The Roots of Progress

The Rise and Fall of American Growth

Robert J. Gordon

A broad, detailed survey of improvements to the American standard of living over the past 150 years, from 1870 to the present, arguing that growth has slowed in the last 50 years and that we cannot expect high growth to return.

I found the first two parts of the book very valuable. The survey of advances over the last 150 years is comprehensive, described in vivid detail, and quantified with more than enough charts and tables. As an overview of progress, it is excellent. If the phrase “standard of living” (which I have always found vapid) is an empty term to you, this book will fill it with many colorful examples. But I find Gordon’s vision for the future strangely lacking in imagination, and his complacent acceptance of low growth disappointing. See my full review for more details.

Well worth reading for every student of progress. But when you’re done, read Where Is My Flying Car? for a counterpoint.

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