Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation argues that economic growth in advanced nations is slowing because we haven’t seen any innovations in the past few decades that encourage economic growth. Ezra Klein’s review provides a solid synopsis of Cowen’s argument.
In Slate, Annie Lowrey looks at a variety of explanations for why the Internet hasn’t proven to be a GDP-boosting invention. I tend to agree with the argument that economists aren’t very good at measuring the value of the Internet:
That brings us to a final explanation: Maybe it is not the growth that is deficient. Maybe it is the yardstick that is deficient. MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson explains the idea using the example of the music industry. “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.” The improved choice and variety and availability of music must be worth something to us—even if it is not easy to put into numbers. “On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”
This is sort of the story of blogging as well. Or photography. Or anything else that can be delivered over the Internet at a minimal cost.