Notes From All Over (22/06/14): Rise of the West, Island Disputes, & Too Much Stuff About China

This collection of articles, essays, and blog post of merit was originally posted on The Scholar’s Stage and is reposted here upon request.


“The Little Divergence
‘Pseuderoerasmus,’ Pseudoarasmus (12 June 2014)

In this blogpost I will argue the following :

  • While very few economic historians now dispute that East Asia had lower living standards than Europe well before 1800,
  • …there is no agreement on whether European economies prior to 1800 were â€œmodern” or “Malthusian” ;
  • … if they were Malthusian, then the “little divergence” is rather trivial and unremarkable.
  • Furthermore, the income â€œdata” for years prior to 1200 are mostly fictitious.
  • While real data exist after 1200 for Western Europe and China, output estimates are still calculated using assumptions that, were they better understood, would shatter confidence in the enterprise of economic history !

Addendum to The Little Divergence
‘Pseudoerasmus,’ Pseudoarasmus (12 June 2014)

Two of the most popular posts on the Stage are “The Rise of the West: Asking the Right Questions,” and “Another Look at the Rise of the West, But With better Numbers,” which take as their subject global energy consumption and wealth production on a millennial time scale.  Pseudoerasmus–who chimes in regularly in the comments section here–has written a series of posts that put most of this analysis in question, arguing that the Madison and Broadberry data sets these posts use cannot be relied on.

Both posts are admirable examples of how to write about technical social science debates found deep in the literature and present them in an engaging fashion without dumbing the content down. Strongly recommended. 

China’s Information Management in the Sino-Vietnamese Confrontation: Caution and Sophistication in the Internet Era
Andrew Chubb, South Sea Conversations (9 June 2014).

China’s expanding Spratly outposts: artificial, but not so new
Andrew Chubb, South Sea Conversations (19 June 2014).

Andrew Chubb’s South Sea Conversations (讨论南海) is the first website I check whenever things get hot in the South China Sea. Both of these pieces – the first published formally in the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief, the second a blog post of the more standard type – are examples of the site’s general excellence.


“The Causal Effects of Father Absence”
Sara McLanahan, Laura Tach, and Daniel Schneider, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol 39 (2013), pp. 399-427.

I recommend this paper for two reasons:

  1. It provides strong evidence that fatherhood does matter, and that divorce or single parenthood affect child outcomes in substantive ways. These outcomes are all social, emotional or academic in nature; the study affirms that there is no evidence for any causal relationship between father absence and adult economic outcomes or child cognition (e.g. IQ scores).
  2. I have recently warned about the “Cross Section Illusion” and the pit-falls that come from relying too much on cross sectional data. The second section of this paper, which reviews the methodology of 40 or so studies on family structure and child outcomes, is a superb overview of the different methods social scientists have tried to avoid these problems. This discussion is almost as interesting as the results of the study itself. 

“Mike Lotus Meeting with Emmanuel Todd in Paris, Discussing Todd’s Current Work and America 3.0, UPDATED”
Michael Lotus, America 3.0 Institute Blog (17 June 2014).

Note the replacement of the old America 3.0 blog with a full blown America 3.0 Institute. The Institute can be followed on twitter here

List of Passages I highlighted in My Copy of Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”
Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex (12 June 2014).


ELI5: What happens after Chinese students go to college in the US, then return to China with knowledge of events like Tiananmen Square?
Comment by Greenpapaya. reddit/r/explainlikeimfive (4 June 2014).

A few of you may have had the misfortune to read Max Fischer‘s ignorant Vox write-up on what Chinese millenials know about the Tiananmen Massacre (or the video Fischer posted to accompany it). This reddit comment, written by one of those semi-mythical, brain-washed Chinese university students, is a proper corrective. If someone asks what the average urban jiulinghou knows about the June 4th incident, please just give them this. 

See also: “The Day After,” A.E. Clark, Ragged Banner Press (5 June 2014).

“China Will Need a Series of Economic Miracles to Sustain Growth”
John Maudlin and Wroth Wray, Business Insider (9 June 2014)

Bearish takes on the Chinese economy are not uncommon; this is one of the best examples of the genre I have had the pleasure to read.

Decoding China’s Emerging “Great Power” Strategy in Asia
Christopher K. Johnson, Ernest Z. Bower, Victor D. Cha, Michael J. Green and Matthew P. Goodman (Washington DC: Center for International and Strategic Studies, June 2014).

Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2014
Office of the Secretary of Defense (Washington DC: Department of Defense, 2014).

Note: Both of these reports ate 80+ pages long. Read 10 pages each day to keep the PLA at bay! If nothing else, glance through the appendices of the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Annual Report. There are a few maps of the PLA’s current geographic  distribution that I will be using in the future.

“Ukraine, Russia, and the China Option: The Geostrategic Risks Facing China Policy”
Andrew Small. German Marshall Fund of the United States. European Policy Paper, No. 2 (May 2014).

“The Energy Context behind China’s Drilling Rig in the South China Sea”
James Manicom. China Brief,  Vol. 14, Iss. 11 (4 June 2014)


“Iraq War: Detailed Map”
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia (updated in real time)

An ideal map for following what is happening in Iraq. The map displays who holds what (updated as close to real-time as the internet allows) without all of the extra punditry that accompanies most press updates on the situation.

“Cambodia’s Impossible Dream: Koh Tral”
Jeff Mudrick, The Diplomat (17 June 2013)

The popular Khmer view of Koh Tral – as reflected in the Khmer blogosphere, in popular song, and on YouTube travelogues – is that the island which Vietnamese know as Phu Quoc is historically Khmer, that Cambodia has never relinquished its territorial claim, that Koh Tral was unfairly awarded the Vietnamese in 1954 over Cambodian protest, and that because the maritime border used a 1939 French colonial administrative line never intended to reflect sovereignty (the “Brevie Line”) international law should dictate the island’s return to Cambodia.

This view and the quest by leading Khmer politicians to secure Phu Quoc for Cambodia appears rooted in myth. It reflects a misunderstanding of the history of the island and the Khmer’s connection to it, an exaggeration of Khmer leaders’ continuing commitment to the cause of Koh Tral, and a lack of appreciation of the legal hurdles involved in wresting the territory from Vietnam in courts of international law…..

“Who’s Who in the Thai Coup”
Seri Thai. New Mandela (2 June 2014).

The AK-47 of Trucks
Isegoria, Isegoria (21 October 2010).


“Living in a World That Is, Not as it Ought to Be”
Razib Khan Gene Expression (14 June 2014).

Illiberal democracy is a part of the history of the United States itself. Though most Americans have the facts at hand from their basic education to understand this, it is not at the surface of their minds because of the primacy of what I have termed “democralotry”; the concept of democracy über alles. The problem plagues the mainstream of American politics, from Right to Left. It seems that George W. Bush sincerely believed that his invasion of Iraq could result in the rise of democracy from the ashes of decades of Baathist autocracy. Though many on the Left critiqued the execution and casus belli, few adhered without flinching to a realist implication that it was unlikely that Iraq would become a liberal democracy because of the nature of Iraqi society. Americans have an idea of what the world ought to be like, liberal (in a broad sense) and democratic, and are reluctant to acknowledge that it seems unlikely that sheer will alone can produce that as the state of a given society over a short period of time. On the American Right there is an ahistorical myth of American liberal democracy emerging fully formed like Athena from the tyranny of the British. The long and complex centuries long evolution into the society which we have today is denied as liberal revisionism. On the American Left there is a strong discomfort with making observations about the differences between societies, in particular when those observations might reflect poorly on non-Western cultures when judged in light of liberal Western values, which are nevertheless implicitly assumed to be universal….

“The War College Definition of Strategy Hurts Our Understanding of Landpower
Geoffrey Demarest, Small Wars Journal (12 June 2014).

“Small–yet Broad–Is Beautiful (or Why it is Good to Have Been British)”
Lorenzo, Thinking Out Loud (1 June 2014).

If a highly stable banking system is defined as one that has been crisis-free since 1970, then only six out of 117 countries–Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Malta, New Zealand, and Singapore–meet the threshold for being both credit abundant and crisis free….

To have an effective bank bargain, (1) bank assets have to be protected from government expropriation, (2) minority shareholders and depositors have to be able to stop bank insiders expropriating their assets or else be compensated for accepting the risk of expropriation by bank insiders, and (3) there has to be mechanisms to protect bank insiders, minority shareholders and depositors from expropriation by borrowers or else be compensated for accepting the risk of expropriation by borrowers.

Since 1970, six jurisdictions have managed to do all that. Why so few jurisdictions? Because governments face conflicts of interest in managing the game of bank bargains….


How To Make A $454 Homemade Air Conditioner For About $15
The Good Survivalist The Good Survivalist (13 April 2013)

“Social spiders let their personalities choose their jobs”
John Timmer, Ars Technica, (1 June 2013).

Another point for group selection theory.


8 thoughts on “Notes From All Over (22/06/14): Rise of the West, Island Disputes, & Too Much Stuff About China”

  1. Never mind the Dark Ages: what are we to make of a statement I saw recently that GDP per head in England (or perhaps the UK) increased by 1% p.a. in the 19th century. Does anyone find that remotely believable?

  2. Patriarchy, the nuclear family, and chastity are not better for women, people of color, LGBT, or children. Capitalistic fatherhood with its false ideas of “individuality” and “liberty” result in racism, sexism, homophobia.

    Even now judges nudge America towards the new normal serial polyamorous bisexual and homosexual marriages which will impose Social Justice and result in the final destruction of the capitalist-patriarchal family with its false ideals of “fatherhood.”

    Small improvements in children’s social, emotional or academic outcomes cannot be greater than the value of destroying the society and marriage customs which lead to the domination of the world by Capitalist White Males.

    The results of mere “science” [a masculinist enterprise] can never be allowed to overturn Social Justice. No amount of statistics, math, logic, evidence, and deduction can refudiate the deep discoveries made in feminist, LGBT, and people of color studies departments.

    Seriously, if you believe than family forms and marriage patterns underlie a society’s liberty and prosperity*, then what will happen with the new normal family of single mothers with children from multiple and unknown fathers, and serial bi/homo/pedo/xenosexual polyamorous marriages?

    * Intellectuals once believed religion was the basis for the superstructure, then economics (still a popular idea), and now this new innovation, family as the basis.

    Believing the basis of society was economic lead to attempts by intellectuals to reform society through economics which lead to the gulag. Believing the basis of society is the family will lead intellectuals to reform society by imposing new forms of marriage which will lead to ????

    What horrors await us as intellectuals reshape society according to these new ideas?

  3. “We find that heights stagnated during the Roman imperial period in Central, Western and Southern Europe. One astonishing result is the height increase in the fifth and sixth centuries”

    Very interesting graph. The Vandals invaded North Africa, the empire’s bread basket, in the 5th century. In addition, the infrastructure requiring large food supplies – cities, legions, etc. – was collapsing. The fragmentation of the empire meant the end of the centralized system delivering grain. Europeans free of the imperial yoke found ways not only to survive, but to thrive.

  4. Thank you for the reblog of T. Greer’s recommendation.

    “Never mind the Dark Ages: what are we to make of a statement I saw recently that GDP per head in England (or perhaps the UK) increased by 1% p.a. in the 19th century”

    In the most optimistic estimates, GDP per head in England grew by ~0.75% per annum in the 19th century.

    But most of that growth took place after 1830, so if we recomputed the growth rate for 1830-1900 then it would indeed be about ~1% p.a.

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