In the century after the Civil war, an economic revolution ameliorated the American standard of living in ways previously inconceivable. Robert J. Gordon, a renowned macroeconomist and economic historian at Northwest, has been arguing for a long period of time against the techno-optimism that saturates our culture, with its continuous contention that we’re in the midst of revolutionary change. He believes that the developments in the information and technology do not measure up to past achievements. To be more specific, he argues that the I.T. revolution is less significant in comparison to any of the five great inventions that empowered economic growth from 1870 to 1970. The five inventions being- electricity, urban sanitization, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, the internal combustion engine and modern communication.
Gordon transforms the way we see the past and challenges our opinion about the future by providing a magisterial combination of deep technological history, vivid portraits of everyday life over the past few generations and economic analysis.
Gordon in the book remarkably illustrates how different life was in 1870 than in 1970, with the help of both economic analysis and engaging narrative descriptions. In 1870, most houses were lit by candles and whale oil lamps. Outhouse or a chamber pot were the only choices for a washroom. Travel was limited to horses. The long hours of the short life were spent doing backbreaking labor, living in the dim and smelly dwellings, owning only two changes of clothes and eating a whole lot of pork and grain mush.
However, by 1970, homes and people became networked (to use Gordon’s term). The arrival of electricity, indoor plumbing, cars and telephone signified that people were now more connected than ever, resulting in the improvement of quality of life and increasing productivity to formerly unseen levels. “In 1910, there were 2.3 cars for every 100 homes. By 1930, there were 89”. What was astonishing was not just the speed of innovation but also the speed of adoption.
In “The rise and fall of American Growth”, Gordon claims that this kind of expeditious growth is what we still consider our due, and that we expect to continue forever, was in fact a one-time-only event.
Gordon in the book makes two points on the claims of techno-optimists. First, he brings into light that the genuinely major innovations bring about vast changes in the business practices, what workplaces seem like and how they function. And though there were some variations along those lines between mid 1990s and mid 2000s but not much since, which provides the evidence for Gordon’s claim that the major impact of IT revolution has already happened.
Secondly, the techno-optimists main argument says that the official measures of economic growth understate the real extent of progress, but Gordon counters by claiming that the understatement of progress was probably bigger during the great prewar transformation than it is today. He suggests that “the future is all too likely to be marked by stagnant living standards for most Americans, because the effects of slowing technological progress will be reinforced by a set of headwinds: rising inequality, a plateau in educational levels, an ageing population and more”.
A decent number of Americans were involved in backbreaking labor activities to earn a sustainable income. The 20th century led major technological innovations which further lead to shift from labor incentive technique to capital and technologically driven techniques.
The Trump Administration have bragged about the American Economy over and over again on the basis of number of stock market but it is obvious that America is in the middle of an Economic slowdown or depression, the unemployment rate in America has risen to 14.7% and nearly 20.5 million people lost their jobs in the last two months which is highest since the great depression in 1929, many analyst believe Corona virus pandemic would cut American economy deeper and its impact would last longer because of the decisions taken by the trump administration. Gordon talked about ageing population and rising inequalities, this aspect of Gordon’s book can be explained through the example of developed countries like- Italy, united states of America, Japan, France and Spain as in this outbreak of COVID- 19. Corona virus has led to a massive setback for their economies because death percentage of old people is way more than young people which means longer period of lockdown, precautions and Fear in the minds of people. The rise in inequalities has become a problem for almost all the countries of the world but for United states of America this problem has increased because of policies like:- Two Trillion Dollar Tax cut for Rich, allowing promoters to buy back shares and invest billions of dollars in their own companies, withdrawing government support from MSME by cutting down there budget and most importantly encouraged overseas manufacturing has led to rise in inequality of income in United States of America.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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