IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/exehis/v69y2018icp13-26.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The past and the future of innovation: Some lessons from economic history

Author

Listed:
  • Mokyr, Joel

Abstract

In recent years, economists have revived the specter of slow growth and secular stagnation. From the point of view of economic history, what should we make of such doomster prophecies? As economic historians all know, for 97% or so of recorded history, the stationary state well-describes the long-run dynamics of the world economy. Growth was slow, intermittent, and reversible. The Industrial Revolution rang in a period of sustained economic growth. Is that growth sustainable? One way to come to grips with that question is to analyze the brakes on economic growth before the Industrial Revolution and examine how they were released. Once these mechanisms are identified, we can look at the economic history of the past few decades and make an assessment of how likely growth is to continue. The answer I give is simple: there is no technological reason for growth in economic welfare to slow down, although institutions may become in some area a serious concern on the sustainability of growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Mokyr, Joel, 2018. "The past and the future of innovation: Some lessons from economic history," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 13-26.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:69:y:2018:i:c:p:13-26
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2018.03.003
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014498318300548
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1016/j.eeh.2018.03.003?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. World Bank & Ecofys, "undated". "Carbon Pricing Watch 2017," World Bank Publications - Reports 26565, The World Bank Group.
    2. Quamrul Ashraf & Oded Galor, 2011. "Dynamics and Stagnation in the Malthusian Epoch," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 2003-2041, August.
    3. Hans-Joachim Voth, 2013. "The Three Horsemen of Riches: Plague, War, and Urbanization in Early Modern Europe," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(2), pages 774-811.
    4. Mokyr, Joel, 2005. "Long-Term Economic Growth and the History of Technology," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 17, pages 1113-1180, Elsevier.
    5. Fabian Waldinger, 2016. "Bombs, Brains, and Science: The Role of Human and Physical Capital for the Creation of Scientific Knowledge," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 98(5), pages 811-831, December.
    6. Al-Mutairi, Asma'a & Smallbone, Andrew & Al-Salem, S.M. & Roskilly, Anthony Paul, 2017. "The first carbon atlas of the state of Kuwait," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 317-326.
    7. Robert J. Gordon, 2016. "Perspectives on The Rise and Fall of American Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(5), pages 72-76, May.
    8. Benjamin M. Friedman, 2006. "Moral Consequences of Economic Growth: The John R. Commons Lecture, 2006," The American Economist, Sage Publications, vol. 50(2), pages 3-8, October.
    9. Studer,Roman, 2017. "The Great Divergence Reconsidered," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107679979, December.
    10. Rohan Dutta & David K. Levine & Nicholas W. Papageorge & Lemin Wu, 2018. "Entertaining Malthus: Bread, Circuses, And Economic Growth," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 56(1), pages 358-380, January.
    11. Nico Voigtl?nder & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2013. "How the West "Invented" Fertility Restriction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2227-2264, October.
    12. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter J. Klenow, 2009. "Misallocation and Manufacturing TFP in China and India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1403-1448.
    13. Lee, Charles M.C. & Sun, Stephen Teng & Wang, Rongfei & Zhang, Ran, 2019. "Technological links and predictable returns," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(3), pages 76-96.
    14. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory and Comparative Development," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 2, pages 9-21, April-Jun.
    15. Lin, Justin Yifu, 1995. "The Needham Puzzle: Why the Industrial Revolution Did Not Originate in China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 269-292, January.
    16. Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy CSTEP, 2017. "Technology Options for the Sanitation Value Chain," Working Papers id:11936, eSocialSciences.
    17. Gordon, Robert J., 2018. "Declining American economic growth despite ongoing innovation," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 1-12.
    18. Erik Hornung, 2014. "Immigration and the Diffusion of Technology: The Huguenot Diaspora in Prussia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(1), pages 84-122, January.
    19. World Bank & Ecofys & Vivid Economics, "undated". "State and Trends of Carbon Pricing 2017," World Bank Publications - Reports 28510, The World Bank Group.
    20. Martin Feldstein, 2017. "Underestimating the Real Growth of GDP, Personal Income, and Productivity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(2), pages 145-164, Spring.
    21. Richard S.J. Tol, 2017. "The Private Benefit of Carbon and its Social Cost," Working Paper Series 0717, Department of Economics, University of Sussex Business School.
    22. Jacob,Margaret C., 2014. "The First Knowledge Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107044012.
    23. Elizabeth Gibney, 2014. "Physics: Quantum computer quest," Nature, Nature, vol. 516(7529), pages 24-26, December.
    24. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9477.
    25. Kelly, Morgan & Ó Gráda, Cormac, 2012. "The Preventive Check in Medieval and Preindustrial England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(4), pages 1015-1035, December.
    26. Morgan Kelly & Cormac Ó Gráda, 2014. "Living standards and mortality since the middle ages," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(2), pages 358-381, May.
    27. Erik Brynjolfsson & Daniel Rock & Chad Syverson, 2018. "Artificial Intelligence and the Modern Productivity Paradox: A Clash of Expectations and Statistics," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Artificial Intelligence: An Agenda, pages 23-57, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    28. Alimov K.K., 2017. "Management of technological processes in the grain subcomplex," Russian Journal of Agricultural and Socio-Economic Sciences, CyberLeninka;Редакция журнала Russian Journal of Agricultural and Socio-Economic Sciences, vol. 61(1), pages 262-269.
    29. Anna Aizer & Janet Currie & Peter Simon & Patrick Vivier, 2018. "Do Low Levels of Blood Lead Reduce Children's Future Test Scores?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 10(1), pages 307-341, January.
    30. Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, 2007. "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime," NBER Working Papers 13097, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    31. Joel Mokyr, 2016. "A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 10835.
    32. Jacob,Margaret C., 2014. "The First Knowledge Economy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107619838.
    33. Diane Coyle, 2014. "GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 10183.
    34. Joel Mokyr & Chris Vickers & Nicolas L. Ziebarth, 2015. "The History of Technological Anxiety and the Future of Economic Growth: Is This Time Different?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(3), pages 31-50, Summer.
    35. Ian W.H. Parry & Victor Mylonas, 2017. "Canada’s Carbon Price Floor," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 70(4), pages 879-900, December.
    36. Reyes Jessica Wolpaw, 2007. "Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-43, October.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Gries, Thomas & Naudé, Wim, 2018. "Artificial Intelligence, Jobs, Inequality and Productivity: Does Aggregate Demand Matter?," IZA Discussion Papers 12005, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Naudé, Wim, 2020. "From the Entrepreneurial to the Ossified Economy: Evidence, Explanations and a New Perspective," GLO Discussion Paper Series 539, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    3. Eric J. Bartelsman, 2019. "From New Technology to Productivity," European Economy - Discussion Papers 2015 - 113, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    4. James C. A. Redman, 2020. "An Overview of Innovation in the Arab Gulf States: From Origins and Five‐Year Plans to New Cities and Indices," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 101(7), pages 2485-2506, December.
    5. Gordon, Robert J., 2018. "Declining American economic growth despite ongoing innovation," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 1-12.
    6. Venturini, Francesco, 2022. "Intelligent technologies and productivity spillovers: Evidence from the Fourth Industrial Revolution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 220-243.
    7. Aina Gallego & Thomas Kurer & Nikolas Schöll, 2018. "Not so disruptive after all: How workplace digitalization affects political preferences," Economics Working Papers 1623, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    8. Taalbi, Josef, 2019. "Innovation waves and technological transitions: Sweden, 1909-2016," Lund Papers in Economic History 196, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    9. Yamashita, Nobuaki, 2021. "Economic crisis and innovation capacity of Japan: Evidence from cross-country patent citations," Technovation, Elsevier, vol. 101(C).
    10. Giovanna Ciaffi & Matteo Deleidi & Stefano Di Bucchianico, 2022. "Stagnation despite ongoing innovation: Is R&D expenditure composition a missing link? An empirical analysis for the US (1948-2019)," Department of Economics University of Siena 877, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    11. Leonardo A. Rocha & Maria Ester S. Dal Poz & Patrícia V.P.S. Lima & Ahmad S. Khan & Napiê G. A. Silva, 2019. "Corruption, bureaucracy and other institutional failures: the “cancer†of innovation and development," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 39(3), pages 1740-1754.
    12. Yulia Gruzina & Irina Firsova & Wadim Strielkowski, 2021. "Dynamics of Human Capital Development in Economic Development Cycles," Economies, MDPI, vol. 9(2), pages 1-18, May.
    13. Michael J. Andrews & Aaron K. Chatterji & Scott Stern, 2021. "Introduction: Beyond 140 Characters," NBER Chapters, in: The Role of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Economic Growth, pages 1-28, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Aina Gallego & Thomas Kurer & Nikolas Schöll, 2018. "Neither Left-Behind nor Superstar: Ordinary Winners of Digitalization at the Ballot Box," Working Papers 1063, Barcelona School of Economics.
    15. Tânia Pinto & Aurora A. C. Teixeira, 2020. "The impact of research output on economic growth by fields of science: a dynamic panel data analysis, 1980–2016," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 123(2), pages 945-978, May.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Daniel Kahneman, 2018. "Comment on "Artificial Intelligence and Behavioral Economics"," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Artificial Intelligence: An Agenda, pages 608-610, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Shuo Chen & James Kai-sing Kung, 2016. "Of maize and men: the effect of a New World crop on population and economic growth in China," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 71-99, March.
    3. Alexandra M. de Pleijt, 2018. "Human capital formation in the long run: evidence from average years of schooling in England, 1300–1900," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 12(1), pages 99-126, January.
    4. Lehmann-Hasemeyer, Sibylle H. & Prettner, Klaus & Tscheuschner, Paul, 2020. "The scientific revolution and its role in the transition to sustained economic growth," Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences 06-2020, University of Hohenheim, Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences.
    5. Jakob Brochner Madsen, 2016. "Human Accomplishment and Growth in Britain since 1270: The Role of Great Scientists and Education," Monash Economics Working Papers 01-16, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    6. de Pleijt, Alexandra M., 2015. "Human capital and long run economic growth : Evidence from the stock of human capital in England, 1300-1900," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 229, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    7. T. Ryan Johnson & Dietrich Vollrath, 2020. "The Role of Land in Temperate and Tropical Agriculture," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 87(348), pages 901-937, October.
    8. McDonagh, Shane & Wall, David M. & Deane, Paul & Murphy, Jerry D., 2019. "The effect of electricity markets, and renewable electricity penetration, on the levelised cost of energy of an advanced electro-fuel system incorporating carbon capture and utilisation," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 364-371.
    9. Mario F. Carillo, 2021. "Human Capital Distribution and the Transition from Stagnation to Growth," CSEF Working Papers 599, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
    10. Johnson, Noel D. & Koyama, Mark, 2017. "Jewish communities and city growth in preindustrial Europe," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 339-354.
    11. Fabian Siuda & Uwe Sunde, 2021. "Disease and demographic development: the legacy of the plague," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 1-30, March.
    12. Jakob B. Madsen & Fabrice Murtin, 2017. "British economic growth since 1270: the role of education," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 229-272, September.
    13. Madsen, Jakob B. & Robertson, Peter E. & Ye, Longfeng, 2019. "Malthus was right: Explaining a millennium of stagnation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 51-68.
    14. Peter Sandholt Jensen & Maja Uhre Pedersen & Cristina Victoria Radu & Paul Richard Sharp, 2020. "Arresting the Sword of Damocles: Dating the Transition to the Post-Malthusian Era in Denmark," Working Papers 0182, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    15. Kartik Ahuja & Mihaela Schaar & William R. Zame, 2021. "Working alone and working with others: implications for the malthusian era," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 71(3), pages 841-875, April.
    16. Chu, Angus C. & Peretto, Pietro, 2019. "Innovation and Inequality from Stagnation to Growth," MPRA Paper 96073, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Koyama, Mark & Xue, Melanie Meng, 2015. "The Literary Inquisition: The Persecution of Intellectuals and Human Capital Accumulation in China," MPRA Paper 62103, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Terpstra, Taco, 2020. "Roman technological progress in comparative context: The Roman Empire, Medieval Europe and Imperial China," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 75(C).
    19. Jesús Fernández-Villaverde & Mark Koyama & Youhong Lin & Tuan-Hwee Sng, 2020. "The Fractured-Land Hypothesis," NBER Working Papers 27774, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Ljunge, Martin, 2019. "From Gutenberg to Google: The Internet Is Adopted Earlier if Ancestors Had Advanced Information Technology in 1500 AD," Working Paper Series 1312, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:69:y:2018:i:c:p:13-26. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830 .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830 .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.