Countries, governments, must learn how to learn, what can be done to promote learning

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and University Professor at Columbia University, was Chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers and served as Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank.

Stiglitz plus books

Citizens in the world’s richest countries have come to think of their economies as being based on innovation. But innovation has been part of the developed world’s economy for more than two centuries. Indeed, for thousands of years, until the Industrial Revolution, incomes stagnated. Then per capita income soared, increasing year after year, interrupted only by the occasional effects of cyclical fluctuations.

The Nobel laureate economist Robert Solow noted some 60 years ago that rising incomes should largely be attributed not to capital accumulation, but to technological progress – to learning how to do things better. While some of the productivity increase reflects the impact of dramatic discoveries, much of it has been due to small, incremental changes. And, if that is the case, it makes sense to focus attention on how societies learn, and what can be done to promote learning – including learning how to learn.

A century ago, the economist and political scientist Joseph Schumpeter argued that the central virtue of a market economy was its capacity to innovate. He contended that economists’ traditional focus on competitive markets was misplaced; what mattered was competition for the market, not competition in the market. Competition for the market drove innovation. A succession of monopolists would lead, in this view, to higher standards of living in the long run.

Schumpeter’s conclusions have not gone unchallenged. Monopolists and dominant firms, like Microsoft, can actually suppress innovation. Unless checked by anti-trust authorities, they can engage in anti-competitive behavior that reinforces their monopoly power…

RTFA for Stiglitz’ confrontation with positive and negative contradictions in the global economy. You may resent the fact of national economies growing into a part and portion of a global economy. That doesn’t allow hurt feelings to encourage ignorance.

Egg titan and his son plead guilty in food poisoning and bribery charges

Father and son

A self-made titan in the egg industry, his son and the Iowa company they ran pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal food safety violations stemming from a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands in 2010.

Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett will later decide their sentences, which could be up to one year in jail, fines of $100,000 apiece and additional restitution for victims.

Their company, Quality Egg LLC, pleaded guilty to charges of bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector, selling misbranded food and introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. The company has agreed to pay a $6.8 million fine — one of the largest ever related to food safety — under a plea deal that Bennett could accept or reject…

The salmonella outbreak prompted a recall of 550 million eggs by Quality Egg and another Iowa company that used its feed and chickens, and led to the collapse of the vast egg production empire that DeCoster built from modest beginnings in Maine. Federal investigators spent years scrutinizing its business practices in the aftermath, as the DeCosters gave up control of their egg production facilities in Iowa, Maine and Ohio and settled dozens of legal claims from those who were sickened…

The company admitted that former Quality Egg manager Tony Wasmund and another employee bribed a now-deceased USDA inspector on at least two occasions. Those bribes, including a $300 cash payment, were meant to influence the inspector to release pallets of eggs that had been retained for failing to meet federal standards because too many were cracked, dirty or leaking.

The company also admitted that, with Wasmund’s approval, it had a longstanding practice of putting false processing and expiration dates on labels to make eggs appear fresher than they were. That practice helped the company circumvent laws in California, Arizona and elsewhere that require eggs to be sold within 30 days of their processing dates.

Throw away the key!

Scientists find more about deadly citrus greening — just not enough, yet

Lukasz Stelinski

When a citrus tree is infected by the deadly greening disease, it emits a particular smell…That distinct smell could one day unlock the mysteries of the disease, which is threatening Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry.

The smell appears to attract a parasite that spreads the dangerous citrus greening that is infecting trees. But the same smell also attracts the natural enemy of the pathogen, a wasp that could potentially be the savior of Florida trees.

However, Lukasz Stelinski, associate professor of entomology at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, was quick to say that this new information doesn’t offer any promise of solving the citrus greening problem.

The research team from the University of Florida in a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution on Thursday wrote that four different species communicate with — and sometimes trick each other — around a scent produced by greening-infected citrus trees.

Researchers found that wasps and psyllids — which are jumping plant lice — are both attracted to the odor. This “olfactory cue” may then help wasps find and prey on the psyllid by “eavesdropping” on the odor exchanged between bacteria, citrus trees and the psyllid.

The citrus greening bacteria, which is spread by the psyllid, causes trees to produce green, disfigured and bitter fruits by altering nutrient flow to the tree, eventually killing it…

Lukasz Stelinski said that so much of Florida’s citrus crop is already infected by greening that this research might not be of much benefit in that state. But citrus-growing regions such as California or Texas — where greening has yet to take hold — could find this research useful.

Florida growers are seeing the bacteria’s effects this season. This year’s Florida orange crop is approaching the fruit’s lowest harvest in decades, and experts say greening is to blame.

Florida growers are trying just about everything that can think of to defeat the disease. A post back in July, 2013 detailed research in genetically modifying orange trees looked as if it might be one of the avenues to safety. Still takes time, though.

Thanks, Mike