Robert Gordon Redux: Hard Times Come Again?

Over at Economic Principals, David Warsh weighs in on Robert Gordon’s theory that the era of growth may be over for advanced economies.  His conclusion is not exactly reassuring:

. . . . Gordon raises the specter of those four centuries of negligible growth that unwound before the first industrial revolution rescued Great Britain from a Malthusian crisis. That’s a little remote for my taste. When I was done with his article, I settled for the McGarrigles’ rendition of a Stephen Foster song about the years before America’s Civil War, “Hard Times Come Again No More.” (The lyrics, worth reading, are here.)  If Gordon is right, the hard times are just beginning. They are manageable; the US is a rich, sturdy and good-hearted nation. . . .

As Gordon’s critics point out, we don’t know what (if any) new technologies might arise that could obliterate this pessimism.  But the prospects raised by Gordon (who is a solid, mainstream growth economist) are certainly sobering and worthy of reflection.


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