Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Monday, January 23, 2006

England Is an Island (Japan too)

I won't have time to read, let alone think about, Nick Szabo today, but Tyler Cowen does:

Marginal Revolution: The security and productivity of farms : Nick Szabo has a superb post about the interaction between historical agricultural productivity and security. Most obviously, security increases the incentive to invest so agricultural productivity will increase with security. But what determines security? Geographic factors are one possibility:

...two large islands which have been largely or entirely protected from invasion for hundreds of years, Japan and Britain, also had among the highest agricultural productivities per acre during that period as well as the greatest cultivation of even marginal arable lands.... Contrariwise, this theory predicts agricultural productivity will be lowest in unprotected continental regions. Indeed, interior continental regions easily reached by horse tended to be given over to much less productive nomadic grazing. Security constraints were probably what prevented any sort of crop from being grown.

Security issues influence and can be influenced by a wide variety of other choices and institutions. Some crops will recover from a razing quicker than others, for example, so crop choice will be influenced by security. Primogeniture may have been an optimal institution to maintain economies of scale in land defense, as Adam Smith first discussed.

Read the whole thing there is a dissertation or two here.

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