The Rise and Fall of American Growth

  • by Robert J. Gordon
  • Narrated by Michael Butler Murray
  • 30 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Best Seller
In the century after the Civil War, an economic revolution improved the American standard of living in ways previously unimaginable. Electric lighting, indoor plumbing, home appliances, motor vehicles, air travel, air conditioning, and television transformed households and workplaces. With medical advances, life expectancy between 1870 and 1970 grew from 45 to 72 years. Weaving together a vivid narrative, historical anecdotes, and economic analysis, The Rise and Fall of American Growth provides an in-depth account of this momentous era. But has that era of unprecedented growth come to an end?
Gordon challenges the view that economic growth can or will continue unabated, and he demonstrates that the life-altering scale of innovations between 1870 and 1970 can't be repeated. He contends that the nation's productivity growth, which has already slowed to a crawl, will be further held back by the vexing headwinds of rising inequality, stagnating education, an aging population, and the rising debt of college students and the federal government. Gordon warns that the younger generation may be the first in American history that fails to exceed their parents' standard of living, and that rather than depend on the great advances of the past, we must find new solutions to overcome the challenges facing us.
A critical voice in the debates over economic stagnation, The Rise and Fall of American Growth is at once a tribute to a century of radical change and a harbinger of tougher times to come.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Over-detailed, with no engaging message

What disappointed you about The Rise and Fall of American Growth?

If you are looking to get a critical, deep and informed view of american economy in last century, you should look for another book. This book is not the type that will leave you with any food for thought.

For instance the book goes literally pages and pages throwing an absurd amount of numbers, dates, percentages,... to just show how AC units become smaller and lighter in a period of two decades. A simple fact like this needs only one sentence or two, and then the reader is ready to get the writers message, if there is any. What happens with this book is that reader (listener) goes on and on trying to focus on long paragraphs of chart description and numbers and dates, waiting for the writer to sum it up and get to a conclusion, a view point or a critical thought on the issue, only to get disappointed.

The only message that the author has (and he iterates it over and over in different chapters) is this: The growth (in other words improvement in people's lives) has been huge in 20th century because the departure point was near zero, so any increase felt huge, but now that we are fairly advanced it is almost impossible to come up with such growth ( such improvement in people's lives) in such a short amount of time. For example, in a matter of 2 decades in early 1900s, flush toilets came to nearly all houses and that dramatically improved life expectancy (say 5 years) by eliminating water borne diseases. But now in 2000s if we want to increase life expectancy by same 5 years (having same "growth") it is not as easy as making a toilet, now we have to do cancer research instead.

I basically doubt if this is an important or valuable point of view anyways, but even if it was, it could be well developed in a 3 page article and did not need a 700+ page book.

This book is only good for you if you love details of how people lived in early 20th century, how daily tasks were done, how people worked, what the wore, what they ate...and so forth. but if you are looking for food for thought, you will be disappointed.

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- Amazon Customer

The book is a great review of how we got to where we are today

I loved the review of the industrial revolution and learning where various technological changes came from. His suggestions of how to increase American growth seemed pretty standard though. I was disappointed with that. It seemed like he just phoned in that part of the book. We've heard all those recommendations before. The book is worth the time though.
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- isaiah

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-26-2016
  • Publisher: Audible Studios