Why was Rome rich…

…and Clark not wrong?

notsneaky explains why even in Malthusian economies, we can see long episodes of above subsistence living standards.

Speaking of bubbles. Are we in a centuries long Malthusian bubble now? If so, what was the shock that got us there? By notsneaky’s analysis it’d have to be a biggie.

11 Responses to “Why was Rome rich…”

  • swong says:

    Did Roman economic bubbles coincide with periods of expansion and conquest? Or peace and prosperity?

  • pushmedia1 says:

    The bubble is Rome. A common criticism of Clark’s thesis is how does a Rome happen (i.e. particular regions that are rich for centuries at a time) if we were stuck in a Malthusian trap.

    Given notsneaky’s analysis, Clark’s thesis is about the very long run. The good news is that understanding the very long run doesn’t put those that make it their life work to understand just the long run (or the short run) out of business. There’s lots of stuff to explain while the economy transitions back to its very long run equilibrium.

    In a sense, most of his critics are committing a category error.

  • swong says:

    This strikes me as one of those questions whose scope extends beyond raw economics.
    More interesting: how does a Greece happen?

    Mind you: I don’t think there has to be some kind of special divine trigger for something like Rome to arise. There are analogues in other systems for complex, coherent structures that self-assemble out of a relatively uniform, simple background. Perhaps the Malthusian trap is less like a bear trap and more like a valley on the side of a mountain? (I haven’t actually studied Malthus, mind you)

    I’d even argue that something like Rome is practically inevitable once you reach a certain critical threshold of population and communication among a group of human tribes. I’m sort of talking out my ass here; I can’t back that up with math, but I’m certain that mapping that threshold is worthy of some very interesting research.

  • notsneaky says:

    “I’d even argue that something like Rome is practically inevitable once you reach a certain critical threshold of population and communication among a group of human tribes…I can’t back that up with math”

    g(A)=mL

    (source: M. Kremer)

  • Pushmedia1 says:

    Is L world, continent, country,city, neighborhood, block or household size?

  • notsneaky says:

    In Kremer’s paper it’s either world, or region specific (he does two tests of his basic model).

  • pushmedia1 says:

    Regions == continents, right?

  • notsneaky says:

    You gonna make me look it up?

  • pushmedia1 says:

    No, I’m just saying his theory isn’t very interesting because it predicts anything given radius is a free parameter.

  • notsneaky says:

    So the world wide regression doesn’t convince you? But why would you expect world population growth RATE to be proportional the level of population? What’s the alternative explanation?

  • pushmedia1 says:

    Ack. The model applied to the world makes a lot of sense, but we were talking about Rome (or Italy or the Roman empire or Europe or Eurasia or whatever extent of “Rome” which conveniently popped it out, ever so briefly, from the Malthusian trap by Kremerian forces).