New Challenges for a World in Flux
Edited by Linda Yueh
Chapter 9: Dark Matter. Does it Matter?
Graeme Chamberlin* INTRODUCTION Waves of globalisation always present challenges to statisticians in their attempts to accurately measure the economy. First, in the post-war period there was strong growth in international trade. Second, economies not only became more open to goods and services but also to the trade in financial assets as the world’s financial markets became increasingly integrated. This chapter outlines a potential new challenge for statisticians from globalisation. Firm spending on intangibles relative to traditional machinery is arguably becoming more important in developed economies. Intangibles in themselves are difficult to measure, but if it is accepted that they can flow freely across borders it makes the job even harder for official statisticians. Dark matter refers to the unseen exports of these intangibles which could have important effects on international investment income flows and the international investment position of countries. If dark matter is important, and therefore something statisticians should immediately concern themselves with, it suggests two things. First, that the source of this dark matter, intangibles, are becoming more widespread. Second, that international trade in these intangibles has an important effect on an economy’s external position. The first half of this chapter, in reference to the US economy, suggests that dark matter does matter. However, in the second half the case against is made. First in looking for whether dark matter really exists and second in suggesting that certain key parts of intangible spending are not so important for the operation of a firm. The overall conclusion is that...
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