Joel Mokyr on growth, stagnation, and technological progress

My friend and colleague Joel Mokyr talked recently with Russ Roberts in an EconTalk podcast that I cannot recommend highly enough (and the links on the show notes are great too). The general topic is this back-and-forth that’s been going on over the past year involving Joel, Bob Gordon, Tyler Cowen, and Erik Brynjolfsson, among others, regarding diminishing returns to technological change and whether we’ve reached “the end of innovation”. Joel summarizes his argument in this Vox EU essay.

Joel is an optimist, and does not believe that technological dynamism is running out of steam (to make a 19th-century joke …). He argues that technological change and its ensuing economic growth are punctuated, and one reason for that is that conceptual breakthroughs are essential but unforeseeable. Economic growth also occurs because of the perpetual nature of innovation — the fact that others are innovating (here he uses county-level examples) means that everyone has to innovate as a form of running to stand still. I agree, and I think as long as the human mind, human creativity, and human striving to achieve and accomplish exist, there will be technological dynamism. A separate question is whether the institutional framework in which we interact in society is conducive to technological dynamism and to channeling our creativity and striving into such constructive application.

Dignity and liberty for ordinary people brings social growth and development

Michael Giberson

At AidWatch, an interview with Dierdre McCloskey, author of Bourgeois Dignity: “Don’t be snobbish towards merchants & entrepreneurs, and you’ll develop.

Short, and to the point, so likely worth a few minutes of your time to read.

Here is a shorter and even more to the point summary of her message: History shows stasis until a society discovers dignity and liberty for ordinary people, and in particular dignity and liberty for entrepreneurs.

Note not just liberty, dignity and liberty. McCloskey said, “My libertarian friends want the politics by itself, Liberty Alone, to suffice.  I don’t think so: we need dignity, too.  We need the sociological admiration for innovation and markets, to protect and inspire the liberated.”