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March 18, 2014

"What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline"

Young economist Noah Smith tells us the Ming dynasty collapsed because it "allow[ed] itself to become isolationist, stagnant, and backward-looking . . ." He thinks we're on the road to doing the same thing. Led by conservatives, we're becoming anti-science. And we manifest growing "anti-immigrant sentiment"--which side of the red/blue divide is responsible for that, I wonder?

But why did the Ming dynasty become stagnant? Here, Professor Smith cites two historians who argue that "when a country thinks it's in a golden age, it stops focusing on progress".

Sorry, but "a country" is too vague. Who, exactly, in Ming China thought it was in a "golden age"? I'm no specialist on Ming China, but I have read William Baumol's terrific article, "Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive and Destructive" (Journal of Political Economy, October 1990). Professor Baumol attributes the change in China's fortunes to a very tiny ruling class, supported by a tiny intelligensia, that put its narrow welfare above the economy of the larger nation. 

Now that has an important possible lesson for "American decline"!


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Eric Falkenstein

Great point. Dynasties aren't like nations, they are much more narrowly focused, why the Habsburg's were such parasites. The US already leads the world in immigration, so it's not like we're backward here (it's a lot easier to immigrate to here, than say from Honduras to Mexico). Anyway, see Norway and Japan, w/ little immigration and good governance.

Ted Craig

Backward-looking? You mean like Krugman pining for the '50s and the glory days of union?

And have liberals ever offered one shred of evidence that conservatives are "anti-science" other than the Creationism Museum? And why doesn't Bill Nye debate Jenny McCarthy?


Science that advances the Progressive's agenda is real science. Anything else is anti-science.


"Barbarism is diversity; civilization is unity."

The inability, on might say purposeful opposition, to absorbing immigrant people into the society leads to the fracture of that society. A "melting pot" that takes on the flavors, but blends the individual elements, gives new and old alike a stake in the continuation of the dynasty along with a diversified, but, unified culture.


China was for a long time very anti-business. They thought businessmen only moved things around.


It’s terrible how the anti-science conservatives are always cutting funding for NASA while Leftists desperately try to find funding for advanced spacecraft, manned missions to Mars, space telescopes and robotic probes to the outer planets.

And, you know, he’s right. He mistakes political conservatives (as defined by the media) for real conservatives who write “as long as one child goes hungry, how can we fund a space program?"

Che is dead

"And we manifest growing "anti-immigrant sentiment"--which side of the red/blue divide is responsible for that, I wonder?"

Which countries have naturalized the most immigrants in the past decade? - The Economist

A compelling body of research is now available, from many leading academic researchers and from respected research organizations such as the National Bureau of Economic Research, the RAND Corporation, and the Urban Institute. No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelors degrees or higher, although some are forecasting high growth in occupations that require post-high school training but not a bachelors degree. All have concluded that U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings—the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more. -- The Atlantic

I suspect that you are left wondering about a lot of things.

Che is dead

Here's the link to the Economist story:

And the story in the Atlantic:

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