June 21, 2002

Julius Caesar: His Personal Weblog

C. Julius Caesar's Personal Weblog: "I'm heading up to Geneva. One of the Gaul tribes is planning on cutting through Roman territory, in an attempt to go and fight some other tribe. I'm the governor of Gaul now, so I have to stop them... I'm caught a little off guard there's only one legion up there, so I'm trying to raise some more at the same time.

"Well, it looks like I might be away more than I'd like, so I decided to set up this blog. My friends in Rome can keep track of what I'm up to amongst the barbarians..."

Bloggus Caesari

Posted by DeLong at June 21, 2002 04:28 PM

Comments

Fantastic! Entertainingly educative!

I found some (most likely unintended) irony in the description of the...

"Plebians

The mass of urban poor. Plebians have little electoral power and even less chance of social or economic advancement. However, they do enjoy some of the advantages of Roman citizenship, such as the government-subsidized grain supply"

It's interesting because our urban poor actually pay MORE for their food then they would without the government's intervention, thanks to all the protectionism our agricultural sector is granted.

(Further, our governments are so powerfully interventionist in this respect that they succeed in stalling development in the distant poor nations by doing so.)

What they share though is:

- "little electoral power" given how big a role money plays in modern politics.

- "and even less chance of social or economic advancement", given how socially determined patterns of human capital accumulation are, and given our economic Puritanism when it comes to deal with the effects as well the root causes of poverty.

Writen study and scholarship is not a tradition in all cultures. These sub- or alternative-cultures may value more highly other forms of achievement such as art, spirituality or athletics. Now add to this a generalized unwillingness to fund generously whatever little formal education these children are exposed to. And you get the ghetto model of American urban poverty...

But what does this have to do with Caesar and his Roman Empire? ;)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on June 22, 2002 12:27 AM

Stijns: Hmm... people pay more for their food due to the protectionism granted to the agricultural sector? I think that most of our protection for the agricultural sector is in the form of massive subsidies, *not* in the form of tariffs and quotas (though we do certainly have that, especially for sugar...). Though these subsidies are protectionist, a quick, stereotypical, back-of-the-envelope partial equilibrium model would show that they lower the price consumers pay. Of course, such a model would also show that overall, the gains in producer and consumer surplus don't quite cover the cost of the subsidy, and I think that there would be cheaper ways of getting poor people enough food...

Still, it isn't true that our dominant form of agricultural protectionism, farm subsidies, harm the poor, I think...

Posted by: Julian Elson on June 22, 2002 10:54 PM

Er... I just realized, I claimed that U.S. agriculture subsidies don't hurt the urban poor: I actually meant the urban poor in the U.S.

They undoubtably hurt the poor in poor, would-be agricultural export-producing nations.

Julian

Posted by: Julian Elson on June 22, 2002 11:07 PM
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