In 1671, Thomas Hobbes described the natural state of mankind before organized government as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. He described a world where “every man was enemy to every man” and a constant state of fear existed whereby it would be impossible for civilization as known in his time to exist . The three authors subject of this short study; Niall Ferguson, Ian Morris, and David Landes in their works: “Civilization”, “Why the West Rules-For Now” and “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations” respectively, attempt to understand how and why our ancestors were able to adapt and came to dominate their environments and the original natural, geographical and physical constraints and challenges presented by life on planet Earth. In addition, all three works address the question of the current multi-century phase of economic dominance by the “west”, and in attempting to understand that economic dominance they also attempt to determine if there are economic themes or patterns that can predict economic development especially as we know it today.
In “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations”, Landes sets out to answer through historical research, the questions of how and why did we get here, how did the rich countries get so rich, and the poor so poor, and why did Europe become the leader that changed the world. His analysis is based on the economic histories of key countries and regions including Europe and the United States as the base comparators, Japan, China, Latin America, and the Arab regions . Landes’ work is not a recounting of the events or personal deeds involved in the economic history of those regions or countries, but a search for underlying causes, including some that he himself admits have been unfairly discarded b...
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...e physical challenges of surviving on earth.
Although some of this may sound on the surface as deterministic or geographic lock-in as described by Morris, he does not argue that geography is insurmountable. Morris also has a series of themes such as information processing or the ability to make war,
Ferguson, Niall. Civilization - the West and the Rest. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2011.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press Edition, 2010, 1651 Original
Landes, David. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.
Morris, Ian. Why the West Rules-for Now: The Patterns of History and What They Reveal About the Future. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010.
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