Chapter

Economic Progress: Wealth and Poverty

C. H. Lee

in The Transformation of Scotland

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780748614325
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653348 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748614325.003.0005
Economic Progress: Wealth and Poverty

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This chapter raises the question of what progress is. It asks why the growth of prosperity over time has been so unequally shared between different groups or classes in Scottish society. It argues that the distribution of the benefits of progress is of crucial importance to the generation of sustained economic growth. There is ample evidence that much wealth in eighteenth-century Scotland was concentrated in the hands of a few landowners, as was normal in pre-industrial societies. Industrialisation enabled some fortunes to be made, but the rich, and even the moderately prosperous, were a small minority in society. Most Scots experienced low wages and irregular employment even after the new wealth had made Glasgow the second city of the Empire. The chapter argues that the fundamental weakness in the Scottish economy was its inability to sustain all of its growing population in work, leading to a low-wage economy and considerable emigration.

Keywords: Scottish economy; economic development; prosperity; economic growth; economic inequality; low-wage economy

Chapter.  11360 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies

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