North And South Essay, Research Paper
The first two reading selections for Economics 344 make some notable observations about the growth and development of budding economies. In Engerman and Sokoloff s chapter entitled Factor Endowments, Institutions, and Differential Paths of Growth Among New World Economies, the authors compare the economic growth levels of the North American colonies to those of Latin American colonies. Then, in Tracking the Economic Divergence of the North and the South, Peter Coclanis notes the different economic paths taken by these two distinct regions of the United States. Overall, these two essays are similar in nature they make similar comparisons across two regions using similar criteria. The readings, however, differ drastically in their subject matter and in the scope of the comparisons.
In the first reading, Stanley Engerman and Kenneth Sokoloff attempt to explain what factors contributed to the different levels of economic development between the North American colonies and the Latin American colonies. They hypothesize that the United States and Canada were able to sustain economic growth due to factor endowments that were superior to those of Central and South America. Endowments such as climate, soil, and density of the native population, they say, predisposed certain colonies to accomplishing economic growth. Institutions and government policies such as land policies and trade regulations were also significant determining factors, but less so than factor endowments. After comparing the prosperous colonies to the less prosperous, the authors then briefly state differences within the United States colonies as far as economic growth is concerned. Numerous differences in the economic patterns of the North and the South are pointed out indeed, in many ways the South resembled those colonies that became less successful. Despite these distinctions, in the end, the authors conclude that overall, the South s economy was a unique case and ultimately realized a record of growth more like those of the northern United States or Canada.
The second piece compares the patterns of economic growth experienced by the North and the South. Coclanis points out numerous variations in the economies of the two regions from the seventeenth century and forward two hundred years. The factor endowments are noted here as well, while political factors play less of a role. Overall, the author concludes that the economic divergence of the North and South was quite large, and the differences most definitely outweigh the similarities.
The two readings share both remarkable similarities as well as sharp differences. The bulk of the similarities lie in the nature of the essays and the methods and criteria used to draw comparisons. The two are extremely similar in that they both have the same main goal; that is, to compare the economic growth trends across two different regions while attempting to discern what factors were responsible for these differences. The first article compared the United States and Canada to the rest of the New World and identified certain aspects that caused the former to sustain higher economic growth than the latter. Likewise, the second essay compared the North and the South while attempting to pinpoint factors that caused the North to outdistance the South in terms of economic prosperity. Thus, one fundamental similarity between these two readings is that they both compared two regions, one more successful than the other at sustaining economic growth, and attempted to pinpoint the reasons for these discrepancies.
A second significant likeness between the two readings lies in the fact that they both focused largely on one aspect factor endowments in trying to explain the gaps in economic growth. Both pieces seemed to place more of an emphasis on things such as climate, soil, the density of the native population and/or slaves, and the distribution of landholdings, wealth, and power. Institutions and political policies, the authors say, did not influence these factor endowments; rather, the factor endowments were primarily responsible and were perpetuated by political tendencies. For example, Engerman and Sokoloff state that the colonies that succeeded economically, the so-called category three colonies, had certain characteristics in common. They did not have a huge native population or slave population. They were not entirely specialized in one area of crop production. They had a mainly European labor force with a high level of human capital. And most importantly, they had a relatively equal distribution of wealth and landholdings. By contrast, category one and two colonies had a large slave or native population that constituted most of the labor force, an unequal distribution of wealth, large scale enterprises, and a great deal of inequality. In Coclanis essay, he points to similar factors as a cause of the North s economic prosperity. Coclanis cites climate, resources, and profit possibilities as reasons. The North, in comparison to the South, was more economically diverse, less specialized in crop production, had fewer slaves and more European workers, and had a more equal distribution of wealth and landholdings. Thus we see another fundamental similarities between the two articles both attribute superior economic growth to similar factors known as factor endowments.
There are numerous other similarities between the two readings that are less significant and perhaps less noticeable. For example, both readings downplay the role of cultural factors in influencing different economic trends. Neither article attributes sustained economic growth to certain cultural factors; rather, cultural variations arose as a result of the economic divergences. The differences between the two readings, however, are quite striking. Certainly it is not difficult to discern that the first reading has a much broader scope than the second. While Engerman and Sokoloff discuss American and Canadian colonies versus Central and South American Colonies, Coclanis discusses only those areas within the United States. Where the first reading takes the United States as a whole, the second breaks it up and looks at its specific regions in more detail. In both articles, the authors are comparing one region that experienced sustained economic growth to another region that lagged behind. It is interesting to note that the area that lagged behind in the second article, the South, was a part of the more prosperous area in the first article. Therefore, perhaps the most obvious and interesting difference is in the relative comparison level between the articles. While the first compares the more prosperous region of an entire hemisphere to the less prosperous, the second is much more focused on one specific region, the United States.
Although it is perhaps due to this very difference in scope, the two articles view the South and its relative economic prosperity very differently. In the first article, the authors discuss North-South diversions toward the conclusion. Some parallels are drawn between the South and the less prosperous Latin American colonies large-scale agriculture with one main crop, high inequality, and an abundance of slave labor. However, the authors rather quickly dismiss the idea that the South differed much from the rest of the United States. They cite two reasons for why the South was actually more like the United States than its Latin American counterparts. First, the actual share of the overall population comprised by slaves was not as extreme as the Caribbean, for example. Second, the political and economic framework of the United States dominated the South and thus gave them an environment in which to flourish.
While these authors made it seem the North-South divide was not entirely significant, the second article focused solely on this divide. Coclanis spends the entire article contemplating the reasons for the sharp contrasts between the two regions, citing startling statistics to illustrate this contrast. Indeed, the discussion of the South in the second reading closely resembles the discussion of Latin America in the first essay. Coclanis focuses on the high level of slave labor, the reliance on large-scale agriculture, the unequal distribution or land, and the relative inequality as prime factors for the South s economic trends. Simultaneously, he discusses the North s diverse and flexible enterprise system, its non-reliance on slave labor, its equal distribution of wealth, and its relative equality. Thus, while in the first article the North and South are virtually one and the same, in the second article it seems they are depicted as night and day.
In sum, it is obvious these two essays, while similar in nature and methodology, differ greatly in scope and detail. Indeed, both readings bear remarkable semblance to one another as in-depth discussions of capitalist economics related to New World economics. They both have the same basic goal to compare two distinct regions, one of which has outpaced the other in economic growth, and identify factors to account for this gap. In addition, both pieces seem to pinpoint the same factors, called factor endowments. Each article points to factors such as climate, soil, crop specialization, amount of slave labor, relative equality, and equality with respect to land distribution, wealth distribution, and political power. Finally, the articles both cite these factors as first and foremost while political factors have served to reinforce the differences created by factor endowments. The main difference lies in scope. Because one essay is based on the entire hemisphere and another on one country, the conclusions reached by each seem to contradict one another. While Engerman and Sokoloff downplay the North-South divide, Coclanis concludes that differences were more abundant than similarities between the two regions. Despite the difference in scope and the resulting confusion, both essays provide excellent in-depth analysis of the economic trends of budding economies in the New World.