My bet with Bryan Caplan

by John Quiggin on January 16, 2010

Since Europe-US comparisons are in the air again, it seems like a good time to report on the first year of my bet with Bryan Caplan, the terms of which are

The stake is $US100 and the agreed criterion is that, for Bryan to win, the average Eurostat harmonised unemployment rate for the EU-15 over the period 2009-18 inclusive should exceed that for the US by at least 1.5 percentage points

The relevant figures are at Eurostat and, with December still to come in, I estimate that the EU-15 rate will be 0.3 percentage points below that for the US for 2009, so that I beat the spread by 1.8 percentage points.
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I’m still working on the follow-up to my Descartes post, to which comments have been good and useful. I’ll plug the gap with a passage from the Dan Garber book I mentioned before, Descartes Embodied (good book.) I’ve never read much Francis Bacon (I don’t teach him); and in particular I haven’t read New Atlantis, which I know is his science fiction utopia (you’d think I would have gotten around to reading such a thing). Garber summarizes the organizational structure for the House of Saloman, which is apparently New Atlantis’ League of Extraordinarily Scientific Gentlemen. The job titles are pretty much turned all the way up to Awesome.

At the bottom of the organization are those who form the tables of natural history, a total of twenty-four investigators. Twelve “Merchants of Light” “sail into foreign countries under the names of other nations … [and] bring us the books and abstracts, and patterns of experiments of all other parts.” Three “Depredators” collect experiments from books three “Mystery-men” collect experiments from mechanical arts and liberal sciences, and three “Pioneers or Miners” try new experiments of their own devising. They are joined by three “Compilers,” who arrange these observations and experiments into proper tables. Twelve workers are employed at the next stage of the enterprise. Three “dowry-men or Benefactors” examine the initial tables compiled by the Compilers and draw out both technological applications and the first theoretical conclusions that can be drawn from the tables, presumably what Bacon calls the first vintage in the Novum organum. Three “Lamps” as he calls them, then draw new experiments out of the work of the Compilers and Benefactors, which experiments are them performed by three “Inoculators.” And finally, “we have three that raise the form discoveries by experiments into greater observations, axioms, and aphorisms. These we call Interpreters of Nature.”

I think someone really ought to write an SF thriller in which the science heroes of New Atlantis have to race against time to compile the proper Baconian tables that will allow them to understand and technologically defeat the invading Martians. Or something.

Perhaps Adam Roberts will consent to show up in comments and tell us whether New Atlantis is actually as fun to read as it sounds.