History


How the Industrial Revolution happened remains a major question. Robert Fogel’s End of Hunger and Greg Clark’s Farewell to Alms try to explain the dramatic change.

Beginning around 1700-1750, there were a series of major economic changes. A “Consumer Revolution” in Britain and the American Colonies happened as the Middle Class grew. At the same time, the Second Agricultural Revolution began, which massively expanded food production. A health care revolution, beginning with Germ Theory rapidly improved medical care. The Industrial Revolution began at the start of the 19th century with the invention of the coal-powered steam engine.

The population skyrocketed, as did the pace of technological inventions. There was a cultural revolution too, as 10,000 years of agricultural lifestyles and traditions were replaced.
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This is an except from Douglass’ North Nobel Prize speech in 1993.
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So what were the Swedes doing during World War II?

God Bless the Finns

This is the precedent for the 8th Amendment in the Colonial Massachusetts Body of Liberties.
Clearer language, I have never seen.

No man shall be forced by torture to confess any crime against himself nor any other, unless it be in some capital case where he is first fully convicted by clear and sufficient evidence to be guilty, after which if the cause be of that nature, that it is very apparent there be other conspirators, or confederates with him, then he may be tortured, yet not with such tortures as be barbarous and inhumane.

Don’t torture, unless you have to, and in that case, don’t go too crazy. It looks like the colonists dealt with their own “ticking timebomb” scenarios.

James W. Ceaser offers an historical account of anti-Americanism. Europeans long criticized a symbolic America, going back to Colonial times.

This included the “degeneracy thesis” where Europeans deemed Americans biologically inferior or racial impure. This actually still occurs, but the main line of criticism is intellectual. America lacked a romantic philosophy and history as a nation – it threatened the ideal of European nation-hood. The intellectuals also criticized American “technologism” and soulless consumerism.

To be fair, the Americans created a symbolic Europe of haughty aristocrats and useless philosophers talking about nothing with occasional outbreaks of mass murder.

Six years ago today, the Taliban assassinated the Afghan Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. Massoud was one of the Mujahedeen leaders that the US backed against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Massoud resisted the Pakistani-Taliban invasion of Afghanistan in the 1990s. He created the Northern Alliance, which proved to be a crucial US ally in 2001.

The Taliban assassinated Massoud on Sept 9th, 2001. The assassination and the 9/11 attacks marked the start of a major Taliban offensive against the Northern Alliance.

Rand Simberg points to Massoud’s letter to the Americans in 1998. We can’t say he didn’t warn us.

I recommend Marc Levinson’s economic history – The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

It’s the history of a box. And it is the most fascinating history of a box you’ll ever read.

Hopefully, he will write the history of food stored in tin cans and the revolutionary effect it had on our lives. And it will be just as fascinating. Containers play such a major role in human history – from pottery, to tin cans, to cargo containers. Transportation and storage is pointless without good boxes.

Overcoming Bias asks why people think the future is so absurd. Part of the problem is hindsight bias. If you say “I knew that would happen” for every past event, you lose sight of how unpredictable everything was.
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The Service industry has supplanted farming as the primary employment sector. The ILO report has a roundup of good news. Asian productivity levels are rising and poverty is being reduced in many regions. It also reports the relative decline in importance of farming.

As Razib at Gene Expression says, this is a cultural revolution. Our agricultural-based culture is fading as humans become more migratory. Razib thinks our culture is developing more similar to hunter-gatherers than farmers. There are physical changes too as we are better fed than agricultural societies so mean height and IQ are rising.

New York City was the bastion of the Northern “Peace Democrats” during the Civil War. NYC voted against Lincoln twice, and its first wartime mayor, Fernando Wood, suggested that NYC secede in 1861. Many New Yorkers strongly opposed the war and President Lincoln.

These tensions flared with the Draft Riots of 1863. The Federal Government called a draft in 1863 but many New Yorkers sought to evade conscription. It started off small. Over the weekend of July 11, 1863, the “Black Jokes”, a volunteer firefighter company, organized a raid against New York City’s Provost General’s office. The goal was to break past the police guards and set fire to the records. It was a small raid on Monday morning, July 13, and concluded without significant injury to the parties involved. But the tiny outbreak of violence in the 19th Ward of uptown Manhattan unexpectedly exploded into a city-wide riot across Manhattan with smaller riots in Brooklyn. At least 105 people died, including many blacks who were lynched by the immigrant mobs.

It ended when Federal troops placed the city under martial law and occupied it for the remaining duration of the war.
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The Ancient Egyptian Kingdoms stopped at what was called the Great Bend. All nations throughout history only extended political and economic control as far as their transportation allowed. The Egyptians historically used the Nile River as a highway, allowing the Kingdom to govern far away regions.

The Nile River stops being useful for transportation around the Great Bend and the many cataracts in the region.
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Industrialization is usually describes as a technological and material revolution. It also changed organizations to handle the massive increase in material production and distribution. Urbanization was one obvious result.

A more subtle one was the rise of technical specialists, hierarchical management, and administrative coordination. The corporate models replaced the partnership model in many businesses.
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Gene Expression nagged a good interview with the author of Farewell to Alms.

One of Clark’s major theses is that economic institutions did not matter as much as supposed. He claims that labor quality – culturally and genetically – had a greater effect. People planned for the long-term gratification rather than instant gratification.

His somewhat more controversial thesis is the survival of the richest view. In England, the behavior revolution occurred because the poor died out and the upper class dominated. I have an issue with the Malthusian aspect of this theory but I haven’t written out my thoughts yet. His interview is worth a read.

Democide was far deadlier than the wars of the 20th century.

R. J. Rummel expanded democide the traditional definition of genocide – the killing of another ethnicity – to include all forms of political mass murder. This includes purges, massacres, government induced famines, and political executions.

There is a strong correlation between government power and the violence directed against its own people.
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Communist falsification of history in Russia and China destroyed a number of important historical documents and made deciphering their past more uncertain.

The communists did not merely write histories praising the government. Nor did they just kill political opponents. The Communists literally erased opponents from historical record. Photographs were doctored to remove individuals. Histories and documents were rewritten to exclude once important men and ideas.

The Commissar Vanishes is a record of the world’s first photoshoppers.
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Maps should show a wide range of statistical data over geography and time. Statistics are sometimes too abstract to be useful much less educational. Visualizing it on a geographic map helps considerably.

Epidemiology and crime statistics are simplified by mapping out the data so spatial patterns can be analyzed. Political maps, likewise, should condense as much information as possble.

Here are two examples from Edward Tufte, a major advocate for statistical maps. One is John Snow’s Epidemiology map from 19th century London, and the other is Charles Minard’s Map of Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia.
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In 1872, Montgomery Ward created the first mail-order business. The idea was simple. Ward mailed out product catalogs straight to potential consumers in the Chicago region. Customers could pick out which item they wanted, fill out a form with the item name and number, and mail it back to Montgomery Ward. Ward delivered the product straight to the customer’s door.
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Gregory Clark offers a provocative thesis in Farewell to Alms that human nature changed to escape from a malthusian cycle. Prior to industrialism, any improvement in productivity was nullified by an increase in population. This kept humanity trapped at the same level of wealth throughout the Middle Ages and doomed men to face frequent bouts of famine.

Around 1750s to the 1850s, there was a series of major behavioral changes that allowed Industrialism to take place. Clark argues that this is due to a mixture of cultural and biological evolution.
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There are many new archeological findings that revise our theories of ancient civilizations. Traditionally, it was believed that urbanized civilizations emerged in the Nile, Indus, and in Mesopotamia roughly 5,000 years ago. New evidence reveals that other urban centers formed in Iran, India, and across the region at the same time.
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From a prospective of intellectual history, the Republicans and Democrats share some of the same roots. Both are Liberal Parties.

The parties focused their efforts on different issues. The Democrats were the Free-Trade Party, and the Republicans were the Free-Labor Party.
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