Possibilities of Economic Progress

Possibilities of Economic Progress

Possibilities of Economic Progress

Possibilities of Economic Progress

Excerpt

Economic progress is a social and a political as well as an economic problem. Human aptitudes and skills; geographical situation and natural resources; political, social, legal and economic institutions; conflicts of interest and the methods of settling them; all these and other matters are relevant to an understanding of how economic progress is achieved. A general study of economic progress would at least touch upon all these topics, and a useful general study would deal with each in a precise and meaningful way. Such a book would be a large book, and as an achievement of the human mind it would, if written by one man and well done, considerably outdistance The Wealth of Nations.

This book is not a general study. It began as a study of investment and economic progress, but as time went on the need to consider more than investment in any historical situation became increasingly evident, and the scope of interest widened. The book now stands chiefly as an essay in comparative history, concentrating upon the specifically economic factors and dealing particularly with investment. This concentration reduces the subject to manageable proportions, but it does not imply that what is omitted is unimportant. Neither does the emphasis upon investment imply that investment is uniquely important in promoting progress, but rather that concentrating attention upon investment is a good way of gaining insight into the workings of a progressive economy. The whole topic, however, is so extensive that any treatment is bound to be in some measure uneven and eclectic, and to involve, perhaps, many questionable hypotheses and simplifications. Even the basic idea of the historical chapters, that there exist certain discontinuities in development which can be described as accelerations of economic progress, is open to doubt. Yet this is, at the least, a useful hypothesis; and I still believe that the idea corresponds, in some sense, to the facts.

My list of obligations is a long one. For material assistance I am greatly indebted to the trustees of the Houblon Norman Fund who made a grant which enabled me to work for a time in Denmark and Sweden. I have received much help and . . .

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