…However, Bowen and Baumol pointed out that there were certain special areas of the economy where those two forces just didn’t seem to apply. In their book, they used the example of a string quartet.
You can’t increase the “productivity” of a string quartet by playing Mozart at a higher tempo, the way you can speed up an assembly line.
You can’t increase the “efficiency” of a string quartet by cutting the cello player and replacing her with a prerecorded track.
And, you can’t take advantage of lower wages for classical musicians in China, not if you want a live concert at Carnegie Hall.
In short, the authors argued, the cost of direct services provided by highly skilled workers is always going to rise faster than the general rate of inflation.
Enlarge this image William Bowen, a scholar and former president of Princeton University, died last week. He is associated with one of the key explanations for just why a college degree keeps getting more and more and more expensive. Bowen, who was President of The Andrew W.