Why is Europe So Rich?
The main reason that Europe is so rich is because it was the first region to become industrialized. The Industrial Revolution made Europe rich. The pertinent question is why was Europe the first region to become industrialized? In many respects this was an accident of history. There is nothing about Europe that made industrialization inevitable, but there were things about Europe that made it possible. I will tell you a very short history of Europe that will hopefully explain its early industrialization.
The Medieval Agricultural Revolution
In order for industrialization to occur, agriculture must be efficient enough to allow a small but significant percentage of its people to do other things. Even farmers must have the time and resources to experiment and to make their own jobs easier and more financially rewarding.
There is much talk and writing about globalization as if it were a recent phenomenon. The truth is that the exchange of goods, people and idea is thousands of years old. Global trade has long resulted in dramatic changes among trading countries.
About a thousand years ago, technical innovations in Europe greatly improved agricultural productivity, freeing labor for trade and experimentation. I will outline three of the many innovations. One innovation was the adoption of the wedge-shaped mouldboard plow. Originally invented by the Chinese, the mouldboard plow allowed Europeans to move to and farm the heavy, clay soils of the North European Plain. These soils were hard to work, but they were very fertile and in many areas, multiple plantings per year are possible. A second innovation was a simple change in harness design – also invented in China – allowed Europeans to use horses as draft animals. Horses eat less than oxen and they can be used for transportation. Horses also allowed Europeans to build better armies. Third, switching from a 2-field crop rotation system to a...