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The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World was Created 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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From the Back Cover
"...a tour de force...prepare to be amazed."
--John C. Bogle, Founder and Former CEO, The Vanguard Group
A bold new look at the continuing era of prosperity--how we got here, and where we could be headed
Why didn't the Florentines invent the steam engines and flying machines that Da Vinci sketched? What kept the master metallurgists of ancient Rome from discovering electricity? The Birth of Plenty takes a fascinating new look at the key conditions that had to be in place before world economic growth--and the technological progress underlying it--could occur, why those pathways are still absent in many parts of today's world, and what must be done before true, universal prosperity can become a reality.
"Not long after 1820, prosperity began flowing in an ever increasing torrent; with each successive generation, the life of the son became observably more comfortable, informed, and predictable than that of the father. This book will examine the nature, causes, and consequences of this transformation..."
--From the Introduction
The Birth of Plenty doesn't mean to suggest that nothing of note existed before 1820. What The Birth of Plenty suggests--and supports with irrefutable fact and groundbreaking analysis--is that, from the dawn of recorded history through 1820, the "mass of man" experienced essentially zero growth, either in economic standing or living standards. It was only in the third decade of the nineteenth century that the much of the world's standard of living began to inexorably and irreversibly improve, and the modern world was born.
But what changed, and why then? Noted financial expert and neurologist William Bernstein isolates the four conditions which, when occurring simultaneously, constitute an all-inclusive formula for human progress:
- Property rights--Creators must have proper incentives to create
- Scientific rationalism--Innovators must be allowed to innovate without fear of retribution
- Capital markets--Entrepreneurs must be given access to capital to pursue their visions
- Transportation/communication--Society must provide mechanisms for effective communication of ideas and transport of finished products
Beyond just shining a light on how quickly progress occurs once the building blocks are in place, however, The Birth of Plenty examines how their absence constitutes nothing less than a prescription for continued human struggle and pain. Why do so many parts of the world remain behind, while others learn to adapt, adopt, and move forward? What must long-troubled nations do to pull themselves from the never-ending spiral of defeatism? The Birth of Plenty addresses these timely and vital questions head-on, empirically and without apology, and provides answers that are both thought-provoking and troubling.
The Birth of Plenty frames the modern world's prosperity--or, in far too many cases, continuing lack of prosperity--in terms that are ingenious yet simple, complex yet easily understood. Entertaining and provocative, it will forever change the way you view the human pursuit of happiness, and bring the conflicts of both the world's superpowers and developing nations into a fascinating and informative new light.--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B003AU4HAG
- Publisher : McGraw-Hill Education; 1st edition (22 June 2004)
- Language : English
- File size : 5440 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Not Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Print length : 350 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,141,132 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from other countries
The first part is quite technical, but interesting. This is a big story that spans time and I think the tenets put forward are solid.
Probably the leaders (and aspiring leaders) of every country should read this book and take note - world progress is inexorable and if the right concepts are in place a country will, in time, prosper (much more than doing nothing).
William Bernstein is an admirable Cliometrist ! !
I have now realized what made me happy. The guilt that I had unknowingly harbored was lifted from me. You see I have increasingly felt that my wealth, our wealth, was due to our exploitation of the mineral and human resources of the rest of the planet. It is true that we have much to feel guilty about, the slave trade particularly, but our continued wealth is not a direct result of exploitation; it is the result of Bernstein's magic four factors being present together in our country.
Now I can still give to Oxfam, but it won't feel like guilt money!
The astonishing counter-intuitive idea that democracy does not lead to wealth, but the other way around, convincingly argued, was a real eye opener, as was much else in this wonderful book. Gorge W Bush should definitely read it!
But where did all this wealth come from? What caused its creation, after millennia of poverty (by modern standards)?
This book explains, breaking it down into four factors:
- property rights (which incentivise investment, knowing that you'll enjoy the returns)
- scientific rationalism (which freed us to understand and improve the world around us)
- capital markets (because the person with the great idea isn't often the one with the money to make it happen)
- transport and communication (because otherwise a factory can serve only the town it's located in)
This book gives a riveting history of millennia of capital markets and economics, going as far back as the Roman empire! It gives us a graph of interest rates over the course of the empire — information I never imagined would be available, let alone lucidly presented, and connected to the real-world rise and fall of the empire, rather than left alone as dry statistics.
Moving on to the medieval period, we see how different countries had their fortunes ebb and flow, and how the Netherlands's superior capital markets and lower interest rates, compared to Britain, let the former dominate the latter in trade and military. A number like 4% is no longer an abstract number that only an economist would be interested in, but affects the fortunes of entire countries!
The book tells us how we may think that the modern world is a period of uniquely rapid progress, but that nothing could be farther from the truth. The fastest progress ever happened in the 19th century, when the railways were built, and people could suddenly travel faster than the horse.
Until then, each town had its own clock, independent of other towns, and the people set their watches by the town's clocktower. That system worked for millennia, but with the creation of the railways, it broke down. To have a railway timetable, all stations along a route had to have the same measurement of time. This led to the creation of timezones, of cities and towns being grouped into discrete zones, where everything in one zone used the same clock. Did you ever wonder where timezones came from? Now you know the answer!
A person born in the early part of the 19th century couldn't recognise or understand the world at the end of the century, when the telephone and telegraph existed, and messages could be sent across the entire Atlantic Ocean in less than a second. That was unimaginable technology to a person who couldn't imagine anything faster than a horse.
The book is full of fascinating insights like this — a must-read if you've wondered about where the prosperity of the developed world comes from, and what the main causes are, all interwoven into a gripping and masterful historical narrative.
I bought "The Birth of Plenty" hoping that I will find the same trove of facts and the same pleasure of discovery of the international element of national histories. Elements so often intentionally hidden - no nation and no nations historians are perfect.
Well the book does not disappoint with the facts and details, the author is really informed and knows Western European (not European) and colonial history extremely well.
But what a strange interpretation!
It is kind of amazing how the underlying premise of the 4 feature building a successful society are derived without thinking about countries like contemporary China, Japan, the Asian Tigers and the ex-socialist countries (average growth above 7% for tens of years, and for China 10% over 30 years ). All of them have shown a rapid growth, outrunning by far any of the countries so highly praised by the author (hardly ever reaching real growth of more than 3.5 – 4%). And yet none of their societies have been built on all 4 pillars (property rights, scientific rationalism, capital markets, communication and transportation). Especially capital markets.
Denying and distorting history has never helped anybody. Blind ideology has never helped anybody and yet we see more and more of it.
I am halfway through, but the Anglo-Saxon focus on interpretation of the world history and the dismissal of the historical lessons of any nation but Britain, Netherlands and the USA robs me of the highly anticipated pleasure of reading this book.