The U.S. would undermine its own progress by trying to go it alone.
Two of today’s most important global trends are the return of nationalism and the explosion of privately held high-quality data. The potential side effects of both are on vivid display in one unexpected endeavor: weather forecasting.
In his new book, “The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast,” journalist Andrew Blum explains how rapidly forecasts have been improving. Quality is gaining roughly a day a decade, so that a 5-day forecast is now about as good as a 4-day forecast was a decade ago, and a 2-day forecast 30 years ago. Read More
Wide access to bite-sized sports videos is creating “fluid fans” willing to shift loyalty.
When our son switched his NBA allegiance from the Houston Rockets to the Golden State Warriors, my wife, a lifelong Rockets fan, was aghast. But a new report suggests this type of disloyalty is about to become commonplace, with enormous implications for the sports market.
The business of sports is no longer a sideshow to the sports themselves. In 2018, the value of the global sports market reached almost $500 billion, with more than 100 sports franchises worth $1 billion or more. Read More
One man’s failed attempt to build a transmission line illustrates a unique American obstacle to clean energy.
The cost of wind energy has dropped drastically over the past several decades as the technology has advanced, especially in the size of turbines. Since 2009, the unsubsidized average cost of onshore wind-energy production has fallen to 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour, from 13.5 cents in 2018, according to an analysis by Lazard, the company I work for. After including U.S. tax subsidies, the cost of building wind capacity is often lower than the marginal cost of generating electricity with existing coal-powered plants. Thus wind energy now offers great opportunities for lowering carbon-dioxide emissions. Read More
The music business is a microcosm of the world economy.
What if the music industry could be used as a guide to important principles in business and the economy? It would sure make introductory economics courses more fun. The idea is not as fanciful as it might sound: As Alan Krueger shows in “Rockonomics,” music is a microcosm of the wider business world and provides all sorts of insights into today’s economy. Read More
Public ownership and public borrowing are diminishing at U.S. companies. Research has unearthed some worrisome consequences of this trend.
Publicly listed companies have been disappearing, especially in the U.S., where the number of public firms has fallen to about 3,500 today from more than 7,500 in 1997. The trend is familiar, but there’s still plenty of disagreement over whether it’s a cause for concern. Read More
My elementary school teacher taught that those who emerged from the horrors of the camps would die young. A reasonable assumption, but wrong.
Sunday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, causing me to think about an assertion I heard from an elementary school teacher. She said that even those who survived the Holocaust were so debilitated that the rest of their lives would be short. As with many things I learned in elementary school, the reality is more complicated, and my 10-year-old self would be glad to know that my teacher was probably more wrong than right. Read More
Trump just signed a new law to help measure the effectiveness of government programs. That’s good, but not good enough.
The government had been shut for more than three weeks when President Donald Trump decided to strike a blow for sensible policymaking. (Go figure.) On Jan. 14, he signed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, legislation that aims to improve data analysis and program evaluation. Read More
Government spending and tax cuts kept the financial crisis from getting worse. They also taught fiscal-policy lessons the U.S. might need soon.
t’s been a decade since Congress approved a huge emergency package of spending projects, payments to individuals and tax cuts to stimulate a U.S. economy staggered by the 2008 recession. We know now that it worked, limiting the damage caused by the downturn and vindicating the idea that government spending during periods of economic weakness saves jobs and speeds recovery. We also know that it could have worked better. Read More
The drug and medical program gives insurance companies an incentive to take into account the effects of prescription drugs on the cost of care.
Recent data show that drug overdose deaths in the U.S. were 10 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, with an almost 50 percent increase in those related to synthetic opioids. A new research paper points to a glimmer of hope in this otherwise bleak story: Medicare Advantage insurance companies seem to be doing a surprisingly good job at mitigating opioid abuse. Read More
Container shipping standardized a chaotic industry and brought the world closer together.
At the top of my most interesting reads this year was Marc Levinson’s “The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger,” the second edition of which was published in 2016. The book tells the story of container shipping, which revolutionized international trade over the past 60 years.
How container shipping came to dominate global trade may not sound like a gripping read, but Levinson intersperses the story with colorful business characters like Malcom McLean and exacting operations researchers such as Foster Weldon. And the story itself is both historically important and also central to many of the ongoing debates still raging about globalization. Read More
Long-term evidence starting in the 1960s now shows that government support in childhood reduces the need for welfare in adulthood.
Congress is expected to vote this week on a new farm bill, which includes changes to the food stamp program. Lawmakers should take the time to read up on recent research about the program’s effects. Innovative research has demonstrated convincingly that young children whose families receive food stamps benefit later in life.