Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren: Progress and Prospects After 75 Years

In 1930, as the Great Depression was beginning, John Maynard Keynes wrote the essay Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren. In it, he looked 100 years ahead to a future in which learning to live well had replaced the struggle for subsistence as the basic problem facing humanity. The future discussed by Keynes is now only twenty-five years away. Beginning with current data on income, the paper shows that progress beyond the struggle for subsistence has been limited to the developed countries and will likely remain so through 2030. Among these countries, overwork, rather than living well, is increasing. This paper calls for a fundamental change in values—away from overwork and toward living well—among the developed countries that might have positive feedback effects on the prospects of developing countries as well.