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Growth before vs. during 20th century

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FlyingAxe posted on Fri, Feb 10 2012 12:03 PM

Tom Woods in his videos and articles and, I think, a number of other people make a claim that the growth rate was greater for the UK during 1700-1900 and for the US 1800-1900 than during the 20th century.

Is there evidence to back up what they are saying? How are they measuring growth of wealth, and what's the data that shows that it was greater before the 20th century?


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I didn't really see the comparison to the 20th century. Furthermore, the only graph that I saw that was somewhat relevant was US steel production.

Actually, I looked up GDP of the US on  Measuring Worth > Datasets > US GDP and here is what I got (the second figure also shows a log):




To me, the rates seem rather comparable. Actually, per capita rate seems to have sped up in the 20th century (log of population growth was slower in the 20th century than in the 19th).

This certainly contradicts the claims that if we went back to the gold standard or did not inflate the fiat, the economy would stagnate or go into recession. But at the same time, it does not confirm the claim that the growth was drastically greater in the 19th century.


I don't know if GDP is the best way to measure "growth of wealth". What would be a better way, and does one have data? (I am looking for numbers and graphs, and not just for the 19th century, but also for the 20th.)


P.S. Japan's curves are really funny. They really have been stagnating for the last 30 years.

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