La mauvaise mesure de la technologie

CAMBRIDGE – Il n’y a rien de mieux qu’un discours flou pour provoquer des ravages – ou faciliter un consensus. Ludwig Wittgenstein prétendait que les énigmes philosophiques ne sont que le résultat d’un mauvais usage du langage. Par contre, l’art de la diplomatie est de trouver les mots qui permettent de masquer les désaccords.

Une des idées qui rallie presque l’ensemble des économistes est qu’au delà des richesses minérales, la plupart des énormes différences de revenus entre les pays pauvres et les pays riches n’est attribuable ni au capital, ni à l’éducation, mais bien plutôt à la « technologie. » Mais alors, qu’est-ce donc que la technologie ?

La réponse explique l’inhabituel consensus entre les économistes, car la « technologie » se mesure comme une catégorie que l’on pourrait appeler « rien de tout cela, » un résidu – ou « productivité totale des facteurs » selon le prix Nobel Robert Solow - qui demeure inexpliqué une fois pris en compte d’autres facteurs de production comme le capital physique et humain. Comme l’avait noté Moses Abramovitz en 1956, ce résidu n’est rien d’autre qu’une « mesure de notre ignorance. »

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