Economics in Two Lessons: Income distribution

by John Quiggin on September 7, 2015

Here’s another excerpt from my book-in-progress, Economics in Two Lessons. Rather than work sequentially, I’m jumping between:

Lesson 1: Market prices reflect and determine opportunity costs faced by consumers and producers.
and
Lesson 2: Market prices don’t reflect all the opportunity costs we face as a society.

In the section over the fold, I’m looking at how opportunity cost reasoning applies to policies that change the distribution of income, wealth and other entitlements.

As usual, praise is welcome, useful criticism even more so. You can find a draft of the opening sections here.

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Horror

by Belle Waring on September 7, 2015

Yesterday I chanced to read a story from 1850, The Three Visits, by one Auguste Vitu. It is in a collection of, broadly speaking, ghost stories: The Macabre Megapack: 25 Lost Tales From The Golden Age. It is free to Amazon Prime members, and 99 cents otherwise, so you should buy it. It is misleadingly advertised by the title–it’s actually tales from writers earlier than, and contemporaneous with, Edgar Allen Poe, not stories from the golden age of Weird Tales (though that is also a thing.) This story starts out in a promising way:

In the month of August, 1845, a column of French soldiers, composed of Chasseurs d’ Afrique, of Spahis, and several battalions of the line, were crossing the beautiful valley of orange-trees and aloes, at the base of Djebel-Ammer, one of the principal spurs of Atlas. It was nine o’clock at night, and the atmosphere was calm and clear. A few light and fleecy clouds yet treasured up the melancholy reflection of the sun’s last beams, which, in copper bands, were radiated across the horizon. The march was rapid, for it was necessary to catch up with the advance guard, which had been pushed forward to make a razzia, the object of which was to bring into subjection one or two mutinous tribes. The Marechal de Camp who commanded this advanced party had halted with a field-officer, to observe this party defile into its place with the rear guard. The day had been very warm, and luminous masses of vapor from time to time rose from the surface of the ground, like white apparitions in the midst of sombre space….

As the column approached Djebel-Ammer, the soil, which had hitherto been grassy and fertile, became barren and desolate. The orange-trees gave place to mastich-wood and the most horrible cactus. The arbuti lifted directly to heaven their blood-red trunks and regular branches, on which the leaves were so glittering that rays of the moon made them splendid as the scanthi of candelabra. On the right side and on the left arose layers of black and blue rocks, like vast Japanese vases, from which arose great cactus, with leaves dentelated as the claws of a gigantic crab. Fine and dry briars rattled as they quivered in the breeze, and the pale light of the rising stars made gigantic silhouettes of the shadows of the horses and men. The wolves howled in the distance, and large birds hovered in the air, uttering the most melancholy cries while they were on the wing.

What are spahis, you may be wondering? They are Algerian cavalry under French command. What’s a razzia, you wonder? Don’t worry, you’ll find out in a minute. In this story, the general reveals a compelling story to the regiment’s doctor about why he is “superstitious” and won’t allow the men to tell scary stories on night marches. Basically, it’s because his best friend of the golden hours of youth, George, has appeared to him twice after dying. George intimates, on their first post-death encounter, that the general would see him three times in his life, with the final meeting just preceding the general’s joining George in the possible Swedenborgian space awaiting him. (For real, Swedenborg is invoked). The second time, George saves his life by helping him clear his name, after the then-captain was falsely accused.
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