the_road_to_riches_2

the_road_to_riches_2 - Specialarticle:Theroadtoriches...

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Special article: The road to riches Anonymous . The Economist . London: Dec 31, 1999. Vol. 353, Iss. 8151; pg. 10, 3 pgs Subjects: Wealth, Progress, History, Industrial development Classification Codes 1200, 1110 Author(s): Anonymous Article types: News Publication title: The Economist. London: Dec 31, 1999. Vol. 353, Iss. 8151; pg. 10, 3 pgs Source Type: Periodical ISSN/ISBN: 00130613 Abstract (Article Summary) For nearly all of human history, economic advance has been so slow as to be imperceptible within the span of a lifetime. Down the millennia, progress, for all but a tiny elite, amounted to this: it slowly became possible for more people live, at the meanest level of subsistence. This surge of growth was due to industrialization. Thanks to it, material prosperity has risen more in the past 250 years than in the previous 10,000. And so conditioned to growth have people become that most Westerners now expect their standard of living to improve automatically year by year. Full Text (2834 words) Copyright Economist Newspaper Group, Incorporated Dec 31, 1999 [Headnote] Western man is incomparably richer than his ancestors of i,ooo years ago. And he takes it for granted that he will grow richer still. Yet, seen in its long-term context, the past 250 years' rise in incomes and living standards looks less like an inevitable process and more like a single, astonishing event The wonders of science-alchemy, in this case FOR nearly all of human history, economic advance has been so slow as to be imperceptible within the span of a lifetime. For century after century, the annual rate of economic growth was, to one place of decimals, zero. When growth did happen, it was so slow as to be invisible to contemporaries-and even in retrospect it appears not as rising living standards (which is what growth means today), merely as a gentle rise in population. Down the millennia, progress, for all but a tiny elite, amounted to this: it slowly became possible for more people to live, at the meanest level of subsistence.
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From about 1750, this iron law of history was broken. Growth began to be no longer invisibly slow nor confined, as it largely had been before, to fanning. The new increase in human productivity was staggeringly large: it not only supported a hitherto unimaginable 712-fold rise in the world's population, but entirely transformed the lives of ordinary people throughout the West. This surge of growth was due to industrialisation. Thanks to it, material prosperity has risen more in the past 250 years than in the previous 10,000. And so conditioned to growth have people become that most westerners now expect their standard of living to improve automatically year by year; if it does not, something is wrong. This taking for granted what would once have seemed miraculous is the measure of the change. What, why, there, then?
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