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The population, ideas and property rights story

Michael Kremer (1993), building on the work of Paul Romer, constructs a

model where technological progress is driven by ideas. In turn the number of

ideas depends on the size of the population. Therefore, during the Malthusian

era, while improvements in living standards are negligible, technological

progress causes the size of the population to increase, which further stimulates

technological progress through the creation of more ideas. Kremer’s

model predicts that, historically, the growth rate of population will be proportional

to its level, at least before the worldwide spread of the demographic

transition in the latter part of the twentieth century (see Lee, 2003). Charles

Jones (2001b) adds to this story a key requirement that in order for technological

progress to win the race against Malthusian diminishing returns, not

only do there need to be increasing returns to accumulable factors; there also

need to develop ‘innovation-promoting institutions’ as emphasized by North

(1990).