The Great Stagnation

I just finished and very much enjoyed Tyler’s Cowen’s The Great Stagnation (my first ebook too!).

Cowen’s argument, for those not familiar with it, is that the stagnation of the U.S. economy is not the result of anything we’ve done wrong, but rather the fact that we managed the impressive rate of growth over the course of the 20th century by doing all the easy things, educating people who didn’t used to be educated, expanding public infrastructure like interstate highways, etc. Those things are all done now, and we’ve benefitted enormously in terms of GDP. But he argues we shouldn’t expect to see similar continued rates of GDP growth because there’s no obvious similar low-hanging fruit.

He concludes with a sort of kumbaya that sounds almost hokey as I excerpt it, but it is a sentiment I share:

Be tolerant, and realize there are some pretty deep-seated reasons for all the political strife and all the hard feelings and all the polarization. Government revenue, and private sector revenue, simply isn’t rising at the rate of our demands and expectations. No matter what your particular political commitments, be part of the solution to the current rancor, not part of the problem. Don’t demonize those you disagree with.


  1. Sheesh. Sounds like one of my Chardonnay-fueled rants at the family get-together. Shoulda wrote a book! ;o)

    Nonetheless, it should be made clear we put a lot of this solutioning stuff off because our population was propped up by cheap oil. We have some heavy lifting to do to absorb the shocks when cheap energy goes away. And our political economy refuses to do the work.



  2. And then? When push comes to shove? kumbaya morphs to “I’ve got mine.” Action? Steps forward?

  3. Does Tyler’s Cowen offer solutions when push comes to shove? when kumbaya morphs to “I’ve got mine.” Even if the argument is true, what can be done now? Steps forward?

Comments are closed.