Obama and off-shore drilling. They want us to think that this is a preemptive compromise for god-knows-what on the environment, and maybe that’s so. Except Obama presumably is not a character out of Memento, and therefore he must remember the health care debate and the failure of the preemptive compromises then. So it could be that Obama just kind of wants to do offshore drilling for its own sake, i.e. a giveaway. I don’t know.
The economics of Netflix.
So two early reviews of the iPad in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. What I think is kind of funny about these reviews is how much they give up the central prerogative of the reviewer: they say it depends on your perspective and surrender the all-knowing critic role.
While employers aren’t hiring new people, they are squeezing huge gains in productivity out of people. This is normally a wonderful thing—we’re either producing more in the same time or the same in less—but not so much now, when any work you can get out of your current workers is work you don’t have to hire someone for. Neil Irwin speculates why we may be seeing such robust productivity growth:
So what's happening? As best as anyone can guess, the crisis that began in 2007 and deepened in 2008 caused both businesses and workers to panic. Companies cut even more staff than the decrease in demand for their products would warrant. They were hoarding cash, fearful that they wouldn't have access to capital down the road.
When demand for their products leveled off in the middle of last year, the companies could have stopped cutting jobs or even hired people back. But they didn't -- payrolls have continued declining.
Instead companies squeezed more work out of remaining employees, accounting for a 3.8 percent boost in worker productivity in 2009, the best in seven years. Which raises the question: Why couldn't companies have achieved those gains back when the economy was in better shape? The answer to that may lie on the other side of the equation -- employees.
Workers were in a panic of their own in 2009. Fearful of losing their jobs, people seem to have become more willing to stretch themselves to the limit to get more done in any given hour of work. And they have been tolerant of furloughs and cutbacks in hours, which in better times would drive them to find a new employer. This has given companies the leeway to cut back without the fear of losing valuable employees for good.
The Urbanophile comments on the cities’ war for talent.
China’s trade numbers may obscure more than they tell.
More Intelligent Life profiles “A Country in Denial”: it’s a paranoid country obsessed with the idea that shadowy operatives dispatched by a powerful government are out to do it harm…For those of us who guessed Pakistan, congrats!
Two books added to my infinitely-long reading list: Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself and Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128.
You’re Welcome for this video: