continue protecting industries, despite opposition from farmers. This policy of distorting markets through protectionism worked well to industrialize the US rapidly.

  • The government also funded projects like the transcontinental railroad, which reshaped the economy by opening new regions for farming and development of related industries like steel.

  • So while markets played a role, the government intentionally led efforts to change the structure and trajectory of the economy over time through policies like tariffs, subsidies, and infrastructure projects. This contradicted the existing economic model imposed by Britain but set the US on a different development path.

  • In the 19th century, the US government allocated huge tracts of land to railway companies and implemented the Homestead Act which gave land to families who lived and farmed on it, rather than highest bidders, shaping social and economic development.

  • Teddy Roosevelt broke up monopolies through antitrust laws and regulated industries like railroads.

  • FDR’s New Deal experimented with different programs and policies to stimulate the economy during the Great Depression, creating many new agencies and expanding government’s role greatly.

  • Under Eisenhower, government continued large infrastructure, housing, and university programs and supported new technologies through defense spending, spurring suburbanization and economic growth.

  • More recently, foreign government policies like protectionism in East Asia hollowed out US manufacturing, while domestic policies failed to adequately address these challenges or develop new industries. Overall, the US government has played a major role in intentionally reshaping and designing the economy over its history in pragmatic, experimental ways rather than ideological ones.

  • East Asian economies like Japan, Korea, and China pursued a strategy of state-led industrialization and export-oriented growth. They aggressively protected domestic industries from imports, provided cheap capital and technology, and focused industries on exports to drive economic growth and industrialization.

  • This strategy delivered unprecedented rapid economic growth for these countries. However, it often came at the expense of other major exporting countries, like the US, who had to import more than they exported and saw declines in targeted industries.

  • For the developing Asian countries, the benefits of increased employment and reduced poverty outweighed the costs to other nations. But from the perspective of countries facing import competition, the gains of others came at their economic loss.

  • The US had options to either shift to higher value industries, accept its economic restructuring, or block imports. It chose to shift to industries like advanced tech, real estate, healthcare, and finance that it believed were higher value.

  • However, the growth of real estate, healthcare administration, and parts of finance like subprime lending did not generate much real economic value. They mainly redistributed income rather than producing new goods and services.

  • In contrast, past shifts to industries like aviation, semiconductors, and computing created many derivative industries and long-term economic benefits. The recent shifts did not produce the same benefits and value for the US economy.

  • The sector employed many clerks and tellers who remained poorly paid, while pay at the top, especially the very top, increased dramatically from the 1970s to the 2000s. Finance accounted for 40% of all corporate profits by 2005.

  • Highly lucrative parts of finance like hedge funds and private equity were not structured as corporations and so were not included in that 40% figure. Related industries like accounting, consulting, and Wall Street law firms further increased the profits from finance.

  • Beginning in the 1980s, the US got its economic policy wrong by promoting and subsidizing finance, health insurance administration, real estate transactions, and imports based on abstract economic theories rather than pragmatic assessment. This was a break from earlier economic redesigns that were presented concretely.

  • Deregulation and dismantling rules enabled the rapid growth of finance and related sectors at the expense of manufacturing, engineering, and exports. This created powerful lobbying interests that now shape economic policy to further entrench these sectors.

  • On the “push” side, eager Asian governments sold imports to the US and promoted their own development, in contrast to the ideological approach taken by US policymakers.

  • John Robert Seely’s view that Britain acquired its empire “in a fit of absence of mind” is incorrect. Beginning under Elizabeth I in the 16th century, Britain strategically pursued naval dominance and empire-building.

  • From 1689 on, Britain established a strong fiscal-military system to fund a larger navy than France, despite France having 3x the population. The British Empire was a deliberate project of military and economic dominance.

  • Britain’s goal was to control global trade and extract profits through naval dominance, settler colonies, taxes on other colonies, and exporting manufactured goods. This mercantile system was codified through navigation acts.

  • Adam Smith heavily criticized Britain’s mercantile system in Wealth of Nations, arguing it sacrificed home consumers to producers and manufacturers. It also violated the rights of colonists by prohibiting them from making their own economic decisions.

  • Had the American colonies remained under British rule, the US economy would have developed along more agricultural/resource-based lines to please British merchants, importing manufactured goods.

  • Alexander Hamilton set a new economic direction for the US through his Report on Manufactures, pushing industrialization, infrastructure, finance and high tariffs - setting the country on a different economic development path than Britain’s colonial design or Jefferson’s agrarian vision.

So in summary, the British Empire was deliberately pursued as a naval and economic power project, not acquired accidentally, and Hamilton was instrumental in shaping an independent American economic system focused on manufacturing rather than agriculture/resource export.

The British Empire had originally designed America to be an agrarian economy focused on farming and subsistence agriculture. Specifically:

  • They wanted America to have a rural, agricultural society and economy rather than an urban, industrial one. The goal was to have America primarily as suppliers of raw materials rather than competitors in manufacturing.

  • Jefferson and later Jackson supported this agrarian vision, idealizing the independent yeoman farmer working small family plots of land. They resisted the growth of cities, factories, and corporate business interests.

  • Britain did not want America to develop competitive manufacturing industries that could challenge British industrial dominance. An agrarian America would rely on Britain for manufactured goods and be dependent on British trade.

Hamilton had a dissenting view. He believed liberty and prosperity required urbanization, commerce, industry and international trade. He implemented policies like tariffs, infrastructure spending and a national bank to purposefully reshape America’s economy away from agriculture and towards manufacturing to make the nation economically independent and self-sufficient. Over time, Hamilton’s vision proved far more successful and took hold, though Jefferson’s agrarian ideal still had political influence for some time.

  • The first generation of industrial technologies developed in 18th century Britain because they were optimized for British factor prices and proportions at that time, particularly cheap coal.

  • These early British technologies were not profitable to deploy in other countries like Holland due to differences in costs.

  • However, later generations of these technologies developed in the 19th century (like the 3rd generation) were profitable to deploy elsewhere in places like the Ruhr, Belgium, and New England due to improvements.

  • American technologies developed under the Hamiltonian system had similar dynamics - early versions were too resource intensive but later generations were profitable internationally.

  • Key American innovations included interchangeable parts production, Fordist mass production, large bureaucratic corporations, and government support for industrial research.

  • The Hamiltonian system was successful in driving innovation and economic growth in the U.S. despite opposition, and its policies like tariffs remained influential for a long time.

So in summary, early country-specific technologies diffused internationally as later generations became more efficient and viable in diverse locations and factor markets. The Hamiltonian system also spurred important American industrial innovations.

  • The Hamiltonian system established policies like assuming state debts, creating a national bank, tariffs, and infrastructure projects to promote industrialization. This laid the foundation for the American economy.

  • Over time, these policies created entrenched economic interests that supported continuing the system. Politicians from both parties sustained Hamilton’s initiatives due to this political support.

  • The system evolved into the American System under which the federal government further encouraged domestic manufacturing. This later transformed into the system of mass production pioneered by Ford.

  • Each major economic redesign, from Hamilton to later figures like Lincoln, entailed new compromises between political interests and expansions of the government’s role in enabling growth. Lincoln extended support to free labor through policies like the Homestead Act, land-grant colleges, and accommodating large industrial corporations like railroads.

  • Subsequent redesigns have similarly realigned political coalitions and economic policies while largely preserving the developmental state established under Hamilton. His system set the precedent for an active federal government partnering with private interests to continually transform the American economy.

The anti-slavery position can be summarized as free labor policy. Its goals were twofold:

  1. To free slaves and transfer ownership of human capital from slaveholders to individuals. This aimed to make individual self-ownership real by ending forced labor.

  2. To change labor market bargaining power by increasing wages above slave wages. As long as slavery existed, it suppressed wages for all workers by setting a floor at the wage level of slaves. Abolishing slavery would allow free market wages to be determined without that downward pressure.

In essence, free labor policy sought to abolish slavery in order to truly free labor and allow a free market for wages and labor conditions to exist without the distortion of slavery. It aimed to transfer power over one’s labor from slaveholders to individual laborers themselves.

  • After the Civil War and Southern secession, Republicans passed laws like the Homestead Act of 1862 to promote social goals like independent farmers settling the Midwest, not just auctioning off land. This helped design a society of free farmers rather than large estates.

  • They also passed the Morrill Act of 1862 establishing land grant colleges to promote education access. Both acts echoed Jefferson’s vision and had impacts for over a century.

  • Republicans initially opposed immigration but later backed it to supply labor for railroads, industry, and votes for their party bosses. Immigration gates closed again in the 1920s due to protectionist sentiment.

  • Lincoln envisioned a society where most were neither slaves nor hired laborers but independent producers. Republican economic policies like these were generally pragmatic rather than ideological and faced little opposition initially.

  • Theodore Roosevelt as president took a more progressive stance, willing to make deals across party lines to curb abuses of monopolies and wealth while balancing government and market power. He prioritized practical reform over Republican orthodoxy.

  • Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson harnessed the progressive movement in the early 1900s, which sought to address various economic and social issues arising in the late 19th century.

  • Key problems included unrest among farmers/miners due to monopolies and deflation, failure to assimilate new immigrants rapidly in cities, poverty and lack of development in the post-Civil War South, powerful trusts dominating markets, and growing income inequality.

  • The progressive agenda aimed to regulate industries like railroads and break up monopolies like Standard Oil, establish agencies to oversee fair trade and food/drugs, and enact some worker protections and social programs. However, strong union rights, financial regulation, and a full social safety net went too far.

  • Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s took a more interventionist approach out of emergency need during the Great Depression, when unemployment was high and the economy was in dire straits. His policies focused on immediate relief rather than opening new economic opportunities as previous reforms had.

  • In 1933, the U.S. was in the depths of the Great Depression. Automobile and steel production had plummeted to around 25% of pre-Depression levels. Banks were defaulting on deposits and thousands had failed, causing panicked runs on surviving banks. Unemployment was rampant.

  • FDR gave his inaugural address on March 4, 1933, acknowledging the nation’s fears but promising pragmatic, concrete relief actions, not vague promises of a quick recovery. He said the top task was putting people back to work through both government hiring and stimulus projects. Banking and financial markets needed reform to prevent speculation and ensure a sound currency.

  • FDR took swift action, calling Congress into special session the next day. A banking bill closed and then rescued failing banks. Relief for struggling homeowners followed through the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation. Securities regulations were established along with the SEC.

  • The New Deal tried many simultaneous initiatives like the CCC employment program and massive public works spending through the PWA and WPA, building infrastructure. Agricultural supports aimed to boost farm prices and mortgages.

  • Roosevelt deregulated the dollar and established lasting financial regulations through Glass-Steagall. The New Deal focused on emergency relief over innovative growth strategies. It prioritized humanitarian aid, redistribution, fairness and financial stability through an experimental and pragmatic approach.

  • Eisenhower’s vision emphasized continuing and expanding the New Deal programs and policies that defined post-WWII American liberalism and the role of government in supporting the economy and average Americans.

  • This vision consisted of three elements: 1) enabling the American Dream of homeownership, consumer goods, and mobility through cars and highways; 2) using government spending on the military and science/technology to protect national security and drive economic growth; 3) enabling widespread access to modern consumer goods and technologies through continued government support and oversight of the private sector.

  • Eisenhower’s continuation of New Deal policies and big government spending legitimized this model and prevented attempts to roll back government intervention, preserving a stable economic and political system through the 1960s.

  • His approach emphasized preserving and expanding existing institutions rather than radical changes, in a business-friendly way that maintained steady economic growth and income equality through the 1950s-60s.

So in summary, Eisenhower played a key role in cementing the post-WWII American system defined by New Deal liberalism and a large but consensus-driven role for government in supporting the economy and middle class.

Here is a summary of the key points about suburbanization in the postwar period in the United States:

  • Federal government efforts under Hoover and FDR promoted home ownership through programs like the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation and the Federal Housing Administration. These made long-term, fixed-rate mortgages available to more people on easier terms.

  • The GI Bill after WWII provided generous education benefits for veterans as well as mortgage assistance programs to help returning soldiers buy homes.

  • Government policies strongly favored single-family homes over apartments and public housing. The FHA insured many more single family home mortgages.

  • Suburban development depended on automobile transportation. The interstate highway system, funded 90% by the federal government, enabled widespread suburban sprawl.

  • From the 1940s-1960s, around 80% of population growth occurred in suburbs as many cities lost residents. Suburbanization led to segregation by class and especially by race.

  • Levittown on Long Island, built in the late 1940s-50s, was an iconic early suburban development but was strictly segregated and only allowed white residents. Racism in society and deliberate policies contributed to segregation.

  • Government policy at all levels, from local to federal, imposed and enforced racial segregation. This included the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

  • The FHA promoted suburban development but also racial segregation. It only insured properties that met strict appraisal guidelines, which incorporated factors like maintaining racially “homogeneous” neighborhoods.

  • Federal spending disproportionately favored suburbs over cities through housing programs and transportation infrastructure like highways. This encouraged white flight and suburban growth while trapping minorities in deteriorating urban areas lacking jobs or investment.

  • As white families left cities, more felt compelled to leave due to declining schools, tax bases, and the perception that cities were being left with less advantaged groups. This degradation of cities became a self-reinforcing cycle known as “white flight.”

  • Suburban relocation pulled jobs and middle-class taxpayers out of cities as well. Inner cities struggled with increasingly concentrated poverty, crime, and dysfunctional communities dependent on declining public resources.

  • The separation of families geographically contributed to issues like loneliness, caretaking challenges, and higher living costs as mutual support networks weakened. It also locked the country into car-dependent development with associated energy and environmental consequences.

Here is a summary of the key points in the passage:

  • The third panel of the display focused on the promise of future science and technology, which was harder to visualize than present-day examples. It depicted concepts like nuclear power, jet airliners, microwaves, computers, and more advanced technologies.

  • Military research focused on developing technologies to maintain technological superiority and mission success. This included projects like nuclear subs, jet tankers, transistors for fighter planes, radar systems, and basic computer research.

  • Technologies developed for military purposes often had civilian spin-offs that benefited the economy. This led to an indirect but powerful industrial policy effect.

  • Government played a key role in funding basic research and early development that private companies found too risky. Bell Labs was a major exception as a private research powerhouse.

  • The nuclear industry was tightly controlled by the government from its inception due to the sensitive nature of nuclear technology. The military and government agencies drove nuclear reactor and power plant development initially before it transitioned to civilian use through companies like Westinghouse.

  • Commercial jetliners, nuclear power, and microwave ovens were all technologies that spun off from military research and development programs.

  • Commercial jetliners like the Boeing 707 were adapted from military planes and transports and quickly came to dominate the commercial aviation market globally.

  • Nuclear power was seen as a promising peaceful use of atomic energy after WWII and the development of nuclear weapons, but it did not live up to expectations of being too cheap to meter and revolutionizing world energy. Growth halted after Three Mile Island.

  • Microwave ovens were a commercial adaptation of military radar technology.

  • Information technology, including transistors, semiconductors, fiber optics, computers, the internet, and more were launched by government R&D programs, especially the military and NASA. This enabled whole new industries to emerge through spin-offs and commercial innovation building on the initial government investments and inventions. The Pentagon drove development of the US semiconductor industry.

So in summary, several major industries like commercial aviation, information technology, and others emerged through the successful spinning off and commercial adaptation of technologies originally developed for military and government purposes and R&D programs.

  • The computer industry in the US needed government support and sponsorship to grow and develop. Between 1966 and 1989, the number of bachelor’s degrees in computer science increased dramatically from 66 to 42,000 due to funding and actions by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

  • Early digital computers like ENIAC filled large rooms and required teams of assistants. The Navy’s Project Whirlwind failed but laid the groundwork for later developments.

  • The Air Force’s SAGE project expanded massively to salvage Whirlwind, creating real-time software and innovations like core memory. SAGE was highly expensive but obsolete. However, it lifted computing into an economic phenomenon by creating IBM’s dominant mainframe business through massive Pentagon contracts.

  • The internet was also initially created by the Pentagon through projects like ARPANET and technologies like packet switching. NSF later funded the high-capacity NSFNET backbone enabling widespread use.

  • Fundamental web technologies like HTML and early browsers came from public research institutions, not private companies initially.

  • In summary, the digital revolution was driven by massive government investments, projects and support through agencies like the Pentagon, NASA and NSF. Entrepreneurs then commercialized these publicly-funded innovations.

  • The East Asian development model aims to “catch up” with developed nations through industrialization, rather than attempting to invent a new future. It looks to more advanced economies as examples of where it should go.

  • Rather than relying solely on free markets, East Asian governments play an active role in steering investment toward priority industries through initiatives like cheap capital, technology transfers, and protectionism. However, firms still need to succeed in international competition.

  • The model is not autarkic - East Asian nations are highly engaged in trade but manage imports/exports carefully through policies like controlled capital flows and currency manipulation.

  • Nontariff barriers also played a big role through targeted promotion and protection of certain industries. Macroeconomic aggregates do not capture this level of detail.

  • Unlike Stalinist models, East Asian development states use markets as instruments and do not directly manage firms, with some exceptions like China’s transition.

  • High savings/investment rates, exchange rate repression, and export orientation through subsidies have historically driven industrialization and skills/productivity growth through learning effects. But this model relies on other nations running deficits to absorb exports.

  • Japan pioneered the Asian development model after WWII, achieving unprecedented economic growth from the 1950s to 1990s through high savings, investment, exports, and low consumption. This allowed rapid industrialization.

  • Key aspects of Japan’s approach included intense protectionism through tariffs and non-tariff barriers to build up industries like automobiles. Financial repression kept interest rates low to direct capital to targeted sectors.

  • Large business groups called keiretsu facilitated collaborative relationships between firms. A competent industrial policy bureaucracy planned economic development.

  • Japan’s growth benefited from human factors like education, work ethic, and social cohesion as well. However, protectionism was arguably effective at accelerating industrial upgrading over time.

  • In contrast to other nations, Japanese trade was not intra-sectoral. It dominated exports in some industries like automobiles while importing little from competitors. This asymmetric trade pattern impacted trade partners differently.

  • After catching up economically, Japan struggled with low growth, deflation, and demographic decline in the 1990s as its development model ceased working as well. But it proved highly successful in facilitating rapid industrialization.

  • Japan imported few industries in large volumes initially due to protectionist policies that shielded domestic industries. This decreased imports and foreign direct investment.

  • Japanese firms like Toyota grew strong through these protections and later became globally competitive exporters.

  • Major Japanese firms were supported by keiretsu business groups that included cross-shareholdings across industries like banking, insurance, manufacturing, etc. This provided a ring of protectionism.

  • Bureaucrats played a key role in Japan’s industrial policies through meritocratic recruitment and close ties to industries. They guided development rather than applying rules equally.

  • Politicians focused on non-trade sectors like agriculture, retail, and construction which faced less competition. This protected jobs but increased costs.

  • High savings rates fueled investment in industry rather than housing. Designated financial institutions channeled funds to industry and infrastructure.

  • Japan’s policies succeeded in rapid economic convergence with Western nations but also created entrenched interests that maintained policies past their effectiveness. Other Asian nations saw impressive but varying degrees of growth through developmental state models as well.

  • China has followed the basic East Asian development model of high savings, investment, exports and low consumption. This has led to extraordinary growth, with investment reaching 50% of GDP, savings keeping pace, and exports climbing to 30% of GDP.

  • Reforms began in agriculture in the late 1970s, dismantling communes and allowing market prices. This doubled agricultural output while reducing the agricultural workforce. This gave the regime credibility and excess agricultural output could be used to fuel industrialization.

  • However, Chinese factories initially lacked domestic demand, so exports were needed to absorb output and drive learning and upgrading. Foreign companies were invited in through Special Economic Zones to provide technology, markets and know-how for export-oriented production, especially of labor-intensive goods like clothing and toys.

  • While China’s growth model has relied on exports, a large portion of the value of Chinese exports actually comes from imported components. Similarly, US exports to China contain significant foreign value-added. The bilateral trade deficit is thus overstated when only looking at gross trade flows.

  • Technology transfer from foreign companies to Chinese firms was a key goal and helped Chinese industry climb the technology ladder over time. While foreign capital was initially important, China no longer needs as much due to high domestic savings and investment.

  • China relied heavily on foreign technology and know-how to develop its economy. All foreign companies entering China had to form joint ventures with Chinese partners, which allowed China to quickly acquire sensitive technologies.

  • Local governments play a major role in promoting investment and development in China. They provide financing, land, and other support to select companies. This has fueled overcapacity problems in industries like aluminum and shipping.

  • China heavily subsidized its solar panel industry, allowing it to rapidly expand production mainly for export. This flooded the global market and drove many foreign producers out of business.

  • China has reached the limits of its unbalanced growth model, which relies too heavily on investment and exports. Debt levels have risen sharply due to excessive credit growth and loose lending practices.

  • Reforms are needed to rein in credit, reduce state influence, boost consumption, expand the social safety net, and transition to a “more market-based” system with less pollution and heavy industry. However, implementation of these economic reforms faces major challenges.

  • China faces major macroeconomic imbalances and a developing debt crisis due to decades of rapid investment-led growth fueled by rising debt levels. Abruptly slowing credit growth risks triggering a balance sheet crash.

  • China has advantages in implementing reforms due to the leadership’s awareness of problems and consequences. However, certain reforms carry high risks that could destabilize the economy, society, and politics if not implemented carefully.

  • Gradual reforms are preferable to radical surgery due to the complexity and interdependence of China’s system after decades of super-boom growth. Localized overcapacity and wasteful investment will be addressed slowly.

  • Labor market reforms like the hukou system carry benefits but also risks if not phased in gradually, as they could significantly impact export competitiveness, local government finances, and the savings rate.

  • Powerful vested interests within the Party and business communities benefit from the status quo and may resist meaningful reforms.

  • The new leadership seems focused on recentralizing control while gradually implementing market reforms, which could mean a more powerful state in the short run even as markets take a larger role. However, a more centralized state may seek to maintain power.

  • Significant macro adjustments are likely necessary but also unsettling. Growth rates will likely slow significantly from historical highs. Government efforts to promote strategic industries will continue despite reforms.

  • In the past (1950s-1960s, late 1800s), America’s financial system was more regulated with interest rate caps, limits on leverage, and restricted investment options for banks. Despite this, the economy grew smoothly.

  • Starting in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a shift towards deregulating the financial system and allowing more experimentation. This was driven by several factors, including fading memories of past crises, pressure to relax regulations from profitable financial firms, and a bipartisan push for more market-based “innovation.”

  • Deregulation transformed the financial industry. Its costs, profits, and size relative to the real economy increased dramatically. Compensation in finance rose much faster than other sectors. Today, finance accounts for over 8% of GDP and nearly half of corporate profits.

  • However, it is debated whether this financialization has provided benefits like better allocation of capital, manager selection, or faster economic growth. Some argue the growth has been mostly in speculative and intermediation activities rather than productive investment. Critics say the system is no more efficient than in the past and is focused more on trading than lending.

So in summary, deregulation led to a huge growth of the financial industry but questions remain on whether this transformation has meaningfully helped the broader economy.

  • As manufacturing declined in the US, finance began to be seen as a new growth sector and export. Trade negotiations focused on opening foreign markets to US financial firms in exchange for imports.

  • The Clinton Treasury supported repealing Glass-Steagall to increase competition in investment banking. This was meant to reduce the power of firms like Morgan Stanley but led to the rise of too-big-to-fail megabanks.

  • Deregulation was driven by both ideology that limited government is best as well as “capture” of policymakers by the powerful financial sector. Finance came to dominate policy and theory.

  • Repeated deregulatory steps over decades reshaped the economy by allowing finance to surge in size and influence. The sector grew from 3% to nearly 9% of the economy as manufacturing declined.

  • However, excessive financial growth can harm the rest of the economy by drawing resources away from more productive sectors. It benefited sectors like construction over R&D manufacturing.

  • Overall, the hypertrophied financial sector did not allocate capital better, manage risks more effectively, or make the Fed’s job easier. Deregulation was driven more by abstract theory and ideology than pragmatic regulation.

  • Alfred Kahn spearheaded deregulation of transportation (airlines and land transport like trucks) which was popular among middle class travelers as it lowered prices. However, business travelers paid more as airlines competed on quality not price.

  • He then pushed to deregulate other industries like energy and telecom. Energy deregulation in California led to a crisis when prices soared. AT&T was broken up.

  • Financial deregulation happened through several acts in the 1970s-80s. Tax code changes in 1978 allowed 401k plans, shifting retirement risk to individuals. Regulation Q interest rate caps on banks were lifted, increasing competition.

  • The Garn-St. Germain Act of 1982 deregulated savings and loans, allowing riskier activities without additional oversight. This contributed to the 1980s savings and loan crisis as institutions took on more risk.

  • Commercial banks also sought deregulation from the Fed to expand into investment banking. This gradually reduced Glass-Steagall restrictions separating commercial and investment banking.

So in summary, Kahn spearheaded transportation deregulation which was popular but increased business costs. He then pushed broader deregulation of energy, telecoms, and financial industries, which while increasing competition and lowering some prices, also contributed to economic crises due to lack of oversight as risks increased.

  • In the 1970s-80s, commercial banks lobbied to expand their investment banking activities. Restrictions were loosened under Greenspan.

  • Savings and loans (S&Ls) lobbied to invest in riskier assets beyond their traditional portfolios. Many S&Ls failed when oil prices collapsed in the 1980s. They continued risky investing hoping for profits, instead causing losses.

  • The “Keating Five” senators blocked regulatory attempts to stop risky S&L investing. This led to the 1990s S&L crisis costing taxpayers $300 billion.

  • Investment banks merged in the 1990s seeking new revenue streams. Commercial banks also lobbied for deregulation.

  • Citigroup’s merger in 1998 challenged Glass-Steagall. Regulators saw this as improving competition and capital flows. Memories of the Great Depression were fading.

  • The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 repealed Glass-Steagall, ending decades of deregulation that expanded banking activities with little new oversight.

  • Finance is an important sector that needs careful regulation to prevent excesses that can cause widespread economic damage. It should accomplish its proper roles of enabling transactions and lending. Practices that advance these proper roles should be easy, while improper speculative activities should be burdensome.

  • In the past 200 years, there were several financial manias and crashes (1837, 1873, 1893, 1907). The 1929 crash caused the Great Depression. Strong financial regulation after 1929 prevented further crises for decades.

  • Beginning in the 1980s, there was an ideological shift to deregulate finance. Finance grew substantially relative to the shrinking manufacturing sector. This contributed to the 2000 tech bubble and 2008 financial crisis.

  • The growth of high finance poses risks of another systemic crisis like 2008 or even 1929. Yet finance continues expanding rather than contracting like manufacturing did.

  • This ideological deregulatory shift has been a mistake that damaged the economy. Policymakers incorrectly thought deregulation would unleash growth, but it mainly boosted unproductive sectors like finance at the expense of manufacturing.

  • Going forward, economic policy discussions need to shift from abstract ideology to concrete proposals that can be visualized. New directions should emerge pragmatically rather than through ideology. The goal is to regain America’s tradition of pragmatic, evidence-based economic policymaking.

Here are some potential ways to positively reshape the economy and society:

  • Invest in education, worker retraining, and lifelong learning to help workers transition to new jobs as industries change. This can promote economic mobility and opportunity.

  • Reform tax policies to encourage more equitable distribution of wealth and ensure corporations/wealthy pay their fair share. Additional revenues can fund programs that benefit society.

  • Strengthen unions, collective bargaining, and workplace protections to improve jobs and wages, especially for low-income workers. Strong middle class supports broad prosperity.

  • Implement universal healthcare, paid family leave, affordable childcare to reduce costs and stresses on families, and support women’s participation in the workforce.

  • Make higher education more affordable and forgive student debt to boost enrollment, educational attainment of population, and access to good jobs.

  • Fund job training and apprenticeship programs targeted at in-demand industries to connect workers with new opportunities.

  • Invest in green jobs, green infrastructure, and renewable energy to transition to more sustainable economy and address climate change. Can create new high-paying industries.

  • Enact reasonable campaign finance and anti-corruption reforms to reduce corporate influence over policymaking and ensure it better reflects public interests.

  • Increase minimum wage to a living wage so all workers earn enough to meet basic needs; reduces inequality and boosts consumer spending.

  • Startup costs have plummeted from millions to hundreds of thousands of dollars due to lower costs of building minimum viable products with limited staff and resources.

  • A founder’s main costs are now their forgone salary and the cost of hiring necessary staff to develop a basic product.

  • This means the financial barrier to entry for starting new companies and ideas has dropped drastically, as founders no longer need millions in funding to get started and can launch businesses for much less.

  • The 2010 China Statistical Yearbook on Science and Technology reported growth rates for different categories of technology spending in China between 2000-2009:

    • In-house expenditures on R&D grew 25%
    • Expenditure on assimilation of foreign technology grew 26%
    • Expenditure for acquisition of foreign technology only grew 4%
  • The data provides some insights into China’s strategy for technological development, with a focus on internal R&D and adapting foreign technologies rather than direct acquisition.

  • However, the categories are not fully defined so it’s hard to interpret the numbers definitively. But they raise questions and curiosity about China’s technology upgrading path.

No other context is provided about what these excerpts are from or responding to. The summary focuses on concisely outlining the key statistics mentioned from the China Yearbook and noting that while the categories aren’t fully clear, the numbers provide some indication of China’s technology strategy and pique further interest/questions.

  • Consumption increased domestically during the Eisenhower era, supported by suburbanization and rising incomes.

  • Corporations became more bureaucratically organized structures during this period. Japan’s large corporations (keiretsu) played a major role in its development.

  • Corruption was an issue that progressivism sought to address through reforms in the early 20th century.

  • Currency manipulation, like devaluations, were practices used in East Asia’s export-oriented development model.

  • Defense spending drove innovations in digital technologies during the Eisenhower era through research funding agencies like DARPA. This supported the development of things like the internet.

  • Deregulation began in the 1980s and ideas of less state intervention gained traction, influencing policies like financial deregulation. However, memories of past financial crises gave pause to full deregulation.

  • Japan’s development was export-oriented after WWII and its large bureaucractically-run corporations and high savings rates supported rapid growth. Intellectual property policies were a later issue with its catch up.

In summary, it outlines some of the key economic and policy developments during the Eisenhower era as well as aspects of East Asia’s postwar development model, particularly noting Japan’s experience. It also references trends toward deregulation and their critique.

Here is a summary of the key points from 3-136:

  • Thomas Jefferson supported a small decentralized government and limited federal power, while still advocating for internal improvements like roads and canals.

  • The myth of Jefferson advocating for very small government is overstated.

  • Air travel became common with the introduction of commercial jetliners in the 1950s-60s.

  • Steve Jobs helped transform personal computing and digital technology through Apple.

  • Lyndon Johnson continued many New Deal programs and policies.

  • Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle exposed poor conditions in the meatpacking industry and spurred reforms.

  • Junk bonds were an innovative financing tool in the 1980s that later contributed to the savings and loan crisis.

  • Key events and policies from the administrations of Kennedy, Nixon, Reagan and other presidents are mentioned.

  • New technologies like semiconductors, the internet and digital devices are discussed in the context of their impacts.

  • Trends in manufacturing, trade, globalization and the rise of Asia are summarized.

  • The development of the American System of manufacturing under Hamilton, and its effects on the economy, are outlined.

  • The transition of the US economy over time, from agrarian to industrial to post-industrial, is briefly touched on.

Here is a summary of the key points from pages 170-171 of the article “Does Growth Crowd Out Real Economic Growth?” by Cecchetti and Kharroubi:

  • High levels of debt can crowd out investment and long-term growth by diverting capital towards servicing existing debt rather than funding new productive investments.

  • When debt levels are high, even moderate interest rate increases can significantly increase the cost of servicing debt and divert funds away from more productive uses. This crowds out capital that could otherwise be used for investment.

  • High private sector debt also presents risks if borrowers must sharply cut spending during economic downturns in order to service debt. This can exacerbate the severity of recessions.

  • Government debt can also crowd out private investment if rising debt levels force governments to raise taxes significantly in the future. This reduces the after-tax return to private investment.

  • In summary, the article argues that high levels of private and public debt might promote short-term growth but may hinder long-term economic growth by crowding out more productive investment and capital allocation.

Author Photo

About Matheus Puppe