In an otherwise unremarkable day I have to thank a reader for sending me a book review by David Torman from the MIT Technology Review — “Tech Slowdown Threatens the American Dream”. He summarises the case made by Robert J. Gordon in his recent book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth and a riposte by Tyler Cowen in his book Is Innovation Over? The Case Against Pessimism.
Gordon’s argument is similar to my own in my postings of the last couple of years — that the great wave of economic growth and massive innovation on the consumer goods front is now over. The weakness of his case, though, is that he dismisses the possibility that innovation can continue at all. Cowen pours water in this — as do I — by saying that there is no reason why innovation can’t continue. “There are more people working in science than ever before, more science than ever before.”
Where I differ from Cowen is that I think the typical middle-class person in the advanced countries is largely content with what he has already. He has no time, space or energy for new consumer goods. On the other hand, he would very much like to have much improved education and health care services. Innovations for these will surely come from the largest sector of scientific research of all — biology.