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By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the conditions that have allowed for modern economic growth in the last two centuries
  • Analyze the influence of public policies on the long-run economic growth of an economy

Let’s begin with a brief overview of the spectacular patterns of economic growth around the world in the last two centuries, commonly referred to as the period of modern economic growth    . (Later in the chapter we will discuss lower rates of economic growth and some key ingredients for economic progress.) Rapid and sustained economic growth is a relatively recent experience for the human race. Before the last two centuries, although rulers, nobles, and conquerors could afford some extravagances and although economies rose above the subsistence level, the average person’s standard of living had not changed much for centuries.

Progressive, powerful economic and institutional changes started to have a significant effect in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. According to the Dutch economic historian Jan Luiten van Zanden , slavery-based societies, favorable demographics, global trading routes, and standardized trading institutions that spread with different empires set the stage for the Industrial Revolution to succeed. The Industrial Revolution    refers to the widespread use of power-driven machinery and the economic and social changes that resulted in the first half of the 1800s. Ingenious machines—the steam engine, the power loom, and the steam locomotive—performed tasks that otherwise would have taken vast numbers of workers to do. The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain, and soon spread to the United States, Germany, and other countries.

The jobs for ordinary people working with these machines were often dirty and dangerous by modern standards, but the alternative jobs of that time in peasant agriculture and small-village industry were often dirty and dangerous, too. The new jobs of the Industrial Revolution typically offered higher pay and a chance for social mobility. A self-reinforcing cycle began: New inventions and investments generated profits, the profits provided funds for new investment and inventions, and the investments and inventions provided opportunities for further profits. Slowly, a group of national economies in Europe and North America emerged from centuries of sluggishness into a period of rapid modern growth. During the last two centuries, the average rate of growth of GDP per capita in the leading industrialized countries has averaged about 2% per year. What were times like before then? Read the following Clear It Up feature for the answer.

What were economic conditions like before 1870?

Angus Maddison, a quantitative economic historian, led the most systematic inquiry into national incomes before 1870. His methods recently have been refined and used to compile GDP per capita estimates from year 1 C.E. to 1348. [link] is an important counterpoint to most of the narrative in this chapter. It shows that nations can decline as well as rise. The declines in income are explained by a wide array of forces, such as epidemics, natural and weather-related disasters, the inability to govern large empires, and the remarkably slow pace of technological and institutional progress. Institutions are the traditions, laws, and so on by which people in a community agree to behave and govern themselves. Such institutions include marriage, religion, education, and laws of governance. Institutional progress is the development and codification of these institutions to reinforce social order, and thus, economic growth.

One example of such an institution is the Magna Carta (Great Charter), which the English nobles forced King John to sign in 1215. The Magna Carta codified the principles of due process, whereby a free man could not be penalized unless his peers had made a lawful judgment against him. This concept was later adopted by the United States in its own constitution. This social order may have contributed to England’s GDP per capita in 1348, which was second to that of northern Italy.

In the study of economic growth, a country’s institutional framework plays a critical role. [link] also shows relative global equality for almost 1,300 years. After this, we begin to see significant divergence in income (not shown in table).

(Source: Bolt and van Zanden. “The First Update of the Maddison Project. Re-Estimating Growth Before 1820.” 2013)
Gdp per capita estimates in current international dollars from ad 1 to 1348
Year Northern Italy Spain England Holland Byzantium Iraq Egypt Japan
1 $800 $600 $600 $600 $700 $700 $700 -
730 - - - - - $920 $730 $402
1000 - - - - $600 $820 $600 -
1150 - - - - $580 $680 $660 $520
1280 - - - - - - $670 $527
1300 $1,588 $864 $892 - - - $610 -
1348 $1,486 $907 $919 - - - - -

Another fascinating and underreported fact is the high levels of income, compared to others at that time, attained by the Islamic Empire Abbasid Caliphate—which was founded in present-day Iraq in 730 C.E. At its height, the empire spanned large regions of the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain until its gradual decline over 200 years.

Questions & Answers

what is division of labour
Dennis Reply
division of labour can be defined as the separation of task to individuals in any economic system to specialize on it.
Ahmad
what is demand curve
Victoria Reply
demand curve is a downward sloping economic graph that shows the relationship between the price of product and the quantity of the product demanded.
Ahmad
What is demand
Frank Reply
It refers to the quantity of a commodity purchased in the market at a price and at a point of time.
Basanta
refers to amount of commodities a consumer is willing and able to buy at particular price within a period of time
Clifford
It is the ability and willingness a customer buys a product or service at a particular price, place and time while other things remaining constant or the same
kum
In which case is opportunity cost is zero
Francis Reply
where no alternative is available
Bhartendu
who is the father of economic
Omar Reply
Adam Smith
Suraj
ok
Tony
Adam Smith
Francis
Adam smith
Opana
Adam Smith
Basanta
What is monopoly
Mauthoor Reply
it an economic situation where one individual controls the essential commodities or value product for maximum profit
James
monopoly is a market situation in which there is only one producer of a good or service which has no close substitutes
eliano
is where only one person is solely the price taker
Francis
what is Monopoly
Dauda Reply
The word Monopoly is a Latin word. it is the combination of two words-Mono means single and Poly means seller. thus Monopoly means single seller. but this is not the full meaning of Monopoly. Monopoly must produce a product which does not have close substitute in the market.
Basanta
Monopoly is define as a firm in an industry with very high barriers to entry.
Favour
If close substitute is available, Monopoly will be a king without a crown.
Basanta
what does it array
Cbdishakur Reply
what are the differences between monopoly and.oligopoly
Onome Reply
what are the difference between monopoly and oligopoly
Cbdishakur
The deference between Monopoly and Oligopoly: Monopoly means:A single-firm-Industry producing and selling a product having no close business and Oligopoly means:A market structure where a few sellers compete with each other and each controls a significant portion of market .
Basanta
so that the price-output policy one affects the other.
Basanta
what are difference between physical policy and monotory policy
hon
what is economic
Emakpor Reply
what is economic
Cbdishakur
the word economic was derived from the Greek word oikos (a house)and mein(to manage) which in effect meant managing a household with the limited funds available 🙂.
Basanta
good excample about scarsity
hon
An Enquiry into the nature and causes of wealth Nations, this book clearly defined what economic is🙂🙂🙏🙏 thank you...
Basanta
good example about scarcity: money,time, energy, human or natural resources. Scarcity of resources implies that there supply is very much limited in relation to demand.
Basanta
equilibrium is a situation in which economic forces such as demand and supply are balanced and in the absence of external influences,the value of economic variables will not change
Onome Reply
hmnn
Emakpor
marginal cost and marginal revenue is equilibrium .
Kho
yessss
Basanta
what is equilibrium
Rodrice Reply
policy prescriptions for unemployment
Jeslyne Reply
Am working on it
Blacks
Study
Janelle
study
simeon
what are the factors effecting demand sedule
Kalimu Reply
we should talk about more important topics, you can search it on Google n u will find your answer we should try to focus on how we can improve our society using economics
shubham
so good night
hon
Why do people buy more grapes in December than in July?
lungi
ways of improving human capital
kelly Reply
what is human capital
kelly
Capital can be defined as man made assets use in production .
Abdulai
What is the differences between central Bank And Commercial Bank ?. 2 for each
Abdulai
Two types of bank clearing house.
Abdulai
what are the most durable assets of a bank
Ngongang

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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