An economic history of the world

In: Uncategorized

7 Aug 2007

The economic history of the world by Gregory Clark, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, is about to be published by Princeton University Press. When I first wrote about it in my post of 1 August 2006 the book was to be called The Conquest of Nature but the final version is called A Farewell to Alms.

According to the review in today’s New York Times the book argues against institutions as an explanation for the transition from poverty to wealth. Instead it locates the explanation for the change in shifting values: “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.” (Although this quote begs the question of why such values emerged).

The book also sounds like it has an interesting and closely related discussion of how humanity escaped from the “Malthusian trap”: “each time new technology increased the efficiency of production a little, the population grew, the extra mouths ate up the surplus, and average income fell back to its former level.”

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