(a) Why did Japan, Germany, and Italy outperform the United States with respect to productivity growth rates following World War II?
(b) Watch this video with William Lewis http://newmedia.ufm.edu/gsm/index.php?title=Why_Productivity_Varies_Around_the_World . Lewis attributes national productivty rates to the intelligent organization of work, a stable, limited government, and clearly defined property rights (which don’t exist in many third world countries).
During the post-war period these conditions were met in Germany, Japan, and Sweden, but they were also met in the US and Britain. If the US had invented lean manufacturing and had applied Deming’s total quality management as Japanese firms like Toyota did, Olson argues that it still could not have equaled or exceeded Japan’s and Germany’s productivity growth rates from 1945 until 1990 because special interest groups, including unions, created regulatory obstacles to growth. The slackening growth rates of both Japan and Germany since 1990, is consistent with Olson’s model, but there are alternative explanations such as Germany’s merger with East Germany, which had dismal, socialist-level rates of development, and the aging of Japan’s population. What do you think? Can the US build higher real-wage growth again despite the explosion of special interest group power as evidenced by the Wall Street bailout in 2008?
Read the following articles after watching Roger and Me.
(a) In the film Roger and Me Michael Moore depicts GM’s management as socially irresponsible. In the late 1980s, when the film was made, GM moved tens of thousands of jobs from Flint, Michigan to Mexico. In the film lobbyist Tom Kay says, “If you’re espousing a philosophy, which apparently you are, that the corporation owes employees cradle-to-the-grave security, I don’t think that can be accomplished under a free enterprise system.” In 2009 the Obama administration acquired a large stake in GM to rescue it from bankruptcy, violating the fundamental principles of free enterprise systems and providing GM with the kind of support that GM was unwilling to give to Flint.
Would you frame the decision to rescue GM in 2009 in terms of Olson’s depiction of special interest groups, or was the GM bailout a case of one-way social responsiblity, with the American public subsidizing a firm that has never had much social responsibility, concern for safety, concern for quality, concern for labor, or concern for the communities in which it has done business? What was the 2009 bailout, the UAW and GM’s Olsonian exercise in special interest rent extraction or an exercise in prudent government?
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