The Leading Indicators

The Leading Indicators

A Short History of the Search for the Right Numbers

Book - 2014
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Baker & Taylor
A history and critical assessment of leading indicators reveals their indelible impact on the economy, public policy, and other critical decisions, discussing their shortcomings while making suggestions for reducing dependence on them.

& Taylor

A history and critical assessment of leading indicators reveals their indelible impact on the economy, public policy and other critical decisions, discussing their shortcomings while making suggestions for reducing dependence on them.

Simon and Schuster
How did we come by the “leading indicators” we place such stock in? We allocate trillions of dollars and make public policy and personal decisions based upon them, but what do they really tell us?

We are bombarded every day with numbers that tell us how we are doing, whether the economy is growing or shrinking, whether the future looks bright or dim. Gross national product, balance of trade, unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence guide our actions, yet few of us know where these numbers come from, what they mean, or why they rule our world.

In The Leading Indicators, Zachary Karabell tells the fascinating history of these indicators. They were invented in the mid-twentieth century to address the urgent challenges of the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. They were rough measures— designed to give clarity in a data-parched world that was made up of centralized, industrial nations—yet we still rely on them today.

We live in a world shaped by information technology and the borderless flow of capital and goods. When we follow a 1950s road map for a twenty-first-century world, we shouldn’t be surprised if we get lost.

What is urgently needed, Karabell makes clear, is not that we invent a new set of numbers but that we tap into the thriving data revolution, which offers unparalleled access to the information we need. Companies should not base their business plans on GDP projections; individuals should not decide whether to buy a home or get a degree based on the national unemployment rate. If you want to buy a home, look for a job, start a company, or run a business, you should find your own indicators. National housing figures don’t matter; local ones do. You can find them at the click of a button. Personal, made-to-order indicators will meet our needs today, and the revolution is well underway. We need only to join it.

Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2014
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
ISBN: 9781451651201
Branch Call Number: 330.01519 K1434L 2014
Characteristics: pages cm


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Nov 28, 2016

Overall an excellent read, the author, Karabell, presents some excellent recondite historical bits [although I already knew of them, I had to read many books to gain that knowledge].
So why not 5 stars? Because in the second to final chapter [Where's Waldo] the author does that pseudo-econ dance: stating that we should ignore those offshored jobs, that globalism and financialization isn't really all that bad, et cetera! He'll mention products manufactured in China, suggesting that parts of it [like the covering] were manufactured elsewhere. Now many people in this country have experienced the same exact events I have - - many times our jobs have been directly offshored to China and India [or elsewhere] - - so the author rightly comes off sounding nonsensical, especially since he dances around so many details he conveniently ignores - - besides offshore product manufacturing, who is doing the shipping? Isn't it a Chinese shipping company with Chinese mariners, et cetera? And the author suggests the design is done in the USA - - but was it done by American engineers - - or foreign visa engineers? Just recently a paper went online by Justin Pierce of the Federal Reserve, and Peter Schott of Yale, noting that 2.4 million American jobs were lost due to Chinese imports between the years 1999 to 2011 [and that didn't factor in jobs directly offshored, and the importing of foreign visa workers to replace existing American workers!!!!!].
Another item, the author is stating that only products imported from China are recorded in the GDP stats, not services exported to them - - yet I've read of studies detailing how America became a NET IMPORTER of high tech services beginning in 1999!
Something is rotten in this book, methinks!!!!
Karabell pooh poohs recent manufacturing, claiming it has gone up in America, yet employment in that sector hasn't - - suggesting it's all about [ONLY ABOUT] automation and robotics now - - ignoring that the manufacturing stats now encompass fast food restaurants and fast food services - - which alters the situation quite a good deal. And the principal cause in real manufacturing going up has been the steel industry which is solely involved in creating fracking equipment - - with the end result being the fracking process destroying the water supplies [aquifers around the country], leading to new Polio-like diseases due to dirty water supplies!
On p. 219, author cites work of Brynjolfsson and McAfee at MIT - - why leaps in technology from the 1990s on haven't led to significant gains in either wages or employment as if it was some great mystery or related to recent spurt in automated factories? Simple, Karabell, during the same time, actually from 1985 with Jack Welch of GE leading the way, there was a veritable explosion in the offshoring of high tech jobs, along with the importing of foreign visa replacement workers - - driving down wages and American employment!
It is illegal to subsidize [bring in] foreign vsa workers to work as temps and contractors, yet this exact situation has grown exponentially, with firms such as the Tata Consultancy and Infosys providing massive numbers of foreign visa contractors and temps in lieu of American workers!
Just as the offshoring of jobs never resulted in lower prices - - regardless of how often FAUX reporters have claimed such - - instead it is responsible for the incredible gulf between the pay and perks of senior executives and their workers - - easily provable, with a prime example Nike's Phil Knight! [Lower labor costs directly profited ONLY corporate executives!]
For a book on examining all the data, this hedge fund author sure does exhibit an aversion to examining ALL THE DATA!!!
Be sure to check out super-econ Steve Keen's article if reading this book:


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