"David Landes has written a masterly survey of the great successes and failures among the the causes of the wealth and poverty of nations—the grand object. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich a and millions of other books are available for site site. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor Paperback – May 17, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is David S. Landes's. Samson, Steven Alan, "David S. Landes: The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Study Guide" might account for the relative poverty of the tropics and subtropics ?.
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Stunning. Startling. Mystifying. Reactions to David Landes's latest tour de force will no doubt run the gamut. Filled with pithy sketches of nations (why weren't the . David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and. Some So Poor, New York, W.W. Norton & Co., , xxi + pp. Economic . The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor. David S. Landes (Author, Harvard University). Sign up for the monthly New.
By David S. New York: Norton, Reactions to David Landes's latest tour de force will no doubt run the gamut.
Filled with pithy sketches of nations why weren't the French troubled by air pollution? Amid the endearing details, Landes has an argument to make.
At one level, the argument is one that I find persuasive and have long agreed with: The nations of Europe, particularly northwest Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan, worked harder and tried harder to innovate and improve economically because it was important to them.
Other societies worked to live, but these societies lived to work--nay, they lived to find ever better ways to work.
The Wealth and Poverty of Nations
Drawing on the accumulated knowledge of centuries, borrowing what they needed and inventing what they could not borrow, they engaged in a relentless drive for improvement. Better in weapons, in transport, in manufacturing, and in mobilizing human effort than any other societies in the world by the nineteenth century, they took over that world. Colonialism and imperialism were regrettable in their excesses, of course, but they reflected the inevitable triumph of superior European technical achievements.
To deny this, however unpalatable or unfashionable it may be today to accept it, Landes says, is to deny history. Yet at another level, the argument is one that I cannot begin to accept, and believe is manifestly falsified by the historical record. Landes does not merely claim that by the nineteenth century Europeans had achieved an undeniable level of technical superiority over other societies; he argues that this achievement was the inevitable outcome of a longstanding superiority in Europe.
From the dawn of this millennium, Landes argues, the West had been the best: But in pressing this deeper argument about Western superiority, Landes goes overboard, lustily attacking all who disagree with him, and throwing out his arguments in blatant disregard [End Page ] for logic and consistency.
He becomes like the lawyer who, in order to defend his client from allegations about the theft of a vase from his neighbor, argues that 1 the vase never existed; 2 the vase is still in possession of the plaintiff; and 3 the vase belonged to his client in the first place.
Here is Landes on slavery and climate: He wins his intellectual battles—and not just because as author he can set up straw figures as his opponents. I am not sure about this part of his argument. It seems to me that the argument that industrial civilization was inherently unlikely to arise in the tropics hinges on an—implicit—argument that some features of tropical climates kept the Malthusian thermostat set at a low standard of living, and that this low median standard of living retarded development.
But it is not clear to me how this is supposed to have worked. But I find it incomplete. Thereafter innovation in China appears to flag.
Little seems to be done in developing further the high technologies like textiles, communication, precision metalworking clockmaking that provided the technological base on which the Industrial Revolution rested. It is far from clear to me why this was so.
The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor
Between and we think that the population of China grew from 80 million to million. It suggests a civilization in which colonization of internal frontiers and improvements in agricultural technology are avidly pursued, and in which living standards are a considerable margin above socio-cultural subsistence to support the strong growth in populations.
He managed to weave all the varied strands from the Protestant Ethic to Magna Carta to the European love of mechanical mechanism for its own sake together in a way that many attempt, but few accomplish. Had I been Landes I would have placed more stress on politics: the peculiar tax system of Imperial Spain, the deleterious effect of rule by Habsburgs and Habsburg puppets on northern Italy since and the deleterious effect of rule by Normans, Hohenstaufens, Valois, Aragonese, and Habsburgs on southern Italy since , the flight of the mercantile population of Antwerp north into the swamp called Amsterdam once they were subjected to the tender mercies of the Duke of Alva, more on expulsions of Moriscos, Jews, and French Protestants certainly the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes was an extraordinary shock to my seventeenth-century DeLong ancestors , the extraordinary tax burden levied on the Dutch mercantile economy by the cumulated debt of having had to spend from to fighting to achieve and preserve independence, and so forth.
I also would spend more time on Britain itself. Most of the answer is the Industrial Revolution. And some of the answer is as Jeffrey Williamson has argued that the burden of the first British Empire did indeed significantly slow—but not stop—industrialization.
Everything affects everything else, and when economic historians have an advantage over others it is because they know how to count things—and thus how to use arithmetic to make judgments of relative importance.
But the complaint that a book that tries to do world history in pages leaves stuff out is the complaint of a true grinch. First, openness is a willingness to borrow whatever is useful from abroad whatever the price in terms of injured elite pride or harm to influential interests. One thinks of Francis Bacon writing around of how three inventions—the compass, gunpowder, and the printing press—had totally transformed everything, and that all three of these came to Europe from China.
Second, openness is a willingness to trust your own eyes and the results of your own experiments, rather than relying primarily on old books or the pronouncements of powerful and established authorities. European cultures had enough, but perhaps only barely enough.
In short, economic success requires a government that is, as people used to say, an executive committee for managing the affairs of the bourgeoisie—a government that is responsive to and concerned for the well-being of a business class, a class who have a strong and conscious interest in rapid economic growth. A government not beholden to those who have an interest in economic growth is likely to soon turn into nothing more than a redistribution-oriented protection racket, usually with a very short time horizon.
Landes writes his book as his contribution to the project of building utopia—of building a much richer and more equal world, without the extraordinary divergences between standards of living in Belgium and Bangladesh, Mozambique and Mexico, Jordan and Japan that we have today.And why is it that Europeans are rich? And where people depend on slaves, there can be no initiative, no labor-saving devices, no great civilizations.
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From the dawn of this millennium, Landes argues, the West had been the best: first in clocks, first in sailing around the globe, and in consequence thereof, first in achieving true global superiority. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Professor Landes has another schema altogether. Permissions Icon Permissions.