Scott Sumner asks, well, just what was the best prediction 20 years ago about what the future would hold?
Strangely, it\’s this.
The best prediction that could have been made 20 years ago is that things can only get better. That\’s also the best prediction that can be made now about the future and has been the best prediction that anyone can make about two decades in the future ever since we invented this liberal capitalism shtick back in 1750.
There\’s the occasional stutter along the way, to be sure. 1914-18 was not exactly a great time but life was better in 1925 than it was in 1905. \’39-45 doesn\’t go down in anyone\’s list as a pleasant time but 1955 was better than 1935 (that period encompassed the mass manufacturing of the first properly effective antibiotics, penicillin and streptomycin (allowing TB to be treated) for example).
There are places that opted out of this trend as well: 1917-1991 in Russia was not notably a leap forward in human civilisation.
Nordhaus brackets the growth of real wages over the past century as somewhere between a 20-fold and a 100-fold increase. Alan Greenspan….has suggested adjustments of the statistics that lead to an estimate of a thirty-fold increase of material wealth over the past century. (DeLong 2001)
Sadly, as we know, that song was then used by New Labour as a campaign song and they\’ve then spent 12 years desperately trying to disprove the very notion. But this too shall pass and the best is yet to come.