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Glaeser on Mokyr

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Reviewing Joel Mokyr's The Enlightened Economy, Ed Glaeser writes,


It is easy to envision the massive mills of Manchester and think that the Industrial Revolution was all about scale and machines. But there was more. At its core, this economic and technological revolution was created by connected groups of smart people who stole each others' ideas and implemented them. I tend to think that the chain of interrelated insights that brought us industrialization could have happened in other countries and at other times, but there is every reason to think that the Enlightenment had readied England's intellectual soil for industrial innovation. Not least because it persuades readers of the plausibility of such an unlikely and colorful causation, Mokyr's book is a splendid achievement.

"connected groups of smart people who stole each others' ideas and implemented them" is also a great way to describe the personal computer revolution.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
MernaMoose writes:

At its core, this economic and technological revolution was created by connected groups of smart people who stole each others' ideas and implemented them.

An interesting way of putting it and in spite of IP laws, not too far from the truth. I may not be able to steal someone's solution to a technological problem directly. But just seeing the fact that they've found a solution to a problem that people care about, may inspire me to go find a different way of solving the same problem.

It is in this sense that the "connected smart people" go around "stealing" each other's ideas.

Yeah buddy. Let the looting begin.

Troy Camplin writes:

It's the same with artistic movements. Aristic and literary Modernism were both centered on Paris -- they had the salon system, and that attracted intellectuals and artists of all kinds. Where's the salons of today? And where are the great artistic and literary movements?

Ted Craig writes:

I read this post right after hearing a short radio news piece that Dmitry Medvedev is in Silicon Valley today meeting with Jobs and the Google guys. He wants to learn how to replicate Silicon Valley in Russia. I shook my head at the piece and thought, "Dmitry, Silicon Valley wasn't built. It grew."
By the way, read about the history of the U.S. auto industry and you'll see the same thing happened there, with Henry Ford, Ransom Olds, the Dodge Brothers and others swapping ideas down at the Pontchartrain Hotel.

fundamentalist writes:
At its core, this economic and technological revolution was created by connected groups of smart people who stole each others' ideas and implemented them.

That's not even close to the truth and flies in the face of mountains of historical evidence. Much of the technology that launched the industrial revolution had existed for centuries. For example, steam powered locomotion was used in the temples of Egypt and Greece hundreds of years BC. Europe got a lot of its technology for the revolution from China and the Ottoman Empire in the early modern period, yet neither Empire took part in the revolution. In the 20th century, the USSR had some of the best technology in the world, much of which they stole from us, and couldn't grow its economy.

The industrial revolution happened when it did and where it did because of increased protection for property rights. Technology can be implemented for industrial purposes only when people feel secure that the money they invest in it will be safe from theft by the politically powerful.

If technology were all that that is required for and industrial revolution to take place, there would be no poor countries on the planet. Every country in the world is free to steal any technology they want. China stole Western technology for decades, but only after the change in property rights under Deng did that technology created a revolution in China.

MernaMoose writes:

fundamentalist,

You're right, of course. But given that essential foundation it then remains true that

At its core, this economic and technological revolution was created by connected groups of smart people who stole each others' ideas and implemented them.
fundamentalist writes:

MernaMoose, but smart people have always stolen the ideas of other smart people. Can you tell me of a time when that didn't happen?

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