Dynamics in economic geography 2e druk - Ton van Rietbergen, Sierdjan Koster

1 | What is economic geography?

ment. In the Netherlands, this line of thinking underpinned ‘Pieken in de Delta’, a long-running development programme focused on regional strengths that has led to, for example, the establishment of a ‘Food Valley’ in and around the town of Wa geningen. What is striking here is that we are once again dealing with an approach to economic geography aimed at policy development. In this context it is relevant to mention Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class (2002). As manufacturing activity increasingly relocated from the Western world to low-income countries, his argument was that creativity was be coming the main driving force behind economic growth, particularly in highly de veloped countries (see also Chapter 5). The rise of the internet prompted O’Brien (1992) to predict the demise of geogra phy. After all, if distance is no longer an issue, how can geography possibly have anything left to offer? Books such as the provocatively titled The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman (2005) seemed to confirm the picture painted by O’Brien (see also Chapter 2). However, in his inaugural address, Robert Kloosterman, Professor of Economic Geography and Planning at the University of Amsterdam, cited The Economist to illustrate why this picture is flawed: ‘Distance is dying, but geography, it seems, is alive and kicking’ (Kloosterman, 2001). Six years earlier, The Economist had proclaimed that distance was no longer relevant as a limiting factor for eco nomic activity. Whether the world becoming a smaller place will cause the demise of geogra phy is a matter of intense debate. In its 2002 article 'Prisoners of Geography', the authoritative American journal Foreign Policy recognized that the significance of geographic factors may be underestimated in efforts to explain differences in wealth between countries, concluding that, ‘In the academic arena, economic geography is no longer a taboo. It is only a matter of time before the discipline becomes ac ceptable in broader circles.’ In the article, Ricardo Hausmann, Professor of Eco nomic Development at Harvard University, stated: ‘Tropical, landlocked nations may never enjoy access to the markets and new technologies, they need to flourish in the global economy’ (p. 45). In Physioeconomics (2000, p. 8), Philip Parker went a step further, concluding that distance to the equator is highly predictive of the wealth of a nation − a connection that has proven increasingly powerful over the years. Particularly the statistical connection between latitude and wealth is many times stronger than the one between religion and wealth, as put forward by many other researchers, including Max Weber. However, it is unwise to rely entirely on location and climate factors when seek ing explanations for differences in wealth, as this would reek too much of the old geographical determinism. The link between climate and economy is better seen as indirect than direct. Regions located at the same latitude can differ vastly in terms of natural conditions (coastal locations, gulf streams, etc.) as well as political and institutional circumstances. In other words, while climate and location undeniably


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