Thursday, August 4, 2022

Rise and Fall of Empires in the Industrial Era: A Story of Shifting Comparative Advantages

Rise and Fall of Empires in the Industrial Era: A Story of Shifting Comparative Advantages. Roberto Bonfatti & Kerem Coşar. NBER Working Papers 30295. July 2022. DOI 10.3386/w30295

Abstract: The last two centuries witnessed the rise and fall of empires. We construct a model which rationalises this in terms of the changing trade gains from empires. In the model, empires are arrangements that reduce trade cost between an industrial metropole and the agricultural periphery. During early industrialisation, the value of such bilateral trade increases, and so does the value of empires. As industrialisation diffuses, and as manufactures become more differentiated, trade becomes more multilateral and intra-industry, reducing the value of empires. Our results are consistent with long-term changes in income distribution and trade patterns, and with previous historical arguments.

IV Conclusions

“The Foreign and Colonial Offices are chiefly engaged in finding new markets and in defending old ones... Therefore, it is not too much to say that commerce is the greatest of all political interests, and that Government deserves most the popular approval which does the most to increase our trade and to settle it on a firm foundation.” (Joseph Chamberlain talking to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce in 1896; cited by Ferguson 2004, p. 210)

“[in the mid 1950s] There were signs, particularly through the growth of intraindustry trade and the redirection of overseas investment, that the expansion of the international economy would take place increasingly between advanced economies. [...] Colonial trade, like colonial investment, was becoming less attractive. The pattern of specialisation that had promoted economic integration in the world economy since the nineteenth century was beginning to weaken, and the empires that were its political expression were losing their rationale.” (Hopkins 1997, p. 256).

In this paper, we have added to an otherwise standard trade model “empires” –institutional arrangements that reduce the cost of trading between an industrial center andbthe agricultural periphery. Using this model, we have shown that the emergence and later diffusion of industrialisation, as it occurred in the 19th and 20th century, can explain both the rise and fall of empires in the industrial era. In addition, increasing product differentiation may have further contributed to the demise of empires by incentivising intra-industry trade between developed countries. The above quotes, by prominent British historians, suggest that our model formalises arguments that have been in the historical literature for some time. A similar argument is made for France by Marseille (2015), who posits that French big business evolved from supporting the empire before World War I, to seeing it as a waste of money by the 1950s, largely due to its falling importance in world trade.

We finish with a discussion of how to interpret the model in light of historically relevant factors that we abstracted from. We haven’t allowed for the redistribution of the gains and costs from empire, neither between nor within locations. This suits our current purposes well, since a growing pie will make empires more sustainable, and a shrinking pie less so, however the pie is divided. A richer model, however, would accommodate factors such as coercion through military force, state capacity building and nationalism in the agricultural periphery, and cultural distances across locations. These were important factors in the history of empires. Military force also clearly evolved with industrialisation, since 19th century industrial products such as the Maxim gun gave the industrial centers a military lead which was perhaps comparable to that enjoyed by the first conquistadores in the 16th century.

Finally, the combined assumptions of imperfect specialisation, a spacious world, and lack of discriminatory trade policies against non-empire countries, shut off all strategic interactions amongst the industrial centers. If any of these assumptions is dropped, then to enlarge one’s empire will improve an industrial center’s terms of trade, to the detriment of all the others. This is the context in which competition amongst the industrial centers—such as the Scramble for Africa—could be studied.

Surveys: Continued coral recovery leads to 36-year highs across two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef, but nothing is said of the average in the whole GBR

Annual Summary Report of Coral Reef Condition 2021/22: Continued coral recovery leads to 36-year highs across two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef. Australian Institute of Marine Science, no date (YouTube movie dated Aug 3 2022.)

Summary: In 2022, the [Great Barrier Reef] continues to recover, registering the highest levels of coral cover yet recorded in the Northern and Central regions over the past 36 years (in the Southern part, recovery continued but hard coral cover declined slightly due predator's activity).


The recovery [...] continues to be driven by [vulnerable corals]. The [Barrier] remains exposed to the predicted consequencies of climate change. [...]. Any future disturbances can rapidly reverse the observed recovery.

Some comments:

1 you won't see the recovery in the news;

2 the AIMS doesn't publish _average_ coral cover since 2017, it only publishes data per region/area (Northern, Central, Southern Barrier);

3 the data above, if aggregated, would show record levels of coral cover since monitoring started for the whole, so, IMHO, it is misleading to say there is recovery in "two thirds of the Great Barrier Reef";

4 we are only monitoring the GBR since the mid-1980s, we don't know how were things before.

Now, why would the AIMS not publish aggregate cover since 2017? Critics think this may be due to a deliberate strategy of making things look worse than they are. Why would they do such a thing? Because of a linear combination of: they are true believers in the superior rights of Nature over us humans; they live off this (the taxpayer finances the surveys, the AIMS and several research positions at universities); the intimate satisfaction of being applauded by important bien-pensants; in a small number of persons, corruption; being good members of the herd; other reasons you may add.

I wrote to the AIMS asking them:

hi, thanks for your work. I got some questions about the reports on the Great Barrier Reef, like

1   what was the motivation to stop considering relevant the coral cover average, across all regions, which is no longer published (since, at least, 2017, as seen in "The whole GBR,"

2  are there papers in scientific publications about how good would it be to abandon publishing the cover average?;

3  does anyone knows what would be the result if the average were computed?; and

4  do they plan to start publishing again the average?

Once they reply I will post here their answer.


Update Jul 31 2023: no reply until now

Across the first two decades of the 2000s, there is an increasing disinterest in becoming fathers among childless men

An increasing disinterest in fatherhood among childless men in the United States: A brief report. Robert Bozick. Journal of Marriage and Family, July 30 2022.


Objective: The goal of this brief report is to document trends in expectations for and attitudes toward fatherhood among childless men across the first two decades of the 2000s.

Background: Childless men account for more than a third of adult men in the United States, but it is unclear if they desire to become fathers, and if not, whether this sentiment changed over time.

Method: Time trends for multiple measures of expectations for and attitudes toward fatherhood are plotted using samples of childless men from the National Survey of Family Growth, the Monitoring the Future study, and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics' Transition to Adulthood supplement.

Results: Across the time series, a growing share of childless men do not want children and increasingly, a lack of children would not bother them at all. Additionally, certainty in having children among childless men has waned over time and fewer childless men are concerned with parental leave policies when evaluating their job options.

Conclusion: Across the first two decades of the 2000s, there is an increasing disinterest in becoming fathers among childless men. These trends have broad implications for family researchers who study fertility rates, men's health, and family relationships.

Collective mental time travel: People have a more negative perception of the collective future than the personal future, maybe due to the press magnifying negative views

Collective mental time travel: Current research and future directions. Meymune N. Topcu, William Hirst. Progress in Brain Research, August 4 2022.

Abstract: In this chapter, we will provide a review on the emerging psychological literature on collective mental time travel (MTT). Our review will focus on the cognitive aspects of remembering the collective past and imagining the collective future. We will explore factors such as specificity, phenomenal characteristics, content, and valence. We will also include brief overviews of cultural and social psychological research that is relevant to the topic of collective MTT. In these overviews, we will examine the research on narratives, collective continuity, collective angst, and human action. Three main themes will emerge from these discussions: the connection between collective past and future thinking, the differences between collective past and future thinking, and the role of goals, perceived agency, and collective action. We will integrate the findings of cognitive, cultural, and social psychological work through these three themes and offer ways to move collective MTT research forward.

Keywords: Collective memoryCollective future thinkingMental time travelValencePerceived agencyGoalsNarrativesCollective continuityCollective action

people have a more negative perception of the collective future than the personal, maybe due to the press magnifying negative views

Check also: Topcu, M. N., & Hirst, W. (2020). Remembering a nation’s past to imagine its future: The role of event specificity, phenomenology, valence, and perceived agency. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 46(3), 563–579.

Abstract: People are routinely involved in remembering the national past and imagining the national future, especially when making political decisions. These processes, however, have not been explored extensively. The present research aims to address this lacuna. In 2 experiments (N = 203), participants were asked to remember and imagine events that involve the United States. Later, they rated these events in terms of phenomenal characteristics, valence, and perceived agency (circumstance, self, other-people, nation). Their responses were also coded for specificity and content. Past and future responses correlated for specificity, phenomenology, valence, and the four domains of perceived agency. Despite this strong correspondence between past and future thinking, there were also differences. Future responses were less specific and more positive than past responses. Moreover, people thought that they themselves and their nation will have more control over their nation’s future compared with the control they attributed to themselves and their nation over its past. The bias to be more optimistic about the nation’s future was partly explained by this tendency to see the nation as more agentic in the future. Taken together, these results reveal striking similarities and divergences between autobiographical and collective mental time travel. The present research provides an exploration for the newly emerging field of collective mental time travel. 

Why is exposure to opposing views aversive? Reconciling three theoretical perspectives.

Why is exposure to opposing views aversive? Reconciling three theoretical perspectives. Julia A. Minson, Charles A. Dorison. Current Opinion in Psychology, August 4 2022, 101435.

Abstract: To form truthful beliefs, individuals must expose themselves to varied viewpoints. And yet, people routinely avoid information that contradicts their prior beliefs—a tendency termed “selective exposure.” Why? Prior research theorizes that that exposure to opposing views triggers negative emotions; in turn, people avoid doing so. Here, we argue that understanding why individuals find simple exposure to opposing perspectives aversive is an important and largely unanswered psychological question. We review three streams of research that offer relevant theories: self-threat borne of cognitive dissonance; naïve realism (i.e., the illusion of personal objectivity); and reluctance to expend cognitive effort. While extant empirical research offers the strongest evidence for predictions from naïve realism, more systematic research is needed to reconcile these perspectives.