BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-07-08 Th
Things that went whizzing by that I want to remember:
This—Gregory Clark: The Secret History of the Industrial Revolution—is an extremely interesting but ultimately, I think, not fully sustainable paper.
In it, Greg Clark does the Greg-thing: taking an unsustainable position, turning all his intelligence and industry to sustaining it, and getting remarkably far. His unsustainable position is that the British Industrial Revolution was not the start of modern economic growth—the 2%/year economy-wide improvements in lab or productivity broadly distributed over sectors that we have seen since 1870—but rather the last two of the post-Medieval discrete localized and sector-specific industrial advances. Steam and textile machinery are therefore classified as things like the caravel, printing.
It was only, Clark claims, “accidents of demand, demography, trade, and geography” that make this spurt appear different, but it was really, like its predecessors, a discontinuous stroke of genius that was eventually self-limiting. In the absence of the coming of the technologies of the Second Industrial Revolution fueled by the industrial research lab to discover and develop and the coming of the modern corporation to develop and deploy, we might well still, today, be in a very impoverished steampunk world.
That last part of the argument may, I think, well be correct. Semi-permanent steampunk world was definitely a possibility as late as 1870, and may have been a probability as of 1800.
Just as the caravel made spices essential free—but the demand for spices was small and quickly satiated, so the impact was limited—and just as the printing press made books essentially free—but the demand for books was small and quickly satiated, so the impact was limited—so the steam engine made coal-for-heating essentially free and textile machinery made spinning and weaving essentially free. And if Britain had been an autarchic economy with a stable population, capable of being satiated with coal-for-heating and with spinning-and-weaving limited by wool from sheep, full stop.
So it is nevertheless the case that the price-elasticity of demand for spinning and weaving were, over a substantial range, worldwide, significantly greater than one did make a huge difference, one large enough to make the BIR experience different in kind and not just the last post-medieval efflorescence with nothing to do with modern economic growth. Steam and machinery mattered much more than did the caravel or the printing press. And they mattered because differences in “demand, demography, trade, and geography” made the British Industrial Revolution decisively different than anything that had come before.
The way Clark puts the argument is: in historical 1860 Britain’s TFP was 100, compared to 65 in 1780. But remove Britain’s ability to export cotton textiles and require that it move labor counterfactually out of export industry into the production of goods that were historically acquired via importing, and counterfactual 1860 TFP drops to 85. And remove cotton—the only fiber the machines could work on—and counter actual 1860 TFP drops down to 75.
Thus we have a non-cotton economy TFP growing from 65 to 75—15%—from 1780 to 1860; a static-exports but cotton-using economy growing to 85—another 15%—from 1780 to 1860, and the historical export economy growing to 100—another 23%. And throughout those 80 years the population was growing from 8 to 20 million, creating enormous food-resource scarcity at home that requires an export machine of previously unprecedented size.
I agree: this is not modern economic growth. But it is also not (merely) Dutch-style intensive agriculture and commerce, the caravel (although note that the caravel’s effects ex-Europe were momentous, even genocidal, it was just its effects within Europe that were substantial-but-not-overwhelming), or printing (although Jeremiah Dittmar notes that printing does not just make books cheap, but makes the knowledge engine-of-growth get in gear),
Gregory Clark: The Secret History of the Industrial Revolution: ‘Other places in Europe in the years 1200 to 1760 saw similar episodes of productivity growth that were as substantial as those in England from 1760 to 1860… between 1550 and 1650 the Netherlands saw significant productivity advance. The appearance that the Industrial Revolution in England represented a decisive break from the past is largely a product of the unusual demographic experience of England in the Industrial Revolution years… driving up land rentals and creating urbanization, spurred… changes… the enclosure of common lands, improvements in transportation, the expansion of coal mining, and perhaps also the fall in interest rates…
I confess I do not understand Intel’s killing the hybrid “Lakefield” CPU design after only one year. It was, IIRC, Intel’s only BIG.little design with both power/responsiveness and efficiency/battery-life cores. Many, many people think that that strategy is the wave of the future, and Intel is rich enough that it should be covering all the bets that serious money is making. So either they have something much, much better along this line of work close to the end of the pipeline, or I fear that they are making a mistake…:
Ian Cuttress: Hiring Old Talent and Killing a Hybrid CPU [Lakefield] <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YkYNSYU2Lg>:
Very Briefly Noted:
Anton Howes: Is Innovation in Human Nature?: ‘The more I study the lives of British innovators, the more convinced I am that innovation is not in human nature…. As the agricultural innovator Arthur Young put it, the natural state is not innovation, but “that dronish, sleepy, and stupid indifference, that lazy negligence, which enchains men… <https://medium.com/@antonhowes/is-innovation-in-human-nature-48c2578e27ba#.v54zq0ogx>
Friedrich A. Von Hayek: The Use of Knowledge in Society <https://www.jstor.org/stable/1809376?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents>
Noah Smith: Bidenomics Takes on Government Investment: ‘The numbers are disappointingly small so far, but our mindset has begun to change… <https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/bidenomics-takes-on-government-investment>
Larry Summers: On China: ‘Demographic changes… declining labor force… rural-to-urban migration…. How China has nurtured a cutting-edge set of venture-type companies despite being a relatively poor country… transition of power… possibilities of wrenching change…. I don’t have a good feeling for… likely discontinuity… the weltanschauung of Chinese citizens towards the rest of the world… <https://chinatalk.substack.com/p/larry-summers-on-china?utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=twitter>
Mingxing Liu, Victor Shih, & Dong Zhang: The Fall of the Old Guards: Explaining Decentralization in China<https://gps.ucsd.edu/_files/faculty/shih/Shih_Explaining%20Credible%20Decentralization_with_names.pdf>
Wikipedia: Diligent Work-Frugal Study Movement: ‘(留法勤工儉學會; simplified Chinese: 留法勤工俭学会; pinyin: Liú Fǎ qíngōng jiǎnxué huì; French: Mouvement Travail-Études) was a series of work-study programs which brought Chinese students to France and Belgium… between 1912 and 1927…. A group of Chinese anarchists who had come to Paris and wanted to introduce French science and social idealism to China… <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diligent_Work-Frugal_Study_Movement#cite_note-sacu.org-12>
Henry David Thoreau: Walden <https://www.gutenberg.org/files/205/205-h/205-h.htm>
Jennie Spencer-Churchill: The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill <https://books.google.com/books?id=8162Rvphym0C>
Jeet Heer: Of Patriots & Back-Stabbers: ‘In turning Babbitt into a martyr, Trump and his followers are creating their own-stabbed-in-the-back myth of the events January 6…. Babbitt is being mythologized as a figure like Horst Wessel, the young stormtrooper killed by communists in 1930 whose death served as a rallying cry for Nazis… <https://jeetheer.substack.com/p/of-patriots-and-back-stabbers>
Elsa B. Kania: A United States Undermined by Racist Authoritarian Violence Can’t Be a Great Power: ‘The future of American democracy appears disturbingly precarious, and the damage of the past four years may take decades to repair. Not since the Civil War has white supremacy so threatened the American republic… <https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/01/07/united-states-great-power-china-domestic-threats-capitol-mob/>
Jason Gale: Covid Origins Mirror SARS Introduction From Animals: ‘The epidemiological history of SARS-CoV–2 is comparable to previous animal market-associated outbreaks of coronaviruses and offers a simple route for human exposure… <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-07/covid-origins-mirrors-sars-introduction-from-animals-study-says>
Jarrett Carter Sr.: Howard Professor Ta-Nehisi Coates: ‘Coates shares his reflections on returning to his alma mater as a professor in the HU College of Fine Arts, the idea of Black luminaries seeking opportunities to align with HBCUs, and the weight of serving as an example of excellence for Black America… <https://www.hbcudigest.com/p/howard-professor-ta-nehisi-coates>
It would be easy to get a job. But would it be easy to get a good job—your best possible job—right now? That is not so clear to me. So labor demand in the sense that it matters may not be all that high right now.
Nick Bunker muses on JOLTS:
Nick Bunker: May 2021 JOLTS Report: Demand for Workers Remains Strong: ‘Not quite the barn burner of last month, but… job openings are still near historic highs, the rate of quitting is still above pre-pandemic levels and employers are laying off workers at record lows. The outlook for hiring remains bright…. The ratio of unemployed workers to job openings… still above pre-pandemic levels… the labor market can still get tighter. Employers not only want to hire a large number of new employees, but they also want to hold onto the ones they have. The layoffs and discharge rate declined to a new all-time low in May at 0.9%…. There’s a lot to like here…
I think I highlighted this when it came out. To what extent are these American Gentry the real funding base of the Republican Party, and to what extent do they see Trump as one of them, telling it like it is?:
Patrick Wyman: American Gentry: ‘Yakima…. Commercial agriculture is a lucrative industry, at least for those who own the orchards, cold storage units, processing facilities, and the large businesses that cater to them. They have a trusted and reasonably well-paid cadre of managers and specialists… but the vast majority of their employees are lower-wage laborers…. Ownership of the real, core assets is where the region’s wealth comes from, and it doesn’t extend down the social hierarchy. Yet this bounty is enough to produce hilltop mansions, a few high-end restaurants, and a staggering array of expensive vacation homes in Hawaii, Palm Springs, and the San Juan Islands…. This kind of elite’s wealth derives not from their salary… but from their ownership of assets… a bunch of McDonald’s franchises in Jackson, Mississippi, a beef-processing plant in Lubbock, Texas, a construction company in Billings, Montana, commercial properties in Portland, Maine, or a car dealership in western North Carolina…. Their wealth and connections make them influential forces…. Because their wealth is rooted in the ownership of physical assets, they tend to be more rooted in their places of origin…. Gentry are, by definition, local elites. The extent to which they wield power in their localities, and how they do so, is dependent on the structure of their regime…. There are an enormous number of organizations and institutions dedicated to advancing the interests of this gentry class…. Some people work their way into this property-holding gentry class by virtue of their blood, sweat, and sheer gumption. That’s one variant on the American Dream: the belief that hard work and talent, and maybe a bit of luck, can take a person into the ranks of the elite. But far more of the gentry class are born into it. They inherit…. Managers run their companies, lawyers look over their contracts, accountants manage their finances, but they’re the owners…
And another take on the same set of issues:
Eric Levitz: Tucker Carlson’s Populism Is for the Small-Time Rich: ‘What makes his defense of single-family zoning so instructive is that it’s both anti-free-market and anti-working-class…. For the downtrodden “forgotten men and women” whom right-wing populists claim to champion, single-family zoning is actually a scourge. It prevents homeowners in economically depressed regions from affordably relocating to thriving metros. And it forces renters to forfeit an ever-higher share of their income to landlords…. Viewed from the perspective of society as a whole, single-family zoning is ruinous…. One minute, Carlson casts Blackrock as the cause of the affordable-housing crisis; the next, he explains that the firm’s nefarious mission is to make housing cheap. He is speaking to genuine economic anxieties, but they are the anxieties of precariously wealthy homeowners who jealously guard their financial, geographic, and psychic distance from the lower orders. Carlsonism is a politics of downward-looking class resentment disguised as its opposite…. This era’s self-styled populist conservatives have consistently demonstrated their fealty to small-time capitalists—and contempt for the median laborer—in just about every major policy fight of Biden’s tenure. Carlson’s call for higher housing costs isn’t an exceptional betrayal of the populist right’s putative class allegiance, only an exceptionally naked one…
I am not sure this has been rightly interpreted. I took Lyotard to say that we needed to focus on “petit receits” in order to understand that the Grand Narratives were all false. But I thought he still recognized that we need Grand Narratives in order to think at all:
Wikipedia: Metanarrative: ‘In The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979), Lyotard highlights the increasing skepticism of the postmodern condition toward the totalizing nature of metanarratives and their reliance on some form of “transcendent and universal truth”…. Attempts to construct grand theories tend to unduly dismiss the naturally existing chaos and disorder of the universe, the power of the individual event…. Postmodernists attempt to replace metanarratives by focusing on specific local contexts as well as on the diversity of human experience. They argue for the existence of a “multiplicity of theoretical standpoints” rather than for grand, all-encompassing theories…
This is highly cool: no, the Pilgrims were not Israel, New England was not the Promised Land, the voyage of the Mayflower was not Exodus, and Britain was not Egypt. Instead, America was Egypt, the African-Americans were Israel, and their historic task was to take the Declaration and the Constitution seriously and so turn America into the Promised Land:
John Ganz: The 1619 Project Revisited: ‘Samuel Goldman describes three types of American nationalism…. The Covenant… chosen people…. The Crucible… a melting pot where a new people is being forged out of diverse sources…. The Creed… bound by its adherence to… liberty and equality embodied in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence…. The Hannah-Jones essay… was so upsetting to many… [by] its… reversal of this Covenant tradition…. 1619… displace[s] the Mayflower…. Jones’s narrative begins with the Israelites in… Egyptian captivity…. Hannah-Jones replaces the Puritan WASPs as the original Americans, keeping the Covenant when others did not…. The Covenant is the faith shown by black Americans in the nation…. Trole of the guardians or custodians of American democracy was traditionally given to the WASP elite…. “As much democracy as this nation has today… has been borne on the backs of black resistance. Our founding fathers may not have actually believed in the ideals they espoused, but black people did…. I wish, now, that I could go back to the younger me and tell her that her people’s ancestry started here, on these lands, and to boldly, proudly, draw the stars and those stripes of the American flag. We were told once, by virtue of our bondage, that we could never be American. But it was by virtue of our bondage that we became the most American of all…”. It cleaves so closely the sources of American political imagination but just inverts them…. The crucible is here not the melting-pot, but the struggle against slavery and racism…. I find neither narrative of American history—that of WASPs or blacks to be “original Americans” or “most American”—to be that offensive or even particularly incompatible: I’m happy to grant New England Puritans a formative role as well as the black freedom struggle. As a the descendant of immigrants, I am willing to be tolerant of a little ethnic pride or even a touch of chauvinism from time to time…
Two guys who assume that Beijing’s consensus weltanshuung is wrong. That is not in evidence:
Jude Blanchette & Seth G. Jones: How Beijing’s Narrative of U.S. Decline Is Leading to Strategic Overconfidence: ‘Since the Global Financial Crisis in 2007–2008, Beijing has assessed that the United States is experiencing a slow but steady deterioration of its national power and international influence. Events of the past 12 months have consolidated this consensus…. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China’s leaders have looked at the United States with a complex and shifting mixture of fear, admiration, and hostility…. The Global Financial Crisis in 2007–2008 was an inflection point, with a pronounced consolidation of the “capitalist instability” narrative in policymaking and intellectual circles. At the same time, it gave rise to the view that China’s own domestic institutional and political system possessed significant advantages relative to Western democracy…. Beijing’s American Narrative. The United States’ democracy and its political system have stopped functioning. The United States’ conception of “universal values” only maintained global appeal because they were backed by U.S. power. As U.S. strength wanes, so too will the values it promotes. The world is no longer looking to the United States for global leadership; the world is moving toward multipolarity; and the East is rising, the West is declining…
700,000 total COVID-19 deaths so far in America suggests between 70 and 140 million total cases:
NIH: COVID–19 Prevalence far Exceeded Early [Confirmed] Pandemic Cases: ‘Researchers estimate nearly 17 million undiagnosed cases in the U.S. by mid-July 2020…. During spring and summer of 2020… for every diagnosed COVID–19 case… there were 4.8 undiagnosed cases, representing an additional 16.8 million cases by July alone…. Article: Undiagnosed SARS-CoV–2 Seropositivity in the United States During the First Six Months of the Pandemic). 2021. Science Translational Medicine. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abh3826…
It would be good if this worked, but it is not looking good for it, in which case it would be very bad if it crowds out effective treatments, like vaccination:
Yuani M Roman & al.: Ivermectin for the Treatment of COVID–19: A Systematic Review & Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials: ‘Published and preprint randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing IVM effects on COVID–19 adult patients were searched until March 22, 2021 in five engines. Primary outcomes were all-cause mortality, length of stay (LOS), and adverse events (AE)…. Risk of bias (RoB) was evaluated using Cochrane RoB 2·0 tool…. Controls were standard of care [SOC] in five RCTs and placebo in five RCTs…. In comparison to SOC or placebo, IVM did not reduce all-cause mortality, length of stay or viral clearance in RCTs in COVID–19 patients with mostly mild disease. IVM did not have an effect on AEs or severe AEs. IVM is not a viable option to treat COVID–19 patients…
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