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The Unmatched Economic Development of the Past Two Centuries. the Need for an Explanation


  • William J. Baumol


Never before in human history has the growth of per-capita economic production even remotely come close to that of contemporary Western Europe, the United States and a few other countries. The contribution to innovation, education and human health is also unparalleled. The explanation for these advances is important not only as an addition to knowledge, but also as a lesson for the world’s many impoverished nations. Yet, surprisingly little has been written on the subject. This article undertakes the first steps toward the required analysis, including evidence that a major part of the explanation for this extraordinary economic growth is a change in institutions that for the first time effectively redirect the widespread drive for wealth accumulation away from activities that impede economic growth (or do not add to it), and into channels that make it most remunerative to contribute to innovation and enforce its utilization.

Suggested Citation

  • William J. Baumol, 2006. "The Unmatched Economic Development of the Past Two Centuries. the Need for an Explanation," QA - Rivista dell'Associazione Rossi-Doria, Associazione Rossi Doria, issue 1, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:rar:journl:0029

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mansfield, Edwin & Schwartz, Mark & Wagner, Samuel, 1981. "Imitation Costs and Patents: An Empirical Study," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 91(364), pages 907-918, December.
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    More about this item


    Economic Development; Institutional Arrangements;

    JEL classification:

    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements


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