The Great Stagnation, an intriguing new book by George Mason economist Tyler Cowen, co-author of the Marginal Revolution blog, has sparked a fantastic debate about whether and how the Internet has contributed to our economic wellbeing. The book ponders why the Internet, revolutionary as it is, hasn’t produced much of a boost to economic growth, employment or family incomes –as earlier technological revolutions did. There is a great review in The Economist here.
Some have embraced the argument. But he is getting push-back from a lot of people. Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, argues here that Cowen is looking for the benefits of the Internet in the wrong places. Economic historian Brad Delong of Berkeley agrees: the Internet might not have boosted employment or national income, but it has increased people’s well being enormously, reducing the costs of all sorts of things –from researching a book to discovering new music to finding a good doctor. Arnold Kling takes Cowen on from a different political perspective.