Economics - General

430 times wealthier

What is economic growth?  How can it be understood?  One concise explanatino is given by Brad DeLong in an article for Wired (“The Real Shopping Cart Revolution“).  In the article, DeLong compares the relative price of flour now to the relative price in the fifteenth to seventeenth and concludes that modern man is 430 times richer than individuals half a millennium ago.  Here is an excerpt:

Suppose a group of theatergoers in Elizabethan England had decided one evening that they wanted to see a performance of Macbeth. Queen Elizabeth herself might have been able to pull it off if Shakespeare’s acting company had the play in its current repertory. But she was the only person in England who could have done so. Go back before Gutenberg to 1400, and a single copy of a book costs as much as two months’ income of a skilled craftsman – the same share of that society’s productive potential as $6,000 is today. Even the richest of our late-medieval and early-modern ancestors were appallingly poor. Indeed, the shift in what kinds of goods we can produce may be as big a deal as the extraordinary drop in how efficiently we can produce them.”