The Evolution of Wealth (Jerry D. Ward)

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The Evolution of Wealth

“This is the story of how people much like us progressed from stone tools and hard lives to levels of almost unbelievable wealth and comfort—at least for those of us born in the right place. It was not a planned transition; it was the result of the natural behavior of people in reacting to the circumstance of the moment, sometimes successfully, often not. The recounting of the high points of this evolution illuminates how today’s technology and the practices of our political economy came into being.

It is an interesting story, and it leaves the reader with a solid understanding of how our capitalistic economy really works: what capitalism is, where it came from, why it has been so successful in creating wealth, and why, in spite of its success, it is so disliked and mistrusted by so many people. It discusses the reasons that socialism has repeatedly and consistently failed. It tells the story of why the Industrial Revolution happened in England and not in China, and makes clear the key element of discovery in that revolution that put mankind on the accelerated path of progress and growth we have enjoyed for the last two hundred years.

The second half of the book focuses on the United States. Starting with a discussion of just how economic growth is affected by the behavior of government, it goes on to identify and analyze the bigger bumps in the road of our continuing evolution.

First, our public education system falls woefully short, particularly for lower income citizens. Education is opportunity; its failure hurts both the individual and the nation. A badly needed restructuring of the industry is discussed at some length. Second, we have too many citizens who have only a vague—and often incorrect—notion of how a capitalistic economy and a democratic republic really function. This is part of the reason that we seem to have great difficulty in governing ourselves prudently—our politicians spend too much, promise too much, interfere too much, bestow entitlements that we cannot afford, and detract from healthy private sector competition by exceeding their proper role as economic referees and becoming inept players.

Our collective instinct is to blame our politicians. This implies, though, that the nation has repeatedly elected the five hundred or so persons to be our federal leaders who are the only citizens unable to face hard, unpleasant problems and do something about them. The book presents the case that the problem lies less in the inadequacy of politicians than in the perverse incentives put in place by the nature of the democratic system in which they must perform. Specific actions are put forward to alleviate some of these ills and to produce a more vigilant, involved, and responsible citizenry.

This easy-to-read book is just long enough to tell the essential story of the evolution of wealth and convey a broad understanding of how our political economy works, its problems, and fruitful directions for its future evolution.”

New Books Playground says: The Evolution of Wealth makes us think, about economics, but also politics and society. Highly recommended.