Fresh as boiled cabbage



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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14 Responses

  1. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Natural experiments have already demonstrated as much.

    There’s no particular reason to suspect, for example, that the breeding in and about Hong Kong was just a tiny bit better than in the rest of eastern China. Yet for several decades it was vastly wealthier. On the breeding hypothesis, one would have expected Beijing to have been the leading city of China, given that it was the center of the governmental/ruling class for so long.

    Institutions pointed to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong delivered. The gap only began to close when the PRC’s economic policies went from completely insane to almost reasonable.Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    On a only loosely related topid have either of you ever read Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond?Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      @North, I have! One of my frustrations with Diamond is that he can’t really explain why Europe beat China to the Industrial Revolution (although he does a pretty convincing job of explaining why Eurasia outstripped the rest of the world). Clark, on the other hand, has developed a pretty interesting thesis that explains why Europe industrialized first.

      But yeah, Guns, Germs and Steel is great.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        @Will, Horray! Someone to talk to about it! I thought he explained the difference between Europe and China well.
        -Historically there was the example of the Chinese central authority banning what would have been a mini-industrial revolution by forbidding the use of water driven looms. Diamond’s thesis was that China (centralized and ruled by a single autocratic ruler due to its highly uniform geography) was able to squash new innovations by imperial dictate while Europe (fragmented into multiple competing autocratic polities by geography) never had a central authority that could prevent regional advances. Columbus, for instance, applied to and was rejected by several rulers before eventually getting support from Spain. A Chinese Columbus on the other hand would have applied to the Emperor, been denied, and spent the rest of his life fishing since he would have had no one else to apply to.Report

        • Avatar Will says:

          @North, I do recall Diamond’s arguments about how fragmentation and competition may have put Europe over the top. If I remember correctly, however, these were conjectures he tentatively put forward towards the end of the book that were not as well supported as his other research. His ideas about the Industrial Revolution strike me as plausible, but they were nowhere near as well developed as the rest of Guns, Germs and Steel.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            @Will, Oh yes, absolutely. He was at his best when dealing with humanity during the sweep of millennia and tens of millennia, not the passage of mere centuries.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        @Will, I should read Clark. But I’m queing up Collapse right now.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus says:

    Did we discuss the clothing manufacturer that is now paying their employees in the Dominican Republic a “living wage” (something like three times what the other clothing factories are paying there) and, in turn, charging a few more bucks to college students who like to pay for stuff like this anyway? It struck me as a similar experiment- improving capitalism with more capitalism- probably the only thing that works.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      @Rufus, Well that’ll work great for niche companies Rufus but can it be replicated on a broad scale. The consuming public has only demonstrated one reliable allegiance as a collective whole; that of low prices.Report

      • Avatar Rufus says:

        @North, I don’t know… I mean, it might eventually have to be replicated on a large scale. This creates serious competition for textile workers in that area, right? It stands to reason that you’d get the best workers and their neighbors, when they see them doing well, start rallying for higher wages at the other factories. Apparently, Chinese workers have started organizing, successfully, for higher wages and, at some point, higher wages/prices might be inevitable. The rising tide that lifts all boats and so forth.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          @Rufus, I agree completely. Every upward step in wages tends to build up the wages all over when you’re in an economy that’s industrializing. Fingers crossed.Report