The Rise and Fall of American Technology

By Lynn G. Gref | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11. ECONOMIC IMPACT OF A DECLINE

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”—Thomas Paine

At this point, one may justifiably say, “That’s interesting, but so what?” After all, everything seems to go in cycles, eras, epochs, et cetera. Technology has had its time in the spotlight; next, it will be something else. If this were the case then only those impacted by the decline would have much interest in this story. That is, those employed in technology development comprise the main group of people impacted by a decline. However, the impact of a decline of technology in America is far greater because the decline affects the economic well being of all Americans.

Clearly, economics provides the basis of the observations put forward in this chapter. Thus, the chapter relies heavily on the observations and works of others for authenticity. The chapter comprises three segments: technology’s past impact on the economy, information technology’s impact on productivity, and the impact on the economy of the outsourcing of high-tech jobs.

For a considerable period (centuries) prior to the beginning of the twentieth century, Britain was host to the number-one economy in the world. Consequently, its residents enjoyed the world’s highest standard of living. Then, the United States overtook and surpassed Britain’s global economic leadership early in the twentieth century. By the start of World War I, the United States had taken over the lead in the production of coal, pig iron, steel, heavy chemicals, and the fields of heavy industry. Nearly a century of unprecedented economic growth followed with no other country coming close.

How was this possible? The United States did not have the advantages that Britain enjoyed—the Empire, the economic base, and the tradition. The U.S. did not achieve it by mimicking jolly old England. Certainly, most students learned that the United States possessed copious amounts of natural resources. Most students have

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