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.

Chapter 1: Introduction and overview

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


Peter Bernholz and Roland Vaubel In 1742, David Hume notes in his essay ‘Of the rise and progress of the arts and sciences’: That it is impossible for the arts and sciences to arise, at first, among any people unless that people enjoy the blessing of a free government . . . (61) . . . That nothing is more favourable to the rise of politeness and learning than a number of neighbouring and independent states, connected together by commerce and policy (64). Where a number of neighbouring states have great intercourse of arts and commerce, their mutual jealousy keeps them from receiving too lightly the law from each other, in matters of taste and of reasoning, and makes them examine every work of art with the greatest care and accuracy (65). Immanuel Kant, who always took much of his inspiration from David Hume, elaborated on this theory and suggested that freedom itself rests on the existence of a number of neighbouring and independent states, connected by commerce and jealous of each other: Now the States are already in the present day involved in such close relations with each other that none of them can pause or slacken in its internal civilization without losing power and influence in relation to the rest . . . Civil liberty cannot now be easily assailed without inflicting such damage as will be felt in all trades and industries, and especially in commerce; and this would entail a diminution of the powers of the State in external relations . . . And thus it is that,...