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Tyler Cowen

Want More Productivity? Be Careful What You Wish For

Makers and sellers of dangerous drugs have had their technological breakthroughs. They're flourishing.
Dark side.

Dark side.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

One of the most significant economic debates over the last decade has been over the nature of the U.S. productivity slowdown and what might someday end it.

Improving overall productivity requires individual workers to produce more. That’s usually made possible by automation or other technological advances, and commentators have settled on their favorite candidates for the next big breakthrough, from drones to self-driving vehicles to the editing of genetic codes. The sad reality, however, is that the next breakthrough already may be here, aiding the manufacture of the addictive drugs that are ruining or ending so many lives.