Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Thu Feb 18 16:33:17 PST 1999

Which is why I don't buy most government statistics, since their methodology for collection is so outdated. What the hell does "value-added" mean in this day and age?

Does software count in this whole cateogry? What about computer skills training? How about other machinery that now is computerized, but is not itself a computer?

The fact is that almost all comparative historical data on technology is nearly useless, since what was measured then and what is measured now are nearly impossible to correlate. Things that were part of one category in the past are part of another today, and vise versa.

There is the old joke that computers have shown up everywhere except in the productivity statistics. There is the argument that computerization has done nothing for productivity and that explains the problem. The other explanation, and the one I have a lot of sympathy for, is that traditional government measures of productivity suffer from a combination of outdated methodology and underfunding at the agencies themselves to update things.

There are a number of ways to explain economic growth in the US versus problems in other countries, but the acceleration of technology in this country seems to be one of the most plausible explanations, making a dismissal of its role a bit too easy.

--Nathan Newman

-----Original Message----- From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at> To: lbo-talk at <lbo-talk at> Date: Thursday, February 18, 1999 1:01 PM Subject: cyberhype

Speaking of cyberhype, I was just reading the documentation for the Fed's industrial production indexes. They have a special category called "computers, communications equipment, and semiconductors" - the kind of stuff that's supposed to be dominating the economic scene these days. This sector accounted for 5.92% of all value-added in U.S. industry (manufacturing, mining, and electric and gas utilities) in 1992 - down from 6.56% in 1982. Computers and office equipment alone were 1.75% (vs. 2.14% ten years earlier). From reading the papers, you'd think the numbers were somewhere around 75%.


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