Larry Hosken: New: Tag: economics

Book Report: Empire of Cotton

It's a history of the cotton business. Cotton was one of the first global businesses. Cotton's not so perishable; you can grow it in one place; spin+weave it somewhere else; sell the resulting cloth in yet another place. So an action over on this continent can make something happen over that that continent. For a long time, cotton was a (sometimes the) big international business; thus, human history gets tangled with cotton history. Alas, human history is pretty awful.

So you read about clever inventors ginning up ways to simplify spinning and weaving cotton. And if you're a nerdly engineer like myself, you puff up your chest and think Yep, changing the world. Sparing workers from toil. But then it turns out that easing cotton processing just drives up the demand for raw material from wherever. And so over the next few decades after a batch of inventions, the American South tripled the number of slaves to meet that demand for cotton. So, yeah, clever nerdly inventors spared workers from toil except actually the result was kidnapping and forcing labor from hundreds of thousands of people and history is just the worst.

Cotton was big business. If you had some resource you could exploit and you wanted to somehow turn that into money, your first guess at an enterprise would be cotton. If you were a country that captured a colony, force the citizens to grow cotton. Or if the climate wasn't right for that, then force those citizens to buy cotton only from you. If you were a ruler with serfs, force them to grow cotton and/or only buy it from you. If… Oh and it just goes on like that.

This is not a happy book. It's interesting. But keep in mind that you're reminding yourself that mankind can be pretty horrible to itself (and has been for a long time).

Permalink
& Comments

Book Report: The (Mis)Behavior of Markets I kept hearing recommendations for this book. But I'm not really a finance guy, just a recreational math guy. I'd already heard this book's gist: financiers keep getting into trouble because their fo...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Everything is Bullshit The Priceonomics blog wrote a book with a rude name. It's pretty interesting; a lot of it was stuff that I'd already read. (I wasn't subscribed to the blog, but other folks kept forwarding links&hell...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Priceless Yesterday, I dodged Black Friday, but didn't quite make it through Buy Nothing Day. I bought a streetcar ride and then a train ride down the peninsula. How much were those worth? I don't know. I k...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Making Globalization Work This book is worth reading. That's unfortunate; it has about 30 pages of interesting material scattered amongst 300 pages of verbiage. It's a book about Globalization--mostly about opening up marke...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Introduction to the Practice of Statistics Today, I'm playtesting the Hogwarts Game. This game is going to be kind of unusual in that Game Control is providing transportation. They warned us not to pack our stepladders, copy machines, cooler...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Great Wave (Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History) Sometimes prices go up. This has happened before and will happen again. This hurts poor people more than it hurts the rich: poor people already spend most of their money. When prices go up, they can...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Hidden Order It's a economics book aimed at non-economists. It introduces terms and sets up some interesting thought experiments. E.g., what is a good way to divvy up chores between roommates if those roommates...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre I was just expecting a pulpy Western. And this book is a pulpy Western. But it's written well, and also has some interesting musings upon the topic of greed. That quote which is famous for not bei...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Naked Economics Many people recommended Naked Economics, but I should have paid attention to the details of their recommendation. This book is an introduction to economics. If you took "Economics 101" back in colle...

Permalink & Comments

Book Report: Fortune's Formula William Poundstone wrote Prisoner's Dilemma, one of my favorite books ever. That book convinced me to look more closely at the prisoner's dilemma, and that in turn changed the way that I think about...

Permalink & Comments

Tags