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December 13, 2011



I generally agree with Nathan's response here. I do think it's in bounds to invoke the post-war years if one wants to put an upper bound on the importance of marginal tax rates (for example), but not to make the case that (again, for example) higher marginal tax rates have the opposite effect as expected.

Retro Jordan

slowdown, by increasing the denominator of productivity statistics, person-hours of work, without increasing the numerator proportionally. Housework and breadwinning are complements. A man is both more able and more motivated to do good work on the job if a housewife is making his meals, cleaning his clothes and his house, and raising his kids. Breadwinners for a family are likely to place more value on cash relative to the intrinsic rewards of fun or interesting jobs, and that helps productivity, too. Also, when men's and women's roles are more clearly defined and prescribed by society, economic complementarity in marriage is much easier to acheive (just as it's easier to shop for electronics when all houses are equipped with the same style of plug). The cost of women's liberation and gender equality-- again, perhaps one well worth paying!-- was slower economic growth and rising income inequality.

3. The cultural and sexual revolution of the 1960s caused the growth slowdown. Tradition isn't always right but it tends to carry with it a lot of the moral values-- honesty, self-reliance, hard work-- that parents try to inculcate in children. The rebelliousness of the 1960s undermined these values, and made it distasteful to young people to emulate old heroes of industry like Henry Ford. They wanted to be rock stars instead. And the sexual revolution in particular diverted a lot of energy, for better or worse, into hedonistic sexual pursuits.

Now, I'm not endorsing (1), (2), or (3). And I think it would be very difficult to develop these speculations into rigorous theories that could stand up to critical testing and also perform well empirically, not just in "explaining" (or being consistent with) one or two big macro facts, but in detail. But I think it would be pretty easy to write books that developed these themes (and others) in an atheoretic way, and then pre-empt objections with a hand-waving appeal to empirical history. Such books are unlikely to be written, or at least unlikely to be read, because they are politically incorrect, but it's much more satisfying to say to such


I agree with previous post

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