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By Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, William Smart

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Eugen Ritter von Böhm-Bawerk was once an Austrian economist who made vital contributions to the advance of the Austrian tuition of economics.

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But gradually life asserted its independence through man who is now capable of defying the Earth. Life and Earth are not partners as each is driven by its own internal forces; each attempting, unsuccessfully, to tame the other. From the time mankind first learnt to speak, probably about 45,000 years ago, we have told stories—stories for entertainment and instruction around the campfire. The most complex and fascinating story ever told is about life on Earth. While this story has taken many forms in different places and at different times down through the millennia, it has only recently begun to be told with any precision.

It is fascinating to reflect that the natural sciences play host to the same arguments as the social sciences about the importance of exogenous and 37 THE TIDE OF TIME endogenous forces. The late Preston Cloud, as we have seen, was an enthusiastic advocate of the idea that the planet Earth possesses an internal rhythm, centred on the physical forces driving plate tectonics, which is sufficient to explain the ‘drift’ of continents, mountain building, volcanic action, and even climate. In his view of the evolving planet, cosmic events are only random shocks which have been responsible for a mere 10 per cent of changes to life on Earth (Cloud, 1988:402).

Eventually a threshold level of embodied technical ideas is reached and a new rapid upswing of growth is initiated. While this is an endogenous model of very longrun growth via great waves of economic change, this system was also subjected to external shocks—such as disease, war, and sudden changes in the physical environment—that caused further shorter-run fluctuations. But technological change is only one of mankind’s dynamic strategies. It was the dominant strategy during the major technological revolutions during the palaeolithic, neolithic, and modern periods.

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