Once upon a time, before the Internet was in full bloom, my dad decided to look through the latest U.S. Army guides on countries (now known as “country studies”) and compile economic data to determine people’s standard of living in various countries based on GDP and local buying power.
He did this for fun. It was how he rolled.
Since I had recently been living and studying in Indonesia (and yes, my dad gave me the army guide for Indonesia beforehand), we talked a lot about his research and how it applied to what I had observed. How far a dollar went in Indonesia (about 2,000 rupiah at the time) was different from how far a dollar went at home, after all. And, naturally, it varied depending on where I was on a particular island.
My dad, too, had experience with these sorts of price differences from travel both inside and outside the United States. I wondered a lot about industrialization, what the “normal” rate of development might be, and how fast and how well developing nations and regions could and would develop.
So I took all of those conversations and ponderings into consideration when I read Dylan Mathews’ interview over at Vox. He’s talking to two economic historians about how the standards of living changed with the industrial revolution — and it gets right at a lot of those questions about what preconditions and conditions there are for development.
I’m not sure the “oral history” long-form article became more popular in the social media age, but I certainly have noticed it a lot more in the past 15 years… and I usually enjoy the pieces about seminal stage and screen productions. It’s a good reminder of how, even when we see these works that are exquisite faits accompli, they are the result of hard-working humans, who are on their own journey.
(And you may find some of Pincus-Roth’s other pieces for the Post of interest, including one about the enduring love for my favorite film no one else seems to have seen in the theater, The Shawshank Redemption, as well as why the musical Cats became so popular anyway).
Like a statistically noticeable chunk of Americans, my wife and I saw Hamilton this past weekend… which naturally led to us to look up the historical details of all the historical figures.
One question that popped up –and really, I’m surprised this wasn’t touched on in any my history classes– was who was “in charge” of the United States before George Washington? I mean, we have that whole “Articles of Confederation” period where someone was in charge in some official capacity, right?
It turns out there were presidents beforehand, but their duties and powers weren’t at all comparable to what we associate with American presidents beginning with George Washington. In this, all my history teachers most definitely covered that “lack of strong, central government.”