Smart cities, artificial intelligence … the key to tomorrow’s growth

Resume the future. How to fix the intangible economy,

By Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake. Princeton University Press, 320 pages, 25.84 euros.

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In 1931 John Maynard Keynes published a short essay, Economic potential for our grandchildren, So he looked at the possibility of solving what he called an “economic problem.” According to him, the issue of shortage had to be resolved at the beginning of the 21st century. Decades of progress in capitalism could have created enough resources for society to provide a satisfying standard of living for all. He pointed out that the problem was finding a good way to occupy his leisure time.

90 years later, Keynes’s abundance predictions are true. But has the “economic problem” really been solved today? Should we solve it by generating more growth, or should we fight inequality and make it a priority for all economic policies for the environment? This question has fueled an enthusiastic debate among economists, yet to be actually decided.

The “economic problem” of our time?Retreat of the system

Two talented British economists have just made their own contributions. Jonathan Haskel is a professor of economics at Imperial College Business School and Stian Westlake is Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Statistical Society. They had already released some pretty notable works in 2017, Capitalism without capitalAnd they deepen their reflection on launching into the “intangible” location of the modern economy, especially based on the example of Apple, which is the most expensive company in the world and has few physical assets yet.

In this new book, the authors explain in their view why the “economic problems” of our time have not yet been solved. It is a delay in the system that takes into account the changes in capitalism and the revolution to intangibility. They create a kind of list of areas where more public investment in intangibles will drive growth, such as basic research, smart cities, finance and artificial intelligence.

The central issues raised in this book remain: these large investments in intangibles fuel the debate, wealth and income inequality, downgrades, that fuel societies like us today. Call for de-growth, energy that may solve the location of renewable energy …?

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Haskel and Westlake are based on the theory that only economic growth can ensure political and social stability if the proper “code” is found to free the market from the bindings that impede access to prosperity and well-being. I’m sure there is. But when we are facing a serious environmental crisis, will we generate more growth in an economy that has many of the most appropriate ways to solve today’s economic problems? The question remains unanswered, and John Maynard Keynes is of little help in trying to answer it.


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