Showing posts from April, 2014

The Bad Rentier

Max Liebermann 1847-1935 'Self Portrait' The rentier is not a loveable person. ‘Honorable Idlers’ ( ehrsame Mussiggiinger ) was the official name given in some medieval cities of the Upper Rhine to members of aristocratic chambers of commerce who were rentiers and occasional entrepreneurs. I see this as an early example of the mixed emotions ‘rentier’ men and women arouse amongst us all.  Définition - A rentier could be anyone of independent means, typically an owner of capital who participates indirectly or not at all in the process of production, who draws income from rents on capital assets in the form of interest payments or dividends as opposed to wages or salaries. A rentier will not be an ‘idler’ if the category includes crafts of providing capital, money lending, self-funded entrepreneurial dabbling, Sunday-morning stockbroking, even philanthropy, all of which require labour time and can be inputs in production.  The painter Max Liebermann entirely fits

Syncretism or Crisis?

The Three Graces (spoof of Goya’s ‘Third of May 1808’) by Cesar Santos , contemporary exponent of Latin American syncretism In a previous post I said it's wrong to portray Spanish colonial rule in Latin America as a kind of ‘identity crisis’ reverberating to the present day. Now I will explain why. We must start as America did, with la conquista .  Conquest was made easier because the Spaniards encountered divided kingdoms, vicious inter-tribal warfare, and economies of forced tribute which syphoned goods and lives from one tribe to another. If every clash of tribes and every conquest signals an ‘identity crisis’, then Indo-Americans were accustomed to the process long before Spaniards arrived. There were multiple irreconcilable identities in Latin  America prior to Spanish rule. By the end of the colonial era 300 years later, there was, for most intents and purposes, a universe identity - Hispanic. Some historians, Westerners included, tried to portray at least one con

The Bane and Backbone of Economic History

Creatively adaptive Property Rights stand tall in the English woods Property rights are legal appropriations of ownership, use, or disposal of factors of production and consumption: land, labour, technologies, or capital. Self-evidently, the establishment of secure property rights -- identifiable, predictable, enforceable, enduring rights of private ownership and usage over anything that can be exchanged in the market -- is a precondition of modern market-based economic growth.  In a market economy it must be possible to appropriate and have free disposal of the non-human materials of production. Expansion of property rights expands the scope for improving market freedom and profit-making by creating rational expectations or calculable certainty that -- now and far into the future -- the entrepreneur can securely transfer wealth to the sphere of capital investment, and then rightfully appropriate advantages he or she gains from entering that investment for competition in the m