Wednesday, January 16, 2019

My New Book is Now Out

Legal Systems Very Different from Ours, mostly by me but with one chapter each by Peter Leeson and David Skarbek, is now available on Amazon, both as a paperback and as a kindle.

 One of the nice things about current publishing technology is that revision is pretty much costless. So if any of you get a copy and spot something wrong, a typo, an index reference that is wrong, a mistaken fact, let me know and if I agree I can fix it.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Facts Rarely Speak for Themselves

The richest families in Florence in 1427 are still the richest families in Florence 

is the headline of a story describing some interesting research in economic history. I have not read the article it is based on but, assuming the report is correct, its conclusion is that there is a close correlation between the last names of the wealthiest Florentine families in 1427 and the last names of those currently wealthy.

There are at least two quite different interpretations of the reported facts. One is that families are surprisingly good at passing wealth and status down from one generation to another. The other is that the characteristics that produce wealth and status are to a large extent heritable.

One problem for the second is that last names are passed down in the male line, while talents are passed down through both sons and daughters—a fact observed by Galton more than a century ago. A family could choose to exclude daughters from inheritance of wealth but not of talent. But that is a less serious problem than it at first appears, because high status women mostly married high status men. The daughter of a wealthy Florentine family would usually combine her genetic heritage with the last name of a husband from a different wealthy Florentine family. Hence both genetic advantages and wealth would for the most part remain, from generation to generation, associated with the same pool of last names.

The story illustrates a general point: Facts rarely speak for themselves. How you interpret new facts depends on the picture of the world you fit them into.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

My new book, Legal Systems very Different from Ours (with one chapter by Peter Leeson and one by David Skarbek), appears to be available on Amazon now as a paperback (meaning that I haven’t actually gotten a copy), and I’m in the process of using Calibre to turn it into a Kindle. One tricky bit is the index. 

Which raises a question–should a Kindle have an index? I can, with some work, produce an index where each entry is linked to the corresponding point in the text. On the other hand, since it’s an ebook someone looking for a word can always search for it, so perhaps an index is superfluous.