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Model Economic History Papers

Note: Gross and Moser have been heavily, heavily revised since submission: you are not expected to write something that gets into the AER as-is.

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Weekly Economic History Memo Questions Bank

Memo 1: Malthusian Economies

Was the invention of agriculture the worst mistake in the history of the human race?

Readings:


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1.1. Theory: Robert Solow's Growth Model: The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135

Th Jan 23: Robert Solow's Growth Model


Notes & Further Readings:

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0. Introduction: The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135

Rosling-dollar-street

T Jan 21: Growth in Historical Perspective, Humans and Their Economies


Notes & Further Readings:

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-1. Before Class Begins: The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135

Jetsons

  1. Acquire: An iClicker, and access to the course readings

  2. Read: Course administration documents https://delong.typepad.com/files/135-course-summary.pdf https://delong.typepad.com/files/135-course-procedures.pdf https://delong.typepad.com/files/135-administrative.pdf

  3. Read: Partha Dasgupta (2007): Economics: A Very Short Introduction, Prologue & chapters 1-4 https://delong.typepad.com/files/dasgupta-economics.pdf

  4. Read: Aristotle: Politics, Book I https://delong.typepad.com/files/aristotle-politics-book-i.pdf

  5. Do Assignment 1 (3 pts) https://tinyurl.com/dl-2020-01-18a: Write & answer a syllabus FAQ question, due T Jan 21 9:00 am.


Notes & Further Readings:

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The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135: Assignments

Suggested Question (and Answer) for Course FAQ List: Assignment 1: Read the syllabus documents: https://delong.typepad.com/files/135-course-summary.pdf https://delong.typepad.com/files/135-course-procedures.pdf https://delong.typepad.com/files/135-administrative.pdf

Using the information in the syllabus, think up a question that should be on the FAQ—the Frequently Asked Question—list for the course.

Answer the question you thought up.

Upload your question and answer to your account at the course on canvas.

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Reading Notes on Book I of Aristotle's "Politics"

Let me remind you about Aristoteles son of Nikomakhos of Stagira:

He lived from -384 to -322, in the Greek-speaking communities around the Aegean Sea. He spent most of his time in Athens. For the two millennia following his death, he would be, for a large chunk of the world, THE Philosopher: capital “P” and capital “THE”. 1650 years after his death, poet Dante Alighieri would call him “the Master… of those who know”, “il Maestro di color che sanno”. Aristotle’s was, even at so long a distance in time, the most powerful intellectual name that one could conjure with...


https://www.icloud.com/pages/0nLIYWAFXAkPWR0xug-NT21vg


https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0SKox_f6G3cEvDxV-biXLgcPA


Aristotle: Politics, Book I https://delong.typepad.com/files/aristotle-politics-book-i.pdf

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Feminism: I Need to Include Something Like This in My Twentieth Century History Book. But I Would Like Something from 1870-1950—Not Something from 1776 and 1700 and Before...

Hogarth-marriage-a-la-mode

Plus I am worried that I am, somewhere in here, striking the wrong tone. Yes, many people will find what is below annoying. But will the people annoyed be the people I want this to annoy, or will they be people whom I desperately do not want to read my work and then be annoyed?


2.5: The Arrival of Feminism: In 1764 in Britain’s Massachusetts colony Abigail Smith was 20, and had had no formal education at all: girls weren’t worth it. In that year married a man she had known for five years: the up-and-coming 30-year-old lawyer John Adams. Their daughter Nabby was born the following year, in 1765. There followed John Quincy (1767), Suky (1768, who died at the age of 2), Charles (1770, who died at the age of 10), Thomas (1772), with high probability a couple of (very early) miscarriages from 1774-6, then the stillborn Elizabeth (1777), and (perhaps) another miscarriage afterwards—but I suspect not. She ran their Boston-Braintree household and property operations while he played his role on the large political-intellectual stage, becoming second president of the United States.

Death and disease were, as was the case in the Agrarian Age, omnipresent. Her most famous letter to her husband was written in 1776. A part of it that is rarely—I would say never—excerpted contains these: “our Neighbour Trot whose affliction I most sensibly feel but cannot discribe, striped of two lovely children in one week…”, “Betsy Cranch has been very bad…”, “Becky Peck they do not expect will live out the day…”, “The Mumps… Isaac is now confined with it…”, and “your Brothers youngest child lies bad with convulsion fitts…”

Her letters tell us that she badly wanted to know what was going on in the world outside her household and the Boston-Braintree circle:

I wish you would ever write me a Letter half as long as I write you; and tell me if you may: Where your Fleet are gone? What sort of Defence Virginia can make against our common Enemy? Whether it is so situated as to make an able Defence? Are not the Gentery Lords and the common people vassals? Are they not like the uncivilized Natives Brittain represents us to be?…” and “I have sometimes been ready to think that the passion for Liberty cannot be Eaquelly Strong in the Breasts of those who have been accustomed to deprive their fellow Creatures of theirs…”

And note how she cannot say "I think...", even to her ten-years-older husband: she has to say "I have sometimes been ready to think..."

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Note to Self: What was the impact on the French medieval economy of the Hundred Years' War? The Black Prince shows up in your neighborhood and begins one of his chevauchees—he sets his soldiers to march, loot, burn, rape, kill, and spoil in a (often fruitless) attempt to get the French knights to come out and charge into the killing ground of his longbowmen. How much damage does he do, really? How many dead out of how large a population in how big an area? How much lost in tax revenue and feudal dues over the subsequent decade or two after the Black Prince has gone?

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"There Speaks the Nineteenth Century!": For the Weekend

stacks and stacks of books

For the weekend: One powerful and very common presumption among the thinkers of the nineteenth century was that if the problems of overpopulation could be solved, and if that coupled with better technology solved the problem of inadequate resources to provide necessities, then the distribution of conveniences and luxuries would take care of itself, and the distribution of necessities would be unproblematic as an immediate consequence of common humanity in an age of abundance. They were wrong:

Edward Bellamy: Looking Backward 2000-1887 https://delong.typepad.com/files/bellamy-backward.pdf: '“Who is capable of self-support?” he demanded. “There is no such thing in a civilized society as self-support. In a state of society so barbarous as not even to know family coöperation, each individual may possibly support himself, though even then for a part of his life only; but from the moment that men begin to live together, and constitute even the rudest sort of society, self-support becomes impossible. As men grow more civilized, and the subdivision of occupations and services is carried out, a complex mutual dependence becomes the universal rule. Every man, however solitary may seem his occupation, is a member of a vast industrial partnership, as large as the nation, as large as humanity. The necessity of mutual dependence should imply the duty and guarantee of mutual support; and that it did not in your day constituted the essential cruelty and unreason of your system”...

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Note to Self: Property rights. Doug North made a career out of talking about how parliamentary government and independent courts established secure property rights in Britain, and arbitrary royal government and dependent intendents created insecure property rights in France, hence the English economy boomed while the French economy stagnated in the century and a half before the coming of the Industrial Revolution.

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John Maynard Keynes's View of the Pre-World War I European Equilibrium

Il Quarto Stato

John Maynard Keynes (1919): The Economic Consequences of the Peace https://delong.typepad.com/files/keynes-peace.pdf

Very few of us realize with conviction the intensely unusual, unstable, complicated, unreliable, temporary nature of the economic organization by which Western Europe has lived for the last half century. We assume some of the most peculiar and temporary of our late advantages as natural, permanent, and to be depended on, and we lay our plans accordingly. On this sandy and false foundation we scheme for social improvement and dress our political platforms, pursue our animosities and particular ambitions...

After 1870 there was developed on a large scale an unprecedented situation.... The pressure of population on food, which had already been balanced by the accessibility of supplies from America, became for the first time in recorded history definitely reversed. As numbers increased, food was actually easier to secure.... [Any] tendency of cereals to rise in real cost was balanced by other improvements; and—one of many novelties—the resources of tropical Africa then for the first time came into large employ, and a great traffic in oil-seeds began to bring to the table of Europe in a new and cheaper form one of the essential foodstuffs of mankind. In this economic Eldorado, in this economic Utopia, as the earlier economists would have deemed it, most of us were brought up...

What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August, 1914! The greater part of the population, it is true, worked hard and lived at a low standard of comfort, yet were, to all appearances, reasonably contented with this lot. But escape was possible, for any man of capacity or character at all exceeding the average, into the middle and upper classes, for whom life offered, at a low cost and with the least trouble, conveniences, comforts, and amenities beyond the compass of the richest and most powerful monarchs of other ages. The inhabitant of London... most important of all... regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement, and any deviation from it as aberrant, scandalous, and avoidable. The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of his daily newspaper, and appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalization of which was nearly complete in practice...

Europe was so organized socially and economically as to secure the maximum accumulation of capital.... The new rich of the nineteenth century were not brought up to large expenditures, and preferred the power which investment gave them to the pleasures of immediate consumption.... If the rich had spent their new wealth on their own enjoyments, the world would long ago have found such a régime intolerable. But like bees they saved and accumulated, not less to the advantage of the whole community because they themselves held narrower ends in prospect.... The railways of the world, which that age built as a monument to posterity, were, not less than the Pyramids of Egypt, the work of labor which was not free to consume in immediate enjoyment the full equivalent of its efforts.... This remarkable system depended... on a double bluff.... The laboring classes accepted from ignorance or powerlessness, or were compelled, persuaded, or cajoled by custom, convention, authority, and the well-established order of Society into accepting a situation in which they could call their own very little of the cake.... The capitalist classes were allowed to call the best part of the cake theirs... on the tacit underlying condition that they consumed very little of it in practice. The duty of "saving" became nine-tenths of virtue and the growth of the cake the object of true religion..... And so the cake increased; but to what end was not clearly contemplated. Individuals would be exhorted not so much to abstain as to defer, and to cultivate the pleasures of security and anticipation..... The virtue of the cake was that it was never to be consumed, neither by you nor by your children after you.... In the unconscious recesses of its being Society knew what it was about. The cake was really very small in proportion to the appetites of consumption, and no one, if it were shared all round, would be much the better off by the cutting of it. Society was working not for the small pleasures of to-day but for the future security and improvement of the race.... If only the cake were... allowed to grow in the geometrical proportion... of compound interest... a day might come when there would at last be enough to go round, and when posterity could enter into the enjoyment of our labors. In that day overwork, overcrowding, and underfeeding would have come to an end, and men, secure of the comforts and necessities of the body, could proceed to the nobler exercises of their faculties...

The war has disclosed the possibility of consumption to all and the vanity of abstinence to many. Thus the bluff is discovered; the laboring classes may be no longer willing to forego so largely, and the capitalist classes, no longer confident of the future, may seek to enjoy more fully their liberties of consumption so long as they last, and thus precipitate the hour of their confiscation...

I have selected for emphasis... the instability of an excessive population dependent for its livelihood on a complicated and artificial organization, the psychological instability of the laboring and capitalist classes, and the instability of Europe's claim, coupled with the completeness of her dependence, on the food supplies of the New World. The war had so shaken this system as to endanger the life of Europe altogether.... It was the task of the Peace Conference to honor engagements and to satisfy justice; but not less to re-establish life and to heal wounds. These tasks were dictated as much by prudence as by the magnanimity which the wisdom of antiquity approved in victors...

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Note to Self: We hear a lot about the military revolution at the end of the sixteenth century: we hear about Gustaf Adolf, about Maurice van Nassau, even about (the earlier) Gonsalvo de Cordoba. We hear about the effective use of firearms and cannon. Discipline. Logistics—both ammunition supply and keeping guys fed and (relatively) plague free. And we hear of the victories won by Maurice van Nassau and Gustaf Adolf of Sweden over the half-modernized Spanish and Austrian armies, just as we hear of the victories won a century earlier by Gonsalvo de Cordoba and his half-modernized tercios over the unmodernized Italian mercenaries and French cavaliers. But we don't hear much about similarly striking victories won a little bit earlier somewhat further to the east...

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Perhaps. And Sometimes: Hoisted from the Archives from 2010

Empres_s_Theodora

Hoisted from the Archives: Perhaps. And Sometimes https://www.cato-unbound.org/2010/09/16/j-bradford-delong/perhaps-sometimes: In 542 AD the late Roman (early Byzantine?) Emperor Justinian I wrote to his Praetorian Prefect concerning the army — trained and equipped and paid for by the Roman State to control the barbarians and to “increase the state.” Justinian was, Peter Sarris reports in his Economy and Society in the Age of Justinian, upset that:

certain individuals had been daring to draw away soldiers and foederati from their duties, occupying such troops entirely with their own private business…. The emperor… prohibit[ed] such individuals from drawing to themselves or diverting troops… having them in their household… on their property or estates…. [A]ny individual who, after thirty days, continues to employ soldiers to meet his private needs and does not return them to their units will face confiscation of property… “and those soldiers and foederati who remain in paramonar attendance upon them… will not only be deprived of their rank, but also undergo punishments up to and including capital punishment.

Justinian is worried because what is going on in the country he rules is not legible to him. Soldiers — soldiers whom he has trained, equipped, and paid for — have been hired away from their frontier duties by the great landlords of the Empire and employed on their estates and in the areas they dominate as bully-boys. One such great landlord was Justinian’s own sometime Praefectus Praetorio per Orientem Flavius Apion, to whom one of Flavius’s tenants and debtors, one Anoup, wrote:

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Weekend Reading: Dietz Vollrath: Deep Roots of Development

Latin_American_Growth_1969-2010

Dietz Vollrath: The Deep Roots of Development: "Think statistically, rather than in absolutes.... It is plausible that ethnic groups in areas where there were large returns to long-run investment in agricultural production may end up more patient in the long-run as well.... There is a significant relationship of productivity with patience... but the R-squared is about 10%.... [And] the results don’t mean that ethnic group A with higher productivity had to have higher patience than group B with lower productivity.... Lots of other things affect the patience of an ethnic group over and above the productivity level, and hence lots of things could have changed over the course of history to explain patience.... The findings... do not mean it is impossible to change the development level of countries or groups today. But the deep-rooted nature of development may mean we have to find other policy levers to push, as we cannot go back in time and roll back colonization, or change inherent agricultural productivity...

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Note to Self: Lessons from East Asian Development: Japanese Industrial Policy: Readings:

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Andrew Ian Wilson: Developments in Mediterranean Shipping and Maritime Trade from 200 BC to AD 1000: "Figures 2.2–2.6 show a massive drop in shipwreck numbers between the first and second centuries AD, just when there was major investment in harbour works at Portus, and just when African Red Slip exports from North Africa take off. The pan-Mediterranean distribution of this tableware shows that maritime trade links were not declining; yet most of this evidence comes from terrestrial excavations. There is therefore something anomalous about the underwater evidence...

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Grand Narrative: An Intake from Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016

Il Quarto Stato

Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016

I. Grand Narrative

J. Bradford DeLong :: U.C. Berkeley, NBER, WCEG https://www.icloud.com/pages/0TzensY9YyNvqcY8elYagLUnQ https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0_nA1dc3XLgFa_2rEVsk3nuWQ

1.1: The Long 20th Century in Human History

The Long 20th Century began around 1870 and ended in 2016.

Before 1870 humanity was poor, and life was typically nasty, brutish, and short. Before 1870, over and over again, technology lost its race with human fecundity, and greater numbers coupled with resource scarcity to produce a humanity where most people most of the time could not be confident that they and their families would have their 2000 calories, plus essential nutrients, plus a roof over their head in a year. Before 1870 those on the make overwhelmingly focused on how to take from others or keep what they had while maintaining order, rather on how to make more for everyone. It is true that between 1800 and 1870 technology and organization gained a step or two in their race with fecundity. But only a step. Any post-1870 slackening of the pace of technological or organizational progress, or any major redivision of society’s dividends devoting less to the sinews or peace and more to the sinews of war, and “nasty, brutish, and short” would reassert itself.

But starting in 1870 all that changed. Science reached critical mass and gave birth to engineering. A liberal political order gave birth to a market economy. Engineering and the market produced an explosion of economic growth: these days one single year sees as much proportional technological and organizational advance and change in the human economy as a typical fifty years did back before 1800.

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American Twentieth-Century Exceptionalism: An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"

Il Quarto Stato

Sources of American Exceptionalism

In 1870 the focus of economic growth crossed the Atlantic to America, where continent-wide scale, a flood of immigration, vast resources, and an open society that made inventors and entrepreneurs culture heroes welcomed economic growth. In the United States the Belle Époque, the Gilded Age, the period of the explosion of prosperity set in motion around 1870 lasted without interruption longer than elsewhere in the world. China collapsed into revolution in 1911. Europe descended into the hell of World War I in 1914. In America the period of progress and industrial development lasted longer—perhaps from when the guns fell silent at the end of America’s Civil War at Appomattox in 1865 until the start of the Great Depression in the summer of 1929.

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Migration 1870-1925 and International Economic InequalityOuttake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016

Il Quarto Stato

What did matter for inequality and upward mobility in the pre-World War I era was not trade but migration. The descendants of those who lived in Ireland at the start of the nineteenth century are, today, one of the richest groups in the world: less than half of the descendants of the Irish of 1800 live in Ireland today; instead, they are spread throughout America, Britain, and Australia, and they have prospered.

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Ancient Economies: A Malthusian Model: Markdown Notebook

DRAFT: Ancient Economies: A Malthusian Model : The math for complicating the standard Solow Growth Model with (a) a rate of population growth that depends positively on the excess of spending on necessities above "subsistence" and (b) a level of the efficiency-of-labor that depends inversely on population, as a higher population induces resource scarcity that makes labor less productive. For understanding both the long-term apparent stagnation of living standards between the Neolithic and the Industrial Revolutions, and for understanding the rise and fall of ancient civilizations. Question: How should we add on to the Python class for the Solow Growth Model to turn this into a tool for doing problem sets for Econ 101b (and perhaps 135):

https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/LS2019/blob/master/2019-08-17-Ancient_Economies.ipynb

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Historical Nonfarm Unemployment Statistics

Historical Nonfarm Unemployment Statistics: An updated graph that Claudia Goldin had me make two and a half decades ago. The nonfarm unemployment rate since 1869:

2016 04 05 Historical Nonfarm Unemployment Estimates numbers

Then it was 1890-1990, now it is 1869-2015, thanks to:

  • J.R. Vernon (1994): http://delong.typepad.com/1-s2.0-0164070494900086-main.pdf
  • C.D. Romer (1986): http://delong.typepad.com/spurious-volatility.pdf
  • BLS (2015): http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?ln

with spreadsheet at: http://tinyurl.com/dl20160405

The assumption–debateable–is that “unemployment” is not a farm thing–that in the rural south or in the midwest or on the prairie you can always find a place of some sort as a hired hand, and that “unemployment” is a town- and city-based nonfarm phenomenon.

I confess I do not understand how anyone can look at this series and think that calculating stable and unchanging autocorrelations and innovation variances is a reasonable first-cut thing to do.

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PREVIEW: Economic Growth in Historical Perspective: U.C. Berkeley: Spring 2020

After hearing Ellora Derenoncourt rave about being a TA for Melissa Dell and her Econ 142: The History of Economic Growth, I have decided to go full parasite and stand up my own version of the course for the spring of 2020 here at U.C. Berkeley. Tell me what you think! Here are my notes so far:


Course to be at: Teaching Economics: https://delong.typepad.com/teaching_economics/econ-135.html


Econ 135: Economic Growth in Historical Perspective

This course examines the idea and reality of economic growth in historical perspective, beginning with the divergence between human ancestors and other primates and continuing through with forecasts for the 21st century and beyond. Topics covered include human speciation, language, and sociability; the discovery of agriculture and the domestication of animals; the origins and maintenance of gross inequality; Malthusian economies; the commercial and industrial revolutions; modern economic growth; international prosperity differentials; OECD convergence and East Asian miracles; the political economy of growth and stagnation; and the stubborn persistence of poverty.

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Killing My Darlings: A "Great Depression Recovery" Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"

No, Brad: The "Great Depression Recovery" chapter needs to be 7000 words, not 30,000. I am willing to torment editors by shipping them 10000 words, but not more:


World war i Google Search

13.1: Recovery Outside the United States

The rule to memorize about recovery from the Great Depression is: the sooner countries went off the gold standard, the better; and the less that gold standard habits of orthodoxy fettered countries thereafter, the better. The Scandinavian countries bailed first, and did best. Japan and Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931, but Japan embraced expansionary policies more thoroughly. The U.S. and Germany abandoned the gold standard in 1933, but Hitler had a clearer view that Nazi persistence and success required putting people to work than FDR did with the try-everything-expediency of his New Deal. France stuck it out on the gold standard until 1937, and did worst of all.

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The Great Depression: An Intake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"

This is the current draft of chapter 10 of Slouching Towards Utopia?. I am, again, of several minds with respect to it. I think it says what really needs to be said. I am not sure it says it in the right length. And I am not sure that I have successfully assembled the puzzle pieces in the right way...

So tell me what you think of it:


The road to Wigan Pier 75 years on Books The Guardian

X. The Great Depression

https://www.icloud.com/pages/0mzIvbURq0n3I0Ct0e3aCZbEw

George Orwell (1937): The Road to Wigan Pier:

Presently the train hove in sight. With a wild yell a hundred men dashed down the slope to catch her as she rounded the bend. Even at the bend the train was making twenty miles an hour. The men hurled themselves upon it, caught hold of the rings at the rear of the trucks and hoisted themselves up by way of the bumpers, five or ten of them on each truck. The driver took no notice. He drove up to the top of the slag-heap, uncoupled the trucks, and ran the engine back to the pit, presently returning with a fresh string of trucks. There was the same wild rush of ragged figures as before. In the end only about fifty men had failed to get on to either train.

We walked up to the top of the slag-heap. The men were shovelling the dirt out of the trucks, while down below their wives and children were kneeling, swiftly scrabbling with their hands in the damp dirt and picking out lumps of coal the size of an egg or smaller. You would see a woman pounce on a tiny fragment of stuff, wipe it on her apron, scrutinize it to make sure it was coal, and pop it jealously into her sack.

 

10.1: Understanding the Business Cycle

10.1.1: Say’s Law

When market economies emerged, there was great worry that things would not necessarily fit together: Might not the farmers be unable to sell the crops they grew to the artisans because the artisans could not sell the products they made to the merchants who would be unable to make money carrying artisans products to the farmers because the farmers would not purchase anything? Back at the beginning of economics it was Jean-Baptiste Say who wrote that such an idea of a “general glut”—of economy-wide “overproduction” and consequent mass unemployment—was incoherent. Nobody, Say argued, would ever produce anything for sale unless they expected to use the money they earned in order to buy something else. Thus, “by a metaphysical necessity”, as subsequent-generation economist John Stuart Mill outlined Say’s argument in 1829, there can be no imbalance between the aggregate value of planned production-for-sale, the aggregate value of planned sales, and the aggregate value of planned purchases. This is “Say’s Law”.

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The Knot of War 1870-1914: An Intake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"

World war i Google Search

This is chapter 7 of Slouching Towards Utopia?. I am of several minds with respect to it. I think it says what really needs to be said. I think it says it all in a remarkably short space—or it says it all to me. But it seems, to me, very different in tone from both the rest of the book I have written and from how this stuff is usually presented...

So tell me what you think of it:


VII. The Knot of War, 1914-1920

Nikita Sergeyevitch Khrushchev to John F. Kennedy (1962):

We and you ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter that knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you, because you yourself understand perfectly of what terrible forces our countries dispose…

Two chapters ago we shifted our focus from economics to political economy: we needed to look not just at technology, production, organization, and exchange, but also at how people governing themselves and others tried to regulate the economy to preserve or produce a good society, or a society good for them. One chapter ago we shifted our focus to imperial politics: we needed to look not just at how peoples and their elites governed themselves, but how they governed others. Each of these two shifts brought us away from processes and factors that seem almost inevitable—in which the actions of individuals mostly cancel out, and if an opportunity was not seized by one person at one date it would have been seized by another soon after. Each of these two moved us closer to that part of history where individual actions matter: where individuals and their luck can divert history for good, either because of their place in the society or because of the waves of belief and expectations that they set in motion. And so the history became less a flowering of long-planted seeds and more choice and chance.

This chapter takes a further step in that direction: into politico-military affairs, where choice and chance is dominant. This fits awkwardly into an economic history. But it is necessary. For we cannot understand what the world was like in 1918 without looking at World War I. The world in 1914 had been a growing, substantially peaceful, prosperous—with problems, but prosperous—world, in which it was not irrational to be optimistic about human civilization. The world, especially Europe, in the ashes after World War I was different.

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It is interesting to note that Adam Smith's one explicit use of the phrase "Invisible Hand" in his Wealth of Nations is not a situation in which the competitive market equilibrium is Pareto-optimal. It is of a situation with two market failures—a home bias psychological failure among the merchants of Amsterdam, and agglomeration economies for mercantile activity in Amsterdam. And the two offset each other: if merchants were rational, the free-market equilibrium would ternate an inefficient sacrifice the agglomeration economies. If the agglomeration economies were absent, psychological home bias would lead to an inefficient concentration of activity:

Glory Liu: How the Chicago School Changed the Meaning of Adam Smith’s ‘Invisible Hand’: "For Friedman and Stigler, economics’ scientific power came from its ability to predict outcomes based on two central insights... in The Wealth of Nations... self-interest... [and,] of course, the invisible hand.... Few economists were as successful as Friedman in spreading this interpretation of Smith’s ideas to the public... populariz[ing] this interpretation of Smith’s invisible hand for an overtly conservative political agenda.... What makes the Smith of Milton Friedman and George Stigler so... problematic... is that they 'economized' Smith in a way that obscured if not precluded the relevance of his moral philosophy and political theory.... Whether his political value stems from the idea that he is an economist or moral philosopher or something else, however, is something that we—Smith’s readers—get to decide...

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"Unexpected Convergers" since World War II

What countries outside of those already-rich Anglo-Saxon settler colonies and the North Atlantic economies have "converged" or are "converging". What are the "unexpected converters:? These:

 

High-Income Non-North Atlantic Convergers: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan:

Singapore US

South Korea US

Japan US

 

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Anna Stansbury: "The Black Death in England in the mid-1300s was an enormous human tragedy-and a fascinating labor supply shock. (Who said economists are heartless?) A thread FRED has a new record holder: The longest data series now belongs to a new addition, Population in England, which dates back to 1086. Check it out here: http://ow.ly/Dzkb50kfrvA. The Black Death first hit England in 1348. The population fell by more than a third in just a few years: from over 6 million to less than 4 million. As the graph from @stlouisfed and @bankofengland shows, it would take another 250 years for the population to recover...

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Greenspan and Wooldridge Argue the American Love and Embrace of Capitalism Is the Key...

Il Quarto Stato

The world as a whole is much richer than it was three centuries ago. Back then, at the end of the long era since the invention of agriculture, the typical human lived on two dollars a day, had a life expectancy at birth of 25, and was protein deprived in utero. Mothers worldwide no longer run a one-in-six chance of dying in childbed. Literacy in no longer a rare accomplishment. Less than one in six humans worldwide live like all of our pre-industrial ancestors—and even those less-than-one-in-six likely have some access to the village smartphone.

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Raising the Curtain: Trade and Empire

Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"


Il Quarto Stato

Raising the Curtain: The Long Twentieth Century—Trade and Empire

The extent to which the navies and trading fleets of the great European sea-borne empires of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries shaped the industrial development of western Europe has always been one of the most fiercely-debated and unsettled topics in economic history. That European expansion in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries were catastrophes for the regions of west Africa that were the sources of the slave trade; for the Amerindians of the Caribbean; for the Aztecs, Incas, the mound-builders of the Mississippi valley; and for the princes of Bengal and others who found themselves competing with the British East India Company in the succession wars over the spoils of India’s Moghul Empire—that is not in dispute.

But how much did pre-industrial trade and plunder affect European development? That is not so clear.

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“An Extraordinary Episode in the Economic Progress of Man!”: Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-1914"

DIE, DARLINGS, DIE!!!!!


Il Quarto Stato

“An Extraordinary Episode in the Economic Progress of Man!”

Yet all in all it is not possible to see the 1870-1914 making of the single global economy—and society—as anything other than an extraordinary and wonderful episode in the history of humanity. Looking back from 1919 on the optimistic, economists’ world that he had thought he had lived in up until the start of World War I in August 1914, John Maynard Keynes wrote, in his Keynes-centric upper-class-focused way:

What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August, 1914!... Conveniences, comforts, and amenities beyond the compass of the richest and most powerful monarchs of other ages. The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages.... He could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate....

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Six Migrants and Their Descendants Who Made History: Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"

MOAR DARLINGS MUST DIE!!!!!


Il Quarto Stato

Six migrants and their descendants who made a lot of our history:

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The Lighting Budget of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas jefferson jpg 307×200 pixels

On December 21, the sun sets at Monticello at 4:57 pm. Civil twilight—when there is still enough light to conduct normal activities—ends at 5:27 pm. By March 21, the sun sets at 6:26 eastern standard time—Monticello is west of the center of America's eastern time zone—and civil twilights ends at 7:52. And on June 21 the sun sets at Monticello at 7:39 pm. Civil twilight ends at 8:11 pm (standard time). Even in the summer, moreover, Thomas Jefferson was unlikely to want to go to sleep when it got dark, with the chickens.

Hence his concern with candles:

1791 September 15: I will now ask the favor of you to procure for me, in the proper seasons 250 lb. of myrtle wax candles, moulded, and of the largest size you can find...

1792 January 24: Myrtle candles of last year out...

1792 November 4: I must now repeat to you my annual sollicitation to procure and send me 200 ℔ myrtle wax candles. I do not know whether the mixing tallow with the wax be absolutely necessary. If not, I would wish them of the pure wax; but if some mixture be necessary, then as little as will do...

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Still Haunted by the Shadow of the Greater Recession...


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"Gunpowder Empire": Should We Generalize Mark Elvin's High-Level Equilibrium Trap?: Hoisted from the Archives

Natalie Pierson A Comparative Look at the Gunpowder Empires

Hoisted from the Archives: "Gunpowder Empire": Should We Generalize Mark Elvin's High-Level Equilibrium Trap?: OK. Popping the distraction stack again. A chance remark by the extremely sharp Cosma Shalizi when he came through Berkeley has caused me to spend a lot of time meditating upon a passage written by Bob Allen:

Robert Allen (2006): The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective: "The different trajectories of the wage-rental ratio created different incentives to mechanize production.... It was not Newtonian science that inclined British inventors and entrepreneurs to seek machines that raised labour productivity but the rising cost of labour... due to... Britain’s success in the global economy... in part the result of state policy... Britain['s] vast and readily worked coal deposits...

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Some Great Past First-Year Berkeley Economic History Course Papers

Economic history Google Search

Yes, some of these have been highly revised since they were submitted for a grade. Why do you ask? :-)

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Dietz Vollrath: The Deep Roots of Development: "Institutions versus geography?... Compare... Melissa Dell’s paper on the mining mita in Peru... forced labor... to provide work in the Potosi silver mine for Spain. Dell established in her paper that areas today that were once inside the mita have lower development levels.... Marcella Alsan’s paper on the effect of the TseTse fly on African development. She builds a measure of the natural geographic range of the TseTse fly.... Both... show that aspects of development are persistently affected by deep roots... the mita... continues to cast a shadow... historical shocks have persistent effects.... In Alsan, the deep root is the range of the TseTse fly, which affected how ethnic groups within Africa subsisted, with effects on the role of women and type of agriculture...

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