The extraordinary technological innovations of the past century are unlikely to be repeatedby Robert J Gordon / January 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
This article is an edited extract from “The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The US Standard of Living since the Civil War”, Princeton University Press
In the century after the end of the Civil War, life in the United States changed beyond recognition. There was a revolution—an economic, rather than a political one—which freed people from an unremitting daily grind of manual labour and household drudgery and a life of darkness, isolation and early death. By the 1970s, many manual, outdoor jobs had been replaced by work in air-conditioned environments, housework was increasingly performed by machines, darkness was replaced by electric light, and isolation was replaced not only by travel, but also by colour television, which brought the world into the living room. Most importantly, a newborn infant could expect to live not to the age of 45, but to 72. This economic revolution was unique—and unrepeatable, because so many of its achievements could happen only once.