Lecture 8

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Unformatted text preview: rade, credit etc.). But is commercialization associated with improved institutions? His explanation for underdevelopment is simply that there was a poverty trap due to low population density and high transportation costs. James A. Robinson (Harvard) The Emergence of Modern Economic Growth: A Comparative and Historical Analysis October 5, 2009 8 / 25 Slavery and Goods Institutions? Very low population densities historically meant that land was abundant and labor was scarce. A famous thesis proposed by Nieboer (1900) and Domar (1970) is that in this case we expect slavery because the cost of free labor would be very high Domar (p. 21) “of the three elements of an agricultural structure relevant here - free land, free peasants and non-working landowners – any two elements but never all three can exist simultaneously. The combination to be found in reality will depend on political factors.” Slavery was certainly endemic in Africa before the rise of any international slave trade. You might also wonder how secure property rights could have been in a society where slave raiding was a central activity of the state! A long tradition in African history suggests a disastrous impact of the slave trade on African institutions. The slave trade destroyed societies and led states to concentrate on warfare and slave raiding. James A. Robinson (Harvard) The Emergence of Modern Economic Growth: A Comparative and Historical Analysis October 5, 2009 9 / 25 Other Problems The idea that it was too costly to build roads through the forest zone of West Africa (thus making wheeled transportation uneconomical) has to confront the fact that the Asante Empire built an extensive network of roads in the early 19th century. The discussion of the quality of these roads by Ivor Wilks suggests they were of quite good quality, almost certainly good enough to have used wheeled transportation on. In addition, estimates of the costs of transportation by early British colonial administrators all suggest that head porterage was very expensive relative to other for...
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This document was uploaded on 02/28/2014 for the course ECON 2328 at Harvard.

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