A Savage War of Peace by Alistair Horne (1977)

Sounds like a fascinating book well worth reading.

Books & Boots

The Algerian War was the long brutal conflict between the National Liberation Front (the Front de Libération Nationale or F.L.N.) fighting for Algerian independence from the French Empire, and the French Army tasked with repressing it.

The war lasted from 1954 to 1962. It brought down six French governments, led to the collapse of the French Fourth Republic and eventually forced General de Gaulle out of retirement to become President in 1958, solely in order to sort out a peace deal. As the violence committed by both the FLN and the army increased, as international opinion turned against the French, and as the Soviet bloc became friendlier with the Algerian revolutionaries, de Gaulle found himself reluctantly pushed towards the only logical solution – that France withdrew and granted Algeria its independence.

This was so unpopular among the 500,000 or so troops which France had by this time deployed to Algeria, and…

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To Lose a Battle: France 1940 by Alistair Horne (1969)

Books & Boots

General Altmayer, who seemed tired out and thoroughly disheartened, wept silently on his bed. (p.575) [A typical example of the behaviour of senior French militaryfigures during the Battle of France.]

This is the third of Sir Alistair Horne’s trilogy about the three great wars fought between Germany and France, the others being The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune, 1870-1 and The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916. (I have also recently read his classic account of the Algerian War of Independence, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954–1962.)

To Lose A Battle is about the German invasion of France in May 1940, the most perfect example of the Wehrmacht’s new Blitzkrieg strategy that it ever carried out.

It is a long book (680 pages) because Horne starts by giving a several hundred page-long detailed account of the historical, cultural, political and military background leading up to…

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The Resistance by Matthew Cobb (2009)

Books & Boots


September 3 – France and Britain declare war on Nazi Germany as a result of its invasion of Poland
May 10 – after 9 months of ‘phoney war’, Germany invades France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and quickly overruns them
June 18 – In the dying days of the Battle of France, General de Gaulle broadcasts from London telling the French to resist Germany
June 22 – The defeatist French government signs an armistice with Germany which establishes German direct rule over northern and western France and leaves southern, ‘unoccupied’ France, to be run by a new French government led by First World War hero, Marshal Pétain. Technically, the unoccupied territory became know simply as the ‘French state’, but the English-speaking world refers to it as ‘Vichy France’ because its government was located in the small spa town of Vichy.

Map of German-occupied and unoccupied France from July…

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more research on women in the economics and sociology professions


Justin Wolfers reports on new research investigating the role of gender in academic careers, especially economics. The background is that economics is a discipline with a rather low percentage of women. This is surprising as other fields in the social sciences have seen long term increases.

A new dissertation by Heather Sarsons suggests that in economics one issue is credit for co-authored work:

While women in the field publish as much as men, they are twice as likely to perish [F: not get tenure]. And this higher rate for women being denied tenure persists even after accounting for differences in tenure rates across universities, the different subfields of economics that women work in, the quality of their publications and other influences that may have changed over time.

But Ms. Sarsons discovered one group of female economists who enjoyed the same career success as men: those who work alone. Specifically…

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women in the economics profession


This is another reason for the existence of Econ Journal Watch, the online journal of critiques and commentary on academic economics. The current issue has an article on the topic of women in the economics profession by Christine Jonung and Ann-Charlotte Stahlberg. A while back, they wrote an article documenting the paucity of women in academic economics. 30% of PhD grads are now women, but, depending on which country you look at, 5-8% of full profs are women. There were responses, and now they published a rejoinder.

The rejoinder is interesting, because it’s skeptical about many offered explanations:

  • Yes, there are measured cognitive differences between men and women, but that doesn’t settle the issue. Though cognitive ability has more variance for men (ie, more geniuses and duds), women and men are relatively strong in different traits that’s you’d imagine would be useful for academic work. Also…

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legislators are less likely to vote for the draft if they have draft age kids


From a new working paper, “No Kin in the Game: Moral Hazard and War in theU.S. Congress,” which can be read at NBER. Eoin McGuirk, Nathaniel and Hilger Nicholas Miller use Congressional voting data to show that there is a negative correlation of draft votes and voting for the draft:

Why do wars occur? We exploit a natural experiment to test the longstanding hypothesis that leaders declare war because they fail to internalize the associated costs. We test this moral hazard theory of conflict by compiling data on the family composition of 3,693 US legislators who served in the U.S. Congress during the four conscription-era wars of the 20th century: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. We test for agency problems by comparing the voting behavior of congressmen with draft-age sons versus draft-age daughters. We estimate that having a draft-age son reduces legislator support…

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“It’s A Sin To Kill A Mockingbird”: Biloxi School District Removes Harper Lee Classic After Parent Complaints Over Offensive Language

Best book I ever read in high school


To_Kill_a_MockingbirdIn To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout says early on in the story that she only heard her father Atticus say that one thing was a “sin.”  Atticus said  “remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” The Biloxi School District appears to repentant sinner this month after it axed the Harper Lee classic because some parents complained about the book’s language.  Despite being one of the most powerful works in history against racism, parents could not overcome the authentic Southern and racist lexicon of the period.  News reports indicate that the problem was the use of the “n-word” in a Southern period where that word widely used.

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Why the Chinese growth rate will taper down

Many years ago, Mancur Olson wrote an insightful book about prosperity and dictatorships. He introduced the concept of rights intensive production. As countries become more and more developed, investment horizons lengthen and depends more and more upon the enforcement of contract and property rights in a tolerably honest way.

Instead of being the first entrepreneur to introduce the most basic technologies and profit handsomely, such as in China with the advent of capitalism, entrepreneurs are introducing a product upgrade or new product that is a minor improvement on current offerings. Such investments will take time to pay off.

Many years ago, an article was published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives about a survey of entrepreneurs in Russia and Poland. It was in the early 1990s. Each was asked whether an investment project that doubled their money in two years was worth the risk. The Russian entrepreneurs mostly said no, the Polish entrepreneur said yes. So insecure are the returns from investment in Russia at that time that the phenomenal returns were required before an investment was made. They would only invest if they could double the money in two years.

In many developing countries, China is an example, property rights are insecure. This means short payback periods are essential for investment. Entrepreneurs must make their money quickly. This means that as investment horizons inevitably lengthened, growth will slow because more and more technologies will not be profitable to introduce into China.

The reason that export based industrialisation is a common path to economic development for poor countries is it does not threaten the existing configuration of special interests. It does not involve deregulating any domestic industry. The export industries do not threaten the business interests and profits of existing rent seekers and ruling elites.

Post-war trade liberalisation and tariff cuts gave Korean and the other East Asian Tigers much greater access to major export markets. This allowed export production to expand without limit. This expansion did not threaten local special interests because they kept their privileges and barriers to entry into the domestic markets.

Institutional reforms and imported new technologies increased employment and incomes through this explosion in exporting in Japan and the newly industrialised countries in East Asia. This allowed the losers from the economic changes to be compensated directly or with new opportunities in the export sectors (Parente and Prescott 1999, 2005; Olson 1982, 1984; Acemoglu and Robinson 2005).

Incumbent suppliers and workers are less likely to be hurt by the adoption of more efficient technologies because output expands greatly through exporting. If a market is small and limited to one country, and output cannot be increased without price cuts, greater production efficiency from a new technology can lead to less employment and business closures. Industry insiders may oppose this. Exporting reduce the incentives for insiders to block more efficient technologies (Parente and Prescott 2005; Holmes and Schmitz 1995; Olson 1982). Distributional coalitions slow down a society’s capacity to adopt new technologies and to reallocate resources in response to changing conditions and thereby reduce the rate of economic growth. 

Many other under-developed nations did not grow because institutional sclerosis locked them into yesterday’s technologies and industries with low growth and major declines in relative incomes (Olson 1982, 1984; Heckelman 2007; Bischoff 2007). A growing accumulation of distributional coalitions – institutional sclerosis – slowed down the capacity of these under-developed countries to adopt new technologies and reallocate resources across firms and industries in response to changing conditions and new opportunities (Olson 1982, 1984; Acemoglu and Robinson 2005).

Latin America is a good example of stagnation after initial prosperity because of the accumulation of barriers to efficient production. Latin America has many more international and domestic barriers to competition than do Western and the successful East Asian countries (Cole et al. 2005).

One of the tricks in the tail that the Chinese employed was market preserving federalism. Their local governments were not allowed to block outsiders as was the case in Russia as Olivier Blanchard & Andrei Shleifer explain:

In China, local governments have actively contributed to the growth of new firms. In Russia, local governments have typically stood in the way, be it through taxation, regulation, or corruption.

There appears to be two main reasons behind the behavior of local governments in Russia. First, capture by old firms, leading local governments to protect them from competition by new entrants. Second, competition for rents by local officials, eliminating incentives for new firms to enter. The question then is why this has not happened in China. We argue that the answer lies in the degree of political centralization present in China, but not in Russia.

Transition in China has taken place under the tight control of the communist party. As a result, the central government has been in a strong position both to reward and to punish local administrations, reducing both the risk of local capture and the scope of competition for rents.

By contrast, transition in Russia has come with the emergence of a partly dysfunctional democracy. The central government has been neither strong enough to impose its views, nor strong enough to set clear rules about the sharing of the proceeds of growth. As a result, local governments have had few incentives either to resist capture or to rein in competition for rents. Based on the experience of China, a number of researchers have argued that federalism could play a central role in development. We agree, but with an important caveat. We believe the experience of Russia indicates that another ingredient is crucial, namely political centralization.

The Chinese have also used what succeeded in Latin America for some time. You have politically connected partner; a family member of a politician.

China faces two major barriers to its growth. Firstly, insecure property rights will become more important because investment horizons get longer as a country develops. Secondly, political coalitions will emerge seeking the redistribution of wealth and blocking new competition.

Speaking of @RusselNorman’s & @Greeenpeacenz’s greater good defence

Activists have ample opportunities seek redress for their grievances through normal democratic means. This is especially so when the activist mounting the greater good defence are recently resigned members of Parliament or the immediate past leader of political parties.

Source: The Case for Disallowing the Necessity Defense in Climate Change Cases – ProfessorBainbridge.com.

The necessity defence (or the defence for cannibalism on a lifeboat defence) exists only if

  1. if the harm that would have resulted from compliance with the law would have significantly exceeded the harm actually resulting from the defendant’s breach of the law.
  2. there is no legal alternative to breaking the law,
  3. the harm to be prevented is imminent, and
  4. there is a direct, causal connection between breaking the law and preventing the harm.

Left-wing activists will be happy to know that the defence is unavailable to anti-abortion protesters because there is no harm to be avoided if the practice under protest is specifically condoned by law. Mining and offshore drilling are also specifically authorised by law.

Most of all, the greater good defence will make no difference to what Greenpeace are protesting against. A one-day publicity stunt does not change the world, much less reduce the harm from climate change. Their protesting will never prevent a imminent harm.

The purpose of lawful, peaceful protest is to implore the majority to think again and perhaps change their mind. It is not the purpose of a lawful, peaceful protest to prevent another from going about their lawful occasions. Protests should never be a means of coercing or frightening others in a democracy into conforming to your wishes.

The great virtue of a democracy is it readily enables the people, over time, to be persuaded that what they took for granted is not so and change the law accordingly. Noisy protesters from across the political spectrum stage publicity stunts to catch the public’s eye in the hope of doing this.

Pielke on Climate #6

The Climate Fix


Welcome to issue #6 of my occasional newsletter on climate and energy issues. The above image comes from a recent public opinion survey on climate change from AP/NORC (here in PDF). The data shows that the Iron Law of Climate Change is alive and well. People are willing to pay some economic price for action on climate change, but that willingness is extremely limited. Only 12% of Americans say that they’d be willing to pay $75 per month, and only 52% say they be willing to pay $1 per month. The Iron Law provides a very useful boundary condition for thinking about policy design.

As a reminder, my day-to-day research or writing is focused on sports governance and various issues of science policy. But I’ve written a fair bit on the topics of climate and energy over the past 25 years, including two recent books and a boatload…

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