Progress or regress ?

An interesting message which we do not get every day :

"The other day, I got into my car to go to the gym ( it was raining and I’m a wuss) only to find that the battery had died. Which set me pondering. Whereas most of my car is vastly technologically superior to anything one could have bought in the 1970s, batteries are little different: how often do you need to recharge your phone, iPod or laptop?
There’s a moral here - in large chunks of our life, there has been little technical progress, and even regress. It takes longer to fly from New York to London now than it did in the 1970s. It takes as long to build a house now as it does then - and to no higher specification; my quite modest car doesn‘t fit into the garage. The technical quality of recorded music has declined. And even medicine has, in many ways, not progressed; treatment for ailments such as back conditions, the common cold or gout has barely changed in recent decades.
These are no mere trivia. In the 1960s, a relatively bright person could get a free university education, with generous living expenses paid by the state; buy a house on a single only slightly-above average income even in London; and look forward to a generous final salary pension. This is fantasy for a young person today.
You might object here that these are not examples of pure technical regress, but rather of bad social organization; for example, house prices have soared partly because of planning restrictions, and pensions have been cut because of corporate incompetence. There’s much truth in this, but little relevance. Social conditions are as much a form of technology as is scientific knowhow.
This is of course not to deny the obvious fact, that there has been enormous technical progress in many ways. Instead, it’s merely to remind you of Baumol’s cost disease - that the counterpart of technical progress in some sectors is rising relative prices in others. And these rises can hurt.In this context, I have some sympathy for economic illiterates. Daniel Klein says that only “unenlightened” people disagree with the claim that “Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago.”
Strictly speaking, he’s right. But let’s be clear - that word “overall” is doing quite a bit of work."

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