Robert E Litan

Robert E. Litan is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings and vice president for research and policy at the Kaufmann Foundation. His most recent book is Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity (Yale, 2007), written with William Baumol and Carl Schramm.
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The twenty-first-century telecommunications landscape is radically different from the one that prevailed as recently as the last decade of the twentieth century. Robert Litan and Hal Singer argue that given the speed of innovation in this sector, the Federal Communications Commission's outdated policies and rules are inhibiting investment in the telecom industry, specifically in fast broadband networks. This pithy handbook presents the kind of fundamental rethinking needed to bring communications policy in line with technological advances.

Fast broadband has huge societal benefits, enabling all kinds of applications in telemedicine, entertainment, retailing, education, and energy that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Those benefits would be even greater if the FCC adopted policies that encouraged more broadband providers, especially wireless providers, to make their services available in the roughly half of the country where consumers currently have no choice in wireline providers offering download speeds that satisfy the FCC's current standards.

The authors' recommendations include allowing broadband providers to charge for premium delivery services; embracing a rule-of-reason approach to all matters involving vertical arrangements; stripping the FCC of its merger review authority because both the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department have the authority to stop anticompetitive mergers; eliminating the FCC's ability to condition spectrum purchases on the identity, business plans, or spectrum holdings of a bidder; and freeing telephone companies from outdated regulations that require them to maintain both a legacy copper network and a modem IP network.

These changes and others advanced in this book would greatly enhance consumer welfare with respect to telecommunications services and the applications built around them.

A detailed look at how economists shaped the world, and how thelegacy continues

Trillion Dollar Economists explores the prize-winningideas that have shaped business decisions, business models, andgovernment policies, expanding the popular idea of the economist'srole from one of forecaster to one of innovator. Written by theformer Director of Economic Research at Bloomberg Government, theKauffman Foundation and the Brookings Institution, this bookdescribes the ways in which economists have helped shape the world– in some cases, dramatically enough to be recognized with aNobel Prize or Clark Medal. Detailed discussion of how economiststhink about the world and the pace of future innovation leads to anexamination of the role, importance, and limits of the market, andeconomists' contributions to business and policy in the past,present, and future.

Few economists actually forecast the economy's performance.Instead, the bulk of the profession is concerned with how marketswork, and how they can be made more efficient and productive togenerate the things people want to buy for a better life. Full ofinterviews with leading economists and industry leaders,Trillion Dollar Economists showcases the innovations thathave built modern business and policy. Readers will:

Review the basics of economics and the innovation ofeconomists, including market failures and the macro-microdistinctionDiscover the true power of economic ideas when used directly inbusiness, as exemplified by Priceline and GoogleLearn how economists contributed to policy platforms intransportation, energy, telecommunication, and moreExplore the future of economics in business applications, andthe policy ideas, challenges, and implications

Economists have helped firms launch new businesses, establishednew ways of making money, and shaped government policy to createnew opportunities and a new landscape on which businesses compete.Trillion Dollar Economists provides a comprehensiveexploration of these contributions, and a detailed look atinnovation to come.

With the increasing integration of the major economies of the world, trade frictions have also increased. The Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, once scheduled for completion in December 1990, has been slowed over the issue of agricultural subsidies. The U.S.-Japanese trade relations have continued to be a source of friction between the two countries. At issue in all these disputes is whether the United States and other countries are playing "fairly" in the international trade arena.

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) outlines a variety of rules designed to ensure fairness. The United States, like other GATT signatories, has enacted statutes designed, for the most part, to be consistent with the GATT requirements.

In this book, Richard Boltuck and Robert E. Litan, joined by a team of attorneys and economists with direct experience in "unfair trade" practice investigations, provide the first study of how one of the U.S. governmental agencies charged with implementing the U.S. laws governing unfair trade—the Department of Commerce—has actually discharged its statutory mission. In particular, the book focuses on the antidumping and countervailing duty statutes, provisions allowing the United States to impose offsetting duties on imports that are sold here at prices below those charged by the producers in their home countries that benefit from subsidies provided by foreign governments to encourage exports. Although these provisions may have once been obscure parts of the U.S. trade laws, they have figured importantly in many recent celebrated trade disputes, including those involving the import of foreign-made semiconductors, steel, lumber, screen displays for laptop computers, word processors, and minivan vehicles.

All but one of the authors in the volume are highly critical of the procedures used by the Department of Commerce to calculate margins of dumping and export subsidization. Specifically, they find that at many points in the investigations, both through substantive and procedural requirements, there is a bias toward higher margins, and therefore higher import duties, than is warranted by economic theory; and in some cases by the GATT antidumping and subsidy codes themselves. Significantly, these authors contend that most of the biases can be removed without legislative change, but rather through changes in administrative practice.

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