This book is the first comprehensive account of how Australia attained the world's highest living standards within a few decades of European settlement, and how the nation has sustained an enviable level of income to the present. Beginning with the Aboriginal economy at the end of the eighteenth century, Ian McLean argues that Australia's remarkable prosperity across nearly two centuries was reached and maintained by several shifting factors. These included imperial policies, favorable demographic characteristics, natural resource abundance, institutional adaptability and innovation, and growth-enhancing policy responses to major economic shocks, such as war, depression, and resource discoveries.
Natural resource abundance in Australia played a prominent role in some periods and faded during others, but overall, and contrary to the conventional view of economists, it was a blessing rather than a curse. McLean shows that Australia's location was not a hindrance when the international economy was centered in the North Atlantic, and became a positive influence following Asia's modernization. Participation in the world trading system, when it flourished, brought significant benefits, and during the interwar period when it did not, Australia's protection of domestic manufacturing did not significantly stall growth. McLean also considers how the country's notorious origins as a convict settlement positively influenced early productivity levels, and how British imperial policies enhanced prosperity during the colonial period. He looks at Australia's recent resource-based prosperity in historical perspective, and reveals striking elements of continuity that have underpinned the evolution of the country's economy since the nineteenth century.
Ian W. McLean is currently a visiting research fellow in economics at the University of Adelaide, where he taught for many years. He is the coeditor of The Australian Economy in the Long Run.
"[T]he first major economic history of Australia for 40 years . . ."--Ross Gittins, Sydney Morning Herald
"[R]emarkable. . . . Why Australia Prospered distills decades of research and teaching to present an account of Australia and its development that is solid, surprising and pertinent to the contemporary debate about the country's future. . . . In his assembly of evidence and his judicious review of the debates of Australian development, McLean has made a profoundly important contribution to our understanding of where Australia has come from as a nation, where they country is now--and where it is going."--Australian Financial Review
"In Why Australia Prospered, Ian McLean explores the fascinating mix of factors explaining this persistence of prosperity. . . . [A] carefully researched book . . ."--Times Higher Education Supplement
"McLean provides a comprehensive account of the factors contributing to Australia's remarkable economic growth."--Choice
"In this impressive book McLean demonstrates the contribution economic history can make to scholarship on the past and the politics of the present. . . . [T]he work of a manifestly fine scholar with many important points to make and ideas that need to be heard far beyond university economics departments, or what's left of them."--Stephen Matchett, Australian
"Looking at a period spanning two hundred years, this book explores why Australia was so rich at the end of the nineteenth century and why it has remained rich. McLean shows how history sheds light on Australia's long-run economic performance and he cogently discusses the contributions and limitations of formal theory in explaining Australian growth."--George Grantham, professor emeritus, McGill University
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