We’ve witnessed more than two centuries of unprecedented economic growth, powered by two industrial revolutions from the 1700s to today. Robert Gordon, a 72-year-old economist at Northwestern, argues that this incredible period of growth was all a fluke—and we are entering a new era where there’s no guarantee our children will be any better off than we are:

“There are many ways in which you can interpret this economic model, but the most lasting—the reason, perhaps, for the public notoriety it has brought its author—has little to do with economics at all. It is the suggestion that we have not understood how lucky we have been. The whole of American cultural memory, the period since World War II, has taken place within the greatest expansion of opportunity in the history of human civilization. Perhaps it isn’t that our success is a product of the way we structured our society. The shape of our society may be far more conditional, a consequence of our success. Embedded in Gordon’s data is an inquiry into entitlement: How much do we owe, culturally and politically, to this singular experience of economic growth, and what will happen if it goes away?”