Saturday, March 26, 2005

"Did Use of Free Trade Cause Neanderthal Extinction?"

University of Wyoming economist Jason Shogren and his colleagues Richard Horan of Michigan State University and Erwin Bulte from Tilburg University in the Netherlands believe that Free Trade Caused Neanderthal Extinction?. It truly is a poorly written headline, as (at least to me) it seems to be saying that because Neanderthal's used Free Trade they became extinct. In fact, probably a more correct headline would have been to replace "Did the Use of..." with "Did a lack of..." Anyway, enough quibbling with the headline. My real problem is that it seems that what is being implied by the headline doesn't actually reflect the success story within the, er, story. In short, it was because of Free Trade that homo sapiens thrived while Neanderthal died.
...they argue early modern humans were first to exploit the competitive edge gained from specialization and free trade. With more reliance on free trade, humans increased their activities in culture and technology, while simultaneously out-competing Neanderthals on their joint hunting grounds, the economists say.

Archaeological evidence exists to suggest traveling bands of early humans interacted with each other and that inter-group trading emerged, says Shogren. Early humans, the Aurignations and the Gravettians, imported many raw materials over long ranges and their innovations were widely dispersed. Such exchanges of goods and ideas helped early humans to develop “supergroup social mechanisms.” The long-range interchange among different groups kept both cultures going and generated new cultural explosions, Shogren says.

Anthropologists have noted how judicious redistribution of excess resources provides a distinct advantage to “efficient hunters” as measured by factors such as increased survivorship, social prestige, or reproductive opportunities, the researchers say...

He says the evidence does not support the concept of division of labor and trade among Neanderthals. While Neanderthals probably cooperated with one another to some extent, the evidence does not support the view that specialization arose from any formal division of labor or that inter- or intra-group trade existed, he says. These practices seem to require all the things that Neanderthals lacked: a more complicated social organization, a degree of innovative behavior, forward planning and the exchange of information, ideas and raw materials.

“Basic economic forces of scarcity and relative costs and benefits have played integral roles in shaping societies throughout recorded human history,” Shogren says. “No reason exists today to discount either the presence or potential impact of economics in the pre-historic dawning of humanity.”
I wonder if many Aurignations complained about the outsourcing of spearheads to the Gravettians?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Viewing Terri Schiavo as a Disabled

Harriet McBryde Johnson offers some interesting points if one starts seeing Terri Schiavo as a disabled person and thus one who should be protected by the American With Disablities Act. She makes ten (10) points, which are worth reading.

Conservative "Crackup" or Not?

Glenn Reynolds wonders if the Conservative movement is going to "crack up" over the Schiavo debate. (He opines at both Instapundit and Jonah Goldberg says, nope, we've heard this all before:
This is an old and rich topic, but I think one part of the problem with "conservatism's over" school is that people confuse intellectual conservatism for popular conservatism generally. They are overlapping and mutually dependent movements, to be sure, but less so than most of the disgruntled intellectual types think. If the popular political movement does something at odds with the intellectual precepts of the eggheads, someone invariably yells "aha! the movement cannot sustain such internal contradictions!"

The problem is that all serious and large political and ideological movements contain internal contradictions. Internal contradictions come with growth. Perfect internal consistency comes with contraction and insularity. Small cults are internally consistent on every point. Large movements must deal with coalitions of competing interests.

This doesn't mean such contradictions don't create problems and challenges, but if you're looking for a major coalition to fall apart, you should look less for intellectual contradictions and more for conflicts of interests between major segments of the coalition. The intellectual conflicts are interesting to intellectuals -- that's why we call them "intellectuals" -- but they don't always reflect concrete antagonisms within the movement. Frank Meyer's fusionism -- the marriage between traditional or social conservatism and anti-state or libertarian conservatism -- never really worked on paper very well. But despite this internal contradiction -- capitalism versus stability -- the conservative movement prospered because it believed such a marriage would be useful ideal even if it couldn't be attained in practice.

Those who want to find in the Schiavo case proof of a movement-splitting schism need to demonstrate that a major constituent of the conservative movement -- free marketers, for example -- can no longer abide by fighting side-by-side with pro-lifers or social-conservatives.

By the way, my pals Andrew and Justin are tossing this around over at Anchor Rising, too. (Andrew, Justin, Andrew 2)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Fred Barnes has boiled the Schiavo debate down to three points, but the aspect that has me in "deep thought" mode is this:
True, there is an arguable federalism issue: whether taking the issue out of a state's jurisdiction is constitutional. But it pales in comparison with the moral issue.
It is on that specific point that I am debating. On the one hand, it seems distasteful on the face of it to weigh cold "federalist principles" against the emotion-packed desire to see life preserved. On the other, is there a place in government, true conservative government, for emotionalism? I'm just thinking out loud. It's a difficult thing. The problem is, despite all of Michael Schiavo's apparent "problems," how do we know he isn't telling the truth? Believe me, I'm sympathetic to the "err on the side of life" argument too. No matter how this situation is resolved, the debate will go on, and the repercussions will be felt for years.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Where I am

I continue to gradually improve, however any of the small amount of computer time that I am currently alloting myself is being mostly devoted to school work. This is my last "hurrah" for all intents and purposes, so I have to papers with accompanying presentations and a revision or two to go on my MA thesis. If I haven't dropped of anyone's blogging radar completely, I thank you. I expect that as spring comes into bloom, blogging will proceed on a more regular, and frequent, pace.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Yes, I'm Back

Slowly but surely, I'm getting back into the groove after neck surgery. Still a little soft mentally and a little achy, but the surgery went well. Unfortunately, computer time is and will be the main casualty of recovering from the procedure, so blogging and typing will still be light for a few weeks until I get the O.K. to resume normal activity. I'm on the road to recovery, though, and things will be showing up here, at Anchor Rising and at Spinning Clio every now and then. Thanks for the patience.

The Jones Act and Coastal Trade

In espousing a water-highway for more effective and efficient commerce, the ProJo editorial board touched on the 1920 Jones Act, which mandated that all coastal trade be conducted by ships built in the U.S. and registered, or "flagged," there, too. They rightly point out that most commercial ship-building left our country a long time ago, but fail to mention that there are still several shipyards that build navy ships or subs, such as in Groton or Bath, Maine. Nonetheless, there simply aren't enough qualified ships to engage in coastwise trips, so we are left to rely on the tug/barge method. As a former mariner, I am quite familiar with the debate. Usually what then happens is that it is proposed that the Jones Act be repealed to allow foreign ships into the waters. The regulatory gap between the U.S. and countries who offer "flags of convenience" such as Liberia or Panama is often used as the hammer to squelch such a proposal, usually with environmental concerns in the vanguard of opposition.

The fact of the matter is that it doesn't take the repeal of the Jones Act to increase this trade as I believe that increased barge traffic would be sufficient. The problem would be the hysterical reaction that environmental groups would undoubtedly have. Witness the cries of "too much Bay traffic" with the proposal for an LNG terminal in Providence. No, the problem isn't the Jones Act, its the inevitable NIMB's (Not In My Bay) who surface whenever any mention is made of using Narragansett Bay commercially. Thus, Rhode Island is prevented from fully capitalizing on the asset from which it derives its nickname of the Ocean State.

Victor Hanson : Turning Points

Victor Davis Hanson takes a look at turning points since 9/11. Pretty much all you need to know, in short, a good example of contemporary history writing, if you will.