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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/17468/2000-years-in-one-chart/

2000 years in one chart

June 28, 2011 by

I love this sort of thing: economic growth over 2000 years weighted by population. This shows nothing about cause and effect (you need theory for that) but it does indicate that something important happened to make this possible. Two words: industrial revolution.

{ 17 comments }

fundamentalist June 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm

This illustrates what Dierdre McCloskey calls the hockey stick effect and the most important effect that economists need to explain. She does a pretty good job i her “Boureois Virtues.”

Bruce Koerber June 28, 2011 at 9:26 pm

It is clear that we have entered into a new epoch!

Shay June 29, 2011 at 1:22 am

A reply in the blog discussion clarifies what “years lived” means: it’s a percentage of the total man-years covered. So for example, in the 20th century, about 28% of the man-years since 1AD were lived.

Salamanca34 June 29, 2011 at 7:14 am

Show this chart to “Distributists”!

Vanmind June 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I just did, and most of them said (to paraphrase) that it’s an indication of how far humanity has fallen.

“Used to be, we didn’t worry about how much stuff we were outputting, and instead took care of each other.”

I am familiar with the song & dance. I could counter with “…today’s people enjoy more luxuries and longer lives than the kings of yesteryear” but then they’d come back with predictable insistence about how well Dickensian fiction relates the story of real-world industry. It’s a no-win, (re)distributionism is their religion precisely because they abandoned faith in themselves.

J Cortez June 29, 2011 at 9:51 am

To hardcore environmentalists, that graph is a sign of the apocalypse. :)

Windows Hater June 29, 2011 at 10:34 am

The revolution has just begone, we’re now in the computer revolution, Internet revolution and this hasn’t been factored in already, next we will see the quantum and then oneiric revolution, all in the course of the 21st century. The nation state will become extinct and a thing of the past.

Erik June 29, 2011 at 7:58 pm

While responding to this particular post might not be the way to say that the the industrial revolution started in the 19th century and the 20th century saw the entire world choose sides and go to war against itself (twice), but I have a sneaking suspicion that the technological revolution that you speak of will be somewhat lackluster in comparison.

Stephan Kinsella June 29, 2011 at 10:45 am

Jeff, don’t you know–the reason for the explosion in production is because the US adopted a patent system in 1793! Or so say correlation-is-causation IP advocates.

Stephan Kinsella June 29, 2011 at 3:08 pm

See e.g. Interactive Graphic Pretends to Illustrate How U.S. Patent System Has Driven American Economy http://blog.mises.org/10678/interactive-graphic-pretends-to-illustrate-how-u-s-patent-system-has-driven-american-economy/

Stephan Kinsella July 2, 2011 at 11:32 am

Jeff, you may find this of interest and relevant to this post, from Boldrin, M. and D. K. Levine [2011]: “What’s Intellectual Property Good for?,” Revue Economique, forthcoming:

A number of economic historians, Douglass North and his followers foremost among them, have argued that the great acceleration in innovation and productivity we associate with the Industrial Revolution was caused by the development of ways to protect the right of inventors, allowing them to profit from their innovations. Central among such ways was the attribution of patents to inventors, and their upholding either by Parliament or by the courts. Relative to the very poorly defined contractual rights of pre-seventeenth century Europe, plagued by royal and aristocratic abuses of property and contracts, there is no doubt that allowing entrepreneurs a well defined, if temporary, monopoly over the fruits of their inventive effort was a major step forward. Even monopolistic property is much better than a system that allows arbitrary seizure by the rich and powerful. This does not, however, contradict the claim according to which widespread and ever growing monopolistic rights are not as socially beneficial as well defined competitive property rights. To put it differently, about four centuries ago, as Western societies moved away from post-medieval absolutist regimes, the establishment of patents constituted a step forward for the creation of a system of property rights that favored entrepreneurship and free market interaction. By the force of the same reasoning, the abolition of patents and of the distortionary monopolistic rights they entail may well result, now, in an analogous boost to entrepreneurial effort and technological change. Once again, as a matter of available theories one cannot safely conclude one way or another.

Pom-Pom June 29, 2011 at 11:03 pm

three more words:

“Enormous tapped energy”

Pom-Pom June 29, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Just wait till some idiot claims it was because of socialism and big government.

augusto June 30, 2011 at 10:05 am

What I find unsettling is this: the 19th and 20th centuries, where most of economic progress happened, were also the “centuries of the State-nation”. The 19th century saw the rise of unified German and Italy, Napoleon’s French Empire, the British Empire… The 20th century saw the rise of the American Empire, of the Soviet Union, two world wars (essentially wars among States)…

The typical 17th century man probably never had to deal with the State and its agents beyond the tax collector or the gathering of a town counsil. Today you cannot step outside without seeing a policeman, you need building permits, driving licences, marriage licences, etc.

The common man of the 19th and 20th century has to deal with the State on an every day basis.

And yet, this is when most of the progress occurred.

I don’t know, but I find that the graph posted, without an interpretation, is a pretty compelling case for the virtue of states… ;-)

(now feel free to prove me wrong)

User “Pom-Pom” says Just wait till some idiot claims it was because of socialism and big government.

Well, when you look at the graph, you can argue that progress happened in spite of socialism and big government. But that is counterintuitive, and requires explanation.

(Calling people idiots is a pretty poor way of convincing anyone that you are right. Clearly some readers of the LvMI need to read “How to make friends and influence people”…)

nate-m July 3, 2011 at 7:28 pm

I don’t know, but I find that the graph posted, without an interpretation, is a pretty compelling case for the virtue of states…

It’s really easy to call people stupid, unfortunately. It’s tough to keep repeating over and over and over and over again, in different ways:

Correlation does not imply causation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

It’s not stupidity, of course. It’s just ignorance. People used to be taught basic economics, math, and history in school as part of a basic elementary education. Nowadays you don’t even get this in universities.

Without a basic understanding of history the all the graphs and statistics in the world are meaningless. In fact without a understanding of the times and evolution of human society statistics can be actually misleading.

Here is how it works:

Governments are parasitical entities. They don’t produce anything, the only consume. It doesn’t really matter what your politics are this is something that should be very obvious. Military expenditures, courts, bureaucratic… they don’t produce anything. They don’t produce cars, food, cleaning services, microwaves, internet access… none of this is made by the state. It’s the industries that do this. It’s individuals working and earning money. Every time the state attempts to take over industry it fails. Therefore it should be obvious that the reason why we didn’t have such a huge state 200 years ago was because nobody could afford it. If you have nothing but farmers you can’t take their production to finance 3-4 wars simultaneously like we do now.

The only reason we can have a government that consumes 40-60% of all production in the USA without contributing any production back is because our society is so fantastically productive everybody is able to make up for it through just pure sweat and hard work. If it wasn’t for the government consumption we could all work 20 hour weeks and end up being wealthier instead of working 40-60 weeks and seeing retirement ages shoot up to 84.

In other words: We are able to be productive despite the government, not because of it. The only reason why we have government growing along with the industrial revolution is because countries that grew the government too large too soon ended up collapsing and getting taken over by their neighbors.

Saildog July 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Industrial Revolution? ………… Wrong!

One word: Energy.

Now that is coming to an end (or at least growth in energy use), what happens next?

nate-m July 3, 2011 at 7:06 pm

We have access to more oil now then we ever had any idea that ever existed. We can keep using it at a ever increasing rate and we have _at_least_ 200 years to go before we reach ‘peak oil’.

‘peak oil’ is one of those fantasies that isn’t coming true. It’s just wishful thinking among the more clueless leftist environmentalists out there. They have no idea what is really going on.

The only reason oil is more expensive then it was before is through politics. Pure and simple. Current prices have nothing to do with supply and everything to do with governments working to concentrate political power.

We will keep using ‘fossil fuels’ until something cheaper comes along. Pure and simple economics.

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