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Removed (Banned)Jan 29, 2023Liked by Helen Dale
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Thank-you in advance (and I loved her book "The March of Folly", which I read years ago).

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Removed (Banned)Jan 29, 2023Liked by Helen Dale
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Yes, we're going to try to do a podcast or zoom chats for paid subscribers & large tipsters. Not quite sure how to make it work because Lorenzo is in Australia and I'm in the UK and the time zones REALLY don't align, but we are trying to figure out something extra.

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Good, if necessarily difficult, exploration. Thanks. It is increasingly clear that success of any culture or nation state depends on the interdependence between economic prosperity and individual value. Occasionally even nation states show a brilliant observation which can serve as a beacon. This flash of brilliance is often all too brief and fails to be fully faithful to their own brilliant ideas. The understanding of the US Constitution which recognizes that not the document or the nation state may confer unalienable rights already conferred by a creator represents such brilliance. That we as a nation failed to live up to this puts the ball squarely in our courts today. Civilizations fail because like people they are weakened from within.

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An argument that I didn't see made here directly, but which seems rather central to the project of associating technological optimism with human liberty, is that the connection between technical dynamism and political decentralization is related to the fact that technological progress tends to be politically destabilizing from the perspective of established elites. Britain is a very obvious example, where the landed aristocracy was largely displaced by the industrial bourgeoisie. The development of a potent new technology will invariably create a new power center, and while existing elites will generally make a play for control by leveraging their own power base, their lack of familiarity with the new paradigm places them at an intrinsic disadvantage. Therefore, if they are to guarantee their place in the hierarchy, the only safe option is to discourage innovation.

It follows from this that decentralization of political power is a pre-requisite to sustained technological progress, particularly of the highly disruptive variety - i.e. development of qualitatively new technologies, as opposed to quantitative improvement of existing technologies. Consistent with this, China hasn't really come up with anything fundamentally new. However, we're only a bit better off ourselves. It's been decades since the West produced any genuinely new technologies ... and this slowdown in the rate of fundamental innovation has coincided with an increasingly centralized political and economic system presided over by an increasingly entrenched elite class.

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Jan 29, 2023·edited Jan 29, 2023Author

Carswell makes a version of this point, and also notes how the Romans kept having civil wars because their political system was not good at solving intra-elite conflict, whereas the UK's was (Crown in Parliament actually worked, in other words).

Davies makes a version of the "Cousins' Wars" argument, where he suggests the US War of Independence was actually a geographically displaced civil war, longer-term producing two societies with a lot in common.

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Hereditary monarchy was basically a solution to the problem of having a civil war every time the emperor choked on a fishbone. Say what you will, it was fairly stable.

The Revolutionary War was absolutely a civil war. I've been saying that for a long time. But then, as a Canadian, I'm not so invested in the mythology as Americans are.

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Bait is live & has hit the water!

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Jan 30, 2023Liked by Helen Dale

"permissionless innovation" - indeed disruptive technological advances. That also implies a culture that accepts failure easily, something that modern Asian culture seems to avoid. We are now in the process of adsorbing the huge advances allowed by small computers. One item of concern might be the decline in birth rates for wealthy nations and that amplified by the recent Covid pandemic where the shots are affecting fertility. The reduction of the young says innovation may be harder to arrive. The followers of Malthus might be happy but where fertility is highest innovation is lowest. Not a good thing for the future.

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This is really interesting. Thanks for a great read!

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Cheers!

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The two pictures here of Roman soldiers are both excellent. The AI one is also terrifying -- what would it do if I asked "The Terminator is Real"?

Also thank you for the word "Bottomry", it's good to learn something new in the morning.

You've mentioned before that the Romans had limited liability. Did they have limited companies in the way we understand them, or was it all things like Bottomry loans?

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Jan 29, 2023·edited Jan 29, 2023Author

All things like Bottomry loans - the largest Roman corporate structure was the mutual or (for charitable purposes) the foundation ("societas"). Mutuals are really just very large partnerships, and internalise risk rather than externalise it. They were developed to make it socially acceptable for Romans to work for wages. Working for wages was associated with slavery, with the exception, of course, of the free citizen military.

This was even reflected in the language. Soldiers and people who worked within a partnership were paid a "salarium" (the root, of course, of the modern word "salary"). Slaves, by contrast, were paid a "peculium", which shares a root with the word that gives us "pecuniary" and its whiff of dodgy dealings.

"Salarium" was an altogether more dignified term.

The limited liability company, by contrast, is very much a creature of the English common law, and arose nowhere else.

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Jan 29, 2023Liked by Helen Dale

How the World Became Rich by Mark Koyama and Jared Rubin is well worth looking at for anyone interested in this question. They survey many of the ideas proposed for why Britain, Europe and the US took off when they did and why it didn't happen in India or China.

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Jan 29, 2023·edited Jan 29, 2023Author

Yes, I reviewed his earlier co-write for another publication, and have his latest co-write to read & review (with Jared Rubin). Haven't started that one yet, tho.

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