62nd Annual Meeting
October 11 - 13, 2002
"Private versus Public Institutions"
New Technologies and Productivity Growth in the Twentieth Century
study of the diffusion of pervasive technologies, such as the electric
motor, has failed to take into account the varied technological challenges
in their application. In a careful examination of the adoption patterns
of the electric motor in three industries, automobile manufacture, printing
and paper-making, I establish that the technological difficulty of
adapting the motor to particular tasks has central explanatory power in
the order of adoption. I also find significant variation in the level of
difficulty in developing and implementing much trumpeted organizational
changes documented by other economic historians. A key finding of the studyis
that significant variation in adoption rates can be found not only between
industries, but also between different processes within industries and
firms. A failure to investigate at the micro-level has led some authors
to making sweeping and incorrect generalizations about the diffusion process.
The analysis suggests that an understanding of diffusion patterns of new
technologies is highly dependent on an understanding of their varied uses.
Link to paper: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=299395
Alexander J. Field
of the Depression’s place in both the popular and academic imagination,
and the repeated and justifiable emphasis on output that wasn’t produced,
income that wasn’t earned, and expenditure that didn’t take place, it will
seem startling to propose the following hypothesis: the Depression
years were, in the aggregate, the most technologically progressive
of any comparable period in U. S. economic history. The hypothesis
can be read as entailing two claims: first that during this period
businesses and government contractors implemented or adopted on a more
widespread basis a wide range of new technologies and practices, resulting
in the highest rate of measured peacetime peak to peak multifactor productivity
growth in the century, and secondly, that the decade produced advances
that replenished and expanded the larder of unexploited or only partially
exploited techniques, thus providing the basis for much of the labor and
multifactor productivity improvement in the 1950s and 1960s.
current wave of telecom liberalization actually represents a return to
private provision and competition in many countries rather than a new phenomenon.
The early 20th century saw great variation in sector structure, with state-owned
monopolies in some countries and vigorous competition in others.
This paper uses an original dataset compiled from turn-of-the-(20th) century
industry documents and scholarly works to test the effects of government
monopoly service, private provision, and operating licenses on early telephone
development. Controlling for per capita income and, when possible,
country and year fixed effects, I find state monopoly provision correlated
with lower telephone penetration and higher long-distance prices than privately-provided
service. Contrary to conventional wisdom, state-owned monopolies
also provided worse rural service. Operating licenses that allowed
the state to appropriate firms' assets lead to lower telephone penetration
and higher prices.
Link to paper: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=281092
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