By Arnold Kling
In popular misconceptions, it is imagined that in America and the other advanced countries people will sit and peck at computers, while manufacturing will be done somewhere in the Second or Third World, in factories which resemble existing facilities. This is a complete misconception of the transition from the Industrial to the Information Age. Consider the parallel transition from the Agricultural to the Industrial Age. When Britain and America became industrialized, they did not cease producing food. In fact the United States became the greatest food exporter in the world because it mastered the Machine Age early. Those who master information technology will likewise hold mastery over manufacturing.
I recall reading that even China has been losing manufacturing jobs.
Bennett goes on to write,
In the past two decades, we have observed such varied phenomena as differing responses of nations to the end of communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, collapse of the East Asian neo-Confucian bubble, and revival of entrepreneurism in Britain in the wake of the Thatcher reforms. These experiences have created a better appreciation of the link between a strong civil society and prosperity. In the emerging economy of this new Scientific-Technical Revolution, these strong civil-society values will be even more central to success.
A civil society is built of a vast network of networks. These networks start with the individual and the families, community organizations, congregations, social organizations, and businesses created by individuals coming together voluntarily.
His view is that Great Britain and its descendents have a richer and deeper civil society. Along these lines, consider this article by Nicholas Thompson.
According to research published by a group of scholars beginning in 1998, countries that come from a French civil law tradition struggle to create effective financial markets, while countries with a British common law tradition succeed far more frequently. While the scholars conducting the research are economists rather than lawyers, their theory has jolted the legal academy, leading to the creation of a new academic specialty called “law and finance” and turning the authors of the theory into the most cited economists in the world over the past decade.
The article discusses the research of Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, Andrei Shleifer, and Robert Vishny.
Bennett argues that common law arose in Britain precisely because there the strong civil society, which in Bennett’s usage means a society that where loose, flexible social arrangements take over for feudal hierarchies, resisted top-down rules. He argues that strong civil society is a precondition for effective democratic government, common law rule, and free markets.
For Discussion. What other explanations are there for the emergence of a common law tradition as opposed to a civil law tradition?