If it was possible to choose, would you prefer to live life in the middle class, struggling to get by in a lousy economy with an uncertain retirement, or would you rather live the life of Nathan Rothschild, who was the richest man on the planet when he departed this life in 1836?
John Kay discusses this idea in his article, Precise inflation figures ignore evolutions in product quality and consumer choice.
Mr. Kay points out that Mr. Rothschild was richer than either John D Rockefeller or Bill Gates. He was the second richest man in all of history.
Before you say you’d rather live his life than yours, consider this:
Continue reading “Would you rather be in the middle class today or the richest man in the world in 1836?”
Guess what? Lowering the price on something means you can sell more of it and make more money.
That applies to paperbacks when they first came out and it applies to e-books today. Well, it actually applies to practically everything.
Know what else? Anyone who wants to publish a book can do so. Anyone. For astoundingly low cost. The publishing frontier is wide open. Thank you Amazon.
In August, Amazon sent an e-mail to people using their Kindle Direct Publishing service. (By the way, if you aren’t already a best seller and want to ever get your book published, you really, really ought to go the e-book route with KDP. It is awesome.)
Back to the e-mail.
Since it went out to tens or hundreds of thousands of people, I will take the liberty to quote it.
Some history: Continue reading “Paperback books and e-books; more on the dispute between Hachette and Amazon”
There is a concept loose in the U.S. and emphasized in our educational system that the Puritans arrived in the U.S. believing in capitalism and went straight to economic prosperity.
Well, capitalism will definitely do that, but the Puritans made a few stops before getting to prosperity. Those included socialism, price controls, and severe caps on finance & trade under the guise of opposing usury. All of those policies will suppress economic development.
Jerry Bowyer explores this journey through false ideas is a series of articles, which summarize his interview with Mark Valeri, author of Heavenly Merchandize.
To encourage you to check out the full articles, I’ll try to summarize some key ideas.
7/30 – Forbes – Jerry Bowyer – Puritans vs. Capitalism: How A Theological Error Led To Financial Stagnation – In the 17th century, pastors and religious leaders were opposed to usury which included even discounting letters of credit more than a small amount. If you can’t use paper (bills of credit) to facilitate long-distance trading, there won’t be much trading.
Continue reading “Puritans started with socialism and price controls before they jumped to capitalism”
What sets apart each of these groups of companies?
Group A: American Motors, Brown Shoe, Studebaker, Collins Radio, Detroit Steel, Zenith Electronics, and National Sugar Refining.
Group B: Boeing, Campbell Soup, General Motors, Kellogg, Proctor and Gamble, Deere, IBM and Whirlpool.
Group C: Facebook, eBay, Home Depot, Microsoft, Office Depot and Target.
Mark Perry, writing at Carpe Diem, explains: Fortune 500 firms in 1955 vs. 2014; 89% are gone, and we’re all better off because of that dynamic ‘creative destruction’.
Continue reading “Illustration of creative destruction: lots of Fortune 500 companies disappeared over the last 60 years”
As a break from the dreary news headlines, consider the progress made over the last 50 years in a variety of areas.
Matt Ridley offers a lot of Reasons to be cheerful.
Here is an overview:
Compared with any time in the past half century, the world as a whole is today wealthier, healthier, happier, cleverer, cleaner, kinder, freer, safer, more peaceful and more equal.
Continue reading “Astounding progress everywhere in everything over last 50 years – No better time to be alive than today.”
July 20, 1969 is the day Apollo 11 landed on the moon. I vaguely remember watching. What an astounding accomplishment for humanity and the U.S.
Two fun articles:
July 15, 1954 is the day the Boeing 707 took its first flight. The decisions made after the first flight revolutionized air travel.
Continue reading “45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s flight to the moon landing — – 60th anniversary of 707’s first flight”
Take any one of a variety of economic indicators. Per capita income. Life expectancy. Stuff people own. Average height. Child mortality. Number of pants and underwear owned.
Graph it over the last 2,000 years.
You will see a hockey stick. Flat with no growth for century after century. Brutal, hungry, and disease-ridden short lives were the norm 3000 years ago.
And 1000 years ago.
And 500 years ago.
So far, any graph you draw of any of those indicators is a flatline.
Then, about 200 years ago, every one of the graphs took off like a Shuttle launch. Something happened.
For the first in a series of videos, Professor Don Boudreaux explains what this hockey stick looks like.
And what made things get so mind-bogglingly better.
Another idea for a hockey stick graph: number of natural teeth in your mouth at age 50.
Oh, wait. People usually didn’t live that long until a few hundred years ago.
link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9FSnvtcEbg&feature=player_embedded
Keep an eye out for the idea of creative destruction. That’s the idea that a new way of doing business will replace the old way and consumers reap huge benefits.
Many people bemoan Wal-Mart destroying lots of small shops. I understand the damage since that phenomenon affected friends of mine.
Before Wal-Mart, the large chain grocery stores wiped out lots of small neighborhood markets.
Don’t forget what happened in the music industry.
John Bredehoft, writing at tymshft, reminds us What goes around comes around – the record industry.
Continue reading “Don’t complain about disappearing mom-and-pop record stores as you download an MP3 of your favorite song”
Minimum wage laws also extended the Depression. That from Amity Shlaes, in The Minimum Wage Makes Depressions Worse.
In a lousy economy, forcing wages above the value of the output makes employment worse. When there is currency deflation the effect is compounded. Adding another layer of minimums every couple of years and slowly gathering more employers into the minimum wage rules further compounds the effect.
If you can’t afford the staff you have, and you can’t reduce wages, then what options are left? Lay off more employees. Shrink your company.
Continue reading “The minimum wage made unemployment worse during the Great Depression”
Check out 10 Modern Technologies We Lived Without In Primitive, Pre-Millenial America
The change in 40 years, with pictures of the old and new stuff. Remember not having:
- Microwave ovens
- Hair dryers
- Cell phones
- TV remote controls
- Personal Computers (versus a manual typewriter!)
- Video games
- Digital music
- Lead-free paint
- Pocket calculators
- Video cassette recorders
No better time to be alive than today!
(Hat tip – Behind the Black)
Why we are so much better off than 200 years ago? Explained in 3 minutes. Check out the video by Prof. Dierdre McCloskey:
Here’s my 200 word summary:
Until 1800, the average person made the inflation-adjusted equivalent to $3 a day. It’s been that way for thousands of years. Starting in 1800, a graph of average income looks like a hockey stick, going almost straight up after being flat for thousands of years.
Continue reading “How did we get to the place where we can ask “Why Does 1% of History Have 99% of the Wealth”?”
A few articles on technology, energy, and publishing that are worth a read and a brief comment. Reusable first stages of rockets, several updates on Yutu (Chinese lunar rover), commercial drones, lightly armed drones, and another shale field with big potential.
3/4 – The Feed – Home-Schooling for Higher Ed – Mentioned this idea before. How ‘bout hiring a college professor to privately tutor you for your first year of college. Read the article and think about it a few minutes. Intriguing idea, huh?
3/13 – Technology Review – SpaceX Set to Launch the World’s First Reusable Booster – Continue reading “More good stuff on the open frontiers – 3-20-14”
We are all amazed at the radical drop in cost of computing over the last 20 or 40 years. I have a number of posts on point and have more planned.
Watching new technology severely drop costs isn’t anything new. Here is just one more data point from the early 1800s for illustration.
I’m accumulating these ideas and hope to weave them together in a larger story some day.
Here’s a comment on the impact of steamboats on Mississippi river commerce from Professor Allen Guelzo in Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Continue reading “Radical drop in cost of shipping cotton when steamboats arrived on the scene”
Here’s the formula: compare life for the typical person today to 30, 100, or 300 years ago. The things we take for granted to today would have been an unimaginable blessing back then. I get a kick out of that story line every time I see it.
One more in a long string of examples is from Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek: Capitalism: The Greatest Engine of Equality. He ponders what a man from 1700 would think of a visit to Bill Gates. Just about every one of the astounding things observed by the visitor from 1700 is also available to almost every person living in the U.S.
The driving force behind all of this?
And property rights.
And a functional legal system.
And a functional democracy.
Read the full article. A few things that would have been beyond the wildest dream 300 years ago: Continue reading “Consider the radical transformation in the last 300 years. And capitalism’s role therein.”
Check out a post from Cafe Hayek using picture to show the progress for middle-America with Scenes from 1970s Middle-Class America.
I remember each of those five items from my childhood. I far prefer the far better, more capable, easier technology of today.
There is no better time to be alive than today!