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There is no Great Stagnation

Summary:
We might not think that this is a big deal but it is a symptom of one:Britain’s pothole crisis has been branded a national scandal by MPs and prompted residents to resort to graffiti in a bid to make councils fix craters plaguing local roads. But JCB has come up with a solution: a three-in-one pothole-repairing machine that promises to fix decaying roads in record time.The PotholePro is a new digger-like device that the company said can fix a pothole in less than eight minutes - four times faster than existing methods and at half the cost. At that pace 700 potholes a month could be plugged.The symptom being that this is how economic growth happens. Yes, lovely big things like electricity, the internet, even HS2 and windmills everywhere, have their effects. But even they are not growth in

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We might not think that this is a big deal but it is a symptom of one:

Britain’s pothole crisis has been branded a national scandal by MPs and prompted residents to resort to graffiti in a bid to make councils fix craters plaguing local roads.

But JCB has come up with a solution: a three-in-one pothole-repairing machine that promises to fix decaying roads in record time.

The PotholePro is a new digger-like device that the company said can fix a pothole in less than eight minutes - four times faster than existing methods and at half the cost. At that pace 700 potholes a month could be plugged.

The symptom being that this is how economic growth happens.

Yes, lovely big things like electricity, the internet, even HS2 and windmills everywhere, have their effects. But even they are not growth in and of themselves. It is not even true that economic growth is, only, the ability to do new things. Often enough it is as here the ability to do old things that little bit better, using fewer resources to get the job done. Those big technologies do indeed allow new things to be done but their much larger effect is upon enabling us to do those old things more efficiently.

This also being why that grand planning from the 30,000 feet of Whitehall doesn’t work well. Because it’s simply not possible for 650 PPE graduates to work out whether a new pothole repairing machine is even desirable let alone how it might be done if it were. Meaning that a planned system wouldn’t even allocate the resources to find out let alone produce such a machine.

A useful little reminder that economic growth is, in large part, just the day to day grind of doing all the old things that little bit better. Something that politics and direction by politics simply does not achieve.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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