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Humboldt and the economists on natural resources, institutions and underdevelopment (1752 to 1859)

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  • Mauro Boianovsky

Abstract

The article discusses how early economists, sometimes informed by the pioneer report on a Latin American country (Mexico) by the geographer A. von Humboldt, interpreted the connections between natural resources, institutions and growth. The paradox of a negative relation between natural wealth and growth was elaborated, before Humboldt,by Hume. Humboldt's account of the high degree of income inequality in Mexico caught Malthus's attention, who turned it into a key element of his anti-Ricardo view that the fertility of soil may be associated with poor growth if there is a lack of effective demand. Cairnes claimed that the structural impact of a natural resource boom on the rest of the economy is compatible with the comparative-advantage framework. J.S. Mill articulated the potential perverse effects of natural wealth on effort supply and weak institutions, a theme conspicuous in the modem literature about the “natural resource curse”.

Suggested Citation

  • Mauro Boianovsky, 2013. "Humboldt and the economists on natural resources, institutions and underdevelopment (1752 to 1859)," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(1), pages 58-88, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:eujhet:v:20:y:2013:i:1:p:58-88
    DOI: 10.1080/09672567.2011.565358
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mill, John Stuart, 1848. "Principles of Political Economy (II): Distribution," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 2, number mill1848-2.
    2. List, Friedrich, 1885. "The National System of Political Economy," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number list1885.
    3. Mill, John Stuart, 1848. "Principles of Political Economy (III): Exchange," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 3, number mill1848-3.
    4. Ricardo, David, 1821. "On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, edition 3, number ricardo1821.
    5. Mill, John Stuart, 1848. "Principles of Political Economy (I): Production," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, volume 1, number mill1848-1.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jjieco:v:47:y:2018:i:c:p:32-54 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Margaret Schabas, 2015. "John Stuart Mill: evolutionary economics and liberalism," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 97-111, April.

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