Crecer lleva tiempo

CAMBRIDGE – Robert Gordon es un distinguido economista de la Universidad Northwestern que se ha ganado un merecido reconocimiento por sus trabajos en macroeconomía y sus estudios del crecimiento económico a largo plazo. De allí que su reciente ejercicio de historia futura especulativa, en el que se pregunta si el crecimiento económico en Estados Unidos ha llegado a su término, tuviera la repercusión favorable que tuvo. Pero el argumento de Gordon tiene un defecto básico, visible desde la primera lectura y que no resiste un análisis más minucioso.

Gordon distingue tres Revoluciones Industriales que, del siglo XVIII a esta parte, han impulsado el crecimiento económico y mejorado los niveles de vida: la RI n.° 1 (“máquina de vapor, ferrocarriles”), definida por inventos que se produjeron entre 1750 y 1830; la RI n.° 2 (“electricidad, motor de combustión interna, agua corriente, baños dentro de las casas, comunicaciones, entretenimiento, compuestos químicos, petróleo”), definida por inventos que van de 1870 a 1900; y la RI n.° 3 (“computadoras, Internet, teléfonos móviles”), a partir de 1960. El núcleo de su artículo discute el impacto transformador que tuvieron la RI n.° 1 y, especialmente, la n.° 2 sobre el PIB per cápita y la calidad de vida y los compara con las consecuencias relativamente triviales de la RI n.° 3.

Pero la vulnerabilidad del argumento de Gordon está en el reducido horizonte temporal que asigna a la RI n.° 3. Examinemos las siguientes cuatro oraciones de su artículo:

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