Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 14th, 2020

How to Build a State

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David Anthony points out in his (wonderful) book The Horse, the Wheel, and Language, the invention of the wheel, far from being the caveman-cartoon idea of a massive stone disk, had to await urbanzation and occupational specializing. The difficulty is not simply the wheel, but a load-bearing axle that allows low-friction rotation. (He pins down the time of the invention pretty closely, as an evolutionary step from using rollers to move heavy loads.)

As Anton Howes points out, putting a state into operation similarly requires a social infrastructure that took time to develop:

I’ve been a little quieter than usual lately, largely as I’ve been trying to write up some tricky parts of my next book. But I did recently publish a piece for a new online magazine called Works in Progress, entitled “How to Build a State”. With the piece, I wanted to convey the basic model of how we should think about what states could and could not do just a few centuries ago:

Suppose yourself transported to the throne of England in 1500, and crowned monarch. Once you bored of the novelty and luxuries of being head of state, you might become concerned about the lot of the common man and woman. Yet even if you wanted to create a healthcare system, or make education free and universal to all children, or even create a police force (London didn’t get one until 1829, and the rest of the country not til much later), there is absolutely no way you could succeed.

For a start, you would struggle to maintain your hold on power. Fund schools you say? Somebody will have to pay. The nobles? Well, try to tax them — in many European states they were exempt from taxation — and you might quickly lose both your throne and your head. And supposing you do manage to tax them, after miraculously stamping out an insurrection without their support, how would you even begin to go about collecting it? There was simply no central government agency capable of raising it.

It’s a basic point, perhaps, but it has lots of interesting implications, not least that monarchs were heavily reliant on making deals with soldiers, religious leaders, and assorted other groups. Appreciating the way states worked in the past — and the many constraints upon them — is fundamental to understanding the kinds of policies they pursued.

Indeed, the rest of the piece provides a framework for some of the other things I’ve been writing about recently, like the emergence of patents for invention, and the birth of the joint-stock business corporation. Both involved inventors exploiting monarchs’ desire for quick and easy cash, with monarchs exercising their prerogative rights to grant monopolies in exchange for a cut of the proceeds. No parliament needed.

And the framework helps to explain how patents came to be corrupted, far beyond the simple encouragement of new inventions or industries. Patents were soon being used to grant exemptions from certain laws and regulations, or even to oversee their enforcement. In 1594, one courtier obtained a 21-year privilege to regulate the quality of ale and beer used to make vinegar (alegar and beeregar, to be precise). In his petition, he alleged that the vinegars were being made from corrupt materials, so needed proper oversight. But in practice, when he obtained the patent, the courtier simply licensed all of the existing manufacturers to continue exactly what they had been doing before, but paying him fourpence per barrel.

Similar patents were granted for the “regulation” of  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2020 at 12:33 pm

Great shave with cheap razor — and a cold-shower note

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I wanted to try the Mühle gen 2 synthetic to compare it to the natural-fiber brushes I’ve been using lately. The Plissoft synthetics have a distinctly different feel on the face than natural fibers — they’re both good, IMO, but they are different, with the natural fibers having a bit more granular feel.

I thought Mühle’s gen 2, made specifically as “synthetic badger,” might be different. Its feel on the face is different from a Plissoft, in part because the knot is less dense and a bit more springy, but the tips are quite fine and it has the same ultrasmooth feel as Plissofts rather than the slightly granular feel of natural bristles (some of which have a distinct granular feel, like my Plisson European grey badger).

The lather was excellent and this time I noticed no lack of slickness toward the end of the shave — perhaps yesterday was just user error in loading too little soap.

The RiMei is a cheap little razor but it does a very good job. This was a $2 razor at the time. It lacks the weight and workmanship of the Baili 171, but of course the Baili costs three times as much.

Three passes to a very nice finish, a splash of Royall Spyce, and the weekend gets underway.

I did face one early challenge. Tony5419 suggested something that seems to boost one’s immune system. The idea does have some support, so I thought I’d try it this morning: turn off the hot water toward the end of your shower and continue the shower with cold water only for 30-90 seconds. I lasted roughly 4 seconds.

Still, it seems like something could work up to, and I think I’ll try it for the next while, each day trying to last 1 second long: one-a-thousand, two-a-thousand, three-a-thousand, . . . In a month, I should be able to do 30 seconds easily — or perhaps with gritted teeth.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2020 at 9:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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