He does milestones on the big stage about as good as anyone ever has in the NBA.
Not even those at the peaks of social status and political power could enjoy the creature comforts and consumer delights that "poor" people take for granted in the West today. At times, certain populations fared somewhat better — in ancient Greece and Rome, perhaps, and in China during the Sung Dynasty — — but those cases were exceptional.
As late as the 14th century, the Chinese probably enjoyed the highest level of living of any large population.
Even more remarkable, the economic energy of Europe began to shift away from the great commercial centers of northern Italy and toward the periphery of civilization in northwestern Europe.
The barbarians, it seemed, had somehow stumbled onto the secret of economic progress. Henceforth, despite many setbacks, the western Europeans — and later their colonial cousins in North America as well — steadily pulled ahead of the human pack.
How did the West succeed in generating sustained economic progress? Historians and social scientists have offered various hypotheses, and so far no single explanation has gained general acceptance. Nevertheless, certain elements of an answer have received wide agreement.
The growing individualism of Western culture, rooted in Christian doctrine, seems to have contributed significantly. Fundamental to that sustained dynamism was the gradually improving status of private-property rights.
So long as people cannot count on a reasonable prospect of reaping the fruits of their efforts and investments, they have little or no incentive to work hard or to accumulate physical, human, and intellectual capital.
And without such accumulation, no ongoing economic progress is possible. More reliable private-property rights did not just drop from heaven, however. For the most part, the merchants acquired the protection of such rights by paying off the robber barons and aspiring kings who constituted the fragmented ruling stratum of western Europe.
In the extreme, the merchants established political independence in city states where they could exercise complete control over the legal institutions that undergirded their economic activities. Later, Bruges, Antwerp, Amsterdam, and London took the lead. To facilitate their business, the merchants developed their own legal system.
Intended to provide quick, cheap, and fair resolution of commercial disputes, this lex mercatoria established institutions and precedents that have survived to the present, and it now finds expression in a vast system of alternative nonstate dispute resolution in arbitration proceedings.
Unfortunately, the Chinese communists, eastern Europeans, and many of the postcolonial governments of the Third World followed the USSR down that road to economic ruin.
Nowadays, at long last, it seems that almost everyone has come to understand the nexus of economic freedom and economic growth and to appreciate the vital importance of private-property rights. Yet, everywhere, governments continue to grant privilege seekers countless choke holds on the economy.
As history confirms, private-property rights require constant defense, lest the precondition of all economic progress be undermined and destroyed.
Deepak Lal, Unintended Consequences: MIT Press,pp. Oxford University Press,p. Nathan Rosenberg and L. Basic Books,pp.RISE is the first national association dedicated to supporting healthcare professionals as they endeavor to meet the challenges associated with the ever-changing landscape of .
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