と題した論説をJoel Mokyrノースウエスタン大教授が書いている(原題は「How Europe became so rich」;H/T Mostly Economics)。

How and why did the modern world and its unprecedented prosperity begin? Learned tomes by historians, economists, political scientists and other scholars fill many bookshelves with explanations of how and why the process of modern economic growth or ‘the Great Enrichment’ exploded in western Europe in the 18th century. One of the oldest and most persuasive explanations is the long political fragmentation of Europe. For centuries, no ruler had ever been able to unite Europe the way the Mongols and the Mings had united China.
It should be emphasised that Europe’s success was not the result of any inherent superiority of European (much less Christian) culture. It was rather what is known as a classical emergent property, a complex and unintended outcome of simpler interactions on the whole. The modern European economic miracle was the result of contingent institutional outcomes. It was neither designed nor planned. But it happened, and once it began, it generated a self-reinforcing dynamic of economic progress that made knowledge-driven growth both possible and sustainable.
How did this work? In brief, Europe’s political fragmentation spurred productive competition. It meant that European rulers found themselves competing for the best and most productive intellectuals and artisans. The economic historian Eric L Jones called this ‘the States system’. The costs of European political division into multiple competing states were substantial: they included almost incessant warfare, protectionism, and other coordination failures. Many scholars now believe, however, that in the long run the benefits of competing states might have been larger than the costs. In particular, the existence of multiple competing states encouraged scientific and technological innovation.
近代世界とその前例の無い繁栄はどのように始まったのだろうか? 近代の経済成長の過程、ないし「大繁栄」が、なぜどのように18世紀の西欧で急進展したかの説明については、歴史学者、経済学者、政治学者、およびその他の学者による浩瀚学術書が数多く出版されている。その中で最も古くかつ説得力のある説明は、欧州の長期に亘る政治的分断である。何世紀もの間、蒙古や明朝が中国を統一したように欧州を統一できた支配者はいなかった。
それはどのように機能したのだろうか? 簡単に言えば、欧州の政治的分断が生産的競争を促進したのである。そのため、欧州の支配者たちは、最良かつ最も生産的な知識人と職人を求めて相争った。経済史学者のエリック・L・ジョーンズは、これを「複数国家システム」と呼んだ。欧州が複数の互いに競合する国家に政治的に分かれたことの費用は高くついた。ほぼ絶え間なく続く戦争、保護主義、その他の協調の失敗などがその費用に含まれる。しかし多くの学者は、互いに競争する国家がもたらした便益は長期的には費用を上回ったのではないか、と今日では考えている。とりわけ、複数の競争する国家の存在は、科学および技術のイノベーションを促した。


A possible objection to this view is that political fragmentation was not enough. The Indian subcontinent and the Middle East were fragmented for much of their history, and Africa even more so, yet they did not experience a Great Enrichment. Clearly, more was needed. The size of the ‘market’ that intellectual and technological innovators faced was one element of scientific and technological development that has not perhaps received as much attention it should. In 1769, for example, Matthew Boulton wrote to his partner James Watt: ‘It is not worth my while to manufacture [your engine] for three counties only; but I find it very well worth my while to make it for all the world.’
What was true for steam engines was equally true for books and essays on astronomy, medicine and mathematics. Writing such a book involved fixed costs, and so the size of the market mattered. If fragmentation meant that the constituency of each innovator was small, it would have dampened the incentives.
In early modern Europe, however, political and religious fragmentation did not mean small audiences for intellectual innovators. Political fragmentation existed alongside a remarkable intellectual and cultural unity. Europe offered a more or less integrated market for ideas, a continent-wide network of learned men and women, in which new ideas were distributed and circulated. European cultural unity was rooted in its classical heritage and, among intellectuals, the widespread use of Latin as their lingua franca. The structure of the medieval Christian Church also provided an element shared throughout the continent. Indeed, long before the term ‘Europe’ was commonly used, it was called ‘Christendom’.
If Europe’s intellectuals moved with unprecedented frequency and ease, their ideas travelled even faster. Through the printing press and the much-improved postal system, written knowledge circulated rapidly. In the relatively pluralistic environment of early modern Europe, especially in contrast with East Asia, conservative attempts to suppress new ideas floundered. The reputation of intellectual superstars such as Galileo and Spinoza was such that, if local censorship tried to prohibit the publication of their works, they could easily find publishers abroad.


It is interesting to note that the advances in science were driven not only by the emergence of open science and the growing sophistication of the transnational market for ideas. They were also driven by the appearance of better tools and instruments that faci­litated research in natural philosophy. The most important ones include the micro­scope, telescope, barometer and modern thermometer. All of them were developed in the first half of the 17th century. Improved tools in physics, astronomy and biology refuted many misconceptions inherited from classical antiquity. The newly discovered notions of a vacuum and an atmosphere stimulated the emergence of atmospheric engines. In turn, steam engines inspired scientists to investigate the physics of the conversion of heat into motion. More than a century after Newcomen’s first pump (the famous Dudley Castle engine of 1712), thermodynamics was developed.
In 18th-century Europe, the interplay between pure science and the work of engineers and mechanics became progressively stronger. ...


We must recognise that Europe’s (and the world’s) Great Enrichment was in no way inevitable. With fairly minor changes in initial conditions, or even accidents along the way, it might never have happened. ...
...The world today, after all, still consists of competing entities, and seems not much closer to unification than in 1600. Its market for ideas is more active than ever, and innovations are occurring at an ever faster pace. Far from all the low-hanging technological fruits having been picked, the best is still to come.