miércoles, 20 de septiembre de 2017

"The rise and fall of American growth" - Robert Gordon

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil WarThe Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We live under the impression that never before growth of the economy and the standard of living have been so high, and we are wrong. As a matter of fact, we are in a declining phase. This is one of the central lessons of Robert Gordon´s book, which is focused in the US case but could be applicable also to the majority of the western nations. We are still leaving under the spell of what has happened between 1870-1970, the phenomenal change from a live without electricity, gas, water and communication networks to our fully connected society.

However, the second lesson of the book is the excepcionality of the century between 1870 and 1970. Growth may has declined since 1970, but has virtually no exist before 1870. The rise of growth has happened due to the great inventions of the first and second industrial revolutions, the steam machine and electricity, that has bring us the full set of facilities we enjoy in our dailiy routine and we would not be able to put aside: cars, washing machines, fridges, cheap clothing, ....

Finally, there is a warning for us. Although it looks us the other way around, ICT has not bring us as much growth us we think, except for a brief period between 1996 and 2004. Since them, after the main novelties were integrated in home and offices (PCs, Internet, substitution of the papers by bits, ...) growth has decline both in productivity and standard of living. The fall of innovation rythm has been a cause, but also the rising inequality, the demographics changes, the imbalances in the access to the different level of education, the downsides of globalisation and the failure of enviromental policies. The author undelines that unless we change these trends, growth will not return.

But the book is something more than just another book of an economy expert packed with graphics and figures that support his ideas. The book is also in great part a picture of how life was in the different periods it covers. The description of rural life by the end of the XIX century, the evolution of the urban areas, the changes in the entretaintement industry, the vanishing of horses as the main companion of human life, the blurring of distances brought by trains, planes and telecommunications, ... This is also the book if you want to get information for writing any social or non fiction paper which is set in any period after 1870.

In spite of its length, you will enjoy the book. It is going to consume may hours of your life its reading, but you will not repent. Final tip: if you are short of time, read at least the pages of conclusions of each chapter.

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