Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Growth and Free Soloing Podcast

I did a podcast for The Indicator, a NPR Planet Money podcast, free associating  on the free solo blog post. What does free solo illustrate about the process of economic growth? Fun. Cardiff Garcia is a good well-informed interviewer. (Chicago Booth Review also spiffed up the blog post to a more readable essay.)


  1. Excellent. As you know, tech advances in gliders, hang gliding, parachuting, mountaineering and scuba diving, to name just a few, have come from virtual spontaneous order. The cost of information has been lowered as well as the cost of the equipment necessary to pursue those activities. Years ago if a scuba diver needed to know their bottom time at a certain depth, they needed a dive table. Today hand held computers attached to one's BC does that much more accurately.

  2. Professor Cochrane,

    I started following you after your appearance on Plant Money. I wanted to know: what were the "crazy sports" you have participated in?

    I'm really enjoying your writing!

  3. Short and on-topic ... mmm. I fully concur on the economics, and loved the film. You might like this story:
    Death in the Himalayas (almost)
    In Kathmandu in November 1972, everyone said to me “You must go trekking, you must go trekking!” I didn’t know what trekking was, but off I went, bus to Pokhara then heading up the Jomosom trail on foot with Annapurna South to my right. I was travelling very lightly, a light sleeping bag over one shoulder, a small shoulder bag over the other.
    On day three, I found myself on a narrow path cut into a steep rock-face. Below the path, the rock-face continued for about 100-150 feet, then there were dense uninhabited woods. If you fell, you’ld probably be killed, if not, you’ld die of your injuries in the woods.
    Being late November, with the snowline down to 9000 feet, the local herders were sending their animals back down from summer pastures to the valleys for the winter. They travelled unattended, as there was only one way to go.
    A long line of ponies approached me, each with a large pack on either side. I flattened myself against the rock-face to let them pass. One pony was, like me, reluctant to go to the edge of the path. It hugged the rock-face as it approached, refusing to move over. I was forced to step to the very edge of the narrow path.
    As the pony got nearer, it lost its footing, and lurched towards me. A pack struck me in the chest and lifted me off the path. I grabbed the pack and hung on. Unbalanced by my weight, the pony continued to stumble towards the edge – I was going to pull it over.
    I thought “Well, I’m probably going to die, but the chance of death is higher if I have a heavily-laden pony on top of me.” So I let go.
    Because I had been hanging from the pack, I fell vertically rather than tumbling backwards. I ascertained later that in that rock-face, there was a single small tree, growing out at an angle. My feet hit the angle between tree and rock, I fell backwards – my sleeping bag to one side of the narrow trunk, my shoulder bag on the other. I stayed still for a while, not seeing how I could climb back to the path, but eventually managed to scale it. I had faced death and survived.
    Pretty exciting, this trekking stuff.

  4. John, that was a solid podcast. Thanks for your analysis!

  5. No mention of government, except re IP laws. In my experience as an economic policy adviser, at times focused on R&D and innovation, bureaucrats have no understanding of what drives innovation. The main contribution government can make is to wind back its reach and size, commandeering a far smaller share of GDP and minimizing regulatory obstacles, thus making innovation easier and more profitable. My then boss and I developed with an entrepreneur an initiative which he would run, with our contribution being our IP, Queensland Treasury endorsement and $A10,000, after which we would walk away. The head of Treasury, an alleged economist, could not understand this – he thought that there should be major Treasury involvement and funding. The initiative was far more successful in helping would-be entrepreneurs get established than any government schemes I encountered (and was singled out in a Federal government innovation report). The so-called State Development Department countered our scheme with millions of dollars (in the 1990s) and a large bureaucracy; it was ineffective, but they got lauded, bureaucrats and state politicians could understand that concept but not ours.

  6. Loved the blog post and look forward to listening!

  7. Here's another example, a 2 minute video: "Formula 1 Pit Stops 1950 & Today". "Today" is 2013, close enough.

  8. John,
    I think my Pit Stop post will show as having an unknown author. I would prefer and appreciate having it changed it to my name, John Trainor. If you're unable to post the link, I understand. Thanks for your consistently excellent, non-grumpy posts.
    Best regards,


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