Oh God, I see all my typos now. Teach me for just banging out some thoughts and not editing.

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Typo report: the plot below "Here’s relative GDP growth (ie as a percent of starting point) since 1950:" is a second copy of the preceding plot (absolute GDP growth since 1950).

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> Relocating a lot of US factories to China is surely good for Chinese factory workers and bad for US factory workers. Then once China becomes less attractive, those same factories relocate to Vietnam or Ethiopia or somewhere.

But is it bad for us workers in general, it surely makes cars a lot cheaper in general.

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One underlying theme of these cross country comparisons is that hard core mercantilism has been pretty effective. Taiwan has been able to keep a drastically undervalued exchange rate for longer than Japan or Korea and it has grown faster. There is a pretty positive retrospective of mercantilism towards the end of Keynes’ General Theory and of course Erik Reinert has written several books about it. Of course not everyone can mercantilist at once and this would explain the conga line effect Noah was talking about.

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Though I hope it is wrong/overstated, I do still think we insult the South Asian and other developing countries by understating the IQ/hbd point.

To cite data to the points I made before:

1) Japanese/Chinese in South America (who were once impoverished and disliked immigrants) hugely out perform local groups. Hard to find go English data for SA countries, but see figure 2 of the below report for Japanese success in Brazil


2) This point is supported by the IQ data of international adoptees. See Caplan here for a good discussion (which also has a nice balance of nature and nurture points)

a. https://www.econlib.org/archives/2017/09/the_wonder_of_i.html

3) Ethnic Chinese outperformance relative to South Asians is seen throughout South Asia including in

a. Singapore (page 6) - https://www.econlib.org/archives/2017/09/the_wonder_of_i.html

b. Thailand (see rise to economic dominance) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thai_Chinese

c. Indonesia (see economic aptitude) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Indonesians

In fact, it is hard to find a country where once impoverished Chinese do not outperform, in spite of what is typically strong resentment from local groups

4) What’s more interesting is to look at those nations/demographics that are outliers in economic success relative to iq data. Is there some other hbd trait (hopefully more fungible) at play? Was there some development strategy that we can learn from. To take 2 examples

a. Indian immigrants abroad. Though this seems to be due to some combo of i) best and brightest from large population, ii) unsavory stratification (brahmin and merchant classes have much better iq perf from what I have seen, though hopefully, this changes reduced poverty in India), iii) the unique Indian personality, culture, immigrant experience

b. Ireland. Performed very well relative to iq estimates (as I understand them). My gut would say due to some combo of tax arbitrage and English language default enabling rise of global financial center, though this is speculation.

Hate to keep pushing back to the IQ/hbd point, but I do think it is the fundamental issue and strategies that can impact it (pollution, lead, iodine, natal environment, maybe even embryo selection) should therefore be the obsession of developmental economists

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Industrialization does have massive network cumulative effects following higher economic freedoms / lenient introduction of capitalistic policies but this is a one-time upgrade that is dependent on low-corruption, high-trust and high-intellect aptitude societies. Countries where resources are the primary method of exploitation and labour is not needed tends towards higher corruption because the leaders are balancing their power amongst a smaller share of collective interests that are not necessarily the population's, likewise those with lower intellect/lower trust affinity seeing a longer delay/lag if they don't have an outgroup population to run things and/or force policies of centralization and increased economic freedoms. However the lower distributions of the curve get pushed out and the standard quality of life diminishes rapidly following urbanization, not only with reduced aggregate demand due to population-bust latent generation lag effects but also cumulative asset inflation (moral hazard) created from chasing high-financier yields that have yield no productivity gains (only improvement of technologies/capital). The increased complexity/nature of the work makes it so a greater share of wealth goes to the top, and less are suited/selection for intellect-oriented work is diminished by differential fecundity (not mortality) due to lenient conditions. Saturation, grade inflation, degree inflation, experience inflation all simultaneously happens as only a fraction of the population can fulfill an increasingly limited amount of high-income roles (IT/finance/medicine/management) with depressed fertility rates of the more intelligent fraction + aging population demographic pyramid structure. The spatial tilt of g enables better micro-evolution of engineering and contributes to the sustained Taiwan income surplus over other nations. Also IQ is only increasing on the least-g loaded tests, real g has declined since the 1850s (evidenced by hard measures of decreased vocabulary complexity, fluency, backward-digit span, memory span, rates of macro-evolution technological progress, and simple reaction time by .7 points per decade - Woodley effect). The news/books/nature of discussions are all much more complex back then (can be seen in interviews, television news or anything) -- we are seeing a slow-down and negative interest rates worldwide by stagnating growth, stalled population demand and inflationary pressures. Industries will not be migrating indefinitely and there will be a stable-state equilibrium between automation and fraction of available population for work. The inputs become corresponding less and less needed per unit of free energy/calorie/food/housing (potentially infinite with deuterium-splitting or any other fission/fusion-related technologies). The demographic and economic transition will be substantial given the Elite's NWO plans to dominate the globe into mega-sector economies with directed authorianism/scientific dictatorship tendencies (evaluating, studying and changing human behaviour en-masse) to pursue technological singularities. The rentier economy/circular economy would produce a higher marginal utility / increase purchase life of items/objects, although the net gains would still go to the top .001% with lessened externality costs (i.e. pollution) presumably.

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On the issue of the efficacy of protectionism, the South Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang has written some interesting polemical books in this vein, namely:



With regard to the United States specifically, Michael Lind is an enthusiastic booster of the idea that Hamilton/Clay/Lincoln style tariffs (and government coordination more broadly) were a key booster of industrialization. Here's his economic history of the US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005HFI0X2/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

I find it interesting, and perhaps revealing, that economists' most beloved policy recommendation, international free trade, is more obviously beneficial in theory than it has been in practice.

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One of the things on my 'something to learn more about' list is the Spanish Economic Miracle. The very short version I've heard (which I presume is incomplete at best, total nonsense at worst) is that Franco tried autarky and independence on the advice of his fascist advisors, eventually noticed he was still very poor and his neighbors were getting very rich, and fired them and hired free-market economic advisors, at which point the Spanish economy boomed. But this is probably somewhere between 'a massive oversimplification' and 'lies to children.' Anyone have a book recommendation on the topic?

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Re Mexican land reform and industrial policy broadly:

A) Mexican land reform created communal plots that more or less everyone acknowledges were suboptimal from a development pov. Studwell also mentions something called ‘urban bias’ to explain Latin American agricultural underperformance. He barely mentions it, though (iirc it was tucked away in an endnote) but I’ve googled it a couple times and it seems like a seriously discussed topic among economic historians, so I wouldnt dismiss it.

B) I can’t remember too well but I believe he mentioned export discipline as something Latin America lacked. Definitely said most countries attempting to industrialize with interventionist policy failed to do so. For Mexico in particular, I am pretty sure we always lacked it, given reports of our goods being eternally shoddy.

C) Resource endowments in general as a Bad Thing seems like an underappreciated part of this story. Again, Mexico lost a couple decades directly as a result of an oil boom induced debt crisis (the Volcker shock certainly didnt help, though). The book talks a good deal about Malaysia and Indonesia, big failures and also big commodity producers.

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This is an interesting discussion, but to me, these conclusions rely too much on an informal analysis of correlations. That never gets you very far in economics given the complexity of the systems were dealing with. The better approach is usually some combination of formal statistics and simulation modelling.

There are some very sophisticated simulation models for these problems. While they are simplifications of reality, the advantage is that you can run experiments of sorts, adjusting policy while holding everything else constant.

The other thing that's missing is a discussion of alternatives. Sometimes tariffs are better than doing nothing, but there is almost always a better and more direct alternative.

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To be honest my knowledge of this mostly comes from Wikipedia, but Finland is another notable example of a country which did land reform after 1945 as a compromise intended to defuse pro-communist factions. Prior to WW1, at least, their level of economic development was very similar to Russia (because they were part of the Russian Empire, and not an especially well-developed part!); their subsequent developmental trajectory is, suffice to say, very good.

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Here's a plot of US corn yields in bushels per acre from 1866-2019: https://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/timeless/YieldTrends.html

Here's a plot of average farm size in Nebraska from 1870-2002: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Estimates-of-number-of-farms-circles-with-solid-line-and-mean-farm-size-triangles-with_fig5_228639771

The average farm's area increased by 10x and yields per acre increased by 7x at the same time. This combines to a 70x increase in output-per-farm, which seems roughly in line with the huge decrease in the population percentage of farmers. Yield increases are explained by better seeds, better fertilizer, better agricultural science, and better machinery. These new technologies are available worldwide. So if agricultural productivity is the key to development, then in 1866 development was on Hard Mode and in 2020 development is on Easy Mode. The extra agricultural productivity that everybody got from the new technology probably far exceeds whatever small effect land reform could have had: 7x from technology vs maybe 1.5x from distributional efficiencies. So it seems extremely unlikely that land reform is the bottleneck.

Meanwhile, some countries that redistributed land made agricultural productivity much worse: Ukraine in the 1930s, Zimbabwe in the 2000s. After Zimbabwe got rid of its white kulaks, it had to beg them to come back: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-11/zimbabwe-asks-exiled-farmers-to-return-home/9419226

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Wouldn't the optimal land reform be Land Value Tax, and then land goes to whoever can use it most optimally through market forces?

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Okay! The Irish IQ question! I don't know this Unz guy from a hole in the ground, so I am going to go full bore on "Yes indeed Lynn is full of what makes the roses grow". I've never trusted his figures, I did some exploring of what the data was and where the data he used came from years back (which I didn't then bookmark or keep because I am careless) so off to races we go!

To quote from the linked article:

"For example, when I pointed out that Lynn had devoted many years of personal research in Ireland and eventually concluded that they were clearly a low-IQ race, several commenters angrily denounced Lynn, one going so far as to call him an anti-Irish bigot of KKK- or Nazi-like proportions."

That's because Lynn does have a political axe to grind here. I'm not even going to touch Eysenck, that dead horse has been flogged enough. But Lynn is an Orangeman (no, not in the Trumpian "Orange Man Bad" sense, in the "1690, 12th July, marching flute band" sense). He's one of the "pining for the Empire" lot, and his thesis is that the ungrateful Paddies in the South who threw off the loving embrace of Mother England could only do so by being both stupid and evil.

He gets the stupid by having the measured IQ of those bogtrotters infesting the Republic of Ireland be lower than the staunch loyal and true British subjects living in the North of Ireland (even though that means people who are literally living across the road from each other) which in turn are lower than the Fine Upstanding Naturally Superior Anglo-Saxon Race of the mainland, i.e. Great Britain.

His "many years" of research in Ireland were three IQ tests, carried out not by Lynn but by a pair of young researchers who wrote two of them up into a thesis in the early 70s. Lynn, in his (in)famous book which kludges together

This is Unz' "So the huge and apparently well-designed 1972 study of 3,466 Irish schoolchildren which placed the mean Irish IQ at just 87 hardly seems an absurd outlier."

Uh-huh, Ron, and who knows what Ireland in the 70s was like, you or me? I was nine years old in 1972 and one of those primary school kids in a rural town (not a small town by our standards, but a small town by other standards). We didn't take part in any of those tests, and I take my leave to differ on how "well-designed" those were, since the time I went digging for the original test, it was one that the researchers developed and used for a middle-class British school, they just re-purposed it. And I can't recall the age ranges in that test conducted in Ireland, but it wasn't all a cohort of the same age. But very well! I am one of those 87 IQ nine year olds in Ireland, who miraculously grew up to have a higher IQ in the Celtic Tiger boom years.

My arse, to be vulgar about it.

"Although Lynn has inexplicibly dropped that 1972 study in his latest 2012 book, this new volume otherwise contains a plethora of additional Irish IQ studies, displaying a wide variety of results."

"Inexplicably" only until you realise that Lynn was forced to agree with the critics that kludging together three tests, two done on kids, one done on adults, and then averaging out the results was not good practice.

"Furthermore, since Lynn used British scores for normalization, and Ireland is geographically and culturally an immediate British neighbor as well as English-speaking, British tests could presumably be used without modification, reducing the risk of language or cultural bias during the translation process."

Yes and no. Ireland in the 70s was behind Britain. Education was one of those areas. One reason I am sceptical about IQ test results from around the world is that I think the 'improvement' in the Irish score - jumping up from the low of 87 to the respectable normality of 100 - is down to things like "getting better at taking tests" and educational system catching up with the standards elsewhere.

Otherwise, you have to accept that my generation of the 87 IQ dummies were thick as the ditch, but our kids grew up to be the 100 IQ smarties. If you can explain the Magic Beans which gave us this result, you don't need polygenetic testing or the likes to improve IQ for future babies, just replicate the Irish Thirteen-Point Miracle Gain. Even Unz has to admit that there is some improbable Secret Sauce at work in the ostensible results:

"Within the social sciences, a correlation of 0.86 is extraordinarily high, almost implausibly so. The inescapable conclusion is that Irish IQs rose at an almost linear rate during the three or four decades after 1972.

Why this occurred is an entirely different matter. I find it extremely difficult to think of a plausible biological explanation, though others are welcome to try. During this exact period, Ireland was undergoing a very rapid rise in urbanization and affluence, and I’d suggest those factors. Perhaps there’s some other cause instead. But the empirical rise of Flynn-adjusted Irish IQ by nearly a full standard deviation in 37 years seems proven fact."

"Proven fact" my royal Irish backside. A combination of sociological factors (including poverty), yes industrialisation, and wishful thinking around the break from Britain on Lynn's side is most of the explanation I find satisfactory.

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I think the important aspect of the land reform is, in the context of industrialization, the ability to transfer a significant portion of the workforce from agriculture to industry. So, say, Britain was an already-rich country running on agricultural surplus, kickstarting industrialization required forcing people, who were doing well in the countryside, to move to towns. Which they did, by immiserating them. Or, say, Soviet Russia needed to create a legible agriculture to maximize the surplus extracted from their peasants. Which, again, they did (in this case, immiseration was an unintended consequence).

Poor Asian countries needed their populations to raise above subsistence level, to have any surplus at all, and so they did. But as a pro-industrialization policy that is also (immediately) good from humanitarian standpoint and beneficial to everyone, it may be a rare special case. (I smell an industrialisation/urbanization-era sequel to "Against the Grain" waiting to be written.)

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Apparently I have not yet discharged my overflowing bosom sufficiently on that Irish IQ Test Special.

One final comparison:

3466(1972) = 87

1361(1988) = 97

191(1990) = 87

So, from 1972-1990 we bounced from 87 to 97 and back again. In the finest tradition of the high-quality analysis of Richard Lynn, I'm going to average these three and get a result of - tah-dah! Average Irish IQ in the period was 90!

Funnily enough, let's see what was going on in my nation between 1980-1990. Oh look, it's the Young Europeans campaign, as well as a horrendous recession and emigration peaking once more in the traditional way we solve our economic problems: export them elsewhere:


"UCD engineering graduates were to the fore in the 'Young Europeans' campaign by the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) in the mid-1980s. Designed to showcase Ireland's highly-educated cohort of engineering and science graduates, the campaign was very influential in the development of Ireland's profile within the technology sector internationally. Professor Liam Murphy, one of the Merrion Street graduates featured in the campaign, recalls 'I'm not sure we realised at the time how widespread the picture would become. But it was great to be a part of something which helped to raise awareness of the quality of Ireland's high-tech workforce!'

The economic reality of Ireland in the mid-1980s saw many of the most highly-skilled graduates leave the country in search of opportunity. This famously included many of the graduates from the iconic IDA advertisement. However, subsequent years saw many emigrants of the 1980s return to Ireland, bringing the skills and experience they had acquired abroad and contributing to the transformation of Ireland's industrial base."

Well, I imagine that proves that an Irish four-year engineering degree wasn't worth a straw, seeing as how you could easily get one with just an IQ of 90.

I mean, Lynn and Unz can't be wrong on that, can they?

Signed, a member of the 87 IQ 1972 cohort.

Also for the times, a song from The Pogues:


"Thousands are sailing

Again across the ocean

Where the hand of opportunity

Draws tickets in a lottery

Postcards we're mailing

Of sky-blue skies and oceans

From rooms the daylight never sees

Where lights don't glow on Christmas trees

But we dance to the music

And we dance"

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What I kind of disliked about the book (based on the review ; haven't read it) is that it seems to imply economists are basically morons.

But there are lots of economists and thought currents that have had ideas close to Studwell's. Say, Stiglitz? Certainly "globalisation and its discontents" (2002) would agree with Studwell that the IMF is evil. It's also easy to see that Krugman's ideas translate into criticisms of the world order of the World Bank, IMF and WTO...

In terms of current of thought, what about institutional economics? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institutional_economics ) They've been saying stuff that sounds very much like Studwell for a while...

My point is - Not All Economists... And, also, economists don't really make the rules. Countries, with geopolitical agendas, do. They might just source the economists who will support whatever it is they wanted to do.

As to "it means that everywhere in the world will get rich eventually, free markets are doing their job, and US wage stagnation is (in some sense) nothing to worry about. It would be bad if - well, if people learned it was true and then everyone started demanding tariffs to keep all their country’s wage growth for themselves.

But this is extremely unsupported speculation off of Noah’s already pretty unsupported speculation, and probably some economist will show up to tell me why it’s definitely not true".

... it's basically how I view what has happened since 2000 and China entry into the WTO.

Noah has a point about manufacturing moving from country to country and industrialisation therefore moving down the list of available places. This is stylized. Manufacturers need countries to have decent legal systems, decent infrastructure, somewhat educated/urban population with lower wages etc. So "good" policies are part of why manufacturing moves across countries over time.

It's also somewhat dynamic. You move your textile industry from eg Europe/US to Japan. Fine. Then Japanese get rich enough to consume some of the clothing so you expanded the market, you move your textile to China, they get rich enough, you move to Bangladesh, expanding the market all the while.

But, yes, there is no doubt in my mind that the Western countries' middle class took a significant hit to its earnings and that allowed China etc. to develop a middle class. It's all to the long term good, maybe, though we need to avoid falling for fascism as a consequence long enough to see that potential long term good.

Another way to look at it - imagine one worker/consumer in one rich country and one industry. At first, the worker works for the industry and consume the output in the rich country. Then, the industry move to a poor country to exploit the cheap labor there and hide the profits in an offshore center/Switzerland. The industry makes a lot more money in round 1 but the whole thing collapses in round 2 as the initial worker, now jobless, cannot consume, the cheap laborer can't consume enough and obviously Switzerland doesn't get a huge enough cut to consume all that is produced...

Again - this is just stylized stuff. But I think it shows something important and why we don't all industrialize fast. There's only so much solvent demand in the world and therefore only so much need for manufacturing. If we want more countries to industrialize faster, we got to find a way to boost solvent demand across the globe instead of relying on the slow process of countries' labor force negotiating salary increases in the teeth of the opposition of the local and international elites.

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Doesn't the description of manufacturing in South Korea remind you of VC funded startups? Long periods of intentionally making losses while learning more about a technology, finding product-market-fit and growing a customer base. Similarly to how SK needed to get export numbers to evaluate whether a company could be successful, the value of a startup is measured in how well it does in the outside world using growth rates and customer acquisition costs (not just raw profits).

Since investment is one of the main drivers of economic growth and most of our economy doesn't really engage in it (see all the companies buying back stock when they should be creating new strategies), maybe we can learn something from the developing countries here? We should create more spaces in our economy where the companies have the slack to innovate while having an incentive to do so, either as a monopoly like Google which is afraid that the next consumer computing device is controlled by Apple, or as startups that can explore a frontier without immediate profits. If I have time I might flesh out the similarites between How Asia Works and Zero To One a bit more later.

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etymonline attests fritz as a stand-in for Germany from 1883, much before the 1914 given by World Wide Words.

Still no definitive evidence, but it's not impossible for that to be the origin.

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Mauritius is currently slightly poorer than Malaysia by PPP GDP. It's unclear why they included it, but not Malaysia. Both are near the upper end of the range that we usually consider "developing" rather than developed.

In any case, even assuming the book is correct about what policies helped East Asian countries become rich(er), it's unclear how applicable it is today. Based on the review, it assumes a mostly agricultural country, one where peasants have little or no surplus above subsistence levels. Today, this only describes the poorest countries. At this point, moderately-poor countries like Indonesia or Thailand (let alone moderately rich ones like Malaysia) are industrialized, and large segments of the population have incomes well above subsistence levels.

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The mention of Israel makes me think: it might be instructive to do a compare and contrast of the Enclosures with the purchase of land from traditional Ottoman landlords by pre-state Zionist settlers. There would seem to be possible parallels both in legibility of land tenure unlocking economic development, and in negative effects on tenants whose traditional, illegible rights (or what they perceived to be rights, at least) were taken away.

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An observation re Vietnamese IQ levels:

Czech Vietnamese youngsters do very well academically. Their parents or grandparents were mostly invited as factory workers in the 1970s-1980s, so there should not be a strong founder effect there.

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One reason I think industrialization might be important is transport costs. A strong economy requires a solid infrastructure. The cost of transporting the raw materials is enormous, so you need local manufacturing.

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"Taiwan and Japan both bought out landlords with bond "

Much of the land in Taiwan was owned by the Japanese. Taiwan having become a Japanese protectorate in 1895. The owners fled in 1945 with the defeat of Japan. I'm pretty sure they were just expropriated.

"The bonds became worth less because since government bonds grew more slowly than the economy. "

The bonds became worthless because they were issued in 1946 and between 1946 and 1949 Japan experienced triple digit inflation. The prewar yen traded at ¥3.6 to the $1. By 1949 when prices stabilized it was trading at ¥360 to the $1.

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"I think it’s fair to speculate that most of the northern vs. southern Asian IQ difference is just that northerners are more Flynn-ified."

Don't believe that for a second. Huge Chinese/Malay gap in Malaysia and Singapore (and huge Taiwanese aborigine/Taiwanese Chinese gap in Taiwan), Brunei does not score well on standardized tests. Chinese in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines also earn higher incomes. All evidence suggests the Asian gap is as intractable as the Mediterranean gap.

"How much of US wage stagnation has been that we “exported” our potential wage growth to China (or other developing countries)?"

Some, but the general stagnation in trade during the 2010s combined with real, but fairly modest wage gains suggests it's not the most crucial factor.

"I don’t know if the statistics we use to prove that Japan etc had a Flynn Effect"

Japan and especially Korea did have a Flynn effect; see the 2012 PIAAC. But Korea already started at a southern European level despite being much poorer than Southern Europe.

"Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam all come out about the same!"

Jason Malloy did some research on this; Thailand comes out to around 90, and Vietnam is similar



Philippines's PISA results are truly dismal, but some evidence suggests its IQ is in the 80s. I think its PISA results will improve over time, but not enough to ever close the gaps. As a rule, lower-middle income countries (but not upper-middle income countries) tend to have standardized test scores that seem below the trendline suggested by inference from racial composition (see PISA for Development results).

The most interesting aspects of the IQ and national income debate aren't the countries that are on the trendline, but the positive outliers -for instance, the Dominican Republic, Romania, Austria, Turkey, Lithuania, and America.

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The land reform thing never made sense. The whole concept of specialization of labor should suggest to us that it's better to have three guys doing agriculture and 47 guys doing other things than to have 48 guys doing agriculture -- on the same land -- and 2 guys doing other things.

Of course, that's an argument about how the labor pool should be allocated. To the extent that we're holding labor allocation fixed and arguing over how agriculture should be *organized*... we'd still expect the large landholders to be more productive than smallholders are? We see gains from scale in every other industry; why would agriculture be different?

This is also, as far as I'm aware, the explicit lesson we learn from the de-Romanization of Britain. Under Roman rule, British agriculture was done in a system of a small number of centralized great estates. With the fall of the Empire, Germanic settlers came in and reappropriated all the same land into a system of a large number of decentralized individual holdings. And total agricultural production cratered.

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Re: Mexico and Latin America. Mexico's and Argentina's per capita (nominal) is $10k. Yes this is lower than Korea's $30k but certainly above, for example, Honduras at $2.5k. Are we certain land reform was not a success there?

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I do think we should look at China's growth and then adjust it for two very important factors: the enormous portion of the wealth that is owned by people who get it via membership in the party and corruption rather than productive activity (it's got to be a huge number although there's no way to know what that number is), and the enormously costly destruction of the environment and human life that is caused by the amazing levels of pollution of air, water, soil, and food.

Chinese low-wage workers are not really getting significant gains. Seven years ago, a low-wage worker in a first-tier city made about 3000RMB a month. Now he makes about 3000RMB a month, and both food and housing are more expensive. This is not what is reported, but it is what is going on.

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I too would love to learn more about Mauritius. It is a very interesting special case. Maybe its geography gave it artifically low crime, which helped with high value tourism? Maybe there's a financial-hub-like effect to being the first place in a wider region that doesn't suck?

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"Secondly, he completely ignores the many times land reform failed. East Asia is not unique in its attempts at land reform. It was fairly common in Africa, Eastern Europe, etc. Ukraine and Romania had incredibly fertile soil and it's hard to think of regimes that eliminated their landlords harder."

The point of land reform is to put the land into the hands of the farmers, not to collectivize into even _more_ clumsy and inefficient agricultural solutions. _Murdering_ your independent farmers as "kulaks" is kinda the opposite.

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Going further back, Sweden had a big land reform in the 1820s, which is commonly regarded as a major success. But unlike the international ones where the landowners have their land taken and redistributed, Sweden already had predominantly independent farmers. What it _did_ do was to unify the lands of each farmer, where they had previously been so spread out in patches that the whole thing was communally controlled at the village level, something that didn't exactly lend itself to experimentation and competition. With each farm having mostly unified farmland after the so-called "lawful shift", the same kinds of efficiency gains as with the more common land reform became possible, some parts of the population were driven into the cities, and industrialization could begin.

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"So Studwell is picking a pretty decent fraction of the limited number of cherries that exist."

That misses the point. Even if one picks all the cherries and they all have an X in common, it's not strong evidence of X causing cherryness. Not until you look at non-cherries to make sure they don't also have X.

The old timey go-to cartoon example is highly successful US executives who watch football on Sundays.

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> One possible defense of Studwell’s “cherry picking” is that, as per Wikipedia, “Since 1960, only 15 economies have escaped the middle income trap […]” […] So Studwell is picking a pretty decent fraction of the limited number of cherries that exist.

What kind of broken logic is this? The criticism was, paraphrased:

“The claim that X causes economic success isn’t well supported enough, because he failed to take into account countries that did X but didn’t achieve economic success.”

And your rebuttal to this is:

“Yeah but there are only very few economic success stories.”

What? The commenter Salemicus was specifically asking you to take into account the countries that were NOT economic success stories, even though they tried X. (With X being some combination of land reform, protectionism, etc.)

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The Pseudo-Erasmus tweets don't seem to be publicly visible. Perhaps one needs a twitter account

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"Secondly, he completely ignores the many times land reform failed. East Asia is not unique in its attempts at land reform. It was fairly common in Africa, Eastern Europe, etc. Ukraine and Romania had incredibly fertile soil and it's hard to think of regimes that eliminated their landlords harder."

There was a similar land reform in Ukraine during NEP, after less than 10 years the collectivisation policies were implemented, which were the bedrock of the pre-war rapid industrialisation in SU.

After SU collapsed land plots were transferred back to people but as every reform done at that time in Ukraine the gains from it went to big businesses. Now Ukrainian agricultural sector is dominated by oligarchs.

Basically, there were not much time when Ukrainian peasants were able to become small farmers as outlined by Studwell. Also by 90's Ukraine was urban - around 73% of people already lived in citied, and industrialized, so there is a lot of difference between 50's South Korea and most post-Soviet republics.

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Regarding the controversy over different land reform outcomes in East Asia vs Western nations - some attention should be paid to differences in what is being farmed.

Rice farming is much more labour-intensive than wheat farming. Rice paddy irrigation requires the constant maintenance of fast-eroding dikes and canals. Because of said earthworks, high water levels, and the nature of the crop, mechanization has proven much slower in southern, rice-focused areas of China than in northern wheat-focused areas.

This 2003 paper explores these barriers to mechanization in Chinese rice farming:


This 2019 article reports a study finding most rice crops in China are still harvested by hand


We may, therefore, hypothesize that Western wheat farmers can more easily utilize economies of scale to increase crop yield than Eastern rice farmers, because:

a) Machines can be used at almost every stage of the furrowing-to-harvesting process.

b) The comparative technological simplicity of mechanization reduces its cost.

c) The countervailing harm to yields done by less attention-paid-per-plot is less intense for wheat than for rice, due to its reduced maintenance needs.

To put it another way:

If the countervailing costs of less attention-paid-per-plot outweigh the gains of mechanization in rice-farming areas, but not wheat-farming areas, we would expect land redistribution to increase yields in the former but not the latter.

This would explain the experience of England, whereby industrialization was spurred by landowners cutting their workforce whilst increasing crop yields sufficient to create a permanent food surplus – i.e. the opposite of what the East Asian experience would predict.

A good way to test this hypothesis would be to study the differential effects of land reform on crop yield in wheat-focused vs rice-focused parts of China. If anyone knows of such a study, let me know.

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If we play the game of what these countries have in common (leaving out equatorial guinea as it is explained by oil)

1. European: Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain

2. The US has a national security interest: Israel, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan

3. Small islands that are ex-British colonies and have a big financial sector and are a trade hub: Hong Kong, Mauritius, Singapore

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