Unsafe Cars Can Save Lives

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

The London-based Global New Car Assessment Program tested seven cars made for the Indian market and handed five of them — the Renault Kwid, Maruti Suzuki Celerio, Maruti Suzuki Eeco, Mahindra Scorpio, and Hyundai Eon — a rating of zero stars out of five for adult safety. This leads Alex Tabarrok to remind us that unsafe cars can save lives:

These cars are very inexpensive. A Renault Kwid, for example, can be had for under $4000. In the Indian market these cars are competing against motorcycles. Only 6 percent of Indian households own a car but 47% own a motorcycle. Overall, there are more than five times as many motorcycles as cars in India.

Motorcycles are also much more dangerous than cars.

The [U.S] federal government estimates that per mile traveled in 2013, the number of deaths on motorcycles was over 26 times the number in cars.

Similar ratios are found in the UK and Australia. I can think of several reasons why the ratio might be lower in India–lower speeds, for example, but also several reasons why the ratio might be higher (see picture).

Indian Family on Motorcycle

The GNCAP worries that some Indian cars don’t have airbags but forgets that no Indian motorcycles have airbags. Even a zero-star car is much safer than a motorcycle. Air bags cost about $200-$400 (somewhat older estimates here a, b, c) and are not terribly effective. (Levitt and Porter, for example, calculated that air bags saved 550 lives in 1997 compared to 15,000 lives saved by seatbelts.) At $250, airbags would increase the cost of a $5,000 car by 5%. A higher price for automobiles would reduce the number of relatively safe automobiles and increase the number of relatively dangerous motorcycles and thus an air bag requirement could result in more traffic fatalities.

Low-Road Narrative

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Los Angeles failed to keep up with its neighbor to the north:

Unlike the Bay Area, which pursued a “high wage specialization strategy,” Los Angeles, in the interest of social justice, deliberately focused on lower- and middle-tier economic sectors. “Los Angeles’s leaders generated a low-road narrative for themselves, while Bay Area leadership coalesced around a high-road vision for their region,” they write. Such decisions have consequences, many of which are demographic. Had Los Angeles followed the same path as San Francisco, Southern California would have attracted far fewer working-class Latinos. The authors don’t directly state this, but it’s a clear implication of their findings. It’s logical to conclude that any region looking to replicate San Francisco’s success should take an exclusively high-end focus — social justice be damned.

(Hat tip to Battery Horse.)

Keeping out swarms of poor immigrants

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

The socially acceptable way to keep out swarms of poor immigrants is the Northern Californian liberal way, Steve Sailer explains: “environmentalism, unionism, historical preservationism, NIMBYism — indeed, the whole panoply of Democratic Party policies at the state and local level.”

The Greatest Archimedian Lever

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Bryan Caplan explores the value of history — to his sons:

Today my homeschooled sons are taking the Advanced Placement United States History Exam.  I took the exam when I was 17.  They are 13.  Given how often I deride the practical value of history in The Case Against Education, you could fairly ask, “What’s the point?”  Signaling is the easy answer.  Anyone can be homeschooled, but only a select minority can ace an A.P. test.  Strong A.P. scores are especially impressive if you’re years younger than your competitors.

But that’s hardly the whole story.  After all, we could have done other A.P.s instead.  So why history?  To be blunt: While I think history is a waste of time for 99% of people, I think my sons are in the other 1%.  They aren’t just highly intelligent; they’re good students.  More specifically:

1. Unlike almost everyone, my sons are interested in being social scientists.  And while the historically ignorant certainly can succeed in social science, you can’t be a good social scientist without broad, deep historical knowledge.  Can’t!

2. As you age, you lose your ability to master and retain large bodies of facts.  The best way to durably learn history – like foreign language – is to learn it young.  I acquired 90% of my historical knowledge between the ages of 10 and 20.  So age 13 seems like an ideal time for this task.

3. Unlike almost everyone, my sons genuinely enjoy learning about history.  (I was the same way).  As I’ve argued elsewhere, this is the crucial ingredient that transforms otherwise useless learning into a merit good.

4. The APUSH is a fantastic exam.  If a test can teach a person “how to think,” the APUSH is such a test.  If you’ve got 195 minutes to spare, take it.

5. To be honest, I’m not convinced any test actually can teach anyone how to think.  That’s why #4 says If.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that people who will ultimately learn how to think can learn how to think sooner.  How?  By practicing intellectually demanding tasks.  Since my sons are in the select category of people who will ultimately learn how to think, I have sped them toward their potential.

I was a bit surprised by his second and fourth points. I’ve certainly learned far more history on my own, as an adult, than I ever learned in school. And I didn’t realize the AP US History exam was especially good.

Michael Strong doesn’t think so highly of it:

Most AP US History preparatory materials, and often sample exams, propound a straightforward progressive narrative of American history: The robber barons, promoting an evil laissez-faire system, were happily overcome by the muckrakers and Teddy Roosevelt. The rise of progressive legislation saved Americans from suffering and misery. The Great Depression was caused, in part, by inequality. FDR’s activist government saved the US after Hoover’s attachment to laissez-faire almost destroyed us. Etc.

I see the AP US History program as the single greatest obstacle to economic literacy in the US. Many (most?) of our elite students take it in preparation for college admissions. It provides a powerful morality tale that is sanctioned as absolute truth by the College Board.

Later courses in economics, either at university or in summer programs such as those by IHS and FEE, may counteract some of the damage done. But I suspect more students take the US AP exam than take economics courses. Moreover, most economics courses come across as dry problem-solving rather than an inspiring moral narrative. Moreover, they rarely address economic history at all. The number of students who actually take a course in U.S. economic history, to address the many economic fallacies in the progressive narrative, is vanishingly small.

Add to this university history departments that mostly emphasize and elaborate on the progressive morality tale in US history. The result is that most college graduates continue to believe that laissez-faire was harmful to the working class, that heroic reformers improved conditions through legislation, the Great Depression was caused by inequality, etc.

Reform of the AP US History program, if it were possible, might arguably be the greatest Archimedian lever available to libertarians. Imagine a world in which instead of social signaling among intellectuals consisted not of “I’m more progressive than thou,” but rather “I don’t make idiotic mistakes regarding economic history or economics.”

Foragers and Farmers

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

Spandrell shares an interesting tweet by a Japanese academic about foragers and farmers:

History shows that when humans moved from foraging into farming, this allowed for people who did not need to engage in hunting (bureaucrats, scholars, warriors, etc.), which vastly expanded the range of human activity.

Nowadays we force professionals to do sales, to participate in long meetings, to type their own reports and other paperwork, which is the same as forcing everybody to engage in hunting. We are going backwards.

Owned Markets

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

The modern market is not made for the average man, Free Northerner argues, but is instead made for the soulless, high-IQ, homo economicus. So, what do we replace it with?

We can not replace it with socialism, communism, or the like, for those systems lead to misery. Distributism looks nice, but is light on details and is unlikely to scale to large urban populations. It is undisputable that free markets are the most effective and efficient means of producing goods and services, but modern free markets are based on the abominations of usury and inflation, and destroys traditional communities and leave those humans not suited for inhuman money-grubbing frozen out.

So, where can we get a system that is a combination of efficient, just (in the proper sense, not in the evil ‘social justice’ sense), and human?

[...]

The problem with free markets though, is that they are free. Libertarians and conservatives do not take their thoughts as fully forward as they should. We can privatize all the goods and services on the market, but that leaves one question, what of the market itself?

The lib/cons wish to privatize everything but the market itself, leaving the market as its own commons. They than argue the socialist argument that the market, and the contracts that it consists of, should be enforced and controlled by the public through the complex social scheme called the government. Of course, the government tends to snowball out of control, and the lib/cons are suprised when a formerly free market country becomes a socialist state.

The solution then, is to privatize markets themselves. We need not free markets, which are subject to the plundering all commons are subject to, but owned markets, markets which are privately owned and controlled for the profit of the owner.

Whatever Happened to the Work Ethic?

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Our national discussion about how to fix capitalism seems limited to those who believe that more government will fix the problem and those who think that free markets will fix themselves, Steve Malanga laments:

The genius of America in the early nineteenth century, Tocqueville thought, was that it pursued “productive industry” without a descent into lethal materialism. Behind America’s balancing act, the pioneering French social thinker noted, lay a common set of civic virtues that celebrated not merely hard work but also thrift, integrity, self-reliance, and modesty — virtues that grew out of the pervasiveness of religion, which Tocqueville called “the first of [America’s] political institutions,… imparting morality” to American democracy and free markets. Some 75 years later, sociologist Max Weber dubbed the qualities that Tocqueville observed the “Protestant ethic” and considered them the cornerstone of successful capitalism. Like Tocqueville, Weber saw that ethic most fully realized in America, where it pervaded the society. Preached by luminaries like Benjamin Franklin, taught in public schools, embodied in popular novels, repeated in self-improvement books, and transmitted to immigrants, that ethic undergirded and promoted America’s economic success.

What would Tocqueville or Weber think of America today? In place of thrift, they would find a nation of debtors, staggering beneath loans obtained under false pretenses. In place of a steady, patient accumulation of wealth, they would find bankers and financiers with such a short-term perspective that they never pause to consider the consequences or risks of selling securities they don’t understand. In place of a country where all a man asks of government is “not to be disturbed in his toil,” as Tocqueville put it, they would find a nation of rent-seekers demanding government subsidies to purchase homes, start new ventures, or bail out old ones. They would find what Tocqueville described as the “fatal circle” of materialism — the cycle of acquisition and gratification that drives people back to ever more frenetic acquisition and that ultimately undermines prosperous democracies.

And they would understand why. After flourishing for three centuries in America, the Protestant ethic began to disintegrate, with key elements slowly disappearing from modern American society, vanishing from schools, from business, from popular culture, and leaving us with an economic system unmoored from the restraints of civic virtue. Not even Adam Smith — who was a moral philosopher, after all — imagined capitalism operating in such an ethical vacuum. Bailout plans, new regulatory schemes, and monetary policy moves won’t be enough to spur a robust, long-term revival of American economic opportunity without some renewal of what was once understood as the work ethic — not just hard work but also a set of accompanying virtues, whose crucial role in the development and sustaining of free markets too few now recall.

How to Build an Economic Model in Your Spare Time

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Hal Varian explains how to build an economic model in your spare time:

In reality the process is much more haphazard than my description would suggest — the model of research that I describe is an idealization of reality, much like the economic models that I create. But there is probably enough connection with reality to make the description useful — which I hope is also true for my economic models.

The first step is to get an idea. This is not all that hard to do. The tricky part is to get a good idea. The way you do this is to come up with lots and lots of ideas and throw out all the ones that aren’t good.

[...]

The first test is to try to phrase your idea in a way that a non-economist can understand. If you can’t do this it’s probably not a very good idea. If you can phrase it in a way that a noneconomist can understand, it still may be a lousy idea, but at least there’s hope.

Before you start trying to decide whether your idea is correct, you should stop to ask whether it is interesting. If it isn’t interesting, no one will care whether it is correct or not.

[...]

One of the primary purposes of economic theory is to generate insight. The greatest compliment is “Ah! So that explains it!” That’s what you should be looking for — forget about the “nice solid work” and try to become a Wizard of Ahs.

[...]

Write down the simplest possible model you can think of, and see if it still exhibits some interesting behavior. If it does, then make it even simpler.

Several years ago I gave a seminar about some of my research. I started out with a very simple example. One of the faculty in the audience interrupted me to say that he had worked on something like this several years ago, but his model was “much more complex”.

I replied “My model was complex when I started, too, but I just kept working on it till it got simple!”

What we are seeing worldwide

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes what we are seeing worldwide:

What we are seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30y of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, microeconomic papers wrong 40% of the time, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating only 1/5th of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

Kay’s Other People’s Money

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

John Kay’s Other People’s Money argues that the growth in the size of the financial system hasn’t been matched by improvements in the allocation of capital:

He proposes that financial services are not as profitable as some headline numbers would suggest. And he suggests that the replacement of those who are good at meeting clients on the 19th hole with those who were good at solving complex mathematical problems was not always a good thing — sometimes clever people are the problem, particularly in a complex environment.

On that last point:

The organisational sociologist Charles Perrow has studied the robustness and resilience of engineering systems in different contexts, such as nuclear power stations and marine accidents. Robustness and resilience require that individual components of the system are designed to high standards.… More significantly, resilience of individual components is not always necessary, and never sufficient, to achieve system stability. Failures in complex systems are inevitable, and no one can ever be confident of anticipating the full variety of interactions that will be involved.

Engineers responsible for interactively complex systems have learned that stability and resilience requires conscious and systematic simplification, modularity, which enables failures to be contained, and redundancy, which allows failed elements to be by-passed. None of these features — simplification, modularity, redundancy — characterised the financial system as it had developed in 2008. On the contrary, financialisation had greatly increased complexity, interaction and interdependence. Redundancy — as, for example, in holding capital above the regulatory minimum — was everywhere regarded as an indicator of inefficiency, not of strength.

Paycheck to Paycheck

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Since 2013, the federal reserve board has conducted a survey of American consumers. One question makes it clear just how many middle-class Americans are living paycheck to paycheck:

The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all.

Americans are financially fragile. Neal Gabler calls this embarrassing condition financial impotence:

A 2014 Bankrate survey, echoing the Fed’s data, found that only 38 percent of Americans would cover a $1,000 emergency-room visit or $500 car repair with money they’d saved. Two reports published last year by the Pew Charitable Trusts found, respectively, that 55 percent of households didn’t have enough liquid savings to replace a month’s worth of lost income, and that of the 56 percent of people who said they’d worried about their finances in the previous year, 71 percent were concerned about having enough money to cover everyday expenses. A similar study conducted by Annamaria Lusardi of George Washington University, Peter Tufano of Oxford, and Daniel Schneider, then of Princeton, asked individuals whether they could “come up with” $2,000 within 30 days for an unanticipated expense. They found that slightly more than one-quarter could not, and another 19 percent could do so only if they pawned possessions or took out payday loans. The conclusion: Nearly half of American adults are “financially fragile” and “living very close to the financial edge.” Yet another analysis, this one led by Jacob Hacker of Yale, measured the number of households that had lost a quarter or more of their “available income” in a given year — income minus medical expenses and interest on debt — and found that in each year from 2001 to 2012, at least one in five had suffered such a loss and couldn’t compensate by digging into savings.

Credit cards are just too tempting:

If you ask economists to explain this state of affairs, they are likely to finger credit-card debt as a main culprit. Long before the Great Recession, many say, Americans got themselves into credit trouble. According to an analysis of Federal Reserve and TransUnion data by the personal-finance site ValuePenguin, credit-card debt stood at about $5,700 per household in 2015. Of course, this figure factors in all the households with a balance of zero. About 38 percent of households carried some debt, according to the analysis, and among those, the average was more than $15,000. In recent years, while the number of people holding credit-card debt has been decreasing, the average debt for those households carrying a balance has been on the rise.

More disturbing stats:

The personal savings rate peaked at 13.3 percent in 1971 before falling to 2.6 percent in 2005. As of last year, the figure stood at 5.1 percent, and according to McClary, nearly 30 percent of American adults don’t save any of their income for retirement.

“If you want to have financial security,” says Brad Klontz, “it is 100 percent on you.”

One thing economists adduce to lessen this responsibility is that credit represents a sea change from the old economic system, when financial decisions were much more constrained, limiting the sort of trouble that people could get themselves into — a sea change for which most people were ill-prepared.

It is ironic that as financial products have become increasingly sophisticated, theoretically giving individuals more options to smooth out the bumps in their lives, something like the opposite seems to have happened, at least for many. Indeed, Annamaria Lusardi and her colleagues found that, in general, the more sophisticated a country’s credit and financial markets, the worse the problem of financial insecurity for its citizens. Why? Lusardi argues that as the financial world has grown more complex, our knowledge of finances has not kept pace. Basically, a good many Americans are “financially illiterate,” and this illiteracy correlates highly with financial distress. A 2011 study she and a colleague conducted measuring knowledge of fundamental financial principles (compound interest, risk diversification, and the effects of inflation) found that 65 percent of Americans ages 25 to 65 were financial illiterates.

Why You Can’t Argue with the New Left

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Arnold Kling recommends Scruton’s Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, which profiles a number of continental Europeans whose names are unfamiliar to most Americans today:

Although few of us are conversant with the likes of Theodoro Adorno, Gyorgy Lukacs, and Slavoj Zizek, reading about them makes one realize how much of an imprint they have left on contemporary college campuses and even on the approach to politics taken by Barack Obama.

A major theme of Fools is that the New Left evolved a set of intellectual tactical moves against their opponents. These included creating a false left-right spectrum, delegitimizing other points of view, indicting capitalism and tradition for all wrongs while being vague about alternatives, and using Newspeak to present authoritarianism as a defense of freedom and human rights.

Income and Household Demographics

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

American households in different income quintiles differ in predictable ways:

Mean number of earners per household. On average, there are significantly more income earners per household in the top income quintile households (1.98) than earners per household in the lowest-income households (0.41). It can also be seen that the average number of earners increases for each higher income quintile, demonstrating that one of the main factors in explaining differences in income among U.S. households is the number of earners per household. Also, the unadjusted ratio of average income for the highest to lowest quintile of 15.9 times ($185,206 to $11,651), falls to a ratio of only 3.3 times when comparing “income per earner” of the two quintiles: $93,538 for the top fifth to $28,417 for the bottom fifth.

Share of households with no earners. Sixty-three percent of U.S. households in the bottom fifth of Americans by income had no earners for the entire year in 2013. In contrast, only 3.1% of the households in the top fifth had no earners in 2013, providing more evidence of the strong relationship between household income and income earners per household.

Marital status of householders. Married-couple households represent a much greater share of the top income quintile (76.8%) than for the bottom income quintile (16%), and single-parent or single households represented a much greater share of the bottom one-fifth of households (84.0%) than for the top 20% (23.2%). Like for the average number of earners per household, the share of married-couple households also increases for each higher income quintile, from 16% (lowest quintile) to 35% to 50% (middle quintile) to 64% to 77% (highest quintile).

Age of householders. More than 7 out of every 10 households (71.9%) in the top income quintile included individuals in their prime earning years between the ages of 35-64, compared to fewer than half (43.9%) of household members in the bottom fifth who were in that prime earning age group last year. The share of householders in the prime earning age group of 35-64 year olds increases with each higher income quintile.

Compared to members of the top income quintile of households by income, household members in the bottom income quintile were 1.4 times more likely (21.8% vs. 15.8%) to be in the youngest age group (under 35 years), and almost three times more likely (34.2% vs. 12.3%) to be in the oldest age group (65 years and over).

By average age, the highest income group is the youngest (48.8 years) and the lowest income group is the oldest (54.4 years).

Work status of householders. Almost five times as many top quintile households included at least one adult who was working full-time in 2013 (78.8%) compared to the bottom income quintile (only 16.1%), and more than five times as many households in the bottom quintile included adults who did not work at all (69.4%) compared to top quintile households whose family members did not work (12.4%). The share of householders working full-time increases at each higher income quintile (16.1% to 43.9% to 60.4% to 70.7% o 78.8%).

Education of householders. Family members of households in the top fifth by income were almost five times more likely to have a college degree (64.6%) than members of households in the bottom income quintile (only 13.5%). In contrast, householders in the lowest income quintile were 15 times more likely than those in the top income quintile to have less than a high school degree in 2013 (24.2 % vs. 1.6%). As expected, the Census data show that there is a significantly positive relationship between education and income.

Selected Characteristics of US Households by Income Quintile 2013

The High-IQ Homo Economicus

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

The current system was designed by and for the high-IQ Homo economicus, Free Northerner argues:

I will clarify my personal position. I come from the working class. Through the luck of genetics and the grace of God, I happen to have be born with high intelligence and an impersonal, homo economicus sperginess, so I am now personally comfortably middle-class, but I see second-hand through family the degeneracies of the lower classes. As well, I am not a Kremlin troll (although, if a Russian psy-ops happens to read this and wants to pay me…)

The current socio-economic system is designed by rootless, soulless, high-IQ, low-time preference, money-/status-grubbing homo economicus for benefit of those same homo economicus. It is a system for designed for intelligent sociopaths. Those who are rootless with high-IQ and low-time preference can succeed rather well in this system, but it destroys those who need rootedness or those who are who are low-IQ or high time preference.

Kevin says, “Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster.” But he’s wrong, there was a disaster, but no just one, multiple related disasters all occurring simeltaneously. Ones that would be missed by a rootless cosmopolitan like Williamson. These disasters include the sexual revolution, the long march, feminism, mass immigration, globalization/off-shoring, forced integration, the drug epidemic, mass TV propoganda, governmental growth, and cultural genocide.

Within a span of a few decades working-class whites saw their communities invaded and destroyed by immigrants and integration, the traditional sexual/moral framework destroyed and replaced by degenerate Hollywood mores, the collapse of restraining institutions such as the church and local community, and what forced into competition for what jobs weren’t off-shored to foreign places paying starvation wages with imported illegals willing to work for almost nothing.

Every support the white working class (and for that matter the black working class) had vanished within less than a generation. There was a concerted effort to destroy these supports, and this effort succeeded. Through minimal fault of their own the white working class was left with nothing holding them up.

[...]

People are not equal. Differing people and groups have differing levels of in-born ability to be responsible. You can talk personal responsibility all you want, but most people require cultural and institutional structures to help hold them personally responsible. Those structures are gone, they’ve been destroyed.

You can not expect natural peasants and yeomen to be able to properly hold up the responsibilities of natural aristocrats or priests.

Nature-defying leftists think they can remodel men and make them all into perfect new socialist men. All men are blank slates that can be molded by education to become perfect. Man is perfectable. Of course, every attempt at perfecting man has failed.

Modern conservatives, having whole-heartedly adopted liberalism, fall into the tabula rasa trap from a different angle. All men are capable of perfecting themselves, they just need to become rugged individualists and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. While personal responsibility and individual effort are important, to think that all men are capable of self-actualization in anomic isolation is just as nonsensical the New Soviet Man.

Most men need community, cultural, and institutional support to self-actualize.

[...]

None of this is to say that we should adopt socialist or communist policies where everybody gets free government handouts. That’s just another form of anomic, inhuman mammon-worship. There are other options besides anomic socialist mammon-worship and anomic corporatist mammon-worship.

Henri Pirenne

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Theodore Dalrymple briefly mentioned something that Henri Pirenne said, that barbarians made up only five percent of the population of the Roman Empire at the moment of its supposed collapse. Pirenne’s larger point was that Arab expansion led to Europe’s decline:

According to Pirenne the real break in Roman history occurred in the 8th century as a result of Arab expansion. Islamic conquest of the area of today’s south-eastern Turkey, Syria, Palestine, North Africa, Spain and Portugal ruptured economic ties to western Europe, cutting the region off from trade and turning it into a stagnant backwater, with wealth flowing out in the form of raw resources and nothing coming back. This began a steady decline and impoverishment so that, by the time of Charlemagne, western Europe had become almost entirely agrarian at a subsistence level, with no long-distance trade.

In a summary, Pirenne stated that “Without Islam, the Frankish Empire would probably never have existed, and Charlemagne, without Muhammad, would be inconceivable.” That is, he rejected the notion that barbarian invasions in the 4th and 5th centuries caused the collapse of the Roman Empire. Instead, the Muslim conquest of north Africa made the Mediterranean a barrier, cutting western Europe off from the east, enabling the Carolingians, especially Charlemagne, to create a new, distinctly western form of government. Pirenne used statistical data regarding money in support of his thesis. Much of his argument builds upon the disappearance from western Europe of items that had to come from outside. For example, the minting of gold coins north of the Alps stopped after the 7th century, indicating a loss of access to wealthier parts of the world. Papyrus, made only in Egypt, no longer appeared in northern Europe after the 7th century; writing reverted to using animal skins, indicating its economic isolation.