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Noah Smith

The Illusion of Lagging Productivity

Be skeptical of claims that technology is stagnating and hampering growth.
Sure looks like progress.

Sure looks like progress.

Photographer: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/getty images

I miss 2011. Looking back, that was the heyday of economic blogging. The financial crisis had abated, but the recovery from the recession was disappointing, and everyone was talking about how to jump-start growth. Macroeconomics was important again. Now, with the U.S. economy having returned to some semblance of normal, and with political threats looming, the finer points of macroeconomic modeling don’t seem like life-and-death issues.

With no financial crisis and recession to argue about, economists and bloggers have turned their attention to long-term issues. One of these is technological progress. Economists identify technology with productivity and they often equate the two exactly. That gives economists the feeling that they have something to say about tech.