No more low-hanging fruit?

The condition of the economy is a concern to everyone. Some economists argue we’ve been in a long-run slump because all of the easy improvements — the low-hanging fruit — have been accomplished or picked. N.C. State University’s Mike Walden explains what they mean.

“Well, their concern is, is that if you look over the last 30years, clearly the last couple of years, the economy has been slow with the recession, but if you look over the last 30 years, economic growth has been slower on average than for the previous, say, 100 years. And so that suggests there’s something beyond just recessions and growth periods. There’s something fundamental going on with the economy.

“And some economists think that technology, of course, is very important to the economy. Some economists think that the major technological improvements that really fundamentally changed our lives — like electricity, development of the phone, the automobile, the airplane — that those fundamental improvements have really been made and what we’ve been doing since is just marginal changes on those. Even the computer, these economists argue of the development of the computer, has not been as important as some of these others that I’ve mentioned. And so they argue that really the easy gains and standards of living have been done. And it’s getting harder to make improvements in standards of living because the technological changes aren’t as fundamental.

“And so they argue that we’re going to be in this sort of slump for a long time unless we get major scientific breakthroughs that put us at a much higher technological plateau.”

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