Tuesday, July 5, 2011

On Cowen's The Great Stagnation

Tim Jackson | Prosperity Without Growth - Politics Without Creativity Is Not Political | The European Magazine

I'm not so convinced that the low hanging fruit is gone, except is the tautological sense that the lowest is picked first. Think of the great inventions: printing press, internal combustion engine, car, penicillin, double entry accounting, airplane, telephone. All but penicillin reduced the importance of distance or the transmission of information, themselves similar. The Internet does this in spades. I have less disposable income than at any time since high school. Sad, yes. But, I consume far more voice calls, news services, movies, instructional videos, email, etc than ever. My expenditures are minimal but my consumption is massive. The low hanging fruit might not be in making more, but in cheaply distributing what is already made, which might not add much to GDP while adding a lot to happiness. Netflix has plenty of great content streaming for under $10 a month. For $15 I get about 12 discs plus the streaming. I used to rent from Blockbuster for $5 a movie. Sounds like a expensive inconvenient joke now. Skype has the same sort of effect. 10 years ago video calling for free was a fantasy. Now, common. Impact on GDP, negative. Impact on happiness, positive. Email, ebooks, online porn, all the same negative impact on GDP and positive impact on happiness. Invisible bushels of fruit are all around.

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