The Evolution of Material Well-Being

At any time earlier than about 1000 AD, the material standard of living of almost every person was close to the minimum needed to sustain life. Societies in which the majority of the people attained a significantly higher standard of living have emerged only within the last two or three hundred years…

”O excellent! I love long life better than figs.”

Improved material well-being resulted in substantially longer lives. Infant mortality (defined as death within the first year of life) declined, and the life expectancy of those who survived infancy rose. Malnutrition and its associated diseases became less common, and the mass killers, famine and plague, receded…

Growth that Makes Us Richer and Growth that Doesn’t

Economists distinguish between two kinds of growth, extensive and intensive. Extensive growth raises a nation’s total output, but doesn’t make the populace better off and can easily make it worse off. Intensive growth, on the other hand, raises the average person’s standard of living…

Civilization and Disease

Humans are an environmental niche, and organisms arise through mutation to populate it. The survival of a colonizing organism depends upon its ability to adapt to the human body, and upon the body’s ability to adapt to it…

Property Rights and Growth

North and Thomas argue that the establishment and enforcement of property rights has been a major cause of economic growth. A person who has property rights over a particular resource has the right to control it and use it as he pleases. Property rights are determined in part by law and in part by social conventions…