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Oct 03, 2006


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There are some problems with what you mean by "free markets" as there are no ainstitutional markets.

I also would say that scientific advances in basic science have been very significant for advances in wealth creation, as well as institutions that have kept property-relations peaceful and that includes some redistribution.

I think it's wrong to ignore the past history of colonialism or ignore the ways that poverty corrupts the workings of labor markets.

I think it is fair to say that sustainable wealth creation shd be considered hand in hand...


Michael Kruse

My purpose was to entice readers to check out the debated, not present a full orbed argument for recent prosperity.

The most compelling rationale I have seen given for the unprecedented rise in prosperity is William J. Bernstein’s “The Birth of Plenty.” Bernstein identifies the coalescence of four factors:

1. Developments in power, transport, and communication.
2. Development of capital markets
3. Application of scientific rationalism
4. Establishment of property rights

These all had an integrative effect.

Yes, I am aware of colonialism and I am not making a case for a pristine unsullied emergence of prosperity. Nor am I excusing oppressive structures of the past or present. I am merely making the observation that almost in spite of ourselves a complex web of institutions, technology, and values has emerged that is a dynamic prosperity creating machine.

Yes, I am aware of sustainability issues. Just as Americans at the end of the 18th Century wondered how they could connect their vast nation, railroad technology and later the telegraph emerged to integrate the nation. At the beginning of the 20th Century people wondered about animal powered transportation in our cities and the growing sanitation and pollution problem. Along came autos and mass transit. Now we wonder about CO2 emissions and burning up the planet. I am not proclaiming the arrival of utopia but making a historical observation.

When I say “free markets,” to me, that of necessity implies and includes all of the institutional, societal and technological factors that under gird it. As I wrote in the post, “The answer is not primarily redistribution but rather engendering values and institutions that allow prosperity to emerge.”

So in short I am using “free markets” to represent a complex set of factors that have given rise to unprecedented prosperity (not utopia) without writing an economic disertation. But this is still secondary to my main observation, that so many seem to begin the presumption that prosperity is normative.

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