The Fourth Sector
By Bryan Caplan
Economists traditionally partition output into agriculture, manufacturing, and services. In this framework, the appeal of “stagnationist” claims is relatively easy to see. None of these three sectors seems amazingly innovative anymore; the visible progress is “just in computers.”
But is it reasonable to conceive of computers as a single product? No. Computers provide communications, entertainment, and even transportation. A computer is a videophone (e.g. Skype), a movie theater (e.g. iTunes), and a personal megastore just seconds way (e.g. Amazon). The computer is a wise match-maker, a super-sonic social butterfly, and a Einstein-level-IQ gas station attendant. It verges on Rubber Science.
My challenge: Isn’t it time we gave the computer its rightful place as our Fourth Sector? It might seem like a purely nominal change, but it’s more like truth-in-labeling. Modern civilization and culture require the computer. We owe our way of life to the computer. We owe our friendships themselves to the computer! Knighting this Fourth Sector is a great way to focus our attention on all its subtle, unmeasured benefits.
Final thought: If you aren’t supremely grateful for the benefits of the computer, I submit that flying cars wouldn’t have impressed you either. There’s just no pleasing some people.