IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jecper/v29y2015i3p31-50.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The History of Technological Anxiety and the Future of Economic Growth: Is This Time Different?

Author

Listed:
  • Joel Mokyr
  • Chris Vickers
  • Nicolas L. Ziebarth

Abstract

Technology is widely considered the main source of economic progress, but it has also generated cultural anxiety throughout history. The developed world is now suffering from another bout of such angst. Anxieties over technology can take on several forms, and we focus on three of the most prominent concerns. First, there is the concern that technological progress will cause widespread substitution of machines for labor, which in turn could lead to technological unemployment and a further increase in inequality in the short run, even if the long-run effects are beneficial. Second, there has been anxiety over the moral implications of technological process for human welfare, broadly defined. While, during the Industrial Revolution, the worry was about the dehumanizing effects of work, in modern times, perhaps the greater fear is a world where the elimination of work itself is the source of dehumanization. A third concern cuts in the opposite direction, suggesting that the epoch of major technological progress is behind us. Understanding the history of technological anxiety provides perspective on whether this time is truly different. We consider the role of these three anxieties among economists, primarily focusing on the historical period from the late 18th to the early 20th century, and then compare the historical and current manifestations of these three concerns.

Suggested Citation

  • Joel Mokyr & Chris Vickers & Nicolas L. Ziebarth, 2015. "The History of Technological Anxiety and the Future of Economic Growth: Is This Time Different?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(3), pages 31-50, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:29:y:2015:i:3:p:31-50
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.29.3.31
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.29.3.31
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to AEA members and institutional subscribers.
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Introduction to "Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860"," NBER Chapters, in: Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860, pages 1-5, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Lawrence H Summers, 2014. "U.S. Economic Prospects: Secular Stagnation, Hysteresis, and the Zero Lower Bound," Business Economics, Palgrave Macmillan;National Association for Business Economics, vol. 49(2), pages 65-73, April.
    3. Fogel, Robert W., 2009. "Forecasting the cost of U.S. Health Care in 2040," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 482-488, July.
    4. Lawrence F. Katz & Robert A. Margo, 2014. "Technical Change and the Relative Demand for Skilled Labor: The United States in Historical Perspective," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital in History: The American Record, pages 15-57, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Andrew E. Clark, 2003. "Unemployment as a Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 289-322, April.
    6. Mill, John Stuart, 1848. "Principles of Political Economy (V): On the Influence of Government," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 5, number mill1848-5.
    7. Margo, Robert A., 2000. "Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226505077.
    8. Mokyr, Joel, 1988. "Is There Still Life in the Pessimist Case? Consumption during the Industrial Revolution, 1790—1850," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(1), pages 69-92, March.
    9. Mill, John Stuart, 1848. "Principles of Political Economy (II): Distribution," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 2, number mill1848-2.
    10. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-548, June.
    11. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Seth G. Benzell & Guillermo LaGarda, 2015. "Robots: Curse or Blessing? A Basic Framework," NBER Working Papers 21091, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Feinstein, Charles H., 1998. "Pessimism Perpetuated: Real Wages and the Standard of Living in Britain during and after the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(3), pages 625-658, September.
    13. Chris Vickers & Nicolas L. Ziebarth, 2016. "Economic Development and the Demographics of Criminals in Victorian England," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(1), pages 191-223.
    14. Nicholas Bloom & James Liang & John Roberts & Zhichun Jenny Ying, 2015. "Does Working from Home Work? Evidence from a Chinese Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 130(1), pages 165-218.
    15. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2007. "Measuring Trends in Leisure: The Allocation of Time Over Five Decades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 969-1006.
    16. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Kawaguchi, Daiji & Lee, Jungmin, 2017. "Does labor legislation benefit workers? Well-being after an hours reduction," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 1-12.
    17. Mill, John Stuart, 1848. "Principles of Political Economy (III): Exchange," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 3, number mill1848-3.
    18. Elena Bardasi & Janet Gornick, 2008. "Working for less? Women's part-time wage penalties across countries," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(1), pages 37-72.
    19. Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1981. "Urban Disamenities, Dark Satanic Mills, and the British Standard of Living Debate," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 75-83, March.
    20. Mill, John Stuart, 1848. "Principles of Political Economy (I): Production," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 1, number mill1848-1.
    21. Allen, Robert C., 1992. "Enclosure and the Yeoman: The Agricultural Development of the South Midlands 1450-1850," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198282969.
    22. Freudenberger, Herman & Cummins, Gaylord, 1976. "Health, work, and leisure before the industrial revolution," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 1-12, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Aránzazu Guillán Montero & David Le Blanc, 2019. "Lessons for Today from Past Periods of Rapid Technological Change," Working Papers 158, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
    2. Rosolino A. Candela & Vincent Geloso, 2019. "Coase and transaction costs reconsidered: the case of the English lighthouse system," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 48(3), pages 331-349, December.
    3. Simone Pellegrino & Guido Perboli & Giovanni Squillero, 2019. "Balancing the equity-efficiency trade-off in personal income taxation: an evolutionary approach," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 36(1), pages 37-64, April.
    4. Ian Keay, 2019. "Protection for maturing industries: Evidence from Canadian trade patterns and trade policy, 1870–1913," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 52(4), pages 1464-1496, November.
    5. Jacobsen, Catrine & Piovesan, Marco, 2016. "Tax me if you can: An artifactual field experiment on dishonesty," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 7-14.
    6. Heindl, Peter & Löschel, Andreas, 2015. "Social implications of green growth policies from the perspective of energy sector reform and its impact on households," CAWM Discussion Papers 81, University of Münster, Center of Applied Economic Research Münster (CAWM).
    7. Sergio Tezanos V�zquez, 2015. "Distributive Justice in Aid for Development," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(3), pages 310-329, September.
    8. James E. Foster, 2010. "Freedom, Opportunity and Wellbeing," Working Papers 2010-15, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
    9. Jon D. Wisman & Kevin W. Capehart, 2010. "Creative Destruction, Economic Insecurity, Stress, and Epidemic Obesity," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(3), pages 936-982, July.
    10. Paulo Nakatani & Rémy Herrera, 2013. "Notes sur Keynes et la crise," Post-Print halshs-00829891, HAL.
    11. Alan Piper, 2015. "Europe’s Capital Cities and the Happiness Penalty: An Investigation Using the European Social Survey," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 123(1), pages 103-126, August.
    12. Tsoulfidis, Lefteris & Alexiou, Constantinos & Parthenidis, Thanasis, 2015. "Revisiting profit persistence and the stock market in Japan," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 10-24.
    13. Ian Moffatt, 2013. "Measuring sustainable development," Chapters, in: M. A. Quaddus & M. A.B. Siddique (ed.), Handbook of Sustainable Development Planning, chapter 3, pages 39-60, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    14. Fabio Sabatini & Francesco Sarracino, 2019. "Online Social Networks and Trust," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 142(1), pages 229-260, February.
    15. Karbowski, Adam & Prokop, Jacek, 2012. "Kontrowersje związane z ekonomicznym uzasadnieniem ochrony patentowej [Controversies over the economic justifications for patent protection]," MPRA Paper 73619, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Peter Lunn, 2015. "Are Consumer Decision-Making Phenomena a Fourth Market Failure?," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 315-330, September.
    17. Jerry Kirkpatrick, 2004. "Reisman's Net Consumption, Net Investment Theory of Aggregate Profit," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(3), pages 627-646, July.
    18. Geloso, Vincent J. & Salter, Alexander W., 2020. "State capacity and economic development: Causal mechanism or correlative filter?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 170(C), pages 372-385.
    19. Stefano Zamagni & Vera Zamagni, 2010. "Cooperative Enterprise," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 13842, December.
    20. Raymond Mattaloni Jr., 2011. "The Productivity Advantage and Global Scope of U.S. Multinational Firms," BEA Working Papers 0070, Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N70 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:29:y:2015:i:3:p:31-50. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Michael P. Albert (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.