Five
New Era Economic Thinking

Stock market expansions have often been associated with popular perceptions that the future is brighter or less uncertain than it was in the past. The term new era has periodically been used to describe these times.

Of course, there is some obvious validity to the new era notion. The general trend over the twentieth century has been a rise in the standard of living and a decline in the impact of economic risks on individuals. By many measures the world has indeed been gradually growing into a new and better era. But the most salient characteristic of popular new era thinking is that it is not continuously in evidence; rather, it occurs in pulses.

In contrast to the irregular references to a new era in popular culture, economists or other influential commentators who have proclaimed a new era at various times in history have usually been quite cautious in their choice of words. Often, they merely seem to be betting on the continuation of long-term trends.

Impressions that the public is affected in different ways at different times by new era thinking—or for that matter by any other popular economic theory—are hard to pin down. For example, it

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