Hoisted from the Archives from Ten Years Ago: Ben Friedman's, "The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth": Ten years ago my review of Ben Friedman's very nice The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth http://www.amazon.com/exec/obido/asin/0679448918/braddelong00 was up at Harvard Magazine http://www.harvardmagazine.com/:
Growth is Good: An economist's take on the moral consequences of material progress
Economists have always been very good at detailing the material consequences of modern economic growth. It makes us taller: we are perhaps seven inches taller than our preindustrial ancestors. It makes us healthier: babies today have life expectancies in the seventies, not the twenties (and more than half that improvement is not directly related to better medical technology, narrowly defined). It provides us with leisure: eight-hour workdays (rather than ‘Man’s work is from sun to sun, and woman’s work is never done.’) It provides us with enough clothing that we are not cold, enough shelter that we are not wet, and enough food that we are not hungry. It provides us with amusements and diversions, so that there is more to do in the evenings than huddle around the village campfire and listen yet again to that blind poet from the other side of the Aegean tell the only long story he knows—the one about Achilles and Agamemnon. As time passes, what were luxuries become, first, conveniences, and then necessities; what were utopian dreams become first luxuries and then conveniences; and what was unimagined even in wild fantasy becomes first utopian dreams and then luxuries.