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Morning Brief: The Third Industrial Revolution

by Renewing America Staff
April 23, 2012

Chevrolet Cruze chassis at GM’s Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant in July, 2011; improved automation allows many assembly plants to produce twice as many cars per employee as only a decade or so ago. (Aaron Josefczyk/Courtesy Reuters) Chevrolet Cruze chassis at GM’s Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant in July, 2011; improved automation allows many assembly plants to produce twice as many cars per employee as only a decade or so ago. (Aaron Josefczyk/Courtesy Reuters)

The Economist has a special report this week speculating on the third industrial revolution. Experts predict advances such as improved materials, smarter digital equipment and 3D printing will accelerate the shift to mass customization and localization of production. New technologies may reduce the labor content of products allowing manufacturers to affordably produce in developed nations, but the article cautions that the factories of the future will require fewer—if better trained—workers through improved efficiency and automation.

CFR’s Edward Alden discusses the shortage of skilled workers in the U.S. manufacturing pipeline and the need for firms, governments, and unions to work together to encourage young people to pursue manufacturing careers, and schools to increase relevant education.

International trade and investment. Read more from leading analysts on the debate over next steps in U.S. trade policy.

Education and Human Capital

Western Schools Attract Out-of-State Students

The Los Angeles Times reports on the Western Undergraduate Exchange, a little known program that allows students of 15 western states the opportunity to attend schools in the other at only 150 percent of the in-state tuition rate. California’s public universities have faced reduced budgets and capacity; the program helped Californian students attend other state schools with open seats. Almost 10,000 Californians used the program to enroll in one of the other 14 states, while fewer than a thousand students in the program went to California.

What Stalls Education Reform

In a piece at The Atlantic, Andrew Rotherham argues there are three obstacles to reform in U.S. K-12 education. The first is that educational reform is expensive; both Clinton and Bush sweetened their reform efforts with greater education spending. The difficulty in measuring teachers’ performance is the second issue. Rotherham believes seniority-based layoffs often do not allow districts to keep the best teachers. Finally, Rotherham writes that by nature, education is political, resists change, and is risk adverse.

The new report of the CFR Independent Task Force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security highlights the importance of the Common Core State Standards and asserts that fixing the nation’s underperforming K-12 schools is critical to economic competitiveness and national security.

Education and human capital. Read more from experts discussing ways to improve U.S. education and immigration policies.

Corporate Regulation and Taxation

Small Banks Gain Flexibility

Earlier this month, the JOBS Act became law, giving small, community banks more financial options (WSJ). The law was designed to assist young, growing firms in any industry through relaxed reporting requirements. Firms can now have 2,000 accredited shareholders before SEC disclosure is required—500 was the old limit—avoiding an estimated $200,000 in yearly costs to file quarterly and annual SEC reports. All banks will still need to comply with other regulators, such as the FDIC.

Corporate regulation and taxation. Read more from top economists and business experts on solutions for addressing corporate tax reform.

Innovation

Older Entrepreneurs Often Have an Edge

The traditional image of the rock star entrepreneur is a young face such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, but the Harvard Business Review discusses the advantages of older entrepreneurs.  Research shows that those aged between 55 to 64 have the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity. Entrepreneurs in this age group are often serial entrepreneurs, and creativity commonly peaks in later life.

Innovation. Read more on how the U.S. capacity to innovate could play a chief role in economic growth.

The Morning Brief is compiled by Renewing America contributor Steven J. Markovich.

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