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Learning by Doing: The Real Connection between Innovation, Wages, and Wealth Hardcover – April 28, 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“James Bessen is uniquely qualified to interpret technology issues, having both rich historical expertise and startup experience.  I especially like the way he demystifies the concept of skills and questions the apotheosis of college diplomas and intellectual property rights.  This is one of the most hopeful yet realistic books in years.”—Gavin Wright, author of Sharing the Prize: The Economics of the Civil Rights Revolution in the American South
(Gavin Wright)

“James Bessen’s provocative new book explores a critically important economic question: what is it that in some epochs, including today, severs the link between productivity growth and increases in the median wage? His answer, developed within a rich tapestry of historical narrative, focuses on the changing incentives faced by firms and individuals to invest in new skills and capabilities as technological systems are born, go through adolescence, and eventually mature. His analysis and policy recommendations offer many challenges to established ways of thinking.”—Alexander J. Field, author of A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and US Economic Growth
 
(Alexander J. Field)

"Today everyone agrees that education is the key to wage growth. But what kind of education? In this enlightening and insightful book, James Bessen shows that economic history can provide some useful and surprising answers to this question."—Hal Varian, Chief Economist, Google
(Hal Varian)

“James Bessen, an acute observer of economics and technology, thinks lags from learning-by-doing explain why the IT revolution hasn’t yet boosted wages. A fascinating hypothesis—and book.”—Eric S. Maskin, Nobel laureate in Economics
(Eric Maskin)

“Mr. Bessen sets out to refute the arguments of . . . techno-pessimists, relying on economic analysis and on a fresh reading of history.”—Tamar Jacoby, The Wall Street Journal
(Tamar Jacoby The Wall Street Journal)

“This important book is well written, clearly argued, and makes numerous salient points regarding the interactions between technological change, skill attainment, and earnings.”—J.P. Jacobsen, Booklist
(J.P. Jacobsen Booklist)

'Sometimes a book seems to fit so neatly with a reader’s own preconceptions that one does not know whether to say “well done” or be irritated that someone else got there first.  This is one of those books. . . I can only concur:  competence with emerging technology does not require a university diploma.  But it does require an enabling environment.'—Andrew Hilton, Financial World.
(Andrew Hilton Financial World 2015-08-01)

About the Author

James Bessen, an economist, is a lecturer at Boston University Law School. He was founder and CEO of a software company that developed the first desktop publishing program.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (April 28, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300195664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300195668
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The premise of the book is intriguing and true, yet few want to see it: that it is not the invention of something that is so powerful but the implementation. We often award inventors as geniuses, but getting real value out of something takes time. Beesen compares the growth during the Industrial Revolution with the IT of today. It took decades to get value out of automated looms etc because technical skills to run them were not widespread. The same goes for today as we jump on new technologies and the world wants immediate billions before we can really understand what the technology can do for us. Real implementation takes time and there are many parallels between the two eras. However, the premise and explanation are quickly understood yet over 200 pages later you really haven't gotten more information beyond statistics to back up the premise, which is easily understood and described at the beginning of the book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jim Bessen links the transformation of today’s global economy to 19th century lessons showing new technologies are successful as a result of learning through experience. Automation and technology don’t so much replace workers as displace workers as industries and occupations transform. Contrary to popular opinion, all work cannot be automated, either because the technology doesn’t exist or the economics don’t make sense. What matters is the ability of workers to transform their job roles and complement automation. Workers at all skill levels have much to learn. Learning by doing is the only way much of the necessary tacit knowledge can be acquired. Bessen writes: “the economic power of mighty nations rests on the technical knowledge of the humble.” He fears that nations – the US principally, but other nations as well - are suffering from a deficit of political leadership in which broad-based, but deeply entrenched, political interests delay the implementation of new technologies and restrict job growth. While there is much focus these days on the top 0.1% of the income distribution, it is a broader set of interests, Bessen asserts, who have been most successful to the determent of the average worker.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very good on the history of technological change and how innovations affected wages and labor.
As an economic historian, I learned about the fallout of creative destruction upon the labor markets, wages and employment of impacted industries.
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