Today, two opposed narratives of our world are afoot. One says these are the best of times. The other, the worst of times. (Hat tip to Charles Dickens.)
Prof. Deirdre McCloskey called our era "The Great Enrichment."
Professors Marian L. Tupy and Gale Pooley now give us a great new book, "Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet."
It proves ours, despite its flaws, to be the best of times.
That’s the opposite of the gloom prevailing on most cable news and social media. CNN and Fox, Twitter and Facebook, tend to play the role of our century’s comic books.
Great for ratings. But beware fake news.
But the gloom-and-doomsters have an unfair advantage.
Behavioral psychology shows that people trend pessimistic.
One of its founders won the Nobel Prize in economics by proving this!
The old journalistic saw, "if it bleeds it leads," holds.
Meanwhile, NYU professor Scott Galloway recently published "Adrift: America in 100 Charts."
Galloway, a marketing mastermind, is wall-to-wall in the press now.
In his CNN interview he displays one chart showing that Anxiety (21%), Awe (30%) and Anger (34%) are what readers click on.
I relish Galloway, always thought provoking.
His writings have earned a big following. They are full of high octane Menace!
Galloway told Time Magazine recently:
" . . . to be blunt, things are really [major expletive deleted] bad. The dashboard of threats, from inflated asset values to irreversible climate change to armed assaults on government proceedings, is flashing red and getting worse."
Galloway then hedges his bet. "That said, there is also a lot that is going right, and a lot that is promising, and my critics have a point." He aligns himself with the confidence expressed by Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt, among others.
He goes on, "Although it’s out of fashion, I remain an American Exceptionalist. This country really is different, in ways that make it, in words used by presidents too numerous to list, a 'city on a hill,' a beacon for the optimistic and the innovative."
(For this reason I claim Galloway as the "Dark Brandon"of supply-side economics.)
So, who's right?
Professor Jason Furman is the former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. And a former Democratic White House official. He writes that "Superabundance pulls off the remarkable feat of being both exhaustive and entertaining at the same time. It adds a critical piece to the growing canon of books documenting the rapid improvements in the quality of human life. . . . "
Gloomy Galloway is receiving way more exposure than the joyous Tupy and Pooley.
Why? Because the latter traffic in good news!
They show that we regular folk must work far fewer hours than did our ancestors to afford our necessities and amenities.
We can even enjoy luxuries once reserved for kings, princesses and conquerors!
Prof. William Nordhaus, another Nobel prize winner, showed that in the year 1800 it took five hours of labor to afford to buy one hour of artificial light (back then, from candles or oil lamps).
We can now buy the same amount of illumination from the money we earn in 0.16/sec. That’s more than a 12 million% increase in "the abundance of light!"
Tupy and Pooley prove that such superabundance is actually the norm across an abundance of categories of goods and services.
They, with the late, great Julian Simon, conclude that population growth produces prosperity, not starvation.
And the evidence fully supports that.
My sole quibble with the authors is their use of "time value" as the label for their unit of account. It's correct but too academic for the common ear (like mine).
I have privately observed, to no avail, that calling it "dyne" (from the Greek word for "power") would be easier on the ear and more likely to get widely adopted.
Professors? Consider adapting dyne for dime in this song*, sung by Bing Crosby regarding the Great Depression…. (*"Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" Lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Jay Gorney.)
Once I built a railroad, made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it's done
Brother can you spare a “dyne?”
Croon a few bars and see where it takes you.
For me, Tupy and Pooley’s revelation of prosperity runs rings around the gloomy Galloway. Which means it won't "bleed" its way into the mass media.
But now you are in on the Big Reveal. Superabundance deserves its own Nobel Prize in Economics. It’s well worth tracking down and reading.
Don't let the goomsters and gloomsters out there spoil your day.
We live in the best of times.
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply-Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $94T. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.
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