Saturday, June 09, 2007

Last 200 Years Economic Growth Very Good for Human Beings

Technology has been very, very good for mankind.

Read June 9, 2007 COMMENTARY Wall Street Journal A Brief History of Economic Time by Steven Landsburg (subscription required)

■ “Modern humans first emerged about 100,000 years ago. For the next 99,800 years or so, nothing happened. …Almost everyone lived … just above the subsistence level.”

■ “just a couple of hundred years ago…Per capita income, at least in the West, began to grow at the unprecedented rate of about three quarters of a percent per year.”

■ “Then it got even better. By the 20th century, per capita real incomes, that is, incomes adjusted for inflation, were growing at 1.5% per year, on average, and for the past half century they've been growing at about 2.3%. If you're earning a modest middle-class income of $50,000 a year, and if you expect your children, 25 years from now, to occupy that same modest rung on the economic ladder, then with a 2.3% growth rate, they'll be earning the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $89,000 a year. Their children, another 25 years down the line, will earn $158,000 a year.”

■ “One hundred years ago the average American workweek was over 60 hours; today it's under 35. One hundred years ago 6% of manufacturing workers took vacations; today it's over 90%. One hundred years ago the average housekeeper spent 12 hours a day on laundry, cooking, cleaning and sewing; today it's about three hours.”

■ “The source of this wealth -- the engine of prosperity -- is technological progress. And the engine of technological progress is ideas”


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