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It is always a delight to read Bob Fogel’s work.  He ends this 2004 paper with the following story:

I close with an anecdote from Simon Kuznets. He used to give a one-year course in growth economics both at Johns Hopkins and Harvard. One of the points he made was that if you wanted to find accurate forecasts of the past, don’t look at what the economists said. The economists in 1850 wrote that the progress of the last decade had been so great that it could not possibly continue. And economists at

the end of the nineteenth century wrote that the progress of the last half century has been so great that it could not possibly continue during the twentieth century. He said you would come closest to an accurate forecast if you read the writers of science fiction (MJR emphasis).  But even the writers of science fiction were too pessimistic. Jules Verne recognized that we might eventually get to the moon, but he couldn’t conceive of the technology that actually made the journey possible.

I was at a conference at Rockefeller University last year that brought together about 30 people from different disciplines (economics, biology, chemistry, physics, as well as some industrial leaders) who put forward their views of what was likely to happen in the new millennium. And I must say that the non-economists were far more bullish than most of the economists that I know.

One Response to “On the Record of Economists’ Forecasts of Growth”

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