Institutions, Innovation, and Industrialization: Essays in Economic History and Development
This book brings together a group of leading economic historians to examine how institutions, innovation, and industrialization have determined the development of nations. Presented in honor of Joel Mokyr—arguably the preeminent economic historian of his generation—these wide-ranging essays address a host of core economic questions. What are the origins of markets? How do governments shape our economic fortunes? What role has entrepreneurship played in the rise and success of capitalism? Tackling these and other issues, the book looks at coercion and exchange in the markets of twelfth-century China, sovereign debt in the age of Philip II of Spain, the regulation of child labor in nineteenth-century Europe, meat provisioning in pre–Civil War New York, aircraft manufacturing before World War I, and more. The book also features an essay that surveys Mokyr’s important contributions to the field of economic history, and an essay by Mokyr himself on the origins of the Industrial Revolution.
There is now a very extensive and well-developed theoretical literature on the difficulties faced by durable goods monopolists in pricing their products. Surprisingly, the seminal article in this field did not come from a formal economic theorist but from Ronald Coase. Coase wanted to show that there are situations under which a pure monopolist might not be able to charge a monopoly price for durable products. The literature has since expanded to consider all manner of theoretical and formal conditions under which this hypothesis might or might not hold. And scholars have claimed that this body of work provides insights into everything from strategic leases to planned obsolescence and the problem of new model introductions. But how well has this literature really served to illuminate the problems facing actual business firms? While the safety razor industry has often been invoked as an example of durable goods pricing there has only been limited investigation into the actual behavior of the dominant firm in this industry – Gillette. We consider here the major ideas that have developed as an offshoot of the original Coase paper and the extent to which a case study of Gillette confirms or confounds this analysis.