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The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity and Economic Progress

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Joel Mokyr

"An excellent volume outlining in great detail, yet wide ranging in scope, the role of technological change in history. Will make a great supplemental text for our future World Economic History course that I'll be teaching."--Michael Haupert, Univ. of … see full wiki

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Author: Joel Mokyr
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
1 review about The Lever of Riches: Technological Creativity...

An Invaluable Frame of Reference

  • Jan 12, 2000
According to Joel Mokyr, economic growth is the result of four distinct processes: Investment (increases in the capital stock), Commercial Expansion, Scale or Size Effects, and Increase in the Stock of Human Knowledge (which includes technological progress proper as well as changes in institutions). Throughout his brilliant book, he correlates technological creativity with economic progress throughout classical antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and then into the later 19th century.

In Chapter 12 ("Epilogue"), he further develops what is assuredly an invaluable frame-of-reference within which to understand our own time. Why does technological creativity occur? There are two components in the invention-innovation sequence: "technical problems involve a struggle between mind and matter, that is, they involve control of the physical environment." The other component is social: "For a new technique to be implemented, the innovator has to react with a human environment comprised of competitors, customers, suppliers, the authorities, neighbors, possibly the priest."

This brief commentary has only inadequately suggested the scope and depth of Mokyr's rigorous inquiry into technological creativity and its contributions to economic progress. In weeks and months to come, there will be new "levers" which help to create new "riches." The historical context within which Joel Mokyr places these opportunities is a contribution of incalculable value.

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