Michael Clemens for Treasury Secretary

Michael Clemens explains, more or less, why I put a bunch of money (a bunch for me) in an index fund a couple weeks ago and now wish I’d waited a bit…

As for whether or not the current financial crisis will make much difference to income growth in the United States over time, have a look at the second graph below. This is the best estimate of real income per capita in the United States since 1820. Over these years we had violent financial crashes of various types, bank panics, piles of recessions and a huge depression, many foreign wars and one enormous domestic war, had a central bank and didn’t, were on the gold standard and weren’t, had governments topple in scandal and multiple leaders assassinated, and what did it all amount to in the medium to long run? In per-capita income terms: Nothing. The overall trend does not bend or shift. Every bad year was followed by a good year that returned us to trend. The US average growth rate of real per capita incomes over the last 190 years has been 1.8% a year, and the same rate over the last 10 years has been…. 1.8% a year. Stare at that graph: The Great Depression was traumatic in countless ways, but astonishingly, it’s not clear that we are any worse off today than we would be if the whole thing never occurred. Anyone who made such a claim in the 1930s would have been scoffed at, but that’s what happened.

Keep on truckin’, America.

[Via Cowen via Blattman]