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This book takes on one of the great questions of the day: Why are some countries enormously rich and others so heartbreakingly poor?
Henry J. Bruton organizes the discussion around three basic ideas. The first is that well-being reflects not only the availability and distribution of goods and services, but also employment, values, institutions, and quality of preferences. The second is that ignorance is ubiquitous; hence growth of well-being depends primarily on commitments to searching and learning. The extent of such commitments is embedded in deep-seated characteristics of the society, its history, and the degree to which it can look ahead. The third is that economic policy-making is largely a matter of muddling through; furthermore, the idea that an economy can be assumed to be in a general equilibrium and can therefore be left to itself must be rejected. The author explores these ideas and their implications for the processes of growth and for policies to facilitate that growth.
The book breaks new ground in its emphasis on ignorance and learning and its generalized definition of well-being. Drawing from contemporary work in evolutionary economics, the economics of technological change, analytical economic history, and the new political economy, this work should be of interest to historians, sociologists, and students of technology, as well as economists. While directly concerned with development, it has implications for labor, trade, economic history, and industrial organization.
Henry J. Bruton is Professor of Economics, Williams College.