Twitter: @antonhowes, @pseudoerasmus, @Econ_Marshall, and me: Malthus and Sparta:

@antonhowes: Preparing my lecture on the Malthusian Trap. A topic with so many grim and unusual examples it feels like I'm writing Horrible Histories...

...Gory fact: Spartan magistrates would periodically “declare war” on the serf (helot) population

@Econ_Marshall: Does ritualized violent labor coercion really fall into the Malthusian box? Elite wants abundant serfs w/no outside options.

DeLong: Elite wants abundant surplus, not so much abundant serfs...

@pseudoerasmus: yeah makes sense given fixed land and constant A, there’s some optimal population of L above which extractable surplus falls. but did the Spartan social planner have a human K augmentation parameter h for L (e.g. body weight) in order to correctly model surplus? :-)

DeLong: The fact that Spartiates wanted to marry rich daughters of Spartiates meant that every generation the number Sparta could put into the hoplite phalanx shrunk by 20% or so. Sparta thus got weaker and weaker as the sixth century was followed by the fifth, the fifth by the fourth, and the fourth by the third.

Perikles was an idiot for forcing l'affaire Korkyra. A policy of appeasing Sparta's allies in small things might have led to Athenian trans-Aegean hegemony by 320: the sarissa-phalanx of the Makedonians might have worked for the Ekklesia of Athens if not for Perikles's (and Nikias's, and Kleon's, and Alkibiades's) gross misjudgments...

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