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Lecture 14 - The Emergence of Modern Economic Growth A...

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The Emergence of Modern Economic Growth: A Comparative and Historical Analysis Lecture 14 James A. Robinson Harvard October 28, 2009 James A. Robinson (Harvard) The Emergence of Modern Economic Growth: A Comparative and Historical Analysis October 28, 2009 1 / 12
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Virtuous Circles After initiating the industrial revolution Britain, Western Europe and the Neo-Europes moved onto a path of sustained rises in living standards that has lasted until now (with a few ups and downs like the Great Depression). Earlier in the course I emphasized the historical rise and fall of di/erent societies. Why didn°t Britain or Western Europe rise and fall? Maybe they were lucky. If another version of the Black Death had come along in the 1840s and killed 60% of Europe°s population the economic dynamism might have collapsed. The argument I propose is that this was because they had managed to solve the political problems which had led to the demise of previous successful societies like Rome or CopÆn. To create secure property rights and a level playing ±eld political power had to be constrained and distributed. This led to far fewer rents from holding power, fewer power struggles, greater stability. James A. Robinson (Harvard) The Emergence of Modern Economic Growth: A Comparative and Historical Analysis October 28, 2009 2 / 12
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Structural Change The political settlement of 1688 in Britain could not endure for ever. It was more like an elite pact, but until then it was the elites who had struggled over the rents (modulo the odd popular uprising like in 1381 in England). Industrialization led to large structural changes in society and urbanization and the factory system concentrated large numbers of politically disenfranchised people in the same place where it was much easier to solve the collective action problem. Leaving these people outside the system risked revolution, but incorporating them risked destabilizing property rights (threat of populism, etc.). These di/erent perspectives were intensively debated and the First Reform Act of 1832 in Britain was a compromise - to generate political stability with the smallest possible concession (by weakening property and wealth restrictions it doubled the number of adult males who had the vote to about 14.5% of the total number). James A. Robinson (Harvard) The Emergence of Modern Economic Growth: A Comparative and Historical Analysis October 28, 2009 3 / 12
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Democracy since 1800 – the Polity Score -11 -9 -7 -5 -3 -1 1 3 5 7 9 11 1800 1812 1824 1836 1848 1860 1872 1884 1896 1908 1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 Western Europe Latin America United States China Africa United Kingdom Japan
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The Debate In an address to the British parliament in 1831 introducing a limited su/rage extension the Prime Minister Earl Grey (yes he of the tea..) argued °There is no-one more decided against annual parliaments, universal su/rage and the ballot than I am. My object is not to favor, but to put an end to such hopes and projects ... The principal of my reform is to prevent the necessity of revolution ...
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