Surfing to prosperity Featured

9:46am EDT July 22, 2002
It may not be terribly surprising that the United States is blowing away both Europe and Japan in terms of computer ownership and Internet access, and economists David Altig and Peter Rupert argue that the figures are prime indicators of how well a country’s economy is suited to absorb new technology.

In a commentary recently published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Altig and Rupert report that 45 percent of households in the United States own a personal computer. In Europe, that drops to 23 percent and falls to 17 percent in Japan.

There is an even bigger disparity when it comes to Internet-connected households. The main inhibitors are the very same elements that prevent widespread public access of the Internet — high taxes and capital market imperfections — and interfere with technological progress in general.

“In other words,” Altig and Rupert write, “economic infrastructure matters, and those policies and regulations that interfere with creative access to new technologies have a very real negative impact on the wealth of nations.”

To look at the report, visit www.clev.frb.org.

Jim Vickers