Author Archives: Joe Francis

Argentina’s Industrial Output, 1876-1913

A new estimate of Argentina’s industrial output suggests a less optimistic view of the country’s ‘golden age’.

In a previous post I discussed a working paper in which I criticised Roberto Cortés Conde’s estimates of Argentina’s industrial output from 1875 to 1913. In a new version of that working paper I have taken the plunge by producing my own index for this period in a new version of that working paper. It suggests a considerably lower rate of industrial growth than is found in the standard optimistic account of the country’s ‘golden age’.

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The Terms of Trade and (Under)development in the Long Nineteenth Century

In a forthcoming article in the Journal of Latin American Studies I discuss the origins of Argentina’s expansion in the long nineteenth century. It is largely an optimistic account of how globalisation led to progress in this remote part of the world. However, it does have a sting in its tail.

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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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