I just read Brink Lindsey’s new policy analysis Why Growth Is Getting Harder. Bearing in mind Seekerblog’s cautionary tagline from Niels Bohr, Brink’s outlook for growth deserves careful reading and reflection. From the executive summary:
Consider the four constituent elements of economic growth tracked by conventional growth accounting: (1) growth in labor participation, or annual hours worked per capita; (2) growth in labor quality, or the skill level of the workforce; (3) growth in capital deepening, or the amount of physical capital invested per worker; and (4) growth in so-called total factor productivity, or output per unit of quality-adjusted labor and capital. Over the course of the 20th century, these various components fluctuated in their contributions to overall growth. The fluctuations, however, tended to offset each other, so that weakness in one element was compensated for by strength in another. In the 21st century, this pattern of offsetting fluctuations has come to a halt as all growth components have fallen off simultaneously.
The simultaneous weakening of all the components of economic growth does not mean that slow growth is inevitable from here on out. The trends for one or more of them could reverse direction tomorrow. Nevertheless, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that the conditions for growth are less favorable than they used to be. In other words, growth is getting harder.
On October 29 Tyler Cowen, author of the excellent The Great Stagnation, will join Brink for a Cato Forum, on the subject of this paper. The forum will be available live and later in the archives as audio and video.
Featuring Brink Lindsey, Vice President for Research, Cato Institute; Tyler Cowen, Professor, George Mason University; and Martin Baily, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; moderated by Annie Lowrey, Reporter, New York Times.
12:00pm Hayek Auditorium
More from Brink Lindsey The Boy Who Cried Wolf Was Eventually Right:
“We are reaching end times for Western affluence,” warns economist Stephen King (insert obligatory horror joke here) in yesterday’s New York Times. King, who has authored a book entitled When the Money Runs Out: The End of Western Affluence, joins the ranks of economic Cassandras like Tyler Cowen and Robert Gordon, both of whom have made waves with pessimistic takes on the U.S. economy’s prospects. Like Cowen and Gordon, King couches his claims in overstatements that make it easier for skeptical readers to dismiss his arguments. Peel away the hype, though, and these growth pessmists are still fundamentally correct. The wolf really is at the door this time. In other words, the growth outlook really is darkening.