From Foreign Affairs. Here is my bottom line:
His latest entry into this debate [over stagnation], The Rise and Fall of American Growth, is likely to be the most interesting and important economics book of the year. It provides a splendid analytic take on the potency of past economic growth, which transformed the world from the end of the nineteenth century onward.
In a nutshell, Gordon is probably right about the past, but wrong about the future. My greatest reservation about the work is that Gordon thinks he can predict future rates of productivity growth with considerable accuracy:
…although Gordon focuses on the demographic challenges the United States faces, he never considers that today, thanks to greater political and economic freedom all over the world, more individual geniuses have the potential to contribute to global innovation than ever before.
…many past advances came as complete surprises. Although the advents of automobiles, spaceships, and robots were widely anticipated, few foretold the arrival of x-rays, radio, lasers, superconductors, nuclear energy, quantum mechanics, or transistors. No one knows what the transistor of the future will be, but we should be careful not to infer too much from our own limited imaginations.
And here is the “oops” aspect of the book:
What Gordon neglects to mention, however, is that he is also the author of a 2003 Brookings essay titled “Exploding Productivity Growth,” in which he optimistically predicted that productivity in the United States would grow by 2.2 to 2.8 percent for the next two decades, most likely averaging 2.5 percent a year; he even suggested that a three percent rate was possible.
…Gordon offers a brief history of the evolution of his views on productivity. Yet he does not mention the 2003 essay, nor does he explain why he has changed his mind so dramatically. He also fails to cite other proponents of the stagnation thesis, even though…their work predates his book.
Nonetheless this is a tract well worth reading. Again, here is my entire review.