Renowned Northwestern Economists Robert Gordon and Joel Mokyr debated the future of the economy at the Council on October 31. We asked them: What is the one question you wish someone would have asked you today?
Robert Gordon: "We heard a lot from Professor Mokyr about all the the free things the internet brought, and I wish somebody had asked me how do we actually pay for the bill that we're going to pay for the internet. We need to have wages; that means, for wages, we need to have productivity. We need to have a market economy that is making more goods per hour of work. And that's exactly what has been lacking, and what his presentation did not cope with it all that the growth in output per hour or hour output per worker has been at its slowest pace almost in American history during the last six years. And we need to have a much more focused discussion on how we get growth and productivity up."
Joel Mokyr: "Well the question I would like to be asked is: Is economic growth over in 2016? And my answer is: Absolutely no. Economic growth is not over in the sense that we will become more prosperous, more comfortable, and more wealthy than ever before. And the reason for that is fairly simple: In the past 150 years economic growth has been pushed forward by one central factor, and that is better technology driven by better science. What we have today is a scientific explosion in many areas that is totally unprecedented. It is fed by many factors -- above all, I think these factors have to do with a better ability to do science due to the fact that we have far more powerful instruments: microscopes, telescopes, computers, lasers, almost anything you can think of, far better than anybody had before. And so my point is: If we were able to achieve all the economic growth we have had since the Civil War with fairly primitive instruments and tools compared to we have today, think of what we can achieve with the tools at our disposal nowadays."