This episode of the a16z Podcast takes us on a quick tour through the themes of economics/historian/journalist Marc Levinson‘s books — from An Extraordinary Time, on the end of the postwar boom and the return of the ordinary economy; to The Great A&P, on retail and the struggle for small business in America; all the way through to The Box, on how the shipping container made the world smaller and the world economy bigger.
In this hallway-style conversation, Levinson and we (with Sonal Chokshi and Hanne Tidnam) touch on everything from productivity growth & GDP to the “death of retail” — to finally connecting all the dots through logistics, transportation, infrastructure, and more. How are supply chains changing? How does all this, taken together, affect the way we work? And what can — or can’t — policymakers do about it? Perhaps, Levinson argues, a lot of the improvement to our living standards really comes out of “microeconomic improvements at the private sector level rather than as a matter of great policy”. But that’s a bitter pill to swallow for those seeking solace in easy answers from governments, whether at a national or city level. Maybe it’s just a matter of managing our expectations — or resetting our clock for when the new normal begins… and ends.