[ExI] Impressive book: Farewell to Alms

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sat Feb 2 10:38:24 UTC 2008

On Feb 2, 2008 5:02 AM, hkhenson wrote:
> A Brief Economic History of the World
> By Dr. Gregory Clark
> University of California, Davis
> This is one of those books that changed my world view, in the same
> class as Richard Dawkins' Selfish Gene, Eric Drexler's Engines of
> Creation, William Calvin's The Cerebral Code, Robert Wright's Moral
> Animal, Robert Axelrod's Evolution of Cooperation and a hand full of
> other books mostly on evolutionary psychology.  It's not that it
> replaces any of these, just fills in a big knowledge gap and is
> highly complimentary to my work on the origin of war.
> Economics, particularly historical economics, never made much sense
> to me.  Dr. Clark's work does and it might be called "evolutionary economics."
> It makes a case for intense genetic selection leading up to the great
> leap of the industrial revolution that allowed England and a small
> number of other countries to escape the "Malthusian Trap." and it
> makes a case for why this didn't come about in other parts of the
> world and isn't likely to.

I find myself uneasy with the sweeping conclusions in this book.
I don't think genetics changes the population quickly enough to be the
*sole* cause of the Industrial Revolution in the UK. He is effectively
claiming that the UK race is genetically bred to rule the world. Isn't
that what they call 'racism'?

The UK population grew slowly up to about 1800 when the IR happened.
This was due to disease and lack of food. About 1740 four-field crop
rotation was introduced and more food became available. Hygiene and
medicine improved and the population increased rapidly. With the help
of cultural and economic institutions, the first countries to get guns
and technology became world powers. ("Guns, Germs and Steel").

I think people should read the critics of this book before jumping on
board. There are holes in his argument and exceptions in other


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