Assorted links

by on May 2, 2014 at 1:29 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 Alexei Sadeski May 2, 2014 at 1:45 pm

#1 From the abstract, it seems that he pins city state downfall on entrenched & intractable political interests controlling the state?

2 david May 2, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Specifically, the same political interests that motivate cooperating to secede from feudal princes. Oligarchic revolution creates oligarchy creates stagnation.

3 Z May 2, 2014 at 2:08 pm

#2: A long time ago I was tasked with filling some entry level jobs. One of the applicants was working at a sewage treatment plant. He had been there for two years. His job was to separate out inorganic material. For a long time I thought that was the worst job on earth. Then I did some work for a company in the rendering business. it is tough to know, but I think working in a rendering plant is on the list of worst jobs on earth.

#1: It is an interesting question. The answer probably lies in biology. Working with others like us, but not related to us, is a behavior trait that turned up 20,000 years ago or so. Reciprocity is what allowed human groups to exceed the natural limit of kin-based groups. Nature being what it is, the new natural limits is the maximum sustainable, which is a country composed of people with a shared history and language.

4 david May 2, 2014 at 3:14 pm

a lot of european shared history, national myth, linguistic internal similarity or distinctiveness from bordering nations was invented ad-hoc after revolutions

conversely, in the absence of the state impetus to create a resistant national identity, ethnic purges go unremarked. the norman elite replacement of england doesn’t appear to dog the memories of those who call themselves anglo-saxons. the irish certainly remember what was the same process repeated five centuries later, though

you can still see this process in the balkans today – disintegration of the same slavic language that pan-slavic nationalists themselves codified and standardized two centuries ago

5 Adrian Ratnapala May 2, 2014 at 3:44 pm

The Norman elite certainly were resented for centuries until the became English-speaking Englishmen — a process that only really got going when they lost Normandy. Even then, the resentment never really died, but just got merged in with class resentment.

Ireland (post Cromwell) is quite different. First the Reformation set up religion as a barrier. Second this new breed of landlords were still closely connected to England, where they held seats in Parliament and all kinds of business and family connections.

6 Cliff May 2, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Why do you call them Normans and not Saxons? They were a Germanic people, not a French one, right?

7 Z May 2, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Anglo-Saxon settlements in Britain happened in the fifth century, we think. The Norman Conquest was 11th century. The population of Normandy was mostly Vikings who settled there under agreements with the Carolingian Franks. Norman is derived from “Northman” the common name for Vikings.

8 Cliff May 3, 2014 at 12:24 am

“In 406, Germanic tribes began invading from the east, while the Saxons subjugated the Norman coast. The Roman Emperor withdrew from most of Normandy…
The Vikings… took advantage of the power vacuum created by the disintegration of Charlemagne’s empire to take northern France. The fiefdom of Normandy was created for the Norwegian/Danish Viking leader Hrolf Ragnvaldsson, or Rollo (also known as Robert of Normandy)… The name “Normandy” reflects Rollo’s Viking (i.e. “Northman”) origins. The descendants of Rollo and his followers adopted the local Gallo-Romance language and intermarried with the area’s original inhabitants. They became the Normans – a Norman-speaking mixture of Scandinavians, Hiberno-Norse, Orcadians, Anglo-Danish, Saxons and indigenous Franks and Gauls.”


9 wiki May 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm

#1. Isn’t he just tracking why historically autonomous city states failed? He doesn’t explain why new ones aren’t showing up everywhere. Considering that new autonomous cities aren’t often born even in extremely weak states suggests that powerful governments make it hard to autonomous states to emerge even where they might be viable for a long time had they existed prior to the current set of states. Which then goes to support the standard argument that city states were beat out by the dominance — usually military — of national states.

10 Doug May 2, 2014 at 8:28 pm

One issue might be is that the modern international order is highly biased against small states relative to previous eras. An illustrative example is the UAE, which in reality is seven basically independent city-state kingdoms (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, etc.). Yet they choose to formally co-mingle their international and sovereign representation. Why? I doubt it’s solely about military dominance and defense, the US military basically guarantees the security of any Persian Gulf oil state.

Rather I think it’s about international diplomacy and financial markets. Compared to the 19th century there’s many more supra-national institutions that every sovereign nation needs representation in. Traditional Westphalian sovereignty makes the role of diplomacy much simpler: maintain your country’s peace and trade with its relevant neighbors and partners. In contrast the UN system basically makes a nation’s international diplomats a type of legislator and policymaker. For that having a larger nation with more influence and sophistication is advantageous. Second countries have much more reliance on international financial markets than they did in the past. Capital is much more global compared to previous eras. Globally diversified investors are going to charge small countries a liquidity premium on their credit and currency, so that’s a major disadvantage.

11 Adrian Ratnapala May 2, 2014 at 11:52 pm

I think you a right about “international institutions and financial markets”. But I wouldn’t blame/credit the UN. I don’t think any city states have disappeared since the UN was founded. Indeed, Singapore has emerged since. Indeed perhaps the Treaty of Westphalia was the real beginning of the end for European city states. I am not sure what the mechanism was though.

12 derek May 2, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Resources. It takes land, secure transport either by land or water to support a city of any size. To keep the city you need to control a large area anyways, so you become a nation state. The neighbouring city is facing the same issues, so why not join up.

13 Just Another MR Blogger May 2, 2014 at 3:02 pm

6. Noah Smith tears Tyler a new one. []

14 Brian Donohue May 2, 2014 at 3:24 pm

“Piketty might seem like the vanguard of an onrushing wave of socialist thought that could succeed in turning back the tide of neoliberalism that had been advancing for at least 40 years.”

Yes, Noah is not deluded at all.

15 Just Another MR Blogger May 2, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Juxtaposing Tyler and Noah says a lot about the rhetoric of blogging.

Tyler is very very careful to be cagey and vague about the underlying ideology of everything he says, to avoid the “gotcha” commenters on the other side of the ideological divide. Noah, on the other hand, feels freer to wear his heart on his sleeve.

Why is this? To answer this question we need to look at why the two men blog. For Noah, who blogs maybe once a week, the blog is a place to converse with like-minded intellectuals interested in economics. For Tyler, who blogs several times a day, it’s about building up a base for the Koch-driven libertarian revolution that he is paid to promote. It’s even there in the title.

In other words, Tyler is a paid hand and Noah is just an academic with some spare time on his hands.

Of course, lesser minds won’t really understand this, which is why inevitably Tyler will win more fans and watch his base grow. The problem is…the ideology that he is promoting is actually counter to his fanbase’s best interests. So, in the end, he’ll end up with a consolidated rabid pack of religious devotees who the rest of the world laughs at.

We already saw this when the Koch brothers tried to win the hearts and minds with their Tea Party shenanigans. is just Tea Party 2.0.

16 BrentR May 2, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Just to make sure I understand your position:

You prefer Noah’s overtly political rhetoric to Tyler’s “cagey” discussion about economic topics that avoid being too political? Undoubtedly, it’s impossible to completely separate politics and economics, but I suppose there are two extremes in the spectrum: on one end, you are promoting a certain political philosophy overtly, arguing for certain liberal or conservative policies, and using economics to support those arguments. On the other end, you could discuss economic theory and human behavior in a less politicized tone, and your readers can make their own conclusions on the impact of the discussion on policy decisions.

There will probably be very few blogs that are on the exact extremes of the spectrum, but Noah and Tyler are definitely on opposite sides. My guess is that the reason why Marginal Revolution has so many visitors is that there are a large number of people who prefer the style of discussion. As for whether the ideas promoted on this this site are in my best interest, I would prefer to make that decision for myself, thank you very much.

17 Just Another MR Blogger May 2, 2014 at 6:11 pm

I prefer Noah because he’s an ideologue (even if I sometimes disagree with him).

I don’t like Tyler because he’s a paid propagandist.

18 andrew' May 2, 2014 at 9:08 pm

So Krugman and the like work for something called the inequality institute or whatever pro bono?

Is all private funding propaganda?

Want to support your stupid accusations?

19 Cliff May 3, 2014 at 12:31 am

Why do you think Tyler is paid for blogging and Noah is not?? Do you have some evidence?

20 Rahul May 3, 2014 at 1:26 am

Product quality? 🙂 TC produces a much better product.

21 Thor May 2, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Leading blogger and accomplished economist feels the needs — legitimately to my mind — to treat remarkably much discussed book in his field that has strong policy implications. He (Tyler) has been thinking about the book, about ideas in the book, and about ideas of his own that might overlap with what’s in the book, so is it really surprising that he would discuss it regularly?

TC is a kind of libertarian; Piketty is a French leftist.

Finally, it is obvious that TC doesn’t believe — despite the impressive detail in the work, and the press it has generated — that Piketty’s prescriptions follow. Why wouldn’t TC criticize him, on many levels?

What’s the big deal?

And Noah Smith hardly tore him a new one.

22 David wright May 3, 2014 at 12:38 am

That counts as “tearing Tyler a new one”? Mind you, I don’t object because I think Noah’s arguments or weak or wrong, but because Noah’s piece doesn’t actually attack Tyler or the arguments he links to. It merely speculates about the motivations of Tyler and his fellow Piketty-skeptics about as respectfully as an ideological opponent possibly could.

23 BrentR May 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Gig’em Andrew!!

24 Ann K May 3, 2014 at 9:09 am

Welcome to Aggieland North!

25 andrew' May 2, 2014 at 5:25 pm

I guess I’ll do.

Are people really stupid enough to think you couldn’t buy a more compliant lap dog than Tyler Cowen at one tenth the price?

26 andrew' May 2, 2014 at 5:28 pm

(I’m available)

27 andrew' May 2, 2014 at 5:39 pm

I suppose the less prolific more straightforward co-blogger is always busy with his cageyness training.

To get to the exact right level of hiding your secret thoughts behind irrelevant factoids requires hours upon hours of listening to NPR clockwork orange style.

28 andrew' May 2, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Some economist could help me out.

I rarely do what my boss tells me to do and I don’t have tenure.

29 andrew' May 2, 2014 at 9:32 pm

What is the theory? That private donors call all the shots? That is just stupid.

That they marginally affect opinions? Nope.

They might get to name an institute.

They might cause some hirings.

30 Buce May 2, 2014 at 6:12 pm

There’s an old SNL bit about the quality control guy down at the urinal cake factory.

When some early English explorers debarked on the coast of India, the emperor tossed them down into the privy for a few weeks. For ripening.

Who was it said that a Jew is a man who stands in the shithouse and gazes at the stars?

Oh, the hits just keep on comin.’

31 buce May 2, 2014 at 7:45 pm

And as to rude young men–back in the Pleistocene when I was working for country newspaper in Ohio, hoping for better job, my editor took me to the editor’s convention at Columbus. I looked around the bar and said I wish I could get one of these guys to hire me. My boss said tell you wha tyou do: pick anybody in the room; walk up and punch him in the snout. Some other guy will say “now, there’s a bright young man”–and hire you on the spot.

Nah. Didn’t have the guts.

32 Doug May 2, 2014 at 8:09 pm


Cool. Seems like to me as marijuana consumption becomes more mainstream they’ll be demand for high-end, artisanal, craft cannabis. Much the same as there is with beer, coffee, cigars, and liquor nowadays. As far as I can tell there doesn’t really seem to be anyone filling this niche in the major markets of Colorado, California and Washington. The traditional younger consumer, usually students, is primarily concerned with getting intoxicated at a low price. But the older, more moneyed, new consumers will be willing to pay double or triple for a high quality product and concerned as much with the tasting notes as the high.

33 Mark Thorson May 2, 2014 at 9:20 pm

doesn’t really seem to be anyone filling this niche

Huh? The Colorado buds I’ve seen on TV look pretty good. And I can assure you that artisan buds are in abundance here in California. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen mediocre stuff.

34 andrew' May 2, 2014 at 9:13 pm

What on earth are you saying in the new York times?

35 CMOT May 2, 2014 at 9:56 pm

1 is really simple: cannons. If your opponent(s) can afford even 1, your city walls are toast. To keep your city safe, you have to control lots of land so you can keep the cannons far away. Succeed, and you have a territorial state; fail and you are part of someone else’s.

This happened at the same time in the Islamic world and some historians call the result “Gunpowder Empires.”

36 carolospln May 3, 2014 at 12:46 am

World’s worst job? A little skatole, or methyl mercaptan? That’s it?

Markets in everything!

Free trade benefits EVERYONE

uh, right?

37 Rahul May 3, 2014 at 1:38 am

Yeah, having been on one I can attest that shipbreaking is one darn hazardous business. At least as practiced.

38 chuck martel May 3, 2014 at 12:37 pm

# 5. Why should the fur trade be despised? It really isn’t any different than raising chickens or cattle. As far as we know, every mink and marten and muskrat that’s born eventually dies and its molecules become scattered and unidentifiable. It’s a more fitting memorial to the furry beast to have its hide draped over the shoulders of some fetching Asian lady, especially if the acquisition of the garment involves the transfer of wealth from a commie plutocracy to a more acceptable Euro-socialist utopia.

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