Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Rapid economic growth of the American colonies before the revolution.

Take a look at how rapidly the colonies developed over the many years in advance of the successful American revolution. Comments are from An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power by John Steel Gordon.

One part that is astounding to me is certain geographies were very conducive to a certain type of crop. That is why tobacco, or corn, or cotton, or fishing for cod thrived in certain areas.

Consider: export of tobacco from Virginia to England:

  • 1618 – 20,000#
  • 1622 – 60,000#
  • 1627 – 500,000 #
  • 1629 – 1,500,000#
  • 1638 – 3,000,000#

let’s look at the annual increase and compound rate of growth:

. export annual chg compound growth
1618           20,000
1622           60,000         10,000 32%
1627          500,000         88,000 53%
1629       1,500,000       500,000 73%
1638       3,000,000       166,667 8%

That is astounding growth in two decades.

The geography of the Carolina colony was conducive to rice. Look at the export of rice from Carolina:

  • 1690s – reported introduction of rice
  • 1700 – 400,000#
  • 1743 – 43,000,000#, for an 11.5% compound growth rate in exports

New England soil was not conducive to growing much of anything. However one of the most abundant fishing grounds for cod is off New England. Here is the export of cod from New England to Europe:

  • 1641 – 600,000#– this is in the midst of the English Civil War and the resulting disruption in their economy
  • 1671 – 6,000,000#, for an 8.0% compound growth rate

An abundant natural resource in New England was timber. Resulting impact was the development of a very robust shipbuilding industry. Book says that by the end of the 17th century New England was one of the main shipbuilding areas on the planet. Cost to build in the United States was half that of England. For a 40 year period starting in 1674, Boston produced an average of 40 ships a year which was greater than the entire production and the rest of the colonies, according to the book.

By the time of the American Revolution, the colonies were prosperous. They were a major exporter of agricultural foodstuff, major exporter of raw materials, globally significant shipbuilders, with a growing manufacturing base, and robust international trade.

In addition there were millions of acres of land available. Fresh land was there, a mere day or two ride to the west for anyone who didn’t like their current circumstances. Book also points out that was the start of an attitude of high mobility that carried forward into the very character of the United States.

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