A new biography, Elon Musk: Tesla, Space X, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, provides more evidence that America does not face secular stagnation—a state of slow growth and little innovation. I have always been skeptical of this claim, because many of the statistical measures on which it relies are those of our centralized government that miss out on improvements in health and enormous benefits of new technology, particularly the internet.
But some intelligent observers, notably Peter Thiel, have argued that recent gains are narrowly focused on information technology. As Thiel provocatively puts it: “We were promised flying cars, and instead what we got was 140 characters.” Musk, however, has become a billionaire by building actual products that do gesture to a fantastic future where such items as flying cars are imaginable.
One is an electric car, Tesla, that has attracted attention not only for its battery engine, but for its aesthetics. It combines Silicon Valley know-how with Hollywood dazzle.