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A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (Princeton Economic History of the Western World) (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 13. Juli 2007

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Winner of the 2008 Gold Book Medal in Finance/Investment/Economics, Independent Publisher Book Awards "Right or wrong, or perhaps somewhere in between, Clark's is about as stimulating an account of world economic history as one is likely to find. Let's hope that the human traits to which he attributes economic progress are acquired, not genetic, and that the countries that grow in population over the next 50 years turn out to be good at imparting them. Alternatively, we can simply hope he's wrong."--Benjamin M. Friedman, New York Times Book Review "Clark's idea-rich book may just prove to be the next blockbuster in economics. He offers us a daring story of the economic foundations of good institutions and the climb out of recurring poverty. We may not have cracked the mystery of human progress, but A Farewell to Alms brings us closer than before."--Tyler Cowen, New York Times "[C]lark is very good at piecing together figures from here and there, including those from isolated groups of hunter-gatherers alive today. He makes a plausible case for the basic pattern: for thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution, there was essentially no sustained improvement in mankind's general material standard of living, nor was there much variation from place to place around the world. The Industrial Revolution made all the difference."--Robert Solow, New York Review of Books "A Farewell to Alms asks the right questions, and it is full of fascinating details, like the speed at which information traveled over two millennia (prior to the 19th century, about one mile per hour). Clark's combination of passion and erudition makes his account engaging. When a light bulb goes off in my head, the first thing I ask myself is 'Would this be interest if it were true?' Clark's thesis definitely meets that test."--Samuel Bowles, Science "Mr. Clark...has produced a well written and thought-provoking thesis, refreshingly light on jargon and equations. It could well be the subject of debate for years to come."--The Economist "Gregory Clark's A Farewell to Alms is fully as absorbing, as memorable and as well written as [Jared] Diamond's remarkable bestseller. It deserves to be as widely read... [A]ny book that is as bold, as fascinating, as conscientiously argued and as politically incorrect as this one demands to be read."--Clive Crook, Financial Times "Obviously, we' ve got a controversial argument here. But Clark makes a compelling case for the idea that the fruits of industrialization were open to all societies, but only a handful seized the moment."--William R. Wineke, The Wisconsin State Journal "Gregory Clark's new book A Farewell to Alms is an investigation of both our nasty, brutish, and short past and our more prosperous present. Mr. Clark first makes the case that we owe our current prosperity to the gifts of the Industrial Revolution. He then attempts to explain why that revolution happened in 18th-century England."--Edward Glaeser, New York Sun "Economic history often conjures images of musty tomes, bygone eras that no one knows about and in general, scholarship that is dry and difficult to relate to. Gregory Clark's new book A Farewell to Alms conveys a different image. Offering a sweep of history from the border between antiquity and the medieval age, the book is an attempt at tackling grand themes."--Siddharth Singh, LiveMint "For a novel and somewhat dispiriting theory of economic divergence, read A Farewell to Alms, published this year, by Gregory Clark of the University of California at Davis. He doesn't accept the view, common among the utopians, that natural endowments like soil and water explain why rich nations are 50 times as prosperous as poor ones. How can differences in natural resources possibly explain Zimbabwe's misery or Singapore's wealth? Clark amasses an extraordinary collection of historical data to explain why the Industrial Revolution was born in western Europe, not Africa or India."--William Baldwin, Forbes "Clark's ferociously systematic expounding of an alternative to the institutional explanation does...provide many delightful insights, large and small, along the way. Some of the observations in this very well-written book do make for nice dinner party anecdotes."--Harold James, The American Interest "Comes now Gregory Clark, an economist who interestingly takes the side of culture. In an important new book, A Farewell to Alms Clark suggests that much of the world's remaining poverty is semi-permanent. Modern technology and management are widely available, but many societies can't take advantage because their values and social organization are antagonistic. Prescribing economically sensible policies (open markets, secure property rights, sound money) can't overcome this bedrock resistance."--Robert Samuelson, The Washington Post "A Farewell to Alms is a brave new work, rich in both detailed facts and big ideas. Clark clears away much of the tangled brush of theories of long-term economic growth that have grown up in recent decades. This is the most ambitious and far-reaching book on long-term economic history to appear in many years, perhaps since Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel."--Jack A. Goldstone, World Economics "Clark's book A Farewell to Alms is ... Ambitious, staking out an entire vision of world history... Clark's Malthusian model is forcefully argued."--Roger Gathman, Austin American-Statesman "[T]he author's engaging style and (relatively) jargon-free descriptions of the economic principles in play before, during, and after the Industrial Revolution in England turn this rich and detailed account into more of a sprint than a slog... Whatever your reaction to this decidedly un-PC take on economic aid, [A Farewell to Alms] serves as a useful explanation of how we got where we are today and a reminder that new approaches are needed to close the yawning gap between the world's richest and poorest societies."--Roberta Fusaro, Harvard Business Review "Clark argues the English evolved biologically in ways that created prosperity. Before you dismiss the notion, read this brilliant tour of economic history."--MoneySense Magazine "Clark adds substantively to an understanding of perhaps the important questions of this--or any--era: what makes economies grow, and why have some not experienced any success at all?...Alms is provocative, authoritative, insightful, readable, well documented, and an inescapable detour for anyone wanting to tackle economic growth and development topics and enter into these conversations."--A. R. Sanderson, Choice "Gregory Clark has written a fascinating book which is chock-full of insight and ideas. Clark paints on a big canvas and his deft handling of the puzzles and counterintuitive outcomes is delicious. 'No one,' he says, 'can claim to be truly intellectually alive without having understood and wrestled, at least a little, with these mysteries'. We are indebted to him for revealing more of them in such an electrifying fashion."--Ian R. Harper, The Melbourne Review "[A Farewell to Alms] is one of the most fascinating, and the most disturbing, historical works I have read. It seems to suggest that the gross inequality of our world has less to do with the inherent unfairness of global capitalism and more with scarcely ineradicable cultural difference... [T]his is economic history as you never read it before."--A.N. Wilson, The Daily Telegraph "Why do some nations get rich while others stay poor? What are the conditions that allow an economy to take off and grow? These questions have puzzled economists for many years. But no explanation is more startling than the one proposed by Gregory Clark in his book A Farewell to Alms."--Ross Gittins, Sydney Morning Herald "This is a fine book, bristling with interesting data and opinions, more extensive than this review can possibly convey. Readily accessible to non-fiction readers, this book should fire more debate about a historical episode of unfailing fascination."--Michael G. Sargent, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews "This is ... a remarkable book, with an unerring focus on the fundamentals of the Malthusian economy and the large-scale economic trends. It is a unique source of factual information, beautifully presented in almost 200 tables and figures, and will make an excellent textbook for college-level courses of history and economics."--Gerhard Meisenberg, Journal of Biosocial Science "[P]erhaps there is no higher praise for an author than to say that I disagreed with the arguments but liked the book. It made me think in new ways about the course of economic history. I recommend the book to anyone with an interest in the economic history of the world."--Rick Szostak, New Global Studies "I derived enormous stimulation from this book. At a superficial level, Clark offers a richly documented picture of England's economic history, put into perspective by comparisons with other parts of Europe and with the Far East, and sometimes even by references to amazing facts about ancient forager societies... More fundamentally, the layman gets a good understanding here of what made for the Industrial Revolution and how its preconditions evolved in England over a period of centuries. Clark accuses economists of being undereducated about history. This will be somewhat remedied if they read his provocative book."--Wolfgang Kasper, Policy "As a self-proclaimed exercise in 'big history' this work succeeds extraordinarily well: it is engaging and readable, and it renders abstruse economic models and empirical results accessible to nonspecialists."--Zorina Khan, Technology and Culture "A Farewell to Alms is ... worth scrutinizing. The book offers a distinct line of thought on evolutionary affairs. It is also valuable in historiographical terms as it recalls historical explanation forsaken due to shifting scholarly fashions."--Ian Morley, The History Teacher "Gregory Clark has written a stimulating, provocative, witty, and ambitious book. It is accessible to the uninitiated and a pleasure to read. Clark's valuable insights are presented with an admirable forcefulness, as are his grievous errors. In short, this is a book very much worth reading for the sake of argument and debate."--Jan De Vries, Journal of Economic History "Clark has provided a sensible and readable account of important frontier research in economic history."--Peter Howitt, Journal of Interdisciplinary History "Gregory Clark has given us a very provocative work. It is economic history, but with strong implications for contemporary problems. His quantitative techniques for demonstrating such phenomena as the innumeracy of pre-industrial humanity and the evolution of the speed of information flows are clever."--Arnold Kling, Journal of Bioeconomics


Why are some parts of the world so rich and others so poor? Why did the Industrial Revolution - and the unprecedented economic growth that came with it - occur in eighteenth-century England, and not at some other time, or in some other place? Why didn't industrialization make the whole world rich - and why did it make large parts of the world even poorer? In "A Farewell to Alms", Gregory Clark tackles these profound questions and suggests a new and provocative way in which culture - not exploitation, geography, or resources - explains the wealth, and the poverty, of nations. Countering the prevailing theory that the Industrial Revolution was sparked by the sudden development of stable political, legal, and economic institutions in seventeenth-century Europe, Clark shows that such institutions existed long before industrialization. He argues instead that these institutions gradually led to deep cultural changes by encouraging people to abandon hunter-gatherer instincts-violence, impatience, and economy of effort-and adopt economic habits-hard work, rationality, and education.

The problem, Clark says, is that only societies that have long histories of settlement and security seem to develop the cultural characteristics and effective workforces that enable economic growth. For the many societies that have not enjoyed long periods of stability, industrialization has not been a blessing. Clark also dissects the notion, championed by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel, that natural endowments such as geography account for differences in the wealth of nations. A brilliant and sobering challenge to the idea that poor societies can be economically developed through outside intervention, "A Farewell to Alms" may change the way global economic history is understood.

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Since the sixteenth century the scholarly community in the West has accepted the existence of scientific laws. Over the past four centuries modern science has been preoccupied with the discovery and practical application of these laws. This has revolutionized both the natural sciences and human civilization. While the humanities have also made progress during this time, their results have been less remarkable. They have been unable to account for the forces underlying the changing fortunes of human society. The book by Gregory Clark is another heroic attempt to discover the laws underlying the course of human history.

In 1930 Corrado Gini published his Harris Foundation lecture: "The Cyclical Rise and Fall of Population". Gini understood much of the wheel of history, but made - because of the lack of empirical data - the wrong assumption, that the well-to-do have always fewer children than the poor. Indeed, such is the situation since the last quarter of the nineteenth century until up to today. For theoretical reasons Oded Galor and Moav Omer in their seminal paper "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth" (2002) came to the conclusion that before 1850 the upper and medium stratum of society must have been more surviving children than the poor. Clark could confirm this assumption with empirical data of his own, and he makes this finding to the cornerstone of his theoretical derivations.

It is a pity that neither Galor and Moav nor Clark are aware of a large body of historical data, supporting their fundamental assumptions and claims.
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Farewell to Alms erklärt sehr anschaulich und kurzweilig und anhand vielfältiger Daten weshalb vor der industriellen Revolution (um 1800) jeder technische Fortschritt auf lange Sicht lediglich zu Bevölkerungswachstum und nicht zu einem Wachstum des durchschnittlichen Pro-Kopf-Einkommens führte. Gleichzeitig liefert er eine Erklärung dafür, weshalb viele zentralafrikanische Länder heute nicht in Bezug auf das Pro-Kopf-Einkommen nicht einmal halb so gut dastehen wie in vorindustriellen Zeiten. Wirtschaftsgeschichte besteht natürlich aus mehr als ein paar Wachstumstheorien, aber die klare Orientierung des Buchs an wenigen Erklärungsmustern hilft die Zeitläufe besser zu strukturieren und gibt viele Denkanstöße.
Die gesamte Vorlesung zum Buch findet sich im Netz. Gregory Clark kommt sehr symphatisch rüber und die Veranstaltung ist insgesamt kurzweilig und sehr bereichernd. Er verbreitent allerdings nicht nur in Nebensätzen auch ein paar Ideen als unumstößliche Wahrheiten, die für einen westamerikanischen Wirtschaftswissenschaftler nicht überraschen, für unsere Breiten aber vieleicht etwas zu sozialdawinistisch sind. [...]
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Gregory Clark zählt zu den wichtigsten Ökonomen die sich derzeit mit Global- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte befassen. Spätestens, nachdem sein Buch wie eine Bombe auf den internationalen Buchmärkten eingeschlagen hat. Ich hatte das Privileg, dieses Werk im Rahmen eines "guided reading" ein ganzes Semester zu sezieren.

Die wesentliche Theorie Clarks besteht in der sogenannten Theorie der "downward mobility" von bürgerlichen Werten in einer Gesellschaft. Damit will er die in der Globalgeschichte gestellte Kernfrage, warum einige Länder reich und andere arm seien, lösen. Die downward mobility ist im wesentlichen eine Frage der sozialen Selektion. Die Kinder reicher Eltern hätten höhere Überlebenschancen als die von ärmeren Eltern. Im Klartext, die Armen sterben aus, ihre Positionen/Jobs werden von den Sprößlingen der Reichen übernommen. Damit wird die gesamte Gesellschaft automatisch auf gewisse "bürgerliche" Werte (Fleiß, Hygiene, etc. )hin nomiert. Und diesen Prozess sieht Clark am stärksten in England ausgeformt, wodurch auch die Grundlagen für die Industrialisierung, für Clark die wesenlichste Cäsur in der Menschheitsgeschichte (neben der neolithischen Revolution), gelegt werden. Die Beweisführung für seine Theorie tritt er an, indem er die Testamente einer englischen Stadt auswertet.

Man kann Clark sicher nicht vorwerfen, hier starke eurozenristische Positionen zu beziehen. Alleine die Schilderung der hygienischen Zustände unserer europäischen Vorfahren im Vergleich zu asiatischen Verhältnissen, zeigen auf, wie rückständig unser Kontinent in vielen Bereichen war.
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Man kann wohl sagen,
dass Gregory Clark eine sehr einseitige Sicht auf die Geschichte darstellt.
Es ist aber eine Sicht, die mir bisher ganz unbekannt war.
Deshalb lese ich dieses Buch mit großem Interesse.

Einfach zu lesen ist es nicht, weil der Autor als seriöser Wissenschaftler erheblichen Aufwand treibt, seine Thesen zu belegen, .. und weil es in englischer Sprache geschrieben ist.
Immerhin aber ist die Sprache, die er bemüht, sehr plastisch und humorvoll, braucht aber, zumindest für mich, ein Dictionary.

Das Buch ist Klassse.
Einen guten Einstieg findet man auf Youtube.
So bin ich auch auf dieses Buch gekommen..
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x989a2b64) von 5 Sternen 71 Rezensionen
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HASH(0x989ed8c4) von 5 Sternen The Descent of Economic Man 13. Oktober 2007
Von Omer Belsky - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Did you know that the average person's life in the Stone Age was no worse then that of the average 17th century Briton? That given their more varied nutrition and lesser workload, the lives of hunter gatherers were superior to both? That the Black Death caused a major improvement in European standards of livings during the 14th to 16th centuries? That the institutional conditions for economic growth, as normally understood, were better in the Middle Ages then they are today?

These are only few of the mind blowing and well documented claims put forward in Gregory Clark's breathtaking - there is no other word - "A Farewell to Alms". Clark confronts the greatest mystery of human history - why did the West leap forward, breaking away from millennia of stasis, to create the modern, industrial world? Clark not only refutes most of the common wisdom about the rise of the West, but also brings forth an astonishing array of data in support of a radically new interpretation. No doubt some specialists would disagree with Clark's conclusions; I have my doubts, too - but Clark's methodology, his thoroughness, and the rigorous manner in which he addresses a huge quantity of data makes "A Farewell to Alms" an instant classic and a model for all economic history.

Clark describes world economic history as essentially a two-phase story. The first phase, from the dawn of time to the Industrial Revolution, featured a barely changing world governed by the cold and remorseless laws of Malthus and Darwin. But those same laws brought on a slow revolution, and a new phenomenon was emerging - first in Europe, and slower in India, China and Japan - Economic Man.

Reverend and Economist Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was the first to thus describe the world economy: in his model, people's wages were equal to the subsistence level; whenever wages increased, population increased, and pushed wages back to subsistence. Therefore, Clark argues, throughout history population was at equilibrium - whenever new technology increased productivity, the result was not higher living conditions, but higher population. Thus the difference in living conditions between times and places were caused by such effects as the different in hygiene level (improvements in hygiene ironically pushed down living standards by allowing people to survive on meager wages) and death by war and pestilence (which, equally ironically, pushed up wages).

And then, in the 18th century, in a relatively small island nation, everything changed. The Industrial Revolution transformed the world, or at least England, Europe, the US, Australia, Japan and nowadays China and South East Asia. Mankind broke free of the Malthusian trap. Productivity growth rose in two orders of magnitude; Productivity gains no longer led only to population increases, but also to increase in the standards of living. The West today is rich beyond the wildest dreams of its 17th century ancestors.

What happened? Most explanations suggest that Western Institutions were somehow improving: Markets were becoming freer, property rights more secure, the legal system more efficient, etc. Perhaps technology led returns on investment in human capital to increase

Not so, says Clark. Markets were much less regulated in pre modern times then they are today. Property rights, in England at least, more secure. And the return on human capital - as measured, for example, in the difference between the wages of master artisans and simple workers - decreased or stayed unchanged.

Furthermore, during the Industrial Revolution, hard work didn't pay; Inventors and Innovators repeatedly failed to reap the fruits of their inventions. Despite the gigantic leap in textile productivity, hardly anyone became really rich from textiles. Competition and knowledge leaks drove prices down, and the benefits were the consumer's, not the manufacturers'.

What changed, Clark argues, is not the environment in which the economic actors operated. The actors themselves were no longer the same.

In a Malthusian world, population was at equilibrium: barring efficiency growth, it did not increase. But while failing to increase, it was nonetheless very dynamic: a Darwinian struggle for survival, in which the Rich had many offspring, and the poor few. Thus, Clark suggests, through a combination to cultural transfers and Darwinian selection, the population changed. Upper class qualities spread to lower classes; Society was becoming Middle Class; Economic Man was born.

Or shall we say, selected?

As evidence, Clark sites several changes that did happen between 1000-1750: The Rise of Literacy, the Fall of Interpersonal Violence, the lengthening of working hours and the decrease in the time preference of money, which meant that people learned to postpone satisfaction. "Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work [became] values for communities that... [had been] spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving." (p.166)

The reason this process happened first in Europe and not in China or India, Clark argues, is because Europe was the most Darwinian. In other societies, the difference in birth rate between rich and poor was not as dramatic.

Clark's book is both exciting and troubling. Because it argues that the difference between the rich and poor nations is not in the way they organize their economies but in Cultural and likely genetic differences, it challenges both the right wing belief in the superiority of free markets, and the left wing faith in the equality of mankind. As a believer in both, I am troubled.

I don't think Clark's book is complete: If the differences between Modern and Pre Modern people are genetic, they should be discoverable in our DNA. If they are cultural, the mechanism of cultural transmission should be explored. And Clark doesn't say anything about democracy - is it a coincidence that democracy flourished side by side with the economy?

"A Farewell to Alms" is hands down the best book I read all year, and one of the best books on history, economics, or sociology I know. It is everything I look for in non-fiction - smart and elegantly written, challenging and illuminating, and grounded in both theory and empirical data. This one's for the ages.
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HASH(0x98a3d150) von 5 Sternen Survival of the Richest 26. August 2007
Von Izaak VanGaalen - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
The perennial question asked by economic historians is why some countries grow excedingly rich and others remain miserably poor. It is a question that writers of "big history" have asked: notably Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (Bantam Classics), David S Landes in The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor, and Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. These works rely heavily on theory beyond the mere retelling of certain facts and events. It is in this tradition that Gregory Clark, economic historian at the University of California at Davis, presents the economic history of the the world. The underlying theory that informs his version is that social and possibly biological evolution explains economic growth. The specter of social darwinism haunts his imagination.

For Clark the critical stage of social evolution is when a society is able to emerge from the Malthusian trap of poverty. It is at this point where they diverge from the pack and actually experience social progress and economic growth.

Regarding the Malthusian trap, Clark argues that the well-being of the average person around 1800 was no better than the average hunter-gatherer 10,000 years earlier. According to Malthus' "Essay on the Principle of Population," with every technological advance that increases the efficiency of production, there is a corresponding increase in population, thus neutralizing any gains made in production. In short, there are just more mouths to feed. The principle being that the population only grows as fast as the food supply.

That was the case until the Industrial Revolution. After 1800, something happened in England that caused production to outpace population growth. It was the first time in history that a society actually escaped from the Malthusian trap. For the first time incomes and consumption per capita began to rise. To find out why this occurred, Clark undertook a study of wills in England going back hundreds of years. He discovered that the rich had twice as many offspring as the poor, thus they outpopulated the poor. The rich brought with them certain skills and behaviors such as literacy, numeracy, work discipline, deferral of gratification, etc., that eventually permeated the rest of society in a downwardly mobile fashion. This is truely an original hypothesis. It was this evolutinary shift, according to Clark, that triggered the Industrial Revolution and set England apart from other countries

Why did England take off and others did not? Why the Great Divergence? The phrase is taken from Kenneth Pomeranz's book The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy. which deals with the same subject. Clark asks why the gap between rich and poor countries went from 4:1 in 1800 to 50:1 today. His answer is that in countries such as China and Japan the rich did not produce enough offspring to spread their productive behaviors downward through the rest of the population. East Asian and other economies were not able to push their agarian economies out of the Malthusian trap.

The title of this book is a pun on the title of a Hemingway novel, suggesting that alms or aid to the poor will do them no good. Clark is in the camp of those who believe that a change in behavior or, in this case, an advancement in the evolutionary process will allow poor countries to emerge from poverty. The implications of this are very controversial, to say the least, and still very inconclusive. Nevertheless, it is an interesting explanation of economic history that will be debated for years to come.
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HASH(0x98a3d390) von 5 Sternen Data for Tough Love, not handouts 25. Juli 2008
Von Victor Sidhu - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Clark says he spent 20 years writing this. I believe it. Despite frequent
amusing anecdotes, this is not a fun read. Clark is an academic who has hammered together what may be decades of project notes, charts, tables and yes, you know it is an academic writing when there are 24 pages of references and a bonus technical appendix.

His five main conclusions are: 1)mankind in 1800 was no better off than the caveman 100,000 years earlier, 2)since 1800, the unskilled worker has been the major beneficiary of the potentially stunning fruits of the industrial/technology revolution, 3) modern production techniques demand workers who exhibit discipline, hard work, meticulous attention to task completion, patience,literacy, thrift, prudence, 4)handouts of money to developing diverging countries where workers have poor attitudes are wasted(i.e. wasted "Alms"), 5)happiness does not depend upon absolute well being.

I like all the data he has, especially the trove from England 1200-1870,
and can use some of it in my Megatrend research, but will the average reader wade through the numbers and charts? I strongly disagree with his comment on page 289 that demography is unimportant in the U.S. and UK because of reductions in fertility. My research suggests that the reduction in fertility in the U.S. and most industrialized nations is leading to negative economic consequences that will rival an asteroid hit. Maybe the birthrate at UC-Davis is still OK?

Why Clark gets into the "happiness" issue is not clear? After he has demonstrated that good work ethic people are well rewarded with enormous per capita income, he bursts our balloon with the notion that it won't make you happy, unless you have more than your next door neighbor. For a more useful definition of happiness, Gregory should check out the research papers from the University of Chicago's Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, or see his book "Flow" published in 1990.
59 von 70 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x98a3d6f0) von 5 Sternen Original, Fascinating, Thought Provoking 10. August 2007
Von Daniel R. Luke - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
This book is absolutely amazing, on a par with Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel.

The industrial revolution allowed England to escape what has been called the Malthusian Trap--a condition common to every pre-industrial society. In the Malthusian Trap, any recognizeable gain in wealth by a society would result in a slight increase in population. As the population would rise, however, living standards would go down, and the death rate would go up. For this reason, population growth remained at a glacial pace of 0.005% for thousands of years. Then the industrial revolution happened. For the first time, population and prospertiy could increase in lockstep, trending ever upwards over long periods of time.

By why did this happen in some places and not in others? Despite its many benefits, why has it proven to be so difficult to export the industrial model to other areas of the world? These are but a few of the questions that Clark addresses in his original and thought provoking book.

What I have taken away from this book is that a lot of good will and human effort has been wasted by not taking in to account the significant differences that exist between people and cultures. We falsely assume that the fruits of industrialization are so obviously desirable that other peoples should do whatever they have to do to make the necessary adaptations to reap its rewards. But we are largely ignorant of why this can't so easily be done. The industrial revolution came to be within the context of a certain unique culture, and it makes sense that it could not be easily duplicated among other people with different values and ways of life.

In attempting to explain the differences in wealth between one population and the next, Clark's approach is cultural. But here's the key: these cultural differences were shaped by selective pressures experienced by some peoples and not others. The conditions which gave rise to the industrialization of England were not present among other populations and are not even to this day. That is why it has proven to be be so difficult to duplicate elsewhere. His arguments in support of this thesis are clear, persuasive, original and rigorous. This book is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the monumental importantance of economic and cultural differences between cultures. The questions he raises adds a new dimension to ones perspective. I predict that at some point, when discussing solutions to the poverty which billions still confront, you will not be able to post a good argument without also being familiar with his.
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HASH(0x98a3d90c) von 5 Sternen 5 star questions, 1 star answers 11. März 2009
Von Declan Trott - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
For most of human history, material living standards have been static. Over the last century or two, large parts of the world have broken away from this equilibrium and enjoyed massive increases in income. Gregory Clark sets himself to answer three big questions: Why did living standards stagnate for so long? What allowed England to be the first country to break the trap? And why were some countries able to follow and surpass the leader while others have become even worse off?

His answer to the first question is Malthus's: any increase in living standards was, over a period of generations, eaten up by an increasing population facing diminishing returns in. Thus the labouring Englishman (or woman) of 1800 was, in terms of stature, diet and leisure, worse off than a Stone Age hunter-gatherer, or indeed his counterpart of 1400 who benefited from the shortage of workers following the Black Death. The many advances in productive technology that occurred before that time merely served to increase population. While this is an old argument, it is illustrated with a wealth of historical data on population and living standards, and a simple graphical model which illustrates starkly the inversion of economic vice and virtue in this world: war and disease raise incomes while peace and hygiene lower them. Thus "Europeans were lucky to be a filthy people who squatted happily above their own feces".

How did England escape? Clark argues that the usual explanations are all unsatisfactory. Invoking the Enlightenment, Protestant Reformation or Scientific Revolution merely pushes the question back one stage, even if the link is valid. The timing of changes in family size and the skill premium does not fit human capital based explanations, while it is hard to find evidence of any institutional changes at the crucial time. Intellectual property was still very poorly protected (many of the great textile inventors died in poverty) while the other elements of a market-based economy had been in place for centuries. Indeed Clark argues that, by many measures, medieval England had better economic incentives than England today - lower taxes, inflation and government debt, a higher skill premium, and fewer restrictions on land use. The Industrial Revolution saw a massive increase in the supply of innovations without any apparent change in incentives.

There were, however, four crucial changes over this time. Interest rates fell from double to single digits. Literacy rose. Society became much less violent. And work became longer and more disciplined. This environment rewarded middle-class values of patience, diligence, acquisitiveness and self control. Clark suggests that these values were in fact being biologically selected for: the rich had more surviving children than the poor, and their children inherited their values, whether by genetic or cultural mechanisms. It was the long-run evolutionary change in the character of the people, rather than any short-run change in policies or institutions, that did the trick. This has the merit of focusing of differences between England, on the one hand, and Asia on the other: while Japan, China and India did have many of the same market institutions, they still had higher interest rates and lower literacy. What data is available for China and Japan also suggest that the rich enjoyed a much smaller reproductive advantage in those countries, perhaps linked to the fact that their populations quadrupled or quintupled between 1300 and 1750, while England barely recovered its losses from the plague.

This leads naturally to the third question: why the Great Divergence? Poor countries, especially colonies had "the cheapest labor in the world; security of property; complete freedom to import technicians, machinery, capital . . . sea routes; and access to the largest market in the world." This sounds like an optimistic list of China's advantages ten or twenty years ago. Why were the results not similar?

Clark's answer is labour quality. Using mainly evidence from the textile industry, he argues that low-wage countries had much higher labour-output ratios (as would be expected given relative prices), but not lower capital-output ratios. They had to use more workers on the same machines to get the same output, even with imported technicians and managers. This would only be rational if the low wage workers were intrinsically less efficient: less diligent, less punctual and less disciplined; and there are plenty of recorded complaints along those lines. Thus investing in low-wage countries was not particularly profitable, and there was no tendency for incomes to converge. Indeed, since modern medicine has reduced mortality at any given level of income, we can have societies such as the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa, in which the population continues to grow despite the lowest living standards anywhere in recorded history.

England had the Industrial Revolution because of natural selection, and poor counties are poor because their workers are intrinsically less productive. This is a bold pair of hypotheses, which would no doubt attract vociferous condemnation even if backed by watertight evidence and presented in the most modest and unassuming way. This they emphatically are not. Confining our attention to substance rather than style, the evidence is thin on crucial points, and could bear other interpretations. On the question of inheritance of productive characteristics, rather than simply cash and connections, there is only an unreferenced and unadorned statement that rich fathers tended to have rich sons even when the inheritances were made insignificant by large families. There is also no attempt to show that the theory is quantitatively consistent with the observed selection pressure of income and plausible values of inheritability. The textile productivity data could be explained by efficiency wages, or climate, or the employment of assertive, unruly men rather than docile, obedient girls. [Edit: there is actually quite a big literature on this.]

At a broader level, it seems natural to link natural selection and labour quality, thus turning the two theories into one. However, this sits uneasily with the variability of growth in individual countries across time, as Clark admits: "Regarding the underlying cause of the differences in labour quality, there is no satisfactory theory. Economies seem . . . to alternate more or less randomly between relatively energetic phases and periods of somnolence." Clark also mentions the huge increase in earnings enjoyed by workers moving from the Third World to the First, without seeming to notice the obvious problem this poses for the labor quality theory.

But if the natural selection theory, on the admission of its author, is a poor explanation for variation in labour quality across countries and time, it seems doubly poor as an explanation for the Industrial Revolution in England. If this is viewed, as Clark does, as an upsurge in the supply of innovation without any change in demand, the connection with bourgeois values seems rather weak. Even if these values are inherited and selected for, it is hard to see how patience, workaholism, and pacifism lead automatically to innovation. One could even argue that they would crush it or crowd it out. And since innovators in the pre- and early industrial era typically received meager rewards, selection directly on innovation is even less plausible. One could perhaps make a case for selection on literacy reaching a critical point that allowed communication of ideas and thus continuous, sustained innovation, but then we are back in the world of the discontinuous, one-off Enlightenment/Revolution/Revolution theories that Clark abhors.

Perhaps, however, this is where we should be. After all, the Industrial Revolution was a one-off, discontinuous historic event. (The demographic transition to lower, deliberately controlled fertility that allows final escape from the Malthusian trap is not, but existing theories seem to explain this pretty well, and Clark adds little or nothing.) We can increase our understanding of this event by careful study of the place and time where it happened, and places and times where it didn't, but until we invent a time machine to move between parallel universes there will always be a bit of mystery remaining.

Even if the answers are unsatisfactory, however, the questions remain. And A Farewell to Alms does a great job of posing the questions. It also contains many insights on the timing, composition, demographics and beneficiaries of the Industrial Revolution. This book deserves everything it gets, both in praise and in blame.

Originally published in Agenda 15(3), 2008.
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