Friday, July 23, 2010

The Persistance Of Technological Gaps

My son just brought this comment from The Atlantic to my attention:
1500 AD technology is a particularly powerful predictor of per capita income today. 78 percent of the difference in income today between sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe is explained by technology differences that already existed in 1500 AD – even BEFORE the slave trade and colonialism.
I have not read the original article, but I don't doubt the conclusion. That of course does not mean that countries that were best placed to exploit the "economic opportunities" of slavery and other conditions over the centuries did not profit from that exploitation.

There are also famous comparisons -- South Korea versus Ghana, South Korea versus Egypt in the last have century -- suggesting that countries starting in comparable technological conditions can progress very differently both technologically and economically. Indeed, the experience of all the "Tigers" suggests that rapid technological and economic progress is possible even while most countries retain their traditional places in the rankings.

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