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Paperback The Wealth and Poverty of Nations : Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor Book

ISBN: 0393318885

ISBN13: 9780393318883

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations : Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor

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Book Overview

The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is David S. Landes's acclaimed, best-selling exploration of one of the most contentious and hotly debated questions of our time: Why do some nations achieve economic success while others remain mired in poverty? The answer, as Landes definitively illustrates, is a complex interplay of cultural mores and historical circumstance. Rich with anecdotal evidence, piercing analysis, and a truly astonishing range of erudition,...

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The Culture (and Geography) of Economic Success

David Landes, retired history and economics professor from Harvard University, has written an epic and grandiose work of economic history that attempts nothing less than to explain why some societies were economically successful and why others weren't over the last 1000 years. He has not retired, however, from academic controversy. In the politically correct discourse of today's universities it simply not fashionable to attribute economic success to cultural factors. He doesn't hesitate to demolish along the way arguments of those who explain the West's success in terms of exploitation of the Third World, imperialism, colonialism, and racism. These may have been symptoms of the West's success but not the causes. The breadth of this work is staggering: he covers not only economics, but technology, religion, military history, cultural practices, politics, and geography. Some of the determinants of economic success are as follows: Geography. The first chapter is called "Nature's Inequalities." Landes points out that the environmental determinism of the past has given geography a bad name, but that recent scholarship has seen a revival of the determinant effects of geography, climate, and natural resources. ( Such as Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel".) Extreme heat creates parasites, germs, and illnesses that have hampered countries located around the equator; whereas, Europe and North America has been favored by cold winters that kill dangerous pests and germs. We must not rule out geography as a determinant of economic success. Property Rights. Along with Hernando DeSoto ("The Mystery of Capital"), Landes believes property rights started the engine of capitalism. In Europe, in the late Middle Ages, peasants gradually gained property rights from the landed aristocracy, and were able to create and sustain businesses. In Asia, the aristocratic rulers owned everything and were unwilling to relinquish control, and, thus, held back economic growth for centuries. Religion. Christianity was a positive force for capitalism in that it separated church from state power, and, thereby, opened the door to pluralism. Diversity of opinion was not tolerated in Asian and Islamic societies; only the rulers were allowed access to new knowledge and its uses. Openess to new ideas and the ability to exploit them was one of the keys to European success. Science and Technology. Certain key inventions and the dissemination of these technologies throughout society was what caused the Europeans to excel at the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Modern Age. The examples given by Landes are eyeglasses (enabling craftsmen to stay productive beyond age 40), the mechanical clock (widely used in Europe, but hoarded by rulers in Asian societies), printing (invented by Chinese, but widely used only in Europe), gunpowder (again, invented by the Chinese, fully exploited in Europe), the sextant (invented by the Arabs, but widely used by the E

Packed with Knowledge!

David S. Landes has written an extraordinary economic history that will open your eyes about countries' economic flops and good fortune. He also covers what makes a country achieve - and keep - great economic success. The book will appeal not only to economic history buffs, but also to the average person who needs to know how to keep a company or a country from economic trouble. Not to mention, he offers lots of great cocktail party anecdotes to impress your friends. Landes builds on solid economic data, but his unusual factual nuggets and vivid commentary are what make the book such a pleasure to read. In an age where politicians seek to make sure America stays economically relevant amid huge trade friction, We believe this book is a must-read for not just the chief executive officer, but for the rank-and-file workers who want to make sure they will be winners, not losers, in international trade. Landes has cooked up a great feast of economic history. Come, draw up a chair to the table and partake of this rich bounty.

Diversity is a resource; cultural values matter

Professor Landes has executed a tour de force, a deep, penetrating work that should be required of all college students. He attends to the historic question: Why are some nations so rich and others so poor?Geography matters, e.g., cold weather countries do economically better than tropical. Climate matters, e.g.,moderate climates are better for growth than are extreme climates. Technology matters e.g., eyeglasses added years to the productive work of skilled crafstment hundrds of years ago. Most of all, culture matters. Landes indirectly yet quite adroitly shows that diversity in all its forms is a resource and that nations benefit from diversity and their other resources in matters of economic and human development if -- perhaps only if -- that nation forges consensus around common values: political and economic freedom; private property and the rule of law; a system of progression and success through merit; and education, training and entrepreneurship.The anecdotes are plentiful. The data are useful. The scope of the work is incredible. The message is clear and well made. Sure, the most politically correct skeptics will carp. But the world still has not yet witnessed a major economic power between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. A small portion of the world's population produces an abundance of the globe's wealth (and, yes, of course, consumes much of what it makes). And the link between political freedom (and its correlates) and economic growth is very clear. Tyranny eventually fails. Technology will eventually be adopted and exploited.A nation's common, progressive, evolving, empowering culture provides the template for economic development and success. Full marks, professor.

An excellent overview of civilizations and progress

How sad it is that people feel compelled to politicize works such as these and Diamond's GG & S. Since Diamond's book ends at just about the point where this one begins, and because they are talking about necessary precursors to modern civilization on the one hand, and the era of that civilization itself on the other, one need not choose one view or the other. That is, unless everything must be sacrificed to the politicization of ideas. Some things are just true, boys and girls, and while both authors will certainly admit that historical causes are inevitably overdetermined, this book (and Diamond's) quite simply hits the nail on the head in comparing cultures that have "progressed" (to use a politically loaded term) to those that have not. Many of Landes' points are not in dispute; for instance, the results in China, and much later, Japan, due to the closing off of their cultures to outside influences. Another is the oft-mentioned ties within Islamic culture of religion to secular knowledge, and the subordination of the latter to the former. But no matter; anything can be shamed, at least temporarily, by crying racism, or accusing one of a lack of concern, or eurocentrism, etc. For real scholars, though, the point is in honestly trying to find out what is true, and in having the ability to use that knowledge. Just like cultures that succeed.
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