lookingforoctober: (Default)
I just think it's sort of funny that if you read books about leadership, the benefits of having a hierarchy and a central authority are lauded, and the primary benefit is efficiency. Without leadership, people would argue a lot and then just go do whatever and that would be very inefficient. Leaders are clearly needed to give their followers focus and coordination.

And then if you read books about economics, the benefits of not having a leader or any kind of central authority are lauded. The problem with a centrally planned economy, many economists say, is that it is inefficient. It works so much better to have everyone do whatever they want (mediated by changing prices sending signals about what's needed/wanted, supply/demand, etc.), because the sum of everyone choosing what to do on their own is that you end up with the most efficient system possible in the theory of many economists.



I assume there's some really complicated point, involving scale, simplicity of the enterprise in question, degree of shared goals of everyone involved, and probably a lot of other things, that affects some kind of switch from one to the other (and I would love to read a book about this, if only this were a thing that anyone thought about instead of -- I think? so far as I know? -- falling into the cracks between the things that people generally think about). Not to mention the possibility of some of these theories being some degree of wrong, there being lots of points that fall in between strict hierarchy and total individuality, etc. But still. Sort of funny.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
In the eighteenth century, per capita income grew very slowly. In Great Britain, the average income was on the order of 30 pounds a year in the early 1800s, when Jane Austen wrote her novels. The same average income could have been observed in 1720 or 1770. Hence these were very stable reference points, with which Austen had grown up. ... These amounts allowed the writer to economically set the scene, hint at a way of life, evoke rivalries, and, in a word, describe a civilization.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty


In other words, Jane Austen used actual sums in her writing (Ten thousand a year! Oh, Lord! What will become of me? I shall go distracted.) because there was no notable inflation over her lifetime, and these sums meant something that seemed permanent. People knew exactly what ten thousand a year meant, because it didn't fluctuate. Now, of course, we expect inflation and writers rarely use actual sums in their writing because it'll just get dated very quickly.

I did not know that, but it makes so much sense.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
"Immersion in a tub of eels" was suggested in an 1803 document as a form of "therapeutic terror", part of an "idiosyncratic variant" for the treatment of madness.

(Johann Christian Reil wrote the document, which was very briefly described in Madness: A Brief History, by Roy Porter. p140.)


Immersion in a tub of eels. This is why reality is stranger than fiction.
lookingforoctober: (Default)
A Dartmoor farmer told the folklore collector Lois Deacon, around 1952, that a charmer had cured his bullocks of ringworm by telephone. Around the same period, an official inspecting a farm near Bridport, Dorset, was surprised to see a cow being led backwards out of the farmhouse. It transpired that the cow had redwater, and that they had asked the charmer to come and cure it, but the charmer was ill in bed, so the cow was taken to the telephone to hear the charm.

Davies, Owen. Charmers and Charming in England and Wales from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century
I love research. You never know what you might find.

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