On technology, productivity and the inter-connectedness of us all – Twin Cities

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On technology, productivity and the inter-connectedness of us all – Twin Cities


Growth in productivity isn’t everything, but as an economic barometer, over the long-run, it is far more important than the more-attention-getting short-term fluctuations in unemployment and inflation. Getting more goods and services to meet people’s needs and wants out of a given set of resources is vital to an economy. That is exactly what “improved productivity” is.

And if society’s consumption levels are high enough, productivity growth also reduces the natural resources and labor needed for current levels of living.

Edward Lotterman (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
Edward Lotterman

Productivity gains can stem from more tools or machines per worker, better technology, or better organization of existing technology and machines. In the real world, rising productivity usually stems from a combination of all three. Improved productivity is evident in our daily lives in many ways, but we often fail to recognize what is right in front of us.

Consider food. Minnesota farmers are experiencing the most delayed planting season in 40 years. Yet no one worries about food shortages or rising prices, as might have been the case through most of human history. This may not be a year of record crop yields. But they still will likely be five or more times what they were when my grandfather came to Minnesota and double when I quit raising crops myself in 1977. At most, the unfavorable weather will cause a minor blip in world commodity prices and nothing for consumers at the checkout counter because of high and rising productivity in agriculture.

Growth in farm production per acre, animal or farmer occurs in varied ways.

Successfully hybridizing corn was a major step in boosting yields. This resulted from government-funded research at land-grant colleges, but also from the speedy implementation of the new technology by family-owned seed companies, now absorbed into major corporations.



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