The Birth of Plenty

The Birth of Plenty

How the Prosperity of the Modern World Was Created

Book - 2004
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In the tradition of Peter Bernstein's Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, comes Dr. William Bernstein's The Birth of Plenty. This newsworthy book sheds new light in the history of human progress. Bill Bernstein is no stranger to McGraw-Hill. He has written two successful investing books for us and both have exceeded expectations; The premise of Dr. Bernstein's book is fascinating as well as provocative. From the beginning of civilization until 1820, mankind experienced zero economic growth (0% GDP). This basically means that life for the average individual was no better in 5 A.D. than in 1555 A.D or 1555B.C. But after 1820, the world rapidly becomes a much more prosperous place for the average individual. What happened in 1820? Bernstein contends that there are four conditions necessary for sustained human economic progress: Property rights. Scientific rationalism. Capital markets. Communications and transportation technology. Holland, and by 1820 they were securely in place in the English-speaking world. It was not until much later that all four had spread over much of the rest of the globe. Global GDP since then has consistently been around 2%. And that 2% of growth has allowed most of the world to live in a much better place than our ancestors. While the historical aspect of Bernstein's story will appeal to certain history buffs. His book is also full of implications for today's society. Bernstein asserts that the absence of even one factor endangers economic progress and human welfare. He uses the beleaguered Middle East as one example - where the absence of capital markets and scientific rationalism have deterred the quality of life from improving. And Africa is sited as a dire example, where tragically in most of Africa all four factors are essentially absent.
Publisher: New York : McGraw-Hill, c2004
ISBN: 9780071421928
Characteristics: xii, 420 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Jul 05, 2016

A lengthy argument using both abstract premises and historical evidence to advance the claim - fairly successfully - that a key set of institutions are what matter for economic growth. (The corollary to this is that sexism (patriarchy) and/ or imperialism are not significant influencing factors.) The author writes in a way that makes the reader feel that he is being *talked at*, which gets bit annoying after fifty pages.

Sep 06, 2013

Great historical view of how development occurred and how it changed many lives for the better. He takes the long view, going back hundreds of years. Bernstein traces factors that lead to rising prosperity in some nations (go back far enough and all nation states were all equally poverty stricken), human and property rights, stable governments etc. He also gives a nod to governments that provided incentives for risk takers to introduce innovations to the market.


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