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Morality, institutions and economic growth: Lessons from ancient Greece


  • Bitros, George
  • Karayiannis, Anastassios


We show that the character and the morality of citizens are important ingredients of economic growth because they go hand in hand with the great institutions of private property, democ-racy, and free markets. Our approach enables us to establish this result by reference to the structure and performance of the ancient economies of Athens and Sparta during the period 490-338 BC. Athens grew vastly wealthier than Sparta essentially because its institutions were optimally adjusted to confront the basic scarcity of grains, whereas the institutions of Sparta were optimally adjusted to sustain its military supremacy. However, in both cases there emerged systems of morality, which secured the operating efficiency of their institutions. Therefore, poor countries in search of potent strategies for rapid economic growth should not just try to emulate the institutions of economically advanced countries. At the same time, they should put the emphasis of their efforts to setting up agoge systems, so as to infuse into the character of their citizens compatible “ethos”. For, without the latter, no matter how success-fully they adapt the institutions of democracy and free markets, rapid economic growth will be inhibited from the lack of an environment of generalized morality. In this regard, the ideal type model of agoge is the one that prevailed in ancient Athens 25 centuries ago.

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  • Bitros, George & Karayiannis, Anastassios, 2006. "Morality, institutions and economic growth: Lessons from ancient Greece," MPRA Paper 994, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:994

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    ancient Greece; morality; institutions; economic growth;

    JEL classification:

    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • B11 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Preclassical (Ancient, Medieval, Mercantilist, Physiocratic)
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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