Tyler Cowen: U.S. in for long period of slow growth
Republicans and Democrats need to read Tyler Cowen's new 15,000-word book, The great stagnation: How America ate all of the low hanging fruit of modern history, got sick and will (eventually) feel better. It's a $4 ebook at Amazon and will be published in hard cover June 9.
The highly regarded economist and blogger (http://www.marginalrevolution.com), blames the financial crisis on the reality that "We thouight that we were richer than we are." Further, he says we're still stuck with the dangerous optimism that we can grow out of what may become a double dip recession.
That won't happen, he warns, because the low hanging fruit of innovation and great opportunities have been picked for 40 years and it will be awhile before a new development like free 18th and 19th century land, the rail roads, telegraph, phones, autos, air planes, etc. comes along.
Thus, politicians can no longer credibly promise that tax cuts or more government spending will cause the economy to grow more than 2% a year. He predicts that as a result, Big Government growth will slow or even disappear and that our future depends on our ability to reform education and encourage our brightest to become scientist and engineers. He says we must celebrate scientists and engineers and give them the status of today's investment bankers, lawyers and physicians.
Bottom line: No president nor Congress can claim to have the solution for our slow economic growth. To make such claims shows a lack of integrity and a total misunderstanding of where we are in the economic development cycle.
Along the way, Cowen relates how America picked the low hanging fruit to become the most prosperous and powerful nation in the world. He explains that modern communications generated Big Governments around the world, that increased spending on education since 1970 has provided few benefits to kids and that increased government spending on health care is not stimulating growth. 10% of the book is filled with fascinating notes. There is no index.
David Brooks calls the book the most debated book of the year. This week's Business Week has a glowing story about Cowen. Take a couple of hours and catch up on the thinking of one of today's leading and best informed libertarians and economists.
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