No, you’re not paying for all those channels you never watch, I’ve said before, and now Alex Tabarrok explains bundling more formally for his MRUniversity course on media economics:
David Foster revisits a neglected but significant anniversary:
On May 10, 1940, German forces launched an attack against Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Few people among the Allies imagined that France would collapse in only six weeks: Churchill, for example, had a high opinion of the fighting qualities of the French army. But collapse is what happened, of course, and we are still all living with the consequences. General Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young Captain on the French staff, wrote in 1967:
The collapse of the French Army is the most important event of the twentieth century.
If it’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. If France had held up to the German assault as effectively as it was expected to do, World War II would probably have never reached the nightmare levels that it in fact did reach. The Hitler regime might well have fallen. The Holocaust would never have happened. Most likely, there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.
This campaign has never received much attention in America; it tends to be regarded as something that happened before the “real” war started. Indeed, many denizens of the Anglosphere seem to believe that the French basically gave up without a fight–which is a considerable exaggeration given the French casualties of around 90,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. But I think the fall of France deserves serious study, and that some of the root causes of the defeat are scarily relevant to today’s world.
I’m not sure why there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe, but do read the whole thing.
In his gift shop, Hector Cole offers this medieval arrowhead set:
Devizes swallowtail broadhead
This is a typical hunting broadhead used against large game such as deer or boar. It is designed to inflict the maximum damage to the animal through its long cutting edges causing massive haemorrhaging so that the animal will not run far after being shot. This head is based on the arrowhead in Devizes museum.
Small straight broadhead
This is also a typical hunting head of the period that was used on smaller game producing the same effect as the swallowtail broadhead.
Forked hunting head, Type 6
This hunting head was used against birds and small game. The forked shape of the head fulfils two purposes, a) When it hits a bird the rotating motion of the head tears into the feathers and brings the bird down if in flight, b) If you miss when shooting at small game the head prevents the arrow from burying itself in the long grass or undergrowth making it easy to locate.
London Museum type 16 war head
This head is based on the heads of this type in the London Museum collection and the Westminster arrow. It is a war head of the later medieval period used to pierce plate armour.
War bodkin long type 10
This war head is the most common of the medieval period. It was used against knights in plate armour and will penetrate armour up to two millimetres in thickness.
Needle bodkin type 7
This war head was developed to pierce mail with devastating results and was used against lightly armoured foot soldiers throughout the medieval period.
Watching Hector Cole forge a war bodkin — an armor-piercing arrowhead — can be hypnotic:
The electric grinder ruined the effect a bit though.
Anarchism has never been coherent:
Karl Marx agreed with the anarchists of his day that the state should be destroyed. But he disagreed about when. He was convinced that the state would become obsolete only after the working class had taken it over, thereby destroying the class system. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the French philosopher who popularized the term “anarchist,” thought that the idea of a revolutionary government was a contradiction in terms. “Governments are God’s scourge, established to discipline the world,” he wrote. “Do you really expect them to destroy themselves, to create freedom, to make revolution?” Mikhail Bakunin, the prickly Russian agitator, sneered at Marx’s idea of a workers’ state. “As soon as they become rulers or representatives of the people,” he wrote, they “will cease to be workers and will begin to look upon the whole workers’ world from the heights of the state.” In 1872, at a meeting in The Hague, Marx helped to expel Bakunin from the International Workingmen’s Association, formalizing a division that seemed no less stark, nearly a century and a half later, when the horizontals broke from the verticals on an August afternoon in Bowling Green.
In delivering his brief for anarchism, Graeber asks readers to take into account the movement’s history of good behavior. “For nearly a century now,” he writes, “anarchism has been one of the very few political philosophies whose exponents never blow anyone up.” This is a sly way of acknowledging that, a hundred years ago, anarchists had a rather different reputation. On May 4, 1886, in Haymarket Square, in Chicago, police tried to halt a demonstration by striking workers, and someone in the crowd threw a bomb, which killed at least ten people, including seven police officers. Chicago had become a hub of anarchist politics, and although the bomber was never identified, eight anarchists were convicted of being accessories to murder. In Europe, anarchists carried out a series of spectacular attacks, including the assassinations of one President (French), two kings (Italian and Greek), and three Prime Ministers (Spanish, Russian, and Spanish again). In the U.S., anarchism’s reputation was sealed for a generation by Leon Czolgosz, who killed President William McKinley, in 1901; he had evidently been inspired by Emma Goldman, the prominent anarchist rabble-rouser.
Over the years, though, anarchists’ ferocious reputation has mellowed. The Occupy movement borrowed some of its organizing tactics from the egalitarian groups that formed, in the nineteen-seventies, to try to stop the construction of nuclear power plants. And the rise of punk helped give anarchism a new image: “Anarchy in the U.K.,” by the Sex Pistols, was an ambiguous provocation; other bands, like Crass, used “anarchy” to signal their commitment to a bundle of emancipatory causes, and their independence from the socialist organizations that dominated the British left. The connection to punk lent anarchism a countercultural credibility, and in 1999, when tens of thousands of activists materialized in Seattle, intent on shutting down a World Trade Organization conference, raucous young anarchists were out in front; at one point, they smashed the window of a Starbucks. The smashed window became an icon of resistance, and the chaos in the streets of Seattle galvanized a mobilization, known as the Global Justice movement.
Twelve years later, not all of Occupy’s supporters were happy to see anarchists playing a starring role. In a contentious essay titled, “The Cancer in Occupy,” Chris Hedges called for a clean break. Hedges is a former Times reporter turned socialist author and activist, and he published his essay on the progressive Web site Truthdig, a few months after the Zuccotti eviction. His main target was the “black bloc” phenomenon, in which activists — often anarchists — dress in black clothes, with black handkerchiefs obscuring their faces, the better to cause mischief anonymously. Hedges accused black blocs of a “lust” for destruction, which he described as a sickness. “Once the Occupy movement is painted as a flag-burning, rock-throwing, angry mob we are finished,” he wrote.
In a deeply indignant response to Hedges, Graeber pointed out that black-bloc actions had been rare in the Occupy movement. Much of Hedges’s concern seemed to arise from a single incident in Oakland, when a black bloc smashed bank windows and vandalized a Whole Foods. Like many anarchists, Graeber doesn’t think property damage is violence. And he believes that so-called “mobs” have their uses — in 2001, in Quebec City, he was part of a black bloc that succeeded in toppling a chain-link fence meant to separate activists from the free-trade meeting they wanted to disrupt. He supports “diversity of tactics,” an approach that urges different kinds of activists to stay physically separate (so as not to endanger each other) but politically united. Above all, Graeber rejects what he calls “the peace police”: activists who try to control other activists’ behavior, sometimes in collaboration with the real police. His tolerance for confrontational protest stems in part from his disinclination to empower anyone to stop it.
Graeber is more worried about the charge that modern anarchists are feckless, so he is keen to give anarchists credit for changing the world. He claims that the Global Justice movement weakened the W.T.O. and scuttled the Free Trade Area of the Americas pact, which was the topic of those discussions in Quebec City. And he credits the Occupy movement with preventing Mitt Romney from becoming President. (He underestimates Romney’s own, invaluable contributions to this cause.) Graeber is pleased, too, to underscore the links between Occupy and other popular movements around the world, from the Egyptian uprising to the ongoing demonstrations of the Indignados, in Spain. He sees a global “insurrectionary wave,” united less by a shared ideology than by a shared opposition to an increasingly global social arrangement.
The rehabilitation of anarchism in America has a lot to do with the fall of the Soviet Union, which lives on in popular memory as a quaint and brutal place — an embarrassing precursor that modern, pro-democracy socialists must find ways to disavow. Graeber sees “authoritarian socialists” not as distant relatives but as longtime enemies; channelling Bakunin, he claims that the Marxist intention to smash the state by seizing it first is a “pipe dream.” For anarchists, the major historical precursors are so fleeting as to be nearly nonexistent: the Paris Commune lasted scarcely two months, in 1871; anarchists dominated Catalonia for about a year, after the Spanish revolution in 1936. The appeal of anarchism is largely negative: a promise that a different world needn’t resemble any of the ones that have been tried before.
In a new book, “Two Cheers for Anarchism” (Princeton), James C. Scott, a highly regarded professor of anthropology and political science at Yale (and, Graeber says, “one of the great political thinkers of our time”), commends anarchism precisely for its “tolerance for confusion and improvisation.” Graeber did his anthropological field work in the highlands of Madagascar, and Scott did his in Southeast Asia, but their conclusions were similar. Both of them encountered communities that lived more or less autonomously, finding ways to resist or ignore whatever governments claimed jurisdiction over them. And both are eager to expand the history of lived anarchism beyond Paris and Catalonia; it is, they argue, broader and more common than we’ve been taught.
“Two Cheers for Anarchism” conducts a brief and digressive seminar in political philosophy, starting from the perspective of a disillusioned leftist. “Virtually every major successful revolution ended by creating a state more powerful than the one it overthrew,” Scott writes. Traditionally, this has been an argument against revolutions, but Scott wonders whether it might be an argument against states. He stops short of calling for the abolition of government, which explains the missing cheer. Instead, he highlights everyday acts of petty resistance: “foot-dragging, poaching, pilfering, dissimulation, sabotage, desertion, absenteeism, squatting, and flight.” Most of all, he urges citizens to be wary of their governments, which is good advice, but rather deflating — Scott can make anarchism sound like little more than a colorful word for critical thinking.
Graeber, an American teaching at Goldsmiths, a part of the University of London, begins his book with an anecdote. He is attending a garden party at Westminster Abbey. The guests are international activists and do-gooders, corporate liberals as well as antiglobalization radicals. He falls into a conversation with a lawyer for a foundation and explains his involvement in the campaign to stop the International Monetary Fund from imposing austerity on third-world nations. He mentions the biblical Jubilee, in which Hebrew kings periodically proclaimed debts forgiven.
“‘But,’ she objected, as if this were self-evident, ‘they’d borrowed the money! Surely one has to pay one’s debts.’”
Graeber reminds her that even in standard economic theory, “a lender is supposed to accept a certain degree of risk.” Indeed, the higher the anticipated return, the more likely the danger of default. Yet the premise that “surely one has to pay one’s debts” is so persuasive, Graeber writes, “because it’s not actually an economic statement: it’s a moral statement.” A debt, by definition, is something you owe that must be repaid.
Despite his twenty years as a columnist for Business Week, Kuttner never really addresses the nature of corporate debt and how it might contrast with either personal debt or public debt.
When ordinary people think of debt, they think of personal debt — improvident people borrowing money to buy things they don’t really need, and to buy them now, rather than later.
In business though, debt isn’t a way to conspicuously consume beyond your means; it’s a way of financing your enterprise. The other way is equity, or shares of stock. Historically most outside financing was debt, because owning a share of the business meant becoming part-owner of the business, with all the liability that entailed — and only earning your share of whatever profits the real owner cooked the books to show.
Eventually business law matured to the point where the owners of joint-stock companies faced limited liability, and firms could declare bankruptcy. Kuttner touches on this without emphasizing how different this is from modern personal bankruptcy used to discharge credit-card debt:
My own research explores a pivotal event in the history of debt — the invention of modern bankruptcy, in 1706, by ministers of Queen Anne. Before 1706, bankruptcy simply meant insolvency, and the bankrupt was packed off to debtors’ prison. It dawned on the reformers of the day that this practice was economically irrational. As the legal historian of bankruptcy Bruce Mann wrote, “it beggared debtors without significantly benefiting creditors.” Once behind bars, a debtor had no means of resuming productive economic life, much less satisfying his debts. In this insight was the germ of Chapter 11 of the modern US bankruptcy code, the provision that allows an insolvent corporation to write off old debts and have a fresh start as a going concern.
The British devised the concept of legal discharge from debt not out of a sudden attack of compassion but because the economic crisis of the 1690s had put much of the merchant class in jail. The cause was not improvident or immoral behavior on the part of debtors, but general economic dislocation beyond their control, caused by the confluence of bubonic plague, recent wars with France, and a storm that devastated the merchant fleet in 1703. The future novelist Daniel Defoe was a leading pamphleteer promoting the idea that debtors might settle with creditors at so many pence to the pound and then have their debts legally discharged. Defoe had himself spent some months in debtors’ prison in 1692 and 1693.
But when the law was finally enacted, allowing a magistrate to settle debts with partial repayment, only substantial merchants could qualify for relief. Common debtors still languished in jail, since their penury had scant wider consequences. Yet an important conceptual breakthrough had occurred. Canceling some debts was deemed economically efficient. Legal historians such as Bruce Mann have observed that, for capitalism to proceed, it was necessary to shift the economic thinking and legal policy governing debt from moral questions to instrumental ones.
Modern Chapter 11 bankruptcy is not old-fashioned bankruptcy. That‘s Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where the business ceases operations, and a trustee sells all of its assets and distributes the proceeds to its creditors.
Modern Chapter 11 bankruptcy often wipes out the shareholders — the former “owners” — but allows the company to continue operations, if it is worth more to its new owners — the creditors — as a going concern than as a simple jumble of assets.
Kuttner sees this as a double standard:
The double standard in debt relief that favored large merchants, present at the creation of bankruptcy law in 1706, persists today in many different forms. It gets surprisingly little attention in the debt debates. Despite the tacit assumption that “surely one has to pay one’s debts,” the evasion of repayment is both widespread and selective. Corporate executives routinely walk away from their debts via Chapter 11 of the national bankruptcy law when that seems expedient. Morality scarcely enters the conversation — this is strictly business.
Even more galling is the fact that the executives who drove the company into the ground often keep control by means of a doctrine known as debtor-in- possession. A judge simply permits the company to write off old debts, while creditors collect so many cents on the dollar out of available assets. Every major airline has now been through bankruptcy, and US Airways has gone in and out of Chapter 11 twice. In this process, all creditors are not created equal. Since banks typically have liens on the aircraft, bankers get paid ahead of others. Major losers are employees and retirees, since Chapter 11 allows a corporation to break a labor contact or reduce pension debts. Shareholders also lose, but by the time bankruptcy is declared, the company’s share value has usually dwindled to almost nothing. Much of the private equity industry uses the strategy of acquiring a company, taking it into bankruptcy, thus shedding its debts, and then cashing in on its subsequent profitability. Despite the misleading term private “equity,” tax-deductible private debt is the essence of this industry, which relies heavily on borrowed money to finance its takeovers.
Homeowners, however, are explicitly prohibited from using the bankruptcy code to reduce their outstanding mortgage debt.
Kuttner clearly sees debt along the progressive-liberal oppressor-oppressed axis of Arnold Kling’s three-axis model. Big creditors are oppressors. Small debtors are oppressed. End of story.
The Carlyle Club is pleased to present genuine reactionary propaganda:
Russ Roberts talks to Lisa Turner about her organic farm — and her employees:
So we hire some high school kids. And they are lovely people. But usually it’s one of their first jobs, like maybe they’ve mowed the lawn for their neighbor or maybe they did some babysitting. But by and large we’re their first job.
So, everything else that’s happened in their life has happened for their benefit. They’ve gone to summer camp — that was for their benefit. They’ve gone to school — that was for their benefit. We as parents certainly do everything we can to benefit our children. And then they come to me and — yeah, there are a lot of programs that go on in the summer. And that’s not what this is. This is: You are going to work, and at the end of the week I’m going to give you money; and I expect that because you are here, I will make more money. And that’s a concept that I’ve had to explain to them. And it comes in really hard.
And I have to say: Why would I have you here if I wasn’t going to end up with more money? Why on earth would I have you show up every day? And they kind of start to get that this should be a mutually beneficial arrangement, not just that I shouldn’t come out even because I think of — capitalism as me making money for the aggravation of having you here.
And then we get the college kids; they’ve kind of gotten that kind of concept a little better. But then I’ll say: What do you want to do when you are done with college? And they’ll say: Oh, I want to work for a non-profit. And that one makes me angry. First, it’s like, well, non-profit, that could be a hospital, that could be a — like you haven’t thought about this any more — that could be a land trust, it could be anything. ‘Non-profit’ is huge. You don’t have any more direction than that you want to work for a non-profit?
But also, they are telling me that profit is bad. So, I say: Well, look around at all this stuff you see, the tractors, the greenhouses, the walk-in cooler — like all this stuff. Ralph and I could have taken that money and even if we put it in the bank in a savings account we’d have earned like a percent or something, even now. But we’ve done this, and we’re risking that — it may not work out; we may not make any money from this; we may not get back the money we put in. Don’t we deserve a little more than what we could get in a bank by doing something safe? And they say: Oh, well yeah, of course you do. And I say: Well, that’s profit. And that’s all that profit is. And: Ohhhh. And then the light dawns. But they come with no idea about how capitalism works, even though capitalism is the economic system of our country.
China has gone through periods of anarchy and state-control, so good farmer qualities — working hard, being thrifty, and planning for the long term — led to success only some of the time:
There was thus a parallel model of selection that favored “big man” qualities: charisma, verbal bombast, physical strength, ability to intimidate, talent for mobilizing gangs of young men…
This point is discussed by Feichtinger et al. (1996) who see Chinese history as a shifting equilibrium between farmers, bandits, and the State: “Farmers who produce a good, bandits who steal this good, and rulers fighting against banditry and taxing farmers.” When the State weakened, as it often did, farmers had to placate bandits as best they could. Banditry may have then surpassed farming as the best way to accumulate wealth, prestige, access to women and, ultimately, reproductive success.
As Bianco (1991) notes:
About ten years ago, a Chinese scholar, invited to spend his holidays in Haute-Provence, was worried: “There aren’t too many bandits there?” As an emigrant settled in France since the revolution, he continued — and to this day continues — to associate the countryside with banditry as a matter of course. For a rich family like his own (otherwise he would not have become a scholar), the obsessive fear of a bandit raid, of being taken away or of extortion was constant. The landowners maintained private militias who could at least stand up to the small gangs, and their sons avoided venturing too far away for fear of being kidnapped. The oldest son especially was the most valued prey because the family would have to rush to pay a high ransom to ensure the continuity of their lineage and appease the spirits of their ancestors.
On some rail lines of southern China, the train almost never reached its destination without being attacked at least once [by bandits]. In the province of Yunnan, highwaymen controlled most of the roads, stopped and ransomed travelers, and those merchants who persisted in pursuing their occupation, since commercial traffic ended up being choked off or became more selective.
We forget, especially the libertarians among us, how awful things were before the State pacified social relations. It was this pacification that made free and open societies possible. It especially made the market economy possible. Ironically, when the Communists wiped out banditry — something no previous regime had managed to do — they also laid the basis for their country’s future economic takeoff.
Back in high school, Scott Alexander and some friends decided to make up a fantasy world, Bridge to Teribithia-style, and the game spread. He shares some lessons learned from spending 5,000 virtual years in an alternate universe:
The total lack of rules or advance planning with which we constructed Micras gives it an amazing feature unmatched in any other role-play I know of: the game is exactly identical to the meta-game.
A country is a bunch of people coming together and claiming to be a country and doing country-like things (kind of like in reality). The king — or Shah, or President, or Premier, or Ayatollah — of the country is whoever can convince other people to call them the king and obey their orders (kind of like in reality). The country’s land is pretty much whatever land they can convince other people to accept they have (ibid). The constitution is whatever document you can convince everyone else to sign (…).
If one person wants to found their own single-person country, no one can stop them, but they’re less likely to be taken seriously or considered a Great Power. If lots of people come together to form a country, no one can stop them, but they had better be able to get along and agree on the rules. If you want to unite to ostracize somebody, no one can stop you, but you’d better be able to get more people on your side than they have on theirs.
If you want to claim you have a billion nuclear bombs, no one can stop you, but they’ll just say you’re a terrible simulation partner and ignore you when you say you bomb them. If you want to claim you are pure pacifists, no one can stop you, but then you better either have an alternate plan for protecting yourself (like strong allies) or be prepared to just absent yourself from the military simulation and annoy everyone else. If you want to write a history of your country that conflicts with histories everyone else has written, no one can stop you, but no one is going to take your history seriously either or build upon it or make it part of their canon.
As a result, while other geeks were learning how to calculate damage from Magic Missiles, I was learning how to manipulate consensus reality. I guarantee you one of these skills is more valuable than the other.
The skill of manipulating consensus reality seems more or less identical to the skill commonly called “leadership”. It is easy to underestimate. The whole gag of the comic strip Dilbert is underestimating leadership. These brilliant engineers do the actual hard work, and then some idiot just says “work faster!” or something similarly dumb and gets hailed as a leader and paid a much higher salary and given credit for the group’s success.
I think the most important thing I learned about leadership is to avoid it. It’s stressful, everyone blames you for everything, and “getting to make decisions” sounds a lot better before you realize how banal and annoying 99% of decisions are. But I also learned that large organizations tend to have a position that pretty much controls everything from behind the scenes but doesn’t have to cope with the appearance of power. In Shireroth it’s called “Steward”. In Westeros it was “King’s Hand”. I don’t know about the USA, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was “White House Chief of Staff”. These positions are a whole lot more fun, and surprisingly there’s a lot less competition for them.
Closely related is learning how many people are optimizing for appearance — which means if you’re optimizing for something else it’s pretty easy to strike compromises that give everyone what they want. If you’re fighting for control of a province, the compromise “your enemy gets an important sounding title like Archduke with almost completely ceremonial powers, and you get a boring sounding title like Undersecretary of Resource Management that controls the place’s economy and military” works a surprising amount of the time. Same with titling a bill “The X Party Wins Bill” and getting leading members of the X Party to support it and having the Y Party protest it angrily and not have any policy proposals of the X Party in it at all.
The third important thing I learned is to have a lot more respect for politicians and people in power. I think everyone should have the media perform a hatchet job on them at least once. It’s this really scary feeling when you know you’re trying to be honest and do the right thing, and yet you see how easy it is for a hostile writer to cast every single thing you do as corrupt and destructive. And how quick everyone is to believe them. And how attempts to set the record straight get met with outraged “how dare you give one of those typical sputtering non-apologies!”. It reminds me of those computer games where “ACCUSE” is just a button you press, and it doesn’t even matter what the accusation is or whether it makes sense. Once someone has invoked the genre of scandal, it will play out the same either way, proceeding deterministically along political lines until everyone reaches the usual compromise of agreeing you’re scummy and dishonest but not worth the trouble of impeaching.
The last important thing I learned is to be nice. It practically never fails that somebody who thinks they’re really cool joins Micras, makes fun of one of our admittedly disproportionate number of people with no real life or social skills, bullies and harasses them for months or even years… and then that person is the swing vote in an important election, or finds themselves sitting on a deposit of valuable rare earth metals everyone needs. My favorite cases are when neither of those two things happens, and the person just spends five years sorting out their issues and becoming smarter and more competent, and then ends up in charge of everything solely by their own merit. I am pleased to report they rarely forget how the bully behaved when they were young and stupid.
Females are four to 10 times more likely than males to have an eating disorder — presumably because of social pressure to be thin.
But female rats are also much more likely than male rats to have an eating disorder:
Klump and colleagues ran a feeding experiment with 30 female and 30 male rats over a two-week period, replacing the rodents’ food pellets periodically with vanilla frosting. They found that the rate of binge eating “proneness” (i.e., the tendency to consume the highest amount of frosting across all feeding tests) was up to six times higher in female as compared to male rats.