Till about 200 years back, abject poverty characterized the world. It is only since the 19th century, a significant proportion of people in the west have become affluent and better fed and healthier. Their book is about how a group of countries collectively referred to as the „west‟ have become rich and prosperous. The authors explain the various factors which have made the western nations so wealthy over time.
The authors explain the objective of the book, “The story of the move from poverty to wealth offers enough mysteries, surprises, exposes, triumphs and tragedies to make it worth the retelling for its own sake. Moreover, a better understanding of how economic growth came about in the west should be helpful to those westerners who are concerned with public policy, the comparative significance of the west‟s many economic institutions, the future of the western economies themselves and most of
all to those who feel some responsibility for passing along to the next generation an opportunity to better their own conditions at least as much as has the current generation.”
A gradual process
The process of development of the west has been gradual. Even over an entire decade in the early stages of development, the economic gains were generally perceived to be insignificant. Despite some radical innovations, the process of growing rich was gradual. “There was never a day nor even a generation, when a television anchor or a newspaper editor, however astute, could have led off with news of an economic or technological development which rescued the west from poverty.” But as decade after decade of growth continued, it become clear that the proportion of affluent people was
Explanations for the West’s growing rich
Many of the traditional explanations for the development of the western world are inadequate. China and the Islamic nations were at one point of time well ahead of western countries in science and technology. Yet, they were left behind. The availability of natural resources is also not a satisfactory explanation, when we take into account the development of countries like Switzerland and Japan.
Some have argued that the affluence of the west is the result of the pursuit of personal riches by businessmen. Others have attribute it to lucky circumstances. A major expansion in trade during the 15th century, the first industrial revolution of the 18th century, the second industrial revolution of the 19th century and the current electronic revolution came in quick succession, giving a tremendous momentum to the growth process. The leftists have argued that the development of the west has come at a heavy price – tremendous income inequalities, exploitation of workers, colonialism and
The authors argue that the western countries succeeded because it created conditions that encouraged innovations in trade, technology and organization. This enabled them to accumulate capital and labour and exploit natural resources. Moreover, they gave their enterprises the autonomy to make a number of decisions made by political and religious authorities in other nations. It became easy to set up enterprises. Trading took place without much restriction. Owners of enterprises also received some sort of reassurance that the business assets would not be arbitrarily seized by the political authorities. As the authors put it, “The economic enterprise had become a unit for making a wide range of economic decisions and its gains and losses from the decisions were expected to accrue to…
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