A few tentative conclusions on secular stagnation and our economy, with a vigorous disclaimer that I am far from a macro economist. It seems a core dynamic of our times is too much capital relative to the number of productive investable economic opportunities. Coupled with a massive global capital flight to quality since 2008, it’s hard to see interest rates rising dramatically anytime soon.
While I am a bull on technological progress, it also seems that much of that progress is price deflationary in nature, so even extremely rapid tech progress may not show up in GDP or productivity stats, even as it equals higher real standards of living. I think economists, particularly on the center-left and left, are really underestimating two factors that are inhibiting investment. The developed world and the sheer level of regulatory burden on business formation and growth, per George McGovern.
On this point I agree deeply with : Many sectors of Western business are now wired to prevent or inhibit new investment. In the developing world, often brutally high levels of corruption and expropriation are making new investment extremely risky. It seems straightforward to identify ways to increase rate of investment and also hard to see how any of that politically happens.
For these and other reasons, we may be living with an oversupply of capital relative to opportunity set for a long time. But this is not necessarily a terrible world to live in. In fact, it might be a wonderful world to live in, for these reasons: Oversupply of capital means that any investable project can get funded. We see that today in tech, and it may broaden from here. We may experience a massive global demographic tailwind, as a huge number of young people worldwide are fully connected to the modern economy.
Virtuous cycle of science and tech advances, with fast-growing number of scientists and technologists globally, may overwhelm expectations. In this world, we can have massive advances in real standards of living even with a formally low investment, GDP, and productivity growth. Beyond that, a world where 7 billion people decide they really do want and deserve an upper-middle-class American-equivalant lifestyle may make all of these current stagnation theories look as silly as Alvin “Secular Stagnation” Hansen now looks 76 years later.
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