by Tyler Cowen
on February 3, 2013 at 10:51 am
1. Seven myths of the Spanish conquest.
2. Taft vs. Chris Christie.
3. How do pigeons find their way home? and bovine nationalism.
4. Emotional labour.
5. Monitoring the Judaism of prison inmates.
6. Economists don’t believe in liquidity traps.
7. Update on Cyprus bailout.
5. Does Kosher food also satisfy an observant Muslim’s dietary needs? I don’t think there are many Jews in jail/prison, but there are many muslim (black muslim) inmates in our jails and prisons. Isn’t Kosher and Halal basically the same?
Not the same, but very similar. Kosher is more strict, for example rejecting meat from animals where the lungs don’t look quite right.
I have a proposal for the prisons — go strictly vegan. This would satisfy all religious dietary requirements. It would reduce costs because vegetarian foods like beans are cheaper than meat. It would reduce food-borne illnesses because vegetarian foods don’t spoil as quickly as meat or carry pathogens like parasitic worms and mad cow disease. It would reduce energy consumption both in food production and in refrigeration. It would provide a chance to test the vegetarian theory that eating meat makes people aggressive. And, taxpayers would like the idea of making prison life a little harsher. It’s a win-win for everybody (except the prisoners, of course).
Actually, it would not necessarily be kosher – the dishes cannot have been used for non-kosher food.
You’d quickly have food riots. Vegan food if not cooked by someone with a clue can be pretty awful. Prison cafeterias aren’t exactly hotbeds of high-end culinary talent, and if I had a lifetime sentence of “industrial vegan” to look forward to, I’d probably be stocking up on shivs and other homemade weapons myself.
A few years ago, the California prisons went smoke-free due to a complaint from one prisoner. That would have been more likely to cause riots, but it didn’t. (Don’t know what happened to that one prisoner, though.)
I suspect the current meat-based diet isn’t so wonderful that switching to a vegan diet would really be that bad.
Re: Economists don’t believe in liquidity traps.
So, they don’t believe in reality.
I think that the consensus of an entire field deserves at least a counterargument rather than offhand dismissal. But this is the whole reason people think economics is a pseudo science: they hear what it has to say and already “know” it’s wrong.
The title on the post is a funny interpretative dance on the results. General agreement with the statement: “The persistent deflation in Japan since 1997 could have been avoided had the Bank of Japan followed different monetary policies” is NOT general agreement with the statement: “There are no liquidity traps.” It is more like agreeing that liquidity traps do not just suddenly fall from heaven and when it is apparent that one might be on the horizon then monetary policy should go into overdrive, which according to the majority of respondents BoJ did not. As an aside, the spectre of deflation gets people in central banks more exercised than the spectre of inflation…precisely because liquidity traps and deflationary spirals are so problematic and tough to get out of. The survey question is a little loose on the timing of the hypothetical policy action and you can see that in the detailed responses, for example Bob Hall is answering from the perspective of already being in a liquidity trap. I think this poll would be more useful if it provided some interpretation of the responses for a lay person audience…and to discourage creative re-labeling of the findings. Oh and btw economics is not a pseudo science, it’s a social science…see how social we are here?
just to fill out what you are saying here are the comments (better to go to the link, but …). I think Tyler is being intentionally provocative at the expense of accuracy.
Darrell Duffie Stanford Strongly Agree 8
Sufficiently extreme monetary policies could have created inflation. The point is whether that would have helped much. Perhaps.
Pinelopi Goldberg Yale Uncertain 5
The experts disagree on the role of the Bank of Japan.
Robert Hall Stanford Disagree 7
Central banks lose control of the price level at the zero lower bound, when their reserves become close substitutes for government debt.
Anil Kashyap Chicago Strongly Agree 10
Fed actions prove that hitting the zero bound on rates need not imply deflation. BoJ could have stopped this and should be held accountable
-see background information here
Pete Klenow Stanford Strongly Agree 7
If alternative = sufficiently unconventional and committed.
-see background information here
William Nordhaus Yale Agree 8
Lower interest rates, purchases of long-term assets, and higher inflation target could have raises output and prices.
Richard Schmalensee MIT Agree 3
Must be directionally right, but recent US experience does not inspire certainty.
Nancy Stokey Chicago Strongly Agree 9
A QE policy would likely have prevented the deflation.
“William Nordhaus Yale Agree 8 Lower interest rates, purchases of long-term assets, and higher inflation target could have raises output and prices.”
Lower??? as in negative? There was *huge* money made borrowing YEN and depositing overnight in AUS.
1 seems to be down, so is the Google cache.
#1 was working when I clicked on it — fascinating article — it explains why the Spanish Conquest and colonization of the Americas were based on ruthless acts of terrorism
I botched the HTML formatting and meant to say “so here is the Google cache”. The site is still not working for me and giving “Error establishing a database connection” returns for many pages, but yes, it is an interesting read. I do not cosign all the interpretations, but the naive Diamond narrative definitely is widespread in the popular culture and is due for a nice debunking from time to time.
“it explains why the Spanish Conquest and colonization of the Americas were based on ruthless acts of terrorism”
Ruthless acts of military conquest, not terrorism as the word is used today. The strategies, tactics, and goals of the Spanish were ultimately no different than the Aztec conquest of Mexico and the Inca conquest of parts of South America. The same could be said for the expansion(s) of the Roman Empire, the Greek Empire, China (many times), The Russian Empire, etc.
The Aztecs were notably brutal, with their extensive human sacrifice (and cannibalism). That made it easy for the Spanish to find military allies in their destruction of the Aztecs.
That’s not the most important message, and a bit tendentious. The main message as I understand it is the importance of coalition-building in the Spanish colonisation of the Americas.
Millian: I recall reading Hugh Thomas’ ‘Conquest of Mexico’ in the mid-90s and thinking that Cortez’s most impressive skill was not military leadership or strategy, but recruiting local allies. Think about it: working through at least one layer of translation, often several, you’re saying “join my 400 men in taking down the Mexica (based in the largest conurbation in at least two continents) who’ve been systematically expanding, and defeating you and all your neighbors, for the last several generations.” Sure, sounds like a plan. The point is not that potential local allies wouldn’t *want* to see the Mexica overthrown, but that somehow Cortez made it plausible.
Cortez’ success probably reveals a lot about just how hated the Aztecs were by other peoples in the area. Restall also points out that the Spanish “conquest” was a lot more superficial than is generally acknowledged. They quickly replaced the local elites but it took centuries in some places for them to establish real control over the countryside. Mexico didn’t even establish real control over the Yucatan until the early 20th century.
The definitive 19th century works on the colonization of Mexico and Peru were written by a partially blind American, William H. Prescott. He wrote The History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843) and A History of the Conquest of Peru (1847), along with other works. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_H._Prescott). He addressed many of the supposed “myths” of the Spanish Conquest. His work remains quite readable and informative to this day.
The fact that the best work on the Conquest was written by a visually impaired American from Boston, should tell the astute reader something.
Here’s a second vote for Prescott. I read the pair of them when I was fifteen or sixteen and was bowled over.
Though in the edition my father had the print was rather small. I hope that wasn’t someone’s idea of a joke.
Much more interesting (to me) than the article on Emotional Labor was the second commenter’s link to:
I was wondering what was wrong with the comments there, then noticed some mention it had been linked to at alternet. That’s a bad subject/audience demographic combination
I think the high point might have been the guy ho said his GP wanted to institutionalize him and his two quack “doctors” thought he was an “eccentric genius.
What could you even do to get a GP to want to do that?
Economists do believe in dysfunctional central banks though.
The best thing one can say about Jared Diamond is that his critics are generally awful. Particularly the cultural anthropologists. That “Living Anthropologically” person thinks “Guns, Germs and Steel” is more popular than Charles Mann’s 1491 because the latter is focused solely on the Americas and sympathizing too much with Native Americans is bad for your career (what? the romanticization of the Indian & Highlander both started about as soon as they ceased to pose a threat). No, it’s because showing how the conquest of the Americas was due to similar factors as the European conquest of other places makes it seem less contingent, which is precisely the point of dispute between that blog and Diamond! The explicit political motivation behind stances taken is another reason not to take the blog too seriously.
Keynes is usually credited with the idea of a liquidity trap, and even he wasn’t sure one had ever occurred.
1. You aren’t kidding, if one is known by one’s enemies, Diamond is a very lucky guy. These anthropologists are amazingly dogmatic and take manufactured outrage and political correctness to levels far beyond the worst caricatures of feminist subaltern theory.
To argue that because the Spanish used Nahuatl speakers, that disease wasn’t a key factor in the conquest, when the Nahuatl speakers were conquered during a small pox epidemic is a level of obtuseness that outside of academia would begger belief. But the lack of Nahuatl speakers in say Albuquerque or even Zacatecas turns it into something far beyond that. It is like arguing that since the Roman army used Sarmatian auxillaries, you can’t say Rome conquered what would later become England.
@1 – rehash of old arguments (well known that allies helped Spaniards) but makes some dubious ones: downplays role of technology as shock tactic in winning wars, despite numerous examples: blitzkrieg, Mongolian/Parthian/Sassanid composite bow and ponies (Huns, Mongols), and ‘battle wagon’ proto-tank of Hussite Jan Zizka (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussite_Wars); @2 – nonsense story about fat (Taft BTW also became a Sup. Ct. justice known as the ‘weight of authority’); @3 – good one, dung beetles navigate using the Milky Way btw; @ 4- boring, I’ll pass; @5 – OMG!!! TC MISSED TODAY’S BBC ARTICLE ABOUT PORK TRACES IN HALAL PRISON FOOD!!! wow. a rare miss by TC, like a grandmaster blundering a piece; @6 – very interesting–wish we had more such surveys. Reminds me of the Christian scholar project (too lazy to Google it) where they ask divinity professors to ‘vote’ about certain topics. It’s controversial but given sparse evidence not necessarily a bad way to go about it; @7- Cyrus bailout is under-reported, may cause a shock wave, and a lot of Russian mobsters will be very unhappy to take a haircut. They don’t like such ‘close shaves’ TC–please blog during the Super Bowl, using your smart phone. It will be LOL funny.
BTW, here is for #5 the BBC story of today where halal food in prison was found to contain pork DNA: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21312004 “The company which supplied halal food found to contain traces of pork DNA to prisons has removed all products from the manufacturer.”
1. The point of highlighting coalition-building is to argue that the Spanish Empire was dependent on constant co-operation with native allies. I find it convincing in light of the historic record of Spanish-native relations cited in the post, and other wars and independence struggles involving heavy military advantage on one side. Some wars were won with shock, but not all wars.
A few hundred Spaniards would not have been able to successfully build coalitions without their demonstrable massive military advantage.
The Aztecs and Incas fielded armies that were less well armed than even the oldest civilizations of the Fertile Crescent, all as a result of their failure to develop metallurgy beyond a rudimentary level and because of their lack of horses. In other words, for the reasons that Diamond discusses. Non-state societies like the Apache and Zulu in the mid 19th century were far better armed.
Re: 6: Jesus Seminar?
#1: interestig story about how Spanish (Nueva España) silver coins where largely used in the 13 colonies. Also, when Nueva España became Mexico, they were legal tender in the US until 1857. Sadly, Mr Mattels fails to recognize Mexico did not “existed” until 1821.
Even stranger is that mexican silver currency where used in Japan until 1898. Funny US intervention to make a convenient exchange rate between silver and cooper coins. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1763213
I believe he used the term Mexica?
Beans and rice, against these there is no law,
#5: Apparently, Judaism is at least partly endogenous: Kosher food tastes good! Glad the inmates discovered it. Damn the extra cost!
I wasn’t that impressed by the “Seven myths of the Spanish conquest”, at least to the extent that it was intended as a rebuttal to Guns, Germs and Steel. It seemed to be making a lot of historical contingency arguments, but I kept thinking, well, the Europeans conquered North America, large swaths of Africa and Polynesia as well (not to mention India, the Opium Wars in China, Malaysia and Indonesia). Perhaps all of those factors were historical contingencies as well, it just seems rather less likely.
Agreed. How contingent is ‘internal disunity’? This narrative can be applied to the English/Irish question circa 1200 AD. ‘Internal disunity’ seems like a characteristic of humans, and ‘divide and conquer’ has had applications in a host of settings.
The Spanish Conquest article was interesting, but did it really have to drop the non-term “metanarrative” by the third paragraph? Too often, the qualitative social sciences (anthropology, history, some parts of sociology) seem to just be self-parody.
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