Is American Growth Over?

Download Audio

Is the golden age of American growth and innovation over? Gone for good? Big economist Robert Gordon says so. We’ll listen, and challenge.

Although technological development appears to have rapidly increased in the last fifty years, the gap between the invention of the incandescent light bulb and the Apple iPhone was not as dramatically innovative as it might have been. (WikiCommons / Associated Press)
Although technological development appears to have rapidly increased since the incandescent light bulb was first invented, economist Robert Gordon says that the pace of innovation has actually slowed in the last 50 years. (WikiCommons / Associated Press).

For an amazing century, from 1870 to 1970, says bigfoot economist Robert Gordon, the United States saw technological change on a scale that history seldom offers. Electricity, automobiles, air travel, more. Life was transformed. Economic growth was huge. And the American dream was riding high. The problem? That age is over, says Gordon.  And it’s not coming back. We have to adapt. Is he right? This hour On Point, is growth over? With Robert Gordon.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Robert Gordon, professor of social sciences at Northwestern University. Author of the new book, "The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War". Also author of "Productivity Growth, Inflation and Unemployment" and "Macroeconomics."
Andrew McAfee, co-director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Initiative on the Digital Economy, where he also the associate director of the Center for Digital Business at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Co-author, with Erik Brynjolfsson, of "The Second Machine Age." (@amcafee)

From Tom’s Reading List

Bloomberg View: Goodbye, Golden Age of Growth — "The slower rate of productivity growth since 1970 is important evidence that the third industrial revolution — the one resulting from computers and digitalization — has been less important than the second industrial revolution. Not only has the growth rate been slower since 1970, unmeasured improvements in the quality of everyday life created by computing are less significant than those of the previous industrial revolution."

New York Times: Paul Krugman Reviews ‘The Rise and Fall of American Growth’ by Robert J. Gordon -- "The truth is that if you step back from the headlines about the latest gadget, it becomes obvious that we’ve made much less progress since 1970 — and experienced much less alteration in the fundamentals of life — than almost anyone expected. Why?"

Foreign Affairs: Is Innovation Over? — "In the medium to long term, even small changes in growth rates have significant consequences for living standards. An economy that grows at one percent doubles its average income approximately every 70 years, whereas an economy that grows at three percent doubles its average income about every 23 years—which, over time, makes a big difference in people’s lives."

Read An Excerpt Of "The Rise And Fall Of American Growth" By Robert Gordon

This program aired on February 4, 2016.



More from On Point

Listen Live