Guns, Germs and Steel: The Very Long Run

Video 3 of 245 from the course: Development Economics
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A summary of Jared Diamond's important arguments in Guns, Germs and Steel about why growth began where it did thousands of years ago.

 

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Show 1 Answer (Answer provided by Alex Tabarrok)
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Video game economics is still considered weird but that is starting to change because, as you note, it is possible to do randomized controlled experiments in large, virtual worlds that are not otherwise possible. Here is a recent article on this from The Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/09/28/the-economi...

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Nice summary of Guns Germs and Steel. However, the course starts by comparing Eurasian societies in 1500 to the rest of the world. It misses the first step, that is, explaining how development happened in the first place. How did we evolve to create agriculture from hunting and gathering and the first food surplus (e.g. did agriculture lead to cities, or cities –trade centers—led to agriculture as Jane Jacobs postulates?), the first divisions of labor (religion/astronomy? Government?). It is obvious that agriculture and food surplus and division of labor did not require guns, germs or steel, otherwise the Aztecs/mayans wouldn’t have been so powerful or advanced.

Good point. It would seem that the key factors affecting development are guns, germs and steel since 1500; domesticatability of animals and crops, access to water routes and other factors before that.

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Could it be that superior societies, social arrangements being the models compared, simply advanced more quickly? European and US societal arrangements advanced past the arrangements in China and MidEast. And, what does he imply by 'weak govt'. That which doesn't have the power to repel foreign invaders?

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Geography. . . Greater land mass. . Greater amount of people. . . Greater exchange of ideas and information?

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While it's notable that chicken meet world production level is currently higher than the same of cattle meet, none of the animals in the list could have been similarly important.
Historically, cows and horses and other large animals were not only a meat source, but also provided milk for nutrition, skin for clothes, mechanical energy for construction, agriculture, and transportation (and warfare).
Dogs aren't so energy efficient because of being predators (though, I remember something about eatable dogs), chicken, rabbits and other small animals are too small. So while domesticating such animals may have improved the living, they are not samely important.
I, however, think domesticating the wolf should be praised much more.

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Was it the ultimate factor? It appears to me being just one of a bunch. Though, I must agree with its weakness.
It was always obvious to me that the distinction between Europe and Asia was due to geography, not only culture: Eurasian East-West axis seems broken in the middle. (Two of the earliest agricultural regions develop independently in Eurasia, it smells like a piece of evidence)

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Go to 14:20 in the video, East-West axis is at the top of the Ultimate Factors >> Proximate Factors chart. I haven't read the book, but the argument seems weak to me too. North America has a wide open east-west plain that covers what, 2/3 of it? Corn being harder to grow and harvest than wheat and rice sounds like the ultimate factor to me.

I have read it and the axis argument seems not only weak, but also minor to me.

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I think it's an odd factor, too. If you think about it, trade in East Asia often happened across a "north-south axis" (think of trade between China and areas much farther south connected by the Chinese diaspora communities). Why wasn't there more extensive water trade along the coasts of the Americas?

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Test answer

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