For all sorts of businesses, from tech firms and pharma companies to coffee shops and gyms, the ability to deploy assets that one can neither see nor touch is increasingly the main source of long-term success. But this is not just a familiar story of the so-called ‘new economy’. The growing importance of intangible assets has also played a role in some of the big economic changes of the last decade. The rise of intangible investment is, Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake argue, an underappreciated cause of phenomena that ranges from economic inequality to stagnating productivity. In their latest work, Haskel and Westlake bring together a decade of research on how to measure intangible investment and its impact on national accounts, to show how the distinctive features of an intangible-rich economy make it fundamentally different from one based on tangibles.
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