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08/22/2010

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Thanks, Jayel, for this intriguing post. You are a masterful photographer, as anyone can check for themselves on your superb website (see our blogger's gallery for the link). Are your images copyright protected? If so, why?

I suspect the copyright issue is more complicated than a simple solution to fit all sizes can do justice to.

To be sure, it is an exceedingly important issue.

Having said that, explaining industrial take-off with one variable strikes me as far too narrow an approach.

One does not expect Burkina Faso to grow rich simply by getting rid of traditional copyright law, does one?

Here are some appropriate quotes from P.T. Bauer, as cited and expanded on in Ralf Raico`s article on "The European Miracle" (http://mises.org/daily/2404) :

Among writers on economic development, P.T. Bauer is noted both for the depth of his historical knowledge, and for his insistence on the indispensability of historical studies in understanding the phenomenon of growth (Walters 1989, 60; see also Dorn 1987). In canvassing the work of other theorists, Bauer has complained of their manifest "amputation of the time dimension":

The historical background is essential for a worthwhile discussion of economic development, which is an integral part of the historical progress of society. But many of the most widely publicized writings on development effectively disregard both the historical background and the nature of development as a process. (Bauer 1972, 324–25)

Too many writers in the field have succumbed to professional overspecialization combined with a positivist obsession with data that happen to be amenable to mathematical techniques. The result has been models of development with little connection to reality:

Abilities and attitudes, mores and institutions, cannot generally be quantified in an illuminating fashion… Yet they are plainly much more important and relevant to development than such influences as the terms of trade, foreign exchange reserves, capital output ratios, or external economies, topics which fill the pages of the consensus literature. (Ibid., 326)

Even when a writer appears to approach the subject historically, concentration on quantifiable data to the neglect of underlying institutional and social-psychological factors tends to foreshorten the chronological perspective and thus vitiate the result:

It is misleading to refer to the situation in eighteenth -and nineteenth-century Europe as representing initial conditions in development. By then the west was pervaded by the attitudes and institutions appropriate to an exchange economy and a technical age to a far greater extent than south Asia today. These attitudes and institutions had emerged gradually over a period of eight centuries. (Ibid., 219–20)[1]

At the root of the approach criticized by Bauer there appears to be a methodological holism that prefers to manipulate aggregates while ignoring individual human actors and the institutions their actions generate. Yet, "differences in people's capacities and attitudes and in their institutions are far-reaching and deepseated and largely explain differences in economic performance and in levels and rates of material progress" (Ibid., 313–14; emphasis added).

Bauer's critique thus draws attention to the need to study both the centuries of European history antedating the Industrial Revolution and "the interrelationships between social, political, and legal institutions" in that period (Ibid., 277).[2] Here his assessment links up with an impressive body of scholarship that has emerged in recent years emphasizing precisely these points.

I don't see it. I would rather say that the English came to great wealth by being merchants on the ocean. Its traders and businessmen lead the way and its financial innovations of insurance agencies, primitive corporate structure for pooling capital, etc all helped England become the most powerful nation on the planet.

England's downfall wasn't in the copyright which did stifle creativity but its imperial activity in trying control and dominate distant territories around the globe. The smaller size of the average German political entity also gave them an advantage in entrepreneurial spirit.

>>>> one of the quotes from the Spiegel article.
"Germany, on the other hand, didn't bother with the concept of copyright for a long time. Prussia, then by far Germany's biggest state, introduced a copyright law in 1837, but Germany's continued division into small states meant that it was hardly possible to enforce the law throughout the empire."

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