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Time preference and the process of civilization


  • David Howden
  • Joakim Kampe


Purpose - – The authors begin with an admittedly simplistic statement: “civilization” is best represented by the increased availability of utility providing goods and services. In other words, civilization is synonymous with economic development. The purpose of this paper is to concern three questions. First, how does civilization develop? Second, what is time preference and how does it affect the development of civilization, or what the authors call the “process of civilization.” Third, what factors affect time preference, and how do changes in time preference affect this civilizing process? Through these three questions, the authors provide the theoretical answer to why civilization developed, instead of the more common historical how civilization actually developed. Design/methodology/approach - – The authors survey a variety of theories of civilization, and then develop an alternative that answers the question of “how civilization develops” rather than the more common “how did civilization develop.” Findings - – Endogenous reductions in time preference are determined to be the best explanation of the spark that instigates the process of civilization. It also allows for other approaches to fall under its umbrella, thus providing one general theory in place of the current-specific theories. Originality/value - – The value lies in the creation of a general theory of civilization, against which other theories looking at specific factors can be gauged.

Suggested Citation

  • David Howden & Joakim Kampe, 2016. "Time preference and the process of civilization," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 43(4), pages 382-399, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:ijsepp:v:43:y:2016:i:4:p:382-399

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jesús Huerta de Soto, 2010. "Socialism, Economic Calculation and Entrepreneurship," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 13905, November.
    2. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters,in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert, 1999. "The Quality of Government," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 222-279, April.
    4. Beck, Thorsten & Demirguc-Kunt, Asli & Levine, Ross, 2003. "Law and finance: why does legal origin matter?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 653-675, December.
    5. Easterly, William & Levine, Ross, 2003. "Tropics, germs, and crops: how endowments influence economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 3-39, January.
    6. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    7. Fisher, Irving, 1907. "The Rate of Interest," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number fisher1907.
    8. repec:hrv:faseco:30747160 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Dustin Chambers & Susan Hamer, 2012. "Culture And Growth: Some Empirical Evidence," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(4), pages 549-564, October.
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    More about this item


    Development; Global political economy; Productivity; Community;

    JEL classification:

    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O19 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - International Linkages to Development; Role of International Organizations


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