For now, here's a look at productivity, which is central to at least part of Cowan's point. Krugman's point in this post is rather different, but he included a graph on productivity that got me thinking. So I dug up productivity data from the BLS website, which took quit a bit of digging. Fortunately, Skeptic at Reality Base did the same thing, and identifies the data series - year-over-year non-farm productivity growth (% change) as PRS85006092.
Here's my graph, obviously the same data Skeptic used.
The average line reveals a clear downward trend from 1966 to 1982. After that - despite a rather directionless and mostly below-average decade from '87 to '97, the trend was toward higher productivity growth - until the nose-dive following the 2002 recession. Since 2006, productivity has turned up again, while the economy has faltered. As Krugman recently pointed out, this is not a typical result.
But my focus is on the Post WW II period before the turning point, circa 1980. The era of falling productivity growth coincidences quite closely with what Allen Meltzer calls "The Great Inflation." I suspect this is not a coincidence.
I haven't read Meltzer's paper yet, and have a lot of other homework to do. For now, I'm fascinated by the difference between the first 3 1/2 decades of my life and what has happened since.