nhaliday + divergence   114

Books 2017 | West Hunter
Arabian Sands
The Aryans
The Big Show
The Camel and the Wheel
Civil War on Western Waters
Company Commander
Double-edged Secrets
The Forgotten Soldier
Genes in Conflict
Hive Mind
The horse, the wheel, and language
The Penguin Atlas of Medieval History
Habitable Planets for Man
The genetical theory of natural selection
The Rise of the Greeks
To Lose a Battle
The Jewish War
Tropical Gangsters
The Forgotten Revolution
Egil’s Saga
Time Patrol

Russo: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/books-2017/#comment-98568
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december 2017 by nhaliday
King Kong and Cold Fusion: Counterfactual analysis and the History of Technology
How “contingent” is technological history? Relying on models from evolutionary epistemology, I argue for an analogy with Darwinian Biology and thus a much greater degree of contingency than is normally supposed. There are three levels of contingency in technological development. The crucial driving force behind technology is what I call S-knowledge, that is, an understanding of the exploitable regularities of nature (which includes “science” as a subset). The development of techniques depend on the existence of epistemic bases in S. The “inevitability” of technology thus depends crucially on whether we condition it on the existence of the appropriate S-knowledge. Secondly, even if this knowledge emerges, there is nothing automatic about it being transformed into a technique that is, a set of instructions that transforms knowledge into production. Third, even if the techniques are proposed, there is selection which reflects the preferences and biases of an economy and injects another level of indeterminacy and contingency into the technological history of nations.

Moslem conquest of Europe, or a Mongol conquest, or a post-1492 epidemic, or a victory of the counter-reformation would have prevented the Industrial Revolution (Joel Mokyr)
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november 2017 by nhaliday
“Editor’s Introduction to The New Economic History and the Industrial Revolution,” J. Mokyr (1998) | A Fine Theorem
I taught a fun three hours on the Industrial Revolution in my innovation PhD course this week. The absolutely incredible change in the condition of mankind that began in a tiny corner of Europe in an otherwise unremarkable 70-or-so years is totally fascinating. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath are so important to human history that I find it strange that we give people PhDs in social science without requiring at least some study of what happened.

My post today draws heavily on Joel Mokyr’s lovely, if lengthy, summary of what we know about the period. You really should read the whole thing, but if you know nothing about the IR, there are really five facts of great importance which you should be aware of.

1) The world was absurdly poor from the dawn of mankind until the late 1800s, everywhere.
2) The average person did not become richer, nor was overall economic growth particularly spectacular, during the Industrial Revolution; indeed, wages may have fallen between 1760 and 1830.
3) Major macro inventions, and growth, of the type seen in England in the late 1700s and early 1800s happened many times in human history.
4) It is hard for us today to understand how revolutionary ideas like “experimentation” or “probability” were.
5) The best explanations for “why England? why in the late 1700s? why did growth continue?” do not involve colonialism, slavery, or famous inventions.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
The Long-Run Weight of Communism or the Weight of LongRun History?
This study provides evidence that culture understood as values and beliefs moves very slowly. Despite massive institutional change, values and beliefs in transition countries have not changed much over the last 20 years. Evidence suggests that culture is affected by the long run historical past, in particular the participation in empires for over 100 years. Current institutional evolutions in transition countries might be more affected by their long run past than by the communist experience of the twentieth century
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august 2017 by nhaliday
Clans, Guilds, and Markets: Apprenticeship Institutions and Growth in the Pre-Industrial Economy* | The Quarterly Journal of Economics | Oxford Academic
We argue that medieval European institutions such as guilds, and specific features such as journeymanship, can explain the rise of Europe relative to regions that relied on the transmission of knowledge within closed kinship systems (extended families or clans).
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Inherited Trust and Growth - American Economic Association
This paper develops a new method to uncover the causal effect of trust on economic growth by focusing on the inherited component of trust and its time variation. We show that inherited trust of descendants of US immigrants is significantly influenced by the country of origin and the timing of arrival of their forebears. We thus use the inherited trust of descendants of US immigrants as a time-varying measure of inherited trust in their country of origin. This strategy allows to identify the sizeable causal impact of inherited trust on worldwide growth during the twentieth century by controlling for country fixed effects. (JEL N11, N12, N31, N32, O47, Z13)

key data:
Table 1, Figure 1, Figure 3, Figure 4

Trust Assimilation in the United States, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2017/05/trust_assimilat.html

How Durable are Social Norms? Immigrant Trust and Generosity in 132 Countries: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19855
We find that migrants tend to make social trust assessments that mainly reflect conditions in the country where they now live, but they also reveal a significant influence from their countries of origin. The latter effect is one-third as important as the effect of local conditions. We also find that the altruistic behavior of migrants, as measured by the frequency of their donations in their new countries, is strongly determined by social norms in their new countries, while also retaining some effect of the levels of generosity found in their birth countries. To show that the durability of social norms is not simply due to a failure to recognize new circumstances, we demonstrate that there are no footprint effects for immigrants’ confidence in political institutions. Taken together, these findings support the notion that social norms are deeply rooted in long-standing cultures, yet are nonetheless subject to adaptation when there are major changes in the surrounding circumstances and environment.

The autocratic roots of social distrust: http://sci-hub.tw/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147596717300951
This paper identifies a new source of social distrust: an individual’s autocratic
 Individuals whose ancestors migrated from countries with higher autocracy
levels are less likely to trust others and to vote in presidential elections in the
 The impact of autocratic culture on trust lasts for at least three generations
whereas the impact on voting disappears after one generation.
 The results are not driven by selection into migration or other factors such as the
GDP, education, or the strength of family ties in home countries in the U.S.
 Autocratic culture also has similar impacts on trust and voting across Europe.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Does European development have Roman roots? Evidence from the German Limes
The results indicate that economic development—as mea-sured by luminosity—is indeed significantly and robustly larger in the formerly Roman part of Germany. The study identifies the persistence of the Roman road network until the present an important factor causing this developmental advantage of the formerly Roman part ofGermany both by fostering city growth and by allowing for a denser road network.

CC: @GarettJones this puts a new spin on deep history! Hard to explain...
I've got a theory, have a partial model but need some time to formalize it. I've called it the Radio Brain Hypothesis...
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Corrupting cooperation and how anti-corruption strategies may backfire | Nature Human Behaviour
Exposure to Norms: https://images.nature.com/original/nature-assets/nathumbehav/2017/s41562-017-0138/extref/s41562-017-0138-s1.pdf#page=114
Here we test how exposure to corruption norms affect behavior in our game. We do so by using our exposure score (a mean of the corruption perceptions of the countries the participant has lived in) and the heritage corruption score (a mean of the corruption perceptions of the countries the participant has an ethnic heritage). Since there is no incentive to offer bribes or contribute, except when compelled to do so by punishment, we predict that exposure to norms should primarily affect Leader decisions. Nonetheless, internalized norms may also affect the behavior of players in contributing and bribing.


The correlation between the direct exposure and heritage measures of corruption is r = 0.67, p < .001.


Then we see that direct exposure to corruption norms results in increased corrupt behavior—i.e. in our Canadian sample, those who have lived in corrupt countries from which they do not derive their heritage behave in more corrupt ways.

hard to interpret


I don't think the solution is to just do nothing. Should look to history for ideas; process of "getting to Denmark" took centuries in NW Euro. Try to replicate and don't expect fast results.

Trust and Bribery: The Role of the Quid Pro Quo and the Link with Crime: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10510
I study data on bribes actually paid by individuals to public officials, viewing the results through a theoretical lens that considers the implications of trust networks. A bond of trust may permit an implicit quid pro quo to substitute for a bribe, which reduces corruption. Appropriate networks are more easily established in small towns, by long-term residents of areas with many other long-term residents, and by individuals in regions with many residents their own age. I confirm that the prevalence of bribery is lower under these circumstances, using the International Crime Victim Surveys. I also find that older people, who have had time to develop a network, bribe less. These results highlight the uphill nature of the battle against corruption faced by policy-makers in rapidly urbanizing countries with high fertility. I show that victims of (other) crimes bribe all types of public officials more than non-victims, and argue that both their victimization and bribery stem from a distrustful environment.

Kinship, Fractionalization and Corruption: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2847222
The theory of kin selection provides a straightforward justification for norms of nepotism and favoritism among relatives; more subtly, it also implies that the returns to such norms may be influenced by mating practices. Specifically, in societies with high levels of sub-ethnic fractionalization, where endogamous (and consanguineous) mating within kin-group, clan and tribe increases the local relatedness of individuals, the relative returns to norms of nepotism and favoritism are high. In societies with exogamous marriage practices, the relative returns to norms of impartial cooperation with non-relatives and strangers are increased. Using cross-country and within-country regression analyses and a cross-country lab experiment, we provide evidence for this account.

Ethnic favouritism: Not just an African phenomenon: http://voxeu.org/article/ethnic-favouritism-not-just-african-phenomenon
Ethnic favouritism is a global phenomenon
We find robust evidence for ethnic favouritism – ethnographic regions that are the current political leader’s ethnic homeland enjoy 7%-10% more intense night-time light, corresponding to 2%-3% higher regional GDP. Furthermore, we show that ethnic favouritism extends to ethnic groups that are linguistically close to the political leader.

Most significantly, these effects are as strong outside of Africa as they are within, challenging the preconception that ethnic favouritism is mainly or even entirely a sub-Saharan African phenomenon. For example, Bolivian presidents tended to favour areas populated by European descendants and Criollos, largely at the expense of the indigenous population. After the election of Evo Morales, a member of the indigenous Ayamara ethnic group, luminosity in indigenous areas grew substantially. Notably, critics suggest Morales gave special attention to the interests and values of the Ayamara at the expense of other indigenous peoples (e.g. Albro 2010, Postero 2010).

Democratisation is not a panacea
Our results further suggest that, while democratic institutions have a weak tendency to reduce ethnic favouritism, their effect is limited. In particular, a change from autocratic regimes to weak democracies does not seem to reduce ethnic favouritism (and may even increase it).

This result could in part be explained by political leaders’ motivations for engaging in ethnic favouritism. We find that the practice intensifies around election years in which the political leader's office is contested, suggesting that leaders may target policies towards their ethnic homelands to improve their re-election prospects, and not solely out of co-ethnic altruism. To the extent that political leaders engage in ethnic favouritism for electoral purposes, democratisation is not likely to be effective in curbing the practice.

Facebook’s war on free will: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/19/facebooks-war-on-free-will
Though Facebook will occasionally talk about the transparency of governments and corporations, what it really wants to advance is the transparency of individuals – or what it has called, at various moments, “radical transparency” or “ultimate transparency”. The theory holds that the sunshine of sharing our intimate details will disinfect the moral mess of our lives. With the looming threat that our embarrassing information will be broadcast, we’ll behave better. And perhaps the ubiquity of incriminating photos and damning revelations will prod us to become more tolerant of one another’s sins. “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” Zuckerberg has said. “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

The point is that Facebook has a strong, paternalistic view on what’s best for you, and it’s trying to transport you there. “To get people to this point where there’s more openness – that’s a big challenge. But I think we’ll do it,” Zuckerberg has said. He has reason to believe that he will achieve that goal. With its size, Facebook has amassed outsized powers. “In a lot of ways Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,” Zuckerberg has said. “We have this large community of people, and more than other technology companies we’re really setting policies.”

Facebook and the Destruction of Private Life: http://www.socialmatter.net/2014/12/30/facebook-and-the-destruction-of-private-life/

The key value of privacy, which tends to be lost amid all the technological babble about the concept, is that it makes social cooperation more feasible among people who disagree, share different tastes, or fundamental points of view.


This is especially an issue with democracy. The reason why the United States has anonymous voting laws is because without them, people are persecuted for their party affiliations by people with rival party loyalties. This being forgotten, the age of Facebook and similar technologies has opened up ordinary people to this sort of ordinary political persecution. Moderating influences like that of the respect for privacy put a brake on some of the more rapacious, violent aspects of party politics.


The impulse for this comes less from the availability of the technology, and more because of the preexisting social trends. When there is a family life, there is communication and closeness within the family.

With more people living without a family life, they go to the public square to get their needs for social validation met. This doesn’t work so well, because strangers have no skin in the life of the atomized individual that only exists as an image on their screens.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
A Review of Avner Greif’s Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade
Avner Greif’s Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade (Cambridge University Press, 2006) is a major work in the ongoing project of many economists and economic historians to show that institutions are the fundamental driver of all economic history, and of all contemporary differences in economic performance. This review outlines the contribution of this book to the project and the general status of this long standing ambition.
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july 2017 by nhaliday
Caste system in India - Wikipedia
A recent series of research papers, by Reich et al. (2009), Metspalu et al. (2011), and Moorjani et al. (2013), make clear that India was peopled by two distinct groups who split genetically ca. 50,000 years ago,[81][82] which they called "Ancestral North Indians" (ANI) and "Ancestral South Indians" (ASI) respectively.[note 1] They found that the ANI genes are close to those of Middle Easterners, Central Asians and Europeans whereas the ASI genes are dissimilar to all other known populations outside India.[note 2][note 3] These two distinct groups, which had split ca. 50,000 years ago, formed the basis for the present population of India.[83]

According to Moorjani et al. these two groups mixed between 4,200 and 1,900 years ago (2200 BCE-100 CE), whereafter a shift to endogamy took place.[84] David Reich stated, "Prior to 4,200 years ago, there were unmixed groups in India. Sometime between 1,900 to 4,200 years ago, profound, pervasive convulsive mixture occurred, affecting every Indo-European and Dravidian group in India without exception.".[85] Following this mixture,

Strong endogamy must have applied since then (average gene flow less than 1 in 30 per generation) to prevent the genetic signatures of founder events from being erased by gene flow. Some historians have argued that "caste" in modern India is an "invention" of colonialism in the sense that it became more rigid under colonial rule. However, our results suggest that many current distinctions among groups are ancient and that strong endogamy must have shaped marriage patterns in India for thousands of years.[81]

Moorjani et al. discerned two waves of admixture in this period, with northern India showing later dates of admixture.[86] GaneshPrasad et al. (2013) studied "12 tribal and 19 non-tribal (caste) endogamous populations from the predominantly Dravidian-speaking Tamil Nadu state in the southernmost part of India." According to this study, southern India was already socially stratified 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, which is best explained by "the emergence of agricultural technology in South Asia." The study concludes that "The social stratification (in Tamil Nadu) was established 4,000 to 6,000 years ago and there was little admixture during the last 3,000 years, implying a minimal genetic impact of the Varna (caste) system from the historically-documented Brahmin migrations into the area."[87]


A crucial factor is the collapse of the caste system over the last half century, a factor that undergirds many of the other reasons that the south has prospered — more stable governments, better infrastructure and a geographic position that gives it closer connections to the global economy.

“The breakdown of caste hierarchy has broken the traditional links between caste and profession, and released enormous entrepreneurial energies in the south,” said Ashutosh Varshney, a professor at Brown University who has studied the role of caste in southern India’s development. This breakdown, he said, goes a long way to explaining “why the south has taken such a lead over the north in the last three decades.”

Caste Is Stunting All of India’s Children: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/09/15/caste-is-stunting-all-of-indias-children/
Fears of impurity continue to steer Indians away from toilets — and towards deadly fecal germs.

These Indian govt funded ads to encourage the wealthy but declining Parsi population to reproduce are quite extraordinary

India’s government has expanded a scheme offering payment incentives to Hindus who marry members of the country’s poorest and most oppressed caste, the Dalits.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Economic Growth in Ancient Greece | pseudoerasmus
Maybe land-and-dung expansion does not really require a fancy institutional explanation. Territory expanded, land yields rose, and people have always traded their surpluses. Why invoke “inclusive institutions”, as Ober effectively does, for something so mundane ? Perhaps the seminal cultural accomplishments of classical Greece bias some of us to look for “special” causes of the expansion.

Note, this is not an argument that political economy or “institutions” play no role in the rise and decline of economies. But in this particular case, so little seems established about the descriptive statistics, let alone the “growth accounting”, of Greek economic expansion in 800-300 BCE that it’s premature to be speculating about its institutional causes.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Double world GDP | Open Borders: The Case
Economics and Emigration: Trillion-Dollar Bills on the Sidewalk?: https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jep.25.3.83
The Openness-Equality Trade-Off in Global Redistribution: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2509305
Immigration, Justice, and Prosperity: http://quillette.com/2017/07/29/immigration-justice-prosperity/

Some Countries Are Much Richer Than Others. Is That Unjust?: http://quillette.com/2017/07/23/countries-much-richer-others-unjust/
But we shouldn’t automatically assume that wealth disparities across the world are unjust and that the developed world owes aid as a matter of justice. This is because the best way to make sense of the Great Divergence is that certain economic and political institutions, namely those that facilitated economic growth, arose in some countries and not others. Thus perhaps the benevolent among us should also try to encourage – by example rather than force – the development of such institutions in places where they do not exist.

An Argument Against Open Borders and Liberal Hubris: http://quillette.com/2017/08/27/argument-open-borders-liberal-hubris/
We do not have open borders but we are experiencing unprecedented demographic change. What progressives should remember is that civilisation is not a science laboratory. The consequences of failed experiments endure. That is the main virtue of gradual change; we can test new waters and not leap into their depths.

A Radical Solution to Global Income Inequality: Make the U.S. More Like Qatar: https://newrepublic.com/article/120179/how-reduce-global-income-inequality-open-immigration-policies

Why nation-states are good: https://aeon.co/essays/capitalists-need-the-nation-state-more-than-it-needs-them
The nation-state remains the best foundation for capitalism, and hyper-globalisation risks destroying it
- Dani Rodrik
Given the non-uniqueness of practices and institutions enabling capitalism, it’s not surprising that nation-states also resolve key social trade-offs differently. The world does not agree on how to balance equality against opportunity, economic security against innovation, health and environmental risks against technological innovation, stability against dynamism, economic outcomes against social and cultural values, and many other consequences of institutional choice. Developing nations have different institutional requirements than rich nations. There are, in short, strong arguments against global institutional harmonisation.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
How important was colonial trade for the rise of Europe? | Economic Growth in History
The latter view became the orthodoxy among economists and economic historians after Patrick O’Brien’s 1982 paper, which in one of many of Patrick’s celebrated phrases, claims that “”the periphery vs peripheral” for Europe. He concludes the paper by writing:

“[G]rowth, stagnation, and decay everywhere in Western Europe can be explained mainly by reference to endogenous forces. … for the economic growth of the core, the periphery was peripheral.”

This is the view that remarkable scholars such as N. Crafts, Deirdre McCloskey, or Joel Mokyr repeat today (though Crafts would argue cotton imports would have mattered in a late stage, and my reading of Mokyr is that he has softened his earlier view from the 1980s a little, specifically in the book The Enlightened Economy.) Even recently, Brad deLong has classifyied O’Brien’s 1982 position as “air tight”.

Among economists and economic historians more on the economics side, I would say that O’Brien’s paper was only one of two strong hits against the “Worlds-System” and related schools of thoughts of the 1970s, the other hit being Solow’s earlier conclusion that TFP growth (usually interpreted as technology, though there’s more to it than that) has accounted for economic growth a great deal more than capital accumulation, which is what Hobsbawm and Wallerstein, in their neo-Marxist framework, emphasize.

A friend tonight, on the third world and the first world, and our relationships to the past: "They don't forget, and we don't remember."
imo the European Intifada is being fueled by anti-Europeanism & widely taught ideas like this one discussed - Europe stole its riches

The British Empire was cruel, rapacious and racist. But contrary to what Shashi Tharoor writes in An Era Of Darkness, the fault for India’s miseries lies upon itself.

Indeed, the anti-Tharoor argument is arguably closer to the truth, because the British tended to use the landlord system in places where landlords were already in place, and at times when the British were relatively weak and couldn’t afford to upset tradition. Only after they became confident in their power did the British start to bypass the landlord class and tax the cultivators directly. King’s College London historian Jon Wilson (2016) writes in India Conquered, “Wherever it was implemented, raiyatwar began as a form of military rule.” Thus the system that Tharoor implicitly promotes, and which is associated with higher agricultural productivity today, arose from the very same colonialism that he blames for so many of India’s current woes. History does not always tell the parables that we wish to hear.


India’s share of the world economy was large in the eighteenth century for one simple reason: when the entire world was poor, India had a large share of the world’s population. India’s share fell because with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, Europe and North America saw increases of income per capita to levels never before seen in all of human history. This unprecedented growth cannot be explained by Britain’s depredations against India. Britain was not importing steam engines from India.

The big story of the Great Divergence is not that India got poorer, but that other countries got much richer. Even at the peak of Mughal wealth in 1600, the best estimates of economic historians suggest that GDP per capita was 61% higher in Great Britain. By 1750–before the battle of Plassey and the British takeover–GDP per capita in Great Britain was more than twice what it was in India (Broadberry, Custodis, and Gupta 2015). The Great Divergence has long roots.

Tharoor seems blinded by the glittering jewels of the Maharajas and the Mughals. He writes with evident satisfaction that when in 1615 the first British ambassador presented himself to the court of Emperor Jehangir in Agra, “the Englishman was a supplicant at the feet of the world’s mightiest and most opulent monarch.” True; but the Emperor’s opulence was produced on the backs of millions of poor subjects. Writing at the same time and place, the Dutch merchant Francisco Pelsaert (1626) contrasted the “great superfluity and absolute power” of the rich with “the utter subjection and poverty of the common people–poverty so great and miserable that the life of the people can be depicted…only as the home of stark want and the dwelling-place of bitter woe.” Indian rulers were rich because the empire was large and inequality was extreme.

In pre-colonial India the rulers, both Mughal and Maratha, extracted _anywhere from one-third to one half of all gross agricultural output_ and most of what was extracted was spent on opulence and the armed forces, not on improving agricultural productivity (Raychaudhuri 1982).


The British were awful rulers but the history of India is a long story of awful rulers (just as it is for most countries). Indeed, by Maddison’s (2007) calculations _the British extracted less from the Indian economy than did the Mughal Dynasty_. The Mughals built their palaces in India while the British built most of their palaces in Britain, but that was little comfort to the Indian peasant who paid for both. The Kohinoor diamond that graces the cover of Inglorious Empire is a telling symbol. Yes, it was stolen by the British (who stole it from the Sikhs who stole it from the Afghanis who stole it from the Mughals who stole it from one of the kings of South India). But how many Indians would have been better off if this bauble had stayed in India? Perhaps one reason why more Indians didn’t take up arms against the British was that for most of them, British rule was a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

more for effect on colonies: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:4b0128372fe9

INDIA AND THE GREAT DIVERGENCE: AN ANGLO-INDIAN COMPARISON OF GDP PER CAPITA, 1600-1871: http://eh.net/eha/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Guptaetal.pdf
This paper provides estimates of Indian GDP constructed from the output side for the pre-1871 period, and combines them with population estimates to track changes in living standards. Indian per capita GDP declined steadily during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries before stabilising during the nineteenth century. As British living standards increased from the mid-seventeenth century, India fell increasingly behind. Whereas in 1600, Indian per capita GDP was over 60 per cent of the British level, by 1871 it had fallen to less than 15 per cent. As well as placing the origins of the Great Divergence firmly in the early modern period, the estimates suggest a relatively prosperous India at the height of the Mughal Empire, with living standards well above bare bones subsistence.

but some of the Asian wage data (especialy India) have laughably small samples (see Broadberry & Gupta)

How profitable was colonialism for various European powers?: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/p1q1q/how_profitable_was_colonialism_for_various/

How did Britain benefit from colonising India? What did colonial powers gain except for a sense of power?: https://www.quora.com/How-did-Britain-benefit-from-colonising-India-What-did-colonial-powers-gain-except-for-a-sense-of-power
The EIC period was mostly profitable, though it had recurring problems with its finances. The initial voyages from Surat in 1600s were hugely successful and brought profits as high as 200%. However, the competition from the Dutch East India Company started to drive down prices, at least for spices. Investing in EIC wasn’t always a sure shot way to gains - British investors who contributed to the second East India joint stock of 1.6 million pounds between 1617 and 1632 ended up losing money.


An alternate view is that the revenues of EIC were very small compared to the GDP of Britain, and hardly made an impact to the overall economy. For instance, the EIC Revenue in 1800 was 7.8m pounds while the British GDP in the same period was 343m pounds, and hence EIC revenue was only 2% of the overall GDP. (I got these figures from an individual blog and haven’t verified them).


The British Crown period - The territory of British India Provinces had expanded greatly and therefore the tax revenues had grown in proportion. The efficient taxation system paid its own administrative expenses as well as the cost of the large British Indian Army. British salaries were lucrative - the Viceroy received £25,000 a year, and Governors £10,000 for instance besides the lavish amenities in the form of subsidized housing, utilities, rest houses, etc.


Indian eminent intellectual, Dadabhai Naoroji wrote how the British systematically ensured the draining of Indian economy of its wealth and his theory is famously known as ‘Drain of Wealth’ theory. In his book 'Poverty' he estimated a 200–300 million pounds loss of revenue to Britain that is not returned.

At the same time, a fair bit of money did go back into India itself to support further colonial infrastructure. Note the explosion of infrastructure (Railway lines, 100+ Cantonment towns, 60+ Hill stations, Courthouses, Universities, Colleges, Irrigation Canals, Imperial capital of New Delhi) from 1857 onward till 1930s. Of course, these infrastructure projects were not due to any altruistic motive of the British. They were intended to make their India empire more secure, comfortable, efficient, and to display their grandeur. Huge sums of money were spent in the 3 Delhi Durbars conducted in this period.

So how profitable was the British Crown period? Probably not much. Instead bureaucracy, prestige, grandeur, comfort reigned supreme for the 70,000 odd British people in India.


There was a realization in Britain that colonies were not particularly economically beneficial to the home economy. … [more]
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Data We Have vs. the Data We Need: A Comment on the State of the “Divergence” Debate (Part I) | The NEP-HIS Blog
Maybe as reaction to Pomeranz, the Great Divergence gets dated earlier & earlier & earlier on the slimmest evidence. Next: Pangaea breakup
I think it's a bit out of control, the urge to keep bringing the roots of the great divergence earlier and earlier and earlier
@s8mb @antonhowes I am impatient w explanations which do not start w origination/adoption/diffusion technology as proximate cause
@s8mb @antonhowes in respect of which finance, market integration, & formal institutions all dead ends for divergence of West with the Rest
Are you more with Pomeranz that there's not major difference until c. 1750 or 1800, or do you put departure much earlier?
it's now beyond doubt established there was a major diff in living standards, state capacity, market integr+
between the most advanced regions of China and the most advanced regions of Europe, no doubt
@bswud +broadberry estimates evidence groupthink on matter (i.e., everyone wants to locate precursor to IR earlier and earlier) @antonhowes

The Little Divergence: https://pseudoerasmus.com/2014/06/12/the-little-divergence/
The Early Transformation of Britain's Economy: https://growthecon.com/blog/Britain-Shares/
There’s a nice working paper out by Patrick Wallis, Justin Colson, and David Chilosi called “Puncturing the Malthus Delusion: Structural Change in the British Economy before the Industrial Revolution, 1500-1800”. The big project they undertake here is to mine the probate inventories (along with several other sources) from Britain in this period to build up a picture of the rough allocation of workers across sectors. They do a very nice job of walking through their data sources, and the limitations, in the paper, so let me leave those details aside. In short, they use the reported occupations in wills to back out a picture of the sectoral structure, finding it consistent with other sources based on apprentice records, as well as prior estimates from specific years.

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june 2017 by nhaliday
Does the European Marriage Pattern Explain Economic Growth?
Hajnal not validated:
There is no evidence that the EMP improved economic performance by empowering women, increasing human capital investment, adjusting population to economic trends, or sustaining beneficial cultural norms. European economic success was not caused by the EMP and its sources must therefore be sought in other factors.


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june 2017 by nhaliday
Why Was It Europeans Who Conquered the World?
By the 1700s Europeans dominated the gunpowder technology, which was surprising, because it had originated in China and been used with expertise throughout Eurasia. To account for their dominance, historians have invoked competition, but it cannot explain why they pushed this technology further than anyone else. The answer lies with a simple tournament model of military competition that allows for learning by doing. Political incentives and military conditions then explain why the rest of Eurasia fell behind Europeans in developing the gunpowder technology. The consequences were huge, from colonialism to the slave trade and even the Industrial Revolution.
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The Agricultural Basis of Comparative Development
This article shows, in a two-sector Malthusian model of endogenous population growth, that output per capita, population density, and industrialization depend upon the labor intensity of agricultural production. Because the diminishing returns to labor are less pronounced, high labor intensity (as in rice production) leads not only to a larger population density but also to lower output per capita and a larger share of labor in agriculture. Agronomic and historical evidence confirm that there are distinct, inherent differences between rice and wheat production. A calibration of the model shows that a relatively small difference in labor intensity in agriculture can account for a large portion of the observed differences in industrialization, output per capita, and labor productivity between Asia and Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution. Significantly, these differences can be explained even though sector-level total factor productivity levels and the efficiency of factor markets are held constant in the two regions.

INDUSTRIOUS PEASANTS IN EAST AND WEST: MARKETS, TECHNOLOGY, AND FAMILY STRUCTURE IN JAPANESE AND WESTERN EUROPEAN AGRICULTURE: http://sci-hub.tw/http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8446.2011.00331.x/abstract
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june 2017 by nhaliday
Enclosure - Wikipedia
Enclosure (sometimes inclosure) was the legal process in England during the 18th century of enclosing a number of small landholdings to create one larger farm.[1] Once enclosed, use of the land became restricted to the owner, and it ceased to be common land for communal use. In England and Wales the term is also used for the process that ended the ancient system of arable farming in open fields. Under enclosure, such land is fenced (enclosed) and deeded or entitled to one or more owners. The process of enclosure began to be a widespread feature of the English agricultural landscape during the 16th century. By the 19th century, unenclosed commons had become largely restricted to rough pasture in mountainous areas and to relatively small parts of the lowlands.

Enclosure could be accomplished by buying the ground rights and all common rights to accomplish exclusive rights of use, which increased the value of the land. The other method was by passing laws causing or forcing enclosure, such as Parliamentary enclosure. The latter process of enclosure was sometimes accompanied by force, resistance, and bloodshed, and remains among the most controversial areas of agricultural and economic history in England. Marxist and neo-Marxist historians argue that rich landowners used their control of state processes to appropriate public land for their private benefit.[2] The process of enclosure created a landless working class that provided the labour required in the new industries developing in the north of England. For example: "In agriculture the years between 1760 and 1820 are the years of wholesale enclosure in which, in village after village, common rights are lost".[3] Thompson argues that "Enclosure (when all the sophistications are allowed for) was a plain enough case of class robbery."[4][5]

Community and Market in England:
Open Fields and Enclosures Revisited: https://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/users/allen/community.pdf
Commons Sense: Common Property Rights, Efficiency, and Institutional Change: http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/210a/readings/commons1.pdf
Allen’s Enclosure and the Yeoman: the View from Tory Fundamentalism: http://www.deirdremccloskey.com/docs/pdf/Article_52.pdf
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june 2017 by nhaliday
The material over the ideological – Gene Expression
I come not to praise or bury Max Weber. Rather, I come to commend where warranted, and dismiss where necessary.

The problem as I see it is that though a meticulous scholar, Max Weber is the father of erudite sophistry which passes as punditry. Though he was arguably a fox, his genealogy has given rise to many hedgehogs.

Weber is famous for his work on relating the Protestant ethic and capitalism (more precisely, Calvinism). In general I think Weber is less right than he is wrong on this issue. But the bigger problem is that Weber’s style of interpretative historical analysis also has spawned many inferior and positively muddled imitators, whether consciously or not.

To my mind the problems with Weber’s sweeping generalizations, interpretations, and inferences, are clearest on the topic of China. His assertions on the nature of the Chinese mind informed by Confucianism, and how it would relate to (and hinder) modern economic development are very hit or miss.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Have Productivity Levels Converged? Productivity Growth, Convergence, and Welfare in the Very Long Run
Economists believe that because technology is a public good national productivity levels should "converge."

lol, Brad Delong's gonna be confused for a long time


Holding constant 1870 per capita income, nations that had Protestant religious establishments in 1870 have 1979 per capita incomes more than one-third higher than do nations that had Catholic establishments. Interpretation of this fact is very difficult, but it does suggest that Max Weber [I9051 (1958) may have something to teach us about the forces that have determined growth in the industrial West over the past century.

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may 2017 by nhaliday
An Economic Analysis of the Protestant Reformation
- Ekelund, Hébert, Tollison

This paper seeks to explain the initial successes and failures of Protestantism on economic grounds. It argues that the medieval Roman Catholic Church, through doctrinal manipulation, the exclusion of rivals, and various forms of price discrimination, ultimately placed members seeking the Z good "spiritual services" on the margin of defection. These monopolistic practices encouraged entry by rival firms, some of which were aligned with civil governments. The paper hypothesizes that Protestant entry was facilitated in emergent entrepreneurial societies characterized by the decline of feudalism and relatively unstable distribution of wealth and repressed in more homogeneous, rent-seeking societies that were mostly dissipating rather than creating wealth. In these societies the Roman Church was more able to continue the practice of price discrimination. Informal tests of this proposition are conducted by considering primogeniture and urban growth as proxies for wealth stability.

Causes and Consequences of the Protestant Reformation: https://pseudoerasmus.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/becker-pfaff-rubin-2016.pdf
- Sascha O. Becker, Steven Pfaff, Jared Rubin

The Protestant Reformation is one of the defining events of the last millennium. Nearly 500 years after the Reformation, its causes and consequences have seen a renewed interest in the social sciences. Research in economics, sociology, and political science increasingly uses detailed individual-level, city-level, and regional-level data to identify drivers of the adoption of the Reformation, its diffusion pattern, and its socioeconomic consequences. We take stock of this research, pointing out what we know and what we do not know and suggesting the most promising areas for future research.

Table 1: Studies of the Supply and Demand-Side Factors of the Reformation
Table 2: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Human Capital
Table 3: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Work and Work Ethic
Table 4: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Economic Development
Table 5: Studies on the Consequences of the Reformation: Governance
Table 6: Studies on the “Dark” Consequences of the Reformation

LUTHER AND SULEYMAN: http://www.jstor.org.sci-hub.tw/stable/40506214
- Murat Iyigun

Various historical accounts have suggested that the Ottomans' rise helped the Protestant Reformation as well as its offshoots, such as Zwinglianism, Anabaptism, and Calvinism, survive their infancy and mature. Utilizing a comprehensive data set on violent confrontations for the interval between 1401 and 1700 CE, I show that the incidence of military engagements between the Protestant Reformers and the Counter-Reformation forces between the 1520s and 1650s depended negatively on the Ottomans' military activities in Europe. Furthermore, I document that the impact of the Ottomans on Europe went beyond suppressing ecclesiastical conflicts only: at the turn of the sixteenth century, Ottoman conquests lowered the number of all newly initiated conflicts among the Europeans roughly by 25 percent, while they dampened all longer-running feuds by more than 15 percent. The Ottomans' military activities influenced the length of intra-European feuds too, with each Ottoman-European military engagement shortening the duration of intra-European conflicts by more than 50 percent. Thus, while the Protestant Reformation might have benefited from - and perhaps even capitalized on - the Ottoman advances in Europe, the latter seems to have played some role in reducing conflicts within Europe more generally.

Religious Competition and Reallocation: The Political Economy of Secularization in the Protestant Reformation: http://www.jeremiahdittmar.com/files/RRR_20170919.pdf
- Davide Cantoni, Jeremiah Dittmar, Noam Yuchtman*

Using novel microdata, we document an unintended, first-order consequence of the Protestant Reformation: a massive reallocation of resources from religious to secular purposes. To understand this process, we propose a conceptual framework in which the introduction of religious competition shifts political markets where religious authorities provide legitimacy to rulers in exchange for control over resources. Consistent with our framework, religious competition changed the balance of power between secular and religious elites: secular authorities acquired enormous amounts of wealth from monasteries closed during the Reformation, particularly in Protestant regions. This transfer of resources had important consequences. First, it shifted the allocation of upper-tail human capital. Graduates of Protestant universities increasingly took secular, especially administrative, occupations. Protestant university students increasingly studied secular subjects, especially degrees that prepared students for public sector jobs, rather than church sector-specific theology. Second, it affected the sectoral composition of fixed investment. Particularly in Protestant regions, new construction from religious toward secular purposes, especially the building of palaces and administrative buildings, which reflected the increased wealth and power of secular lords. Reallocation was not driven by pre-existing economic or cultural differences. Our findings indicate that the Reformation played an important causal role in the secularization of the West.

look at Figure 4, holy shit

History: Science and the Reformation: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v550/n7677/full/550454a.html?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews&sf126429621=1
The scientific and religious revolutions that began 500 years ago were not causally related, but were both stimulated by printing, argues David Wootton.
No, the Reformation did not cause the scientific revolution. Nice brief article. 👍

No RCT = No causal claims, for or against ;)
Though I'm open to a regression discontinuity design! cc: @pseudoerasmus
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Economic Growth & Human Biodiversity | Pseudoerasmus
Good policy or good luck? Country growth performance and temporary shocks*: https://pseudoerasmus.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/easterly-kremer-pritchett-summers.pdf

Africa is urbanising without globalising: https://capx.co/africa-is-urbanising-without-globalising/
What most African cities get by on is money from natural resources. As the Brookings Institution explains here, African cities are built for consuming, not creating, wealth. The elite who capture oil or mining revenues have to live somewhere – and they concentrate their spending in cities. That is why the nightlife and restaurant scene in Kinshasa is so good, even though nothing else works. It’s the main thing the city produces. The poor flock in, hoping to feed on the scraps. Extreme inequality isn’t so much a product of the system; it is the cause of it.

Why Africa’s development model puzzles economists: https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21726697-structural-transformation-its-economies-not-following-precedents-why

So many African countries are poor because they lack freedom, property rights, markets, and the rule of law.

People are laughing at this but it's true. Trouble is property rights and rule of law are much easier said than done.

Dentists and Freedom in Ivory Coast: https://www.cato.org/blog/dentists-freedom-ivory-coast
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may 2017 by nhaliday
What would count as an explanation of the size of China? - Marginal REVOLUTION

Wades into the age-old debate: why did post-Roman Europe remain fragmented but China had such a long and early history of unification? It's not geography per se, but how geography interacted with warfare & state formation



Unified China and Divided Europe: http://sci-hub.tw/http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/iere.12270/full

From the ‘Great Convergence’ to the ‘First Great Divergence’: Roman and Qin-Han state formation and its aftermath: https://www.princeton.edu/~pswpc/pdfs/scheidel/110702.pdf

Knights Hospitaller thread
Sod Pepsi's navy.

Let's talk about the point after WW2 where the Knights Hospitaller, of medieval crusading fame, 'accidentally' became a major European air power.

I shitteth ye not. 🛩️🛩️
Now the important thing here is the CONTINUED EXISTENCE AS A SOVEREIGN STATE of the Knights Hospitaller. They held Malta right up until 1798, when Napoleon finally managed to boot them out on his way to Egypt.

(Partly because the French contingent of the Knights swapped sides)
And that's why today, even thought they are now fully committed to the Red-Cross-esque stuff, they can still issue passports, are a permanent observer at the UN, have a currency...

..,and even have a tiny bit of Malta back.

More here:
Having a lot of small functional states instead of a few big ones is cool for entertainment and variety reasons.
The MENA was also polyarchic in the Middle Ages, but did it produce interesting states?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Growing Collectivism: Irrigation, Group Conformity and Technological Divergence
This paper examines the origins of collectivist cultures that emphasize group conformity over individual autonomy. In line with the hypothesis that collaboration within groups in pre-industrial agriculture favored the emergence of collectivism, I find that societies whose ancestors jointly practiced irrigation agriculture have stronger collectivist norms today. The positive effect of irrigation on contemporary collectivism holds across countries, subnational districts within countries, and migrants. For causal identification, I instrument the historical adoption of irrigation by its geographic suitability. Furthermore, this paper establishes that, by favoring conformity, irrigation agriculture has contributed to the global divergence of technology. I document (i) a negative effect of traditional irrigation agriculture on contemporary innovativeness of countries, cities, and migrants; (ii) a positive effect on selection into routine-intensive occupations; and (iii) that the initial technological advantage of irrigation societies was reversed after 1500.

This kind of investigation is always going to be fraught with uncertainty and also controversy, given imperfections of data and methods. Nonetheless I find this one of the more plausible macro-historical hypotheses, perhaps because of my own experience in central Mexico, where varying rainfall still is the most important economic event of the year, though it is rapidly being supplanted by the variability of tourist demand for arts and crafts. And yes, they are largely collectivist, at least at the clan level, with extensive systems of informal social insurance and very high implicit social marginal tax rates on accumulated wealth.

Have you noticed it rains a lot in England?


in-depth reflection on agricultural ecologies, Europe vs China, and internal Chinese differences/ethnic identity/relations with barbarians/nomads, etc.: https://www.gnxp.com/blog/2008/08/wealth-of-communities.php

Irrigation and Autocracy: http://www.econ.ku.dk/bentzen/Irrigation_and_Autocracy.pdf

Emerging evidence of cultural differences linked to rice versus wheat agriculture: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X1930082X
- Historical rice farming linked to interdependent culture.
- Differences tested in China and Japan, as well as in worldwide comparison.
- There is evidence for differences among urbanites with no direct experience farming.
- Rice farming is also linked to holistic thought, fewer patents for inventions.
- Rice cultures are not ‘pro-social’ but rather tight ties, strong division of close versus distant ties.

The agricultural roots of Chinese innovation performance: https://sci-hub.tw/https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014292119300893
We provide robust evidence that counties with a legacy of rice cultivation generate fewer patent applications than other counties, and a legacy of wheat production tends to be associated with more patent applications. The results for rice are robust to, e.g., controlling for temperature, precipitation, irrigation, disease burden, religiosity, and corruption, as well as accounting for migration patterns.

Steve Hsu on this stuff:
Genetic variation in Han Chinese population: http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/07/genetic-variation-in-han-chinese.html
Largest component of genetic variation is a N-S cline (phenotypic N-S gradient discussed here). Variance accounted for by second (E-W) PC vector is much smaller and the Han population is fairly homogeneous in genetic terms: ...while we revealed East-to-West structure among the Han Chinese, the signal is relatively weak and very little structure is discernible beyond the second PC (p.24).

Neandertal ancestry does not vary significantly across provinces, consistent with admixture prior to the dispersal of modern Han Chinese.

My fellow officers informed me, that while the negotiation was going on, the ships were constantly crowded with all kinds of refreshments, and that when they were first boarded by the Chinese they received every attention from them that could be shown; and that the presents received by the different officers belonging to the embassy, were of immense value. That the natives of this part of China were of different complexions and manners from those in and near Canton; their colour being nearly white; and in their manners were much more free and candid; and that they were of a larger stature, and more athletic than the southern Chinese—they were much more sociable, and not so particular respecting their women being seen by the men. And were even fond of receiving the officers into their houses, when on shore, provided it could be done without the knowledge of the mandarins.

The study below discusses a psychological/cognitive/personality gradient between N and S China, possibly driven by a history of wheat vs rice cultivation.


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may 2017 by nhaliday
Backwardness | West Hunter
Back around the time I was born, anthropologists sometimes talked about some cultures being more advanced than others. This was before they decided that all cultures are equal, except that some are more equal than others.


I’ve been trying to estimate the gap between Eurasian and Amerindian civilization. The Conquistadors were, in a sense, invaders from the future: but just how far in the future? What point in the history of the Middle East is most similar to the state of the Amerindian civilizations of 1500 AD ?

I would argue that the Amerindian civilizations were less advanced than the Akkadian Empire, circa 2300 BC. The Mayans had writing, but were latecomers in metallurgy. The Inca had tin and arsenical bronze, but didn’t have written records. The Akkadians had both – as well as draft animals and the wheel. You can maybe push the time as far back as 2600 BC, since Sumerian cuneiform was in pretty full swing by then. So the Amerindians were around four thousand years behind.

Excepting the use of iron, sub-Saharan Africa, excepting Ethiopia, was well behind the most advanced Amerindian civilizations circa 1492. I am right now resisting the temptation to get into a hammer-and-tongs discussion of Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, Blood River, etc. – and we would all be better off if I continued to do so.

The Battle of Blood River (Afrikaans: Slag van Bloedrivier; Zulu: iMpi yaseNcome) is the name given for the battle fought between _470 Voortrekkers_ ("Pioneers"), led by Andries Pretorius, and _an estimated 80,000 Zulu attackers_ on the bank of the Ncome River on 16 December 1838, in what is today KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Casualties amounted to over 3,000 of king Dingane's soldiers dead, including two Zulu princes competing with Prince Mpande for the Zulu throne. _Three Pioneers commando members were lightly wounded_, including Pretorius himself.


In the morning of Tuesday, June 15, while we sat at Dr. Adams's, we talked of a printed letter from the Reverend Herbert Croft, to a young gentleman who had been his pupil, in which he advised him to read to the end of whatever books he should begin to read. JOHNSON. 'This is surely a strange advice; you may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep to them for life. A book may be good for nothing; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing; are we to read it all through? These Voyages, (pointing to the three large volumes of Voyages to the South Sea, which were just come out) WHO will read them through? A man had better work his way before the mast, than read them through; they will be eaten by rats and mice, before they are read through. There can be little entertainment in such books; one set of Savages is like another.' BOSWELL. 'I do not think the people of Otaheite can be reckoned Savages.' JOHNSON. 'Don't cant in defence of Savages.' BOSWELL. 'They have the art of navigation.' JOHNSON. 'A dog or a cat can swim.' BOSWELL. 'They carve very ingeniously.' JOHNSON. 'A cat can scratch, and a child with a nail can scratch.' I perceived this was none of the mollia tempora fandi; so desisted.

Déjà Vu all over again: America and Europe: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2014/11/12/deja-vu-all-over-again-america-and-europe/
In terms of social organization and technology, it seems to me that Mesolithic Europeans (around 10,000 years ago) were like archaic Amerindians before agriculture. Many Amerindians on the west coast were still like that when Europeans arrived – foragers with bows and dugout canoes.

On the other hand, the farmers of Old Europe were in important ways a lot like English settlers: the pioneers planted wheat, raised pigs and cows and sheep, hunted deer, expanded and pushed aside the previous peoples, without much intermarriage. Sure, Anglo pioneers were literate, had guns and iron, were part of a state, all of which gave them a much bigger edge over the Amerindians than Old Europe ever had over the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and made the replacement about ten times faster – but in some ways it was similar. Some of this similarity was the product of historical accidents: the local Amerindians were thin on the ground, like Europe’s Mesolithic hunters – but not so much because farming hadn’t arrived (it had in most of the United States), more because of an ongoing population crash from European diseases.

On the gripping hand, the Indo-Europeans seem to have been something like the Plains Indians: sure, they raised cattle rather than living off abundant wild buffalo, but they too were transformed into troublemakers by the advent of the horse. Both still did a bit of farming. They were also alike in that neither of them really knew what they were doing: neither were the perfected product of thousands of years of horse nomadry. The Indo-Europeans were the first raiders on horseback, and the Plains Indians had only been at it for a century, without any opportunity to learn state-of-the-art tricks from Eurasian horse nomads.

The biggest difference is that the Indo-Europeans won, while the Plains Indians were corralled into crappy reservations.

Quantitative historical analysis uncovers a single dimension of complexity that structures global variation in human social organization: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/12/20/1708800115.full
Do human societies from around the world exhibit similarities in the way that they are structured, and show commonalities in the ways that they have evolved? These are long-standing questions that have proven difficult to answer. To test between competing hypotheses, we constructed a massive repository of historical and archaeological information known as “Seshat: Global History Databank.” We systematically coded data on 414 societies from 30 regions around the world spanning the last 10,000 years. We were able to capture information on 51 variables reflecting nine characteristics of human societies, such as social scale, economy, features of governance, and information systems. Our analyses revealed that these different characteristics show strong relationships with each other and that a single principal component captures around three-quarters of the observed variation. Furthermore, we found that different characteristics of social complexity are highly predictable across different world regions. These results suggest that key aspects of social organization are functionally related and do indeed coevolve in predictable ways. Our findings highlight the power of the sciences and humanities working together to rigorously test hypotheses about general rules that may have shaped human history.

Fig. 2.

The General Social Complexity Factor Is A Thing: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2017/12/21/the-general-social-complexity-factor-is-a-thing/
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Unenumerated: Why the industrial revolution?
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may 2017 by nhaliday
How Innovation Accelerated in Britain 1651-1851
another possible explanation for this...?:
After staring at my data for long enough, I began to notice a pattern. People went on to innovate if inventors had been among their teachers, colleagues, employers, employees, neighbours, friends, family, and acquaintances. And the more I looked, the more examples I found. Of the hundreds of inventors I studied, nearly all of them began to innovate after meeting inventors. Inspiration mattered - inventing seemed to spread from person to person.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
The Incoherence of the Philosophers - Wikipedia
Al-Ghazali's insistence on a radical divine immanence in the natural world has been posited[7] as one of the reasons that the spirit of scientific inquiry later withered in Islamic lands. If "Allah's hand is not chained", then there was no point in discovering the alleged laws of nature.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Contours of the World Economy, 1–2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History
kinda trashes it

Angus Maddison: https://pseudoerasmus.com/2014/06/12/angus-maddison/
This blogpost examines the dubious assumptions behind Angus Maddison’s pre-1200 income data.

Rebasing 'Maddison': The shape of long-run economic development: https://voxeu.org/article/rebasing-maddison
Research on long-run economic development has relied heavily on the database compiled by Angus Maddison. This column presents a new version of the Maddison Project Database based on historical growth data, but also incorporating historical cross-country income comparisons. The revisions shed new light on patterns of long-term development and cross-country income convergence.

File:1700 AD through 2008 AD per capita GDP of China Germany India Japan UK USA per Angus Maddison.png - Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1700_AD_through_2008_AD_per_capita_GDP_of_China_Germany_India_Japan_UK_USA_per_Angus_Maddison.png
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus


Did Nations that Boosted Education Grow Faster?: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/10/did_nations_tha.html
On average, no relationship. The trendline points down slightly, but for the time being let's just call it a draw. It's a well-known fact that countries that started the 1960's with high education levels grew faster (example), but this graph is about something different. This graph shows that countries that increased their education levels did not grow faster.

Where has all the education gone?: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=




The Case Against Education: What's Taking So Long, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/03/the_case_agains_9.html

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/
Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.
- Bryan Caplan

College: Capital or Signal?: http://www.economicmanblog.com/2017/02/25/college-capital-or-signal/
After his review of the literature, Caplan concludes that roughly 80% of the earnings effect from college comes from signalling, with only 20% the result of skill building. Put this together with his earlier observations about the private returns to college education, along with its exploding cost, and Caplan thinks that the social returns are negative. The policy implications of this will come as very bitter medicine for friends of Bernie Sanders.

Doubting the Null Hypothesis: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/doubting-the-null-hypothesis/

Is higher education/college in the US more about skill-building or about signaling?: https://www.quora.com/Is-higher-education-college-in-the-US-more-about-skill-building-or-about-signaling
ballpark: 50% signaling, 30% selection, 20% addition to human capital
more signaling in art history, more human capital in engineering, more selection in philosophy

Econ Duel! Is Education Signaling or Skill Building?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/03/econ-duel-is-education-signaling-or-skill-building.html
Marginal Revolution University has a brand new feature, Econ Duel! Our first Econ Duel features Tyler and me debating the question, Is education more about signaling or skill building?

Against Tulip Subsidies: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/




Most American public school kids are low-income; about half are non-white; most are fairly low skilled academically. For most American kids, the majority of the waking hours they spend not engaged with electronic media are at school; the majority of their in-person relationships are at school; the most important relationships they have with an adult who is not their parent is with their teacher. For their parents, the most important in-person source of community is also their kids’ school. Young people need adult mirrors, models, mentors, and in an earlier era these might have been provided by extended families, but in our own era this all falls upon schools.

Caplan gestures towards work and earlier labor force participation as alternatives to school for many if not all kids. And I empathize: the years that I would point to as making me who I am were ones where I was working, not studying. But they were years spent working in schools, as a teacher or assistant. If schools did not exist, is there an alternative that we genuinely believe would arise to draw young people into the life of their community?


It is not an accident that the state that spends the least on education is Utah, where the LDS church can take up some of the slack for schools, while next door Wyoming spends almost the most of any state at $16,000 per student. Education is now the one surviving binding principle of the society as a whole, the one black box everyone will agree to, and so while you can press for less subsidization of education by government, and for privatization of costs, as Caplan does, there’s really nothing people can substitute for it. This is partially about signaling, sure, but it’s also because outside of schools and a few religious enclaves our society is but a darkling plain beset by winds.

This doesn’t mean that we should leave Caplan’s critique on the shelf. Much of education is focused on an insane, zero-sum race for finite rewards. Much of schooling does push kids, parents, schools, and school systems towards a solution ad absurdum, where anything less than 100 percent of kids headed to a doctorate and the big coding job in the sky is a sign of failure of everyone concerned.

But let’s approach this with an eye towards the limits of the possible and the reality of diminishing returns.

The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

I have a problem in thinking about education, since my preferences and personal educational experience are atypical, so I can’t just gut it out. On the other hand, knowing that puts me ahead of a lot of people that seem convinced that all real people, including all Arab cabdrivers, think and feel just as they do.

One important fact, relevant to this review. I don’t like Caplan. I think he doesn’t understand – can’t understand – human nature, and although that sometimes confers a different and interesting perspective, it’s not a royal road to truth. Nor would I want to share a foxhole with him: I don’t trust him. So if I say that I agree with some parts of this book, you should believe me.


Caplan doesn’t talk about possible ways of improving knowledge acquisition and retention. Maybe he thinks that’s impossible, and he may be right, at least within a conventional universe of possibilities. That’s a bit outside of his thesis, anyhow. Me it interests.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

I put it this way, a while ago: “When you think about it, falsehoods, stupid crap, make the best group identifiers, because anyone might agree with you when you’re obviously right. Signing up to clear nonsense is a better test of group loyalty. A true friend is with you when you’re wrong. Ideally, not just wrong, but barking mad, rolling around in your own vomit wrong.”
You just explained the Credo quia absurdum doctrine. I always wondered if it was nonsense. It is not.
Someone on twitter caught it first – got all the way to “sliding down the razor blade of life”. Which I explained is now called “transitioning”

What Catholics believe: https://theweek.com/articles/781925/what-catholics-believe
We believe all of these things, fantastical as they may sound, and we believe them for what we consider good reasons, well attested by history, consistent with the most exacting standards of logic. We will profess them in this place of wrath and tears until the extraordinary event referenced above, for which men and women have hoped and prayed for nearly 2,000 years, comes to pass.

According to Caplan, employers are looking for conformity, conscientiousness, and intelligence. They use completion of high school, or completion of college as a sign of conformity and conscientiousness. College certainly looks as if it’s mostly signaling, and it’s hugely expensive signaling, in terms of college costs and foregone earnings.

But inserting conformity into the merit function is tricky: things become important signals… because they’re important signals. Otherwise useful actions are contraindicated because they’re “not done”. For example, test scores convey useful information. They could help show that an applicant is smart even though he attended a mediocre school – the same role they play in college admissions. But employers seldom request test scores, and although applicants may provide them, few do. Caplan says ” The word on the street… [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Colonizing the past – Gene Expression
In general people living in an age of transition don’t perceive the transition themselves, and continue to fixate on earlier assumptions and truths. The period between the Berlin Conference in 1884 and the outbreak of World War I saw the high tide of European colonialism and hegemony, but the seeds of its relative decline were already there. The United States of America became the largest economy early in the 20th century. British, French, and German intellectuals may have had their disputes and contributions in those first decades, but the future was already going to be across the Atlantic.

Today I feel that many Americans are living in the past, and not admitting and acknowledging that the present is pointing to the future. The world is becoming genuinely multipolar. There is more than one sun in the sky. Though there are nearly 1 billion people speaking English on the internet (often second language speakers), there are 750 million Chinese speakers. As the year 2020 approaches we’re living in a genuinely multipolar and multicultural world, but a lot of the discussion I see on my part of the internet is about white colonialist males. As if those are the only bright white suns in the sky. Men like McCartney. But the fixation of cultural elites is often a reflection of the last war, and past priorities, just as science fiction futures reflect the present. Change is in the air, even if we don’t realize it….

The Asian World: https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/09/27/the-asian-world/
This is as much a social story as it is a matter of economics. A new global class is organically developing along the scaffolds provided by international corporations. This class, dare I say caste, is beginning to supersede the importance of the Tribes which Joel Kotkin wrote about in the early 1990s.

And no matter what Thomas Friedman and Francis Fukuyama tried to tell us, I’m not quite sure that the global cosmopolitan culture will reflect the mores and preoccupations of the Western post-materialist elite. To be entirely frank I’m not totally sure that this is a bad thing, either.

We can look at economic projections all we want. But the protean and unpredictable nature of cultural changes is really where the action is going to happen in the next few decades, as Islamic revivalism begins to fade and burn itself out.

Taking The End Of The Age Seriously: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2010/11/28/taking-the-end-of-the-age-seriously/
With that, at the end of this post are a list of books which I’ve found useful, and obviously memorable, in trying to understand the shape of the Chinese past, and how the present came to be. Personal preference and bias is obviously operative. The fact that a standalone work on Xun Zi is listed below, and Mencius is not, says a lot about my personal evaluation of the two in relation to each other.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
The End of the Past | Notes On Liberty
The phenomenon coined by Fernand Braudel, the “Betrayal of the Bourgeois,” was particularly powerful in ancient Rome. Great merchants flourished, but “in order to be truly valued, they eventually had to become rentiers, as Cicero affirmed without hesitation: ‘Nay, it even seems to deserve the highest respect, if those who are engaged in it [trade], satiated, or rather , I should say, satisfied with the fortunes they have made, make their way from port to a country estate, as they have often made it from the sea into port. But of all the occupations by which gain is secured, none is better than agriculture, none more delightful, none more becoming to a freeman’” (Schiavone, 2000, 103).

Such a cultural argument fits perfectly with Deirdre McCloskey’s claim in her recent trilogy that it was the adoption of bourgeois cultural norms and specifically bourgeois rhetoric that distinguished and caused the rise of north-western Europe after 1650 (here, here, and here).

Could Rome Have Had an Industrial Revolution?: https://medium.com/@MarkKoyama/could-rome-have-had-an-industrial-revolution-4126717370a2
This question is prompted by Kingdom of the Wicked, a new book by Helen Dale. Dale forces us to consider Jesus as a religious extremist in a Roman world not unlike our own. The novel throws new light on our own attitudes to terrorism, globalization, torture, and the clash of cultures. It is highly recommended.
Indirectly, however, Dale also addresses the possibility of sustained economic growth in the ancient world. The novel is set in a 1st century Roman empire during the governorship of Pontus Pilate and the reign of Tiberius. But in this alternative history, the Mediterranean world has experienced a series of technical innovations following the survival of Archimedes at the siege of Syracuse, which have led to rapid economic growth. As Dale explains in the book’s excellent afterword (published separately here), if Rome had experienced an industrial revolution, it would likely have differed from the actual one; and she briefly plots a path to Roman industrialization. All of this is highly stimulating and has prompted me to speculate further about whether Rome could have experienced modern economic growth and if Dale’s proposed path towards a Roman Industrial Revolution is plausible.


This assessment is bold but consistent with the recent findings of archaeologists who continue to uncover evidence of dense trading networks and widespread ownership of industrially produced consumption goods across the empire.


From this wealth of evidence, we know that the classical world experienced what Jack Goldstone has called a “growth efflorescence”.
But at even the Roman empire at its peak in the reign of Marcus Aurelius does not appear to have been on the verge of modern economic growth. Rome lacked some of the crucial characteristics of Britain on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. There was no culture of invention and discovery, no large population of skilled tinkerers or machine builders, and no evidence of labor scarcity that might have driven the invention of labor-saving inventions.

Could the Ancients Have Had an Industrial Revolution?: http://adlows.com/2017/11/12/ancient-industrial-revolution/
I would suggest that what specifically was missing in the case of Rome was a ratchet. By that, I mean some way to lock in the gains of new inventions. Where both the Dutch and British had many social and commercial mechanisms to spread knowledge of new innovations, Roman technology stayed in use only so long as the state continued to fund it. There was no widely-diffused base of knowledge that was constantly passed on and modified, resilient enough to survive political upheavals.

To put this in perspective, consider how stunningly little of Rome’s engineering knowledge endured the collapse of the empire. Imperial authorities erected aqueducts and amphitheaters, and laced the land with a complex network of roads and bridges. Yet none of these feats of engineering ratcheted; all such knowledge was lost with the fall of Rome.


So for all the astonishing engineering feats of the Romans, they were unlikely to incubate an industrial revolution. Is there anyone in antiquity who could have? Perhaps: those notoriously metaphysical Greeks.


Classical antiquity was a low point of human intelligence: https://evoandproud.blogspot.com/2019/08/classical-antiquity-was-low-point-of.html
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Why the West Got Rich, part 1/N: War - Jared Rubin's Website
of course I don't understand why some people want to focus on the Middle East with respect to the great divergence
"why not China (and East Asia in general)" was inspired by East Asia's rapid convergence in the 20th century
I don't understand why anyone thinks Middle East divergence is a big puzzle just bec Muslims were good at mediaeval math/science

Jared Rubin: Rulers, religion, and riches: Why the West got rich and the Middle East did not?
- Mark Koyama

Islam and Economic Performance: Historical and Contemporary Links: https://sites.duke.edu/timurkuran/files/2017/09/Islam-Economic-Performance-Kuran-JEL-in-press.pdf
- Timur Kuran

This essay critically evaluates the analytic literature concerned with causal connections between Islam and economic performance. It focuses on works since 1997, when this literature was last surveyed. Among the findings are the following: Ramadan fasting by pregnant women harms prenatal development; Islamic charities mainly benefit the middle class; Islam affects educational outcomes less through Islamic schooling than through structural factors that handicap learning as a whole; Islamic finance hardly affects Muslim financial behavior; and low generalized trust depresses Muslim trade. The last feature reflects the Muslim world’s delay in transitioning from personal to impersonal exchange. The delay resulted from the persistent simplicity of the private enterprises formed under Islamic law. Weak property rights reinforced the private sector’s stagnation by driving capital out of commerce and into rigid waqfs. Waqfs limited economic development through their inflexibility and democratization by restraining the development of civil society. Parts of the Muslim world conquered by Arab armies are especially undemocratic, which suggests that early Islamic institutions, including slave-based armies, were particularly critical to the persistence of authoritarian patterns of governance. States have contributed themselves to the persistence of authoritarianism by treating Islam as an instrument of governance. As the world started to industrialize, non-Muslim subjects of Muslim-governed states pulled ahead of their Muslim neighbors by exercising the choice of law they enjoyed under Islamic law in favor of a Western legal system.

Why the West got rich and the Middle East did not: http://theforum.erf.org.eg/2017/09/10/west-got-rich-middle-east-not-implications-twenty-first-century/
- There are two reasons to be more pessimistic than optimistic about the economic and political future of the Middle East.
- First, much of the economic opportunity offered by the one-time resource boom has been squandered.
- Second, as oil revenues dry up and rulers have less capacity to buy support via subsidies and graft, the odds of them leaning even more heavily on religious legitimacy are high.

The Long Divergence: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/the-long-divergence/
I just finished The Long Divergence, by Timur Kuran, which tries to explain the Middle East’s economic backwardness. It’s a path-dependence argument: mistakes were made, and one thing led to another.

His thesis is that particular features of local culture and Islamic law inhibited modernization. He argues that these factors inhibited the development of complex sub-state organizations, in particular the modern business corporation. He blames factors that tended to disperse wealth: the egalitarian Islamic inheritance system and polygyny. Today they wouldn’t matter to a corporation, but in the past they interfered with concentration of assets that would have been useful in establishing larger-scale concerns. He thinks that the Quranic ban on interest was mostly an irritant, routinely evaded, but it didn’t help.

He talks about the mysterious trend in which non-Muslim minorities became ever wealthier and more influential over the past couple of centuries, even though they were supposed to be second-class citizens. Trade was dominated by religious minorities (Greeks, Armenians, and sometimes Jews), as well as new sectors of the economy like insurance and finance. Also in new industries: “In major cities, water,gas, electricity, telephone, tram, and subway services were founded mostly through foreign capital, and the managerial staff was overwhelmingly non-Muslim.”
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Interview Greg Cochran by Future Strategist

- IQ enhancement (somewhat apprehensive, wonder why?)
- ~20 years to CRISPR enhancement (very ballpark)
- cloning as an alternative strategy
- environmental effects on IQ, what matters (iodine, getting hit in the head), what doesn't (schools, etc.), and toss-ups (childhood/embryonic near-starvation, disease besides direct CNS-affecting ones [!])
- malnutrition did cause more schizophrenia in Netherlands (WW2) and China (Great Leap Forward) though
- story about New Mexico schools and his children (mostly grad students in physics now)
- clever sillies, weird geniuses, and clueless elites
- life-extension and accidents, half-life ~ a few hundred years for a typical American
- Pinker on Harvard faculty adoptions (always Chinese girls)
- parabiosis, organ harvesting
- Chicago economics talk
- Catholic Church, cousin marriage, and the rise of the West
- Gregory Clark and Farewell to Alms
- retinoblastoma cancer, mutational load, and how to deal w/ it ("something will turn up")
- Tularemia and Stalingrad (ex-Soviet scientist literally mentioned his father doing it)
- germ warfare, nuclear weapons, and testing each
- poison gas, Haber, nerve gas, terrorists, Japan, Syria, and Turkey
- nukes at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incirlik_Air_Base
- IQ of ancient Greeks
- history of China and the Mongols, cloning Genghis Khan
- Alexander the Great vs. Napoleon, Russian army being late for meetup w/ Austrians
- the reason why to go into Iraq: to find and clone Genghis Khan!
- efficacy of torture
- monogamy, polygamy, and infidelity, the Aboriginal system (reverse aging wives)
- education and twin studies
- errors: passing white, female infanticide, interdisciplinary social science/economic imperialism, the slavery and salt story
- Jewish optimism about environmental interventions, Rabbi didn't want people to know, Israelis don't want people to know about group differences between Ashkenazim and other groups in Israel
- NASA spewing crap on extraterrestrial life (eg, thermodynamic gradient too weak for life in oceans of ice moons)
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march 2017 by nhaliday
The Creativity of Civilisations | pseudoerasmus
- in most of the premodern period, the density of observed achievement (relative to population, time, space) was so small that you don’t need very many intelligent people to explain it;
- I really don’t know what the intelligence of premodern peoples was, but we probably shouldn’t infer the population mean from premodern achievements;
- there’s no need to invoke dysgenic or eugenic reasons for the fluctuations in the fortunes of civilisations, as so many cranks are wont to do.

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march 2017 by nhaliday
Was the Wealth of Nations Determined in 1000 BC?
Our most interesting, strong, and robust results are for the association of 1500 AD technology with per capita income and technology adoption today. We also find robust and significant technological persistence from 1000 BC to 0 AD, and from 0 AD to 1500 AD.

migration-adjusted ancestry predicts current economic growth and technology adoption today


Post-1500 Population Flows and the Long Run Determinants of Economic Growth and Inequality: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14448
Persistence of Fortune: Accounting for Population Movements, There Was No Post-Columbian Reversal: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1257/mac.6.3.1
Extended State History Index: https://sites.google.com/site/econolaols/extended-state-history-index
The data set extends and replaces previous versions of the State Antiquity Index (originally created by Bockstette, Chanda and Putterman, 2002). The updated data extends the previous Statehist data into the years before 1 CE, to the first states in Mesopotamia (in the fourth millennium BCE), along with filling in the years 1951 – 2000 CE that were left out of past versions of the Statehist data.
The construction of the index follows the principles developed by Bockstette et al (2002). First, the duration of state existence is established for each territory defined by modern-day country borders. Second, this duration is divided into 50-year periods. For each half-century from the first period (state emergence) onwards, the authors assign scores to reflect three dimensions of state presence, based on the following questions: 1) Is there a government above the tribal level? 2) Is this government foreign or locally based? 3) How much of the territory of the modern country was ruled by this government?

Creators: Oana Borcan, Ola Olsson & Louis Putterman

State History and Economic Development: Evidence from Six Millennia∗: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cifUljlPpoURL7VPOQRGF5q9H6zgVFXe/view
The presence of a state is one of the most reliable historical predictors of social and economic development. In this article, we complete the coding of an extant indicator of state presence from 3500 BCE forward for almost all but the smallest countries of the world today. We outline a theoretical framework where accumulated state experience increases aggregate productivity in individual countries but where newer or relatively inexperienced states can reach a higher productivity maximum by learning from the experience of older states. The predicted pattern of comparative development is tested in an empirical analysis where we introduce our extended state history variable. Our key finding is that the current level of economic development across countries has a hump-shaped relationship with accumulated state history.

nonlinearity confirmed in this other paper:
State and Development: A Historical Study of Europe from 0 AD to 2000 AD: https://ideas.repec.org/p/hic/wpaper/219.html
After addressing conceptual and practical concerns on its construction, we present a measure of the mean duration of state rule that is aimed at resolving some of these issues. We then present our findings on the relationship between our measure and local development, drawing from observations in Europe spanning from 0 AD to 2000 AD. We find that during this period, the mean duration of state rule and the local income level have a nonlinear, inverse U-shaped relationship, controlling for a set of historical, geographic and socioeconomic factors. Regions that have historically experienced short or long duration of state rule on average lag behind in their local wealth today, while those that have experienced medium-duration state rule on average fare better.

Figure 1 shows all borders that existed during this period
Figure 4 shows quadratic fit

I wonder if U-shape is due to Ibn Kaldun-Turchin style effect on asabiya? They suggest sunk costs and ossified institutions.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
how big was the edge? | West Hunter
One consideration in the question of what drove the Great Divergence [when Europe’s power and wealth came to greatly exceed that of the far East] is the extent to which Europe was already ahead in science, mathematics, and engineering. As I have said, at the highest levels European was already much more intellectually sophisticated than China. I have a partial list of such differences, but am interested in what my readers can come up with.

What were the European advantages in science, mathematics, and technology circa 1700? And, while we’re at it, in what areas did China/Japan/Korea lead at that point in time?

Before 1700, Ashkenazi Jews did not contribute to the growth of mathematics, science, or technology in Europe. As for the idea that they played a crucial financial role in this period – not so. Medicis, Fuggers.

I’m not so sure about China being behind in agricultural productivity.
Nor canal building. Miles ahead on that, I’d have thought.

China also had eyeglasses.
Well after they were invented in Italy.

I would say that although the Chinese discovered and invented many things, they never developed science, anymore than they developed axiomatic mathematics.

I believe Chinese steel production led the world until late in the 18th century, though I haven’t found any references to support that.
Probably true in the late Sung period, but not later. [ed.: So 1200s AD.]

I’m confess I’m skeptical of your statement that the literacy rate in England in 1650 was 50%. Perhaps it was in London but the entire population?
More like 30%, for men, lower for women.

They did pretty well, considering that they were just butterflies dreaming that they were men.

But… there is a real sense in which the Elements, or the New Astronomy, or the Principia, are more sophisticated than anything Confucious ever said.

They’re not just complicated – they’re correct.
Tell me how to distinguish good speculative metaphysics from bad speculative metaphysics.

random side note:
- dysgenics running at -.5-1 IQ/generation in NW Europe since ~1800 and China by ~1960
- gap between east asians and europeans typically a bit less than .5 SD (or .3 SD if you look at mainland chinese not asian-americans?), similar variances
- 160/30 * 1/15 = .36, so could explain most of gap depending on when exactly dysgenics started
- maybe Europeans were just smarter back then? still seems like you need additional cultural/personality and historical factors. could be parasite load too.

scientifically than europe”. Nonsense, of course. Hellenistic science was more advanced than that of India and China in 1700 ! Although it makes me wonder the extent to which they’re teaching false history of science and technology in schools today- there’s apparently demand to blot out white guys from the story, which wouldn’t leave much.

Europe, back then, could be ridiculously sophisticated, at the highest levels. There had been no simple, accurate way of determining longitude – important in navigation, but also in mapmaking.


In the course of playing with this technique, the Danish astronomer Ole Rømer noted some discrepancies in the timing of those eclipses – they were farther apart when Earth and Jupiter were moving away from each other, closer together when the two planets were approaching each other. From which he deduced that light had a finite speed, and calculated the approximate value.

“But have you noticed having a better memory than other smart people you respect?”

Oh yes.
I think some people have a stronger meta-memory than others, which can work as a multiplier of their intelligence. For some, their memory is a well ordered set of pointers to where information exists. It’s meta-data, rather than data itself. For most people, their memory is just a list of data, loosely organized by subject. Mixed in may be some meta-data, but otherwise it is a closed container.

I suspect sociopaths and politicians have a strong meta-data layer.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Unenumerated: Genoa
The Genovese were the chief commercial innovators of the later Middle Ages, and if anything was key to their innovations it was their advanced contract law and their commitment to freedom of contract. Nothing showed this commitment more than its long struggle against Church doctrine banning usury, which at the time meant any charging of interest. Genovese contracts "hid" interest charges as profits (which were acceptable) or in exchange rates.
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february 2017 by nhaliday
Why Isn't the Whole World Developed? Lessons from the Cotton Mills
In 1910 one New England cotton textile operative performed as much work as 1.5 British, 2.3 German, and nearly 6 Greek, Japanese, Indian, or Chinese workers. Input substitution, and differences in technology, management, and workers' training or inherent abilities do not explain this. Instead local culture seems to have determined worker performance. Such differences, if widespread, would explain much of the international variation in wages. They also have important consequences for understanding labor migration, the choice of technique, and the sources of economic growth.
study  economics  history  growth-econ  cliometrics  human-capital  labor  econ-productivity  britain  usa  europe  comparison  anglo  discipline  pdf  gregory-clark  culture  industrial-revolution  world  spearhead  technology  northeast  mostly-modern  the-world-is-just-atoms  divergence  capitalism  biophysical-econ  homo-hetero  heavy-industry  broad-econ  pseudoE  wealth-of-nations  microfoundations 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Recent evolution in humans
"There is a good theoretical argument for why evolution may speed up due to population growth. Given a particular probability distribution for producing beneficial mutations, a large population implies a faster rate of incidence of such mutations. Because reproductive dynamics leads to exponential solutions (i.e., a slight increase in expected number of offspring compounds rapidly), the time required for an advantageous allele to sweep through a population only grows logarithmically with the population, while the rate of incidence grows linearly."

To elaborate on the last point, consider the set of mutations that are sufficiently advantageous that they would sweep through a population of N humans (i.e. reach fixation) in some specified period of time, such as 5000 years. If the probability of such a mutation is p, the rate of occurrence in the population is proportional to pN. Now imagine the population of the group increases to 100N. The rate of mutations is then much higher -- 100pN -- but the time necessary for fixation has only increased by the logarithm of 100 since selective advantage works exponentially: the population fraction with the mutant gene grows as exp( r t ), where r is the reproductive advantage and t is time. This rather obvious point -- that linear beats log -- suggests that the rate of evolution will speed up as population size increases. (A possible loophole is if the probability of mutations as a function of relative advantage is itself an exponential function, and falls off rapidly with increasing advantage.) If the Hawks et al. results are any guide, as many as 7% of all genes have been under intense selection in the last 10-50,000 years. (See here for another summary of the research with a nice illustration of how linkage disequilibrium arises due to favorable mutations.) Importantly, the variants that reached fixation over this period are different in different geographical regions.

Thus civilization, with its consequently larger populations supported by agriculture, enhanced rather than suppressed the rate of human evolution.

A related question is whether selection pressure remained strong after the development of civilization. Perhaps reproductive success became largely decoupled from genetic influences once humans became civilized? Not only is this implausible, but it seems to be directly contradicted by evidence. The graph below, based on English inheritance records, shows that the rich gradually out-reproduced the poor: the wealthy had more than twice as many surviving children as the poor. (Note the range of inheritances in the graph covers the middle class to moderately wealthy; the poor and very rich are not shown.) Thus, in this period of history wealth was a good proxy for reproductive success. Genes which were beneficial for the accrual of wealth (e.g., for intelligence, self-discipline, delayal of gratification, etc.) would have become more prevalent over time. In a simple population model, any lineage that remained consistently poor over a few hundred year period would contribute almost zero to today's population of Britons.


See also my review of Clark's A Farewell to Alms, and this video of a talk by Clark. When Clark wrote the book he wasn't sure whether it was genetic change or cultural change that led to the industrial revolution in England. In the video lecture he comments that he has since become convinced it was largely genetic. That doesn't jibe with the back of the envelope calculation I give below -- even in the optimistic case (largest effect) it would seem to take a thousand years to have a big shift in overall population characteristics.

Here's a very crude back of the envelope calculation: if, in a brutal Malthusian setting, the top 10% in wealth were to out-reproduce the average by 20% per generation, then after only 10 generations or so (say 2-300 years), essentially everyone in the population would trace their heritage in some way to this group. In our population the average IQ of the high income group is about +.5 SD relative to the average. If the heritability of IQ is .5, then in an ideal case we could see a selection-driven increase of +.25 SD every 2-300 years, or +1 SD per millenium. This is highly speculative, of course, and oversimplified, but it shows that there is (plausibly) no shortage of selection pressure to drive noticeable, even dramatic, change. If the estimate is too high by an order of magnitude (the rich group doesn't directly replace the others; there is inevitably a lot of intermarriage between descendants of the rich and non-rich), a change of +1 SD per 10,000 years would still be possible. There's clearly no shortage in genetic variation affecting intelligence: we see 1 SD variations not just within populations but commonly in individual families!
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january 2017 by nhaliday
The Secret Histories | West Hunter
WW2 and the Civil War: https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/the-secret-histories/#comment-86474
the great divergence:
Untrue. Drastically wrong. Who has made a greater contribution to human knowledge – James Clerk Maxwell [ one guy !] , or East Asia over the past five hundred years?
When people talk about the “Great Divergence”, they don’t seem to place much emphasis on the fact that at the very top, Western Europe was enormously more intellectually sophisticated than China. Europeans were using Jupiter’s moons as a clock in 1800 and directly measuring the gravitational force of a 12-inch lead ball. European physics & mathematics were far advanced over China’s at that point. Indeed, you could argue that Hellenistic science and mathematics were far advanced over those of China in 1800.
Cavendish experiment: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cavendish_experiment
Torsion balance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torsion_spring#Torsion_balance
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january 2017 by nhaliday
'Decessit sine prole' - Childlessness, Celibacy, and Survival of the Richest in Pre-Industrial England - Centre for Economic Policy Research
Previous work has shown that England's pre-industrial elites had more surviving off-spring than their lower-class counterparts. This evidence was used to argue that the spread of upper-class values via downward social mobility helped England grow rich. We contest this view, showing that the lower classes outperformed the rich in terms of reproduction once singleness and childlessness are accounted for. Indeed, Merchants, Professionals and Gentry married less, and their marriages were more often childless. Many died without descendants (decessit sine prole). We also establish that the most prosperous socio-economic group in terms of reproduction was the middle class, which we argue was instrumental to England's economic success because most of its new industrialists originated from middle-class families.

Childlessness and Economic Development : A Survey: https://sites.uclouvain.be/econ/DP/IRES/2019001.pdf
maybe it was eugenic for the aristocracy to be outbred by the bourgeoisie?
I remember Gregory Clark indicating that English aristocracy was outbred by wealthy commoners largely due to specialization in violent activities at least until 17 th century. Maybe not accounting for bastards.
yes, this supports him
Wonder what Gregory Clark thinks about this
He probably would think 👍
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january 2017 by nhaliday
The most stimulating economic history books since 2000 | pseudoerasmus
Inspired by Vincent Geloso, here is a list of the 20-25 books in economic history published since 2000 which I have found most stimulating or provocative. Not necessarily comprehensive, or the best, or the most ‘correct’, but things which influenced, stimulated, or provoked my own personal thinking.

some highlights I wasn't already aware of:
- Lee & Feng, One Quarter of Humanity: Malthusian Mythology and Chinese Realities, 1700-2000
- Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850
- Mitterauer, Why Europe? The Medieval Origins of its Special Path
- Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy
- Temin, The Roman Market Economy

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january 2017 by nhaliday
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