On Custom in Economics: The Case of Humanism and Trade Regimes
Ideas and beliefs can make a contribution to economic development. The case of Humanism and the Low Countries' sudden rise to prosperity prove the point. Humanism became of substantial economic value when it turned out that its norms and customs allowed the Dutch long-distance trader to find more, and more willing, trade partners in the East Indies. Both individual behaviour and the overall set of customs fitted better the existing trade regimes between the African East Coast and Japan. Non-discrimination on religious or racial grounds, voluntary excange, norms of hospitality and reciprocity sustained low transaction costs in long distance trade in and between the trade regimes. Yet, Humanism serves also as an example for showing that even after a specific set of norms has proved its usefulness, and even if scale economics can be expected, it can still collapse depending on sanctioning funds that are either missing or too weak.
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Volume (Year): 155 (1999)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
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