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On the Search for Well-Being

Henry J. Bruton

Publication Year: 1997

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.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

In this book I discuss those issues about development economics that I have found of particular interest, and that I believe to be of great importance in understanding why some nations are rich and others poor. I wish to emphasize that I do not seek to cover all aspects of this area of inquiry, nor have I sought to make a thorough literature review. Neither do I seek to cover all sides of the ...

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CHAPTER 1 Economics and Economic Development

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pp. 1-18

Economics is the study of the relationship between the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services on the one hand and individual and social well-being on the other. Growth economics is the study of how output increases and of the relationship between the increasing production and increasing well-being. Development economics studies why the economies ...

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CHAPTER 2 The Search for Well-Being

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pp. 19-32

Growth economics is the study of the relationship between increasing GDP per capita and enhancing well-being, and development economics studies why some countries have been able to achieve economic growth over the past 150 years and others have not. Therefore we must know what we mean by well-being. I struggle with this concept ...

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CHAPTER 3 Growth Theory and Stylized Facts

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pp. 33-48

The first theory of growth to become widely discussed in the post World War II years was that attributed to R. F. Harrod and independently arrived at by Evsey Domar.1 This theory was about a dynamic short-run (as Harrod noted) rather than a long-run growth process. A technologically given capital ...

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CHAPTER 4 A Way to Think about Growth

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pp. 49-86

An economy, at a particular time, can be defined by several variables that also enter the growth story. There exists a great number of firms with an array of physical capital of various kinds, vintages, states of repair, and so on. There is also an array of rates of return on the various capital ...

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CHAPTER 5 Employment

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pp. 87-110

I have emphasized several times in the preceding pages the crucial role that employment plays in the continuing enhancement of well-being, which, as I keep saying, is what development is really all about. I have also asserted that the conventional textbook practice of treating work as a source of disutility is surely misleading and, indeed, empirically ...

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CHAPTER 6 Entrepreneurship

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pp. 111-132

There is, necessarily, ubiquitous ignorance, and, if there is knowledge that there is ubiquitous ignorance, searching and learning is set in motion. The searching and learning in tum produce the change that, under specified conditions, leads to enhanced well-being for the population. In the effort to understand how the search ...

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CHAPTER 7 Foreign Transactions

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pp. 133-158

From the very beginning of interest in the status of low-income countries, foreign trade, international capital movements, aid, technology transfer, and foreign training have all occupied a great deal of attention. The initial argument was that the the low-income countries should industrialize, should change their economies from agricultural or mineral based to industry based. The most influential ...

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CHAPTER 8 A Form of Protection

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pp. 159-170

The arguments of the preceding pages have placed emphasis on the importance of some form of protection. Protection was deemed necessary for one basic reason: to provide learning time for all members of the community labor, managers, entrepreneurs, marketing people, consumers, and people in general as searchers for the good life, searchers for the knowledge to realize ...

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CHAPTER 9 The Roles of the Government and the Market

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pp. 171-200

Economic development is necessarily a nonnative notion. It implies a progression from one situation or environment or state to another which is, in some sense, presumed to be better. So evaluation is an intrinsic part of the very idea of development. I have argued that the appropriate evaluation criterion is well-being, and that well-being will be enhanced if-in broad tennsthe following conditions ...

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Epilogue: Another Great Question and More Ignorance

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pp. 201-202

The approach to development worked out in the preceding pages has built around several ideas. The basic idea is that development-the enhancement of well-being-means building from the institutions, values, technology, preferences that define the society seeking to develop. Development is necessarily an indigenous process. This approach is in contrast to that which emphasizes the replacement of these characteristics of the indigenous community by those ...


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pp. 203-214


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pp. 215-227

E-ISBN-13: 9780472024193
E-ISBN-10: 0472024191
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472087167
Print-ISBN-10: 0472087169

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 11 drawings, 8 tables
Publication Year: 1997