On HumansJanuary 04, 202300:43:5940.71 MB

12 | An Economic History of Homo Sapiens ~ Oded Galor

If you take a moment to reflect on the economic condition of our species, you are likely to be puzzled over two mysteries. 

One is the mystery of wealth: How is it that humanity has been able to generate such a dramatic increase in wealth (e.g. in access to food, transportation, and medical technology)?

The other is the mystery of inequality: Why is this wealth so unevenly distributed? Why are certain countries able to offer historically unprecedented standards of wealth to the majority of their population, while some countries still struggle with dire poverty? 

In his truly remarkable book Journey of Humanity - the Origins of Wealth and Inequality, economist Oded Galor sets out to explain both of these mysteries.

There will be two On Humans -episodes dedicated to this topic. The first one focuses on the grand story of economic growth in human history, searching for an explanation for the recent boom in humanity’s overall wealth. This will be followed by another episode, which searches for the reasons behind the global inequalities that plague the modern world - and asks what to do about them.

In this first episode, Ilari and Prof Galor discuss:

  • The long stagnation: Why humans did not get much richer (or poorer) for many millennia
  • The modern growth regime: How the overall wealth in the world has increased dramatically but unevenly
  • Was agriculture the "worst mistake in human history"?
  • How and why did humans escape the Malthusian trap?
  • The surprising effects of the industrial revolution on education, child labour, and fertility

Names Mentioned

  • Jared Diamond (author of Guns, Germs, and Steel)
  • Yuval Noah Harari (author of Sapiens)
  • David Graeber (co-author of Dawn of Everything)
  • Robert Solow (author of Growth Theory)
  • Daron Acemoglu (co-author of Why Nations Fail)
  • Thomas Piketty (author of Capital in the 21st Century)
  • Thomas Robert Malthus (British clergyman and economist, 1766-1834)

Terms Mentioned

  • Neolithic Revolution (i.e. the beginning of agriculture)
  • Phase transition (e.g. water heating gradually but reaching a “phase transition” at 100 degrees Celsius)
  • Potato blight (leading to the Irish Potato Famine, 1845-1852)