Why it’s so hard to raise productivity

I am rushing to the airport (Kunming), but here is my (short) debate with Noah Smith on that topic.  Here is my closer:

The sad truth is that American productivity growth was, for the most part, considerably higher in the 1920s and 1930s, a time when most institutions were far worse than they are today, including of course public health. We didn’t even have a National Science Foundation back then. What we did have was a lot of technologies ripe for further exploitation, namely the combination of fossil fuels, electricity, powerful machines and a somewhat freer economy.

Let’s hope the internet and artificial intelligence can lead a new tech revolution, but so far it is looking like a long, tough slog.


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