The Great Breakthrough and Its Cause
University of Michigan Press, 2000 - 214 pages
One of Julian Simon's last works-in-progress--cut short just before completion by his death in early 1998--The Great Breakthrough and Its Cause explores the question of why human progress accelerated in Western Europe starting around 1750. Why did life expectancy, the household consumption level, speeds of travel and communication, the literacy rate, and other aspects of the standard of living leap above those in the previous centuries and millennia? What forces caused this extraordinary development to occur when it did--or even to occur at all--rather than centuries or millennia earlier or later?
Simon answers this question by arguing persuasively that the total quantity of humanity--and the nexus of human numbers with technology--has been the main driving force behind what he calls "Sudden Modern Progress." Further, he continues, if population numbers had risen more rapidly than they did, the "Great Breakthrough" would have occurred earlier. He also asserts that institutional changes, phenomena often credited for human progress, are from a very long-run perspective a result of population growth. And finally, he seeks to refute two seeming counterexamples, China and India, that reached high population densities prior to the modern period without accelerated growth in consumer welfare. In his inimitable style, Simon meticulously backs up his arguments with extensive use of a wide variety of data. Along the way, he also takes on the arguments of other writers on the subject of population growth and progress, such as Joel Mokyr and Eric Jones.
Completed and polished by Timur Kuran, this exploration into the great explosion of consumer welfare will stimulate, challenge, and foster high-level intellectual debate on the question of human progress. It will be of particular interest to demographers, economic historians, and a broad array of social scientists.
The late Julian Simon was most recently Professor of Business Administration, University of Maryland, College Park.
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Basic Measures of Human Welfare over the Long Course of Human Existence
Measures of Progress during the Millennium 10002000
Urbanization in the World
Trends in Life Expectancy over the Millennia
England Sweden France and China 15411985
Life Expectancy at Birth by Mean Income 195558
42000 Years Ago to the Present
Nutrition in China 195288
Adult Illiteracy Developing Countries by Birth Year Pre192573
Index of the Annual Volume of Exports of European Countries
The Theoretical Framework
The Static Malthusian Model
MalthusEhrlichNewspaperTelevision Vision of Population and Food
BarnettBoserupClarkSchultzSimon Vision of Population and Food
Evidence on the LongRun ProgressPopulation
VeryLongRun SlowChanging Processes
Rate of Population Growth dPP for 20000 Years
Growth of the Human Population during the Past Ten Million Years
GDP per Person by Area
Development of Worlds Railway Mileage 1840 and 1920
The Decline of Illiteracy among Army Recruits
The Enigma of China India and Europe
Summary and Conclusions
Other editions - View all
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