My own view of the Industrial Revolution has been given in my previous posting. During years of writing on the Internet I haven’t come across anybody else who believes, like me, that the rapid growth part of it is over. There has been one, however — Robert J. Gordon, an eminent economic historian at Northwestern University — whose work I’ve obviously been missing. He’s now written a book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, in which he lays out his case.
He maintains that there have been five Great Inventions — electricity, urban sanitation, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the internal combustion engine and modern communication — which, between 1870 to 1970: were the main drivers of the Industrial Revolution. The last item includes the internet — which he obviously doesn’t believe is as independently significant as most people would rate it. So, according to Gordon, where to now? Pretty well nowhere, Gordon suggests. The future of mankind is likely to be grim with an aging population, declining incomes and no improvement in education. Gordon is your original “dismal” economist!
There’s nothing wrong with being dismal if there’s evidence for it. However, in contrast, I believe in a Phase III for about half-a-dozen advanced countries. This will be a vibrant and highly intellectual era as hinted in my previous posting. I think there’s some circumstantial evidence for that in the sheer numbers of brilliant young people now going in for biological research. It is hard to believe that this is not going to throw up a huge number of innovations. It will, however, be very grim for most of the world’s population during the Phase II era until the 180-odd countries trim their numbers substantially.