NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Americans keep hoping for a robust recovery -- one that delivers better paying jobs and decent returns on retirement savings.
But changes in technology and the economy may mean that never happens, and government efforts to improve conditions often multiply the misery.
In 1908, Henry Ford had a great idea -- the Model T -- and a novel understanding of mass production, but he needed huge amounts of capital to build factories, dealers to sell and service mass-produced cars, and a large corps of managers and assembly workers.
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His success inspired competitors and whole new industries making everything from agricultural implements to zippers.
For three generations, those created enormous demand for capital and jobs for millions in manufacturing and supporting services. In the closing decades of the 20th century, rapidly advancing digital technologies helped those industries use factories more efficiently and slash the numbers of managers and assembly workers.
Most digital companies never had quite the same appetite for capital and workers. Google
was founded with $100,000 in seed capital in 1998, and $25 million in funding a year later. Within five years, its search engine was available to virtually every computer user around the world, and its brand was more ubiquitous than Coca-Cola''s
Google's shares outstanding are worth about $370 billion -- more than five times Ford's
, and it has achieved that remarkable wealth creation on a relatively small initial investment.
It has about 50,000 high-skilled employees -- less than one-fourth of the Ford workforce, which has been significantly downsized in recent decades.