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February 20, 2015


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I apologize for not having read the paper, but perhaps some of the lack of linkage is because the contemporary states are not the same entities as the precolonization polities.

In other words, if the Ashanti kingdom was good at state-building, the current Ghanaian state might not inherit that.

"Pre-colonial Africa was endowed with a large land supply and a low population density relative to Europe or Asia (Thornton, 1999, Reid, 2012). Herbst (2000, tab. 1.1) estimates that population density in 1500 was 14 people/sq km in Europe, 46 people/sq km in Japan, and 13 people/sq km in China, but only 2 people/sq km in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this land-rich but labor-scarce environment, a primary goal of warfare was to capture
people rather than territory. Thornton (1999, pp. 16) writes: “Indeed, ownership of slaves in Africa was virtually equivalent to owning land in Western Europe or China.”"

This is touched on in the paper, but I'd think that they'd focus on it more in the conclusions. Surprised they didn't.

Wow, the Gennaioli paper was really worth reading. Lots of pleasant fizzing for my ADD. One thing I really took from it is that "pushing a string" effectively means bad things are happening or will happen, as such things indicates that state capacity has declined or will decline.

A couple of objections, or not really objections...

1) Early modern Euro warfare, and especially past 1650, was completely dependent on New World wealth extraction, first gold/silver, then things like sugar, tobacco, etc. Without this sort of revenue, expensive warfare would have buffered itself neutral as state capacity fails to grow with territory gained, think 100 years war. More specifically, without regular juiced up trade, the West African empires never really consolidated, other than perhaps, Mali (who, if they had held together for just a leetle longer...).

2) Lesser states don't really "give up" per se. They are usually ripped up via espionage and bribery. I also think it's not really enough to just say that Poland just gave up because Russia kept intervening in Polish politics. I mean, even today, would you say that Poroshenko's giving up?

At this point, read all or almost all of the papers posted in the 2/20 posts. These were pretty great papers. Didn't really like the Dincecco paper as much because I thought it was kind of thin sauce, and I found the data analysis unfriendly to the amateur.

I mean, I don't think my 2/23 comment about Mali (vis a vis Ports.) would have been made had I read the Nunn paper beforehand. T'was eyeopening, as well as the Medieval pogrom paper.

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