Via the Economist, we see this intriguing histogram of Global GDP (below)
The Economist notes:
“Data compiled by Angus Maddison, an economist who died earlier this year, suggest that China and India were the biggest economies in the world for almost all of the past 2000 years.”
But then asks a really silly question:
“Why they fell so far behind may be more of a mystery than why they are currently flourishing.”
They were the biggest economies because they had a the biggest populations, and up until 200 years ago, population size was a dominant factor in economic output.
Once the industrial revolution came along, followed by the information revolution, mere size mattered less. First the Europeans, then the Americans leveraged technology to blow out GDP on a per capita basis. Steam engine, internal combustion engine, silicon makes up for size.
Now, India and China are using industrial leverage, and are moving up in the world on a GDP per capita basis.
Hat tip Chart Porn