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Category Archives: History

Domain states, tax states and fiscal states

Have been reading a Ph.D dissertation by Wenkai He on the consolidation of a modern fiscal state in C18th England and late C19th Japan and the failure to do so in late Qing China. (The dissertation has since become a book.) The dissertation references history of public finance literature I was previously largely unaware of. The literature covers domain states and fiscal […]

States and gangs

Having previously defined the state as (a structure of) systematic coercion requiring hierarchy to operate and revenues to sustain itself extracted from a given territory, an obvious question is: what about criminal gangs? They engage in systematic coercion, have a hierarchy which they use to extract revenue to sustain themselves from a given territory. One objection might be that criminal […]

Origins of the state

The state is systematic coercion requiring hierarchy to operate and revenues to sustain itself extracted from a given territory. The development of farming does not, of itself, create the preconditions for the development of the state, apart from requiring the storing of food across seasons (and so able-to-be-expropriated). Indeed, the first wave of proto-cities rose and […]

A regulatory wrinkle from rational expectations

The rational expectations hypothesis can be understood in various ways. One is as an equilibrium condition in a model–the model is in equilibrium when expectations of agents in the model align with the predictions of the model (though that does not mean it is a stable equilibrium). Another is that expectations of agents within the model should not be set differently […]

Three ages of Western history summarised

In the Ancient period, the dominant ideal was to ennoble life (to seek glory). In the Medieval period, the dominant ideal was to sanctify life (to seek salvation). In the Modern era, the dominant ideal is to expand life (to live long and prosper). The ideal of the previous era never entirely dies, but becomes part […]

How do you keep an exploited socialist economy going?

You sell people you don’t want (via): East Germany’s economy was in free fall. Many skilled workers and intellectuals had fled and the Soviet Union was stripping the country of its resources. By 1964 the fiscal situation had become so dire that the authorities developed a scheme to sell political prisoners to West Germany. They called it haeftlingsfreikauf. […]

Swift justice

  Evening of May 11, 1812: broker John Bellingham shot and killed Prime Minister Spencer Perceval in the lobby of the House of Commons. May 15, 1812: John Bellingham tried at the Old Bailey.  A claim of insanity was not accepted. May 18, 1812: John Bellingham was hanged by the neck until dead. No mucking about in those days.   […]

Never reason from a static coalition

From the Great Depression election of 1930 to the Contract with America election of 1994–so a period of 64 years–the US House of Representatives had a Republican majority for precisely 4 years (two terms): 1947-49, 1953-1955, the terms of Speaker Joseph William Martin Jnr. Since the Contract with America election, the only non-Republican Speaker has been Nancy Pelosi (2007-11). So, after having a US […]

Ebola, Ferguson and political narratives

The Ebola virus reaching the US and the ongoing troubles and controversy over a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri display the power and the dangers of political narratives from all sides, both of US politics and more broadly. Thus, one of the more tired and embarrassing responses to Ebola mis-steps in the US has to […]

Quantity, physicality, source — the origins of currency names

The terms we use for units of currency–when they are not named after historical figures, terms for money or items once used as money–often come from one of three origins: quantity (number or, more commonly, weight); physicality (shape or content); or source. That pound (as in pound sterling, the oldest currency still in use) is originally a weight term is obvious–as it still is a weight […]