From Cambridge's Simon Taylor's personal blog, Behind Blue Eyes:
The first part of my new MFin elective Understanding the World Economy and Financial System next term will explore the question, why are some countries richer than others?*One of the most important, interesting but hotly contested questions in economics is, why are some countries richer than others? The world is astonishingly unequal; the life chances of a child born today depend overwhelmingly on the country of birth. One way of seeing this is to look at the earth sky at night. The variation in light broadly correlates with economic development (as well as relatively unpopulated areas of course).
The question is contentious because it can easily turn into a debate about racial or cultural superiority, or encourage deterministic theories of long term development. Equally, it seems unsatisfactory to say the current unequal outcome is an arbitrary result of random historic “stuff”. Any theory needs also to account for change – the “west” (Japan doesn’t fit very well into that label) has dominated global economic power for a century and a half but there is a steady shift eastwards currently going on.
There isn’t a single, satisfying grand theory, but we can find a lot of causal explanations, which are not mutually exclusive, under the headings: geography, history and contingency (or sheer luck, if you prefer).
The idea that the physical facts of a country or region, including climate, botany and the type of animals present, explains destiny, is a very old one. It would be surprising if geography had no role to play. But it’s too simple to say that this or that feature is good or bad for development. Rather, geography intersects with other forces.
Jared Diamond’s brilliant Guns, Germs and Steel argues that there is a good reason why civilisation developed mainly in the Eurasian land mass rather than in the Americas or in Africa. The reason is a combination of the geographic orientation (east-west turned out to be more helpful than north-south) and in the luck of which animals and plants could be domesticated. Early civilisation required fertile river basins, the right climate and suitable plants for turning into agriculture.....MUCH MOREWe visited Professor Taylor in "The Political Economy of Cows: Udder Peoples Money".
And in"Rising monopoly power may partly explain US inequality and productivity slowdown"
His bloggy bio says:
Simon is the Director of the University of Cambridge Master of Finance (MFin) degree and a member of the finance and accounting faculty group at Cambridge Judge Business School. An economist and former equities analyst at JPMorgan and Citigroup, he teaches on financial markets and institutions, infrastructure finance and the world financial system. His new book on nuclear power in the UK was published in March 2016.
He also has a faculty profile at Cambridge Judge Business School >