Eamonn Fingleton

Eamonn Fingleton is a Tokyo-based author whose most recent book is In Praise of Hard
Industries: Why Manufacturing, Not the Information Economy, Is the Key to Future

Recent Articles

Stop the World

When the 1970 Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson was asked what it takes to win a Nobel Prize, he volunteered, "It doesn't hurt to have good students." But even Samuelson's overachieving students -- he has taught economics at MIT for six decades -- sometimes need to be put in their place. At least that seems to be the subtext of a new Samuelson paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives .. Samuelson argues that, far from representing an unmitigated boon, free trade may in some circumstances prove a net loser. Among countless globalists who stand duly corrected, not the least chastened are two of Samuelson's own former students: Jagdish Bhagwati and Gregory Mankiw. Noted for their ardent embrace of globalism, the pair are identified by name as purveyors of "polemical untruth" in Samuelson's opening paragraphs. Samuelson's insight is that if a low-wage country like China suddenly makes a major productivity leap in an industry formerly led by the United States, the result can be a net...

Trading Down

While it is still unclear how large the trade problem will loom in the presidential election, there is surely plenty to be worried about. On several occasions under George W. Bush, the monthly trade deficit has exceeded the total annual deficit -- $41 billion -- in the entire last year of his father's administration. Of course, Bush Junior cannot be blamed entirely for the deterioration. In reality, most of it occurred under Bill Clinton. But even compared with the record trade deficit in Clinton's last year in office, last year's ran about 20 percent higher. In fact, figures soon to be released are expected to show that in 2003 the U.S. account for the first time topped the psychologically important 5-percent level. This was the worst performance since American economic statistics were first compiled in the 19th century. By comparison, the notorious U.S. trade crisis of 1971-72 was a mere blip: The trade deficit in 1972, approximately 0.5 percent of the gross domestic product, was...

Free Flight

Free Flight: From Airline Hell to a New Age of Travel By James Fallows. Public Affairs, 256 pages, $25.00 Breaking Gridlock: Moving toward Transportation That Works By Jim Motavalli. Sierra Club Books, 304 pages, $23.00 If ever there were a time for top-to-bottom reassessment of the U.S. transportation system, now is that time. James Fallows's Free Flight, published last summer, and Jim Motavalli's just-released Breaking Gridlock provide stimulating insights into the ways better technology and sensible planning might come together to improve methods of travel. Fallows offers a forward-looking account of how technological innovation promises to transform the small-airplane industry. Motavalli attempts an ambitious overview of the entire transportation landscape. Ranging widely from antsy cyclists and gridlocked motorists to fast trains and "green" buses, Motavalli's story is inevitably a less cheery one. His conclusion in the last chapter: "We've taken just about every wrong turn in...


B y recent standards, the dismal U.S. trade figures for April 2000 counted as a relief. After all, imports fell slightly, and this helped narrow the trade deficit for the first time since August 1999. So much for the good news. Now for the bad: At $30.4 billion, the April deficit was just fractionally below the record $30.6 billion deficit set in March. That makes it the second-highest deficit ever. Worse, the narrowing trade gap in April was evidently no more than a temporary aberration, reflecting an all too brief easing of world oil prices for a few weeks in the spring. The underlying trend remains worrisome--far worse than almost anyone has noticed. Just how bad is it? Awful. That April figure is 60 percent higher than the April figure of a year ago. Even if oil prices don't rise any further, America's current account deficit--which is the broadest measure of America's trade deficit with the rest of the world--is on course to approach 4.5 percent of gross domestic product this...