When all the fruit is gone
Phil Mullan will introduce a discussion on the recent book The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better by Tyler Cowen.
Cowen attributes America’s economic troubles to a combination of technological exhaustion by around the 1960s, and of Americans’ failure to see that this technological plateau had been reached and to adjust accordingly since.
Questions to consider:
- Was there a step-change in US economic capabilities around this time?
- What’s the relationship between technological progress and economic growth?/
- How does the Cowen thesis fit alongside the other once popular thesis in America: the mini-long boom of the ‘Great Moderation’ in the 1990s and 2000s?
- Cowen’s book has made a stir in the US elite; how does the acclaim for it sit alongside the latest burst of optimism about the US economy’s prospects and, especially, Washington’s bi-partisan rejection of the latest expressions of US declinism (e.g. Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address comment: “Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”)?
- The Book of Jobs, Joseph Stiglitz, Vanity Fair, January 2012, for another take on the reasons for the ‘Long Slump’
- Sinking into the ‘great stagnation’, Martin Wolf, Financial Times, 21 December 2011
- The End of the Future, Peter Thiel, National Review, 3 October 2011
- The Decline and Fall of America’s Decline and Fall, Joseph Nye
- Interview with Alexander Field, author of A Great Leap Forward: 1930s Depression and U.S. Economic Growth
- The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better, Tyler Cowen, Dutton Books: 2011
Not essential for the discussion but if you are interested in the technology-productivity theme historically:
- Does the new Economy measure up to the Great Inventions of the Past?, Robert Gordon, NBER WP 7833, especially pp. 1-26, (or in Journal of Economic Perspectives, Fall 2000)
- Believe it Or Not! The 1930s Was a Technologically Progressive Decade, January 2007