Econometric History by Donald N. McCloskey (auth.)

By Donald N. McCloskey (auth.)

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Similar notions have been applied to the benefit from English enclosures in the eighteenth century [McCloskey, 1975], to American slavery [Yasuba, 1961], to African slavery [Bean and Thomas, 1974; Gemery and Hogendorn, 1974], and to many other matters. The owners of limited resources such as land or slaves or urban building sites are the sole beneficiaries of improvements that increase their desirability. The desirability, therefore, can be measured from their benefit. The complexities of economic theory are best illustrated by its exemplar, supply and demand.

Consider the puzzling frequency before the industrial revolution of holidays and short working hours. One might suppose that the people of Europe in 1700, being very poor, would have had to work very hard to get their bread. But they did not in fact work very hard. Neither did they get much bread: they were poor in goods but rich in free time. The solid line in Figure 2 33 represents the budget line between consumption goods and hours free from work: by giving up hours one gets bread, housing, clothing.

Again geometry. Since the price of cotton textiles from 1815 to 1860 fell relative to other goods, and the demand for cotton textiles certainly moved out, the supply curve must have fallen. A 'falling' supply curve means simply that a given quantity of cotton textiles was offered at a lower price, the sort oflower price that comes from better ways of making the textiles. The theory draws attention to the possible reasons that a supply curve can fall, such as the cheapening of raw cotton and the mechanisation of weaving.

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