Saturday, 2006 June 3, 09:10 — economics, history


Mom is in town, and yesterday we went to the Arts & Crafts exhibit at the de Young.

One of the wall placards says, “The problems caused by free trade and the Industrial Revolution had been recognized since the 1830s . . . .”

The part about free trade is easy to debunk: the first triumph of the British free trade movement was the repeal in 1846 (motivated in part by the Irish famine) of the protectionist Corn Laws.

The plight of the working classes before that is familiar from Oliver Twist (1837–9) and A Christmas Carol (1843), but since I can’t see how industrialization itself could cause it, I prefer to blame the Inclosure Acts which dispossessed small landholders and thus depressed wages (while the Corn Laws kept food prices high). The new industrialists naturally took advantage of cheap labor, but one cannot reduce wages by offering employment.

Wednesday, 2006 April 19, 18:11 — history, sciences

it’s a day for anniversaries

Several important things happened on April 19, but here’s one of which I was unaware: Charles Darwin died on this date in 1882.

It came to my attention because the bookmark of the hour happens to be the Darwin-L archives. Darwin-L (1993-7) was a forum devoted to the historical sciences, full of tasty wide-ranging discussion. I was very sorry to see it close down.

How many list-servers, I wonder, still use the -L tag?

Sunday, 2005 December 25, 15:39 — history

collect them all!

In a review of a biography of Lillian Hellman, The Economist used the phrase “at the height of the first cold war in 1952.”

I’m always the last to know. Is this usage widespread? When was the height of the second cold war?

Tuesday, 2005 December 20, 14:56 — constitution, history

after this I’ll try to leave the TwoPercenters alone

In an otherwise generally sound call for separation of church and state, 2%Co had this to say about democracy in Dixie (1789-1865):

. . . These slaves didn’t always like their lot in life, but according to your logic, Mrs Gong, they should have just shut up and slaved away. Hey, rule by the majority, right? They even had a nifty way of making sure that the white folks stayed in the majority — they made black folk equal to only 3/5 of a person. What a great deal! . . .

I put my quixotic toe in:

I’m surprised to see this [common] misconception propagated by such enlightened people. . . . If the slavers had their way at the Convention of 1787, slaves would have been counted fully, not 3/5. It was the Northerners who wanted slaves counted for zero. . . .

After going around a couple of times, 2%Co apparently agree with this point (though to avoid conceding that I said something accurate they present it as their own), but insist that it supports their original statement — and threaten to delete any further posts from me. It appears that they have done so, so I’ll repeat my conclusion here (as best I can recall it):

Now I admit I’m not clever enough to see how these statements can both be accurate, viz that it was in the interest of the same faction to reduce the representation of slaves in the census and to increase it; or why, given that slaves had no vote, any nifty trick was needed to ensure they remained a minority. If you can resolve this seeming contradiction, I’ll be delighted at learning something new; if you can say “oops” and move on, I’ll be impressed with your integrity. Since you refuse to do either, I guess I’m left with the hope that another reader – if you have any – will help me out.

Monday, 2005 September 12, 21:37 — constitution, history

Horatio Bunce and Davy Crockett

A friend asked me why Ron Paul voted against a hurricane relief bill; was there something poisonous in it, or did he think it would be ineffective? I replied that I would expect Dr Paul to vote against any such bill on Constitutional grounds; and appended a link to the story, familiar to some of you, of how Davy Crockett was turned away from the Dark Side (or, as you may prefer, toward it).

Google’s first example of the story happens to be on Ron Paul’s own website. Rereading, I found that the text of that copy appears to be somewhat corrupt; so I looked for others. Indeed, the full story is substantially longer and more instructive. Copies at: Lew Rockwell; Patrick Henry On-Line (Martin Lindstedt); SlimPickins; Return of the Gods; TRIM (John Birch Society) (broken links removed 2020)

Later: Walter Williams collects some quotations from other early politicians on the same theme.

2020: The story is repeated at, Healing and Revival, Constitution Society, Foundation for Economic Education; and debunked at Jim’s Corner.

Friday, 2005 May 13, 22:35 — cinema, history, me!me!me!, race

this and that

I’m sneezing up a storm today, and the good old allergy pill hasn’t helped. I do hope it’s not the same virus that afflicted my housemate for two weeks last month.

Who is the center of the movie universe? Kevin Bacon is not even in the top thousand. Rod Steiger has the lowest total path length. But would the result be different if actors were weighted by some measure of prominence (e.g. number of credits)?

It’s annoying to find a crank on our side. Rex Curry has for some time been documenting the sordid history of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, and bully for him; but lately he’s gone a bit nuts in his efforts to demonstrate that the Nazi swastika stands for Socialism, frequently citing sources that, like this, show the word Sieg or Sieg-rune (symbol of victory, appropriate to any flavor of statism) but not Sozialismus; and here he reads a scribbled Adolf as another S-rune (standing for Sozialist, since no other German word begins with S) despite the wiggly remnants of the original letters and the cross-stroke of the f. Rex, a few pieces of unambiguous evidence – which are probably somewhere in among the chaff – would be far more effective than this farrago.

I lived in Los Angeles for three years without ever knowing how to get to the Hollywood Sign. And speaking of views from on high, every time I fly to Chicago (come to think of it, the last time was quite a few years ago) I look for Fermilab, but I’ve never spotted a buffalo.

Aaron Krowne should stick to mathematics rather than writing absurdities like this:

The H1-B program has allowed companies hiring software engineers to pay less for more engineers by running to the government for help.

As if there were no migration in a state of nature! It would be more accurate to say that the Immigration Acts (in which you’ll find the H-1B program) allow skilled natives to get paid more by running to the government to restrict supply. This incidentally reduces the wages of similar workers in other countries, giving foreign employers a price advantage (to the extent that their products are able to enter the market).

Tuesday, 2005 May 3, 22:43 — eye-candy, history

Russia in three passes

A few years ago we thrilled to an exhibit by the Library of Congress of color photographs of Russian life made in 1909–15. Now I learn that the images shown there are a small fraction of the Prokudin-Gorskii plates, most of which were never assembled into color images; and that there is an amateur project to do the rest of them! (Link found here.)

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