Note — Sep 25, 2022

Why Isn’t Everybody Rich Yet?

For The New Republic, Timothy Noah reviews J. Bradford DeLong’s
Slouching Towards Utopia alongside Thomas Piketty’s A Brief History of Equality. The former being the center piece and Noah uses the same idea of “the long twentieth century” to recap the main events of that socioeconomic period. DeLong ends it in 2010, including the computer-driven economic boom, while Noah believes in a simple century ending in 1980, saying it was a different transformation on a smaller scale.

To answer the title quickly and somewhat tongue-in-cheek: if your country is in the North Atlantic, blame Reagan and Tatcher, everywhere else blame colonialism. (Via nothing here, issue 192.)

In summary, the advantage that came from being first to industrialize made North Atlantic countries so rich so fast that they were able to make the rules, and the rules they preferred set the price of entry too high for latecomers. […]

The computer boom mimicked the effects of the Industrial Revolution but fell well short of its breadth and magnitude. The wealth it created boosted middle-class incomes for a few years in the late 1990s, but it boosted incomes for the superrich much more, and, after 2000, pretty much exclusively. That made it a less transformative event than the Industrial Revolution, whose benefits were, during most of the twentieth century, shared widely.