Friday, June 3, 2016

Branko Milanovic — The origins of the Great Divergence

While the world is witnessing global convergence (essentially the catch up of Asia with the West), the debates about the origins of the Great Divergence—the take-off of the West and absence of growth in the Rest—are going strong. I just finished an excellent book ("Escaping poverty") by Peer Vries who reviews the origins of modern economic growth and proposes his own theory on what made the West, and in particular, Great Britain start the Industrial Revolution and China not.

Vries has two characteristics which are not abundant, in the same person, among economists: erudition and common sense. Very often common sense and cleverness, exhibited by more business-inclined types in economics, go without much historical knowledge. But heavy erudition sometimes renders authors other-worldly, a strange feature in a social scientist that economists are supposed to be.
I would like to discuss Vries’s book under four headings: organization of the book, his theory of why the Industrial Revolution happened in England, his view why China’s chances to begin an industrial revolution were “nil”, and (some) of his critiques of other economic historians.
Global Inequality
The origins of the Great Divergence
Branko Milanovic | Visiting Presidential Professor at City University of New York Graduate Center and senior scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), and formerly lead economist in the World Bank's research department and senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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