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"Economic possibilities for our grandchildren" 75 years after: a global perspective


Zilibotti, Fabrizio (2008). "Economic possibilities for our grandchildren" 75 years after: a global perspective. In: Pecchi, L; Piga, G. Revisiting Keynes: economic possibilities for our grandchildren. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 27-40.

Abstract

In the heart of the Great Crisis, amidst great uncertainty and concerns surrounding the future of capitalism, John Maynard Keynes launched his optimistic prophecy that growth and technological change would allow mankind to solve its economic problem within a century. He envisioned a world where people would work much less and be less oppressed by the satisfaction of material needs. He made quantitative statements predicting that "the standard of life in progressive countries one hundred years hence will be between four and eight times as high..." as in his time. And he wrote about worktime that "...a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while." He also expected the new era to bring about "great changes in the code of morals", such that the new society will "honour those who can teach (us) how to pluck the hour and the day virtuously and well, the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things...."
To what extent have his predictions turned out to be accurate? Economic growth indeed resumed during the 1930s, but the conflagration of World War II was soon to come. Yet, after the end of the war, the engine of growth restarted, and the world thereafter underwent an unprecedented transformation. And people today indeed spend a smaller fraction of their lives in work activity. However, there are large differences in both standards of living and attitudes towards work across countries and individuals.
In this essay, I assess Keynes’ forecasts from a global perspective. In the first section, I review and discuss the growth experience of the world in the second half of the Twentieth Century. Next, I discuss Keynes’ predictions about working time and leisure. Finally, I conclude.

Abstract

In the heart of the Great Crisis, amidst great uncertainty and concerns surrounding the future of capitalism, John Maynard Keynes launched his optimistic prophecy that growth and technological change would allow mankind to solve its economic problem within a century. He envisioned a world where people would work much less and be less oppressed by the satisfaction of material needs. He made quantitative statements predicting that "the standard of life in progressive countries one hundred years hence will be between four and eight times as high..." as in his time. And he wrote about worktime that "...a fifteen-hour week may put off the problem for a great while." He also expected the new era to bring about "great changes in the code of morals", such that the new society will "honour those who can teach (us) how to pluck the hour and the day virtuously and well, the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things...."
To what extent have his predictions turned out to be accurate? Economic growth indeed resumed during the 1930s, but the conflagration of World War II was soon to come. Yet, after the end of the war, the engine of growth restarted, and the world thereafter underwent an unprecedented transformation. And people today indeed spend a smaller fraction of their lives in work activity. However, there are large differences in both standards of living and attitudes towards work across countries and individuals.
In this essay, I assess Keynes’ forecasts from a global perspective. In the first section, I review and discuss the growth experience of the world in the second half of the Twentieth Century. Next, I discuss Keynes’ predictions about working time and leisure. Finally, I conclude.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:September 2008
Deposited On:13 Nov 2008 08:17
Last Modified:27 Jul 2018 11:10
Publisher:MIT Press
ISBN:0-262-16249-0
OA Status:Green
Official URL:http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11658&mode=toc
Related URLs:https://www.recherche-portal.ch/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?fn=search&mode=Advanced&vid=ZAD&vl%28186672378UI0%29=isbn&vl%281UI0%29=contains&vl%28freeText0%29=0-262-16249-0

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