lunedì 7 giugno 2010

Oltre al GDP l'economia del sapere.

Prosegue la polemica sulla mossa europea - francese in primis - di proporre nuove
misure di output economico che sostituiscano il GDP: il Wall Street Journal affronta la questione senza mezze misure e con toni decisamente meno neutri di quelli del NYTimes
di qualche giorno fa, che abbiamo discusso in questo post, ignorando completamente la questione della distribuzione della ricchezza (tanto per fare un esempio). Ma l'osservazione che la differenza tra l'output economico USA e quello Europeo potrebbe
essere amplificata dall'introduzione di nuove misure che tengano conto dell'economia del sapere
mi sembra corretta:

Reworking the concept of the GDP is an idea that's been kicking around in economics for decades.
Politicians—mainly European ones—are the reason for the push today. (...)

European leaders have every reason to be chagrined by their GDP record. From 1982 to 2007,
France grew at a rate of 2.1% per year, as did Germany, with Italy at 1.8%, whereas the U.S.
grew at 3.3%. Thus Americans got a third richer over that quarter century. One way to paper
over this staggering differential in economic performance is to call GDP a flawed statistic.

(...) European politicians should be careful what they wish for. For if GDP is reworked in a way consistent
with the cutting edge of macroeconomic theory, the difference between American and European performance
stands not to shrink but widen. The premise of the "new growth theory" of Stanford economist Paul Romer
is the fact that the richest economies (such as the U.S.) sustain higher rates of growth than the next
richest economies. Countries with "room to grow" often don't grow very much, whereas countries at maximal
output keep powering ahead.

The key to Mr. Romer's analysis is that ultra-developed economies tend to have a high and rising degree
of non-depreciable capital. Driving production in these economies are increasingly fewer machines—which
wear out, must be serviced, and replaced—in comparison to "book knowledge"—the formula for a drug,
computer code, a distribution system—that does not depreciate at all. Therefore, ultra-developed economies
come to devote fewer resources to maintaining the capital stock and more to actual production.

Oddly enough, spending on maintaining the capital stock is a component of GDP. But while both Europe and
the U.S. spend a great deal on capital repair and replacement, the headquarters of the knowledge economy
is the U.S.—with its universities, start-ups and pharmaceutical industry, much of which has decamped from

In light of the new growth theory, a good portion of what counts as output—fixing all those old
machines—should be minimized in the aggregate output statistic, just as development of non-depreciable
capital, in which the U.S. specializes, should be given extra weight. In recent years, America has been
doing far more than Europe to create permanent (not to mention sharable) capital goods, and this fact at
present is not captured in GDP. The French report makes a brief pass at this major anomaly but does not
grapple with it.

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