22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Asking the Right Questions about the U.S. Economy
, January 25, 2011
This review is from: The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better: A Penguin eSpecial from Dutton (Kindle Edition)
Who's to blame for the low-growth state of the U.S. economy? In a country filled with partisan finger-pointing and China-bashing, Tyler Cowen attempts to bring the theory of a technological plateau to the forefront. This is not a new idea -- every Econ 101 student learns that there was a productivity slowdown in the 1970s -- but Cowen provides an accessible synthesis of the latest statistics and academic research on the subject. He addresses several counterviews, such as whether inflation is mismeasured and why the technological change wrought by the Internet is distinct from what his grandmother experienced. Today's leading innovators, Google and Facebook, employ smaller numbers of people than General Motors because now the machines and users do most of the work.
Cowen's primary policy prescription is to raise the social status of scientists, who aren't as respected as doctors, lawyers, and bankers. I'm surprised he chose the word scientists rather than entrepreneurs: gifted children are spoon-fed that public service, non-profits, and academic status are noble ambitions, rather than really being encouraged to pursue good ideas. Yet I'd argue society is moving in the right direction in honoring innovators. Mark Zuckerberg initially disliked "The Social Network" movie for its fabrications, but he was pleased to discover that it was inspiring entrepreneurs. Larry Page will achieve higher status now that he is once again CEO of Google in addition to co-founder.
Overall I'm not sure I learned much new from this book, but it framed much of what I did know clearly. The topics addressed by Cowen are too vast to present definitive and convincing answers, but I appreciate the book for asking the right questions.
(edit: corrected errors mentioned in first comment)
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