The Hockey Stick of Human Prosperity

In this series, Professor Don Boudreaux explores the question economists have been asking since the era of Adam Smith -- what creates wealth? On a timeline of human history, the recent rise in standards of living resembles a hockey stick -- flatlining for all of human history and then skyrocketing in just the last few centuries. Without specialization and trade, our ancient ancestors only consumed what they could make themselves. How can specialization and trade help explain the astonishing growth of productivity and output in such a short amount of time—after millennia of famine, low life expectancy, and incurable disease?