Sunday, September 25, 2022

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XXVI: Against Apocalypse

Earlier this week, when my work schedule looked quite different from the schedule that eventuated, I spent some time writing an answer to a question over on Quora. That question asked if the Late Bronze Age Collapse was an apocalypse.

As is often the case, I wrote to the question in response to an earlier answer by a popular and usually quite insightful Quoran with an inane theory about how the collapse was a salinisation event, as totalitarian Late Bronze Age elites forced the peasantry to over-irrigate the soil to the point where yields were ruined by soil salination. 

My first response was along these lines:

There's a reason that old time Middle Eastern irrigated agriculture focussed on barley. Then it occurred to me that if people were seriously going to go to a substructural accouint of the Late Bronze Age Collapse, than an exposition of the sustructure of the Antique Middle Eastern economy was long overdue. It also occurred to me that another blast against our addiction to exogenous apocalypses was overdue. 

This would be a longer and more lucid anti-apocalyptic blast if I had not been at work at 4am this morning on a scheduled day off, but as it is, I can neither type nor spell[t], and this will have to do. 

Let's call it an exercise in putting a marker down.  

Sunday, September 18, 2022

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, June 1952: Sidebands, AI Mark 17 and AIRPASS


Two 11,000lb Sapphires! Did we mention that?  Two posts back with Flight's insufferable smugness and I am starting to root for metal fatigue. Yes, Aviation Week is louche as all get out, but at least it isn't afflicted by whatever is bothering Flight. (Could it be an inferiority complex?) 

So this week we have word that the Javelin has been ordered as an emergency super priority, to give the the RAF the "all-weather fighter" capability it so desperately needs. The ad promises Hawker Siddeley shareholders even more: "Capable of continuous development in many roles," which doesn't exactly pan out. All that power, almost triple that available to the F-104 comparing both power plants at full afterburner and high altitudes, and the Javelin can't even make it past Mach 1.0. While the Javelin faces more onerous endurance, crew, and payload requirements, the fact remains that it needs significant aerodynamic improvement into the "thin-wing Javelin" to accomplish those "many roles," and that will be overtaken by the Sandys Report. 

All of this is perhaps less relevant in June of 1952 than the still-classified radar going into the Javelin, AI 17, Ferranti's winner in a competition against GEC for a "lock and follow" successor to the abortive wartime AI Mark IX. I have previously discussed around here because of the choice to replace it on the earlier Javelin models with an American radar, in which I might perhaps have taken too much of an "Imperial sunset" perspective. 

It seems, in fact, that the Air Ministry has tired of all that old stuff and has its eyes on something shiny and new. AIRPASS, which began design the year before, will make its first flight in 1958, and looks to crowd the Javelin's lifespan. Maybe an "interim" radar is a better approach than an expensive attack on AI 17's current problems?

Oh, and there's that bit about "American supermen are our superiors." Always good for laughs!

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Postblogging Technology, June 1952, I: Javelins for Taft

R_. C_.,

Dear Father:

I must say that Washington is everything I was promised it would be. I did not even know that my hair could frizz! And, yes, I am staying in  some hither suburb closer to Baltimore, but in later years  shall want every bit of credibility when I tell the tales of my salad days.

I shall be  a wizened survivor of the Potomac swamps. Assignations in limousines! Shaking off hostile tails! Leaks taken, bribes given. Like some wily CIA agent (of which there are by my acquaintance exactly none), I am obscuring my tracks now, and even more so then. 

Yes, there might be a bit of daydreaming in it, but at least I do not have to overthrow Mexico for Pat McCarran or whoever is running the CIA now. It's a Dulles brother, yes, I know. I might still be a bit tipsy from drinking my way through a cordial meeting with B. and his new wife. Hah! 

Reggie has promised to take me up in "the stupidest plane ever made until the next Martin plane," on the weekend, which is not is usual approach to test flying, but we are going to land mid-Chesapeake and have a picnic lunch and some plans .

Well. Definitely still tipsy. I think I will close and salute now. 

Your Loving Daughter,


Sunday, September 4, 2022

The Bishop's Sea: "John Bull Can Stand Many Things, But One Thing He Cannot Stand is 2%"


In this new age of inflation, two-and-a-half things for the week. 

 The first thing is the Bagehot quote. Is this really the secret spring of history, that investors will not tolerate interest rate going below 2% without staging some kind of secret and self-regarding counter-revolution against easy money?

Second, there's Bosworth Field, which I've been thinking about as I make heavy weather through the Black Death, Price Revolution, and Reconnaissance. (And, apparently between Death and Revolution, the "Great Bullion Famine" of, roughly, 1457--64, and the "Great Slump"  of the 1430s--80s. 

The half thing, the thing that put my mind to Bagehot, is the verponding, the property tax that the States of Holland began to impose in place of taxes on rental  incomes as the crisis of the Dutch Revolt deepened. There's nothing new in property taxes, and my slow progress through Scott Tracy's excellent monograph is a disgrace, but I'm going to call attention to it because of the method of the Estates, which was to estimate property values based on twenty times the rental income.

Obviously, it's the data they had. But, also, as far as the survival of the Dutch Republic and the Reformed Religion (as they said in the day) goes, 3.5% is in the nature of things.  It turns out that Henry VIII, who knew from sin, defined usury as an interest rate above 10% in the 1545 Act Against Usury, an act revoked by Parliament in 1552, thus in the last year of that young shit disturber, Edward VI, and restored, my source says, in 1571. (The Act was subsequently revisited several times until the rate of usury fell to 5% in 1713, another politically salient year.)

All of this, of course, is about interest rates (and rental rates) which are too high. A lot can be said about this. If you'll follow the link above to John Munro's 2011 working paper on "Usury, Calvinism and Credit in Protestant England: From the Sixteenth Century to the Industrial Revolution," you will get a brief primer on the old idea (Protestants are proto-capitalists with no time for usury laws) being deconstructed by the scholarship and tentatively reconstructed by Munro. So that's great. The current draft of my chapter on English through the maturity of the Newfoundland fishery wants to argue that the economy, royal succession and Reformation interacted with social legislation (Statute of Labourers, Petty Treason,  heresy,  vagabonds, and finally the poor law)  to create the mould of North American racism. The current draft has, says Munro, some idiotic blathering about discounting notes during the Hundred Years War. I'm glad I read it! 

However, the issue here is the other one: rates which are too low. No-one seems to care about that, but Bagehot says it is the secret of the winter of our discontent.