The Intellectual Decline Collapse of Chicago School, Part LIX

bdbd points out, in comments:>Grasping Reality with Both Hands: Ricardian Consumers and Fiscal Policy Once Again: [John] Cochrane’s piece [contributing to the *Economist* debate is odd all the way down… [see] Keynes’ 1930 essay “Economic Possibilities of our Grandchildren”.Yes indeed. The *Economist’s* moderators did a bad job in letting things go by–in giving the representatives of Chicago not only their own private positions but their own private facts. Cochrane does begin his piece:>John Cochrane: Nobody is Keynesian now, really. Keynes distrusted investment and did not think about growth. Now, we all understand that growth, fuelled by higher productivity, is the key to prosperity…What did John Maynard Keynes say? This:>[John Maynard Keynes (1931), “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren”]( We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say that the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterised the nineteenth century is over; that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down…. I believe that this is a wildly mistaken interpretation of what is happening to us. We are suffering, not from the rheumatics of old age, but from the growing-pains of over-rapid changes…. The increase of technical efficiency has been taking place faster than we can deal with the problem of labour absorption; the improvement in the standard of life has been a little too quick; the banking and monetary system of the world has been preventing the rate of interest from falling as fast as equilibrium requires. And even so, the waste and confusion which ensue relate to not more than 7½ per cent of the national income; we are muddling away one and sixpence in the £….>[D]own to the beginning of the eighteenth century, there was no very great change in the standard of life of the average man living in the civilised centres of the earth…. This slow rate of progress, or lack of progress, was due to two reasons-to the remarkable absence of important technical improvements and to the failure of capital to accumulate. The absence of important technical inventions between the prehistoric age and comparatively modern times is truly remarkable…. The modern age opened; I think, with the accumulation of capital which began in the sixteenth century…. From that time until to-day the power of accumulation by compound interest, which seems to have been sleeping for many generations, was re-born and renewed its strength. And the power of compound interest over two hundred years is such as to stagger the imagination. From the sixteenth century, with a cumulative crescendo after the eighteenth, the great age of science and technical inventions began, which since the beginning of the nineteenth century has been in full flood–coal, steam, electricity, petrol, steel, rubber, cotton, the chemical industries, automatic machinery and the methods of mass production, wireless, printing, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein, and thousands of other things and men too famous and familiar to catalogue. >What is the result? In spite of an enormous growth in the population of the world, which it has been necessary to equip with houses and machines, the average standard of life in Europe and the United States has been raised, I think, about fourfold. The growth of capital has been on a scale which is far beyond a hundredfold of what any previous age had known. And from now on we need not expect so great an increase of population. If capital increases, say, 2 per cent per annum, the capital equipment of the world will have increased by a half in twenty years, and seven and a half times in a hundred years. Think of this in terms of material things–houses, transport, and the like. At the same time technical improvements in manufacture and transport have been proceeding at a greater rate in the last ten years than ever before in history. In the United States factory output per head was 40 per cent greater in 1925 than in 1919. In Europe we are held back by temporary obstacles, but even so it is safe to say that technical efficiency is increasing by more than 1 per cent per annum compound. There is evidence that the revolutionary technical changes, which have so far chiefly affected industry, may soon be attacking agriculture. We may be on the eve of improvements in the efficiency of food production as great as those which have already taken place in mining, manufacture, and transport. In quite a few years-in our own lifetimes I mean-we may be able to perform all the operations of agriculture, mining, and manufacture with a quarter of the human effort to which we have been accustomed.


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