Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I am a regular reader of Jack Bog's Blog.  It is a good place to get a handle on the local political scene as he seems to be well connected.  He is mostly a cranky dude however, full of criticism and bereft of constructive alternatives.  And when he ventures into economics, I cringe, as he is almost always confused and regularly wrong.  For a tax law professor, this surprises me, as I thought the law and economics nexus was pretty well established at this point.

Anyway, here is an example from today that I use as a teachable moment:

"...the public utility companies. These cash cows are regulated, at least to a degree, on the theory that their service is a matter of life and death, particularly to people of limited means, and their opportunities for profit-taking should be limited."

No.  They are regulated because the very high fixed costs of their operation make them natural monopolists  and monopolists have long been known to be subject to the incentive to limit output to increase profits, which reduces overall social welfare.  For people of limited means the government does many other things like earned income tax credits and specific residential energy tax credits.

Corporate Kicker Update

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis has a nice follow-up post on corporate taxes and points out something I had neglected to mention but that often is a source of confusion:

"...the boom in corporate income taxes is actually reflective of the national picture – it is not specific to Oregon-based company profits. For the large multi-state companies (where most of the taxes come from), the state collects corporate income taxes by applying the percentage of a company’s national sales that occur in Oregon to its national taxable income."

Which is why the kicker refunds will go largely to out-of-state corporations:

"Finally, Oregon’s current corporate income tax kicker situation is a direct result of increased profits nationally and locally. However, there are very few large, profitable corporations located in Oregon, so it is exceedingly likely that the kicker – should one occur – will be “created” by, and ultimately returned to, mostly large out-of-state corporations."

You should go and read the entire post.

Portland Home Values: Case-Shiller June Numbers

Once again, farmed out to the Wall Street Journal, after all nothing much is happening in Portland to make a specific graph worthwhile - we have pretty much been holding steady since the beginning of 2009.  The sobering fact here is that this represents the tail end of sales influenced by the government tax credit, we may start to see another wholesale decline soon given the current moribund state of residential real estate transactions.

Home Prices, by Metro Area

Metro Area   June 2010   Change from May   Year-over-year change   
Las Vegas101.77-0.6%-5.2%
Los Angeles175.660.6%9.2%
New York172.761.3%0.2%
San Diego163.820.4%11.2%
San Francisco142.550.3%14.3%
Source: Standard & Poor’s and FiservData

New Oregon State On-Line Economics Degree Program!

When I used to work for the University of Colorado, CU Online, the distance ed arm of the university bought space on a gigantic billboard on Colfax Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Denver.  In big bold letters they wrote "No Time for an Education? CU Online"  Cringe.

Unfortunately, this is often how on-line learning is: a lot of work and not much education.  Though I think that there are a lot of people out there for whom on-line or distance education is no substitute for in class learning, I think that there are also a lot of people out there for whom on-line learning can be effective and who could use the flexibility that distance education provides.  And for those people on-line degree options are often limited.

Well, after a lot of work and planning, I am very pleased to announce that you can now get an Oregon State BA or BS in Economics completely through on-line coursework.  You will take the same classes that on-campus students take and be expected to perform at the same level.  But in the end you will possess the same OSU degree as on-campus students receive and you will also possess one of the most marketable and useful degrees around.

We also offer a couple of options within the major: Managerial Economics which incorporates Business, and the Law, Economics and Policy option which incorporates Political Science and Philosophy and is ideal for those interested in careers in law, politics or policy.  It is also designed to be less mathematically intense for those who see this as a barrier to an economics degree.

I am the E-Campus Coordinator for the OSU Economics department - I designed it and have been working hard to get it up and running (so you know it has to be good!).  Over the next two years we will roll out a full complement of economics courses on-line.  Click on this link to find out more abut the program and OSU E-Campus.

Graph of the Day: Federal Funding to States

Another Economix graph which shows Oregon doing relatively poorly in the receipt of federal tax dollars. Senators Merkeley and Wyden, what's up?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Graph of the Day: Corporate Profits

So, you may be wondering why Oregon might be on a position to refund $40 million to corporations while at the same time slash spending on state services like education?  Well here is the picture worth a thousand words: corporate profits are back a pre-recession levels while personal incomes, thanks to persistent and high unemployment, are still very depressed.

This graph is from the NY Times' Economix Blog.

PS: Is a question mark the appropriate stop after the first sentence?  I think so...

UPDATE: A commentator asked if this is the same for Oregon - yes.  Here you go (from the Office of Economic Analysis)

Back in Action

I'm am finally back and happy to report that me Mum is doing well, thanks for the support.  Turned out she had a double/simultaneous whammy of pulmonary embolisms and whooping cough.  Not fun, but a full recovery is well underway.

Lots to comment on, so I'll start with the big state news: another horrendous budget report which mimics what we are seeing nationally - a recovery which has stalled.  This is exactly what I and many other economists had predicted: without a real driver of growth to pick up for the slack in consumer activity fueled by the homes-as-ATMs craze it was hard to see where robust growth would come from.  It still seems like the only good news is in Asia, which helps us a lot, but not enough.

In Oregon it appears more and more people are on board with kicker reform (though the devil will be in the details), but the prospect of returning $40 million to corporations (mostly out of state) whole at the same time slashing schools and other state services sets the table for getting it done.  Let's hope so.

I have a lot of things to catch up on - journal editors wondering where there referee reports are, an external review for a tenure case, preparing for the Fall term to start and even getting ready to coach for youth soccer this fall - but I will try and get the blog back up to speed post-haste.  There will be a lot to talk about this fall.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Seattle Supersonics

Jeepers.  There I am relaxing in my mothers Bainbridge Island yard when suddenly comes an enormous, thunderous boom along with a shock wave you can feel.  Then, after about 5 seconds, another one.  We sat in stunned silence wondering just how it came to pass that someone was given a permit to blow up the northern half of the island when I see a fighter jet high in the sky.  That's when I figured they must have been sonic booms.  I don't remember them being quite that loud.  But still, why?  Sea Fair was a couple of weeks ago...

Turns out it was courtesy of the Oregon Air National Guard.  Man, that has gotta be the highlight of the year for those pilots: full afterburners from takeoff at PDX all the way to Seattle.  Takes about 5 minutes.

So now, just like if you miss the Sonics NBA team, you have to get your real sonic fix from Portland.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oregon July Unemployment: Holding Steady at 10.6%

The Oregon Employment Department has just released the July employment numbers.  This is a one-tenth of a percentage point gain from the revised June numbers, but is essentially stuck and has been for nine months.  The jobs number is bad: 3,000 jobs lost in July, but the revised June number is now 1,800 new jobs added, so the net effect is minimal.

Manufacturing and construction actually added 4,000 jobs while government shed 3,500 jobs including, but not limited to, census workers.

Once again, we appear to be stuck, stuck, stuck (as does the US economy) and there is no real reason to believe it will get better soon.  One hopes the federal government will come through with more aid to the states in the form of block grants, but there does not seem to be much momentum for this on Capital Hill.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Another trip to Seattle will curtail my blogging for the next two weeks.  I'll do what I can but it'll probably be paltry.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Oregon Exports

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis has a nice new post on Oregon's exports. Here is the key graph:

The blue line is the total exports and the red is the year-over-year percentage change.  As you can see, the recession had a huge impact but exports have recovered nicely and the trend is pretty strongly positive.

Read the rest of the interesting analysis at the OEA blog.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I am going to have to moderate comments for a while, the comments are being over-run with spam. Sorry.  For right now, I will only moderate comments on posts over a day old.  I wish Google would have an option to exclude comments with html links, that would help a lot I think.

Also, there have been a number of good, thoughtful comments recently that I never got a chance to respond to due to some unforeseen circumstances, and for that I apologize. Please don't stop, I value your comments!

Beeronomics: iPad Tap

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Timbers and Spencer

Through a serendipitous twist of fate I found myself attending the press conference to unveil John Spencer as the new Timbers manger at the Adidas HQ today.  I went more to witness the spectacle than anything else and it was fun to witness a little part of the birth of the team.  It was also fun to check out the Adidas HQ a little bit.  Pretty snazzy as you might imagine.  My favorite bit was the elevator that had 1 and G.  At the end a few people got off on 1 and immediately realized their error.  "Ah, of course, a European style elevator!" one person then said.  Funny.

The little conference room and hospitality area has the entire collection of Adidas world cup balls, starting with one of the most iconic sports designs ever: the hexagonal, black-and-white, Telstar.  It remains the look of soccer balls in any graphic you'll find, including the MLS logo.

Anyway, here is the press conference if you are interested.  No news content at all, just nice platitudes and vague language about playing hard and attractive soccer.  The best bit is when Spencer was asked about flipping off fans who insulted Brian Ching when he was cut from the US World Cup squad.  And you got to love Spencer's Glaswegian brogue.

I think he'll be a great manager.

Portland Timbers introduce John Spencer

Beeronomics: Consolidation, Eh?

Via Beervana I learn about the purchase of Pyramid and MacTarnahans by Labatt.

Nothing much to add to my previous post about this type of consolidation when Widhook announced the purchase of Kona: it is all about the economies of scale.

Now, when I used to spend my summers with the Canadian side of my family outside of Smiths Falls, Ontario, there were no two ways about it: you were either Molson people or Labatt people.  My family were Molson people.  So I guess I will continue to not purchase Macs and Pyramid.

Apparently there is no plan to change the current breweries. This is startlingly similar to the previous era of big brewery consolidation whereby popular regional brands were snapped up by big breweries with national ambitions.  Interesting to see it all happen again.  It is also a good example of what economics is all about relative to business.  Economics is all about understanding the fundamental forces behind market interactions.

Are Authoritarian Governments Good for Growth?

Since I tend to talk a lot about local, national and developing country growth a lot, this sentiment pops up from time to time: "look at how fast China is growing, is this an example of how authoritarianism can escape the messy expense and waste of a democratic system, is authoritarianism good for growth?" The answer is no.  But Dani Rodrik has a more authoritarian voice than I so here is an excerpt from his piece at Project Syndicate.

The relationship between a nation’s politics and its economic prospects is one of the most fundamental – and most studied – subjects in all of social science. Which is better for economic growth – a strong guiding hand that is free from the pressure of political competition, or a plurality of competing interests that fosters openness to new ideas and new political players?

East Asian examples (South Korea, Taiwan, China) seem to suggest the former. But how, then, can one explain the fact that almost all wealthy countries – except those that owe their riches to natural resources alone – are democratic? Should political openness precede, rather than follow, economic growth?

When we look at systematic historical evidence, instead of individual cases, we find that authoritarianism buys little in terms of economic growth. For every authoritarian country that has managed to grow rapidly, there are several that have floundered. For every Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, there are many like Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo.

Democracies not only out-perform dictatorships when it comes to long-term economic growth, but also outdo them in several other important respects. They provide much greater economic stability, measured by the ups and downs of the business cycle. They are better at adjusting to external economic shocks (such as terms-of-trade declines or sudden stops in capital inflows). They generate more investment in human capital – health and education. And they produce more equitable societies.

Authoritarian regimes, by contrast, ultimately produce economies that are as fragile as their political systems. Their economic potency, when it exists, rests on the strength of individual leaders, or on favorable but temporary circumstances. They cannot aspire to continued economic innovation or to global economic leadership.

At first sight, China seems to be an exception. Since the late 1970’s, following the end of Mao’s disastrous experiments, China has done extremely well, experiencing unparalleled rates of economic growth. Even though it has democratized some of its local decision-making, the Chinese Communist Party maintains a tight grip on national politics and the human-rights picture is marred by frequent abuses.

But China also remains a comparatively poor country. Its future economic progress depends in no small part on whether it manages to open its political system to competition, in much the same way that it has opened up its economy. Without this transformation, the lack of institutionalized mechanisms for voicing and organizing dissent will eventually produce conflicts that will overwhelm the capacity of the regime to suppress. Political stability and economic growth will both suffer.


For the true up-and-coming economic superpowers, we should turn instead to countries like Brazil, India, and South Africa, which have already accomplished their democratic transitions and are unlikely to regress. None of these countries is without problems, of course. Brazil has yet to recover fully its economic dynamism and find a path to rapid growth. India’s democracy can be maddening in its resistance to economic change. And South Africa suffers from a shockingly high level of unemployment.

Yet these challenges are nothing compared to the momentous tasks of institutional transformation that await authoritarian countries. Don’t be surprised if Brazil leaves Turkey in the dust, South Africa eventually surpasses Russia, and India outdoes China.

I will add that China has a host of burgeoning social problems that it has used its authoritarianism to avoid addressing fully: inequality, lack of access to good schools and doctors, environmental problems, etc.  Is have reaped the benefit of underinvestment in these areas in the short-run, but it will pay a high price in the long-run.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Timbers Name Spencer New Coach for MLS

A very good choice: Scotsman John Spencer.  I had the good fortune of watching the arrival of Spencer to the MLS when I lived in Denver.  His affect on the team was immediate: he brought a hard-charging, intense, never-give-up attitude and new energy to a lackluster team.  He was only one of 11 but his presence on the field changed the team entirely.

He is but a wee lad but a true professional and I expect will accept nothing but full effort from his players.  I, personally, cannot think of a better choice.  Kudos.


Having lived many years in the Bay Area, where all of the bay bridges are tolled, and in the midwest, where all of the freeways around Chicago are tolled, the idea that tolling the I-5 bridge would cause so much controversy is amusing to me.

Tolls will not pay for the bridge, but they will generate a lot of revenue.  In the era of the FasTrack electronic pass, long delays at toll booths are generally a thing of the past.  And, most importantly, tolls create exactly the type of incentive to car pool, use light rail, bike and so on.  So, I think you should definitely toll the I-5 bridge.

However, if you are going to toll the I-5 bridge, it is hard to see how you leave the I-205 bridge without tolls.  Of course an equilibrium will arise where congestion on the Glenn Jackson bridge will be a toll of its own, but this is a toll with a large externality whereas a monetary toll is not.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Nothing new here for anyone who reads this blog, but my Op-Ed in response to Jack Hart's was published in Sunday's Oregonian.  You can read it here.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Since I am otherwise occupied, here is some smart writing on the US jobs report for July.

Catherine Rampell in the NY Times Economix Blog:

The chart above shows job changes in this recession compared with recent ones, with the black line representing the current downturn. The line has ticked upward since last year, but still has a long way to go before the job market fully recovers to its prerecession level. Since the downturn began in December 2007, the economy has shed, on net, about 5.6 percent of its nonfarm payroll jobs. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that the working-age population has continued to grow, meaning that if the economy were healthy we should have more jobs today than we had before the recession.

David Leonhardt, in the NY Times Economix Blog:

This morning’s jobs report is not easy to decipher. All in all, it suggests that economic growth remained slow in July, but it also offered a reason to hope the economy might be on the verge of picking up speed again.

The most important indicator was private-sector employment. (Overall employment fell, by 131,000, because so many Census workers completed their work last month.) Here are the changes in private-sector employment over the last six months:

February: 62,000
March: 158,000
April: 241,000
May: 51,000
June: 31,000
July: 71,000
You can see a clear change starting in May. Some unknown combination of events — the debt crisis in Europe, still-soft consumer spending, the BP oil spill — caused employers to pull back significantly on hiring, based on the data we now have. And employers remained reticent in July.

State and local governments also cut jobs — 48,000, combined — which is yet another sign that federal aid to states is needed.

Last month’s unemployment rate — based on a survey of households, which is much smaller than the survey of employers — remained steady, and it actually fell in June. But that’s not meaningful. In both months, the share of the population with jobs dropped. The unemployment rate did not only because a significant number of people stopped looking for work, according to the Labor Department’s household survey, and thus were not counted as officially unemployed.

The bottom line is that job growth has not been fast enough to keep up with normal population growth.

As I mentioned above, though, there were some glimmers of hope in this jobs report.

The length of the workweek increased in July, to 34.2 hours, from 34.1 hours. It had shrunk in June. The workweek is now longer than it has been since January 2009. It’s common for employers first to increase the work of their existing employees before they begin hiring new ones.

Wages also rose in July. Average hourly pay increased to $22.59, from $22.55. Hourly pay, even after adjusting for inflation, is now at a high, despite the terrible recession. However many employers are cutting pay, more are evidently increasing it.

And for the third consecutive month, there was a drop in the number of people working part-time because they could not full-time work. Slightly more than 8.5 million workers were in this category last month, down from 9.2 million in April. When the recession began, in December 2007, only 4.7 million people were.

Conor Dougherty in the Wall Street Journal's Econ Blog:

State and local governments shed 48,000 jobs in July, the biggest drop in a year and almost double last month’s drop, according to today’s employment report.

State and local government have cut a combined 169,000 jobs this year, including 102,000 over the past three months. Friday’s report suggests job losses could continue to accelerate as states grapple with weak tax revenues and the loss of federal budget support later this year. July is the first month of most states’ 2011 fiscal year, so the month’s job losses reflect budget decisions that were made months ago but don’t translate to job losses until the fiscal year turns.

Local governments shed 38,000 jobs in July. States cut 10,000. Local government — everything from cities to school boards and transportation districts — account for 14.3 million jobs, compared with 5.1 million for states. More people work in local government than in the entire manufacturing sector.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Beeronomics: Washington's Initiative I-1100

On BI with the moms - she is doing better, thanks for all your well wishes - so I'll free ride on Jacob Grier and his take on Washington's initiative I-1100, which would, as I understand it, essentially do away with their version of the OLCC, or at least the part that controls sales.  Washington's craft brewers have come out against it, apparently because it would allow for market based wholesale pricing.  Here is Jacob:

At issue is a section of the initiative that would allow breweries to self-distribute and offer discounts to bulk buyers like Costco, grocery stores, and bars. Beer in Washington must currently sell at a uniform wholesale price: Costco pays the same amount for crates of it that a small retailer pays for a few cases. As a result, beer prices at large retailers are higher now than they will be if I-1100 passes.

Eliminating the uniform price requirement might make it harder for craft breweries to compete with the big beer companies who can offer greater discounts and benefits. Does this make the initiative anti-consumer? Only if you look exclusively at craft beer drinkers. Craft beers currently make up about 7% of the US market (probably somewhat higher in beer savvy Washington). The vast majority of beer consumers will benefit from being able to buy macrobrews at lower prices.

To put this another way, the Washington Brewers Guild is saying that the state should keep beer prices artificially high for 93% of the beer market in order to maintain the same broad selection for the remaining 7% (or whatever the actual figures are in Washington).

Personally, I doubt that the results will be as bleak as the WSG predicts. Craft brews are growing in popularity while macros are declining, and that’s unlikely to change. Smaller breweries are also starting to merge, operating independently while taking advantage of economies of scale. There may be some closures — this is true regardless of I-1100 — but craft beers don’t show any sign of going away.
My take on this part of the issue is that craft brewers' market has always been fairly distinct from macros, so they shouldn't start worrying about craft beer being more expensive, it always has.  Lower prices will allow them to grow their markets, in fact I think in Oregon at least, Ninkasi is being sold in Costco -something that will give them exposure to a whole new set of consumers.  The point is, if craft brewers have a superior product, they shouldn't be relying on arcane laws to be competitive.  Last time I looked, the craft beer industry in California, which has about the most liberal laws in the nation, was thriving.  In fact the modern craft beer industry started in California.  Craft brewers in Washington are making a mistake in aligning against consumer friendly reforms.  As Jacob says, it is about the consumer.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


My mother found herself in the hospital over the weekend with a debilitating illness, and she has yet to fully recover, so off I go to Bainbridge Island help her out. I'll be doing it for the first time all by bike and train and ferry so it should be a fun test of my fitness, which I like to think is pretty good - I am on a geriatric soccer team after all. But I may be singing a different tune by the time I reach Blakely Elementary school, man that is one long hill.

Anyway, that is all to say that I may not be blogging as much for the next couple of days.

Beeronomics: Craft Brewers Alliance Buying Kona

The Portland Business Journal is reporting that the Craft Brewers Alliance (Read: Widmer/Redhook) is buying Kona Brewing Company.  Interesting.

This type of consolidation is not unexpected given the economics of the beer industry (read: economies of scale).  The economies are both internal to firms (brewhouse volume) and external to firms (distribution and marketing).  Obviously CBA believes that the latter will help both companies.  But is not just external economies.  Kona has made pretty amazing inroads in the mainland beer markets, and they do so by the way by contracting with US brewers to brew their beer and, you guessed it, Widmer is the contract brewer (and the Redhook facility is Portsmouth, NH is the other apparently).  So both internal and external economies of scale are huge drivers of the economics of beer and will continue to shape the craft brewing industry.

Which is why I anticipate the continued shake out of the industry.  Small packaging breweries are going to be constantly faced with pressure to expand or die.  It is just economics.  So I think you'll see that the only small brewers that remain are the brewpubs - who can package as well but it is the pub itself provides the stability.

Should be an interesting decade.

Time in the Classroom Matters

As school districts across Oregon are preparing for drastic cuts including shortening the school year, a new study confirms, yet again, that instructional time matters for student achievement. Here is the abstract of the paper by Victor Lavy:

There are large differences across countries in instructional time in schooling institutions. Can these differences explain some of the differences across countries in pupils’ achievements in different subjects? While research in recent years provides convincing evidence about the effect of several inputs in the education production function, there is limited evidence on the effect of classroom instructional time. Such evidence is of policy relevance in many countries, and it became very concrete recently as President Barrack Obama announced the goal of extending the school week and year as a central objective in his proposed education reform for the US. In this paper, I estimate the effects of instructional time on students’ academic achievement in math, science and reading. I estimate linear and non-linear instructional time effects controlling for unobserved heterogeneity of both pupils and schools. The evidence from a sample of 15 year olds from over fifty countries that participated in PISA 2006 consistently shows that instructional time has a positive and significant effect on test scores. The effect is large relative to the standard deviation of the within pupil test score distribution. I obtain similar evidence from a sample of 10 and 13 year olds in Israel. The OLS results are highly biased upward but the within student estimates are very similar across groups of developed and middle-income countries and age groups. Evidence from primary and middle schools in Israel is similar to the evidence from OECD countries. However, the estimated effect of instructional time in the sample of developing countries is much lower than the effect size in the developed countries. I also show that the productivity of instructional time is higher in countries that implemented school accountability measures, and in countries that give schools autonomy in hiring and firing teachers.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Resource Depletion and Growth

Yesterday The Oregonian dedicated 1,500 words in the opinion section to an expert economist former managing editor and current writing coach, Jack Hart, who used his 1,500 words to badly mangle basic economics and reiterate the canard that economic growth necessarily means resource depletion.  I am familiar with all of these arguments and have discussed them in this blog before.

The most fundamental problem with the entire argument is that it sets up a straw-man that reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of the basics of economic growth: that economic growth means resource depletion.  While it is true that if you find a valuable resource and exploit it you are often contributing to economic growth, the same is true if you invent a new solar technology that allows people to use only sunlight to power their homes.  In either case you have created stuff that people want and value and this, not resource depletion, is the source of all economic growth.

The same straw man is used to equate consumption with resource depletion.  Again, we can all have rising consumption without resource depletion.  In fact what most distinguishes wealthy societies is how much more leisure we consumer than do poorer societies.

As usual, population growth is thrown into the mix without recognizing that a key correlate of population growth is poverty.  So how do you tell a poor farmer in India with no retirement, no social security and no insurance that he should not have multiple kids to help him out?  You don't.

Which is why this argument bothers me so much, because I have dedicated my life to trying to improve the growth trajectories of developing countries precisely because I think it represents the solution not the problem.  With higher incomes, societies have fewer children, value the natural world around them more, can afford to invest in cleaner technologies, and so on.  It is only through growth that the world can overcome some of the most pressing worldwide challenges that confronts it.

This idea that growth has been bad conveniently ignores the vast improvement in infant mortality, life expectance, morbidity, etc. experienced in the 20th century.  Instead statistics about subjective measures of 'satisfaction' are used never mind that ones perception of their lot in life has a lot to do with what they see in their community.

Which is why this idea that there is some grand mechanism that we control that drives growth is absurd.  Growth comes from the desire of every human being on the planet to better their lot in life.  Growth is inherent in who we are and what we strive for.  How you actively control growth is unclear - a soviet style command and control economy?  History has shown that to be an unsuccessful method of organizing on a national scale, one imagines how much worse it would be on a global scale.

Finally, the fatal flaw in the argument of the so called "steady staters" is that they profess to offer a better alternative.  This suggests that people will be better off in their version of the world.  Well if this were true people would value this new paradigm and therefore the new paradigm itself would create value and, oh dang...growth!  Nooooo!

So talk about resource depletion all you want but don't conflate it with growth.  The challenge of the 21st century is creating growth exactly from the invention of technologies that allow us to do more with less, not from finding more.  Just because the 20th century was mostly about finding more and exploiting it does not mean this defines growth.