I read about this book in an article and ordered it for only $7.95 from Amazon. This is the text from the front and back flap of the book cover.
Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation, the e-book special heard round the world that ignited a firestorm of debate and redefined the nature of our economic malaise, is now-at last-a book.
America has been through the biggest financial crisis since the great Depression, unemployment numbers are frightening, media wages have been flat since the 1970s, and it is common to expect that things will get worse before they get better. Certainly, the multidecade stagnation is not yet over. How will we get out of this mess? One political party tries to increase government spending even when we have no good plan for paying for ballooning programs like Medicare and Social Security. The other party seems to think tax cuts will raise revenue and has a record of creating bigger fiscal disasters that the first. Where does this madness come from?
As Cowen argues, our economy has enjoyed low-hanging fruit since the seventeenth century: free land, immigrant labor, and powerful new technologies. But during the last forty years, the low-hanging fruit started disappearing, and we started pretending it was still there. We have failed to recognize that we are at a technological plateau. The fruit trees are barer than we want to believe. That’s it. That is what has gone wrong and that is why our politics is crazy.
Cowen reveals the underlying causes of our past prosperity and how we will generate it again. This is a passionate call for a new respect of scientific innovations that benefit not only the powerful elites, but humanity as a whole.
The book is only 89 pages long, and is written in language that is easy to read. It should be compulsory reading for everyone in the USA. Are you worried yet? he asks on p42. (Yes, I am). We have used up free land, exploited technology and have turned uneducated kids into educated ones. But we spend way, way too much money on government, health care and education (for what value we get back for it). He says that my generation has not seen the creation of electricity, electric lights, the automobile, the railroad, radio, the telephone and television (actually I only got to see television for the first time when it came to South Africa when I was 13!), to name just a few. In recent decades we have seen the creation of computers and the internet but their impacts have proved to be much more complicated and much subtler then the earlier technological breakthroughs – and are not nearly as widespread yet as say, that of the television or the automobile. We had a great financial crisis because ‘We thought we were richer than we were’. Can we fix what went wrong? Yes, but it will take time. Among his recommendations : we have to raise the social status of scientists. (I’d like to assume that includes engineers as well !).