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Author: Gideon Gono
Economic History Of Contemporary Nations
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Economists take pride in the sophisticated statistical techniques on which they
rely to analyze phenomena such as growth, inflation, unemployment, trade,
and even the long-term effects of abortion on crime rates. Many are convinced
that their methods are more rigorous than those of all other social sciences and
dismiss research that does not rest on quantitative methods as little more than
storytelling or, worse, glorified journalism. Anthropologists, some
economists jest, believe that the plural of anecdote is data.
A survey published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that 77
percent of the doctoral candidates in the leading departments in the United
States believe that economics is the most scientific of the social sciences. It
turns out, however, that this certitude does not stem from how well they regard
their own discipline but rather from their contempt for the other social
sciences. Although they were nearly unanimous about the relative superiority
of their profession, only 9 percent of the respondents were convinced that
economists agree on fundamental issues.
And they are right. Economists today are still grappling with basic questions
for which they have no answers. Much more than fodder for academic
squabbles, this uncertainty often has serious consequences. When economists
err in theory, people suffer in practice.
Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil`s former president, recalls that in the
midst of his country`s financial crisis, he received calls from experts at the
International Monetary Fund, several Nobel laureates in economics, and other
superstars in the economics firmament. Each offered different advice, and
each sounded convinced that his or her recommendation was the only correct
one. A distinguished sociologist, Cardoso managed to employ his considerable
talents and experience to steer Brazil out of the crisis, ignoring the
recommendations of several celebrity economists--some of whom had even
urged him to adopt a fixed exchange-rate regime just like the one that
Argentina`s recent crash has now discredited.
We do not really know what causes economic growth, admits François
Bourguignon, the chief economist at the World Bank. We do have a good
sense of what are the main obstacles to growth and what are the conditions
without which an economy can`t grow. But we are far less sure about what are
the other ingredients needed to create and sustain growth.
This bewilderment doesn`t just appear when economists confront the devilish
problems of the developing world. Plenty of what goes on in the rich world
also baffles them. A well-regarded economist on Wall Street was recently
asked what puzzled her these days. Interest rates, she said. They should be
higher. Sure enough, economic theory predicts that today`s long-term interest
rates--the rates for mortgages or bonds that will be paid years from now--
should be higher and heading upward because of an expanding U.S. economy
and exploding fiscal and trade deficits. But the financial markets just won`t


cooperate: Long-term interest rates have remained low and are actually
heading down.
Before retiring in January, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan
described these trends as a conundrum. Robert Samuelson, a Washington
Post columnist, surveyed the explanations that economists offer to explain this
anomaly and found that they are all flawed. In his view, the experts` inability
to explain something so fundamental attests to our economic ignorance.
However I believe the incapability to explain the economic problems currently
disconcerting the contemporary nations is poor appreciation of economic
history ­ not that history has all the answers to the problems. Today`s blue
eyed economist is apprehensive of an event that is put placed on his table for
an example-hyperinflation. In other words he is more concerned about how to
fix a unit that make up a whole whereas an economic historian is worried
about facts embodied in the unit that make up the whole. So overall economics
becomes a science which describes and explains the ways and means by which
modern man makes his living, i.e. the conditions of production, distribution,
and consumption of wealth; and if history is that branch of knowledge which
describes and explains the course of human events in the past; then the task of
economic history is to describe and explain the conditions under which man
has made his living in the past and this has a bearing on how man shall make
his living today.
In this paper, the present researcher seeks to evaluate how has the
contemporary world economically evolved over time and how that can help in
formulation and implementation of economic policy to drive Zimbabwe out of
the murky waters that she is currently drowning in. The first section introduces
the subject of contemporary nations` economic history, followed by an outline
of the theoretical underpinnings of economic history, the empirical works that
have been covered on the subject and the last two sections get close to home
as we introduce Zimbabwe into the equation.

Alfred White- head (1929, p. 162) once said A science which hesitates to
forget its founders is lost and Jean Baptiste Say further expressed the same
inspiration more succinctly: The more perfect the science, the shorter its
history. Given the preceding statements, a century after, it should be no secret
that the study of the history of economic thought is held in low esteem by
mainstream economists and sometimes openly disparaged as a type of
antiquarianism. Practically every commentator on the role of history of
economic thought in modern economics in the last many decades has lamented
the steady decline of interest in the area since the end of World War II and its
virtual disappearance from university curricula, not just at the graduate but
sometimes even at the undergraduate level.`
However, along with fewer and fewer university courses in history of
economic thought, there appear to be more and more scholars attending
scholarly meetings in history of economic thought and publishing articles
about the history of economic thought. History of economic thought journals
are burgeoning, and their quality seems to be high and steadily improving. In


addition to the premier History of Political Economy founded in 1969 and the
old History of Economics Review founded in 1973, there is Research in the
History of Economic Thought and Methodology appearing annually since
1983, the Journal of the History of Economic Thought dating from 1990, the
European Journal of the History of Economic Thought and History of
Economic Ideas to name just but a few. This indicates that on the applied side
of economic policy formulation economic does play an important role.

Economic history aims to give an account of human progress from the earliest
forms of the economy of primitive man, shall we say from the simplest animal
forms of man`s economies, to the highly complex forms of man`s civilization
which characterise the contemporary nations. Otherwise stated, economic
history aims to trace the story of economic progress from the simplest early
forms of man`s organized existence in the pursuit of a living, to the highly
complex forms of modern life. From this point of view economic history
becomes genetic economics which I regard as an important branch of

Genetic economics may be defined by closely following the Greek meaning of
economy and economics, as the science of economic organization,
management, and achievement viewed and presented historically. Economic
organization was the first form of social organization. It was also the first form
of political organization, because it was itself the primary form of society

Economic history is social history which, although it is in no sense the drum
and trumpet history within John Richard Green`s meaning of those words, can
yet not wholly ignore political and military history. Economic history must
take some note of church and state and of the sword as well as plowshare,
chisel and plane, hammer and forge, spinning wheel and loom. Economic
history, if used broadly, embraces a study of the development of industry and
industrial organization in general, and it will include notice and recognition of
the development of economic theory. Genetic economics or evolutionary
economics thus is real economic history in the same sense that technological
history is history of technology. The primary purpose, indeed, of the study of
economic history is to inquire: How and why does industry or business tend to
organize itself, and what are the successive stages of economic achievement?
Accordingly, economic history occupies itself chiefly with successive forms of
industrial organization and with successive stages of economic progress.
Economic organization takes form and expression in the state, that is, in
integral society and what is permitted thereby, in accordance with its own
estimate of its welfare. Economic progress is progress in achievements or
inventions representing the growing mastery of man over nature; it is progress
also in associated living as related to the production and distribution of goods.
The former is central in the production of economic goods; the latter, in their
ownership and distribution, which are inconceivable without some system of
law both public and private.
The use of economic history is appreciable if we first consider the nature and
objectives of the subject which can best be made clear if we first describe its


position among the other branches of the study of economics. The study of
economics can be subdivided into
(i) the science of economics, which is concerned with the formulation
of economic laws or principles;
(2) the techniques of (a) accounting, which deals exclusively with
economic phenomena; and (b) statistics, which, though most
extensively used and developed in dealing with economic data, is
by no means confined to this use and may, perhaps, be more
properly classified as a branch of logic;
(3) the study of economic history in the broad sense, which covers all
the facts of economic life and development of the past whether
recent or remote. This field of facts, however, is commonly
subdivided into (a) the more specialized studies of so-called
applied economics and (b) economic history in the more customary
sense of the term.
Though no sharp differentiating line can be drawn, the practical difference
between these two branches of history is that applied economics commonly
studies a contemporary problem in a limited field of economic activity and is
often specifically directed toward laying down some line of action for dealing
with the problem. The economic historian, on the other hand, is expected to
cover the whole range of economic life and development of a nation or group
of nations and over a considerable period of time, though his monographic
studies may be limited to a small sector of the field. Its all-inclusive scope and
its primary concern with the evolutionary development of the whole economic
order chiefly distinguish economic history from applied economics.
To understand the objectives of economic history it is essential to make clear
the underlying problem with which it is concerned. This is the more necessary
since the study and writing of economic history have been largely undertaken
by two groups, one approaching the subject with the training and point of view
of the political historian and the other with the training and point of view of
the economist. The historian`s chief interest in the subject is ordinarily based
upon the light which it can throw upon political or social history--in short, the
influence of economic conditions and forces upon history. The economist, on
the other hand, looks upon economic history as primarily a study of how a
given people have proceeded in their endeavors to supply their economic
wants, as an analysis of the means they have employed and the institutions and
economic order they have evolved in their effort to raise their standard of
living. For just as the main objective of the study of economics is to aid man
in his struggle to supply his economic wants, so economic history, by
describing and analyzing man`s past efforts to raise his standard of living,
seeking to explain wherein and why he has succeeded and where and why he
has failed, is directed toward indicating how he may do still better in the
future. This may be called the functional approach to the study.


Obviously, since history must be founded upon facts, the first task of the
economic historian must be the establishing of the facts. But the determination
of the facts is only the first step; those facts and the trends of development
which they portray must, so far as possible, be explained and interpreted if the
study is to make its most valuable potential contribution to human progress.
The student of economic history is often appalled, if not repelled, by the mass
of factual detail with which he is confronted. Yet these facts are full of human
significance if the student will but inquire as to their broader meaning and
seek to formulate the ideas that lie hidden within them. As the historian Ranke
once said, particulars carry generalities within them. Just as Isaac Newton,
seeking to explain the fall of a particular apple, evolved the general, so the
student of economic history in dealing with its mass of detail must constantly
ask the question: What light does this or that little fact throw upon the problem
of how this people proceeded in their efforts to maintain or to raise their
standard of living? Only thus can the essential unity and coherence of the
many topics covered be brought out and the mass of factual detail be made
interesting, humanly significant, and valuable.

In order to appreciate the relation of these facts to this central problem the an
economic history student must fully understand and constantly keep in mind
the main factors involved. The standard of living of any people depends, first,
upon what they produce or can secure through exchange of their products with
other groups, and, second, upon how that product is distributed among them.
What they produce is determined, first, by the quantity and what, for lack of a
better term, may be called the quality of the four factors of production: natural
resources, labor, capital, and business management; and, second, by the
efficiency with which these factors are combined for purposes of production.
The latter, in turn, is determined by the economic order with its institutional
framework, including the related background of social organization in general,
within which the given entrepreneurship must function. How the product is
divided is also determined by this same economic and social environment.

No general economic history has ever been written, so far as I am aware,
where the material was clearly organized along lines suggested by these basic
factors in the underlying problem. To do so would be difficult and probably
would not serve the various objectives of the study in the best manner. The
histories that have been written typically are organized on the basis of the
various fields of economic activity such as agriculture, manufacturing,
commerce, finance, etc., or center about the more general changes in the
organization of industrial society or simply seek to portray the economic
background of political and social history. This often results either in the
omission of important material bearing on the fundamental factors in the
underlying problem or else in the failure of the reader to trace the connection
between those factors and the material presented. Yet it is certainly possible to
avoid these defects in an economic history where the material is organized on
any of these different bases, and taking care to do so would greatly add to the
reader`s understanding and appreciation of the human significance of that



In this connection, however, the warning should be given that the promotion
of the means for satisfying man`s economic wants which must be the central
problem and the primary objective of the study of economic history is not to
be confused with advancing welfare. Whether the satisfaction of any specific
economic want contributes to the advancement of human welfare is a problem
beyond the province of the economist as such, just as is the question what
determines man`s wants in the first place. The chief social justification for the
study of economic history, as of economics in general, must rest on the
assumption that whether man wants much or little of economic goods, whether
he is a sybarite or an ascetic, and whether the satisfaction of a particular want
promotes his welfare or not, it is always desirable, other things remaining
equal, that these wants be satisfied at the minimum cost. It must also be
equally obvious that the economic historian, just as the economic theorist, can
never say what ought to be done except where the ultimate ends have been
determined on the basis of valuations established or accepted by some system
of religion, ethics, or philosophy of life. But with the ultimate social objectives
agreed upon, the economic historian, aided by theory, can say that past
experience indicates that one line of procedure will presumably further the
attainment of the desired objective in the most economical manner while
another line of procedure will not.

At this point it may be pertinent to indicate what this conception of the nature
of economic history implies as regards the training and equipment of the
economic historian other than the possession of the attributes of scholarship in
general. Since no important nation or group lives in economic isolation, the
economic historian must know the main developments, economic, political
and social, of the rest of the world in so far as they had an appreciable reaction
on the country or group with which he is primarily concerned. Obviously he
must possess a knowledge of generally accepted theory, while an acquaintance
with the content of current controversy will of course also prove useful.
Familiarity with the essentials in the techniques of accounting and statistics is
necessary, while on occasions where refinements are called for the aid of
specialists in these fields may be required. To be fully competent in
contemporary as well as more remote history it would be desirable to possess
the knowledge of all the applied fields of economics that is commanded by the
specialists in those varied fields. In short, the ideal economic historian would
possess most of the knowledge to be found in a large and well- rounded
department of economics. Unfortunately this is not all, for he must have some
knowledge of the whole of the social and natural orders in which the economic
order was set in so far as the former exercised significant reactions upon the
latter. Among the social studies political history thus becomes especially
important, though the sociological, legal, religious, and other cultural factors
cannot be ignored. In the field of the natural sciences an equally broad
background will be found useful. The whole history of the sciences, both
natural and biological, and of the application of their contributions to


knowledge as they reacted upon the process of co-operation between man and
his environment in man`s efforts to provide for his economic wants thus
becomes significant for the economic historian. Finally, if he seeks to delve
into the economy of certain periods and peoples, he will require the assistance
of various other disciplines such as anthropology, epigraphy, paleography, etc.
That an individual possessing even a near approach to this ideal equipment of
the economic historian will seldom, if ever, be found is obvious. But, if those
who feel that the economic historian`s products fall short of much that could
be desired will only recollect the magnitude of the task confronting him, they
may be disposed to be more lenient in their judgments.
I now turn to what I conceive to be the main objectives of the study of
economic history or the chief purposes which it can serve. My previous
statement as to the nature of economic history has indicated my idea as to its
primary objective--that is, the raising of the standard of living through the
knowledge gained from a study of the past and applied to social guidance in
the future.
The economic problems confronting any country or people today are largely a
product of developments extending back over a long period of time, and they
cannot be dealt with effectively except as we understand the historical and
causal background out of which they have arisen. Moreover, though we may
accept the statement that history never repeats itself in the literal sense that all
the factors entering into a given historical event are never exactly duplicated,
yet it is equally true in the less literal sense that history is always repeating
itself. This, for reasons subsequently indicated in more detail, is much more
frequently the case in the field of economic history than in the field of political
history where the more incalculable factor of individual, as contrasted with
mass, action plays a larger role in determining the course of events. Thus in
the field of economic history a study of the past is peculiarly fruitful in
throwing light upon the present.

Undoubtedly the experts in those fields of applied economics where
specialization has occurred will be better prepared to provide guidance, each
in his own peculiar field, than the economic historian. The contribution of
economic history to the specialist will consist in providing analogous
situations from past experience, making clear the general background,
indicating the complex interrelationships between the various specialized lines
of economic activity, and suggesting the trends in the evolving economic order
as a whole. The marked advantage gained through the study of economic
history, in addition to the sense of evolution and relativity, is that breadth and
scope of general background which necessitates a view of all the factors,
economic and noneconomic, which enter into such specialized problems,
while it alone surveys the economic process as a whole.
If we turn from this major objective of economic history to consider other
objectives there appear several of sufficient importance to justify separate


One may be called the nationalistic objective--the study of economic history
for the light which it can throw upon such economic factors as tend to
augment the power of a country in the struggle for survival or aggrandizement
among the nations. If we look back over the ages we see few nations that have
risen to a position of dominance which have been able to maintain that
position for any great length of time; one after another has fallen from its high
estate. Hence, if we have any interest in the survival and success of the nation
as a political unit and whatever it stands for, we must concern ourselves with a
study of the conditions which tend to make for such survival. In this struggle
the economic factor, always important, has had its importance vastly increased
in modern times, chiefly through the rapid advance in the mechanization of
warfare. Add to this the remarkable intensification of the spirit of nationalism
which has recently swept the world and we can appreciate more clearly the
importance which may be attached to this second objective.
It must be noted, however, that while it is true, generally speaking, that
conditions promoting an advance in a nation`s standard of living will also
augment its political power, there are numerous cases where the two
objectives do not, or are believed not, to coincide; certainly not in the short
run. Witness contemporary Germany or Italy, though every nation will afford
frequent illustrations of the point.

A third objective served by economic history is to provide such knowledge of
the economic conditions and background as may be essential for the
understanding of any phase or period in the civilization of any people--in
short, to provide a basis for the economic interpretation of history, using that
phrase in the broad rather than the narrow Marxian sense. Just how important
the economic factor may be in the interpretation of the political or any other
phase of the social process doubtless always will afford opportunity for
dispute, so long as there is no accurate basis for measuring the influence of
any one of the infinitely complicated mass of factors entering into the
problem. I believe most economic historians would also readily admit the
possibility of various other so-called interpretations of history, such as the
geographic or the spiritual; and I am confident that a biochemical or an
astronomical interpretation could be worked out if one deemed it worth while
to stress the importance of some such factor. But, regardless of the dispute as
to the exact degree of importance of the economic factor in history, there will
probably be few today who will deny it a position of any importance; the
whole trend in historical writing during the last half-century is sufficient
evidence on the point. While the economic historian may be called upon to
provide such economic material for the background of general history as
others require, it does not seem to me to be his function as such to undertake
the interpretation of this history, that being a task for which the political
historian, or better still the historian covering all aspects of a given
civilization, should be better qualified.

A fourth objective is to further the development of economic theory and to
fructify that theory. Of course it is perfectly possible to develop a system of


theory based on assumptions which have no relation to facts or economic
history if it is thought worth while to do so; but I assume there are few
theorists who do not hope to make their theory of greater use than as pure
mental gymnastics. If so, they cannot ignore economic history. This does not
mean that the theorist must make the whole range of economic history his
laboratory, and yet that vast store of material is full of data of which he can
well make use. Economic history fructifies economic theory just as theory
fructifies history; they cannot make their most valuable contributions to
knowledge without each other. Together they provide the basic elements for
the study of economics.

The ways in which history and theory fructify each other are various. Theory
should provide much of the explanation for the course of developments in
economic history; and without an understanding of why things developed as
they did the facts lose much of their value. Theory also suggests what facts to
look for as particularly significant. The economic historian, I fear, has not
made the use of theory that he should; and this can be attributed only in part to
the two main difficulties with which he finds himself confronted in the effort
to do so. The first arises from the frequent lack of general agreement among
the theorists as to what is correct theory. The second is due to the fact that the
premises upon which much theory is built differ so from the actual conditions
in a given historical case that the use of theory in explaining the situation is
greatly limited.

Economic history aids theory by providing the only laboratory in which a
practical test of its validity is possible. Occasionally the theorist may be in a
position to initiate an experiment on a small scale in private business or on a
much larger scale under governmental auspices, as in Soviet Russia or in our
own recent alphabetical progeny. Unsatisfactory as this may be from the point
of view of the ideal, the historical data thus resulting have to be employed as
best they can. If the facts, assuming they are accurate and adequate, cannot be
explained by theory, then either the theory is wrong, or if correctly deduced
from the premises, it is useless for practical purposes, or at best simply
suggestive. History then implies that the theory be revised or that it be
developed upon premises that correspond to the factual situation. The picture
of the institutional framework of any given period and of the evolution of that
institutional background through the centuries is particularly important in
making clear the relativity of any theory with its fixed premises for the
practical purposes of explanation or guidance in action. The extent to which
the trends of development in theory have been shaped by history is only too
obvious, from the controversies of the mercantilist period through the
physiocrats and the English classical school down to the economic history of
the post--World War period with its impetus to the resurvey of monetary,
banking, and cycle theory and the belated awakening to the need for a theory
of imperfect competition.


A fifth objective is to provide the student of economic history with at least
some guidance in meeting the problem of getting a living. He faces that
problem in a business world which has been largely shaped by economic
history, and throughout his life his efforts to get a living will be reacted upon
by historical developments. The typical content of historical study will throw
little or no light upon the problems connected with the internal organization of
a business enterprise or upon the technique of an occupation. But the general
trends in economic development may have powerful reactions upon a
business, an occupation, or an investment; and it behooves the individual who
would be successful to try to understand what those reactions are likely to be.
For this purpose more remote history also provides many a lesson of value.
The farmer or manufacturer who knew something of the economic reactions
following the Civil War would have been better prepared to meet those that
followed the World War. Though this objective is stated in terms of private
gain, it is obvious that, in so far as it results in decreasing waste and increasing

A sixth objective would be a better understanding of ourselves. We are in part
the product of the economic age in which we live, of the economic conditions
in the country and section where we reside, of the economic class in which we
are brought up, and of the pursuit whereby we strive to earn a living. Our
aspirations, our ideals, and our notions on problems of economic and social
policy are inevitably in some measure shaped by these influences or by our
reactions against them. One of the outstanding lessons which the study of
economic history must bring home to us is the extent and power of such
influences and the undesirable consequences of social action that is so
frequently the outcome of the biased ideals and judgments which ensue
therefrom, though these may be as sincere and honest as our convictions on
most other issues. If we can learn to study and understand the influences of
this character to which we have been subject, and then have the reason and the
will to endeavor, as best we can, to counteract any bias resulting therefrom, we
can accomplish much in furthering economic and social progress.

Possibly there should be included as a seventh objective a purely cultural
one--the acquisition of such knowledge of economic history as may be
considered essential in a well-rounded education, quite independent of its use
for social objectives. The important part played in human history by the
economic factor would appear to justify considering some knowledge of
economic history, particularly that of one`s own country, as a desirable part of
one`s cultural equipment. In addition, the subject can be pursued in more
detail for the mere satisfaction of intellectual curiosity.
As a final objective there may be listed the formulation of laws of economic
development or a philosophy of economic history. I list this last because I do
not believe that in our present stage of knowledge it is possible to formulate
laws of economic development that have universal validity. The nearest
approach to such a law that I can suggest is the age-long tendency toward
greater functional specialization or division of labor. The efforts to formulate a
certain sequence in the stages of economic development have been shown to


be still less valid generalizations. Yet such generalizations, imperfect as they
may be, are still useful. Their utility suggests the possibility of developing
what may be called, in the sense in which Cournot used the term, a philosophy
of economic history.

From this analysis it is therefore important that in isolating problems a country
may be experiencing some factual arising from the history of the problems
will be dropped thus limiting the scope of prescribing the medication of the
problem or even the effectiveness of the medication.

Theoretical Review
The economic history of the contemporary world may be roughly divided into
three phases: Premodern (Greek, Roman, Indian, Persian and Arab), Early
modern (mercantilist, physiocrats) and Modern (since Adam Smith in the late
18th century). Systematic economic theory has been developed mainly since
the birth of the modern era.
Premorden era
Before the field of economics had found its rooting, several ancient
philosophers made various economic observations. Aristotle was
chiefly concerned with the way transactions for livelyhood were done
and labeled them either "natural" or "unnatural". Natural transactions
were related to the satisfaction of needs and yielded wealth that was
limited in quantity by the purpose it was inteded to serve. Un-natural
transactions aimed at monetary gain and the wealth that was yielded
was potentially without limits. He explained that natural un-natural
wealth had no limits because it became an end in itself rather than a
means to another end ­ satisfaction of needs.
Chanakya (c. 350-275 BC) considered economic issues and is often
regarded as the Indian Machiavelli. He wrote the "Science of Material
Gain" in Sanskrit. Many of the topics discussed in the Arthashastra are
still prevalent in modern economics, including its discussions on the
management of an efficient and solid economy, and the ethics of
economics. Chanakya also focuses on issues of welfare (for instance,
redistribution of wealth during a famine) and the collective ethics that
hold a society together.
Medieval Muslims also made contributions to the understanding of
economics. In particular, Ibn Khaldun of Tunis (1332­1406) wrote on
economic and political theory in his Prolegomena, showing for
example, how population density is related to the division of labour
which leads to economic growth and so in turn to greater population in
a virtuous circle. He also introduced the concept known as the
Khaldun-Laffer Curve (the relationship between tax rates and tax
revenue follows an inverted U shape).


Early Western precursors of economics engaged in scholastic
theological debates during the Middle Ages. An important topic of
discussion was the determination of the just price of a good. In the
religious wars following the Reformation in the 16th century, ideas
about free trade appeared, later formulated in legal terms by Hugo de
Groot or Grotius (Mare liberum).
Economic policy in Europe during the late Middle Ages and early
Renaissance treated economic activity as a good which was to be taxed
to raise revenues for the nobility and the church. Economic exchanges
were regulated by feudal rights, such as the right to collect a toll or
hold a faire, as well as guild restrictions and religious restrictions on
lending. Economic policy, such as it was, was designed to encourage
trade through a particular area. Because of the importance of social
class, sumptuary laws were enacted, regulating dress and housing,
including allowable styles, materials and frequency of purchase for
different classes.
Niccolò Machiavelli in his book The Prince was one of the first
authors to theorize economic policy in the form of advice. He did so by
stating that princes and republics should limit their expenditures, and
prevent either the wealthy or the populace from despoiling the other. In
this way a state would be seen as "generous" because it was not a
heavy burden on its citizens.
Early Modern Economic thought
During the Early Modern period, mercantilists came closer to
establishing an economic theory. This diverse school mirrored the
emergence of nation states in Western Europe and they emphasized
keeping a positive balance of payments.
During the Enlightenment, the French physiocrats were among the first
to consider economics in and of itself. The most important physiocrat
was arguably Francois Quesnay. Other French thinkers of that period
include Richard Cantillon and Anne Turgot. In his Austrian
Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, Murray Rothbard
argued that the modern history of economics should properly begin
with the physiocrats rather than with Adam Smith.
Anders Chydenius (1729­1803) was the leading classical liberal of
Nordic history. A Finnish priest and member of parliament, he
published a book called The National Gain in 1765, in which he
proposes ideas of freedom of trade and industry and explores the
relationship between economy and society and lays out the principles
of liberalism, all of this eleven years before Adam Smith published a
similar and more comprehensive book, The Wealth of Nations.
According to Chydenius, democracy, equality and a respect for human
rights were the only way towards progress and happiness for the whole
of society.


Modern Economic Thought
Modern economic thought is usually considered to have begun with
Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, although
other earlier thinkers had made important contributions as well. This
publication marked the beginning of Classical economics, the first
modern school of economic thought.
The central idea promoted by Smith was that the competition between
various suppliers and buyers would produce the best possible
distribution of goods and services, because it would encourage
individuals to specialize and improve their capital, so as to produce
more value with the same labor. Smith's thesis rests on the belief that
large systems can be self-regulating by the activity of their parts,
without specific direction. Smith's formulation is called the "invisible
hand" and is still the centerpiece of market economics, and capitalism
in particular.
Other main contributors to the era of Classical economics were John
Stuart Mill and David Ricardo. John Stuart Mill, in the early to mid
19th century, focused on "wealth", which he defined exclusively in
relation to the exchange value of objects, or what would now be called
In the 19th century, Karl Marx synthesized a variety of schools of
thought involving the social distribution of resources, including the
work of Adam Smith, as well as socialism and egalitarianism, and used
the systematic approach to logic taken from the philosopher Georg
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel to produce Das Kapital. His work was the
most widely adhered-to critique of market economics during much of
the 19th and 20th centuries. Marxist economics is based on the labor
theory of value that was initially put forward by the classical
economists (including, most notably, Adam Smith) and later developed
by Marx. The Marxist school holds that capitalism is based on the
exploitation of the working class: the wages received by workers are
always less than the full value of their labor, and the difference is kept
by the capitalist employer in the form of profit. The Marxist paradigm
of economics is not generally held in high regard by market
economists, though concepts from Marx's work are occasionally used
in mainstream contexts, particularly in labor economics and in political
economy. The term Marxian is sometimes used to describe work which
accepts concepts from Marx's work but does not necessarily subscribe
to the political thrust of Marxist thought.
The late 19th century also saw the "marginal revolution", which altered
the basis of economic reasoning to include concepts such as


marginalism and opportunity cost. In addition to Marshall, the work of
Carl Menger was influential in disseminating the framework of
economics as the opportunity cost of decisions made at the margins of
economic activity. This type of thinking is a basic building block in
Neoclassical economics as well as in the Austrian school.
In the early 20th century, economics became increasingly statistical,
and the study of econometrics became increasingly important.
Statistical treatment of price, unemployment, money supply and other
variables, as well as the compiling of these statistics, became more and
more central to economic writing and disputes within the field of
Macroeconomics diverged from microeconomics with John Maynard
Keynes in the 1920s, and was codified in the 1930s by Keynes and
others, particularly John Hicks. It grew in popularity as a reaction to
the Great Depression. Keynes had been an influential exponent of the
importance of central banking and government involvement in
economic affairs, as well as a critic of the political economy of the
post-World War I period. His "General Theory of Employment,
Interest and Money" encapsulated both criticisms of classical theory
that had been levelled by Thorstein Veblen and others, as well a
method for economic management of aggregate demand. For an
overview of a number of competing schools, see macroeconomics.
Many economists use a combination of Neoclassical microeconomics
and Keynesian macroeconomics. This combination, sometimes known
as the Neoclassical synthesis, was dominant in Western teaching and
public policy in the years following World War II and up to the late
1970s. The Neoclassical school was challenged by monetarism,
formulated in the late 1940s and early 1950s by Milton Friedman and
associated with the University of Chicago (the Chicago school of
economics) and also by supply-side economics.
In principle, economics can be applied to any type of economic
organization. However, the majority of economic theory centers on
systems where goods are exchanged in the market--where buyers and
sellers seek to maximize their results by trading. The dominant form of
market economics focuses on societies where property is owned by
individuals, money has a rational basis, and profit comes from utilizing
labor and capital to produce goods to be sold in the market--or
capitalism. However, economic theory is also applied to markets where
the control of capital is in the hands of the state or society, which
include socialism and mercantilism, and to societies where the
allocation of resources is not through the market, but through other
mechanisms--see, for example, planned economies and gift
economies, which are cornerstones of communism and anarchism,
respectively. Some economists assert that it is impossible to avoid the
"Invisible Hand" of the Market, and hence all societies can be


modelled through market dynamics, though this viewpoint has
vehement opponents across the political spectrum.
The development of economics as a field of study is closely related to
the rise of capital as the primary determining factor of production and
trading, hence its most detailed and precise work has dealt with the
institutions belonging to market societies, and most specifically to
capitalist and socialist societies. To what extent economics must be
adjusted to be applied to earlier forms of social organization has been a
source of discussion. Generally, mainstream economists mostly feel
that the basic framework of economics is relevant and flexible enough
to be applied to virtually any form of society. Marxist economics
asserts that history is divided into eras which are determined by which
two classes are struggling to control the means of production--that is
slaves and masters, peasants and royalty, wage workers and
capitalists--and that mainstream economics only applies to those
societies which are "objectively" industrial, that is to say, societies
which are capable of industrial production based on their own
knowledge and resources.

A summary of the different schools is given below:


Mercantilism is an economic theory that holds the prosperity of a
nation depends upon its supply of capital, and that the global volume
of trade is "unchangeable." Capital, represented by bullion (gold,
silver, and trade value) held by the state, is best increased through a
positive balance of trade with other nations (exports minus imports).
Mercantilism suggests that the ruling government should advance these
goals by playing a protectionist role in the economy, by encouraging
exports and discouraging imports, especially through the use of tariffs.
The economic policy based upon these ideas is often called the
mercantile system.

Classical economics

Classical economics is widely regarded as the first modern school of
economic thought. Its premised on the instantaneous adjustment of the
economy through the operation of the market forces such that it is
always at full employment.

Neo-Classical Economics

Neoclassical economics refers to a general approach to economics
focusing on individual and group choice based on preference relations.


This typically involves rational utility or profit maximization using
available information. Mainstream economics is largely neoclassical in
its assumptions, at least at the microeconomic level. There have been
many critiques of neoclassical economics, often incorporated into
newer versions of neoclassical theory as circumstances change.
Neoclassical economics is often called the marginalist school.

Keynesian Economics

In Keynes's theory, general (macro-level) trends can overwhelm the
micro-level behavior of individuals. Instead of the economic process
being based on continuous improvement in potential output, as most
classical economists had believed from the late 1700s on, Keynes
asserted the importance of aggregate demand for goods as the driving
factor of the economy, especially in periods of downturn. From this he
argued that government policies could be used to promote demand at a
macro level, to fight high unemployment and deflation of the sort seen
during the 1930s.
A central conclusion of Keynesian economics is that there is no strong
automatic tendency for output and employment to move toward full
employment levels. This conclusion conflicts with the tenets of
classical economics, and those schools, such as supply-side economics
or the Austrian School, which assume a general tendency towards a
welcome equilibrium in a restrained money-creating economy. In
neoclassical economics, which combines Keynesian macro concepts
with a micro foundation, the conditions of General equilibrium allow
for price adjustment to achieve this goal.
Monetarism is a set of views concerning the determination of national
income and monetary economics. It focuses on the supply and demand
for money as the primary means by which economic activity is
regulated. Monetary theory focuses on money supply and on inflation
as an effect of the supply of money being larger than the demand for
Monetarism today is mainly associated with the work of Milton
Friedman, who was among the generation of liberal economists to
accept Keynesian economics and then critique it on its own terms.
Friedman and Anna Schwartz wrote an influential book, Monetary
History of the United States 1867-1960, and argued that "inflation is
always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon." Friedman advocated
a central bank policy aimed at keeping the supply and demand for
money at equilibrium, as measured by growth in productivity and
demand. The monetarist argument that the demand for money is a
stable function gained considerable support during the late 1960s and


1970s from the work of David Laidler. While most monetarists believe
that government action is at the root of inflation, very few advocate a
return to the gold standard. Friedman, for example, viewed the gold
standard as highly impractical.

New-classical economics
New classical economics emerged as a school in macroeconomics
during the 1970s. As opposed to Keynesian macroeconomics, it builds
its analysis on an entirely neoclassical framework. Specifically, new
classical macroeconomics (NCM) emphasises the importance of
rigorous foundations, in which the macroeconomic model is built in
analogy to the actions of individual agents, whose behaviour is
modelled by microeconomics, in spite of the fact that microeconomic
postulates do not carry over to macroeconomics . Several assumptions
are common to most New Classical models. Primarily, all agents are
assumed to be rational (utility-maximising) and possess rational
expectations. At any one time, the macroeconomy is assumed to have a
unique equilibrium at full employment or potential output and this
equilibrium is assumed to always have been achieved via price and
wage adjustment (market clearing).

New-keynesian economics

New Keynesian economics developed partly in response to new
classical economics. It strives to provide microeconomic foundations
to Keynesian economics by showing how demand management by the
government or its central bank can improve efficiency under imperfect
markets. The main assumption of New Keynesian economics that
distinguishes it from the new classical economics is that wages and
prices do not adjust instantly to allow the economy to attain full
employment. (This price and wage stickiness is explained using
microeconomic theory.) Thus, unemployed resources and non-clearing
markets can exist and persist, even when rational expectations apply.

Supply-side economics

Supply-side economics is a school of macroeconomic thought which
emphasizes the "supply" part of supply and demand. The central
concept of supply-side economics is Say's Law: "supply creates its
own demand," the idea that one must sell before one can afford to buy.
Therefore good economic policy encourages increased production,
versus attempts to stimulate demand -- this is the fundamental dispute
between classical, supply-side economics and Keynesian economics or
demand side economics. Supply-side economics is often conflated with
trickle down economics. Supply-side economics was popularised in the


1970s by the ideas of Robert Mundell, Arthur Laffer, and Jude
Wanniski. The term was coined by Wanniski in 1975.

Emperical Reveiw

As previously alluded to, economic history has not often been written in a
generalised format but rather looked at the various events which make up the
whole thus we have issues like the industrial revolution, agricultural, trade
among others. It is however important that we attempt at this juncture to take a
glimpse at how some of the economic Goliaths of the contemporary world
have evolved economically. It equally important to note the economic
evolution of the contemporary world was rooted on the theory of the
respective period from mercantilism up to the modern economic theory of the
Neo-classicals and the Post-Keynesians.

Japan achieved sustained growth in per capita income between the
1880s and 1970 through industrialization. Moving along an income
growth trajectory through expansion of manufacturing is hardly
unique. Indeed Western Europe, Canada, Australia and the United
States all attained high levels of income per capita by shifting from
agrarian-based production to manufacturing and technologically
sophisticated service sector activity.
Still, there are four distinctive features of Japan's development through
industrialization that merit discussion:
The proto-industrial base
Japan's agricultural productivity was high enough to sustain substantial
craft (proto-industrial) production in both rural and urban areas of the
country prior to industrialization.
Investment-led growth
Domestic investment in industry and infrastructure was the driving
force behind growth in Japanese output. Both private and public
sectors invested in infrastructure, national and local governments
serving as coordinating agents for infrastructure build-up.
Investment in manufacturing capacity was largely left to the
private sector.
Rising domestic savings made increasing capital accumulation
Japanese growth was investment-led, not export-led.


Total factor productivity growth -- achieving more
output per unit of input -- was rapid.
On the supply side, total factor productivity growth was extremely
important. Scale economies -- the reduction in per unit costs due to
increased levels of output -- contributed to total factor productivity
growth. Scale economies existed due to geographic concentration, to
growth of the national economy, and to growth in the output of
individual companies. In addition, companies moved down the
"learning curve," reducing unit costs as their cumulative output rose
and demand for their product soared.
The social capacity for importing and adapting foreign technology
improved and this contributed to total factor productivity growth:
At the household level, investing in education of children
improved social capability.
At the firm level, creating internalized labor markets that bound
firms to workers and workers to firms, thereby giving workers
a strong incentive to flexibly adapt to new technology,
improved social capability.
At the government level, industrial policy that reduced the cost
to private firms of securing foreign technology enhanced social
Shifting out of low-productivity agriculture into high productivity
manufacturing, mining, and construction contributed to total factor
productivity growth.
Sharply segmented labor and capital markets emerged in Japan after
the 1910s. The capital intensive sector enjoying high ratios of capital to
labor paid relatively high wages, and the labor intensive sector paid
relatively low wages.
Dualism contributed to income inequality and therefore to domestic
social unrest. After 1945 a series of public policy reforms addressed
inequality and erased much of the social bitterness around dualism that
ravaged Japan prior to World War II.
Since then Japan has become the world`s seconded most industrialised

United States of America

The economic history of the United States has its roots in European
settlements in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The American


colonies progressed from marginally successful colonial economies to
a small, independent farming economy, which in 1776 became the
United States of America. In 230 years the United States grew to a
huge, integrated, industrialized economy that makes up over a fifth of
the world economy. The main causes were a large unified market,
a supportive political-legal system,
vast areas of highly productive farmlands,
vast natural resources (especially timber, coal and oil), and
an entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to investing in
material and human capital.

The economy has maintained high wages, attracting immigrants by the
millions from all over the world.
Infrastructural development like railroads were, by far, one of the most
important contributions to the economy. Many contrasting views exist
regarding whether the railroad was "indispensable" or not, but it was
undoubtedly very important. The railroad paved the way to new
developments in running large-scale business operations, creating a
blueprint for future businesses to use. They were first to encounter
managerial complexities, labor union issues, and problems of
competition. Due to these radical innovations, the railroad became the
first large-scale business enterprise.
Panics did not curtail rapid U.S. economic growth during the 19th
century. Long term demographic growth, expansion into new
farmlands, and creation of new factories continued. New inventions
and capital investment led to the creation of new industries and
economic growth. As transportation improved, new markets
continuously opened. The steamboat made river traffic faster and
cheaper, but development of railroads had an even greater effect,
opening up vast stretches of new territory for development. Like canals
and roads, railroads received large amounts of government assistance
in their early building years in the form of land grants. But unlike other
forms of transportation, railroads also attracted a good deal of domestic
and European private investment.
Some people made fortunes overnight, but many people lost their
savings. Nevertheless, a combination of vision and foreign investment,
combined with the discovery of gold and a major commitment of
America's public and private wealth, enabled the nation to develop a
large-scale railroad system, establishing the base for the country's
One notably episode in the history of the American economy and the
majority of Europe is the great depression which is explained below:


Great depression
The Great Depression was an economic downturn which started in
1929 and lasted through most of the 1930s. It was centered in North
America and Europe, but had devastating effects around the world,
particularly in industrialized countries and producers of raw materials.
Cities all around the world were hit hard, especially those based on
heavy industry. Unemployment and homelessness soared. Construction
was virtually halted in many countries. Farming and rural areas
suffered as prices for crops fell by 40­60%. Mining and logging areas
had perhaps the most striking blow because the demand fell sharply
and there were few employment alternatives. Several arguments have
been given as the causes from insufficient governement spending as
pwer the Keynesians to several theories. Toget out of the depression
the then American president prescribent what was called the New deal
which sought to stimulate demand by:
Reforming the financial system, especially the banks and Wall
Street. The Securities Act of 1933 comprehensively regulated
the securities industry. This was followed by the Securities
Exchange Act of 1934 which created the Securities and
Exchange Commission. (Though amended, the key provisions
of both Acts are still in force as of 2007). Federal insurance of
bank deposits was provided by the FDIC (still operating as of
2007), and the Glass-Steagal Act (which remained in effect for
50 years).
Instituting regulations which ended what was called "cut-throat
competition," which kept forcing down prices and profits for
everyone. (The NRA--which ended in 1935).
Setting minimum prices and wages and competitive conditions
in all industries. (NRA)
Encouraging unions that would raise wages, to increase the
purchasing power of the working class. (NRA)
Cutting farm production so as to raise prices and make it
possible to earn a living in farming
In Britain's earliest history agriculture was overwhelmingly dominant.
The most important export was cassiterite, which gave the country its
name (cassiterite being called tin in Anglo Saxon). In the middle years,
Britain conducted extensive trade with the low Countries and Italy,
exporting vast quantities of wool to those countries' textile industries.
For many years England did not have the skilled workforce or the
population density to itself participate in manufacturing, but turmoil on
the continent as a result of the end of the Italian Renaissance and the
wars of religion caused by the Protestant Reformation led to an influx
of skilled dyers and weavers. By the 17th century England was a leader
in textile production.


During the era of imperialism, slave trading generated astounding
wealth for Britain. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century a
series of technological advances led to the Industrial Revolution.
Britain's position as the world's pre-eminent trader helped fund
research and experimentation. The nation was also gifted by some of
the world's greatest reserves of coal, the main fuel of the new
revolution. It was also fueled by a rejection of mercantilism in favour
of The predominance of Adam Smith's laissez-faire capitalism.
The Industrial Revolution saw a rapid transformation in the British
economy and society. Previously large industries had to be near forests
or rivers for power. The use of coal-fuelled engines allowed them to be
placed in large urban centres. These new factories proved far more
efficient at producing goods than the cottage industry of a previous era.
These manufactured goods were sold around the world, and raw
materials and luxury goods were imported to Britain.
During the First Industrial Revolution, the industrialist replaced the
merchant as the dominant figure in the capitalist system. In the latter
decades of the nineteenth century, when the ultimate control and
direction of large industry came into the hands of financiers, industrial
capitalism gave way to financial capitalism and the corporation. The
establishment of behemoth industrial empires, whose assets were
controlled and managed by men divorced from production, was a
dominant feature of this third phase.
New products and services were also introduced which greatly
increased international trade. Improvements in steam engine design
and the wide availability of cheap steel meant that slow, sailing ships
could be replaced with steamships, such as Brunel's SS Great Western.
Electricity and chemical industries also moved to the forefront. In
many of these sectors Britain had far less of an edge than other powers
such as Germany and the United States, who both rose to equal and
even surpass Britain in economic heft.
Amalgamation of industrial cartels into larger corporations, mergers
and alliances of separate firms, and technological advancement
(particularly the increased use of electric power and internal
combustion engines fuelled by coal and petroleum) were mixed
blessings for British business during the late Victorian era. The
ensuing development of more intricate and efficient machines along
with monopolistic mass production techniques greatly expanded output
and lowered production costs. As a result, production often exceeded
domestic demand. Among the new conditions, more markedly evident
in Britain, the forerunner of Europe's industrial states, were the long-
term effects of the severe Long Depression of 1873-1896, which had
followed fifteen years of great economic instability. Businesses in
practically every industry suffered from lengthy periods of low -- and
falling -- profit rates and price deflation after 1873.


The current British economy is firmly rooted on advanced
industrialisation which see the country exporting technology notably
to countries like China.
Germany had already developed a strong economy during the Middle
Ages. It was based on guild and craft production, but with elements of
merchant capitalism and mercantilism. The trade conducted by its
cities ranged far and wide throughout Europe in all directions, and
Germany as a whole often had trade surpluses with neighboring states.
One reason for these exports was the sheer necessity for the small
states to sell abroad in order to buy the many things they could not
produce at home.
The German guilds of the Middle Ages established the German
tradition of creating products known for quality and durability. A
craftsman was not permitted to pursue a trade until he could
demonstrate the ability to make high-quality products. Out of that same
tradition came an equally strong passion for education and vocational
training, for no craftsman was recognized until he had thoroughly
learned a trade, passed a test, and been certified.
The Industrial Revolution reached Germany long after it had flowered
in Britain, and the governments of the German states supported local
industry because they did not want to be left behind. Many enterprises
were government initiated, government financed, government
managed, or government subsidized. As industry grew and prospered
in the nineteenth century, Prussia and other German states consciously
supported all economic development and especially transportation and
The government played a powerful role in the industrialization of the
German Empire founded by Otto von Bismarck in 1871 during a
period known as the Second Industrial Revolution. It supported not
only heavy industry but also crafts and trades because it wanted to
maintain prosperity in all parts of the empire. Even where the national
government did not act, the highly autonomous regional and local
governments supported their own industries. Each state tried to be as
self-sufficient as possible.
Despite the several ups and downs of prosperity and depression that
marked the first decades of the German Empire, the ultimate wealth of
the empire proved immense. German aristocrats, landowners, bankers,
and producers created what might be termed the first German
economic miracle, the turn-of-the-century surge in German industry
and commerce during which bankers, industrialists, mercantilists, the
military, and the monarchy joined forces.


Germany recorded one of the highest episodes of inflation in the
history of the world reaching millions and millions. However through
co-operation of both the public and private sector she managed to tame
the enemy to a one digit level. Today Germany is the largest economy
in Europe and the largest exporter of heavy industrial machinery in the
The economic history of Brazil covers various economic events and
traces the changes in the Brazilian economy of the course of the history
of Brazil. From Portugal's discovery of Brazil in 1500 until the late
1930s, the Brazilian economy relied on the production of primary
products for exports. Portugal subjected Brazil to a sternly enforced
colonial pact, or imperial mercantile policy, which for three centuries
heavily curbed development.
Measurable changes began occurring only late in the 19th century,
when slavery was eliminated and wage labor was adopted. Important
structural transformations began only in the 1930s, when the first steps
were taken to change Brazil into a modern, semi-industrialized
These transformations were particularly intense between 1950 and
1981, when the growth rates of the economy remained quite high and a
diversified manufacturing base was established. However, since the
early 1980s the economy has experienced substantial difficulties,
including slow and stagnation. Nevertheless, Brazil still has the
potential to regain its former dynamism. In the mid-1990s, it had a
large and quite diversified economy, but one with considerable
structural, as well as short-term, problems.
The Brazilian economy also experience an episode of destabilisation
with stagnant economic growth and high inflation levels most as a
result of expectations. Several solutions were made available from high
provile economists but introduction of a new currency that was valued
on fundamentals drove the ship out of the rath of the sea and today the
country is enjoying steady economic growth still pinned on agriculture
but complimented with a growing industry.



The present Zimbabwean economy is a result of historical legacy which dates
back to the period British settlers arrived into this country. When the settlers
arrived in 1890, there were traditional agriculturalists dating back some 2000
years (G. B Mombeshora 2001). The farmers who grew a wide variety of
crops practiced shifting cultivation. The British South Africa Company
(BSAC) established rule over Southern Rhodesia in 1890 and its rule lasted for
about 25 years. This is the period when land appropriation by whites started
and it also marked the birth of the dual agrarian structure that exists today.
Reserves were located in the remote and drier parts of the country and by
1913; a total of 104 Native Reserves varying from 2,024 ha to 607,287 ha had
been established. From then onwards, several acts of Parliament were passed
in order to consolidate the colonial government's objectives on agriculture.
These included:
· 1891 Lippert Concession
· 1898 Native Reserves Order in Council
· 1931 Land Apportionment Act
· 1951 Native Land Husbandry
· 1965 Tribal Trust Lands Act
· 1969 Land Tenure Act.
However, it was the Land Apportionment Act of 1931 that formalized the dual
agrarian structure. Institutions that shaped the evolution of Zimbabwe's
agrarian structure also began to emerge. For instance the BSAC directors
visited the country and launched the white agricultural policy, which promoted
commercial farming. A department of agriculture was set up in 1908 to
implement agricultural policy for white commercial farmers. The first research
stations in the country were established in 1909 at Gwebi and Harare. Rhodes,
Nyanga and Matopos were acquired in 1917. No support was rendered to
smallholder agriculture, and this situation continued up to 1980.
Southern Rhodesia became a self-governing colony in 1924 and this period of
self-rule (1924 - 1965) was characterized by huge investments in physical
social infrastructure for the white areas. These included the establishment of
state agricultural marketing and control boards. Such developments which
took place in the 1930s and 1940s were the prime movers of the agricultural
production revolution on the large-scale commercial farms, starting in the
1950s with tobacco as a major export crop. Smallholder agriculture was,
however, ignored. In addition, further support to the white agricultural sector
came through the 1933 Danzing Commission. This Commission was
appointed to examine the economic position of the agricultural industry amid
the world depression of the 1930s. This Commission recommended that


government subsidies and support for white agriculture as a matter of survival
of the white community. The global depression set the stage for an all-
embracing state intervention. For example, from 1935 to 1956, a 50% subsidy
plus free technical support programme was launched to allow white farmers to
build soil and water conservation works. From 1936 to 1944, agriculture was
declared a controlled industry. Government controlled the prices, international
trade as well as the area and sale of tobacco, and extended subsidies to white
In 1953 came the Federation of Nyasaland and Rhodesia. The Federal
government, acting on recommendations of a 1958 Select Committee, actually
started to amend the Land Apportionment Act in order to increase the amount
of land for blacks by extending the special native reserves and by creating a
category of non-racial (unreserved) land. White conservatives did not like the
idea and, in an all white election, fought on the land issue, and the Rhodesian
Front won, thus restoring the Land Apportionment Act and freezing the
unreserved category of land. In 1965, the Rhodesian Front Party declared an
illegal Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from the United
Kingdom (UK). The UK and the United Nations (UN) imposed sanctions on
Rhodesia. Government immediately instituted measures to reduce dependency
on tobacco through crop diversification schemes. Agriculture continued to be
the most import foreign exchange earner. The agricultural sector survived UDI
largely through government support, although in the 1970s large-scale
agriculture became less and less profitable.
At independence, Zimbabwe inherited an agricultural sector characterised by
two different systems, namely, the commercial sector exclusively for the
whites and the communal areas for blacks. The commercial sector had access
to better and larger pieces of land compared to the blacks. The new
government maintained the dual agrarian structure of commercial and
communal farms, but significantly increased government assistance to the
communal sector. The new government maintained the colonial government`s
cheap food policy and actually increased food subsidies during the first few
years of independence, with tax rebates given for some basic food items.
Government introduced new legislation on minimum wage, which in turn
increased the demand for manufactured food items.
In all indications, up to the late 90s, Zimbabwe was in a relatively decent
shape as far as macroeconomic fundamentals were concerned- it was
considered a moderately indebted country and its credit rating was better than
most comparable developing countries, booming agricultural sector, a
moderately performing manufacturing and mining sector, at least an
improving standard of living. In reality though, it was really an economy
where external creditors were willing to support an otherwise unsustainable
external balance of payments, and where domestic creditors were prepared to
hold high levels of domestic debt. However, this 'temporary' equilibrium could
not be sustained, largely because of deep-seated problems in the macro-
economy. Recent internal political, social and economic pressures have forced
a sharp downturn in economic activity, with dire implications for debt service.


Zimbabwe's macroeconomic policies have changed between extremes. Like
many other developing countries, the post independence experience is
characterised by a structural adjustment programme which reversed a long
tradition of dirigisme. There is little doubt that economic reforms have
changed the contours of the Zimbabwean economy, although it is also clear
that the effects were very much the consequence of both the initial conditions
and the subsequent management of the process. The structural inequalities,
which had been built during the settler colonial period and which had not been
greatly altered during the first decade of independence, provided the
foundation for a programme which sharpened inequality and increased
poverty. Despite the contrasting policy episodes, a common feature running
through all these is a large fiscal deficit, averaging 10 percent of GDP or
higher. The main result of this fiscal mismanagement has been the inability of
a populist government to exercise fiscal discipline which has contributed to
mounting public debt problems (Davies and Rattso, 1999). Prior to economic
reforms, it was possible for the regulated economy to suppress the
destabilising consequences of the debt through price controls, foreign
exchange rationing, financial repression etc., at least in the short run. Once the
shift to market orientation was made, these control instruments were removed
and any imbalance between aggregate demand and supply quickly showed up
as a combination of inflation, balance of payments deficit and currency
depreciation. As a result, Zimbabwe's debt problems pose significant problems
largely related to the country's creditworthiness and its ability to direct
resources towards productive use.

At the heart of the 1980s policy regime was a complex and comprehensive
foreign exchange allocation system that was supplemented by a stringent
investment regulation and approval system and an extensive price control.
Although this regulated economy appeared to shield the poor more than the
preceding liberalized one, the system discouraged new entrants, had an anti-
export bias and the regime was macroeconomically unsustainable. There was
heightened awareness that the existing policy of subsidizing consumers and
producers and constantly bailing out parastatals was keeping the fiscal deficit
at an unsustainably high level and contributing to rising public debt. During
this period, there was a significant increase in the stock of outstanding total
external debt, reflecting not only the poor fiscal and external position, but also
the reconstruction needs of the economy. In 1980, Zimbabwe's stock of debt
outstanding stood at US$786 million or about 16% of GDP, of which more
than 40% related to external borrowings from South Africa. Following
independence and the need for substantial external financial resources required
for reconstruction and rehabilitation of economic infrastructure, debt levels
rose significantly to US$2.4 billion in 1985, representing about 52% of GDP,
more than 70% of which was sourced from non-concessional commercial
sources. This resulted in hardening of the average terms of the country's debt,
with grace periods of 2 years, maturities of five years and an average interest
rate of about 10%. Consequently, debt service payments rose rapidly, with the
debt service ratio increasing from about 9.5% in 1981 to an excess of 29% in
1985. Since then, there has been a substantial reduction in commercial bank


exposure and the country has increasingly tried to finance itsdevelopment
requirements from long term concessional official sources.

Although the country experienced positive growth in the 1980's, it embarked
on a SAP in 1990 because of a perception that growth was too slow. There
was also concern over the failure of GDP growth to translate into jobs.
Economic performance during this period was largely unsatisfactory. The key
year is 1992, when the trade account was essentially fully liberalized. Output
and investment contracted by about 8-10%, the inflation rate doubled to over
40%, a consumption boom increased imports and the trade balance moved into
serious deficit. This performance must be understood against the unfortunate
background of a coincidental drought that must take much of the balance for
the contraction. However, the worry is that GDP per capita in 1997 is still at
the 1992 level, well below the gradually expanding per capita GDP during the
period 1985-1991. While inflation jumped to an annual rate above 40%,
nominal interest rates went up to about 30%. The inflation rate was gradually
reduced towards 20% in the mid -90s, but the interest rate showed strong

Consequently, real interest rates turned positive and quite large with
depressing effects for investment in the 1990s. The underlying reason for the
loss of macro-balance during this period was the size of the budget deficit.
Stabilisation policy has focused almost exclusively on fiscal deficit reduction
(from about 10% of GDP to 5% of GDP) for good macroeconomic reasons.
Other goals included targets on inflation reduction (from 16% to 10%) and a
stable external sector. Until recently, only the external sector developed
according to plan. The budget deficit has remained quite high1 for the rest of
the 1990s, rising to more than 10% of GDP. In 2000, it reached 23 % of GDP
and is forecast to remain at 20% of GDP in 2001/2002. Government
borrowing to finance such a high deficit pushed up interest rates, discouraging
investment and growth. As a result, inflation turned out to be higher than
planned. Total external debt more than doubled between 1985 and
1996.Although the GDP growth rate was impressive at 7.3 percent in 1996, in
1994 it was lower than in 1985. Import liberalization of 1990-91 led to a
substantial increase in imports, accounting for a serious trade imbalance.
Failure of the major donors including the World Bank to disburse funds on
target forced the Government to raise short-term commercial loans. This
accounts for the substantial increase in external debt.

In 1996, the performance of the economy was relatively better and prospects
for the remainder of the decade looked good. Public finances improved in
1998 with a primary surplus of 5% of GDP. But with hindsight, this was just a
calm before a storm. The storm, which came in the form of the currently
ongoing crisis, erupted when the Zimbabwean dollar fell to an unprecedented
low level on Friday 14th November 1997. It was largely generated by the
failure to bring the fiscal deficit under control. What acted as a trigger to the
crisis, however, was growing uncertainty over the financing of about Z$4
billion that had been promised war veterans as compensation and pensions, the
lack of progress made in the negotiations between the government and the
Bretton Woods Institutions and uncertainties on the direction of land reform.


In 1999, fiscal handle was lost and the primary balance shifted to a deficit of
1.4%. Government deficit before grants rose to 11.5% GDP3. Fiscal
performance in 2000 and 2001 has deviated sharply from the original official
target (of 3.8%GDP). In 2000, the deficit rose to 23% of GDP. The slippage
stemmed from a 60-90% increase in public wages, overusing defense and
domestic interest outlays.In 2001 the fiscal deficit is projected to be 20%
GDP. The combination of rising fiscal deficits and dwindling foreign
financing has raised the government's domestic debt from 19.5% of GDP at
the end of 1998 to about 29.3% of GDP at the end of 2000. The declining
economic situation has gone hand in hand with rising concerns for political
stability. The contentious issue has been the implementation of the needed
land reforms, which has eroded external confidence and diminished direct
foreign investment. These factors have led to the accumulation of some
US$500 million in public sector external payments arrears as of the end of
September 2000, of which US$204 million were owed by the central

The fact that there is currently a reduction of net aid inflow on the one hand
and a shift in the willingness of the domestic private sector to hold
government securities on the other complicates the problem even further.
Inflation surpassed the 1000% mark, foreign currency shortage continue
grapple the nation, disunity of purpose, speculative activities which have seen
unwarranted price increases that are not based on fundamentals, price
distortions, high unemployment levels all characterise the present
Zimbabwean economy.

The question is what can we learn from economic history?

Policy Implications and Lessons

In the background, we talked of the Brazilian president receiving calls from all
corners of the globe as high profile economist thought each had a solution to
the problems that were crippling their nation. I believe the Zimbabwean
situation is equally on the same yoke. Be it the print media, the electronic
media, the internet- an encyclopaedia can be compiled of the solutions people
believe will turn around the country`s economic fortunes.

The empirical analysis of the history of contemporary nations has the
following lessons for the economy of Zimbabwe:

Agricultural importance

From Japan stretching to the Americans, the Europeans and the whole of
Africa, Agriculture has been the base upon which industrialisation war fare
was launched. The countries which have gone all the way to become economic
powerhouses, recognised the importance of this sector the same way the
Zimbabwean government has taken heed. However the point of departure has


been on the environment (both political and cultural) and the ways of
supporting the sector.

Agricultural subsidies

American agriculture has up to now been competitive than any other in
the world because it is heavily subsdised. However farmers are not
subsidised before they do the farming like what is happening in
Zimbabwe Subsidies on come after the produce is available to
incentivise the farmer to even do more. Our subsubsidies are a
disincentive to production since there is very big room for one to get
higher returns out of arbitrage than when they commit the subsidy to
the cause of production.
It is therefore important that should be given after the producer has brought
output and they have to be market based.
Unity of purpose
This may not seem like an economic policy. Indeed it is not an economic
policy but a cultural policy which if its seed is sewn among a country`s
populace, economic policy become easier to implement. The Germans jumped
out of their hyperinflation ship partly because of the unity of the people which
supported government policy. They agreed to work for very low wages in the
hope and trust the same wages will tomorrow become mountains. This unity is
what Zimbabwe is currently crying for. The cart is pulled in all directions such
that overally it remains stagnant. The people have lost all hope in the
authorities entrusted to give confidence to the people therefore as a first step,
the task should be to restore the people`s trust in authorities and that way the
neo-classicals believe expectations can be dealt with.

Production is by far the most affluent long run remedy to which most
economic problems can be stabilised. The developed countries are what they
are today because they produced and they are still producing. In an
environment where production is not a taboo, the exchange rate just finds its
footing, the inflation animal just find itself in the cage. It is therefore
imperative that the government through the responsible authorities set an
environment that is free of any distortions that militate against the production
The market way
Classical economics is rooted on the operation of the invisible hand in
determination of economic fundamentals. Though the system has its own
shortcomings, to a larger extent it is the way to ensure an efficient allocation
of resources to competing ends. The government should only come in cases
where the market is registering high scores of failure.


Promotion of savings
The Japanese industrialisation was footed on the promotion of investment than
exports. In other words it was an investment led industrialisation strategy
where efforts were directed at ensuring massive local investments are
undertaken before producing for the export market.
Import substitution
Brazil, and the Asian tigers among a host of other countries successful
implemented economic turn around programmes through import substitution
industrialisation strategies. In the first instance focus should be substituting
consumer imports through local production. A look at Zimbabwe`s import
basket will find everything from sacks used by GMB as packaging for grains.
In other words it seems little is currently being produced in the country- a
situation that is highly unsustainable for a country that is facing crippling
foreign currency shortages.

In a nutshell the problems facing Zimbabwe if mirrored in the economic
history of contemporary nations are not new nor is she the first one to go
through such experiences. It is therefore pertinent that the authorities take their
time to look at the conditions under which previous victims have operated in
to move out of their predicaments.

Public debt, both domestic and external, is a major problem in Zimbabwe
today. The single most important proximate cause of the problem is
macroeconomic instability. The road ahead for Zimbabwe is likely to be very
bumpy. An even severe recession appears unavoidable if the debt situation is
to be brought under some reasonable control without the help of donors.
Although the task to be accomplished is very daunting, the country has
approached the point at which it has to tolerate this effort. Politics aside, the
central thrust of macroeconomic policy management has to be on controlling
the budget deficit. The government is aware of the measures needed to bring
the budget process under control: proper construction of budget targets,
adherence to agreed budget allocations, reduced domestic borrowing. In the
past high budget deficits have been due to the failure of various ministries to
remain within the authorized expenditure ceilings. But the debt service burden
also adds a large non-discretionary element to expenditures. Short-term
measures are necessary to reduce this burden. Experience has shown that the
capacity to implement the above measures is limited.

Therefore, mechanisms to assist the Government in sticking to its budget
proposals will be required. In the absence of donor support (the most likely
scenario), there are two realistic options open for Zimbabwe to tackle the debt
problem: austerity and export promotion. Austerity would be contractionary in
the short run. In the medium run (assuming the economy survives this far),


however, the fiscal deficit will come down and there is redistribution away
from high savers. Inflationary pressures would be reduced by efficiency gains
from public enterprise commercialisation and privatisation. Export growth
promotion is another complementary policy. Without substantial capital
inflows, there will be need for directed policies such as cheap credit, explicit
subsidies and devaluation to keep exportables afloat. However, except for
devaluation, this conclusion is not warranted from our analysis in this paper,
since we have not addressed the impact of directed policies on exports
explicitly. Nonetheless, experience in the last half of the 1980s suggests that
this is a reasonable interim measure to promote exports.

Although there appears to be an impenetrable stand-off between donors and
government, there is need to obtain a workable consensus on the way forward.
The donor financing route may appear less politically feasible to the
government, but the alternative of trying to ignore the economic imperatives is
likely to have far more adverse political spin-offs in the next three to five
years. An important reason for attracting donor support would be the boost
that this would give to investor confidence, making the future appear more
certain. This route also raises the possibility of swapping domestic debt for
foreign. With credible government policies, this would lead to higher growth
and lower inflation. These conditions are prerequisites for sustainable debt.

Policies that create an environment that is suitable for production should be
put in place. Subsidies should be market based and be aimed to promote the
production cause-not prone to abuse through arbitration. Removal of
distortionary pricing is very essential. Finally the unit of purpose from policy
makers to the rest of the economic agents helps oiling the rusty economic



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