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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines

Not so fast

It’s a mistake to think our children are condemned to economic stasis

The Rise and Fall of American Growth:

The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War

Robert J Gordon (Princeton University Press, £27.95)

Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth is an extraordinary work of economic scholarship. At a time when too much of the economics profession prioritises theorising about small issues, Gordon provides new data bearing on what may be the most important economic question of all—what will economic growth be like over the next couple of generations? Moreover, this is one of the rare economics books that is on the one hand deeply analytical, with over 100 figures and tables, and on the other a pleasure to read: it is chock full of anecdotes about everything from flying out of Chicago’s O’Hare airport in the 1970s to the spread of radio in the 1920s to the travails of pharmaceutical research. Pick any random page and you will learn something interesting about American life.

It has been said that the further forward you want to forecast, the further back you have to look. Gordon’s interest in this volume transcends the business cycle and even momentous fluctuations like the Great Recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis. His interest is in what kind of growth in living standards average people entering the labour force are likely to see during their working lives.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s February issue: Lawrence Summers questions Robert J Gordon’s thesis on the impact of the digital revolution, John Sawers, the former Chief of MI6, highlights how technology is making the work of spies harder and Frank Furedi examines the student movements demanding protection from the offensive and uncomfortable. Also in this issue: Gershom Gorenberg on Israel, Ben Judah on the complexity of London and Elizabeth Pisani on the impact of fake drugs. Plus Sam Tanenhaus on Obama’s gun control plans.