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Pre-Modern Economies

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Chapter Summary

Productive capacity is the essential difference between past and present economies. Today, the worldwide annual production of goods and services is approximately 40-60 times higher than that of the late 18th century. The productive capacity of past agricultural societies varied within a narrow range of values between mere subsistence and a maximum not higher than two to three times the necessary requirements for survival. The accumulation of knowledge and its diffusion, investment in research and the formation of human capital are believed to represent the base for never-ending productivity increases. In past agrarian economies, since the main productive resource was land, while the productive capital (tools, livestock and machines) played a marginal role, we can assume that the productive factors were distributed between landowners and workers. When labour productivity is high, labour incomes are high and not evenly distributed.

Keywords: agrarian economies; human capital; labour incomes; labour productivity; productive capacity



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