Friday, January 11, 2013

Good times

The Great Stagnation hypothesis is provocative and timely at this time of negligible-to-slow GDP growth.  Robert Gordon (no relation) takes up the same theme.  To his great credit, Tyler Cowen (at Marginal Revolution) routinely posts "there is no great stagnation" examples as he finds them.

We know that measuring is hard.  GDP and other government accounting involves the challenge of measuirng quality improvements.  And there are quality improvements in our lives as never before.  We know that the next electronic gadget will be better; people replace the ones they have long before they cease to function.  More easily measured is improved longevity -- which most of us admit is a good thing.  My favorite rebuttal to great stagnation involves two words, "medical science".

Somewhere in this discussion, one has to include the stories covered in Patricia Marx's "Outsource yourself: The online way to delegate chores" in the Jan 14 New Yorker.  It is gated, but the abstract offers a good hint on what is going on.  Term paper writing services have (unfortunately) been around a while. But the lower costs of transacting and vetting made possible by the web have multiplied the opportunities -- for buyers as well as sellers.  Marx's long list of examples is wonderful.  For $5, for example, she was able to buy "three very good comments or five okayish comments" on Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past" that she could use at her next dinner party.

Not as momentous as electric power, railroads and jetliners? Of course not. But more time savers will enable more people to devote themselves to solving more tough problems.


Much more here from The Economist