Saturday Worth Reading: Belle Waring on David Brooks, the Political, and the Personal
Econ 210a Introduction (Spring 2014; UC Berkeley)

Econ 210a Weekly Memos (Spring 2014; UC Berkeley)

Weekly Memos

A memo on each week’s readings is due at the beginning of each class meeting in the instructors' mailboxes at 5 PM Tuesday before those readings are discussed. You will find the memo questions on Professor DeLong’s and Professor Eichengreen’s 210a subpages:

Typically the week’s question will be posted on the Thursday six days before the class meeting when your memo is due. The memo is due at the start of the class meeting.

Your memos should be one-page, and certainly no more than two pages (12-point type). They cannot be exhaustive or provide definitive answers. But they can explain why a question is important, and they can draw on assigned readings in an effort to answer it.

Weekly Memo Questions: First Half of the Course

Weekly Memo Question: Jan 29 The January 22 class painted a picture of an economic world in which (a) total factor productivity growth was very slow, and (b) as a result the overwhelming effect of technological progress was to increase human numbers rather than raise standards of living above bare subsistence. This week we read three pieces--Marx, Acemoglu et al., and Allen--all arguing that very important things were happening in northwestern Europe in 1500-1800 to raise the rate of total factor productivity growth. Pick one paper. Do you think it makes a convincing case? Taking as background January 22's class, how much of a difference in the global economic trend do you think that paper's factors by themselves could have made?

Weekly Memo Question: Feb 5 Maxine Berg and Pat Hudson write that the "historiography of the industrial revolution in England has moved away from viewing the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a unique turning point in economic and social development." Whether or not it has, do the papers this week make you think that economic historians should move away from viewing the British Industrial Revolution as the axis upon which global economic history turns, or not?

Weekly Memo Question: Feb 12 Economics tends to view growth as a continuous and diffuse process: if one firm does not solve the problem of how to efficiently utilize resources, others will and drive the first out of business; if one technological vein plays itself out, energy will focus on others. The papers this week argue either that unique institutions and technologies matter a lot or that they do not. What kinds of evidence not presented in this week's reading might lead you to come down on one side or the other?

Weekly Memo Question: Feb 19 Adam Smith confidently asserted that slavery was uneconomic--that in commercial society, manumission was the road to higher productivity because the carrot of working for yourself is much more efficient than the stick of being whipped by others. Was Smith right? If you conclude that he was right, does that mean that slavery is in general on the road to its natural extinction? And why is unfree labor such a common institution?

Weekly Memo Question: Feb 26 If we were at Chicago, by now you would have been taught to excess that externalities are rare and that government attempts to correct for them via Pigovian or regulatory means are destined to do more harm than good. But we are here at Berkeley--where serious interdependence and externality are everywhere, and where there is not a market that does not need either a large Pigovian tax or bounty somewhere or that does not need very skillful and well-designed regulation to come as close as possible to assigning property rights in order to cut the animal at the joints. What in the two papers this week leaves you suspicious of the Berkeley point of view?

Weekly Memo Question: Mar 5 Manhattan Island today has a population density of 70,000 people per square mile. The United States today has an average population density of 100 people per square mile--about the same as the global average in a world in which Asia has 200, Europe 130, Australia/Oceania 10, and Antarctica 0. Pick one paper. What do you think of the reasons it gives, implicitly or explicitly, for our tendency to agglomerate?