The best clue to a nation’s growth potential

4 August, 2016 at 17:46 | Posted in Economics | 5 Comments

Wealth_And_Poverty_Of_NationsThe economic implications of gender discrimination are most serious. To deny women is to deprive a country of labor and talent, but — even worse — to undermine the drive to achievement of boys and men. One cannot rear young people in such wise that half of them think themselves superior by biology, without dulling ambition and devaluing accomplishment … To be sure, any society will have its achievers no matter what, if only because it has its own division of tasks and spoils. But it cannot compete with other societies that ask performance from the full pool of talent.

In general, the best clue to a nation’s growth and development potential is the status and role of women. This is the greatest handicap of Muslim Middle Eastern societies today, the flaw that most bars them from modernity.

Any economist who thinks that growth and development has little or nothing to do with cultural and religious imperatives ought to read Landes’ masterful survey of what makes some countries so rich and others so poor.



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  1. There are 3 factors in production and when any one of them is limited the nation will slow down in its potential for becoming prosperous, because the cost of the resulting goods rises with their relative scarcity. The above claim deals with only one of them, namely labor. The other two (Smithian factors) of equal significance are land and durable capital goods. As a new area is pioneered these limitations apply in turn in the following order: labor, capital goods and lastly land. When a region of a country has speculation in its land values which are not properly being used, there are significant limitations in these opportunities. Then we know that it has developed as much as the other two limitations can allow.

  2. Read it and I wasn’t convinced!

    • Why?
      To me it’s pretty obvious that how you treat and look upon half the population will have huge repercussions on the way a society will develop …

  3. Or, you know, women may be drafted into the workforce as family incomes fall… That certainly seems to be what happened in many developed countries. And let’s not even get started on female factory labour in the 19th century.

    • Hard to disagree on that — and Landes certainly wouldn’t! But that doesn’t in the slightest change the importance of his observation.

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