What should I ask Mark Koyama and Noel Johnson

They are my colleagues, and both are economic historians, and they have an important forthcoming book Persecution and Toleration: The Long Road to Religious Freedom.  I will be doing a Conversation with them.

More generally they have worked on state capacity, nation building, why China evolved into such a large political unit, the Black Death, scapegoating, usury prohibitions in history, the economic impact of volcanic eruptions, and more.  I am always happy to see them.

Their home pages are here and here.  So what should I ask them?


Ask them about the role of the stronger state in bringing more freedom in history.

They did it with witches and religious toleration. Maybe they should talk about it.

For Mark: what's it like working with Tuan-Hwee Sng and other Asia-based scholars?

Does populism spell the end of the liberal international order (link)? Or can the liberal int'l order continue to expand and root itself in more and more places?

Who is one senior scholar you would love to work with in the near future? One junior scholar or grad student?

For Noel: what's more interesting: the decline of the Ottoman Empire or the rise of the French wine industry?

Who is one senior scholar you would love to work with in the near future? One junior scholar or grad student?

Ask them why the various "panics" in history always seem to be blamed exclusively on financial factors when other things have had their influence, the Great Epizootic of 1872, for instance.

(Wikipedia): "The census of 1870 counted 7.1 million horses and 1.1 million mules, as well as 39 million humans.[13] With most urban horses and mules incapacitated for a week or two, humans used wheelbarrows and pulled the wagons. About 1% of the animals died, and the rest fully recovered" - probably because the Great Epizootic of 1872 was largely harmless?

If something, over a compact window, incapacitated every car and truck in the country for a week or two on average, I imagine you could see the kernel of a panic.

It all depends on the context at the time. Was this event widely reported? Or did the local farmers just think it was a temporary epidemic? This event may have been reconstructed after the fact by historians, rather than appreciated by people at the time.

No specific questions, but I am very interested in the usury topic.

Seconded. I've worked in sub-prime lending before, and the idea of the usury prohibition as a barrier-to-entry that produces economic profits is very real to me.

Something about guilds and such

Ask about the increasing and selective enforcement of anti-blasphemy laws, particularly in Europe, under the aegis of hate speech prohibition. What do they see as the end state?

What is the short version of the emergence of the modern state? What role did cities play?

What role do cosmopolitan trading cities play throughout history?

What is more important in determining type of territorial governance, weapons technology or communication technology?

What will territorial governance look like in 2100?

Ask rhem why proper historical analysis (rather than solely using historical data) is critical to our understanding of economic theories and phenomena

General and specific stuff on Pete Leeson’s work and how it informs their own work.

Are modern history simulation games converging to or diverging from economic models of history? Now that computing constraints have weakened, what, if any, video game has best captured the dynamics of state capacity in the Koyama/Johnson research vein?

Questions I would ask but someone whose read more on the subject probably wouldn't need to: Is scapegoating really about "triangulation of desire" or whatever Girard's phrase was? Isn't the phenomenon a little more complex than that? E.G., 'the gods are angry and must be appeased' might be a good myth to mitigate some kinds of internal conflict, but couldn't it also function as a nice way of distracting from some leader's failure or blunder or what have you? Or maybe acts of collective ritual sacrifice are useful because they create a sense of shared purpose or perceived alignment of personal interests, and thus are helpful for mitigating all sorts of conflicts, not just when two people want the same thing? What does Joe Henrich have to say on this subject?

In the Abrahamic faiths, sin is part of our nature since the fall. Religious communities have often used law to prevent temptation sin like Ulysses tying himself to the mast. Do liberalism and religious tolerance, inasmuch as they prohibit these sorts of restraints, actually prevent the members of these communities from pursuing their understanding of the good life?

Is modern scapegoating of various groups (white men, elites, jews, immigrants, etc) an essentially religious phenomenon? Do countries like the US and the western European countries have an official religion?

Economic History is, or should be, a more fruitful discipline than Econometrics or Macroeconomics. True or false?

For Mark Koyama: whether the Piketty thesis that war brings on more equality and peace brings on less equality (which historians Durant et al observed anecdotally well before Piketty proved this with data) is a good thing or a bad thing (given Koyama's expertise with the Black Death and other calamities),

For Noel D. Johnson: whether he's aware that increased patent activity is coincident with increased economic activity (note I am not making the claim the former is a leading indicator, but I do believe that could be the case), and whether he has an anti patent bias, as do most economists (patents = monopoly = bad is the thinking, never mind in the long term the Solow equation says technology drives the stated state long-term growth and never mind that it's ignored that people who invent could respond to incentives)

What do they think of Francis Fukuyama's "Origins of Political Order", "Political Order and Political Decay", and "End of History".

Is David Graber's account of debt accurate or really biased due to his political views/general thoughts.

Ask about Graeber, it should be funny!

The recent study that suggested climate change might cost 4% of global GDP annually. You mentioned it in a Bloomberg article. That number seems like it misses something to me. What do they think? I'd also be interested if they detect a difference between American and European economic thought and what structural causes might contribute to that difference. Good luck.

When does religious toleration evolve into intolerance for anything but the secular fads du jour?

Koyama's work on China ("Unified China, Divided Europe", little divergence with Japan) finds higher costs to China's larger state than Europe's division and Japan's "small" island economy. More political fragility to conflict (contra "robust polycentricism"), and more difficulties responding to multipolar threats, and weaker market integration. This has shaped my thinking towards skepticism at modern attempts at increasing integration and assumptions that increasing state and market size is a pure positive sum benefit.

But does Koyama himself actually believe any of the downsides of wider integration that he has discussed in the Chinese case apply today? If so, to what degree do they form a basis to advocate against integration of smaller states into international institutions and unions? Or is it a case of pure "That was then (for China), this is now"?

For Mark Koyama: to what extent is his interest in comparing the economic histories of Europe and East Asia a function of his family background?

Also for Mark, as an economic historian, what do you think of the EU and of Brexit?

?ué significa * * * * ers in los economicos?
Quizás significa yawpers?

from the latin yeeters?

1.) Controversial: "War makes the State and the State makes war." If this is approximately true over long periods of time as most state capacity proponents believe then does Africa as a content need to go through many more wars in order to smooth out the arbitrary political/social and ethnic divisions from colonial times? In the long run do UN peacekeepers & interventions reduce development since African countries do not get to exercise their own state capacities in the traditional sense?

2.) What do they think about Chris Blattman's work with RCTs in Africa exploring social and political order? Is this the type of work needed to test state capacity, and social/economic development or would they like to see research in other areas?

3.) Can they touch on when we would expect a roving bandit vs a stationary bandit for state formation?

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