milken conference: "global overview" luncheon panel

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We've got audience response devices here at our lunch table--apparently we're being quizzed as we go along, and each table can "vote" on the correct answer.

The moderator for this panel is Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor for the Wall Street Journal. He begins by talking about GDPs, import capital, China-US trade balance, and a variety of related economic indicators. What are the prospects for the world economy? How sustainable is the current rate of expansion? What is the impact of the current world security situation on economics?

Panelists are Gary Becker (Nobel Laureate, Economic Sciences, 1992; University Professor of Economics and Sociology, University of Chicago), Vaclav Klaus (President, Czech Republic), and David Rubenstein (Co-Founder and Managing Director, The Carlyle Group).

Klaus is the first speaker. He says he's somewhat reluctant to discuss "global, cosmic, somewhat undefined topics" because they're too often a way to avoid talking about specific issues that we can do something about. It reminds him of the old communist days where they were unable to discuss problems at home, but they were encouraged to discuss the problems of Indian peasants and the miserable living conditions of the American middle class.

He says we should not listen to those who want to block globalization and open society. His experience of living in a closed communist society has taught him the importance of ideas (ideals?) and openness.

Communism has gone, but liberty and openness have not become the guiding principles of the world today. There are still many attempts to restrain freedom, which he sees most clearly in Europe. Its current social and economic system is not about freedom, it's about regulation and protectionism.

He dismisses the centrality and importance of most "global issues" being discussed here, and says the real challenge is in the dearth of new ideas. The problem is in political correctness, fair speech rather than free speech, special interest politics, the ambitions of those who consider themselves better than the rest of us and believe they should be our teachers, guides, and leaders.

Next up is David Rubenstein. He quizzes the audience on things like "how many think the stock market will be higher in a year," and "how many of you would vote again the same way you did in the last presidential election." The economy of today is not the one we grew up in. The US is no longer the principal economic engine. What happens outside the US is as important now as what happens within. Today's economy has been globalized and "internetized."

Last speaker is Gary Becker, whom the moderator introduces as, among other things, a "pioneer blogger."

Great productivity growth in the US economy, starting around 1995. Productivity drives growth, and he thinks productivity gains will continue into the foreseeable future.

Talks about China and India. Shows workforce comparison between China and India. China has double the GDP, more women in the workforce, smaller % of children (10-14) in the workforce, much higher literacy rate. But he focuses on reduced protectionism, and the importance of providing a good environment for commercial interests.

He thinks the real economic risk is generally that the government tries to do too much, and tries to do things that it's not capable of doing--at least not efficiently.

Gigot asks Becker if he's worried about incipient inflation. Becker says inflation is largely determined by monetary policies. This discussion then heads in a direction that's somewhat over my head, so I'm not going to try to summarize it. (I'm suddenly remembering why I switched majors from Econ to History when I was a junior in college...)

(David Weinberger, as usual, does a better job of capturing key content.)

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This page contains a single entry published on April 25, 2006 1:59 PM.

milken conference: "changing post-secondary education to meet the needs of a global economy" was the previous entry in this blog.

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