Home > Uncategorized > Schulz’s Wager: Great Stagnation or Leap Forward? Place Your Bets – Forbes

Schulz’s Wager: Great Stagnation or Leap Forward? Place Your Bets – Forbes

September 12, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

Over the last eighteen months, a debate has raged about what the future will look like.  Will the innovation and rapid economic growth that Americans have enjoyed over the past two centuries continue? Or have we plateaued and are we now entering a period marked by persistent anemic growth and less rapid technological change?

On one side you can find economist Tyler Cowen, author of the best-selling e-book The Great Stagnation; investor/entrepreneur/intellectual Peter Thiel, who wrote an influential essay in National Review called “The End of the Future”; and now comes economist Robert Gordon, author of a new paper “Is U.S. Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts the Six Headwinds.”  In case you couldn’t tell from the titles, these are the pessimists about the future.

On the other side you’ll find Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, authors of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy; Mark Mills, author of a much-discussed essay “The Next Great Growth Cycle”; Singularity theorist Ray Kurzweil; and Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist and the Wired cover story “Apocalypse Not.”

My instinctive sympathies lie with the bulls. After all, the pessimists of the recent past were often proven decisively wrong. Remember the Club of Rome and its book The Limits to Growth?

But the pessimists of the past were often ideological liberals and hard-green environmentalists of a

Utopian bent; they were hostile to modern industrial technology and let politics cloud their analysis and judgment.  Their arguments about the impending limits to growth were stalking horses for an explicit political agenda, one that sought more central planning in the economy and  more limits on individuals’ liberties.

The pessimists today are of an entirely different cast. They are often politically libertarian-conservative, economic realists, and fans of new technology. This makes their critiques more penetrating and their analysis much harder to dismiss than the pessimists of a generation ago.

It also changes in important ways how an agnostic might feel about the entire debate.

via Schulz’s Wager: Great Stagnation or Leap Forward? Place Your Bets – Forbes.

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