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Why Europe? On comparative long-term growth

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  • Hans-Jürgen Wagener

Abstract

Four historical macro phenomena of development ask for an explanation: the slow increase of welfare in Western Europe from the Middle Ages up to the publication of the Wealth of Nations, rapid modern economic growth in Europe and its transoceanic ofshoots following the industrial revolution, the lagging behind of the Asiatic areas India, China, and Japan, and the succession of economic leadership from Italy via the Low Countries and the United Kingdom to the US. The paper deals with these problems on three levels. On the first level of proper economic analysis the process of material growth is approached. On a second level, the level of institutional economics, the social framework is introduced. The third level is the field of the political economy of institutional change. Classical and neo-classical economic theory and institutional political economy offer a number of plausible explanatory causes. Next to the classical division of labour and accumulation, technical progress and human capital play a decisive role. It is shown that the emergence of an impartially operating system of law and a polity which supports it make possible the unfolding of such material conditions for growth. The institutional factors, in turn, are furthered by the development of autonomous and self-responsible individuals and competition between them and between independent political systems. Finally, a general attitude favouring the search for new ideas together with a positive attitude towards progress and risk contribute to the great divergence.

Suggested Citation

  • Hans-Jürgen Wagener, 2009. "Why Europe? On comparative long-term growth," European Journal of Comparative Economics, Cattaneo University (LIUC), vol. 6(2), pages 287-323, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:liu:liucej:v:6:y:2009:i:2:p:287-323
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 271-303, September.
    2. Galor, Oded, 2005. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 171-293 Elsevier.
    3. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
    4. Hicks, J. R., 1969. "A Theory of Economic History," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198811633.
    5. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2006. "Das Human-Kapital: A Theory of the Demise of the Class Structure," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 85-117.
    6. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
    7. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Enrico Marelli & Marcello Signorelli, 2011. "China and India: Openness, Trade and Effects on Economic Growth," European Journal of Comparative Economics, Cattaneo University (LIUC), vol. 8(1), pages 129-154, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Comparative Economic History; Growth; Development; Comparative Economic Systems;

    JEL classification:

    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems

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