Economic Growth and Change
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Economic Growth and Change

National and Regional Patterns of Convergence and Divergence

Edited by John Adams and Francesco Pigliaru

The pursuit of economic growth is at the top of every nation’s policy agenda at the end of the 20th century. This authoritative and comprehensive book goes beyond the narrowly-based convergence model of economic growth by considering global, national and regional patterns of growth from a comparative perspective.
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Chapter 1: On the economic rise and decline of nations

Dennis C. Mueller


Page 15  1. On the economic rise and decline of nations  Dennis C. Mueller  The idea that nations rise and decline calls to mind the grander hypotheses that civilizations or cultures rise and decline as put forward by Oswald Spengler (1922,  1923) and Arnold Toynbee (1946, 1957). The rise and decline of the great civilizations and empires is to a considerable degree a history of military conquest and then  defeat. As Paul Kennedy (1987) has demonstrated for the last half of the millennium, a military rise and decline is inevitably also a story of economic rise and decline,  but there is clearly much more involved than economics. Moreover, in some cases, as with the Ottoman Empire, the story seems to be largely one of military superiority  and inferiority, of governmental efficiency in running a military state, with economic prowess clearly taking a back seat (Fernández­Armesto, 1995, pp. 239–1, 379– 80).  Other factors beyond economic and military strength may also have played important roles in the fortunes of past empires. Toynbee (1946, 1957) emphasized the  contribution of religious zeal and religious decay, Spengler (1922, 1923) described a process of general cultural decline. I am an economist, and my comparative  advantage in the study of history does not fall in the areas of military, cultural and religious history. Indeed, most historians would probably argue that economists are  particularly ill­trained and ill­suited to the study of culture and religion. I shall therefore mostly confine myself to the question...

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