Western Prosperity, Power, & Education (L80)

1.) According to Deirdre McCloskey, why do some of the traditional explanations for Western prosperity fail, and what in her view is the major, unique ingredient that accounts for it?

According to Deirdre McCloskey, many of the traditionally applied explanations of Western prosperity are incorrect because of the fact that many other countries at the time also had the same resources (or ones like it that were just as vital to success). Places including China, the Ottoman Empire, and South Asia all used the same traditional explanations, yet they saw no immediate jump in prosperity as the west had. Foreign trade, institutions that respected and protected private property, and imperialism were all important pieces to the puzzle, but not they were certainly not enough in themselves to create soaring economy. The differences between these places and northwestern Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries was an alteration in the public regards towards businessmen; anyone who became involved in the betterment of society was respected, and viewed highly among the public, whereas before there had been great hostility exhibited against the middle class. This new found respect caused an uproar of people wanting to contribute to their society, and between 1780 and 1860, there was approximately a doubling of the real per-capita income. This is what McCloskey referred to as the Great Enrichment.

2.) What were the major principles guiding the diplomats at the Congress of Vienna?

The three major principles guiding the diplomats at the Congress of Vienna were legitimacy, balance of power, and compensation. The diplomats believed in the line of succession, and that the true heir to the throne was of the royal family bloodline. They also had concerns that led to the common agreement that no one state should be able to threaten the security of another; the diplomats wanted to keep power (strength, prestige, and territory) at an optimal balance. Going hand in hand with the balance of power, the diplomats decided that if one power received a territory, the other powers must be equally compensated.

3.) According to Rothbard, did compulsory state education emerge because governments simply wanted their people to become more knowledgeable, or were there other motivations at work?

According to Rothbard (and any other realistic historian), compulsory state education became extremely popular and widely applied to the people because of it’s capacity to create subordinate generations of children. Mandatory state structured education was the perfect way to regulate exactly what the children were learning about their country, and the people who ran it. These same techniques are still widely used in public schools today; the goal has never been to make children (or anyone for that matter) more knowledgeable. The real applications for compulsory state education were largely religious at the time of it’s birth, and it was mainly used to instill Protestant or Calvinist ideals into young, sponge-like minds. Today however, it is used less for religious purpose and more for government obedience training.


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