“Kurtz discoursed. A voice! a voice! It rang deep to the very last. It
survived his strength to hide in the magnificent folds of eloquence the
barren darkness of his heart. Oh, he struggled! he struggled! The wastes
of his weary brain were haunted by shadowy images now–images of wealth
and fame revolving obsequiously round his unextinguishable gift of noble
and lofty expression. My Intended, my station, my career, my
ideas–these were the subjects for the occasional utterances of elevated
sentiments. The shade of the original Kurtz frequented the bedside of
the hollow sham, whose fate it was to be buried presently in the mould
of primeval earth. But both the diabolic love and the unearthly hate of
the mysteries it had penetrated fought for the possession of that
soul satiated with primitive emotions, avid of lying fame, of sham
distinction, of all the appearances of success and power. – from The Project Gutenberg EBook of Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. The character Kurtz is in Africa as a colonialist and elephant ivory trader. To a large extent Colonel Kurtz of the movie Apocalypse Now is based on Conrad’s Kurtz.
This is a long read. For those that make the time to read one longer piece a day this might be worth your time. The subject is one that brings out the same vitriol that one usually associates with comment discussions about the assistance of deities or what constitutes being a good parent. It is also a subject to which much myth is attached. Some people just know the answer, while others see the issue in subtler shades. What Makes Countries Rich or Poor?
The various durations of government around the world are linked to the various durations and productivities of farming that was the prerequisite for the rise of governments. For example, Europe began to acquire highly productive agriculture 9,000 years ago and state government by at least 4,000 years ago, but subequatorial Africa acquired less productive agriculture only between 2,000 and 1,800 years ago and state government even more recently. Those historical differences prove to have huge effects on the modern distribution of wealth. Ola Olsson and Douglas Hibbs showed that, on average, nations in which agriculture arose many millennia ago—e.g., European nations—tend to be richer today than nations with a shorter history of agriculture (e.g., subequatorial African nations), and that this factor explains about half of all the modern national variation in wealth. Valerie Bockstette, Areendam Chanda, and Louis Putterman showed further that, if one compares countries that were equally poor fifty years ago (e.g., South Korea and Ghana), the countries with a long history of state government (e.g., South Korea) have on the average been getting rich faster than those with a short history (e.g., Ghana).
An additional factor behind the origin of the good institutions that I discussed above is termed “the reversal of fortune,” and is the subject of Chapter 9 of Why Nations Fail. Among non-European countries colonized by Europeans during the last five hundred years, those that were initially richer and more advanced tend paradoxically to be poorer today. That’s because, in formerly rich countries with dense native populations, such as Peru, Indonesia, and India, Europeans introduced corrupt “extractive” economic institutions, such as forced labor and confiscation of produce, to drain wealth and labor from the natives. (By extractive economic institutions, Acemoglu and Robinson mean practices and policies “designed to extract incomes and wealth from one subset of society [the masses] to benefit a different subset [the governing elite].”)
Those who have done some reading on the subject are familiar with the stable institutions factor. Just looking at the purely in those terms is not simplistic, but certainly an over simplification. Some people have gotten very wealthy without what we think of as stable institutions.
How Cooperative Banking Can Improve the Economy (and Our Lives) – “Triodos Bank is perhaps the international leader with offices in the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Germany. The bank currently invests in organic food production, renewable energy, fair trade agriculture, micro-financing and cultural programs.” Local credit unions in the U.S. just broke the $1 trillion mark in assets.
“I sometimes dig for buttered rolls,
Or set limed twigs for crabs;
I sometimes search the grassy knolls
For wheels of Hansom-cabs.
And that’s the way” (he gave a wink)
“By which I get my wealth–
And very gladly will I drink
Your Honour’s noble health.” – From Through the Looking-Glass, by Charles Dodgson, AKA Lewis Carroll
Key gene found responsible for chronic inflammation, accelerated aging and cancer. “It is rather uncommon for one gene to have two very different and very significant functions that tie together control of aging and inflammation. The two, if not regulated properly, can eventually lead to cancer development. It’s an exciting scientific find.” Having found something so profound what we will do with that key.
Somewhere there is a file cabinet made of coal and ash, in which there is a document signed in blood by Ann Coulter and American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis. Faust grinned a little more than usual that day.