Political Competition, Innovation and Growth in the History of Asian Civilizations

Political Competition, Innovation and Growth in the History of Asian Civilizations

Edited by Peter Bernholz and Roland Vaubel

Do political decentralisation and inter state competition favour innovation and growth? There has long been a lively debate surrounding this question, going back to David Hume and Immanuel Kant. This book is a new attempt to test its veracity. The existing literature tends to assume that the beneficial effects of inter state competition have been confined to European history. By contrast, China, India and the Islamic Middle East are regarded as inherently imperial and overcentralised. However, these civilisations have not always been unified politically. In their history, there have been long spells of decentralised rule or inter state competition. The same is true for Japan. If the Hume–Kant hypothesis is correct, it should also apply to those periods. This volume analyses the qualitative and quantitative evidence.

Foreword

Edited by Peter Bernholz and Roland Vaubel

Subjects: asian studies, asian economics, asian politics and policy, economics and finance, asian economics, economic psychology, public choice theory, politics and public policy, asian politics, public choice

Extract

Eric Jones A new phase of scholarship starts when an accepted generalization is placed under serious review. The specialists may then confirm some of its applications but they also start to point out anomalies, the instances when the evidence does not fit very well. In its broadest sense the proposition scrutinized in this volume is that spells of political fragmentation in the pre-modern world had very large consequences indeed. The suggestion is that they were accompanied by, and in some measure actually occasioned, a broad range of episodes of cultural creativity, innovation both technological and commercial, and economic growth. This hypothesis, originally drawn from the European case, is examined here by scholars whose careers have become virtually synonymous with the interpretation of historical experience in China, Japan, India and the Islamic world. The volume nevertheless carries on beyond mere second-phase work. The comparative histories that it contains clarify a number of issues and enable us to derive a programme for the next stage of research. The volume’s central notion is labelled by its editors, the Hume–Kant hypothesis. The writings of Hume and Kant, taken together, urge that competition among countries is not only economically beneficial but vital to preserve liberty. However those of us who started to argue along these lines a generation ago seldom referred to predecessors like Hume or Kant. Certainly I never came across the relevant passages in their works, let alone those in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. We rediscovered the wheel for ourselves, so to...