Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Perils of Citation...

"Walker (2007) expresses a sceptical view of the idea that economists have been able to prove the 'lump-of-labor' to be a fallacy indeed."

Ya think?

Serfdom 67: Old Age Security, Youth Employment and the Folly of the Excluded Variable

As things currently stand, one side in the debate about old age security will be required to play with one hand tied behind their backs. Any suggestion that postponing the retirement age will exacerbate youth unemployment will be imperiously dismissed as a laughable fallacy. The groundwork has already been laid for this predictable "economic" edict in a myriad of think-tank reports and econometric studies, the methodologies of which are as mathematically opaque as the conclusions are foregone.

There is only one problem.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Exhibit "A": The Page Eighteen Fallacy Paradox

The page image below is from Dorning Rasbotham's 1780 pamphlet, Thoughts on the Use of Machines in the Cotton Manufacture. How quaint. But this page has more than antiquarian interest. At the top of the page, Rasbotham explicitly makes a claim that could readily be dismissed as a "mercantilist fallacy." At the bottom of the page, he invokes what would subsequently come to be known as the "Luddite fallacy" to criticize the views of an unspecified "some persons" staggered by the argument that it would be wise to encourage the invention and improvement of machines. I suspect there is more to this than "it's a fallacy when you do it but plain old common sense when I do it."

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Man vs. Machine": "Strikes have regularly given rise to the invention and application of new machines."

From The Poverty of Philosophy, Karl Marx (1847):

In England, strikes have regularly given rise to the invention and application of new machines. Machines were, it may be said, the weapon employed by the capitalists to quell the revolt of specialized labour. The self-acting mule, the greatest invention of modern industry, put out of action the spinners who were in revolt. If combinations and strikes had no other effect than that of making the efforts of mechanical genius react against them, they would still exercise an immense influence on the development of industry.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Man & Machine: Babbage's Silver Lady

from Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, Charles Babbage (1864):
During my boyhood my mother took me to several exhibitions of machinery. I well remember one of them in Hanover Square, by a man who called himself Merlin. I was so greatly interested in it, that the Exhibitor remarked the circumstance, and after explaining some of the objects to which the public had access, proposed to my mother to take me up to his workshop, where I should see still more wonderful automata. We accordingly ascended to the attic. There were two uncovered female figures of silver, about twelve inches high.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Man vs. Machine": Mr. Tufnell's Report From Lancashire (1834)

The following excerpt from E. C. Tufnell's Report to the Central Board of the 1833 Royal Commission on the Employment of Children in Factories deals with what Tufnell alleged was the nefarious "trick" -- "neither more nor less than a trick to raise wages" -- behind the Lancashire cotton spinners' support for the Ten Hour Bill. He elaborated on his theory in the anonymously published tract, Character, Object and Effects of Trades Unions.

"Man vs. Machine": The Society for Promoting National Regeneration (1833)

Morning Chronicle, Saturday, 7th December, 1833.


We copy from Cobbett's Register of this day the following strange article, which bears the above title. The matter appears to us in a very serious light; but at present we cannot offer any remarks on the subject. The Manchester Paper of this day will probably notice it.

"Man vs. Machine": Chalmers, "State and Prospects of Manufactures" (1820)

Backing up a tad from the Swing Riots and Charles Knight's intriguing remedy for a glut in the labour market, "What is the remedy? To go out of the market," Thomas Chalmers in 1820 had already made a very similar proposal of withdrawing from the labour market in times when wages are miserable:

"Man vs. Machine": the Swing Riots (1830)

There were three notable incidents of machine breaking in England during the period of industrialization: the 1779 Lancashire riots, the 1811 Luddite uprising and the Captain Swing riots of 1830. Ironically, William Cobbett, who had published his Letter to the Luddites in 1816, was prosecuted in the wake of the Swing Riots for seditious libel for articles he wrote defending the rural labourers. In 1831, the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge published a popular tract by Charles Knight titled The Working-Man's Companion. The Results of Machinery, Namely Cheap Production and Increased Employment, Exhibited: Being an Address to the Working-Men of the United Kingdom, which presented an amiable and didactic rebuttal to the error presumably committed by those who attacked machines to protest their destitution:

"Man vs. Machine": From William Cobbett's Letter to the Luddites (1816)

I shall now return to the subject of machines, and beg your patient attention, while I discuss the interesting question before stated: that is to say, whether machinery, as it at present exists, does, or does not, "operate to the disadvantage of journeymen and labourers."

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Man vs. Machine": There is, in fact, no Idea so groundless and absurd...

"...as that which supposes that an increased facility of production can under any circumstances be injurious to the labourers."

Is that so?

"Man vs. Machine": M'Culluch and Baines on Rasbotham and the Riots

J. R. M'Culloch in an Edinburgh Review article from June 1827, "Rise, Progress, Present State and Prospects of the British Cotton Manufacture:

"Man vs. Machine": A Friend to the Poor

There appears to be some dispute about the authorship of the 1780 pamphlet, Thoughts on the Use of Machines in the Cotton Manfacture. In The Cotton Trade and Industrial Lancashire, 1600-1780, Julia De Lacy Mann (1931) noted that Dorning Rasbotham, "has been credited with the authorship... but this has also been attributed to Thomas Barnes, D.D., of Manchester." Maxine Berg, in The Machinery Question (1982), simply refers to "Thomas Barnes's Thoughts on the Use of Machines..." In the bibliography of his Social Change in the Industrial Revolution (1959), Neil Smelser cited "Ramsbotham, D." as the author of the pamphlet, noting, however, that it was "attributed to the Rev. Thomas Barnes in the copy of the Goldsmith Collesction, University of London." The current cataloging of the title in the Goldsmiths-Kress collection and at the University of London Library refers to Rasbotham.

Perhaps the memorial plaque for Rasbotham at Deane Church, composed by his friend, Thomas Barnes, settles the question. The author of the anonymously published pamphlet styled himself "A Friend to the Poor." Below is the text of Rasbotham's plaque:

"Man vs. Machine": The Rasbotham Theorem

I am, from the bottom of my heart, a Friend to the Poor. I wish to plead their cause, and to speak in their favour. I feel tenderly for the poor man and his family. And, if my heart does not deceive me, I would do, I would suffer any thing for their welfare. Led by no other principle, but regard to the Poor, I now wish to enter into free and friendly conversation with you, my poor but esteemed friends, on the subject of our machines. And in order to do this to the greatest advantage, I will first lay down some things necessary to clear our way to the point, and then endeavour to answer the question, of the usefulness or injuriousness of machines for shortening labour, particularly in the Cotton Manufacture.

"Man vs. Machine": Lancashire Riots of 1779 --Josiah Wedgwood's Account

The Lancashire rioting broke out just as Josiah Wedgwood, the pottery manufacturer, had arrived to Bolton where his son had become ill at boarding school. He reported the events in his correspondence.

October 3rd, 1779
In our way to this place, a little on this side Chowbent, we met several hundred people in the road. I believe there might be about five hundred & upon enquiring of one of them the occasion of their being together in so great a number, he told me they had been destroying some engines, & meant to serve them all so through the country. Accordingly they have advice here to-day that they must expect a visit tomorrow the workmen in the neighbourhood having muster'd up a considerable number of arms & are casting bullets & providing ammunition to-day for the assault to-morrow morning. Sr. Rich'd. Clayton brought this account here to-day, & I believe is in the town now, advising with the inhabitants upon the best means for their safety, & I believe they have concluded to send immediately to Liverpool for a part of the troops quarter 'd there. Many of the workmen having been turn'd off lately oweing to a want of demand for their goods at foreign markets has furnish'd them with an excuse for these violent measures. The manufacturers say the measures which the Irish have adopted in their non-importation agreements have affected their trade very much. These are melancholy facts, upon which I forbear to comment. They do not stand in need of much illustration, but we must pray for better times.
October 9th
I wrote to my dear friend last from Bolton, & I mention'd the mob which had assembled in that neighbourhood; but they had not then done much mischief; they only destroyed a small engine or two near Chowbent. We met them on Saturday morning, but I apprehend what we saw were not the main body; for on the same day, in the afternoon, a capital engine or mill, in the manner of Arcrites [Arkwright's], and in which he is a partner, near Chorley, was attacked; but from its peculiar situation they could approach to it by one passage only, & this circumstance enabled the owner, with the assistance of a few neighbours, to repulse the enemy and preserve the mill for that time. Two of the mob were shot dead upon the spot, one drowned, & several wounded. The mob had no fire arms & did not expect so warm a reception. They were greatly exasperated & vowed revenge: accordingly they spent all Sunday, & Monday in collecting fire arms, & ammunition and melting their pewter dishes into bullets. They were now join'd by the D. of Bridgewaters colliers & others, to the number, we were told, of eight thousand, & march'd by beat of drum, & with colours flying to the mill where they met with a repulse on Saturday. They found Sr. R'd. Clayton guarding the place with 50 Invalids armed, but this handfull were by no means a match for enraged thousands; they (the invalids) therefore contented themselves with looking on, whilst the mob completely destroy'd a set of mills valued at £10,000.

On Tuesday we heard their drum at about two miles distance from Bolton a little before we left the place, & their professed design was to take Bolton, Manchester & Stockport in their way to Crumford [Cromford], & to destroy all the engines, not only in these places, but throughout all England.
Oct. 13th
The mob enter'd that Bolton on Tuesday the 5th when we had left it not more than an hour. They contented themselves with breaking the windows & destroying the machinery of the first mill they attacked, but the next, the machinery being taken away, they pull'd down the building & broke the mill wheel to pieces. They next proceeded to Mr. Keys of the Folds, & destroy 'd his machine and water wheel, and then went to work with the lesser machines, all above so many spindles; I think 24. When they had completed their business at Bolton, I apprehend they went to their homes. Jack only says they are quiet now, & that 100 of the Yorkshire militia are come to defend them. I hope the delusion is ended, and that the country may be in peace again.
Oct. 16th
I hear nothing further of the Lancashire rioters only that some soldiers are sent to oppose them with orders not to fire over the poor fellows heads, but right amongst them, & to do all the execution they can the first fire, by way of intimidating them at once. This may be right for aught I know, and cause the least blood shed in the end; but it is dreadful, and I hope there will be no occasion for the military proceeding to such extremities. I do not like to have the soldiery familiarised to spilling the blood of their countrymen and fellow citizens.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Man vs. Machine": Lancashire Riots of 1779

From The Annual Register for 1779
Manchester, Oct. 9: During the course of the week several mobs have assembled in different parts of the neighbourhood, and have done much mischief by destroying the engines for carding and spinning cotton wool (without which, the trade of this country could never be possibly carried on to any great extent). In the neighbourhood of Chorley, the mob destroyed and burned the engines and buildings erected by Mr. Arkwright at a very great expence. Two thousand, or upwards, attacked a large building near the same place, on Sunday, from which they were repulsed, two rioters killed, and eight wounded, taken prisoners; they returned strongly re-inforced on Monday, and destroyed a great number of buildings,' with a vast quantity of machines for spinning cotton, &c. Sir George Saville arrived (with three companies of the York militia) while the buildings were in flames; the report of their intention to destroy the works in this town brought him here yesterday noon. At one o'clock this morning two expresses arrived, one from Wigan, another from Blackburn, intreating immediate assistance, both declaring the violence of the insurgents, and the shocking depredations yesterday at Bolton; it is thought they will be at Blackburn this morning, and at Preston by four this afternoon. Sir George ordered the drums to beat to arms at half after one, when he consulted with the military and magistrates in town, and set off at the head of three companies soon after two o'clock this morning for Chorley, that being centrical to this place, Blackburn, and Wigan. Captain Brown, of the 25th regiment, with 70 invalids, and Capt. Thomason, of Col. White's regiment, with about 100 young recruits, remained at Preston, and for its further security, Sir George Saville offered the justices to arm 300 of the respectable house-keepers, if they would turn out to defend the town, which was immediately accepted. In consequence of these preparations, the mob did not think it prudent to proceed to any further violences.

"Man vs. Machine": The Ur-Story

Last Monday, the Sandwichman traveled to Bolton, north of Manchester, and to Farnworth, just outside of Bolton, to get to the bottom of the Ur-story of "Man vs. Machine" ("Some stories reach deeper, into the most primal and profound truths. They mirror, in new and original ways, the Ur-myth, the act of creation itself.").
"It was thought a bold thing at the time for Mr. Rasbotham, a magistrate near Bolton, to publish an address urging that it was for the interest of the working classes themselves to encourage inventions for abridging labour."
I will be posting two accounts of the 1779 machine riots near Manchester. One was published in the Chronicle of the Annual Register for the year 1779. The second appeared in correspondence from Josiah Wedgwood.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lord Haw-Haw Would Be Proud!

Oh, the jeering and sarcasm! As if jeering and sarcasm were unmistakable tokens of superior knowledge and insight -- as if. Gosh, what if the knee-jerk preemptive resort to ad hominem was instead understood for what it really is? A nullity wrapped in an illusion inside an insecurity:
1. "Think(?)tank advocates shorter working hours as cure for unemployment."

2. "The flaws of slashing working hours in half are so numerous that it would be an insult to the reader's intelligence to point them out, but in case any pre-schoolers with advanced reading abilities and an internet connection have found this site, I will list a few..."

3. "Why nef stands for no economics foundation"
We are dealing here with a really important, fundamental sociological phenomenon but I'm afraid that intelligent, polite folks don't really want to be sullied by it. They would rather come up with intellectually persuasive reports and pay no attention to the beast behind the curtain.

In their posts, Ralph Musgrave (1), Chris Snowdon (2) and Tim Worstall (3) instinctively comprehend something that academics had better tune into: bullying works, especially in situations shrouded in uncertainty and anxiety. The bully must be confronted and taken down or the bully will prevail.

Ralph Musgrave is a case in point. He is not a bully. But he is imprisoned in the labyrinth of the bully-logic. He sees Tim Worstall as "sarcastic, abusive and witty" (i.e., a bully) but concludes that "he does understand economics" so he follows Tim's blog with a mind to "knicking his ideas and presenting them as my own."

Tim does indeed understand economics -- at least well enough to be quite facile at twisting whatever evidence or anecdote he can cherry-pick to suit his ideological ends. That is, he understands economics in a manipulative, strategic way. This is not to say that Tim is a bad guy. He has found a niche and it works for him.

What if the Ralph Musgraves were on to the Tim Worstalls? Bullies thrive on attention. Take away their admiring audience and they have to find something else to do. Maybe even something useful.