A Tough Fruit to Digest
I highly recommend Tyler Cowen's e-pamphlet The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better . . . it is a quick read with a powerful thesis: we are not as rich as we think we are . . . and the stuff that made us feel rich in the first place, the low hanging fruit we grabbed and ate, is pretty much a thing of the past -- there is no more free and cheap land, the major strides in public education happened last century (at the beginning of the 20th century, very few people went to school or university -- intelligent or not --and Cowen argues that we have reached an age of diminishing returns in education . . . now everybody goes to school) and there haven't been many life changing scientific breakthroughs recently -- aside from the internet, which is a special case, because though it eases the shock of the stagnation, it is mainly free, and wonderful for those folks who are "intellectually curious, those who wish to manage large networks of loose acquaintances, and those who wish to absorb lots of information at phenomenally fast rates," and so though we still have our Constitution and relatively cheap fossil fuels, they are only two of the five . . . and in areas of great gain, such as financial innovation, these innovations do NOT translate into gains for the American people (and might translate into losses) as "recent and current innovation is more geared toward private goods rather than public goods," unlike the innovations of the 20th century: refrigeration, transportation, sanitation, mass communication, electricity . . . I agree with this, though the internet is super-neat, it pales in comparison to an indoor toilet, and I will still pay my plumber more to fix my pipes than I will pay for an internet connection.