This book is an experiment in comparative economic history. That is, it attempts to apply a model of structural change and fiscal crisis to two critical periods of the past: Renaissance Florence and Victorian Britain, as well as to recent events in the United States. These qre periods of great economic changes and – not coincidentally – fiscal crisis and tax reform. In other words, these are times and places where the book thinks the outlines of the model hold. The book's ultimate goal is to apply the insights provided by past episodes to an analysis of problems today. This is not a history book but one which uses history to explore a profound contemporary problem: the problem of structural change and fiscal crisis. The goal is not to enlighten the understanding of the past but to use the past to improve the understanding of the present.
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