Friday, February 11, 2011

The Economist: A Map, A Graph And A Book Review on Islamic Countries

"The crescent and the company: A scholar asks some profound questions about why the Middle East fell behind the West"
IN 2002 a group of Arab scholars produced a brave report, under the auspices of the United Nations, on the Arab world’s twin deficits, in freedom and knowledge. A salutary debate ensued. Now Timur Kuran, a Turkish-American economist based at Duke University, has written an equally brave book on “how Islamic law held back the Middle East”. One can only hope that the result will be an equally salutary debate......

Angus Maddison has calculated that in the year 1000 the Middle East’s share of the world’s gross domestic product was larger than Europe’s—10% compared with 9%. By 1700 the Middle East’s share had fallen to just 2% and Europe’s had risen to 22%.......

In “The Long Divergence” Mr Kuran advances a more plausible reason. The Middle East fell behind the West because it failed to produce commercial institutions—most notably joint-stock companies—that were capable of mobilising large quantities of productive resources and enduring over time.
Comment: The events over the past month in Tunisia and Egypt, and the support for those events in other Arab nations give hope that cultural change, including changes in political and economic institutions, will lead to better lives for the Arab peoples! Clearly there is great room for improvement in their lives.

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