Pre-modern economic growth revisited: Japan and the West
In early modern north-western Europe, real wages declined while GDP per capita was on the increase. In contrast, wage growth in Tokugawa Japan went hand in hand with output growth. Based on this finding, the paper revisits Thomas Smith’s thesis on ‘Pre-modern Economic Growth: Japan and the West’. It is suggested that the common denominator found in both European and Japanese cases was market-led, ‘Smithian growth’. However, unlike north-western Europe, there was no room for mercantile or agricultural capitalism playing a part. Also, Tokugawa growth was not associated with increased income inequality. All this accounted for the slower pace of growth and the absence of any gap between real wage growth and per-capita GDP growth in Japan's pre-modern economic regime.
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