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Superabundance has enlightening history of the world

Posted by John Reed on

I have been reading the recent book Superabundance. It is generally about its title which is basically saying that the more people earth has had, the cheaper and more plentiful everything has become. That is the opposite of the Marxist predictions from Malthus and Paul Ehrlich.
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That case is inarguable. The evidence is monstrously overwhelming. 
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But I was surprised to find a very enlightening history of the human race in the book. 

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We started as hunter gatherers. Not a good career. If there is too much rain or too little, half the tribe dies. But it was quite egalitarian. No one was rich or the big boss. We became social because we learned how to throw rocks at predatory animals. You need a crowd to impress the tigers and such.
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The discovery that you could cultivate crops was a dramatic change. When you switch from hunting and gathering to farming, you need to stop being nomads, settle down, band together to defend the farm from enemies. But you also start to have John Dutton types who are the boss, the man, the landed gentry. Whole different societal arrangement because of the food source.
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Then you had the monarchies and the Roman Catholic Church and war lords using their various methods to preserve their power. They were anti-innovation. Why? It threatened their power. Almost worldwide, there was a sort of Amish view of the world. That is, they thought the way it was was perfect and as God wanted it and that any change was blasphemy. Not a mindset that leads to superabundance.
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For various technical reasons, Western Europe became a bunch of small countries which were warring against each other and they saw that the nation that could innovate militarily could prevail so the leaders were sort of forced to embrace free markets because they produce the most innovation and that leads to survival. 
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Meanwhile, in China, which had the most people and therefore the most GDP in the early agrarian era, were totally sure that all non-Chinese were barbarians and the thought of copying them in any way was laughable. Similar thought processes elsewhere in Asia.
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Recently, obviously, China adopted free markets to leap out of poverty. But more recently, their dictator, Xi, seems to have reverted to the old Chinese agrarian Mao way. I think the main reason is akin to the if you ain’t Chinese you are a barbarian combined with Xi is more interested in keeping power than innovation and free markets. He does not understand his power requires free markets and capitalist competition.
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So how did China do that recent burst of prosperity? Same way as always the Seven Pillars of Prosperity:
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1. free markets (minimal or no restrictions or taxes on transactions)

2. sound money (neither inflates nor deflates)

3. rule of law

4. property rights

5. minimal taxation

6. minimal regulation

7. minimal creation of artificial uncertainty by the government
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But the Chinese Communist Party never totally let go of the reins. When their billionaire Jack Ma started mouthing off criticizing XI, they freaked. and reverted to a command economy.  Goodbye China taking over the world. The CPC cannot tolerate the Seven Pillars so they will not remain prosperous.
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Machine guns have a rapid rate of fire and and a sustained rate of fire. The rapid rate is what you get when you pull the trigger and keep pulling it. But the metal of the gun cannot sustain that because it swells and jams. So the sustained rate is a series of bursts of three shots followed by no shots.
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Something similar happened in China. Their tentative fraidy cat letting the nation have a little freedom showed the power of capitalism and freedom. But no dictatorship can sustain freedom. When Ma and others showed a little independence, the Iron Curtain slammed down again.


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