July 15, 2016

Meatgrinder At The Somme – Battle of Mametz Wood I THE GREAT WAR – Week 103

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 14 Jul 2016

The stalemate of the Somme continues as the uncoordinated British attacks only gain little ground. This war of attrition was costly for the defending Germans too though. German Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn demanded that every meter lost should be recovered immediately. The same stalemate continued at the Battle of Verdun where the Germans attacked with poison gas this week 100 years ago.

Even the Laundry have to scramble with the new UK government coming in

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The Laundry, of course, is the unofficial name of the British occult secret intelligence service. Here, “Bob Howard” recounts the sudden organizational panic triggered by the unexpected change of government after the Brexit vote in CASE NIGHTMARE BLOND.

QotD: The poverty of the past

Filed under: Economics, History, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

I would point you to one of the great economic resources of our times. The work of Angus Maddison. Download that database (it’s a simple Excel file). Play around with it. And then think about it.

While you think about it, ponder the point that Brad Delong likes to make (derived in part from Maddison and also from his own work). The one fact of economics that we need to explain is what the heck happened around 1700? Why did living standards flatline, roughly and around about, from the founding of Ur until someone worked out how to use a steam engine? That’s the one supreme puzzle. Now, we think we’ve found a lot of answers, Malthusian growth giving way to Smithian (and possibly, as Deepak Lal puts it, Promethean). We might want to ascribe it to capitalism, to markets, to the welfare state, to a step change in technology: and bits and pieces of all of those have obviously contributed to where we are now. But something the heck happened which was different from everything that preceded it.

And now back to Maddison’s numbers. To explain them a little bit (and this again draws on points I’ve lifted from Delong). They are in constant dollars. So, an adjustment has been made for inflation over the decades and centuries. We can’t say that sure, peoples’ incomes in the past were low but so were prices. These numbers are at modern prices (actually, the prices of 1992 if I recall correctly, so adjust by 20 odd years mentally). They are also PPP adjusted, another version of the same thing. So they really are (trying, this is more of an art than a science at this distance) trying to reflect different prices in different places as well as the inflation adjustment across time.

Finally, they are of GDP per capita. This isn’t the same as the average income, not at all. Some amount of GDP will flow to capital, there will be inequality of distribution and so on. However, the average living standard of a place and time cannot be more than that GDP per capita. And then look at the numbers again. Up until 1600 or so GDP per capita wandered around between $500 a year and $1,000 a year or so. All over the world. Up a bit, down a bit, the central years of the Roman Empire were better when the Romans were civilising my Celtic forbears than when the Saxons were slaughtering my Celtic forbears but no real breakout from that range.

And remember: this is at 1992 prices. We really are saying that people had the standard of living that we would have if we had $500 or $1,000 a year to go spend in a 1992 Walmart. Now go look at 1890s America. That house on the prairies time. We really are saying that the average American in 1890 (less than in fact, that difference between incomes and GDP, distributional effects) was living on $3,900 a year. And no, not at some different price level. All housing, clothing, heating, food, everything, at the prices that we would see in a 1992 Walmart.

That’s poor.

In the year of my birth it was $12,200: better, certainly, but simply nowhere near as good as today.

It really is important to understand this point. The past was unimaginably poor by our current standards. As are parts of ther world today. Or, as the man said, the Good Old Days are right now.

Tim Worstall, “Joni Ernst, Bread Bags And The Poverty Of The Past”, Forbes, 2015-02-02.

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