I’ve just finished reading Robert J. Gordon’s excellent book on The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Gordon’s thesis is that economic growth has slowed in recent decades because the pace of technological innovation has slowed from the 1870-1970 period. In essence, his claim is that great inventions of the past (electricity, indoor plumbing, the car, antibiotics) were much more crucial to raising our standard of living than the more recent improvements of the Information Age.
This got me thinking about a related question in law. To what extent has the pace of legal innovation slowed in recent decades? In other words, most of the big ideas in law are quite old (judicial review, patents, administrative agencies to name just three). What was the last big idea that changed legal thought or practice? Originalism comes to mind, but that dates to the 1970s. What else is there?