First of all, assets didn’t always appreciate faster than GDP. For the first several decades of this history, economic growth, not paper wealth, was king. We were getting richer by making things, not paper.
Beginning in the 1980s, however, the cult of the markets, which included the development of financial derivatives and the increasing use of leverage, began to dominate. A long history marred only by negative givebacks during recessions in the early 1990s, 2001–2002, and 2008–2009, produced a persistent increase in asset prices vs. nominal GDP that led to an average overall 50-year appreciation advantage of 1.3% annually.
That’s another way of saying you would have been far better off investing in paper than factories or machinery or the requisite components of an educated workforce.
We, in effect, were hollowing out our productive future at the expense of worthless paper such as subprimes, dotcoms, or in part, blue chip stocks and investment grade/government bonds.