In fact, I wouldn't even call it "economic," since the rational underpinnings of an economy -- e.g., prices, secure private property, rule of law, etc. -- are precisely what we lacked; nor would I call it "stagnation," again, because every species is stagnant. Every species subsists on what is available in the surrounding environment. Truly, our great leap forward was an existential discontinuity, and not just a prolongation of biology.
And ever since it started, there have been people predicting it was petering out, or who warned that it would end in catastrophe, or who actually want it to end. Remember the Simon-Eherlich wager? How about the perennial myth of "peak oil?" Global warming hysteria is just the latest outlet for these hopeless pessimystics.
One commenter mentioned the centrality of energy to our Great LF. This is correct, except that energy isn't just energy.
Rather, it must of course unite with information in order to become useful. By way of illustration, Gilder cites a seemingly mundane example involving the history of lighting. Note how it parallels yesterday's sad story of man's long economic flatline:
"[F]or millions of years, from caveman's fires to the candles that illuminated the palace of Versailles, the labor cost of a lumen-hour of light dropped by perhaps 75 percent." But the emergence of gas light in the nineteenth century resulted in a a huge decrease in the price of light, and "the arrival of electricity in the 1880s produced another thousand-fold drop."
Now, the question is, how can we possibly measure the resulting improvement in our quality of life? We're talking about "a million-fold increase in the abundance and affordability of light itself," but that's just a number. The real impact is incalculable, and very few people take the time to think about what a miracle it is. And again, it is a miracle, if by miracle we mean a vertical ingression into the horizontally closed flow of time.
Note also that any leftist along the way could have proclaimed that we have quite enough light to go around, and that it's just a matter of redistributing it so that everyone gets enough -- say, three candles a day, or a bucket of kerosene, or whatever. In the 1970s it was gasoline every other day. The mentality never changes.
The other critical point is that no one -- certainly not any central authority -- planned for any of this benevolent progress. If they had, we'd probably still be using candles. No doubt manufactured by Solyndra.
Again, a free economy facilitates and protects information; an unfree one -- to the extent that it is unfree -- crowds out information with power. It "protects the centripetal power of kings, bureaucracies, politicians, and other purchasers of economic influence."
Obama-style krony kapitalism is just the latest version, but there are always going to be economic parasites and free-riders. Hemingway once called critics "the lice on literature." You might say that leftists are the lice on economics. They have no idea how to create wealth, only how to exploit it. The only difference is that they are not as intelligent as lice, in that lice at least have the good sense to avoid killing the host.
California is subject to the one party rule of such suicidal parasites, with utterly predictable consequences. Are they worried about hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded public pensions for their fellow bloodsuckers? Nah. What are they worried about, then? About making sure that sexually confused children can pick the bathroom they want. Progress!
I don't know about the sexually confused ones, but I do know that any healthy, sexually unconfused male will naturally choose the girls locker room.
I guess Jerry Brown wanted to shed the "Governor Moonbeam" image, and finally prove that he's not from this solar system at all.
Now, if we examine the deep structure of the economic miracle described above, what's really going on?
First of all, I would suggest that economic growth is only possible in an open system that is specifically open to entrepreneurial creativity, imagination, innovation, and most importantly, to failure. I was reading something just yesterday -- can't remember where -- that if failure is not permitted, then neither is success. We must be free to fail, which is why there is no such thing as an unfree launch in the econosphere.
Conversely, leftists view the total economy as if it were a closed system with a set amount of wealth. They "believe their mission is to seize capital for the masses," and just infuse a bunch of money at the back end -- i.e., the demand side -- to reinflate the balloon. Which is a little like taking water from the deep end of the pool and pouring it into the shallow end.
Our president, for example -- the noted constitutional scholar -- has pointed out that the founders got it wrong in not giving sufficient power to the state to seize property and redistribute cash from one end of the pool to the other.
The problem is, any elected idiot can seize money. But that doesn't mean he's seizing wealth.
Again, a million dollars in the hands of Bill Gates is very different from a million dollars in the grubby hands of some bum on the street or in the White House. As Gilder explains, "detached from a capitalist, there is no capital."
Rather, in order "to create wealth, knowledge and power must be merged." This infusion -- or vertical ingression -- of information into capital doesn't appear on any accounting statement, because it is qualitative, not quantitative. You might say it's "in the cloud" -- the cloud of the ultrahuman noosphere that surrounds the material world.
Consider all of the "quantitative easing" by the Fed, which simply removes information from the economy. Conversely, Reagan unleashed entrepreneurial activity by what we might call "qualitative easing," through which it became much easier for venture capitalists to unite with entrepreneurs to create "informational capital."
Again, no one planned the consequent technology revolution. Rather, it was just a matter of getting out of the way and letting the noosphere do its thing.
In any event, it is this openness to verticality that "is the source of restoration that prevents the circular flow from running down into inanation. When the circular flow seems healthy, it is only because we do not notice that it is being constantly replenished. Such constant replenishment and revitalization by new information and knowledge is the only solution to the dissipation and physical entropy that is normal at all times..."
The other day, reader Julie commented that this sounds a bit like "as above, so below." Precisely. We could take the above paragraph and say the exact same thing of the vertical flow of grace -- or of our tension toward the Great Attractor -- in the absence of which we are just absurcular tale-spinning Darwinian monkeys chasing our tails.