You wouldn't have thought that a book subtitled Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History would be a great read but I really enjoyed this. His thesis is that economics goes through periods of stability, when prices reamin stable, and periods of voltatility when prices rise. The four price revolutions are the Mediaeval (around Black death time and the Peasants' Revolt) in which prices rose by 0.5% pa, the 16th Century (English Civil war; Thirty Years war etc) when they rose by 1% pa, the 18th Century (French revolution, Napoleonic Wars etc) when they rose by 2% and the Twentieth Century (WWI, WWII etc) when they rose by 4%. These were interspersed by the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Victorian period and ... we haven't got there yet. You will have noticed that periods of inflation are marked by wars and revolutions; H-F believes that they start when populations rise and commodities run short and food and fuel prices start to rise and wages fall and rents rise so that inequalities in socieities get worse and that is why it ends with revolutions. Meantime the periods of stability are times when there are great advances in learning.
Except that the time at present when there is high inflation and lots of wars but learning has improved dramatically but so has the population. Are we presently having a price revolution or are we in a period of stability? H-F believes that the fall of the communist world suggests the end of this price revolution; perhaps we have then enjoyed twenty years of stability but clearly food and fuel prices are whizzing up at the moment so perhaps another revolution is about to start. Or maybe if you look at the misery elsewhere in the world we are still in a long revolution.
The monetarists are wrong. Price revolutions are not started by increases in the money supply. The post renaissance revolution is oftem blamed on the Spanish importation of Gold and Silver from the Americas but it started thirty years before the first shipments and before the discovery of the silver mountain of Potosi.
On page 84 I discover that Nicolaus Copernicus invented a monetarist model!
On page 135 the Seven Years War starts nine years before it ends when George Washington is defeated (did he ever win a battle) by the French in a scrap in western Pennsylvania.
On page 252 "the laisser-faire prescription, 'let the free market take its course' has in the past eight hundred years created human suffering on a scale that is unacceptable. It is also unnecessary. .... In economic history, equilibrium is the exception rather than the rule. A free market restores equilibrium only to break it down again .... In the full span of modern history, most free markets have been in profound disequilibrium most of the time."
On page 255 he quotes from the New York Times (Oct 4th 1995) "if government does not know what it is doing it will be tempted to meddle less with private industry .... More likely, it will still meddle, only less wisely."
April 2010, 258 pages
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57