Quotulatiousness

August 25, 2015

Roger Kimball says Elon Musk is crazy

Filed under: Business, Government, Space, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Oh, sorry, he actually said Musk is “crazy like a visionary“:

I am an unlikely fan of Elon Musk, the flamboyant, Steve Jobs-like (some would say Tony Stark-like) entrepreneur behind SpaceX, SolarCity, Tesla Motors, and other enterprises that seemed like starry-eyed impossibilities a scant decade ago. Musk’s two governing passions, he has said repeatedly, are “sustainable transport” to battle “global warming” and finding a way to make mankind an interplanetary species, beginning with a space colony on Mars.

For my part, the word “sustainable” has me reaching, if not for my revolver, then at least for an air-sickness bag. I regard the whole Green Lobby as a cocktail composed of three parts moralistic hysteria mixed with a jigger of high-proof cynical opportunism (take a look at Al Gore’s winnings from the industry) fortified with a dash of beady-eyed left-wing redistributionist passion. You can never be Green enough, Comrade, and if the data show a 20-year “hiatus” in global warming (so much for Michael Mann’s infamous hockey stick), that’s no reason not to insist that capitalist powerhouses like the United States drastically curtail their CO2 emissions right now, today, while giving egregious polluters like China a decade or more to meet its quotas.

No, when it comes to energy, I often quote, sometimes with attribution, the Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce: what the world needs now is cheap, abundant energy, period, full stop, end of discussion. My motto is: frack early, frack often. Do you want to help the poor/clean up the environment/save the spotted wildebeest? Then you need economic growth, and to achieve that you need energy, which at the moment means you need fracking. Q.E.D.

When it comes to interplanetary travel, I suspect that Musk’s passion for transforming us into “space-faring” creatures was heavily influenced by his youthful reading of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and (one of his favorites) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Not that those adolescent chestnuts necessarily argue against the plausibility of his ambitions. Behind Musk’s enthusiasm for space colonization is a worry that a future “extinction event” might delete human consciousness from the emporium of the universe.

For what it’s worth, I’m very much split on Musk and his works: I generally agree with his desire to help get humanity expanding beyond our single, frail planet … I just wish he wasn’t guzzling down government subsidies to get there. I’ve read the book Kimball is reviewing (Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future), and I certainly feel I got my money’s worth from the purchase … Musk is potentially a very great man. Right now, he’s a pretty good man who still takes everything he can get from the government.

We finally find someone (not funded by Lockheed Martin) who likes the F-35

Filed under: Britain, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Okay, I poke a bit of fun … there are defenders of the F-35 who are funded by other stakeholders … I kid, I kid! Here’s a contrarian take by Think Defence justifying the UK’s F-35 commitment:

In the 7 years I have been dribbling my thoughts into Think Defence there are a few things on which I have been consistent; the ISO container is the greatest invention since the Bailey Bridge, commonality is not a dirty word, logistics are critically important, and, the F-35B is worth it.

Yet to be discovered tribes in the middle of the Amazonian rain forest could not have failed to notice the untrammelled hype that surrounds the F-35 in general, and the STOVL F-35B in particular. The amount of coverage is staggering, some of it informed, some of it not. Being developed under the un-staring eye of social media and a long line of people who seem to live for being critical has exposed every developmental misstep to ruthless criticism. Reports are often selectively quoted, conclusions drawn without context, over-simplification of complex subjects is rife and correlation confused with causation.

It is also an extremely polarising aircraft, read anything on-line and it seems you are either a Lockheed Martin shill or thick as mince critic who knows nothing.

I suspect, the reality is somewhere between, whilst the F-35 is not the cure for cancer, it is not cancer either.

f35b-power-and-propulsion-740x428

Although I have written about the F-35B many times, including this 5 part series, this is the first for a while

Into this toxic environment I go, a look at the F-35B.

Byzantine Empire: Justinian and Theodora – V: Impossible Burden of Fate – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 18 Jul 2015

The conquest of Carthage and the North African provinces was just the beginning for Justinian’s ambition. He must have Rome. But like Carthage, he must find a reason to attack the Ostrogoths who now hold it. And like Carthage, this reason is given to him when the Ostrogothic Queen Amalsuntha, his ally, is murdered. But unlike Carthage, Belisarius now has only 7500 men, barely half of what he had for North Africa. He sails out anyway, making his first stop at the island of Sicily. All the cities except Panormus surrender to him, and Panormus he takes quickly by seizing their harbor with his ships. Meanwhile, Justinian has bribed the Franks to invade Italy from the north while another his generals marches from the east. But just when the Ostrogothic king is on the verge of surrender, disaster strikes. The other Byzantine general dies, and Belisarius is forced to return to Carthage to quell a revolt. The conquest loses its momentum and the Ostrogothic king imprisons the Roman ambassador. Justinian will not be stopped, and orders Belisarius to return to Italy once North Africa is secure. Alone, Belisarius marches up the coast of Italy until he meets resistance at Neapolis. With his forces too thinned to mount a siege, he engineers a sneak attack by invading through the pipe of a dried, broken aqueduct. Neapolis falls and the way now lies open to Rome.

QotD: Poetry

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Many years ago, when I was more reckless intellectually than I am today, I proposed the application of Haeckel’s biogenetic law — to wit, that the history of the individual rehearses the history of the species to the domain of ideas. So applied, it leads to some superficially startling but probably quite sound conclusions, for example, that an adult poet is simply an individual in a state of arrested development — in brief, a sort of moron. Just as all of us, in utero, pass through a stage in which we are tadpoles, and almost indistinguishable from the tadpoles which afterward become frogs, so all of us pass through a stage, in our nonage, when we are poets. A youth of seventeen who is not a poet is simply a donkey: his development has been arrested even anterior to that of the tadpole. But a man of fifty who still writes poetry is either an unfortunate who has never developed, intellectually, beyond his teens, or a conscious buffoon who pretends to be something that he isn’t — something far younger and juicier than he actually is […] Something else, of course, may enter into it. The buffoonery may be partly conscious and deliberate, and partly Freudian. Many an aging man keeps on writing poetry simply because it gives him the illusion that he is still young. For the same reason, perhaps, he plays tennis, wears green cravats, and tries to convince himself that he is in love.

H.L. Mencken, “The Nature of Faith”, Prejudices, Fourth Series, 1924.

August 24, 2015

Billionaires, good and bad

Filed under: Business, Economics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In the Washington Post, Ana Swanson examines the good and bad (for economic growth) of the billionaire class:

Over the past few decades, wealth has become more concentrated in the hands of a few global elite. Billionaires like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helú and investing phenomenon Warren Buffett play an outsized role in the global economy.

But what does that mean for everyone else? Is the concentration of wealth in the hands of a select group a good thing or a bad thing for the rest of us?

You might be used to hearing criticisms of inequality, but economists actually debate this point. Some argue that inequality can propel growth: They say that since the rich are able to save the most, they can actually afford to finance more business activity, or that the kinds of taxes and redistributive programs that are typically used to spread out wealth are inefficient.

Other economists argue that inequality is a drag on growth. They say it prevents the poor from acquiring the collateral necessary to take out loans to start businesses, or get the education and training necessary for a dynamic economy. Others say inequality leads to political instability that can be economically damaging.

A new study that has been accepted by the Journal of Comparative Economics helps resolve this debate. Using an inventive new way to measure billionaire wealth, Sutirtha Bagchi of Villanova University and Jan Svejnar of Columbia University find that it’s not the level of inequality that matters for growth so much as the reason that inequality happened in the first place.

Specifically, when billionaires get their wealth because of political connections, that wealth inequality tends to drag on the broader economy, the study finds. But when billionaires get their wealth through the market — through business activities that are not related to the government — it does not.

Lois McMaster Bujold interview from Goodreads

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

I meant to post this while it was still “fresh”, but I don’t think the content of the interview has gone stale:

[Q:] How do your family and friends relate to you and your writing? I imagine they would enjoy a special understanding of your thoughts, feelings, and values from reading your work. For instance, my wife and I have both completed the Vorkosigan saga and I’ve taken to quoting to her, apropos of family matters, “all true wealth is biological”, which benefits from what we’ve both experienced in the novels.

Lois McMaster Bujold
Mm, family is difficult. My parents passed away years ago, my father when my career was only starting. From one comment he made, I gathered that my adult content was a bit dismaying to him; I think that somewhere in his head, I was still twelve. My mother was not a F&SF reader, so while the writing part seemed sort of OK to her, the genre was not something to which she related. “If you want to write, why not try writing for the local paper?” she once inquired, when I was bemoaning my early lack of progress. Leaving aside the rural benightedness of The Marion Star, the noncomprehension of this question seemed profound.

Only one of my brothers is a reader — he does like my stuff, and I think reading it has brought me into focus as a human being for him, rather than a vague fuzzball labeled “little sister”. I gather he found this rather unexpected. (He loved The Curse of Chalion.)

My kids, well, my children are rather opaque to me. Cordelia’s apparent maternal telepathy is the most wish-fulfillment part of the character, from my point of view. My daughter has read at least some of my work, and we relate to each other as adults nowadays, or at least I think we do. My son has never, as far as I know, read any of my fiction. Not sure what to make of that. (I wish he would, for just the reasons you name above, but I can hardly make my books required reading.)

My friends pretty much consist of folks who like my stuff, because there is, after all, a selection process at work there.

Ta, L.

[Q:] Any chance of the story describing the episode “more than a simple assassination” that Miles mentions in A Civil Campaign? Or the one with a tenyearold girl as courier, mentioned in Komarr? Or are they doomed to be unvoiced backstory? Thanks for all the enjoyment you’ve provided already!

Lois McMaster Bujold
I’m afraid those are doomed to stay throw-away lines, along with the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant.

I am now having a vision of an annex to L-Space, somewhere, where all those unused characters and ideas from the whole of literature sit around getting drunk and complaining to each other about how they were robbed of their rightful places in the spotlight…

Ta, L.

“If you want to understand American elections, read a comic book”

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle on the difference between what voters indicate they want from their elected representatives and what they actually get:

Now, you won’t learn much about how politics happens. Politics doesn’t have clear villains or decisive, powerful action. Politics muddles along on a heavily adulterated biofuel composed of interpersonal favor-trading, compromised ideology, soul-sucking proceduralism, and ponderous interest-group mobilization.

But elections — that’s where your back issues of Action Comics will come in handy. They tell you a lot about what voters think.

Voters rally to get a candidate elected, then call on the politician to stop technological change from tanking the local economy, to give them much more generous health care at half the cost of whatever they’ve currently got, to cut their taxes without touching Social Security or Medicare because they earned those benefits, to provide large new entitlements paid for entirely by taxing hedge fund managers, to reform the education system so that all the students will be above average, to defuse conflict in the Middle East and maybe leap some tall buildings in a single bound. You know, the usual.

Time passes. These voters notice that these things have not been done. Obviously, they have elected the wrong superhero. It is time to stop messing around with Squirrel Girl and Jack of Hearts and elect Superman, already. So the story starts all over again.

The tendency of American voters to treat political problems as if they were occurring in an alternate universe was first noted by Matthew Yglesias during the Iraq war debate, when he coined the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics, in which the US military has unlimited powers if only it is wielded by someone with sufficient will; Julian Sanchez expanded this to the home front with the Care Bear Stare Theory of Domestic Politics: “They’d line up together and emit a glowing manifestation of their boundless caring, which seemed capable of solving just about any problem.” Sound familiar? If only people cared enough.

Comparative Advantage

Filed under: Economics, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 25 Feb 2015

What is comparative advantage? And why is it important to trade? This video guides us through a specific example surrounding Tasmania — an island off the coast of Australia that experienced the miracle of growth in reverse. Through this example we show what can happen when a civilization is deprived of trade, and show why trade is essential to economic growth.

In an economy with a greater number of participants trading goods and services, there are more ways to find a comparative advantage and earn more by creating the most value for others. Let’s dive right in with an example from our new friends, Bob and Ann.

QotD: Air conditioning

Filed under: Europe, Quotations, Technology, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Thing is, since we don’t live in the far off frozen wastelands like you, it’s not “sweating for a few days”; here it would be sweating for a few months. Or practically the whole year in places like Miami, New Orleans, or Houston.

There’s a reason the population of our industrialized North massively outnumbered that of the South in our Civil War: Because before air conditioning, not many people chose to live in places where the summertime climate can kill you dead. It’s certainly not conducive to industry or a modern economy.

Why is there a stereotype of Southerners talking slowly and ambling languidly, rather than hurrying about like chattering New Yorkers? Because acting like that between May and September down around Atlanta or Birmingham is courting heatstroke.

Air conditioning didn’t just help the modern Sun Belt economy, it’s practically solely responsible for it. Twelve US states are partially or entirely located below the 35th parallel north; the only parts of Europe that far south are Crete and Cyprus, which are not areas known for contributing to the industry of the continent.

Conversely, only our northernmost tier of states is above the 45th parallel: Oregon and Washington, Montana, the Dakotas, parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin and Michigan, a bit of New England… You know what I noticed in Washington state? Neither of the houses I visited had A/C. Nor did the abode of friends in New Hampshire, until they added a window unit upstairs recently to make the occasional summer heat wave more bearable in the loft bedroom. Do you know where the 45th parallel crosses Europe? The French Riviera. Balmy Lombardy. The pleasant Piedmont.

Tam K. “Heavy Smug Emissions”, View From The Porch, 2015-08-13.

August 23, 2015

Vikings 20, Raiders 12 in weather-delayed preseason game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:09

I didn’t get to watch this game, as we had guests over for dinner, but the chances of being able to watch the game in the Toronto area probably weren’t that high anyway. Here’s The Daily Norseman‘s Christopher Gates on the game summary:

It took a really long time, thanks to a weather delay, but by the time the rain cleared and everything was in the books, the Minnesota Vikings continued their preseason perfection under Mike Zimmer with a 20-12 victory over the Oakland Raiders at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday night.

Both teams got off to a bit of a slow start, including a miss on a 35-yard field goal attempt by Blair Walsh on the team’s second drive. The Raiders then got on the board first, courtesy of a 2-yard touchdown run by Latavius Murray. The drive was highlighted by a 40-yard pass from Derek Carr to rookie Amari Cooper. The Vikings challenged the play, as it appeared that Cooper only got one foot in-bounds, but they lost that challenge. The 2-point attempt for the Raiders was unsuccessful, and they took a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter.

The Vikings answered back on their next drive, putting the ball into the end zone on the second play of the second quarter. Teddy Bridgewater took a snap, floated a pass to the back right corner of the end zone, and found Charles Johnson for a 10-yard score. Blair Walsh’s rough night continued, as he missed the new 33-yard extra point attempt, and the game remained tied at 6-6.

Approximately halfway through the second quarter, the severe weather rolling through the area caused the game to be delayed. The delay went on for approximately an hour, and the teams agreed to jump straight from the second quarter to the third quarter with no halftime break.

After the delay, Shaun Hill and Cordarrelle Patterson had a bit of miscommunication that resulted in an interception by Oakland’s Jonathan Dowling. That meant that former Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder entered the game for the Raiders, and after a 39-yard pitch-and-catch with Andre Holmes, the Raiders had to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Giorgio Tavecchio to put the Raiders back on top, 9-6.

The Vikings managed to strike again at the end of the first half, as Hill moved the team downfield and found Chase Ford for a 4-yard touchdown pass with time running out. That sent the Vikings to the locker room for “halftime” with a 13-9 lead after the Blair Walsh extra point.

Eric Thompson compiled the post-game Stock Market Report with blue chip investments:

Teddy Bridgewater. His first drive wasn’t too great. He threw a little behind Mike Wallace and Kyle Rudolph and straight up missed Jarius Wright on a third down. But after that? Pure poetry. His improvisation to Jerick McKinnon, his gorgeous rainbow of a touchdown to Charles Johnson…my goodness. We’re still in very good gloved hands under center.

Chase Ford. Five catches for 19 yards isn’t exactly the stuff that legends are made of. However, his juggling catch while still getting out of bounds followed by holding on in the end zone while getting popped earned him a spot at the top this week. Ford jumped on his opportunity with MyCole Pruitt out due to an injury.

Everyone that watched the entire game. That was a mid-July Red Sox-Yankees-length game that we had to endure tonight. I would personally like to thank everyone on Twitter as well as Fulton Brewery for their delicious Sweet Child Of Vine IPA. Without them I would have fallen asleep or died of boredom around 8:45 PM.

… and the Junk Bonds:

Blair Walsh. What. The. Hell. I don’t care how windy it was at TCF on Saturday night. (As @thevikingpig put it: “The Blair Wind Project.”) You simply cannot miss three field goals and a newfangled extra point. Going 2-for-6 is a nice batting average but it’ll get you fired in a hurry if you’re an NFL kicker. After his second to last miss, Zimmer stared absolute daggers through his kicker while muttering what I’m sure was a string of expletives.

Nobody will be harder on Walsh than himself — in fact, he tried to kick himself after missing the last field goal but was wide left on his attempt. There is no excuse for how poorly Walsh is kicking so far this preseason. It better get fixed soon.

Run blocking. Jerick McKinnon had nowhere to go for all but one of his carries. The team averaged only 2.7 yards per rush. Not even Adrian Peterson is going to get many yards behind the run blocking that was on display most of the night.

Trae Waynes. No, I’m not calling him a bust by putting him in this section. And he did almost have an interception. Sadly, that one didn’t really count because it was thrown by Christian Ponder and nearly picking off Christian Ponder can usually happen by accident. But overall he played pretty poorly again, even after getting less to do by the coaching staff this week. It sucks that the 11th overall pick is probably going to be a project this year.

Cordarrelle Patterson. The bad interception that Hill threw seemed to be his fault. Patterson was pointing to his chest while walking off the field which means he probably ran the wrong route. He also didn’t get to return any kickoffs, which seems like the only way he’s going to make an impact at this rate.

Mother Nature. C’mon, it’s the preseason. We don’t need these games to last any longer than they already do. And can you imagine being a beer vendor at TCF Stadium during that delay? Those poor people.

The Falklands War – The Untold Story

Filed under: Americas, Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 19 Aug 2013

Falklands Crisis was a 1982 war between Argentina and the United Kingdom. The conflict resulted from the long-standing dispute over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, which lie in the South Atlantic, east of Argentina.

H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.

Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour party

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In sp!ked, Mick Hume describes the state of the British equivalent to the NDP in their current leadership race:

Jeremy Corbyn has been a Labour member of parliament for a remarkable 32 years without ever leading anything or leaving any visible mark on British political life. How could such a veteran non-entity emerge overnight as favourite to be the new, left-wing, game-changing leader of the Labour Party?

Only because the Labour Party as a mass movement has not just declined, but effectively collapsed. The apparent rise of Corbyn is made possible by the disintegration of his party. The key factor in all of this is not any resurgence of radicalism, but the demise of Labourism.

Over the decades that Corbyn has been an MP, Labour has ceased to be the party of a mass trade-union movement with a solid working-class constituency. It has been reduced to an empty shell run by a clique of careerists such as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband – and the other three current candidates for the leadership – with no ambition beyond their own election.

This disintegration has left a space for Corbyn’s allegedly explosive rise in two ways. First, widespread dissatisfaction with the dire state of Labour and wider UK politics has created an appetite for something/anything that appears different. And second, the hollowing-out of the Labour Party – reflected in its desperation to give anybody a leadership vote for just £3 – has made it possible for relatively few Corbyn supporters to seize control of events.

For all that, however, the new profile of Corbyn the inveterate invisible man remains only a symptom of the wasting disease that has destroyed the Labour Party.

The chemistry of ice cream

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Compound Interest on the chemical structure of ice cream:

Click to see the full-sized original

Click to see the full-sized original

Ice cream is a mainstay of summer – for many, a trip to the beach would be incomplete without one. Despite its seeming simplicity, ice cream is a prime example of some fairly complex chemistry. This graphic takes a look at some of the ingredients that go into ice cream, and the important role they play in creating the finished product. There’s a lot to talk about – whilst the graphic gives an overview, read on for some in-depth ice cream science!

Initially, it might be hard to believe that ice cream could be all that complicated. After all, it’s essentially composed of three basic ingredients: milk, cream, and sugar. How complex can the mixing of three ingredients really be? As it turns out, the answer is: very! Simply mixing the ingredients together, then freezing them, isn’t enough to make a good ice cream. To understand why this is, we’re going to need to talk about each of the component ingredients in turn, and what they bring to the table.

Ice cream is a type of emulsion, a combination of fat and water that usually wouldn’t mix together without separating. However, in an emulsion, the very small droplets of fat are dispersed through the water, avoiding this separation. The manner in which this is accomplished is a result of the chemical properties of molecules in the emulsion.

The fat droplets in ice cream come from the cream used to make it. Fats are largely composed of a class of molecules called triglycerides, with very small amounts (less than 2%) of other molecules such as phospholipids and diglycerides. The triglycerides are made up of a glycerol molecule combined with three fatty acid molecules, as shown in the graphic. The melting temperature of the fats used in ice cream is quite important, as fats that melt at temperatures that are too high give a waxy feel in the mouth, whilst it’s difficult to make stable ice cream with those that melt at too low a temperature. Luckily, dairy fat falls just in the right range! As it happens, you can also make ice cream with palm oil and coconut oil, as their melting temperatures are similar.

QotD: The real reason for the popularity of the English language in Europe

Filed under: Europe, History, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

But all this is apart from the moral I wished to draw from the incident. The true inwardness of the situation lay in the indignation of this Britisher at finding a German railway porter unable to comprehend English. The moment we spoke to him he expressed this indignation in no measured terms.

“Thank you very much indeed,” he said; “it’s simple enough. I want to go to Donaueschingen myself by train; from Donaueschingen I am going to walk to Geisengen; from Geisengen I am going to take the train to Engen, and from Engen I am going to bicycle to Constance. But I don’t want to take my bag with me; I want to find it at Constance when I get there. I have been trying to explain the thing to this fool for the last ten minutes; but I can’t get it into him.”

“It is very disgraceful,” I agreed. “Some of these German workmen know hardly any other language than their own.”

“I have gone over it with him,” continued the man, “on the time table, and explained it by pantomime. Even then I could not knock it into him.”

“I can hardly believe you,” I again remarked; “you would think the thing explained itself.”

Harris was angry with the man; he wished to reprove him for his folly in journeying through the outlying portions of a foreign clime, and seeking in such to accomplish complicated railway tricks without knowing a word of the language of the country. But I checked the impulsiveness of Harris, and pointed out to him the great and good work at which the man was unconsciously assisting.

Shakespeare and Milton may have done their little best to spread acquaintance with the English tongue among the less favoured inhabitants of Europe. Newton and Darwin may have rendered their language a necessity among educated and thoughtful foreigners. Dickens and Ouida (for your folk who imagine that the literary world is bounded by the prejudices of New Grub Street, would be surprised and grieved at the position occupied abroad by this at-home-sneered-at lady) may have helped still further to popularise it. But the man who has spread the knowledge of English from Cape St. Vincent to the Ural Mountains is the Englishman who, unable or unwilling to learn a single word of any language but his own, travels purse in hand into every corner of the Continent. One may be shocked at his ignorance, annoyed at his stupidity, angry at his presumption. But the practical fact remains; he it is that is anglicising Europe. For him the Swiss peasant tramps through the snow on winter evenings to attend the English class open in every village. For him the coachman and the guard, the chambermaid and the laundress, pore over their English grammars and colloquial phrase books. For him the foreign shopkeeper and merchant send their sons and daughters in their thousands to study in every English town. For him it is that every foreign hotel- and restaurant-keeper adds to his advertisement: “Only those with fair knowledge of English need apply.”

Did the English-speaking races make it their rule to speak anything else than English, the marvellous progress of the English tongue throughout the world would stop. The English-speaking man stands amid the strangers and jingles his gold.

“Here,” cries, “is payment for all such as can speak English.”

He it is who is the great educator. Theoretically we may scold him; practically we should take our hats off to him. He is the missionary of the English tongue.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel, 1914.

August 22, 2015

Division of Labor: Burgers and Ships (Everyday Economics 2/7)

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 24 Jun 2014

A simple example of hamburgers being made at home versus at a restaurant can help illuminate the explosion of prosperity since the Industrial Revolution. The story of the division of labor and development of specialized tools is not a new one — Adam Smith began The Wealth of Nations with this concept. Yet it still has tremendous explanatory power about the world we inhabit.

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