Mark Collins – Peak Growth: Great Economic Upsides in US and Western Europe–Once(ish) and Done?

The precursor to the considerations below was the original British Industrial Revolution. Two pieces on unique historical times of Peak Growth; how might that ever return?

1) Why Growth Will Fall

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The US Standard of Living Since the Civil War

Robert Gordon has written a magnificent book on the economic history of the United States over the last one and a half centuries. His study focuses on what he calls the “special century” from 1870 to 1970—in which living standards increased more rapidly than at any time before or after. The book is without peer in providing a statistical analysis of the uneven pace of growth and technological change, in describing the technologies that led to the remarkable progress during the special century, and in concluding with a provocative hypothesis that the future is unlikely to bring anything approaching the economic gains of the earlier period.

The message of Rise and Fall is this. For most of human history, economic progress moved at a crawl…

I have read the book; certainly one of those most worth the read over the last decade.

2) Why the Economy Doesn’t Roar Anymore: The long boom after World War II left Americans with unrealistic expectations, but there’s no going back to that unusual Golden Age


Historically, boom times are the exception, not the norm. That isn’t true just in America. Over the past two centuries, per capita incomes in all advanced economies, from Sweden to Japan, have grown at compound rates of around 1.5% to 2% a year. Some memorable years were much better, of course…

…Americans expect the economy to be buoyant, not boring. Yet this expectation is shaped not by prosaic economic realities but by a most unusual period in history: the quarter-century that began in the ashes of World War II [and before the Great Depression, see 1) above], when the world economy performed better than at any time before or since…

growth.jpg


The quarter-century from 1948 to 1973 was the most striking stretch of economic advance in human history. In the span of a single generation, hundreds of millions [?] of people were lifted from penury to unimagined riches [in Western Europe not exactly penury, the war aside, but still a huge advance for the, er, masses: for West Germany see here and here (article at 2) via @FredLitwin)]…

Sunny ways ahead for the West, including Japan? And China? Still, if we–humanity–do not destroy and regress, are we not so much better placed than ever before? On verra.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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