Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

William Petty and Climate Change

I’m working on a book about 17th century and early 18th economics, beginning with William Petty.  After describing his wild personal life, I’m trying to make the connection between Petty’s emergence and the global climate at the time.  Please tell me if this is too far-fetched.

The Sun Shines on William Petty

Mother Nature may have smiled upon William Petty, whose maturity coincided with a short, but welcome break in the Little Ice Age.  Shortly before Petty’s death in 1687, the cold weather returned.  For example, the winter of 1683‑4 was particularly harsh (Lamb 1982, p. 223).

Today, when the threat of global warming looms large, people might be more sensitive to the profound effects of the weather.  In earlier periods of cold weather created equally harmful results.  One long‑term study of the effects of weather over the centuries concluded: “cooling impeded agricultural production, which brought about a series of serious social problems, including price inflation, then successively war outbreak, famine, and population decline successively.  The findings suggest that worldwide and synchronistic war‑peace, population, and price cycles in recent centuries have been driven mainly by long‑term climate change” (Zhang et al. 2007, p. 19215). Continue reading

The Wild Economics of the 17th C

To give you a flavor of where my new book is heading:

Here is the first & only sentence of the introduction and the first sentence of the book:

Besides describing some of the brilliant accomplishments of the colorful founders of economics, this book will also discuss their dark side, including a few murders, over and above crimes more commonly associated with economists. At the same time, these economists’ lives and work will throw light on both contemporary economics and economies.

Before discussing the work and life of William Petty (1623-1687), it might be of interest to note that he has the unique distinction of being the only economist in history credited with having brought a person back from the dead.  We will get back to that feat later.

I’m working on a book about 17th century and early 18th economics, beginning with William Petty.  After describing his wild personal life, I’m trying to make the connection between Petty’s emergence and the global climate at the time.  Please tell me if this is too far-fetched.

The Sun Shines on William Petty

Mother Nature may have smiled upon William Petty, whose maturity coincided with a short, but welcome break in the Little Ice Age.  Shortly before Petty’s death in 1687, the cold weather returned.  For example, the winter of 1683‑4 was particularly harsh (Lamb 1982, p. 223).

Today, when the threat of global warming looms large, people might be more sensitive to the profound effects of the weather.  In earlier periods of cold weather created equally harmful results.  One long‑term study of the effects of weather over the centuries concluded: “cooling impeded agricultural production, which brought about a series of serious social problems, including price inflation, then successively war outbreak, famine, and population decline successively.  The findings suggest that worldwide and synchronistic war‑peace, population, and price cycles in recent centuries have been driven mainly by long‑term climate change” (Zhang et al. 2007, p. 19215). Continue reading

My Youthful Encounter with Nuclear Warfare

Today is the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb. It brings to mind a useful experience.

Sometime in the mid- or early-1950s, I was having dinner at my great aunt’s house with my brother, my parents, and my mother’s cousin, Morris Fiterman (sp?).  Morris was a medical doctor, who served in the Army as an hospital administrator and was a close friend of the President’s son, John Eisenhower. Morris was telling us about his work on any military commission to decide whether or not to use nuclear weapons against North Korea. He said that military rejected the idea only because the prevailing winds would have brought too much radiation down upon South Korea and the US soldiers.

I don’t remember any of the other details, except what he told us about the Bataan Death March in which the Japanese army supposedly starved American prisoners.  He said that the rations given to the Americans were identical to the Japanese. He also said that the Japanese prisoners complained that their American captors were putting their lives at risk by feeding them unpalatable food, such as bacon and eggs.

Outrageous Poverty and the Blue Dogs

OK, you all know about Paris Hilton’s $325,000 doghouse.  Then the Wall Street Journal chimed in with an article by a British physician informing the American public that dogs get better health care than ordinary humans in the British medical system.  Thank God for those good U.S. insurance corporations that protect us from such a fate.  And thank God for warning us of the dangers of single payer.
Dalrymple, Theodore. 2009. “Man vs. Mutt.” Wall Street Journal (8 August).
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204908604574334282143887974.html#mod=todays_us_weekend_journal

Then Barbara Ehenreich published a brilliant piece showing how governments are criminalizing poverty — yes, making it a crime to threaten society by sleeping on the street or some such violent act.  Yet, dogs, are free to behave that way.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/opinion/09ehrenreich.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=barbara%20ehrenreich&st=cse

From all this I have now learned that dogs have become the standard by which we must judge humanity.  When a workers complement bosses for treating them like dogs, we will understand.  Poor people should aspire to enjoy canine cuisine. Continue reading

Who Saw the Depression Coming?

I cannot help mentioning The Confiscation of American Prosperity: From Right Wing Extremism and Economic Ideology to the Next Great Depression.

http://www.amazon.com/Confiscation-American-Prosperity-Right-Wing-Depression/dp/0230600468/ref=sr_1_5/103-0846498-1105414?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1175802382&sr=1-5

Harberger Triangles, Okun Gaps, and X Efficiency

I have written a paper that uses two episodes to illustrate the nature of Chicago economics.  It is being rewritten for a mainstream journal, so I have to pull my punches.  I would appreciate any comments.

I have made some changes in the paper.

x-eff

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