Welcome to the "Kane Saw Massacre"
I am converting my regular email update and blogging activity over to this new substack newsletter. It will be totally free of charge to you (kind of like that free lunch). Plus, I toggled on the functionality that will send your replies to me personally, so please test it out. My main objective is to see if it is easier to compose & share my thoughts on substack, which will hopefully make me a better pen pal.
A word on the name. I had a hard time choosing what to name this new substack account, which as I understand it will also serve as a repository at whyamerica.substack_DOT_com. Ultimately, my friends at facebook convinced me to use the same brand as my podcast series (which is at whyamericapod.com).
The objective I have in sharing my thoughts is to not only let you know about my new research papers, projects, videos, non-profits, apps, and more — I hope people will be drawn to my substack if they share my belief (or want to understand) that the United States of America is the best country ever. When we were young, this is what our teachers taught us, what our families shared with us, and most importantly — what the millions of immigrants who chose to come here affirmed. I believe it. I will affirm it every time you talk with me.
I was tempted to go with KaneTime (hat tip to “TimmyTime” from Ike Brannon and JEC alums) or Amerikane (recommend by Dad and my patriotic Ohio friends), and have to share with you some of suggestions that I got. Because frankly I love them all, but they made me LOL. I’ll just share these and wonder what might have been:
My friends are apparently more creative than I can ever hope to be, and also have a different view of my personality than I meant to project!
New report: GDP is 5% of total value in modern life
How much cash would you be willing to accept to live without a color television for one year? The typical American would say $5000. What about giving up air conditioning, smart phones, or personal computers altogether? Those are valued at $10,000 for AC, $10,000 for smart phones, and $25,000 for PCs.
If you broke bread with me in the past few years, then you already know about my obsession with the idea of “value” and the misguided debate about economic inequality. You may even know that Laurie Hodrick and I conducted some very cool research with live humans here on campus at the Stanford Economic Research Lab. Yes, we got permission from the evil scientist approval board. And that research - a reverse auction where we “bought” student’s iPhones and shoes - will hopefully be coming to a peer-reviewed journal near you.
In the meantime, I just published a solo report via the Hoover Institution called BEYOND GDP. Here’s the executive summary:
A new contingent-valuation method for measuring quality of life is presented. The mainstream GDP approach fails to account for technological progress over time and—as the Stiglitz Commission found—ignores liberty, national security, and health.
Traditional economic measures are based on value-in-exchange. The new method measures value-in-utility by asking individuals to assess how much cash the average person would be willing to accept to give up various goods and services for a year.
Fifty-one “super” evaluators participated, selected from a pool of the most accurate evaluators from an earlier contingent-valuation study.
One hundred and one items were evaluated, including 70 that match data in GDP personal consumption expenditures.
Aggregate national utility value is likely twenty times higher than the exchange-value-reported GDP.
Running water and electricity each had a one-year value of $50,000. Personal computer and internet service were valued at $25,000 apiece.
Older and poorer respondents had much higher utility value estimates than the norm, by 50 to 100 percent, consistent across categories.
Because I hate to write anything without a chart or table, here’s a clip from the report:
My hope is to turn this research into a book someday. I want to call it the Value of Nothing: what an economist can teach you about the meaning of life. Whether you care about the environment, or civil society, or just the profound technological progress of our amazing era, we all know this much is true: what’s meaningful in life is not well understood. Or appreciated! As some boys from Liverpool sang, “Money Can’t Buy Me Love.”
As for Inflation
No, the sticker shock of higher prices you are seeing is not an illusion. And no, it’s not “transitory” as some public officials claimed all year long. Those higher prices will not go in reverse, and if policies don’t change, then inflation above 5% may even stay high, which is what we used to call “galloping inflation” in the 1970s when comic book prices went from 25 cents to 30, then to 35. Now it’s something crazy like 5 bucks and I have been priced out of the market. Back then, comic book inflation was basically a nickel a year, which basically broke the piggy bank. Candy bars held steady at 25 cents - remember that? - but now I avoid those, too (for different reasons). Anyway, Spider-Man has become a global phenom, so maybe there’s an upside.
January 11th Book Launch
For those who are new to the Kaniverse.***, my book about the importance of immigration to national security will be available for delivery right after Christmas. But you can buy it now. It will make a great President’s Day gift!!
I am telling you, this is probably the best book I have ever written. I cannot wait to share it and get your thoughts.
Thanks & all the best,