Quotulatiousness

December 27, 2017

India’s Geography Problem

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

Wendover Productions
Published on 5 Dec 2017

May 15, 2017

Geography and Economic Growth

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

Published on 9 Feb 2016

If you look at the African continent, perhaps the first word to come to mind is “enormous.” And that’s true. You could fit most of the United States, China, India, and a lot of Europe, into Africa. But if you compare Africa to Europe, Europe has two to three times the length of coastline that Africa has.

But what does coastline length have to do with anything?

Well, coasts mean access to water.

As benign as water might seem, it’s a major driver of economic growth. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, argued that access to water reduced the cost of trade, and gave merchants access to larger markets. These larger markets incentivized specialization and innovation.

These twin processes ultimately spurred trade activity, and consequently, economic growth.

As an end result, civilization tended to grow wherever trade was easiest.

If you want proof of this, think of a few major cities.

Look at Istanbul, New York, Venice, Hong Kong, London, and similar areas. What do they all have in common? They all sit near a major coast or a major river. In contrast, look at some of the poorest areas in the world—places like Kampala, or Pointe-Noire. These places are all landlocked. Since goods are easier to transport over water than over land, trade in landlocked areas is more expensive.

And what happens when trade is more expensive?

It becomes harder to spark economic growth.

What this all means is economic growth is not only affected by a country’s rules and institutions, but by a country’s natural blessings, or natural hindrances, too. The effects of geography on growth cannot be discounted.

March 29, 2017

You can’t really understand history without considering the geography

Filed under: Americas, Asia, Books, Economics, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait discusses Tim Marshall’s book, Prisoners of Geography:

Britain and Western Europe, and then the other parts of the world where English is the dominant language, have mostly been blessed with a degree of geographically conferred freedom of manoeuvre that is denied to the inhabitants of pretty much all other nations. That is why these places got rich first. And it also now means that we Euros and Anglos are able to believe, as a matter of practical political policy rather than merely as privately pious aspiration, in a wide range of idealistic things of very variable value – things like freedom, democracy, equality, human rights, freedom for women, “social justice”. and so on and so forth – things that geographically more constrained people can only, as yet, dream of, and which they often regard as more as a threat to their own ways of doing things than as any kind of promise.

[…]

The word “maps” being in its subtitle, along with the bombastic claim that these maps tell you all you need to know about the world, these maps ought to be really, really well done, from the graphic point of view. But to my admittedly fading eye, they seemed to be not that good. On their own, they tell you nothing like everything about the world, which is why you actually need to read the book to get the points of all the maps. I was particularly disappointed by how the mountains look in these maps. Along with rivers, mountains are a big deal in this book, as you would expect them to be. But, in these maps, the mountains often scarcely register. It doesn’t help that the maps are done only with black ink on white paper. Colour would have helped. But even black ink could have been used, I feel, with somewhat greater clarity. I had to look quite hard to work out where these various mountains were. But, as I say, maybe that’s just me. My eyesight is definitely not what it was.

The mountainous insight I recall with particular pleasure is Marshall’s observation that the hostility between India and China would have been and would now be far greater, were it not for the most impenetrably formidable mountains on earth being at the boundary between these two civilisations. Contrast those impenetrable Asian mountains with that famous gap in the mountains in northern Europe, which results in a gigantic military parade ground with no natural barriers stretching from the Pyrenees to the Urals.

In addition to knowing better about Europe’s mountains, I now sort of know a whole lot more than I did about the mountains of South America. South America is, for me, one of the less fascinating places in the world, because, being so geographically cut off from the rest of the world and being of significance mostly only to their northern neighbours, South American mistakes count for a lot less than mistakes can elsewhere, especially mistakes made by the USA and Europe of course. South America, you might say, is basically just a big clutch of European mistakes.

Speaking of European mistakes, Marshall is very good on the habit of late nineteenth century Europeans of drawing straight lines upon maps of foreign parts, in defiance of geographical and consequent social and cultural and now “national” realities on the ground. The USA gets along fine despite all the straight lines that it contains dividing its states, because these states are, fundamentally, still very united, at least in the sense that everyone in them is quarrelling about the same things within the same political institutions. But the Middle East is still trying to shake free of its baleful legacy of fake states, which Europeans and now also Americans, all motivated by the need for oil, have expended so much of their own treasure and so much Middle Eastern blood trying to keep in being.

February 14, 2015

Europe in 1899, according to Fred W. Rose

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Before the modern age of the infographic, artists like Fred W. Rose still had their own idiosyncratic ways to present as much information as they could for a wider audience:

Fred W Rose - Map of Europe in 1899

H/T to Tam for the link.

August 24, 2013

The supercontinent of Pangaea with modern borders

Filed under: History, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:21

Pangaea with current international borders

From TwistedSifter:

Pangaea was a supercontinent that existed during the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras, forming about 300 million years ago. It began to break apart around 200 million years ago. The single global ocean which surrounded Pangaea is accordingly named Panthalassa.

April 14, 2010

Frank J. on saving Guam

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:57

Frank J. takes a moment to cast an admiring glance towards one of the best and brightest politicians in the world today:

Could Guam capsize? This is not a question a lot of people would think to ask. People just go about their little lives, eating Cheetos, watching Jersey Shore, and never once stopping to think what would happen if a U.S. territory flipped over in the water.

Guam is home to an estimated 178,000 people, and if they and all their homes were thrown into the ocean, it would be one of the greatest disasters in history. There would be loss of life, destruction of property, and permanent damage to the ocean’s ecology. This is a potentially huge problem, but most people are too busy with their new iPads to give it even simple consideration.

[. . .]

The average citizen probably wouldn’t have even studied the issue, other than maybe looking Guam up on Wikipedia, seeing its president has the odd name of “Barack Obama,” and dismissing it as an enemy Muslim nation. But Representative Hank Johnson, who we can only assume is the smartest person out of the more than 600,000 people in his district in Georgia, was focused enough to have concerns about Guam capsizing and has potentially saved thousands of lives. They might name a street after him.

You can almost hear the “Real Men of Genius” theme music playing, can’t you?

July 15, 2009

Entertaining Timewaster

Filed under: Gaming, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 13:05

This should be a doddle for USians, but not so easy for those of us who always confuse those square-ish states in flyover country: Know Your States.

I managed 90%, but I dropped New Jersey accidentally, which certainly messed up my accuracy.

H/T to “JtMc” for the link.

(Cross-posted to the old blog, http://bolditalic.com/quotulatiousness_archive/005585.html.)

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