Unraveling the Secular Economic Stagnation Story

Secular stagnation is said to be present when economic growth is negligible or nonexistent over a considerable span of time. Today, secular stagnation has become a popular mantra of the chattering classes, particularly in the United States. The idea is not new, however.
Alvin Hansen, an early and prominent Keynesian economist at Harvard University, popularized the notion of secular stagnation in the 1930s. In his presidential address to the American Economic Association in 1938, he asserted that the U.S. was a mature economy that was stuck in a rut. Hansen reasoned that technological innovations had come to an end; that the great American frontier (read: natural resources) was closed; and that population growth was stagnating. So, according to Hansen, investment opportunities would be scarce, and there would be nothing ahead except secular economic stagnation. The only way out was more government spending. It would be used to boost investment via public works projects. For Hansen and the Keynesians of that era, stagnation was a symptom of market failure, and the antidote was government largesse.