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Getting Past Slow Growth

Despite the doom and gloom that dominates most economic debate today, it is likely that continued rapid increases in prosperity are possible. But only ambitious social and economic reforms that focus on improving inclusiveness, together with global cooperation, can make it happen.

WASHINGTON, DC – Most economists nowadays are pessimistic about the world economy’s growth prospects. The World Bank has, yet again, downgraded its medium-term projections, and economists the world over are warning that we are facing a “new normal” of slower growth. Where there is less consensus – or so it seems – is in accounting for this weakness.

Almost three years ago, former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers revived Alvin Hansen’s “secular stagnation” hypothesis, emphasizing demand-side constraints. By contrast, in Robert Gordon’s engaging and erudite book The Rise and Fall of American Growth, the focus is on long-term supply-side factors – in particular, the nature of innovation. Thomas Piketty, in his best-selling tome Capital in the Twenty-First Century, describes the rise of inequality that is resulting from low GDP growth. Joseph E. Stiglitz’s book Re-Writing the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity blames political choices for both slowing growth and rising inequality.

These accounts differ in emphasis, but they are not contradictory. On the contrary, while Summers, Gordon, Piketty, and Stiglitz each examines the issue from a different perspective, their ideas are complementary – and even mutually reinforcing.

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