The Past and the Future of Innovation: some lessons from Economic History



Abstract: In recent years, economists have revived the specter of slow growth and secular stagnation. From the point of view of economic history, what should we make of such doomster prophecies? As economic historians all know, for 97 percent or so of recorded history, the stationary state well-describes the long-run dynamics of the world economy. Growth was slow, intermittent, and reversible. The Industrial Revolution rang in a period of sustained economic growth. Is that growth sustainable? One way to come to grips with that question is to analyze the brakes on economic growth before the Industrial Revolution and examine how they were released. Once these mechanisms are identified, we can look at the economic history of the past few decades and make an assessment of how likely growth is to continue. The answer I give is simple: there is no technological reason for growth in economic welfare to slow down, although institutions may become in some area a serious concern on the sustainability of growth.

A short history of constitutional liberalism in America



Abstract: American liberalism emerged before the most famous European liberal intellectuals put their pens to paper. It was grounded partly on liberal ideas that were in the air before those works were written, but mostly on the attractive communities generated by liberal institutions and policies. American liberalism is empirically, rather than theoretically, grounded. This paper uses excerpts from colonial and constitutional documents to demonstrate the long history of liberal institutions in the territories that became the United States. American liberalism is an evolutionary rather than an intellectual phenomenon.

State Intervention in Wine Markets in the Early 20th Century: Why was it so Different in France and Spain?



Abstract: In the early 20th century, governments not only used trade policy to protect domestic agricultural markets, but they also introduced regulations affecting quality, quantity and prices. In this article I assess the differences in the state intervention in wine markets in two major wine-producing countries, France and Spain, and try to explain the reasons for them. To do so, I examine the specific features of their markets and productive systems, the winegrowers’ collective action, and the political framework in each country. I argue that the differences are related to (a) the strength and cohesion of the winegrowers’ lobby, (b) the winegrowers’ relationship with political parties and (c) the state’s ability to respond to their demands.

Culture, Politics, and Economic Development



Abstract: For a generation, political science has been dominated by the analysis of interests within the framework of rational choice. Although this has enabled major advances, it struggles to provide a plausible analysis of many instances of sociopolitical dysfunction. This article reviews recent innovations in economics, psychology, and economic history that are converging to rehabilitate culture as a legitimate element of analysis. Culture matters, and its evolution is amenable to formal scientific analysis. But these processes need not be benign: There is no equivalent to the invisible hand of the market, guiding a culture toward social optimality. An organizational culture can trap a vital public agency, such as a tax administration, into severe dysfunction. A societal culture can trap an entire country into autocracy or poverty.

Do liberal ties pacify? A study of the Cod Wars

Abstract: The Cod Wars, three militarized interstate disputes between the UK and Iceland (1958–1961, 1972–1973, 1975–1976), have often been presented as an egregious exception to the liberal peace. There are, however, few comprehensive analyses of the liberal dimensions of the Cod Wars. This paper comprehensively analyses the ways in which each of the Cod Wars is consistent or inconsistent with the liberal peace. I find that while the supposedly pacifying factors of the liberal peace – democracy, trade and institutional ties – effectively made the disputes more contentious, they also ensured that escalation to actual war was impossible.

Human capital, knowledge and economic development: evidence from the British Industrial Revolution, 1750–1930



Abstract: Endogenous growth models raise fundamental questions about the nature of human creativity, and the sorts of resources, skills, and knowledge inputs that shift the frontier of technology and production possibilities. Many argue that the experience of early British industrialization supports the thesis that economic advances depend on specialized scientific training, the acquisition of costly human capital, and the role of elites. This paper examines the contributions of different types of knowledge to industrialization, by assessing the backgrounds, education and inventive activity of major contributors to technological advances in Britain during the crucial period between 1750 and 1930. The results indicate that scientists, engineers or technicians were not well-represented among the cadre of important British inventors, and their contributions remained unspecialized until very late in the nineteenth century. The informal institution of apprenticeship and learning on the job provided effective means to enable productivity and innovation. For developing countries today, the implications are that costly investments in specialized human capital resources might be less important than incentives for creativity, flexibility, and the ability to make incremental adjustments that can transform existing technologies into inventions and innovations that are appropriate for prevailing domestic conditions.

Are individualistic societies less equal? Evidence from the parasite stress theory of values



Abstract: It is widely believed that individualistic societies, which emphasize personal freedom, award social status for accomplishment, and favor minimal government intervention, are more prone to higher levels of income inequality compared to more collectivist societies, which value conformity, loyalty, and tradition and favor more interventionist policies. The results in this paper, however, challenge this conventional view. Drawing on a rich literature in biology and evolutionary psychology, we test the provocative Parasite Stress Theory of Values, which suggests a possible link between the historical prevalence of infectious diseases, the cultural dimension of individualism–collectivism and differences in income inequality across countries. Specifically, in a two-stage least squares analysis, we use the historical prevalence of infectious diseases as an instrument for individualistic values, which, in the next stage, predict the level of income inequality, measured by the net GINI coefficient from the Standardized World Income Inequality Database (SWIID). Our findings suggest that societies with more individualistic values have significantly lower net income inequality. The results are robust even after controlling for a number of confounding factors such as economic development, legal origins, religion, human capital, other cultural values, economic institutions, and geographical controls.