How apprenticeship institutions helped in rise of Europe…
David de la Croix, Matthias Doepke, Joel Mokyr have a nice post.This quest to explain rise of Europe remains one of the holy grails of political economy.
They say apprentice system played an important role:
One of Western Europe’s core historical features was its reliance on mechanisms and institutions that were not based on kinship relations. When applied to learning institutions, this feature led to the adoption of superior apprenticeship institutions, and thus promoted a fast diffusion of best techniques, and it allowed Western Europe to gain primacy in the centuries leading up to the Industrial Revolution. Tacit knowledge and skills remain relevant in today’s economy. For example, master-apprentice-like relationships are still common in the education of doctors and scientists, and the continuing system of formal apprenticeship in Germany is often credited as one source of the country’s low youth unemployment and general economic success.
One of the great advances in understanding our economic past in the past decades has been that “institutions matter” — but identifying which institutions mattered, what they did, and why they arose in the first place has been a matter of considerable controversy. The institutions governing the intergenerational transmission of skills and tacit knowledge should definitely be part of that narrative.
We look for big ideas but the smaller ones matter equally.