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The Economic Trend Is Our Friend

BERKELEY – These are days of grave disillusionment with the state of the world. Sinister forces of fanatical, faith-based killing – something that we in the West, at least, thought had largely ended by 1750 – are back. And they have been joined by and are reinforcing forces of nationalism, bigotry, and racism that we thought had been largely left in the ruins of Berlin in 1945.

In addition, economic growth since 2008 has been profoundly disappointing. There is no reasoned case for optimistically expecting a turn for the better in the next five years or so. And the failure of global institutions to deliver ever-increasing prosperity has undermined the trust and confidence which in better times would serve to suppress the murderous demons of our age.

Pessimism understandably comes easy these days – perhaps too easy. In fact, enthusiastic and positive contrarianism is in order: if we look at global economic growth not just five years out, but over the next 30-60 years, the picture looks much brighter.

The reason is simple: the large-scale trends that have fueled global growth since World War II have not stopped. More people are gaining access to new, productivity enhancing technologies, more people are engaging in mutually beneficial trade, and fewer people are being born, thus allaying any continued fears of a so-called population bomb.