I updated the explanation in the “About the title” page for a few people that asked for more information about my lecture on the topic of barter, and it being evil.
In a post last week I compared the allocation of economic activity in North Dakota with the United States. North Dakota has a larger share of activity in agriculture and extractive industries, but less in industries like information. There are many factors that influence the share of economic activity including resource endowments, transportation networks, and the list goes on. Consequently you need to be careful drawing policy conclusions from differences in allocations between two geographies. It could be very easily explained by resource endowments, such as oil in the ground.
There was a question from my radio appearance today about the number of renters compared with the number of owners in Grand Forks. At least, I think it was Grand Forks that the emailer asked about. If it was a different geography and they look at this post they can tell me it was something different.
One of the more common questions I get, from students, people at the store, on the radio, is: how would the U.S. economy would perform if it was more like North Dakota? It is a natural question given the strong performance in North Dakota and the weaker performance in the U.S. At some level this makes the comparison of growth a bit more consistent because the distribution of activity is made identical between multiple regions. In demography/population analysis (a class I am teaching this summer) the process is called standardization. It is essentially the same idea as calculating real gross domestic product with base year prices to control for the effects of price changes on growth. So lets take a look at unemployment and real GDP for the US, MN, and ND.
I was startled by some of the information in this article. The most startling thing I learned today might be that Japan is only 39 percent self-sufficient as far as calories. I knew Japan relied on significant imports of fuels given their natural resource limitations. But food? This is a developed country, one that was supposed to rival the economic might of the United States in the 1980s. Relying on imports for such a significant part of food consumption can be a serious issue. Combine this with economic stagnation and an aging population and it hardly seems like a recipe for an economic turnaround.