Where do pro-social institutions come from?

AKA “Cooperation, cultural evolution & economic development”. Where do ‘good’ or pro-social institutions come from? Why does the capacity for collective action and cooperative behaviour vary so much across the world today? How do some populations transcend tribalism to form a civil society? How have some societies gone beyond personal relations and customary rules to impersonal market exchange and anonymous institutions? In short, how do you “get to Denmark”? I first take a look at what the “cultural evolution” literature has to say about it. I then turn to the intersection of economics and differential psychology.

[Warning: long and kind of abstract, though not technical. Edit 21 Oct 2015: ‘Denmark’ is a metaphor taken from Fukuyama. This post has absolutely nothing what ever to do with Denmark.]

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Posted in Cultural Evolution, Institutions, Political Economy, Social & Civic Capital, Social Evolution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 49 Comments

¿De donde vienen las instituciones prosociales?

[19 October 2015] Jesús Alfaro of the Autonomous University of Madrid has translated my previous post into Spanish: ¿De dónde vienen las instituciones prosociales?

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“Experimenting with Social Norms” in Small-Scale Societies

Social norms, institutions, and economic development. (A companion post to “Where do pro-social institutions come from?”)

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Posted in Cultural Evolution, Economic Anthropology, Institutions, Social Evolution | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Educational Romanticism & Economic Development

An elaboration on Ricardo Hausmann’s article “The Education Myth” arguing that education is an overrated tool of economic development. This post also responds to a criticism of Hausmann’s views which appeared at the Spanish group blog Politikon; and also discusses whether developing countries really can raise scores on achievement tests.

[Edit: This blogpost has now been translated into Spanish as “El romanticismo educativo y el desarrollo económico“.]

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Posted in economic growth, Education | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Markets & Famine: Amartya Sen is not the last word !

Whether markets help cause or exacerbate famines is one of the great questions of political economy. Cormac Ó Gráda’s recent book Eating People is Wrong, and Other Essays on Famine, its Past, and its Future, along with his earlier volume, Famine: A Short Historyquietly, calmly, and unostentatiously undermines many of the key empirical observations about markets and famines made by Amartya Sen. Yet few seem to have noticed his disagreements with the Nobel laureate who transformed the thinking on the subject. This post includes remarks on the Bengal famine of 1943, the Great Irish Potato Famine, and some of the ‘Victorian’ famines of British India in the late 19th century.

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Anachronism & Relevance in History: a comment on Steve Pincus

Anachronism and relevance are in tension. Historians (often) rail against the former and (often) pine for the latter. They can easily manage a bit of relevance by intervening in today’s political and economic debates and offering ‘lessons’ from the past — but at high risk of anachronism. That’s certainly how I view Yale historian Steve Pincus’s intervention in The New York Review of Books, “1776: The Revolt against Austerity“. (Edit: Steve Pincus has replied in the comments section!)

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Did the “Invisible Blockade” against Allende’s Chile work?

Did an “invisible blockade” by the United States fatally undermine the Chilean economy under the presidency of Salvador Allende (1970-73)? Did it actually work? Short answer: No.

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Posted in Chile, Political Economy | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Nazi political economy

My previous post about the political orientation of fascists got a response from Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism. This is my brief response to his.

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Posted in fascism, Political Economy | Tagged , , , , , | 67 Comments

Fascism was not left-wing !!!

John Holbo at Crooked Timber reprises a debate which raged 7 years ago when a book called Liberal Fascism was published. His take focuses on Germany but mine puts more weight on Italy. I think the issue is kind of obvious, but it’s always good to have an excuse to pontificate on matters historical.

[Edit 5/5/15: This blogpost is NOT a comment on or a critique of Jonah Goldberg’s book, which I have not read, but he has responded to me. Edit: 6 May 2015: My follow-up and response to Goldberg, “Nazi Political Economy“.]

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Posted in fascism, Political Economy | Tagged , , , , , , | 67 Comments

Errata dentata: The History Manifesto Revisited

This post, a follow-up to my earlier posts “La longue purée” and “Jo Guldi’s Curiouser & Curiouser Footnotes“, examines the recent revisions made to The History Manifesto. Warning: the post may be tedious. For die-hards only.

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Posted in Environmental Economics, History Manifesto | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments