INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
The human population at the end of the Pleistocene era-around ten thousand years ago-was around five million. Eight thousand years later after the widespread adoption of agriculture the estimated number rises to three hundred million. By 1750 the world’s human population was estimated to have grown to eight hundred million and two centuries later had soared to two-and –half billion. Fifty years later the world’s population was over six billion.
From 1000 AD to 1820 the advance in the world’s average per capita income was estimated to be around fifty percent but since 1820 per capita income has been elevated by more than eight fold and population more than fivefold. Most rapid gains in income and life expectancy have accrued to peoples residing in Western Europe, their offshoot settlements in North America and Australasia, and to those living in Japan. The income per capita of this group in 1820 was twice that of the people living in the rest of the world. Although this is a marked divergence, it would appear to have been centuries in the making for by the end of the first millennium income levels in Europe had fallen well below those in Asia, particularly China, and North Africa. But by the fourteenth century Europe would appear to have reached equality of per capita income with China.
Maddison estimates that in the five hundred years following 1000 A.D. Western Europe’s population grew faster than any other group in any other geographic area. Western European per capita doubled over this same period while China’s increased by about a third. Britain had faster growth in per capita income from 1680s onwards than any other European country. By 1913 the income level in Western Europe and its offshoot settlements was more than six times than in the rest of the world and by the end of the twentieth century the gap had widened to 7 to 1.
“History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.” Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, page 25.
Most economists implicitly assume that all parts of the world have the same prospects for economic growth and that differences in performance are the result of differences in institutions. We found from our research that geography plays an important role in shaping the distribution of world income and economic growth.
Jeffrey D. Sachs, The Geography of Poverty and Wealth.
Niall Ferguson in his book, Civilization: The West and the Rest, credits six “killer apps,” or social developments: competition, science, property, medicine, consumption and work with explaining how the West became the preeminent political and economic force in the modern world.
A. Examine critically the explanation by Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel) of why western Eurasian societies became disproportionately powerful and innovative. Compare and contrast Diamond’s view of geographic determinism with that of Sachs.
B. Examine critically and compare the explanation offered by Ferguson with that of Sachs.
C. In the light of the two explanations suggest whether the noted divergence will continue or will the respective societies and economies of the globe converge.
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