Economic History lessons – 2

This blogger finished reading the ‘Global Minotaur’ by Yanis Varoufakis last summer and he liked it. Since then, he has recommended it to his students and to several friends. In three of my blog posts (from April to September 2014), I have referred to him. You can find them here, here and here. It was a (pleasant) surprise to find him being named to the new Greek Cabinet.

I liked this open letter that the new Greek Prime Minister wrote to the Germans through the German Handelsblatt. Albert Ritschl’s interview to Der Spiegel on Germany’s past debts and debt forgiveness by other nations is a delight to read.

In a different context, I had just finished listening to the hour-long lecture (this is part 1; easy to locate other parts while listening to part 1) by Prof. Robert Allen – a concise tour of world economic history. If one cannot read his ‘Global Economic History: a very brief introduction’, these lectures are a very good substitute. Western nations must remember history not only out of fairness but also because it always come back – with the difference being that the roles usually end up being reversed.

Western nations’ arguments against outsourcing and offshoring betray not only immorality but convenient amnesia on how they achieved economic growth in the previous three centuries. Their technology and capital-intensive development was an accident of circumstances rather than to any special skill or talent or acumen that they possessed. Hence, trying to explain their superior economic growth in the last and tow half centuries through recourse to culture, etc., is to expose one’s ignorance of longer economic history.

In any case, one blog post is not enough to discuss these issues. I have downloaded interesting papers cited in the Peter Temin paper that I had blogged on earlier and from the links given in Chapter 2 of the New Economics Curriculum developed by and at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. I have to read at least some of them first before I blog on them here.


2 thoughts on “Economic History lessons – 2

  1. Thanks for the above, lots of useful links, including the lecture by Robert Allen author of the-very-brief-introduction series book on economic history. It was refreshing to hear his talk again, after reading his book all that time ago. Particularly pertinent, even hilarious, is his concluding remark where he says that all this free-markets talk & the Washington Consensus preached by developed nations are all tripe as these countries themselves developed after erecting huge tariff barriers behind which their industries developed & then through colonization & conquest coerced the lesser developed countries to be the market for the product their industries manufactured, thus effectively becoming rich enough to further invest in their technological edge.

    I think this point deserves more development by you, or somebody in India — even recent examples of rapid development, such as China or Japan in the last 50-70 years, have developed diametrically opposite to what western intellectuals & institutions preach!


    1. Thank you for the post. The point about how India and China grew and how the West itself grew by not practising Washington Consensus have been well documented by the likes of Ha-Joon Chang and Dani Rodrik.


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