Not so fast, Robert Gordonby Lawrence Summers / January 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War, by Robert J Gordon, Princeton University Press, £27.95
Read an extract here
And an interview with Gordon here
Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth is an extraordinary work of economic scholarship. At a time when too much of the economics profession prioritises theorising about small issues, Gordon provides new data bearing on what may be the most important economic question of all—what will economic growth be like over the next couple of generations? Moreover, this is one of the rare economics books that is on the one hand deeply analytical, with over 100 figures and tables, and on the other a pleasure to read: it is chock full of anecdotes about everything from flying out of Chicago’s O’Hare airport in the 1970s to the spread of radio in the 1920s to the travails of pharmaceutical research. Pick any random page and you will learn something interesting about American life.
It has been said that the further forward you want to forecast, the further back you have to look. Gordon’s interest in this volume transcends the business cycle and even momentous fluctuations like the Great Recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis. His interest is in what kind of growth in living standards average people entering the labour force are likely to see during their working lives.
Gordon lines up with Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who has said that, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” Despite all the hype coming out of Silicon Valley, Gordon believes we are in a period of modest progress. Whereas many observers worry that because of technology there will no longer be work for an increasing share of able-bodied adults, he…