History

The life of Edith Penrose

by on January 19, 2018 at 12:21 am in Books, Economics, History | Permalink

That is the subtitle, the title is No Ordinary Woman, and the author is Angela Penrose, daughter-in-law of Edith.  Here is one sentence:

Pen also wrote to Edith of his deepening love for her and how he wished she had remained in Virginia with him.

What a dramatic and eventful book.  Edith Penrose (1914-1996) is a not so well-known but highly underrated economist, with her major contributions coming in the theory of the firm and industrial organization.  As a girl, she survived only because her father shot a rattlesnake about to kill her.  Later, her first husband was murdered, right before their first child was born.  She and her second husband, working in Switzerland, helped Jews escape from Germany, and she later did food planning during the war in England.  In 1948 the couple lost one of their three children, right before his third birthday.  Later she received a doctorate in economics from Johns Hopkins, studying under Fritz Machlup.  Machlup at one point wrote a ten-page letter to her, with the top proclaiming: “I implore you to shut off your hypersensitivity and to overlook it if I sound condescending, arrogant or otherwise unpleasant.  I just want to be helpful.”

She headed the Owen Lattimore Defense Fund.  Later, she did not feel entirely comfortable teaching at Johns Hopkins (she was treated badly and not tenured) and so she ended up teaching in Baghdad and Beirut and was also an important early faculty member at INSEAD, perhaps their first world class hire.  She became an expert on energy economics and multinationals, traveling and advising around the world more or less without stopping.  Drawing on her doctoral work, she also published on IP problems for developing economies, an area where she was well ahead of her time.

She enjoyed writing poems and limericks for her own pleasure.  She also was known for her “direct questions” and her “disconcerting remarks.”

I would describe her work as halfway between economics and the business school tradition, broadly in the Austrian school but more descriptive and without the political slant of Mises and Hayek.  Her contributions include:

1. She insisted that models ought to consider where firms were in the midst of a disequilibrium process, rather than assuming perfect competition or some other smoothly honed end-state.  History matters.

2. She was the founding thinker behind “resource-based” theories of the firm, whereby firms are best understood in terms of what resources they have access to, rather than their products.  This was a dominant approach from the 1980s onward, though she received only marginal credit for her seminal role.  She also focused on which were the slack resources of a firm or not, as a means of ascertaining where the firm was headed, and ran all this analysis through a lens of expectations and perceptions, reflecting her studies with Machlup.  She thought in terms of what a firm’s “moat” might be, as you might expect from a contemporary Silicon Valley analyst.

3. She developed a theory of how some firms would grow very large, but based on “economies of growth” rather than economies of scale per se.  She tried to explain how there was a lumpiness to the growth process itself.  Difficulties of coordination serve as the ultimate limit on firm size.

4. In her theories knowledge creation drives economic growth, and that occurs largely within firms.  The cohesive shell of the firm helps to integrate knowledge.

I would describe her style as “every sentence tries to have some insight,” rather than “forcing you to come away with definite conclusions.”  Those of you who are used to models or data may find it frustrating to read her, though every sentences reeks of intelligence.

It does not seem she marketed her work very hard, but rather she was content to work out puzzles and pointers for her own satisfaction.  I read her work as an undergraduate, as it was recommended to me by some of the Austrian economists, and my recent rediscovery of it has been a pleasant surprise.

I think Ross, along with Steven Pinker, received the hardest (though never hostile) questions from me, but of course that is a measure of respect.  Plus serious questions about God are difficult by their nature.  Here is how the summarizers described the ground covered:

…Douthat’s views on religion and theology, but then moves on to more earth-bound concerns, such as his stance on cats, The Wire vs The Sopranos, why Watership Down is the best modern novel for understanding politics, eating tofu before it was cool, journalism as a trade, why he’s open to weird ideas, the importance of Sam’s Club Republicans, the specter of a Buterlian Jihad, and more.

Not to mention Reformicons, CRISPR, Thiel/Girard, Godwin’s Law, euthanasia, what Ross learned his mother, and the dangers of too much smart phone use.  Ross responded in fine form, here is the audio and transcript.  Here is one excerpt:

DOUTHAT: I suppose that I’m drawn to the idea that the truth about human existence lies in what can seem like paradoxical formulations, and this is of course very Catholic in certain ways. Certainly a G. K. Chestertonian idea, so I’m just stealing it from other people. But the idea that various heresies of Christianity, Calvinism included — with apologies to my Calvinist friends — tend to take one particular element of you that’s supposed to be in synthesis and possibly in tension, and run with it. And therefore the truth about things lies in a place that may seem slightly contradictory.

And I think this is borne out in many ways in everyday experience. This both-and experience of human existence. The idea that you can’t split up grace and works in any kind of meaningful way. It’s connected to larger facts about the nature of human existence. The tension between determinism and free will that persists in any philosophical system. You can get rid of God and stop having these Jansenist Jesuit arguments about predestination and so on, but you’re still stuck with the free will–determinism debate. That debate doesn’t go away.

So, yeah, there’s a point at the intersection of different ideas that is as close to the truth as our limited minds can get and in Christian thought, we call that point orthodoxy. Now, how that is connected to my political views is a really good question.

And:

COWEN: We all know the Marcionite heresy: the view, from early Christianity, that the Old Testament should be abandoned. At times, even Paul seems to subscribe to what later was called the Marcionite heresy. Why is it a heresy? Why is it wrong?

DOUTHAT: It’s wrong because it takes the form . . . It’s wrong for any number of reasons, but in the context of the conversation we’re having, it’s wrong because it tries to basically take one of the things that Christianity is trying to hold in synthesis and run with it to the exclusion of everything else, and essentially to solve problems by cutting things away.

The Marcionite thesis is, basically, if you read the New Testament, Jesus offers you a portrait of God that seems different from the portrait of God offered in Deuteronomy; therefore, these things are in contradiction. Therefore, if you believe that Jesus’s portrait of God is correct, then the Deuteronomic portrait of God must be false; therefore, the God of the Old Testament must be a wicked demiurge, etc., etc. And the next thing you know, you’re ascribing to, again, a kind of . . . What is the Aryan Christianity of the Nazis, if not the Marcionite heresy given form in the 1930s and 1940s?

And so the orthodox Christian says, “No, any seeming tension between the Old Testament and the New, any seeming contradiction, is actually suggesting that we need to look for a kind of synthesis between them, and for a sense in which there is not contradiction, but fulfillment in some way, which —

COWEN: Bringing us back to Hegelian Douthat.

DOUTHAT: Yes, yes.

And:

I think it’s probably fair to say that Chesterton’s Father Brown stories had as much influence on my worldview as his more sort of polemical and argumentative writings. And, again, I think therein lies some important insight that I haven’t thought through, but I think you’re correctly gesturing at, about a particular way of thinking about God and theology that isn’t unique to Christianity, but that is strongly suggested by just the structure of the revelation that we have. Marilynne Robinson has a line, I think in Gilead, about — one of the characters is imagining that this life is like the epic of heaven. That we’re living in the Iliad or the Odyssey of heaven. This is the story that will be told in the streets.

And:

COWEN: When you see how much behavior Islam or some forms of Islam motivate, do you envy it? Do you think, “Well, gee, what is it that they have that we don’t? What do we need to learn from them?” What’s your gut emotional reaction?

On another topic:

I’ve been always disappointed that there hasn’t been a kind of sustained Watership Down revival because it’s such a great book and it’s a book about — essentially, it’s about a founding.

It’s connected, in a sense, to the kind of things that the Straussians are always arguing about and so on. What does the founding mean, and so on? But you have a group of rabbits who go forth and encounter different models of political order, different ways of relating to humankind, that shadow over rabbit-kind at any point.

You have a warren that has essentially surrendered itself to humanity and exists as a kind of breeding farm, and you have a warren that’s run as a fascist dictatorship essentially. And then you have this attempt to form a political community that is somewhere in between the two, getting back to the Hegelian synthesis and so on. And you have sort of this primal narrative where the problem is of course that they don’t have any females, and so there’s this competition, this competition for reproductive power that’s carried out between these different warrens where the rabbits from the good warren have to literally — not kidnap, because the does come willingly — but steal women from the fascist dictatorship, which maintains a ruthless control over reproduction.

So there’s just a lot of fascinating stuff there, and then it’s all interspersed with storytelling. There’s the sort of rabbit folktales that Richard —

COWEN: So, narrative again.

DOUTHAT: Narrative again.

Strongly recommended, and I do thank Ross for putting up with me.  Do read or listen to the whole thing.

And I very much enjoyed reading Ross’s forthcoming book To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism, which I found totally engrossing.

It took Dr. Edward Taylor’s inside perceptions to say, on publication: “It is not merely an American book, but a California book.  We do not mean merely that it is a book written in California by a Californian, but that it is distinctively and peculiarly Californian, for not only are its illustrations drawn from this coast, but the freshness of its views bespeak the novel and suggestive circumstances that have been presented in California.”

That is from Charles Albro Barker’s Henry George, still a useful biography.  Barker points out, by the way, that the notion of a “single tax” on land barely appears in Progress and Poverty, as at that time George was more focused on land nationalization.  The single tax idea became more prominent a bit later in the 1880s.

Norwegian psychiatrist Ørnulf Ødegaard has studied personality types.  He has shown that relatively more Norwegian-born persons in Minnesota suffered from mental illness, especially schizophrenia,in the 1920s than did members of Norway’s population.  He maintained that the greater frequency of illness might be due in some degree to the greater strains the emigrants were exposed to in a foreign society, but he also held that people who were disposed to this illness were more restless and found it easier than other personality types to break out of their environment.

That is from Ingrid Semmingsen, Norway to America: A History of the Migration, and I believe the original reference is to ” Immigration and Insanity: A Study of Mental Disease Among the Norwegian-born Population of Minnesota,” Ø Ødegaard – Acta psychiatrica Scandinavica, Suppl, 1932.”  Here is a related post on gene-culture interaction.

The title of the paper is “The Churches’ Bans on Consanguineous Marriages, Kin-Networks and Democracy” and the author is Jonathan F. Schulz, here is the abstract:

This paper tests the hypothesis that extended kin-groups, as characterized by a high level of cousin marriages, impact the proper functioning of formal institutions. Consistent with this hypothesis I find that countries with high cousin marriage rates exhibit a weak rule of law and are more likely autocratic. Further evidence comes from a quasi-natural experiment. In the early medieval ages the Church started to prohibit kin-marriages. Using the variation in the duration and extent of the Eastern and Western Churches’ bans on consanguineous marriages as instrumental variables, reveals highly significant point estimates of the percentage of cousin marriage on an index of democracy. An additional novel instrument, cousin-terms, strengthens this point: the estimates are very similar and do not rest on the European experience alone. Exploiting within country variation support these results. These findings point to the importance of marriage patterns for the proper functioning of formal institutions and democracy.

I recall reading related ideas in the MR comments section from Steve Sailer and others.  For the pointer I thank Alexander B.

For China’s small but enthusiastic subculture of Star Wars fans, the latest film was a visual feast hampered by a protracted plot and uninspired characters. On popular review website Douban, the new film is rated a fairly weak 7.3, based on over 43,000 reviews. The most upvoted review complains that “the whole film really insults the IQ of its audience,” and demands to know how the universe could possibly be ruled by such an incompetent Galactic Empire. “In Star Wars, it seems only Darth Vader had a brain — it’s such a shame he’s already dead,” the reviewer concludes.

And:

Other factors, according to Chen, include Chinese audiences’ preference for physically attractive protagonists and stories rooted in reality. He points out that, for example, superhero films from Marvel — a Disney cash cow that has enjoyed great success in China — feature recognizable settings, such as New York and even China, and are filled with larger-than-life leads who meet the public’s aesthetic standards. The Star Wars characters, meanwhile, look ordinary by comparison.

“These actors aren’t very beautiful, which may deter a lot of Chinese from seeing the recent films,” said Chen. “We fans often joke that if Finn were played by Will Smith, Chinese people might be more inclined to watch it — because he’s very handsome.”

Here is more from Sixth Tone.

For Georgescu-Roegen, the ultimate fixed factor is the laws of physics, due to entropy.  Economic systems cannot receive an ongoing influx of both energy and matter indefinitely, and so eventually they reach limits to growth.  At that margin substitutability breaks down and catastrophe ensues.  To check this outcome, we must find a way to live with slower rates of economic growth, and eventually a zero or negative rate of economic growth.  For him this is as much a criticism of Marxism as of capitalism, and he wrote about making do with agrarianism.  Consistent with this view, his consumer theory portrayed wants as hierarchical rather than smoothly substitutable.  He would have liked this Alex post on not all gdp being created equal.

For Henry George, the ultimate fixed factor is land, due to the nature of space.  There is always enough energy, due to Julian Simon-like arguments that allow capital and ingenuity to be substituted for all other fixed resources, except for  land.  Economic systems cannot create or activate more land indefinitely, and thus the marginal benefits of growth are captured mostly by landowners, to the detriment of social welfare.  At this final margin substitutability breaks down and widespread poverty ensues.  To check this outcome, the returns to land must be redistributed to the rest of society, ideally through a single tax.  Unlike many environmentalists, he wasn’t worried about soil erosion because land is land.

For 19th century colonial theorist Edward Gibbon Wakefield, human beings and the positive externalities from human contact are the ultimate scarcity.  If you let people settle the countryside, you will have an underpopulated republic of deplorables — there is no substitute for city life!  So the price of external farm land has to be kept high, so that settlers cluster in the city and as wage laborers contribute to ongoing innovation, urbanity, and economic growth.  Wakefield worked in New Zealand — did they listen?  If Wakefield were around today, maybe he would want to cut off broadband to large swathes of the Midwest and Appalachia.  Justly or not, he cited rural French Canadians as an example of what he was worried about, whereas Georgescu-Roegen might have appreciated their agrarianism.

For Robert Solow, ultimate fixed factors do not come into play and substitutability reigns at all relevant margins.  If some resources become scarce, just substitute in more capital.  Growth continues forever, though it can be accelerated by investing more in the ultimate growth driver, namely new ideas.  Georgescu-Roegen argued that Solow did not incorporate the idea of entropy or insights from science.

Is it proper that Solow’s model should have so dominated in the economics profession?

You cannot understand or evaluate environmentalism without revisiting these debates.  One reason many environmental critiques do not seem so strong is that they are trying to measure costs in a Solow-like framework, when in fact the underlying model might involve core non-substitutabilities, a’la the other thinkers.  Unless you stress how not all gdp is created equal, the costs of bad environmental outcomes won’t show up as very high, not relative to total wealth.  It will appear as if you always can substitute away from bearing those costs full on, even though perhaps you cannot.

My own view is that the ultimate scarcity in today’s system comes from what the political economy of our societies and polities can bear, but that must await another day.

I believe it was Dan Wang who loved the Robert Tombs book The English and Their History and asked for more books of that nature.  Another reader wrote in and wanted to know what was the best book about each country.

To count, the book must have some aspirations to be a general survey of what the country is or to cover much of the history of the country.   So your favorite book on the French Revolution is not eligible, for instance, nor is Allan Janik’s and Stephen Toulmin’s splendid Wittgenstein’s Vienna.  I thought I would start with a list of some nominees, solicit your suggestions in the comments, and later produce a longer post with all the correct answers.

1. England/Britain: Robert Tombs, The English and Their History.  Here is MR coverage.

2. Germany: Peter Watson, The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century.

3. Italy: Luigi Barzini, The Italians.  Or David Gilmour, The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Peoples, and their Regions.

4. Spain: John Hooper, The Spaniards.

5. France: Graham Robb: The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography.

6. Portugal: Barry Hatton, The Portuguese: A Modern History.

7. Ireland: Thomas Bartlett, Ireland: A History.

8. Russia: Geoffrey Hosking, Russia and the Russians.  One of the very best books on this list.

9. Ukraine: Serhii Plokhy, The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine.

10. The United States: Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America.  Or de Tocqueville?  John Gunther’s Inside U.S.A.?

11. Canada: ????.  Alex?

12. Mexico; Alan Riding, Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans.  Even though it, like the Barzini book, is out of date.

13. Caribbean: Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Island People: The Caribbean and the World.

I’ll give South America further thought, Africa and the Middle East too.

14. Cambodia: Sebastian Strangio, Hun Sen’s Cambodia.

15. India: Edward Luce, In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India.  Or India, by Michael Wood.

16. Pakistan: Anatol Lieven, Pakistan: A Hard Country.

17. China: ????  I find this to be a tough call.

18. Singapore and Malaysia: Jim Baker, Crossroads: A Popular History of Malaysia and Singapore.

19. Japan: In the old days I might have suggested Karel von Wolferen, but now it is badly out of date.  What else?

Joe Studwell, How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region gets tossed in somewhere too.

All of those are subject to revision.

Do leave your suggestions in the comments, and at some point I’ll publish an expanded and updated version of this post, with additional countries too, or perhaps split into multiple posts by region.

Here 22 ambassadors recommend one book to read before visiting their country, mostly mediocre selections.   Here is a suggested list of the most iconic book from each country.  Don’t take me as endorsing those.

I will be doing a Conversation with Charles (no public event), what should I ask him?  Charles is one of my favorite writers, as he is the author of 1491, 1493, and the new and excellent The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World.

Here is yet another excerpt from the latter book:

Rodale died in 1971 — bizarrely, on a television talk show, suffering a heart attack minutes after declaring “I never felt better in my life!” and offering his host his special asparagus boiled in urine.

I thank you all in advance for your wisdom and inspiration.  Here is Charles’s home page, he also has many excellent magazine articles.

The author is Sam Rosenfeld and the subtitle is Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era.  Here is the bottom line:

Today’s pundits wring their hands about polarization and yearn for the halcyon days of bipartisan comity.  Yet pundits of the mid-twentieth century saw that very bipartisanship as the key problem in American politics.  They argued that the lack of clarity between the parties stifled progress while blurring accountability to the voters.  Polarization was their solution to this problem.  They thought making parties “real” in the sense that Roosevelt had meant — unified behind distinct policy agendas that were clear to voters — would invigorate democracy and improve policymaking.  Their ideas influenced the views of key political actors on both the left and right in the ensuing decades.

This book is the story of how that happened, and it is a useful corrective for those who thinks greater partisanship is something quite recent.

The movie centers around Daniel Ellsberg’s revelation of the Pentagon Papers and their publication in The New York Times and most of all The Washington Post, the center of the dramatic tension.  The courts rule for the newspapers (and ultimately Ellsberg) and Spielbergian triumphalism reigns.  Yet so many of those liberties have reverted to the state — had he stuck around, would Edward Snowden have received a public trial before a court of law?  You may believe Snowden is a different case (read Gladwell), but shouldn’t a public court be deciding that?  The feel-good tone of The Post also would not match a movie about a minor American military victory in the Vietnam of 1966, given what followed.  Does historical context matter so little?  Post-Obama, can newspapers protect their anonymous sources in matters of national security?

I usually don’t mind when movies play fast and loose with the truth, as is done in almost every biopic or history.  (They didn’t actually blow up that Death Star, they merely damaged it.)  But this case is different.  The whole theme of this film is about standing up for the truth even when commercial considerations dictate otherwise.  It then feels dishonest to give Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) a wildly overblown role, as this portrait does.  But it does make for a better story and presumably a higher-grossing movie.

For an artwork that pretends to defend freedom of the press, the underlying message is remarkably Trumpian in an almost Straussian manner.  The press collude, dine and party with leaders, and refuse to reveal their crimes and scandals, all to receive “access” and to be flattered.  Every now and then their need for reputation, and the desire for a broader national market, spurs them to “turn on” a president gone astray.  “The people” don’t have much of a say and fake news is everywhere.

The sadder commercial reality is that the first quarter to third of the movie is sophisticated and then it falls into good guys vs. bad guys.  It’s not smart enough to be Strauss.

It feels as if every actor or actress in the movie is a “grizzled veteran” of some kind or another.

The scenes of newspaper and print technology will go down as some of the finest cinema of our time.

The author is Charles C. Mann, and the subtitle is Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World.  What a splendid book, this is, all rolled into one the reader receives two distinct biographies, a history of mid-20th century environmental science, a book on technological progress in agriculture, and one of the best overall frameworks for thinking about environmentalism.

Oh how many good sentences there are:

Until I visited post-Katrina New Orleans I did not realize that rebuilding a flooded modern city would involve disposing of several hundred thousand refrigerators.

Here is one fun bit:

So ineradicable was the elitist mark on conservation that for decades afterward many on the left scoffed at ecological issues as right-wing distractions.  As late as 1970, the radical Students for a Democratic Society protested the first Earth Day as Wall Street flimflam meant to divert public attention from class warfare and the Vietnam War; left-wing journalist I.F. Stone called the nationwide marches a “snow job.”

By the way, as for the subjects of the dual biographies:

The two people are William Vogt and Norman Borlaug.

Here is the framing of the book:

…the dispute between Wizards and Prophets has, if anything, become more vehement.  Wizards view the Prophets’ emphasis on cutting back as intellectually dishonest, indifferent to the poor, even racist (because most of the world’s hungry are non-Caucasian).  Following Vogt, they say, is a path toward regression, narrowness, and global poverty.  Prophets sneer that the Wizards’ faith in human resourcefulness is unthinking, scientifically ignorant, even driven by greed…Following Borlaug, they say, at best postpones an inevitable day of reckoning — it is a recipe for what activists have come to describe as “ecocide.”

Where along the Wizards-Prophets spectrum should one be?

This will end up as one of the very best books of this year.

Yes, the Matt Levine who writes for Bloomberg.  The “the only greeting you need is “Only you can do what you do!”” Matt Levine.

That one (not the other one).  I’ll be having a Conversation with him, so what should I ask?

Did you know by the way that Matt can speak Latin?

Michel Serafinelli and Guido Tabellini have a new paper on that question, here is the abstract:

Creativity is often highly concentrated in time and space, and across different domains. What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? In this paper we match data on thousands of notable individuals born in Europe between the XIth and the XIXth century with historical data on city institutions and population. After documenting several stylized facts, we show that the formation of creative clusters is not preceded by increases in city size. Instead, the emergence of city institutions protecting economic and political freedoms facilitates the attraction and production of creative talent.

Recommended.

1. Fez is perhaps the place in the world with the clearest continuous connections to the time of late antiquity.  Maimonides and Ibn Khaldun worked there, and walking through the medina that is not hard to imagine — you can dine in a small restaurant in the home of Maimonides (recommended, most of all the vegetables).  Fez has the world’s oldest university, dating from the 859, and the world’s oldest continuously operating library, from 1359.

2. The country has been remarkably stable relative to the rest of the region, whether you take that to be the Middle East, MENA, or Africa.  But the nature of the associated stability lessons remains unclear, read more here.

3 Social capital is higher than it was during my last visit twenty years ago.  That said, every transaction is still a potential swindle waiting to happen.  And if any English-speaking Moroccan climbs into your train cabin, and claims his brother is the most wonderful guide in town and offers up his phone number…simply decline any further contact.  Especially if the guy has a scar on his face.

4. From the OEC:

The top exports of Morocco are Cars ($2.95B), Insulated Wire ($2.46B), Mixed Mineral or Chemical Fertilizers ($1.83B), Phosphoric Acid($1.14B) and Non-Knit Women’s Suits ($1B)…

It could be much worse, but the dangers of premature deindustrialization are real.  Their exports are too dependent on Spain and France, two countries with many other trading partners and also relatively slow growth rates.  Agriculture still accounts for 40-45% of employment.  Tourism continues to grow, but service culture in the country is not top-notch.  They export a lot of marijuana too.

5. The country has the (distant) potential to evolve into an Atlantic economy — check the map — and I don’t just mean the history of Rabat/Salé as a pirate state.  Nonetheless the actual trade of the nation paints it as a Mediterranean economy, and most Mediterranean economies have not done very well lately.

6. Moroccans do not seem very religious.  Counterintuitively, that may be why, when they are living in Europe, they are especially vulnerable to radicalization. They are not already “filled up with belief,” and experience anomie, which is then exploited by terror groups.  Arguably the same is true for Uighurs in China, by the way, who are recruited by the thousands for foreign ISIS crusades and the like.

7. More and more of the country’s gdp is concentrating in and near Casablanca, which is underrated as a visit.  The famous Grand mosque, as Yana pointed out, in fact resembles a cavernous mosque-clock tower-opera house-French railway station, with even some elements of a medieval cathedral.  Not all devout Muslims are happy with it.

8. The best bistillah is in Meknes, where it is moister and less sweet.  In Casablanca I recommend the seafood stalls in the Grand Marché, and the roast chicken joints, always with french fries.