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Has capitalism stalled? The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert Gordon


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Source of graph above: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/families/

Robert Gordon Forbes article on whether capitalism has stalled: http://forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2016...

Stashed in: Capitalism, Economics, Ray Kurzweil!, Wealth!, Rich people get richer., America!, Demographics, Awesome

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Northwestern University historian Robert Gordon thinks the era of high-growth capitalism is not just over -- but it might have been a one-time thing. His argument is that daily life and productivity changed IMMENSELY between 1900 and 1940 -- cars, plumbing, heat, even typewriters became common in that time and life expectancy increased by like 50%. Since then not only has productivity flattened, but now the economy faces headwinds that are difficult to change quickly: demography, education, inequality, globalization, energy/environment, and the overhang of consumer and government debt. As counterpoints to Gordon's argument, the Forbes writer brings in more optimistic viewpoints from Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, and Ray Kurzweil.

The economy also faces increasing automation and more jobs done by drones and robots.

It's hard to know whether to be optimistic or not. The view that high growth capitalism might have been a one-time thing is hard to dispel.

The problems Gordon spells out are real and, in some ways, unprecedented. As baby boomers retire, there are less people of working age to support them. At the same time, the aging population increasingly suffers from chronic diseases, like cancer and Alzheimer’s, that are expensive to treat. The costs from climate change from increasing natural disasters, have also become clear.

Yet still, we are not mindless cogs who are wholly at the mercy of faceless global trends. We have the power to solve problems. For example, it is the threat of climate change that has spurred investments in renewable energy that have the potential to make our economy exponentially more energy efficient.

Also... how can I put this nicely? Some of the trends are super good for individuals -- like increasing life spans due to better medical care, or increasing housing values due to high demand in the Bay Area -- while being crappy for the economy at large -- like increasing life spans due to better medical care, or increasing housing values due to high demand in the Bay Area. All those old people might be healthy, happy, and contributing positively to public life... or they might have Alzheimers, need a larger and larger percentage of younger people to support their pension needs, and use their extra time to bend the political process to serve their own purposes. I'm big on demographics so I'm kinda voting for the latter :/

Good for individuals but bad for the economy at large seems to be the trend of America for the last 50 years. And going forward, most likely. 

I guess that's the nature of winner take all. 

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