Jane Gleeson-White on the results of early GDP calculations.
Mark Thoma, citing an excellent post by Brad DeLong, on “Why We Should Care About Economic History”:
Economic history helps you understand why some issues come to prominence while others are ignored, and the likely direction that society will go in pursuit of solutions. Can we fully understand macroeconomic policy in Europe today, or give the best indication of where it will be tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that without understanding the economic ghosts (e.g. hyperinflation) that haunt the discussions of economic policy?
And from DeLong’s original post:
History may not repeat itself, but it certainly does rhyme—and nothing made an economist better-prepared and better-positioned to understand what happened to the world economy between 2007 and 2013 than a deep and comprehensive knowledge of the history of the Great Depression.
Archaeologists have located a mass burial site for victims of the 14th century “Black Death” underneath London. The plague wiped out a massive number of people in the mid 14th century (estimates range from 17 to 28 million), but the range of estimates is very wide, as David Routt summarized in an excellent overview of the tragedy (Routt’s article is especially good when it comes to the commercial impact of the Black Death):
National estimates of mortality for England, where the evidence is fullest, range from five percent, to 23.6 percent among aristocrats holding land from the king, to forty to forty—five percent of the kingdom’s clergy, to over sixty percent in a recent estimate.
In 1925, John Maynard Keynes wrote a little known piece in the Nation and Athenaeum in which he described how capitalism itself is threatened when people perceive there to be no justifiable reason for unequal rewards. Capitalism, Keynes wrote, can become morally objectionable when it is reduced to “a mere congeries of possessors and pursuers.”
We don’t seem to be quite there – and, in fact, the conflicts between rich and poor seem to be abating – but the modern political rhetoric of class warfare cannot be helping much.
Grover Cleveland, explaining why he vetoed a bill to appropriate $10,000 to distribute seed grain among drought-stricken farmers in Texas: “Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character. . . . “