Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

As Common as Ditchwater

I would like to draw the readers’ attention to an item I posted yesterday and say a few words about the significance of the discovery mentioned in it. The mock “theory of the Lump of Labour” was invented in 1891 by David Frederick Schloss in an article titled “Why Working-Men Dislike Piece Work.” The Oxford […]

Pain for Profit

from The Stage Coach, or the Road of Life (1843) by John Mills, Chapter XI “The Mudlark” The night was very bright; a sharp frosty air whistled from the east, and the moon and the stars sparkled like frozen sleet in the sun. After the governor had scraped off the worst part of the slush, […]

I Confess, Graunt Didn’t Invent Economics…

Aristotle did. As Philip Kreager reminded me: Historians of economics have for some time treated his [Aristotle’s] writings as formative, even though relevant passages in the Politics and Ethics amount to only a few pages. Wait. There’s more: In the Politics, however, population is a recurring topic, extensively discussed and integral to the overall argument. “The […]

“A certain proportion of work to be done”: How John Graunt invented economics

John Graunt’s Natural and Political Observations on the Bills of Mortality (1662) is acknowledged as the inaugural text of “political arithmetick.” Graunt is ranked along with William Petty, Charles Davenant and Gregory King as a major pioneer of “the art of reasoning by figures, upon things relating to government.” In their Outline of the History […]

Prayer – Science = 0

Yes, it’s okay to talk about climate change right now. The devastating natural disaster in Fort McMurray is “consistent” with climate change. The Fort McMurray wildfire is horrific. Miraculously, no people have been killed, so far. Saying that the unseasonably hot conditions in Alberta are “consistent with” climate change is not to say that they […]

Is the Road to Hell Paved with Pareto Improvements?

In a large multiplayer prisoner’s dilemma, any change in any one individual’s strategy doesn’t affect anyone else, so a player can know that defection will be a Pareto improvement. We might say that the problem of social evil is that the road to hell is paved with Pareto improvements. — Ted Poston, “Social Evil,” Oxford […]

Worstall’s Malignant Lump

In an op-ed at the New York Times yesterday, Nick Hanauer and Robert Reich made the following observation: In a cruel twist, the longer and harder we work for the same wage, the fewer jobs there are for others, the higher unemployment goes and the more we weaken our own bargaining power. That helps explain why […]