The economies settled from northwestern Europe--the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand--were all resource rich. So why did they industrialize? Why didn't they simply become gigantic Denmarks, shipping agricultural and other resource-based products to the European industral powers in return for manufactures?
This week we have four readings:

They all four bear on the question of settler industrialization--and thus on the question of why the heart of the world economy today is not somewhere near Amsterdam but somewhere between Los Angeles and New York. You would think that the center of innovative industry would remain near its original heartlands--that agglomeration economies in R&D and economic activity would keep Manchester the heart of the world economy. But that is not what happened:
The nineteenth-century periphery industrialized and grew rich--but only a part of the nineteenth-century periphery, and not just the English-speaking British-institutions nineteenth-century periphery--Japan, Barbados, Jamaica, British Guyana, Mississippi...

Paul Krugman on Evsey Domar:
Paul Krugman: [Domar] came up with a simple yet powerful insight: there's no point in enslaving or enserfing a man unless the wage you would have to pay him if he was free is substantially above the cost of feeding, housing, and clothing him. Imagine a pre-industrial society where population is pressing on limited land supplies, and the marginal product of labor... is barely at subsistence. In that case, why bother establishing property rights in human beings? It costs no more to hire a free worker than to feed an indentured laborer. Indeed, by 1300 - with Europe very much a Malthusian society - serfdom had withered away from lack of interest. But now suppose that for some reason land becomes abundant, and labor scarce. Then competition among landowners will tend to push up wages of free workers, and the ruling class will try, if it can, to pin peasants down and prevent them from bargaining for a higher standard of living. In Russia, it was all about gunpowder: suddenly steppe nomads were no longer so formidable, and the rich lands of the Ukraine were open for settlement. Serfdom was an effort to keep peasants from taking advantage of this situation. (And if I've got it right, those who were venturesome enough to run away and set up outside the system became Cossacks.)
Meanwhile, the New World opened in the west. Sure enough, the colonizing powers tried various forms of indentured servitude - making serfs of the Indians in Spanish territories, bringing over indentured servants in Virginia. But eventually they hit on a better solution, from their point of view: importing slaves from Africa...
Brad DeLong on Evsey Domar:
Brad DeLong: Domar's contribution is truly one of the most effective and powerful pieces of synthetic social science I have ever read. It isn't perfect. He has more predecessors than he realizes (Marx, for example, especially Marx's observations on the Swan River Colony in Australia, and the whole section on primitive accumulation and the creation of agrarian capitalism in Britain). And Domar misses one big cause of serfdom and slavery. During the formation of the Roman Empire, in Poland at the end of the Middle Ages, and in the Caribbean islands during the early modern period, slavery and serfdom did not emerge because a high land-labor ratio meant that the ruling elite could not afford to bid for labor in a free labor market. Slavery and serfdom emerged, instead, because high demand for staple products (grain, sugar, tobacco...) greatly lowered the gap between the productivity of free and the productivity of bound workers. Staple production is easier for gang-bosses to monitor than more diversified farming. Staple production also has lower skill requirements for workers. When demand for staple products is very high--to feed the proletariat of imperial Rome, to feed the growing cities of late-Medieval Flanders, or to supply the cheap luxuries demanded by early modern England--slavery or serfdom can emerge even without an extraordinarily high land/labor ratio....
[And there are the] two big questions:
First, why didn't the Western European nobility re-enserf the peasantry after the Black Death and the resulting big rise in the land/labor ratio? Domar wrestles with this question unsuccessfully in his paper. But I have to say that it is still largely a mystery.
Second, why hasn't bound labor reemerged in the modern world? Elites in developing countries can no longer be confident in their ability to earn hefty incomes by employing workers and paying them much less than their average product: an elite monopoly of land ownership is no longer worth much. So why haven't they responded to the potential erosion of their collective economic edge by turning to politics and force to bind workers. One answer is that, to some extent, they have: Consider that modern states are surprisingly effective as tax-collection machines, and in large chunks of the world the elite's power and (relative) prosperity is rooted in its "new class" control over the flow of resources from the state. Consider, also, the Communist Party of Vietnam--what is it but a gang labor boss for unfree labor deployed to produce shoes for Nike?
Very good questions, a very good paper, and I cannot feel but that my 210a class would have gone better [that] year had I kept Domar on the reading list, canned the "labor scarcity and interchangeable parts" part of the course, and spent not half a class on American slavery but a whole class on Unfree Labor in Historical Perspective.