Britain’s Crisis of Representation

Britain’s democracy is becoming less and less representative.

Two parties, the Conservatives and Labour, have dominated British politics since the 1920s. At their peak, in the 1950s and ‘60s, they routinely accounted for at least 98 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. While their share has since fallen, this duopoly still hold 86 per cent of all seats today. Their dominance of British politics has, however, become increasingly unrepresentative of the electorate.

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Was Argentina Really Better Off Than the United States in 1800?

Argentina’s economic history provides yet another example of the problem of Mickey Mouse numbers.

When a prominent economic historian provides a new estimate of something, it is likely that the estimate will be taken at face value. Other economic historians will cite it, so it becomes reified, until it is treated as fact, even when it is little more than fancy. John Coatsworth’s estimate of Argentina’s GDP in 1800 provides an example of this.

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Lies, Damn Lies, and Argentine Industrial Output

An estimate of Argentine industrial output from the 1870s to 1913 illustrates a problem with the New Economic History.

The ‘New Economic History’ has sought to transform the study of history by applying econometric techniques to the past. As such, it has greatly increased the demand for historical statistics. The problem has been the supply, as there simply are not enough good quality data to apply econometric techniques to historical issues.

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Was the Spanish Empire Not So Bad After All?

Grafe and Irigoin’s revisionist take on the political economy of the Spanish Empire does not stand up to much scrutiny.

Revising our assessment of the Spanish empire is in vogue among economic historians. Most notably, Regina Grafe and Alejandra Irigoin (2006; 2008) have sought to revise the nature of the empire’s political economy. Their goal is to refute those who claim that the wealth gap between Anglo and Latin America today is due to the ‘extractive’ institutions established by the Spanish in their colonies compared to the more ‘inclusive’ institutions established by the British (e.g. North, Summerhill & Weingast 2000; Engerman & Sokoloff 2011; Acemoglu & Robinson 2012). While critiques of such deterministic narratives should be welcome, Grafe and Irigoin’s argument unfortunately rests on a misreading of their own data.

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How to Find Debate in Academic Journals (Quickly)

JSTOR’s advanced search can be used to provide a rough estimate of the number of debate articles in academic journals.

In a previous post I presented estimates of the percentage of articles in the five major economics journals that consisted of ‘debate’ – that is, direct discussion of other articles that appeared in those journals. Here I just want to elaborate on how I got those results using JSTOR’s advanced search form.

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The ‘Reversal of Fortune’: Institutions or Globalisation?

The differential impacts of globalisation rather than institutional differences best explain divergence among ex-European colonies.

Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson and James Robinson (AJR, 2002) famously argued that a ‘reversal of fortune’ had taken place among ex-European colonies. Generally speaking, they argued, those ex-colonies that had been richest in 1500 would become the poorest by the end of the twentieth century. This, they claimed, was due to the different institutions established by Europeans.

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Argentina’s Terms-of-Trade Boom, 1780-1913

Argentina’s terms of trade probably improved by more than 2,000 percent during the long nineteenth century.

In a new working paper I report the most important finding of my PhD dissertation. In ‘Resolving the Halperín Paradox: The Terms of Trade and Argentina’s Expansion in the Long Nineteenth Century’ I show that Argentina’s terms of trade improved dramatically during the long nineteenth century.

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The Periphery’s Terms of Trade (Again)

My new paper details the problems of measuring the periphery’s terms of trade in the nineteenth century.

In a previous post I outlined some of the problems encountered by Jeffrey Williamson when he attempted to measure the periphery’s terms of trade in the nineteenth century. I have now uploaded a new ‘Technical Paper’ titled ‘The Periphery’s Terms of Trade in the Nineteenth Century: A Methodological Problem Revisited’, which is a considerably revised version of Chapter 2 of my PhD dissertation. In it I have detailed the methodological issue and why it affects Williamson’s analysis.

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