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Category Archives: History

In politics as in development, success is fleetingly fleeting

This blog has frequently pointed out that economic growth successes don’t last — rapid growth is fleeting.

After last night’s election, we are reminded that political success doesn’t last either. An action in one direction is followed by an equal and opposite reaction in the other.

The situation of one party having both the Presidency and a majority in the House has been rare in the postwar era, and when it happens, it doesn’t last very…

Also posted in Cognitive biases | Tagged | 11 Comments

America’s first failed attempt at foreign occupation of barbarous lands

Canada

Also posted in Military aid | Tagged | 3 Comments

Thank the IRS for giving you your last name

UPDATE 9/13 noon: see end of post

Wonderful post by Cafe Hayek on the history of how the state imposed last names to supersede local practices (“Bill who lives in the east”),  featuring an awesome essay on Cato Unbound by James C. Scott and a thoughtful response by Donald Boudreaux.

Query: which societies today still do not have permanent last names?

UPDATE 11:30am: thanks for the responses to the query! keep them coming. The James C. Scott thesis is…

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The battle for the dream

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream

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Superstition and Development

By Peter T. Leeson, BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at George Mason University.

Gypsies believe that the lower half of the human body is invisibly polluted, that supernatural defilement is supernaturally contagious, and that non-Gypsies are spiritually toxic.

Far from irrational, these superstitions are central to Gypsies’ system of social order. Gypsies can’t rely on government-created legal institutions to support cooperation between them. Many of their economic and social relationships are unrecognized or…

Also posted in Academic research | Tagged , | 9 Comments

The Fall of The Southern Elite

The Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. was the playground of the old Planter Class in the Old South, going all the way back to Robert E. Lee. The NYT travel section describes how it has fallen on hard times, just as the Old White Elite in the South is not quite what it once was.

The Greenbrier’s aristocratic visitors, waited upon hand and foot by liveried Negro waiters, were never that popular with…

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More well-deserved Crisis Recognition for economists: Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff

The NYT Business Section on their book, This Time Is Different.

It’s nice when a fat book covering 800 years of financial crises can be summed up in one 4-word title, and then the message of the text in one 3-word response: No It’s Not.

Or as the authors put it, We’ve Been Here Before.

The authors and the article both understandably concentrate most of the discussion on Implications for Today’s Crisis. These days you…

Also posted in Books and book reviews | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Declaration: History has a sense of humor

The man who wrote it owned other human beings. The rich Anglo-Saxon males who signed it believed themselves superior to women, Catholics, Jews, other Europeans, Native Americans, blacks, Asians, and poor white males. It contained no development strategy, no announced intention for poverty reduction, and no nation-building Power Point presentation. For many decades afterward, anyone who took it literally would have been seen as crazy.

Yet the principles the Declaration gave in two sentences have done more than…

12 Comments

International Aid Worker Appreciation Day

A big part of what we do on this blog is criticize bad ideas in aid. But in our zeal to get this message across, sometimes other, important messages get lost.

Today, we devote the blog to expressing our admiration and respect for aid workers. Aid work can be a tough, grueling, frustrating, even heart-breaking job.

Aid work promises the adventure of foreign travel and the gratification of working for the good of others, but…

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Big places have small beginnings: increasing returns in Greenwich Village

Bought this great book of New York City historical maps today.

This is a map of ”Mannados”  in 1664. The northern edge of New Amsterdam (just in the process of changing its name to New York) was protected by a wall, and hence the street along the wall was called “Wall Street.”

The next map is from 1766.  The city has spread a bit north now, but still has a long ways to go. Population had only recently…

Also posted in Maps | 6 Comments