Month: March 2015

The early history of British (free?) trade

Stone Age Britons imported wheat about 8,000 years ago in a surprising sign of sophistication for primitive hunter-gatherers long viewed as isolated from European agriculture, a study showed on Thursday.

British scientists found traces of wheat DNA in a Stone Age site off the south coast of England near the Isle of Wight, giving an unexpected sign of contact between ancient hunter-gatherers and farmers who eventually replaced them.

The wheat DNA was dated to 8,000 years ago, 2,000 years before Stone Age people in mainland Britain started growing cereals and 400 years before farming reached what is now northern Germany or France, they wrote in the journal Science.

“We were surprised to find wheat,” co-author Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick told Reuters of finds at Bouldnor Cliff.

“This is a smoking gun of cultural interaction,” between primitive hunter-gatherers in Britain and farmers in Europe, he said of the findings in the journal Science.

The find of wheat “will make us re-evaluate the relationships between farmers and hunter-gatherers,” he told Reuters.

There is more here, and the original research is here.  As I’ve said in the past, believing that early trade and globalization were more extensive than is usually believed is one of my “crank views.”

Assorted Sunday links

People, negative nominal interest rates aren’t just for Paco

Euro area negative-yield bond universe expands to $1.9 trillion

How are things in Denmark?  Here is Eva Christensen’s loan:

And then she was told again about her interest rate. It was -0.0172 percent — less than zero. While there would be fees to pay, the bank would also pay interest to her. It was just a little over $1 a month, but still.

Here is Paco.  Here is Bryan Caplan.

Why Leo Strauss is popular in China

Jamil Anderlini reports:

As China’s two-year-old anti-corruption campaign rages on, an article attacking a long-dead Manchu prince from the late 19th century has prompted frenzied speculation over the fate of one of the country’s most powerful Communist party elders.

For centuries Chinese politicians have used abstruse historical allegory to attack rivals without confronting them directly.

So when China’s top anti-corruption authority published an article on Wednesday afternoon detailing the evil deeds of “Prince Qing”, the internet went into overdrive with theories over who the real target could be.

By far the most popular guess is Zeng Qinghong, vice-president of China until 2008, right-hand man to former President Jiang Zemin and one of the most powerful politicians of modern China.

The FT story is here.

*The Age of the Crisis of Man*

That is the new book by Mark Greif, and the subtitle is Thought and Fiction in America, 1933-1973.  I very much enjoyed grappling with this one.  One of my more recent views is that the thinkers of the mid-twentieth century are in fact, as a whole, extremely underrated.  They are not old enough to be classic and not new enough to be trendy or on the frontier.  Their world faced problems which seemed totally strange to us in the 1990s, but which are starting to sound scarily relevant and contemporary.  Yet our world is largely ignorant of their wisdom and creativity, in part because they often sounded dumb or schlocky or maybe they even were in some ways.

This book is sprawling, and while clearly written at the sentence-to-sentence level, it assumes some fair degree of background knowledge.  Nonetheless for an intellectually-minded reader it is an excellent way to jump into the world inhabited by Karl Jaspers, Ortega y Gasset, Flannery O’Connor, and Thomas Pynchon.

Leon Wieseltier has some interesting remarks on the book.  Here is another interesting (if overlong) review, by Richard Marshall.  Here is an excellent Adam Kirsch review, the best review as review.

What if everyone lived like Mr. Money Moustache?

Over at Vox, Mr. Money Moustache notes:

The first trick is to remind yourself that buying something — pretty much anything — is very unlikely to improve your long-term happiness. Science figured this out for us long ago, but not many people got the memo. Go to your junk electronics drawer and look at your old flip phones or your dusty iPad 1. Look at the clothes you’ve recently pruned from your closet that are now headed to the Goodwill. You traded a lot of good dollars for those, not very long ago at all. Are they still making you happy today?

And:

…I try to get people to think of things in 10-year chunks at a minimum and then move on to a lifetime perspective. For example, spending $100 per week on restaurants equates to a $75,000 hit to your wealth every ten years, compared to keeping that money and just investing it in a conservative way.

If I understand him correctly, he recommends a very high savings rate and very early retirement.

From an individual point of view, my worry is that happiness may not go up much in this early retirement and in fact it may go down; people seem to enjoy working, which is good for their health and their social involvement.  Perhaps Mr. Money Moustache derives a sense of purpose from spreading this gospel, but most people would end up bored and indeed frustrated if they retired at age thirty as he has (apparently) done.

From a social point of view, if everyone did this, productivity would collapse.  Workers over the age of thirty make the world go round, and teach and pass down skills to others.  When you retire involves an external cost or benefit, and retirement can come either too early or too late.

I’ll note in passing that my “dusty iPad 1” gave me an enormous amount of pleasure, as does my later iPad.  And I wish my old flip phone still worked!  Sadly, it is no longer still making me happy today.

Addendum: Ryan Decker comments.