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Golden Age? — Think Again.

October 26, 2015

montgomery-ward-1

We who lived through the last half of the 20th Century undoubtedly have experienced one of the world’s greatest golden ages. However, the significance of the productivity multiples listed on the chart above needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The only productivity gains that really matter are those related to food, energy [energy productivity gains are missing from the chart ( How much more or less does it cost to travel a mile today than in 1900?)  and health services. The food productivity increases are notably less robust than those experienced in the reproduction of Horatio Alger books. Also, almost all the significant gains in all categories listed in the chart occurred after WWII and based upon statistics for the first 14 years of the 21st Century those rates of growth in many areas are diminishing. In the case of food for example, the so-called Productivity Multiple since 2000 actually has been decreasing.

Even in health services, despite the great advances in treatment during the past 50 or so years, their costs for similarly effective treatments has increased dramatically in the past few years so that in all too many cases the time-to-earn number is growing. Also with the emergence of antibiotic resistant diseases and a spate of new environmentally based maladies it is still up in the air as to whether the advances in health sciences will continue at the same pace and whether they will be affordable if they do.

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