The Great Enrichment Again

The WSJ has a review of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon.  The six volumes were published between 1776 and 1788.  In it Gibbon states:

“If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous,” Gibbon writes, “he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian [96 AD] to the accession of Commodus [180 AD].”

After the Great Enrichment, it is odd to think that someone of considerable historic acumen (A masterpiece that has held up as a work of scholarship for more than two centuries, according to the review) as recently as the founding of the US and just before the start of the Great Enrichment could be of the opinion that the human race was happier and more prosperous 15 or 16 centuries ago.

Sidebar: Yes, happy is subjective.  We, however, agree with McCloskey that abject poverty precludes much happiness.  To be flippant, infant mortality is a downer.  We are sure that we are more prosperous.  Happiness seems likely to be correlated with such a big jump in prosperity.  For example the best infant mortality rates in Gibbon’s time (be careful as some use one year and others five years to measure mortality) were about twice what the worst current rates are.  End sidebar.

The adoption of market tested betterment or capitalism by more of the world has changed the world for the better.  Let us hope that the recent events in Argentina will lead to positive dominoes in South America.


The Problem

We love Holman Jenkins, jr. but he has a descriptive statement that should be a normative statement

But the adjective here [cynical we guess] carries too much weight since, as all agree, management’s job is to increase the share price. We strive to think of an antonym to cynical: Is Pfizer guilty of a wholesome move to boost its share price? A Mother Teresa-like move?

We agree that management’s job is to increase the share price and we agree that we all should agree but we all don’t.  That is why folks are suggesting other metrics for evaluating top management.


Markets Not Regression Models

Jason Richwine at NRO brings our attention to this:

A new global study finds that elementary and pre-school teachers across 34 developed countries make about 22% less, on average, than their full-time counterparts with similar education levels who have chosen to do pretty much anything else with their lives.

Richwine discusses some of the problems with the study but the simple answer is that there are markets out there.  Here is a nice report from a comprehensive university on entry level salaries and placement for graduates.   Overall, business is first (by almost $4,800), science is second (by over $3,600), and then come education, liberal studies, and arts.  It is also true that there is market variance within colleges.  Computer Science is a nice degree for financial rewards if you can get one.  There is variance within disciplines.  Accounting majors that go to the Big Four are making substantially more than the discipline average of $45K.  One degree does not equal another.  The price always depends on other things.

The only question about teacher salaries is the political impact of teachers unions.  Although they have had challenges in Wisconsin, they have proved potent in Louisiana and Washington D.C.  Overall, there is every reason to believe that teachers are at least at market because of their political power.  There is no reason to think that some model can out-think the market even when there are problems with the market such as teacher unions.

A Letter From State

We rarely wander into international but here is an exception because it is about incentives.  The letter below was sent by the State Department to Mike Pompeo (R., KS) in regards to the Iran dean (JCPOA).

“The success of the JCPOA will depend not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive verification measures we have put in place, as well as Iran’s understanding that we have the capacity to re-impose — and ramp up — our sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments,” Frifield wrote to Pompeo.

Can we agree that we don’t have the capacity to reimpose sanctions? Moreover, ramping up is not possible.  It is possible that President Cruz might reimpose sanctions on Iran but it seems beyond unlikely that anyone else will follow our lead.  It seems that the State Department has admitted in writing that the JCPOA will fail.

Bravery At Princeton

Steven Hayward shows a letter from students that stands up for academic freedom and against the student groups and the enablers in the faculty and administration.  Read it but here is a taste below.  These folks are really brave because they signed the letter.

We are concerned mainly with the importance of preserving an intellectual culture in which all members of the Princeton community feel free to engage in civil discussion and to express their convictions without fear of being subjected to intimidation or abuse.


Is this good news or bad news from John Fund that Marci is elected in Argentina?

In a recent TV interview, Scioli summed up the differences between him and Macri simply: “I defend the role of the state and he defends the role of the market.” He accused Macri, a leading businessman and mayor of Buenos Aires, of representing policies of “savage capitalism” that would devastate the poor.

In one sense it is great news for Argentina and the rest of the world that a market oriented person has been elected over a statist.  McCloskey explains why.  On the other hand it has taken decades of statist disaster for the Argentinians to make this decision.  We hope it sticks.

Update: Mary Anastasia O’Grady gives a nice rundown of the problems facing Mr. Macri.  Unlike the next USA President,

Sidebar: This is not to deny the negative impact of the current administration but the next president can undo most of his mischief quickly because of how he did it.  End sidebar.

he has huuuge domestic problems that will require time and tact to fix.  Problems in Brazil will make it harder to succeed.  Good luck.


Wisconsin’s Shame Ends


Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board presided over one of the most extensive assaults on free speech in the state’s history, and soon it will be gone. That’s the good news in the Badger State, where lawmakers voted Monday to dismantle the agency that promoted an illegal investigation of conservative nonprofits.

One measure of the Left’s position on free speech is that they are trying to make a political issue of this.  The scary thing is that it is unclear that that being anti-free speech is a losing political proposition.