What Was “the New Economy”?

Lee Vinsel
25 min readMar 29, 2022

This paper for the Business History Conference is the shaggiest thing I have written in years. Work and personal life developments — including happy things like getting a new puppy — meant I had to write this faster than I wanted. Still, my grumpiness with its form is more than counterbalanced by my joy and enthusiasm for working on a new project and wrestling with new ideas, which is something I haven’t really done since The Maintainers took off in 2015–2016. I am posting this piece in its current form because the topic is something I have been actively discussing with friends and colleagues for a long time and I know I will not be able to seriously revise it for months.


“We are only at the beginning of a period that will go down in history as a golden age,”

— President William Jefferson Clinton, December 1999

“I believe the computer and the Internet give us a chance to move more people out of poverty more quickly than at any time in all of human history.”

— President William Jefferson Clinton, April 2000

Bill Clinton opened the White House Conference on the New Economy on April 5, 2000 with these words, “We meet in the midst of the longest economic expansion of our history and an economic transformation as profound as that that led us into the industrial revolution. . . . This conference is designed to focus on the big issues of the New Economy. How do we keep this expansion going?”



Lee Vinsel

I do technology studies, co-organize @The_Maintainers, and profess Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech.