Islam and Capitalism


Brad DeLong gets at the root of the problem for Middle Eastern Islamic countries in an interesting column:

In the early 19th century, Egypt's Mehemet Ali looked at the global balance of economic and military power, and decreed that Egypt must industrialize, fast. He feared that unless Egyptians could learn modern industrial technologies and develop an economy prosperous enough to support modern industrial armies, his descendants would be mere puppets of British and French viceroys. His decree went nowhere: Egypt did not industrialize, and Mehemet Ali's great grandchildren did indeed become puppets of the British and French.

Whole thing here.


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  1. There is a chapter on this issue in _The Wealth & Poverty of Nations._

  2. wow that column was really random and discursive

  3. Another thing to remember is that during the 1100-1200s AD, the Islamic world was THE place for all things cultural and technological – art of all kinds (from literature to music), mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, engineering, military strategy, economic strategy, theology, and approximately everything else. It was also the most free, relatively speaking, place to be during the Middle Ages, whereas the Christian world – not counting the Orthodox Catholic world of the Byzantines – was pretty much a wasteland of grueling war, inquisitions, Crusadse, and intolerance.

    However, it was from 1300-1500 AD that the Islamic world went from “stopping to breath” to begining its decent into what might be described as petty despotic theocracies, stagnation, and backwardsness. If my memory serves, the Islamic world became an increasingly closed, intolerant place from then on, whereas Europe settled more into relatively stable rivalries and rather consistent development in all spheres. It pretty much hit a mighty stride and pace which seems to only have stumbled and fallen in the 1800-2000 period, during which time America did, perhaps, the greatest deal of moving and shaking. As to the future, I’m at my best when entirely agnostic.

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