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The “New Economy” Enriches Us All

In this New Republic essay on the coalitions that make-up the Democratic Party, Christopher Caldwell writes the following (emphasis added):

Two titans of the finance world (Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer) sought to win the Democratic nomination by funding their own and various down-ballot candidacies. (Both would eventually back Biden.) There was also one impecunious primary candidate who had some original ideas about the tech world: Andrew Yang. The new economy provides wealth for so few people that it can never command the party’s rank and file. But it exercises a dizzying gravitational pull on its leaders.

I’m pretty sure that I know what Caldwell means – namely, that the number of Americans who earn personal fortunes by owning or working at “new economy” firms is very small relative to the total number of Americans who are Democrats. But on its face the italicized and bolded sentence is simply wrong. The new economy provides wealth – lots of it – for nearly every American, and also for countless non-Americans.

I read Caldwell’s essay on my Apple computer using Google’s browser, Chrome. In the  middle of reading the essay, I received an e-mail from my colleague Dan Klein, which I read on my Apple iPhone. An hour or so earlier, my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy sent to me, by text, a link to a Twitter thread.

I’m a middle-aged – some would say “old” – man, who is none too tech savvy compared to nearly everyone a decade or more younger than me. Yet my life is daily enriched by the so-called “new economy.” I’ve already mentioned my Apple computer (I use a MacBook Air) and my iPhone. I have no Twitter account, but I read Twitter regularly. I can’t count the number of times I’ve used Uber. I do most of my banking on-line, usually with my iPhone, but sometimes with my laptop. I use these devices also to make reservations at restaurants, reservations on airlines, and reservations at hotels.

Google combined with my electronic devices eases my research burdens, and brings to my fingertips, almost instantly, untold quantities of information that in the  past would either be inaccessible or require hours, days, or even weeks to gather.

I send and receive texts and e-mails throughout the day, and even occasionally use my phone as an actual phone. And when used as an actual phone, I no longer have to pay extra charges to talk with people who are more than a few miles away from me. This actual phone, by the way, lets me do video calls with people – a feature that I especially like for talking with my son, Thomas, who lives in New Hampshire. I get to hear and see my son.

With my phone I take pictures and videos, and send these instantly to whomever I choose.

Nearly all music that I now listen to is streamed through my phone, and often transmitted (mysteriously) through Bluetooth to my speakers.

I shop often on Amazon, as well as at other on-line retailers. I love YouTube. Within minutes of the end of an NFL game that interests me, I go to YouTube to watch the highlights in hi-def. And when my spirits need lifting, I often find, on YouTube, a video of the Beatles performing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Please Please Me,” “All My Loving,” or some other of their early songs, for which I have an irrationally intense fondness.

Many times each day I use Facebook.

When driving, I often navigate using Google Maps. And I no longer read print-and-ink newspapers; I read all newspapers on-line. Increasingly, I am reading e-books (although I still much prefer – and will for the rest of my days – to hold in my hands an actual book with ink printed onto paper).

The last time I wrote on a typewriter was during Ronald Reagan’s first term in the White House. (I continued into Reagan’s second term to use a typewriter, occasionally, to type addresses on envelopes.)

And, of course, I now teach my classes over Blackboard (a kind of Zoom), and deliver invited lectures using Zoom. I even had a consultation with a physician over Zoom.

To say that the new economy provides wealth for only a few people is crazy-mistaken. Nearly every American on the eve of 2021 would feel horribly impoverished if he or she were suddenly without all of the new-economy advances of the past quarter-century.


I thank Manny Klausner for bringing this Caldwell essay to my attention – an essay the main substance of which I do not here comment on.