University Seminar Series - Professor Gregory Clar

Friday, March 23, 2007 - 12:00 PM
CIGI, The Balcony Room, 57 Erb Street West, Waterloo, Canada
Mar 23

"Genetically Capitalist? The Malthusian Era, Institutions and the Formation of Modern Economic Preferences."

Before 1800 all societies, including England, were Malthusian. The average man or woman had 2 surviving children. Such societies were also Darwinian.
Some reproductively successful groups produced more than 2 surviving children, increasing their share of the population, while other groups produced less, so that their share declined. But unusually in England, this selection for men was based on economic success from at least 1250, not success in violence as in some other pre-industrial societies. The richest male testators left twice as many children as the poorest.

Consequently the modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the middle ages. At the same time, from 1150 to 1800 in England there are clear signs of changes in average economic preferences towards more "capitalist" attitudes. The highly capitalistic nature of English society by 1800 - individualism, low time preference rates, long work hours, high levels of human capital - may thus stem from the nature of the Darwinian struggle in a very stable agrarian society in the long run up to the Industrial Revolution. The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.

Speaker Bio

Gregory Clark was born in 1957, in Bellshill, Scotland. He studied philosophy and economics as an undergraduate at Cambridge University, and then economics in graduate school at Harvard University. Currently Professor of Economics at the University of California, Davis, he taught previously at Stanford University and the University of Michigan. He has wrestled for twenty five years with the problems of long run economic growth, and of the wealth and poverty of nations. The intractability of these problems has allowed him to write numerous articles on the topic. His book, A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World will be published by Princeton University Press in June. Sample chapters from the book, and some of his recent articles can be found at

For more information about Professor Gregory Clark, please click here.

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