The coronavirus will accelerate the third great innovation revolution of modern times. Beginning about 100 years ago, three fundamental components were discovered: the atom, the bit, and the gene. Now, a life-science revolution driven by biotech and the discovery of the gene and the molecules (DNA and RNA) that contain and implement its information will be used to fight viruses at the molecular level, treat cancer through fundamental and personalized mechanisms, and edit our own genes to potentially make us immune to viruses and cancer, correct disability-causing mutations, and genetically enhance our bodies and minds.
The US economy is facing a transitory, but critical, credit emergency beyond the Fed’s normal scope. A new federal credit facility is needed to ensure that sound businesses and households have ready access to cash to get through this crisis. Global business needs a giant bridge loan to get through a tough few months, and governments may need to intervene to make it happen – led by the Fed. The credit markets need substantial additional liquidity, taxes need to be cut to get cash to companies, and banks need to lend and show patience
Technological innovation ignites economic growth feeding further innovation. But, has our relentless progress irrevocably tipped the balance from a virtuous circle of innovation and growth to a downward spiral of disaster and decline? We’re going to continue to drive, fly, throw away plastic, and tear down the rainforest. If we aren’t going to solve the problems we’ve created by regulating ourselves, we’re probably going to have to use technology — whether that’s to save species, or human lives, or to make sure that certain plants or coral reefs survive climate change. We don’t know the consequences of these future actions.
Failing to get work done is an increasingly common experience. Maybe the reason we find it so hard to get anything done is that most of the things we do just fundamentally don’t need to be done. All the productivity lifehacks out there are ultimately missing the point: we’re avoiding our work because our work is pointless.
Thinking the government now can take over something the private markets provide efficiently and effectively as government is the appropriate entity to provide those services from now on only leads to inefficiency, misuse of capital, the demand for more tax revenue to support the inefficiency, and the downward spiral which ultimately creates more inefficiency that private industry will look to rectify.
Chinese economic policies and motivations since 2008 not only emphasize growth and sustainability of state-owned enterprises but, a critical but much less well-appreciated dimension is the Chinese government’s emphasis on stability. No economic policy in China will ignore this, and the high value placed on stability pervades all the current trade talks with the United States.
While it may seem tempting to target attractive market sectors and provide government-backed capital and direction, this typically does not end well. The efficient allocation of capital, demanding an appropriate return for given risks, is something private markets do extremely well. A handful of bureaucrats cannot match the collective wisdom of the capital markets, no matter how attractive the target.
WeChat has become the ubiquitous, full-service platform for communication and commerce in China. Essentially, the company has taken the mobile Internet and made it their own. The WeChat internet has a lot to admire — and emulate. While the United States sees big tech as a colossus that needs to be knocked down, the Chinese government saw tech companies as economic engines to be harnessed. They were right.
While the current trade war commands our immediate attention and thoughts about its impact on the global economy, there are deeper and perhaps more troubling issues regarding globalization and its future.