Thucydides on the prosperity that comes with peace

This is Thucydides writing in 432 BC. Apart from the general description of how stability affects the accumulation of wealth he also gives what is probably the earliest description of the resource curse. … it is evident that the country now called Hellas had in ancient times no settled population; on the contrary, migrations were of frequent occurrence, the several…

In search of nuance

In an age of polarisation, we need nuanced understanding of people and issues more than ever. What does nuance mean to you? To me it means things like: Knowing some of the shortcomings of your side of the debate; Seeing – and not excusing – the failings (and worse) of people on your side of the debate; Looking for reasons…

Max Roser: defining global development

This is a really interesting interview with Max Roser, founder and editor of Our World in Data. Recommend. The idea of development is to make progress against problems. If we go back into our history, humanity has always battled the same problems: kids died early, people remained hungry for much of the year, lived in poor conditions, and lived in…

A slice of the pie

Jane has one pie. John has none. Should Jane give John a slice? The situation is unequal, but we need some context – including some history – to be able to decide if it’s unfair. Your feelings might change if… Jane and John were each given a pie by a friend, but John has just finished eating his. Jane bought…

Tyler Cowen on reading fast, reading well, and reading widely

This is a great riff on how reading works and on the network effects of reading. Links below. Tyler says: … I go through five or ten books a day. And which parts of them I’ve read you can debate – maybe it washes out to be two or three books a day. Some good nights you can get through…

Deirdre McCloskey on liberty and human flourishing

The real ability of the poorest to buy goods and services rose, 1800 to the present, by 3,000 percent. Literally. A factor of thirty. … I take it you value human liberty and human flourishing. (If you do not, we have nothing to discuss, and can go straight to fighting it out in the streets.) You will know that the…

Lant Pritchett on reducing learning poverty: targeted interventions vs systemic change

“… when the whole system is producing weak results for nearly every child, then “inclusion” is a false premise. In this situation, it is necessary to fix the whole system and increase performance across the board in order to reduce the number of children stranded in low performance. Lant Pritchett – Tackling Education poverty with system-wide improvements Lant Pritchett is…

Raj Chetty and Ezra Klein on culture, communities and representation

Ezra Klein: I think we’re very used to thinking about two levels of context that really matter here – what’s happening in your family, like “Is your dad or mum an inventor? Are your parents married?” and then what’s happening in government policy. And it seems to me that what you show is that this mediating space of your direct…

Three questions from economics

What are the tradeoffs in this situation? What gains can be made from trade and cooperation? How can we reframe this question to find new answers, or change the way we feel about the answers we already have? Largely drawn from Tyler Cowen’s interview with Tim Harford.

Podcast Recommendation: two interviews with Raj Chetty

I really enjoyed listening to these two interviews with Raj Chetty. By all accounts (I’m not qualified to judge!) he is a good economist. He also comes across as someone who’s interested in people and working for policies that help actual people in the real world, rather than as an economist only interested in theory and abstraction. These episodes are…