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  • Richie 6:13 pm on 2015-10-15 Permalink  

    Not that the big cities of the start of the 20th century didn’t have their opera houses or the cities of today their crime and squalor, but boy have things changed. I read an article yesterday about how 50% percent of the world’s wealth is now concentrated in the top 1% of the population and it mentioned an interesting statistic- 1 in 45 people in London is a millionaire. I think of cities today I think of crazy high rents, brand flagship stores, incredible restaurants and exciting downtowns. Nice places to visit. But reading about when Urbanization was just kicking off- population growing faster than local government can possibly keep up with, a world before sewer systems or air conditioning or modern medicine … very different. The one thing I absolutely can’t imagine though, and must have been really awful with all those horses- the smell. Glad I never had to experience that.

     
  • Richie 5:56 pm on 2015-10-15 Permalink  

    The readings from Weinberg in the last unit talked a bit about how emerging capitalists played poor whites and blacks against each other, but by the time period covered in this unit that method had been gotten down to a science. Quote from Paul S. Taylor in the reading: “in 1908 German-Russians were hired in California “to break a strike among the Mexican thinners.” “Mexicans were early employed in several northern districts in the same state “to provide competition against the Japanese.” In southern Colorado, Japanese and Mexicans were “employed largely as checks against” the German-Russians. In northern Colorado 200 Japanese were secured in 1903 “to afford competition against the German-Russian.”
    This is extremely interesting. For one, Capitalism is supposed to be this sort of inspired anarchy, order out of chaos where individuals naturally come together and form markets where competition and material incentives move resources to where they’ll do the most good- the ‘invisible hand’. But this is Capital deliberately picking up and moving around labor to create local labor markets that will result in predicted and desired outcomes. I don’t even know what you call that.
    Secondly, it’s more than a little ironic that in the age of trusts, monopolies and other coalitions of the capitalist class, everything is being done to prevent the formation of class consciousness among the working people and suppress Unions.
    Class struggle in general is a theme I am really interested in, and to that end for my book review project I’ve chose There is Power in a Union by Philip Dray.

     
  • Richie 5:00 pm on 2015-09-30 Permalink  

    I really like how Weinberg in chapter 6 addressed the issue of only using the more classic economic measures to gauge the standard of living. Not that I don’t get why those measures are used but it has bothered me that things like ‘GDP per capita’ look like they tell you something about life in a given place when they really don’t. In particular I like how they used average height to try to put together a picture a wealth distribution. Height is tied to nutrition, and food being one of the basic needs you can assume if someone is skimping on food it’s not because they bought a convertible instead.

     
  • Richie 4:51 pm on 2015-09-30 Permalink  

    Was interesting to learn that a contributing factor to the south losing the civil war was their railroad system. They had railroads, they just didn’t have standardized rails so certain trains could only run on certain tracks. Come war time that’s a pretty huge blow to maintaining supply lines.

     
  • Richie 8:13 pm on 2015-09-29 Permalink  

    Thomas Morris quote from Weinberg text, “Class struggles and insurrection were linked in English legal thought. … Insurrection by workers to raise wages against the king … was high treason, insurrection was a form of high treason.” Now Weinberg: ” During the first half of the nineteenth century, U.S. labor law still reflected the royal command for obedience and the penalty to be suffered by challenging it. Class struggles waged by workers were still regarded as improper challenges by inferiors to the social order.” There’s still a bit of this narrative today when for instance say transportation or sanitation workers strike- they’re attacked for being disruptive to society, in order to detract from their exercising an important tool of the labor force in class struggle. Just interesting to see it’s origins and the historical context.

     
  • Richie 3:07 pm on 2015-09-17 Permalink  

    The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism! Massive for the development of Capitalism. Changing the ideal of Christian life from that of the layabout monkish ascetic to “intense worldly activity. In so doing, fulfilling his duty to god” and even introducing division of labor and specialization, through the idea that every person has some specific and individual role to play and in so doing ‘fulfilling god’s call’. Add to that that it was a sin to be idle and a virtue to save and invest… it almost seems tailor made for the age to come.

     
  • Richie 2:25 pm on 2015-09-17 Permalink  

    Reading about the production of tobacco in Miller & Sexton was very interesting. For one, I never thought about how the nature of a crop might be conducive to an entire system of social and economic relations, in the way that tobacco was to the plantation system and slavery. Strange to think that the fact that tobacco is a fairly simple crop to grow and harvest merely requiring a lot of unskilled easily supervisable labor would have a legacy that is felt to this day in deep and very real cultural rifts and gaps in economic opportunity. Also that anecdote about burning half the tobacco crop of virginia in 1639 was fascinating! Very grapes of wrath. Such a curious yet understandable thing to do. You read about economics and how (in theory) the overall economic goal of society is to produce more goods than previously to better tackled the problem of scarcity, and then you read about this sort of thing. End product, congealed labor, wasted production time… and it makes economic sense for those who did it! Absurd.

     
  • Richie 3:42 pm on 2015-09-15 Permalink  

    Never really thought of it before, but after the Sage History reading for this unit (Unit 2), from an economic perspective the American Revolution does seem inevitable as soon as the Colonies are founded. A natural consequence of the emergence of capitalism and the transition away from mercantilism. American merchants could make more profits if they could trade whatever with whoever they wished; this was illegal (though admittedly not impossible) under English rule, so English rule had to go. This seems novel and fascinating for a moment, then I remember that the rallying cry leading up to the uprising stuck in my mind most from reading about it in grade school is “No taxation without representation” which as a statement has as much to do with economics as politics.

     
  • Richie 5:31 pm on 2015-08-27 Permalink  

    Hi I’m Richie, I’m from East Lansing. Taking some classes with a view to transferring somewhere to hopefully study sociology, so I figured learning about economics couldn’t hurt. Interested in this class specifically because today we’ve got a lot of ideas, philosophies or even ideologies about economics floating around and I’m curious as the historical circumstances that called for or gave rise to those ideas.

     
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