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Krugman, 13th century, links

I finished reading Krugman's Pop Internationalism and am reading The Conscience of a Liberal. Interesting contrast: the first (1996) is on how conventional wisdom regarding trade is at odds with economic wisdom, and how wages tend to follow productivity. The second (2007) is in large part about how the wage gains of the post-war period were driven by political intervention. Trade is still minor, but productivity has given way to political influence on how the productivity gains are divided. It's also on the politics, before, during and after. Of note:

* "high taxes kill growth" seems to be flatly wrong, at least as a generality. The US had very high marginal tax rates and high estate taxes, up to 90% and 77%, and had 2.7% annual growth for nearly 30 years. The post-New Deal era has been called the Great Compression (of income) as the poor got a lot richer and the rich got somewhat poorer. Compare to dropping real wages for the lowest quintile since then.
* Politics: pre-FDR, a strong influence was that lots of the poorest people were disenfranchised. Legally (new immigrants), practically (no secret ballot, so vote buying) or illegally (blacks). With the poorest quarter of the population mostly not voting... This changed in part of Progressive introduction of the secret ballot, and the Depression making things so horrible as to break the usual barriers. And then WWII proved the government could be effective, and after that conservatism (in the "status quo" sense) favored keeping FDR's policies. "If farm subsidies are socialist, call us socialist!"
* Also, After 1948, the GOP accepted FDR's America. You get a low-polarization golden age of bipartisanship because the two parties basically agree on policy, switching places based on corruption. But this is the exception, sandwiched between the Long Gilden Age before and the resurgence of "movement conservatism" afterward, where the two parties don't overlap.
* The South, being really fucking poor at the time, was actually a decent supporter of FDRish economic egalitarian policies -- up to a point. The 2005 attempt at privatizing Social Security ran into Southern opposition. But Truman's 1946 attempt to give us single-payer national health care -- like Medicare 20 years later would be for old people only -- ran into opposition from Southern Democrats afraid that such a system would mean desegregating hospitals.

I read various Wikipedia pages on the 12th century renaissance, 200ish years of growth in technology (eyeglasses) population and ideas, possibly a lot more productive (outside of art) than the 'real' Renaissance. I haven't known much about this period -- I suspect AP European History started sometime afterwards, that or I blinked. My first hint was in Good Omens, Crowley being thankful for time moving him further and further away from the 14th century; a second was in that 13th century poem about coal pollution. What happened to the renaissance? Well, the 14th century: the Great Famine which I hadn't heard of, and then the Black Death which of course I have. Along with the Hundred Year's War and the Anarchy and various peasant rebellions, all possibly connected to the strains from multi-year agricultural failure and plague.

It's alarming, if you let it: it tells us that our 200 year period of boom and discovery isn't unprecedented, and thus killable, and candidates are obvious. A big volcano can damage agriculture now just as it probably did then, modulo how big our grain reserves are. Bird flu, SARS, and West Nile are all candidates for a new Plague. Agriculture's under strain from soil erosion and falling water supplies -- the American breadbasket relies on unreplenished fossil water.

And of course there's also the growth and peace period that ended in 1914, with the pointless war of WWI. I doubt we'd have trenches again -- but we still have lots of nukes, and a few EMP bursts could take out power and communications through North America. No electricity, no phone, no cell phone...

* I read about Kathleen Sebelius. She seems pretty awesome, with two running mates who'd been converts from the GOP, and has vetoed coal plants on the grounds of "no, we have to stop spewing CO2 already". Has supported a law against gay marriage though (in preference to an amendment); this might be heartfelt or might be Kansas voters being 70% bigoted. She has a good chance of being replaced as governor by Brownback, who has a few virtues but is mostly flawed from my POV. Obama poaching strong Democratic governors and Senators is odd. OTOH, with a popular governorship *and* Cabinet experience, she'll be one of the few people to match my imagined cursus honorum for the US. (In short: yeah, Obama looked unqualified to be President. But so did Bush. What is qualified, anyway? Senator isn't quite it, neither is governor. Combination of executive experience as governor and DC experience as VP or Cabinet secretary, possibly with Congress as well, looks more like a complete combination.)

Links:
* How a Spanish co-op fares in the recession
* Tough real-life soldiers
* What's missing from Ayn Rand
* Funny Powerpoint on How to win in Anbar
* New webcomic: Escape From Terra. Oppressive world government vs. plucky libertarian Belt miners, but I've been liking it.
* Agritourism
* The lone tree of the Sahara and what it tells us about Saharan climate and the Saharan pump.

Unlinked news:
* 26 Senate Democrats vote against letting cap-and-trade legislation pass with less than 60 votes.
* House GOP proposes rolling back Medicare
* The pistachio-salmonella recall is happening because Kraft tests its food and reported. Companies aren't required to so test.
* 32 million Americans are on food stamps -- more than 1 in 10.
* Oh, and today the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously struck down the state law against gay marriage, on equal protection grounds. Word is that the state constitution couldn't be amended before 2012, so they've got 3 years to learn that the sky isn't falling.

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