The Birth of Plenty: How the Prosperity of the Modern World was Created
by William J. Bernstein
New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004
The Birth of Plenty suggests — and supports with groundbreaking analysis — that from the dawn of recorded history through 1820, the “mass of man” experienced essentially zero growth, both in economic standing and in living standards. It was only in the nineteenth century that the world’s standard of living began to inexorably and irreversibly improve and that the modern world was born.
But what changed, and why then? Noted financial expert and neurologist William Bernstein isolates the four conditions that when occurring simultaneously, constitute an all-inclusive formula for human progress:
- Property rights — Creators must have proper incentives to create
- Scientific rationalism — Innovators must possess the proper intellectual tools in order to innovate and must be able to do so without fear of retribution
- Capital markets — Entrepreneurs must have access to sufficient capital to pursue their visions
- Transportation/communication — Society must be able to rapidly and efficiently move information and finished products
Beyond just shining a light on how quickly progress occurs once the building blocks are in place, The Birth of Plenty examines how their absence constitutes nothing less than a prescription for continued human struggle and pain. Why do so many parts of the world remain behind, while others learn to adapt, adopt, and move forward? What must long-troubled nations do to pull themselves from then ever-ending spiral of defeatism? The Birth of Plentyaddresses these timely and vital questions head on, empirically and without apology, and provides answers that are both thought-provoking and troubling.
The Birth of Plenty frames the modern world’s prosperity — or, in far too many cases, continuing lack of prosperity — in terms that are ingenious yet simple, complex yet easily understood. Entertaining and provocative, it will forever change the way you view the human pursuit of happiness and bring the conflicts of both the world’s superpowers and developing nations into a fascinating and informative new light.
William J. Bernstein, Ph.D., M.D., is founder of the popular Web site efficientfrontier.com, which has become one of today’s most widely viewed and straight-talking forums for independent investors. Dr. Bernstein, the author of The Four Pillars of Investing and The Intelligent Asset Allocator, is frequently quoted in major publications such as The Wall Street Journal and is a guest analyst and columnist for Morningstar.“