Skip to comments.In Dusty Archives, a Theory of Affluence
Posted on 08/08/2007 8:24:42 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution â the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 â occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues. Because they grew more common in the centuries before 1800, whether by cultural transmission or evolutionary adaptation, the English population at last became productive enough to escape from poverty, followed quickly by other countries with the same long agrarian past... Dr. Clark said he set out to write his book 12 years ago on discovering that his undergraduates knew nothing about the history of Europe. His colleagues have been surprised by its conclusions but also interested in them, he said. "The actual data underlying this stuff is hard to dispute," Dr. Clark said. "When people see the logic, they say 'I don't necessarily believe it, but it's hard to dismiss.'"
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
I would blame the Magna Carta, myself.
“This is nonsense.....”
It is nonsense on stilts.
One of the author’s key assumptions in seeking out a materialistic and mechanistic explanation for the Industrial Revolution is that institutions didn’t change much from the economically stagnant period until the the onset of the Industrial Revolution. This assumption is demonstrably and almost laughably false.
One of the titanically biggest institutional changes that occurred with onset of the Industrial Revolution occurred in the private banking and governmental financing areas (see Nial Ferguson’s book “The Cash Nexus”). A hypothetical Rip Van Winkle who woke up 100 year after the onset of the Industrial Revolution would be stupefied by the variety of new financing techniques that had been developed.
The development of the Industrial Corporation as an autonomously funded entity along with the development of private capital markets in which the securities of these newly created corporate securities could be purchased and traded was one of the indisputable keys to the development of the Industrial Revolution in the Christian West.
It is worth noting that the concurrent economic stagnation of the Islamic World was related to the lack of such private securities markets and is directly attributable to the prohibition in Islamic theology against the charging of interest.
Leave it to an academic to come up with materialistic explanation of a cultural phenomena when a more compelling but politically incorrect explanation is available.
Nations with a steady food surplus will generally wind up wealthier, both in terms of cash cash cash and culture. The only sustainable economy is one based on surplus.
Before this time, a farmer could raise only about 10% more food than he and his family consumed, thus limiting the population size in general and the percentage of the population that could live in the cities. Then, when the weather turned bad one year out of 30 or so, a famine swept Europe and killed off as much as 30% of the population.
But potatoes were happy to grow in the rainy weather that left wheat fields sparse. This did two things - it allowed more people to move to the cities (and mines and smelters ...) and still get fed with a surplus of food, and it eliminated the devastating impact of the wet years that previously led to sparse wheat harvest and thus famine (because the potatoes could grow very well in that environment).
Just another example of a specialist looking only at his specialty, rather than than the entire picture.
:’) Nice analysis.
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