Grand Narrative: An Intake from Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016
Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016
I. Grand Narrative
J. Bradford DeLong :: U.C. Berkeley, NBER, WCEG https://www.icloud.com/pages/0TzensY9YyNvqcY8elYagLUnQ https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0_nA1dc3XLgFa_2rEVsk3nuWQ
1.1: The Long 20th Century in Human History
The Long 20th Century began around 1870 and ended in 2016.
Before 1870 humanity was poor, and life was typically nasty, brutish, and short. Before 1870, over and over again, technology lost its race with human fecundity, and greater numbers coupled with resource scarcity to produce a humanity where most people most of the time could not be confident that they and their families would have their 2000 calories, plus essential nutrients, plus a roof over their head in a year. Before 1870 those on the make overwhelmingly focused on how to take from others or keep what they had while maintaining order, rather on how to make more for everyone. It is true that between 1800 and 1870 technology and organization gained a step or two in their race with fecundity. But only a step. Any post-1870 slackening of the pace of technological or organizational progress, or any major redivision of society’s dividends devoting less to the sinews or peace and more to the sinews of war, and “nasty, brutish, and short” would reassert itself.
But starting in 1870 all that changed. Science reached critical mass and gave birth to engineering. A liberal political order gave birth to a market economy. Engineering and the market produced an explosion of economic growth: these days one single year sees as much proportional technological and organizational advance and change in the human economy as a typical fifty years did back before 1800.