Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Why are some societies rich and others poor?

The Culture of Prosperity
A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World
by Gregory Clark
Princeton University Press, 2007

This book is apparently well worth a read... and asks big questions: Why are some societies rich and others poor? Why did the Industrial Revolution occur in the seventeenth century, in England? Why do some societies—in Africa, for example—find sustained growth so elusive?
Forgive the reviewer his stumbles with punctuation, and press on...consider this

It is naive merely to ‘export’ formal institutions such as property rights legislation, transparency compacts, and democracy to underdeveloped societies. To do so now is almost as unsophisticated as it was fifty years ago to simply send capital goods to ports in less developed countries. What really matters is the populace’s receptiveness to freedom, which is based on deep-seated cultural institutions and attitudes, and which does not grow overnight. By overlooking the cultural foundations of prosperity, development optimists and freedom apostles in Washington and Canberra are wasting resources. Do-gooders who simply offer alms may indeed cause harm if they entrench dependency and a claimant mentality among people trapped in the ‘Malthusian mindset.’

Quite right sir. Now, if only he'd carry on to explain why Canada is a relative economic and political pygmy compared to its southern neighbour...and let's not mention the Olympics...(NB For further insight into Malthusian twaddle, see this great comment by Ronald Bailey here)...
Read the full review here...

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