Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Economic & Business History Society

The annual conference of the Economic & Business History Society is going on now in Finland. Unfortunately I was not able to go to the conference this year. It looks like they put together a great program.

They are livestreaming the keynote by Deirdre McCloskey at 10:30 eastern time.

I should also note that the society's journal Essays in Economic & Business History is now listed in the Chartered Association of Business Schools Academic Journal Guide. Congratulations to the editor, Jason Taylor, the associate editors, and the editorial board.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Industrial Revelations

I think most people have a very vague notion of what the Industrial Revolution was, and descriptions and pictures are not particularly helpful. You really need to see a spinning wheel, a spinning jenny, and a water frame at work to appreciate what was happening in the 1700s. I have been fortunate enough to visit some great museums and see some of these things at work, but I don’t have the opportunity to do that with my students. That is where Industrial Revelations comes in handy. There are several seasons of Industrial Revelations, and I haven’t had time to watch them all, but the first season with Mark Williams (aka Arthur Weasley) is great for showing many important technological changes during the Industrial Revolution. Here is a link to the textile episode, which I think is one of the best.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Stop Telling Kanye to Read Ed Baptist

Since Kanye West decided that the World had spent enough time paying attention to people that are not him, I have seen a number of suggestions for Kanye’s education. More than a few have been along these lines

If he were to read Baptist, Kanye, like many of Baptist’s other readers, could learn all sorts of things that are not true. He could learn that

1.       Before Ed Baptist, economists and historians did not believe that slave owners were profit seeking capitalists. Many historians and almost all economic historians viewed slavery as a profit seeking enterprise.
2.       Slave produced cotton accounted for more than 60% of GDP. Baptist made up numbers and summed them in an approach to national income accounting that defies all logic.
3.       The pushing system was a term that enslaved people used. Ed Baptist made up the term (see section 4.1; on second thought, just read the whole thing).
4.       Economic historians don’t think slave owners used violence to coerce enslaved people. This is simply not true.
5.       Baptist shows that innovations in violence led to innovations in picking that drove increases in productivity during the antebellum period.  He never provides any evidence to support one of the central claims of his book. See the link for the previous point and this by Pseudoerasmus, and this by Olmstead and Rhode. I should also mention Trevor Burnard as one of the first historians to call out Baptist.

If we want Kanye to understand the brutality of slavery, how about Charles Ball, or Solomon Northup, or Harriet Jacobs? If you think he needs to read some professor, how about Daina Ramey Berry? Maybe if Kanye gets through these readings we can come up with some more, but let’s not contribute to the miseducation of Kanye West by telling him to read Ed Baptist’s terrible book.

P.S. Stop telling anyone to read Ed Baptist!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Thoughts on Kochs and GMU

1.       Cabrera sounds like Captain Renault. He should have actually said that he was “shocked – shocked to find that there were deals like this”
2.       The deals seem pretty stupid in terms of the level of involvement that the Koch’s wanted. I say stupid because they should have known that it would look bad when it came out, and it wasn’t necessary. As long as the president and provost want the money to keep coming in they will make sure the donor is happy.
3.       Provosts and presidents can do that because universities are like schoolyards.

4.       None of this alters the fact that Nancy MacLean engaged in historical malpractice.

5.       I will continue to judge academics at George Mason, whether they are in economics, Mercatus, the law school, or any other department or center, based upon what they do as individuals. That means that Mark Koyama and Noel Johnson are among the best economic historians working now, Robin Hanson and Arnold Kling are willing to play fast and loose with evidence to support their claims, and I still don’t understand why Tyler Cowen gets so much attention.

6.       This is the third time I have posted something critical of Democracy in Chains and I still haven’t gotten any Koch money.