Is the Great Stagnation Real?

In many ways yes, but there is still room for hope and even celebration.

In his new book The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better, George Mason University economist and New York Times columnist Tyler Cowen argues that our current economic woes are the result of running out of cheap land and big technological breakthroughs, and the faltering of public education. As a result, Cowen claims the United States’ economy has been essentially stagnating since about the 1970s. In addition, he identifies three areas of the U.S. economy in which productivity has likely been getting worse. Specifically, Cowen makes persuasive arguments that productivity in the government sector, public education, and health care have stagnated or fallen since the 1970s, dragging down the average performance of the whole economy. 

As his chief evidence of stagnation, Cowen cites the fact that the growth in median American family incomes dramatically slowed down around 1973. After World War II, median family income had doubled in real terms by 1973. Since then it had increased only 22 percent by 2004, and now has fallen during the recent economic crisis.

Let’s take a general look at Cowen’s argument. Cheap land might have jumpstarted capital accumulation back in the 19th century, but that’s old news. Agricultural production has not been a big part of our economy for some time. In 1930, 21.5 percent of the workforce was employed in agriculture and agricultural production representing about 7.7 percent of national GDP. By 1970, 4 percent of the workforce was employed in agriculture and agriculture’s share of GDP had dropped to 2.3 percent. By 2000, the percent of workforce and GDP share had fallen even further to 1.9 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.

Cowen is certainly right that the accumulation of human capital has been a crucial factor for explaining economic growth. The network effects of working in a society of relatively literate and numerate people must be huge. Cowen argues that once most everyone is educated that means that the boost to growth from consuming that particular low-hanging fruit dissipates. As Cowen observes, in 1900 only 6 percent of Americans had graduated from high school. That figure had risen to 60 percent by 1960. The high graduation rate peaked at about 80 percent in the late 1960s and has fallen back a bit lately. Similarly, only one in 400 Americans were college-educated in 1900. By 2009, 40 percent of us are.

Interestingly, Cowen notes that since 1970 we’ve doubled real per pupil expenditures in public schools; yet average reading and math scores have not improved [PDF]. He concludes that productivity in public education must have significantly worsened over the past 40 years. In fact, U.S. economic growth is at the low end of the scenarios laid out by Hudson Institute founder Herman Kahn in his 1967 book, The Year 2000. In Kahn’s optimistic scenario, U.S. per capita GDP in 2000 would have been $55,500; his pessimistic scenario projected per capita GDP in 2000 at $36,800. Actually, per capita 2000 GDP was $34,600, or about 60 percent lower than the optimistic projection. I suspect that Cowen would agree with the analysts at the Hudson Institute who blame the breakdown in American public education as a major cause for this lower-than-expected GDP growth.  

Let’s turn to Cowen’s argument that a good bit of the stagnation can be blamed on the fact that we are stuck on a technological plateau. The explanation for modern economic growth must depend, for the most part, on technological innovation. We grow richer not just by using more stuff, but by chiefly using the stuff we have in smarter ways. Cowen’s pessimistic conclusion about the role that a technological slowdown has played in the current economic stagnation is based in part on the research of Jonathan Huebner. Huebner parsed trends in patent data relative to world population and alarmingly concluded [PDF], “The rate of innovation peaked in the year 1873 and is now rapidly declining.” 

Cowen argues that the low-hanging technological fruit has been consumed. “The period from 1880 to 1940 brought numerous major technological advances into our lives,” he writes. “The long list of new developments includes electricity, electric lights, powerful motors, automobiles, airplanes, household appliances, the telephone, indoor plumbing, mass production, the typewriter, the tape recorder, the phonograph, and radio to name just a few.” Then Cowen concludes that, apart from the Internet, “life in broad material terms isn’t so different from what it was in 1953. We still drive cars, use refrigerators, and turn on the light switch.” Well, yes.

Although I find a lot of Cowen’s arguments for recent disappointing economic performance persuasive, I think his argument for a technological plateau is not. Unlike the first cars, refrigerators, typewriters, and so forth, a lot of technological improvement is hidden under the hood, as it were. Median incomes may not have grown much but the products people can buy have not only improved but become cheaper relative to their stagnating incomes as well. Let’s take a look.

What about those refrigerators that Cowen dismisses so cavalierly? The modern electric refrigerator was invented in 1914 and proved so useful that 85 percent of U.S. households had one by 1944. In 1970, a refrigerator measuring 14 cubic feet would cost $288 ($1600 in 2009 dollars). Today a not especially fancy Frigidaire, measuring 26 cubic feet costs $800, and is frost free and equipped with an icemaker. In addition, nearly 20 percent of households now have two refrigerators.

In 1970, a 23-inch color television cost $368 ($2,000 in 2009 dollars). Today, a 22-inch Phillips LCD flat panel TV costs $190. In 1978, an 8-track tape player cost $169 ($550). Today, an iPod Touch with 8 gigabytes of memory costs $204. In 1970, an Olympia adding machine cost $80 ($437 in 2009 dollars). Today, a Canon office calculator costs $6.65. In 1978, a Radio Shack TRS80 computer with 16K of RAM cost $399 ($1300 in 2009 dollars). Today, Costco will sell you an ASUS netbook with 1 gigabyte of RAM for $270. The average car cost $3,900 in 1970 ($21,300 in today’s dollars). A mid-sized 2011 vehicle would cost somewhere around $20,000 and last twice as long.

Another very crude way to look at it is that Americans are four times richer in terms of refrigerators, 10 times richer in terms of TVs, 2.5 times richer when it comes to listening to music on the go, 3,000 times richer in calculators, about 400,000 times richer when it comes to price per kilobyte of computer memory, and two times richer in cars. Cowen dismisses this kind of progress as mere “quality improvements,” but in this case quality becomes it own kind of quantity when it comes to improved living standards.

Finally, Cowen believes that the next wave of American income growth will be sparked by big, but currently unknown, technological breakthroughs. Well, such breakthroughs certainly wouldn’t hurt, but the average quality of our lives steadily continues to improve without them.

Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey is author of Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution (Prometheus Books).

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  • Domtar the Space Alien||

    Cowen argues that once most everyone is educated that means that the boost to growth from consuming that particular low-hanging fruit dissipates.

    You Earthlings have hardly begun to be "educated."

  • ||

    Median incomes may not have grown much but the products people can buy have not only improved but become cheaper relative to their stagnating incomes as well. Let’s take a look.

    Measures of the growth in median income depend on measures of inflation. But what all those amazing new products and cheaper, better versions of old ones mean is that government measures of inflation are too high and, therefore, that median income has grown much more that using standard inflation measures indicate.

  • SIV||

    all those amazing new products and cheaper, better versions of old ones

    have nothing to do with inflation.

    Poor people used to eat lobster.

  • Matrix||

    ahh... the cockroach of the sea.

  • ||

    What? No, inflation is measure by changes in prices of a 'basket of goods'. It's very difficult to know how to account for quality improvements (some things in the new basket are much better than the 'same' things in the old basket) and for entirely new products (when comparing 1977 dollars to 2011 dollars, how do you account for the fact that 2011 dollars can buy, say, and iPad with 3G mobile internet and use it to navigate using electronic street maps and GPS satellite navigation?)

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Cowen makes persuasive arguments that productivity in the government sector, public education, and health care have stagnated or fallen since the 1970s

    Government, public education run by government, and an industry dominated by government. Wow, that's the last place I would expect to find stagnation.

  • ||

    As his chief evidence of stagnation, Cowen cites the fact that the growth in median American family incomes dramatically slowed down around 1973. After World War II, median family income had doubled in real terms by 1973. Since then it had increased only 22 percent by 2004, and now has fallen during the recent economic crisis.

    Is that pre- or post-tax?

    If the former, we're F****D.

  • ||

    running out cheap land

    Well that is a joke. Land is only expensive in regions where government restricts the supply and development of it.

    Probably the only thing he got right is that our education system sucks.

  • ||

    If you consider test scores broken down by ethnicity, the US education system isn't really that bad. It is certainly relatively expensive compared to others, that is for sure.

    I've seen some research that shows that the returns to more people getting educated tend to decline at higher and higher levels of education. Elementary school education has a greater marginal return for society than secondary education. Secondary education sees a greater marginal return than college education. Basically, the 50s and 60s were the beginning of a bubble revving up and the seventies were the high point. Since then, marginal returns have been getting lower and lower as costs have risen higher.

    Economic growth during the 50s and 60s also benefited from the Bretton Woods gold exchange standard, which itself was a bubble that eventually burst. The wage increases during this period represented another bubble. Wages started rising faster requiring more education to keep the system going, but once the marginal return to education declined, and the US wage rate had become ridiculously high relative to the rest of the world, the high wage rate increases had to stop, which further slowed economic growth.

    Before 1930, the average increase in the unskilled wage was about 1.1% a year. Between 1930 and 1975 the growth rate was more than double that. Those massive wage increases created a positive feedback loop that eventually came to an end.

    The 50s to the 70s also were the earlier and kinder periods of the government and population bubbles. The US still had a relatively young population and government services were cheap and increasing in scope year to year. As the population aged, and government agencies had outgrown themselves, the purse strings began to give.

    Basically, the 50 through the sixties and early 70's benefited from a lot of forces that were bound to cause negative effects later and were unsustainable.

  • ||

    I apologize for how sloppy that last sentence was written.

  • Paul||

    It is certainly relatively expensive compared to others, that is for sure.

    Teachers don't work for free!

  • Almanian||

    work for free!

    They will if Scott Walkerhitler gets his way!!!!11!

    /idiot

  • san francisco plumber||

    Got it right!

  • ||

    tkw,
    Well put, In fact most people don't realize that at the end of WWII the US had 70% of the world's industry and over 40% of the world's gold reserves. While most of the world was devistated physically and economically, the US became an economic as well as a military superpower.
    The problem is that most corporations, unions, and politicians didn't see that we had a 25 year head start on the rest of the globe before they would start to catch up to us. If the leaders of this country had the forsight they would have known that that day would come and establish long term plans and goals instead of the get mine now and to hell with the future attitude. When factory workers started making as much as college grads, someone should have realized that eventually that gravy train would come to a screeching halt and effect the entire economy with it. Businesses should have been investing profits into new technology and manufacturing processes, instead of paying out dividends to the stockholders. Unions should have worked with business to better US industries, instead of simply grabbing as much of a piece of the pie that they could get their hands on. And politicians should have been working with both, by keeping taxes low and not allowing the unions to get out of hand (and NEVER allowing public workers to unionize) providing an economic environment that allows new business opportunities to grow, and old business continued success without using crony capitalism.
    But alas, none of this happened. The whole post war attitude can be sumed up with LBJ and the democrats in 1967 when they put social security on the budget. The money simply burned a hole in their pocket and the politicans couldn't keep their hands off of it. The economic gains of the past were spent by the worst generation ever: The baby boomers!

  • JoshInHB||

    Bullshit.

    US incomes started stagnating exactly when government regulation of industry, fed reserve currency manipulation, the perverse incentives of the welfare state and the tort system as lottery all kicked into high gear. All four accelerated greatly under that cocksucking statist Richard Nixon. Ironic how the lefties hate him so, even though he was the most socialistic president we've ever had.

  • ||

    I totally agree. Nixon 'gave' us the EPA, OSHA, tried to roll nat. healthcare, tried price-controls, kicked us off gold, sucked face with Mao, sold out South Vietnam on a lie, eviscerated the Apollo program (and gave us what eventually was the space shuttle). The list just goes on and on with that moron. And the left hates him! Yet loves Clinton as some great progressive president?

    Lefties suffer from political schizophrenia or something.

  • DK||

    Here we go again. Another claim that the U.S. become a superpower precisely because of WWII. Incredibly false. The U.S. became the world's largest economic power sometime in the early years of the 1900s, or possibly the 1910s depending on what you considered to be part of the British Empire at the time. It was the major industrial power long before both World Wars. Why is this so surprising? The U.S. basically armed the Allied powers in both wars. To do so takes a massive industrial base. In sum, WWII did not make the U.S. an industrial power - it already was one long before.

  • paloma||

    And why would factory workers making as much as college grads "bring the gravy train to a screeching halt"?

    The idea that graduating college somehow ENTITLES you to make more money is crazy and even a bit laughable. Money (or wages) is what someone pays you when whatever you do is worth MORE to him than what he would have if he kept his money.

  • paloma||

    Why would wages rising require higher levels of education "to keep the system going"? This makes no sense.

  • ||

    Another very crude way to look at it is that Americans are four times richer in terms of refrigerators, 10 times richer in terms of TVs, 2.5 times richer when it comes to listening to music on the go, 3,000 times richer in calculators, about 400,000 times richer when it comes to price per kilobyte of computer memory, and two times richer in cars.

    And yet the true way to look at is to call it deflation.

    And we have been living in this deflationary market for the past 40 years...so much for the theory of the deflationary spiral, and so much for the need of a Federal reserve.

  • Fluffy||

    Productivity has declined in government and education because we now pay vastly more adjusted for inflation for the same services.

    But that was a political decision, or series of decisions, and not an economic issue per se.

    The oft-quoted statistic here at Reason - that we pay twice as much on education per student in real terms now as we did then - is the result of a series of purely political judgments at the local, state and federal level. Restore per-student spending to its previous level, and the productivity figure changes.

  • ||

    Fluffy: Restore per-student spending to its previous level, and the productivity figure changes.

    And the kids will be no smarter, but probably not any dumber either, and we'll give a boatload of tax dollars back to the citizens.

  • JoshInHB||

    Maybe , just maybe having less government involvement will lead to better results.

    I know, it's a crazy idea.

  • ||

    Just thinking about the sheer amount of money we've thrown at the Department of Education over the past 40 years, I recall a Branch Rickey quote:

    "We finished last with you, and we can finish last without you."

  • Old Mexican||

    New York Times columnist Tyler Cowen argues that our current economic woes are the result of running out cheap land[...]


    Uh... running out of cheap land? You mean Utah is 100% occupied?

    [...]and the faltering of public education.


    What are you talking about? American Public Education has more than achieved its intended goals: To convert Americans into passive, obedient, servile, ignorant, illiterate fools - people like OhioOrrin, for instance!

  • ||

    Uh... running out of cheap land? You mean Utah is 100% occupied?

    Utah?? Fuck New York State is less densely populated then Western Europe.
    You don't even have to leave the East Coast to find cheap land.

  • JoshInHB||

    Not only that, but the population density of NY is lower today than it was sixty years ago.

  • Old Mexican||

    Cowen concludes that, apart from the Internet, "life in broad material terms isn’t so different from what it was in 1953. We still drive cars, use refrigerators, and turn on the light switch." Well, yes.


    Red Foreman: "They promised us jetpacks!!"

  • ||

    Funny stuff.

    Using his arguments about quality improvements it would seem in Cowen's fucked up mind that a $100 home printer of today is not a substantial improvement to a printing press of the 1400s.

    They do the same thing right?

  • Ventifact||

    Yeah! And there hasn't been any real innovation in plumbing since the classical age. Sure, only the aristocracy could afford it back then. And sure, people frequently died of waterborne illness. And, ok, sure, their plumbing gave them lead poisoning. But, really, we've been on a plateau since the Romans.

  • ||

    [And there hasn't been any real innovation in plumbing since the classical age.]

    Surely you forget the government mandated 1.5 gallon flush comode.

  • Matrix||

    ahh, yes... the 1.5 gallon flush that makes you flush 3 or 4 times to clear out the contents, thus making you use more water than you would with an older toilet

  • Realist||

    "ahh, yes... the 1.5 gallon flush that makes you flush 3 or 4 times to clear out the contents, thus making you use more water than you would with an older toilet"
    I am sure Bailey is for that since he believes in AGW.

  • Ron||

    1.5 gallon per flush, I wish because this July California is mandating 1.28 gallons. Its ironic the less water toilets are allowed to use the more local utilities have to flush the sewer systems because they were designed for higher flow rates. with the effect of an actual increase in water usage it's just not in the home anymore.

  • Old Mexican||

    Finally, Cowen believes that the next wave of American income growth will be sparked by big, but currently unknown, technological breakthroughs.


    Which makes Cowen sort of a cargo-cult idiot.

    Well, such breakthroughs certainly wouldn't hurt, but the average quality of our lives steadily continues to improve without them.


    Productivity, baby.

    Productivity.

    Everybody got scared when the Soviets placed a satellite in space first, and a man in orbit, first. How about them apples now, Soviets???

    Fuckers.

  • Old Mexican||

    Speaking of Soviets, I remember a book of early cartoons published by a Mexican political cartoonist named Eduardo del Rio (better known as "Rius") some of which chronicled his travels to East Europe and (of course) Soviet Russia. He mentioned that the Soviets were pretty happy with their standard of living, with homemakers making it perfectly without such trivial and unnecessary things as pressure cookers....

    Yes, the guy was a communist. Not very savvy, though...

  • Tony||

    And without significant investment in the competition by the US government, you might be speaking Russian now.

  • ||

    And without significant investment in the competition by the US government, you might be speaking Russian now.

    Bullshit.

    All the US needed was about one tenth of our nuclear arsenal and the CCCP would have still collapsed on its own just like it did....no need for all the extra spending piled on by Eisenhower, Ford, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama.

    In fact if we had kept spending at Eisenhower levels adjusted for inflation the Soviet union would have collapsed quicker because it would have been so spectacularly obvious how fail government planning is.

  • fish||

    So now you are so desperate to praise the state that you are actually praising military spending?

  • Tony||

    I thought we were all agreed on the necessity of a socialist, single-payer national military.

  • fish||

    No pinhead we haven't! If we stopped fucking with 90% of the planet and treated this country like Switzerland on steroids maybe we wouldn't have to fund it to the tune of 1.5 Tril a year! But since you aren't just stupid but Krugman stupid....wait Cass "We should celebrate paying taxes" Sunstein stupid..no wait....John Maynard.."I'd rather get back to blowing Lytton Strachey instead of thinking this whole enabling of politicians by saying that government spending will save our asses thing through Keynes stupid.

    I assume you mean that since government is spending the money then it's just okey fucking dokey!

    Tony you have merely been an silly annoyance up till now but I say now, and without any pleasure that you are the type who would march children into the gas chambers if you got an ID card, government issued costume and taxpayer funded pension to do it.

    You make me ill.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Oh.... SNAP.

  • sevo||

    Tony|3.22.11 @ 7:07PM|#
    "And without significant investment in the competition by the US government, you might be speaking Russian now."

    Yep, a willfully ignorant asshole. Ever see a Russian computer?

  • SIV||

    The network effects of working in a society of relatively literate and numerate people must be huge.

    What society would that be? The one in which highly paid credentialed professionals use electronic devices to compute 20% tips?

    Don't get me started on "literacy".

  • Sudden||

    I couldn't agree more. We might be more "educated" and sure enough, some people who are otherwise functionally retarded might have managed to gain mastery in some dreary corner of corporate management (as though HR requires any mastery or competance), but I fail to see the society as a whole as any smarter/more literate/more numerate than before. Sure, maybe there are ore people as a percentage of the population that can phoenetically pronounce some multi-syllable monstrosity of the English language, but Id say the percentage that know the word or could comprehend said words meaning based on simple context clues that are at the heart of reading comprehension is probably smaller. We might have imparted more knowledge in our population today (and I'd argue that especially at the higher ed level, most of that knowledge is likely utterly worthless liberal arts feel good nonsense) but I think that has come in large part at the expense of the far more essential critical thought and rationality that is what education should be about.

    As for simple composition of the language, just watch a history program and listen to/read some of the borderline prose that was disclosed in letters home to loved ones in wars past by average joe's on the front lines of the Civil War/WWI/WWII (who were in many cases not a day over 20) and picture what a 20 y/o Rhodes scholar today can author in terms of eloquence.

  • Sudden||

    And yes, I recognize the irony of this post is in my ommission of some apostrophes that should be there and inclusion of others that should not (joe's), but perhaps it was my meta-cognition telling me to grammar fail as a means of demonstrating my larger thesis.

  • ||

    Part of that noticable differense is just changes in syntax. People spoke in a more flowery vernacular in those days.

    As Isacc Asimov argued: The clearing out of archaic data from the system is an essential part of advancing in knowledge. People have limited data storage capabilities.

    It's also no longer essential to be fluent in Latin, to know that there are 360 pence in one pound sterling, or to be able to do compound math using the dozen as a base unit.

    I agree with your general thesis, but you shouldn't read too much into changes in speech patterns and slang.

  • Sudden||

    Another very crude way to look at it is that Americans are four times richer in terms of refrigerators, 10 times richer in terms of TVs, 2.5 times richer when it comes to listening to music on the go, 3,000 times richer in calculators, about 400,000 times richer when it comes to price per kilobyte of computer memory, and two times richer in cars.

    Admittedly, Cowen is using real median per capita income, so advances in technology and relative wealth standards are to some degree controlled for by adjusting for inflation, especially if you buy the mid 90's instituted hedonic regression analysis standard implemented for CPI calculations.

    It just so happens that inflation remains a fact of life because prices for those slightly less discretionary/elastic goods/services like food, energy, and shelter have continued their march forward in prices (or have begun to lately, thanks to the Ben Bernank).

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    I was just about to comment that the head of the NY Fed Res said just about the exact same thing as he tried to defend himself against questions about rising costs of living just the other day.

  • ||

    One point that should be made in Tyler Cowan's favor is that there has not been much fundamental advance in physics since the first half of the 20th century.

    Quantum mechanics, general relativity, and particle physics have all undergone some tweaking, but the last fundamental change I can think of was Gell-Mann's quark theory.

    OTOH, if we can get a testable working theory on dark matter or dark energy, things could get very interesting once more.

  • ||

    What about everything that went into the Standard Model? Quantum chromodynamics and Strong-Weak unification are second half of the 20th Century ideas. We would not have the computer revolution without them.

    We didn't even know the shape of DNA in 1950. Biology was basically taxonomy then.

    We've had plenty of ideas, but for whatever reason they have not been used to increase our aggregate productivity growth to the same degree as pre-1970. Whether that's due to the U.S.'s world-historic lead post-WW2 gradually fading, poor sociopolitical choices (especially by or in response to the Baby Boomers), or something else, I don't know.

  • Rimfax||

    I think Cowen fails to account for the increasing regulatory costs of innovation.

  • It Slices, It Dices||

    increasing regulatory costs

    Got your "low-hanging fruit" right here.

  • sevo||

    einwolfsrudel|3.22.11 @ 9:34PM|#
    "...If the leaders of this country had the forsight they would have known that that day would come and establish long term plans and goals instead of the get mine now and to hell with the future attitude."

    Post WWII, large US corporations (GM, US Steel, etc) made the mistake of presuming there wouldn't *be* competition, and promised the world to folks working for them in perpetuity. Note that the benefits offered in perpetuity were driven by tax law.
    They also didn't do so in a vacuum; US politicians (the guys with the guns) made sure the 'agreements' were 'fair'.
    Whether the excess resources (absent those 'agreements') would have gone into R&D or been handed out to the stockholders is open to question, but either would have been preferable to what happened.
    The question remains: How far can you distort a market before that market delivers damaging results? Fannie/Freddie/Wall-Street "greed".

  • Snobbit||

    Let’s turn to Cowen’s argument that a good bit of the stagnation can be blamed on the fact that we are stuck on a technological plateau.

    Cowen must be speaking for himself. And I'm okay with that.

    On any other terms, his position is pure BS and his whole thesis is much ado about nothing.

    Next.

  • Observer||

    Ron, your article needs work. Your compare and contrast of consumer goods didn't stay within same yearly brakets, not a big thing, but I'm picky that way. Also the commment [quote]The average car cost $3,900 in 1970 ($21,300 in today’s dollars). A mid-sized 2011 vehicle would cost somewhere around $20,000 and last twice as long.[/quote]is false.

    A quote from that same linked article. [quote]That's impressive, but he can't touch retired New York schoolteacher Irv Gordon, who's in Guinness World Records for having driven more than 2.5 million miles in his cherry-red 1966 Volvo P1800.[/quote]

    Vehicles from 1960's lasted 3 times as long, using your own standards.

    Hope this helped.

  • ||

    Observer: Guilty as charged with regard to the timelines -- one problem was just trying to dig up products and prices within the decade of the 1970s -- second problem was trying to find products within the 1970s time frame used by Cowen that are vaguely comparable to the modern ones to which I was trying to compare them, e.g., a personal computer.

    With regard to the Volvo - the idea is roughly to compare the expected average lifetime mileage of autos produced in the 1970s with those of today.

  • Realist||

    The Reason Science Editor who knows little about science tackles economics!

  • The Fringe Economist||

    This is silly. We're way better off than people were in the 70's. To say nothing's improved is just ridiculous. My effin car now knows when i'm falling asleep at the wheel and beeps to wake me up for cryin out loud! I guess the author might be correct if you measure economic growth ONLY in terms of emerging markets?

  • ||

    Tyler Cowen basically said there has been no progress, because anything with microprocessors doesn't count.

    Not sure that is a good argument.
    The writers of the Jetsons had a better grasp of technological progress!

  • kent||

    It is astonishing that in an article claiming that there has been no educational progress, there is a link to a study that appears to show quite clear evidence of educational progress.

    Click the link and look for yourself!

  • ||

    2 nights ago I was skyping with my wife and kids while being thousands of miles away in Afghanistan. I could see them for crying out loud!1973 had its moments, but I'll take today. anytime.Where does that show up in the stats?

  • عرب سيريس||

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  • ||

    Interesting that the "breakdown in public education" just magically happened without any larger social cause... Did all teachers suddenly become lazy and stupid post 1973, or is it possible that other factors might have had a role in that "breakdown"?

  • ||

    I am sure if one looks at the cost of food and housing,we are much, much worse off.

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