Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

August 3, 2013

The End of Progress

What if everything we’ve come to think of as American is predicated on a freak coincidence of economic history? And what if that coincidence has run its course?

That is Benjamin Wallace-Wells, channeling economist Robert Gordon, in this NY Magazine article. As explained by Wallace-Wells, Gordon’s theory posits that the period between the mid-18th century and the mid-20th saw technological and economic advancement that was unlike anything in the prior course of human history. Living standards in1750 Europe were essentially no different than they had been 2000 years earlier during Roman rule. And then came the Industrial Revolution, a period of astonishing change and advancement, followed in the 20th century by the technology revolution. Gordon’s hypothesis is that these 200 plus years of rapid advancement have reached a conclusion and will not be repeated. Dystopian in the extreme and far more pessimistic about the future than the average economic skeptic. But thought provoking to be sure.

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