Population of Rome Never Reached a Million Before 20th Century


, , ,

I’ve often heard claims bandied about (even by Ian Morris, typically an advocate for rather low population estimates for pre-modern Near Eastern and Chinese cities) that in the 1st century BC, the population of the city of Rome reached one million. I’ve always been skeptical of them. Rome simply wasn’t that large. For it to have one million people, it would either have to have been three times larger than currently imagined, or three times more population-dense than plausible, or some combination of the two. The walled city of Constantinople (the population of which possibly never reached half a million before the Ottoman era) always seemed to me a bit larger than Old Rome. The modern city of Rome, which today contains fewer than three million people, seemed to me far more than three times larger in area than the Old City of Rome.

Based on this picture, the Aurelian walls of Rome in the late 3rd century AD looked like this. They were over 18 kilometers in length and contained an area of some 3139.33 acres. Based on the old (and highly useful) rule of 100 persons per acre in premodern urban areas, this would amount to some 313,933 persons residing within the city. This is very close to the 320,000 claimed by Augustus to have received sixty denarii from him in 5 BC. From this we can conclude that in Rome briefly preceding the death of Herod the Great, at least 100% of the population was eligible for at least some welfare benefits. We can also conclude that the great symbol of urban decline in America today, the almost entirely Black-inhabited city of Detroit, Michigan, continues to have a population greater than that of Old Rome at its classical height. Further evidence exists for early Imperial, unlike late Republican, censuses counting both women and children as Roman citizens.

The first time Rome managed to achieve a population of one million people was apparently the 1920s.

Summary of Henri Pirenne’s Mohammed and Charlemagne, Chapter I


, , , , , , , , , ,

A few days ago, I heard about Henri Pirenne’s book Mohammed and Charlemagne, which I will summarize below, as I’m reading the book so you don’t have to. Over the past week, I have become quite interested in how the barbarian invasions and the rise of the Umayyad Caliphate affected Western Europe. Bryan Ward-Perkins [excellent quality pirate version of his medium-quality book The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization here] considers the barbarian invasions to have severely degraded economic and cultural activity in the Roman cultural sphere in Western Europe (though less than in Britain) and does not mention the conquests of the Caliphs as having any impact on Western Europe at all. Over the next few days, I will attempt to coherently sum up the evidence relating to the transformation of the Roman Empire from a unified Mediterranean-wide naval power to the small monarchy we find in the early 9th century AD and the economic processes that relate to this political decline.

Chapter I of Mohammed and Charlemagne:

*By the mid-5th century AD, the Western Roman Empire had ceased to exist as a serious political entity and its entirety had been split up among the barbarian kingdoms and their puppets.

*By 500 AD, the barbarians in the present-day Roman cultural sphere in Western Europe ruled in the name of the Roman Empire. They did not seek to conquer its entirety or replace it with their own culture or empire. No barbarian claimed to be Emperor from the Fall of Rome to the rise of Charlemagne.

*The barbarians were not contemptuous of Rome, nor did they think themselves superior to the Romans. The Roman cultural sphere only retrenched along the Rhine and some of northern Gaul. While there was some barbarian looting, the barbarians only wanted to enjoy the benefits of Roman rule.

*The barbarians had little to no long-term influence on the culture and language of the Roman cultural sphere.

*Barbarian law in the Roman cultural sphere eventually became assimilated into Roman law. Arianism disappeared by 600 AD.

*The barbarians were at least as corrupt and amoral as the Romans.

* Though there was clear intellectual and artistic decline in the barbarian-controlled Roman cultural sphere, the Roman cultural sphere survived due to lack of superior alternatives and the power of the Latin church.

* The Ostrogoth administration attempted to preserve Roman culture. The Vandals lived as an extractive elite that expropriated the population and persecuted Catholics, but even the Vandal kingdom quickly abandoned Germanic culture and adopted the manners and customs of the old Roman administration. The Burgrundians were almost completely Romanized soon after their invasions.

[comment by me: The nature of the economic situation in Tunisia and southern Gaul between the 2nd and 9th centuries AD must be settled through archaeology.]

* The barbarians were not at all culturally innovative.

* The Frank kingdom preserved less of Roman administration than the other barbarian kingdoms, but introduced no new Germanic cultural features. The Frank population merged easily with the Gallo-Roman, and the Gallo-Romans quickly became a part of the Frankish ruling class.

* The tax system under the barbarians drew in massive amounts of revenue.

* Under the barbarians, bishops played no part in the government and the king was the state, with the church being subservient to him. The church played no formal part in confirming the king. This is a contrast with the later strength of the church’s influence on the state in Western Europe.

* Under the barbarians, the church remained socially prestigious and a massive recipient of government subsidies.

* All the barbarian kingdoms, with the sole exception of that of the Vandals, recognized the legitimacy of the current eastern Emperor. The Vandals struck coins in the name of the Emperor Honorius, thus recognizing the legitimacy of past Roman emperors.

* Justinian’s conquest of North Africa was quick and complete; the conquest of Italy was hindered by Ostrogoth resistance after an initial quick surrender of the Ostrogothic kingdom, but by 554, after much spilled blood, the conquest of Italy was complete. The Ostrogoths and Franks never allied.

* The Visigoth kingdom continued to recognize Justinian as legitimate even after his armies took the entirety of the kingdom’s coastline.

* Justinian’s Spanish and North Italian conquests were very short-lived.

* The Lombards were the first barbarians to enter Italy to rule like barbarians.

* In the second half of the 6th century AD, the Pope was still subservient to the Emperor.

* Were not for the Empire’s break with the Frankish kingdom in the sixth century AD, the Lombard kingdom would have been destroyed.

* By 600 AD, the Lombards had begun a process of Romanization, the cultural influence of the East was continuing its expansion, and the Empire was still the most powerful political entity in the Mediterranean.

Why are Indian-Americans Democrats?


, , , , , ,

Simple. Because the Republican Party stresses immigrant assimilation, while Indian-Americans aren’t planning on assimilating. Koreans and Vietnamese (who are less Democrat-leaning) at least have some intent to assimilate into American identity and lose the nonessential parts of their Old World culture. It is always simultaneously funny and encouraging to experience the very common occurrence of meeting an East Asian with a Western first name and an East Asian last name. Indians in America have no such intent to assimilate. Instead of converting to Christianity or accepting their atheism, like many (most?) East Asians in America, Indian-Americans set up Hindu and Sikh temples and Muslim mosques. Indian-White marriages in the United States remain rare, and their products identify as Indian. Though Indian-Americans have no particular love for American Blacks (they certainly do not attempt to assimilate into the American Underclass Black culture), they are willing to vote for a Black Presidential candidate because that candidate’s history resembles that of most Indian Americans far more than that of most American Blacks. An icon of WASP [even if Mormonism is not a branch of Protestantism, it is still a 100% American religion] identity such as Mitt Romney or assimilators like Governors Jindal and Haley simply will not appeal to the great majority of Indian-Americans. Many Indian-Americans still follow Indian politics and have no intention of voting for any candidate advocating the impractical doctrine of quick assimilation for all immigrants.

I like most of the Indian-Americans I’ve met as people. They, as the products of a selective immigration policy, are certainly superior in every manner to those I’d regularly meet were America to have Open Borders. But I accept that they are practically unassimilable hyphenated Americans. I’d be fine with that, were it not for the excessive lean towards the Democratic Party this unassimilability gives them. Were Indian-Americans lacking political bias, I would full-heatedly oppose placing any sizable restrictions on present Indian-American entry into the United States. Though I’d shiver at an Open Borders policy in the U.S., I’d cry at the massive waste of talent a post-1924, pre-1965 U.S. immigration policy would produce. Tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of fundamentally competent individuals would be forced to scrape out their lives in a corrupt third-world shithole.

Inspirations [though not sources] for this Post:



Compensation and Productivity



Many Americans have seen graphs like this:

Much of this is due to the use of different price level deflators for productivity and compensation. Over the past forty-one years, U.S. output has risen in price much more slowly than the cost of living for the typical American worker. When using the same price level deflator, the compensation-productivity divergence looks much more recent, having begun in late 2001, rather than in 1973:


Alternatively, if one wants to use a logarithm scale for the same graph (to show an exponential growth trend instead of a linear trend):



I strongly suspect a good portion of the divergence from the exponential growth trendline after 1973 is due to falling and stagnating worldwide per capita oil production.

The Heritage foundation suggests most of the recent wage-productivity divergence, after taking into account the difference between the deflators, is due to overstating input price increases and not accounting for depreciation in output measurements. I doubt the latter, as depreciation did not significantly increase in 2008. It is interesting that stated average real hourly productivity increased during the 2008-9 recession (a phenomenon almost unique to the United States). I suspect real hourly wages did not rise as fast as real hourly productivity in the U.S. in 2008-9 due to the effects of higher unemployment on wages. In the 1990, 2001, and 2008 recessions in the U.S. (but not before), low-productivity workers increased hourly productivity to avoid being fired, thus leading to rapidly rising real hourly productivity while wages stagnated due to the labor surplus. I do not know why this only arose in the U.S. after the 1980s.

Import Substitution


America’s large size and population explains why it could afford its extreme manufacturing protectionism during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Mexico ceased import substitution with the passage of NAFTA. For various reasons, economy-wide labor productivity continued to stagnate.
Also, while Turkey was never a basket case, it was was never a tiger economy, either. It remains the only example of a country to successfully transition from successful import substitution to successful free-ish trade.

Laws of Economics



1. Demand does not create its own supply (cf. “stagflation”).

2. Supply does not create its own demand (cf. “involuntary unemployment”).

3. What is consumed must first be produced [citation not needed].

4. There is no corresponding necessity that what is produced must then be consumed (see Law 2).

5. For any rational economic activity to occur, supply and demand must be coordinated.

There are many ways to coordinate supply and demand. No way, so far, has been found to be perfect. Generally, it has been conceded that market systems of coordination of supply and demand are more efficient and less prone to shortages than ways based on central control of production. [Edit: A few hours after I wrote this, a 10-hour power outage took place- something that never happened in Communist Russia. Seems nature loves irony.] Most recessions in modern advanced economies are real wastes of real resources (see here).

Comparing the Real GDPs per Capita of the Former Soviet Republics


, , , ,

The Baltics are excluded from consideration in this post. This is the current (2013) ranking of former Soviet republics in real GDP per capita (PPP) terms. The statement in brackets refers to change in country/republic rank from the year 1990.

1. Russia (from 1) [0]

2. Kazakhstan (from 2) [0]

3. Belarus (from 6) [Up 3]

4. Azerbaijan (from 4) [0]

5. Turkmenistan (from 5) [0]

6. Ukraine (from 3) [Down 3]

7. Armenia (from 9) [Up 2]

8. Georgia (from 7) [Down 1]

9. Uzbekistan (from 12) [Up 3]

10. Moldova (from 8) [Down 2]

11. Kyrgyzstan (from 11) [0]

12. Tajikistan (from 10) [Down 2]

These, consequently, are the best and worst performers in changing their real GDP per capita (PPP) rankings in the FSU since 1990:

1. Belarus and Uzbekistan [Up 3]

2. Armenia [Up 2]

3. No change: Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan

4. Georgia [Down 1]

5. Moldova and Tajikistan [Down 2]

6. Ukraine [Down 3]

Here is another ranking: country’s real GDP per capita in 2013 compared to that at relevant 1990s business cycle trough:

1. Azerbaijan: 5.00X

2. Armenia: 4.09X

3. Belarus: 3.24X

4. Turkmenistan: 3.21X

5. Georgia: 3.17X

6. Kazakhstan: 2.78X

7. Tajikistan: 2.34X

8. Uzbekistan: 2.26X

9. Russia: 2.11X

10. Moldova: 1.99X

11. Ukraine: 1.90X

12. Kyrgyzstan: 1.83X

Thus, the below is the annualized growth rate in real GDP per capita in each former Soviet country between the year it hit its respective 1990s business cycle trough and 2013:

Azerbaijan: 9.35%

Turkmenistan: 7.37%

Armenia: 7.3%

Belarus: 6.75%

Georgia: 6.26%

Kazakhstan: 5.85%

Tajikistan: 5.13%

Russia: 5.11%

Moldova: 5.05%

Uzbekistan: 4.92%

Ukraine: 4.38%

Kyrgyzstan: 3.42%

What’s the matter with Kyrgyzstan? Its terrible education system? Its lack of industries built up during the Soviet era? Its geographic isolation? It’s certainly interesting that Ethiopia and Armenia are rapidly growing, but Kyrgyzstan isn’t. Also, the Belarussian economic miracle (which, for different reasons in each year, stalled in 2012 and 2013) hasn’t at all been emphasized in the U.S. media.



Price Level v. Real GDP: The AS-AD Model Examined


, ,

People in the economics blogosphere (e.g., Krugman, Sumner) all talk about a lack of aggregate demand since the 2007-9 recession. Yet, they never seem to try to test that claim using the same graphics they were taught in Econ 101, which can be easily generated in Excel using data from FRED.

X-axis is Real GDP; Y-axis is Price Level (the GDP deflator). Blue line is historical data points.

Now, for the big reveal:


The red Aggregate Demand curve is for Q2 2009 and is based on Scott Sumner’s assumption that AD=NGDP. The blue line is still historical data points. As you can see, using the Sumner NGDP/Aggregate Demand curve, most (62.7%) of the change in Real GDP during the 2007-9 recession was caused by supply-side phenomena.

Now, let’s look at the U.S. recession of 1990. The recession was caused by a credit contraction, not the oil price shock of the Gulf War-oil shocks don’t cause recessions these days; credit contractions do. And there was a credit contraction in America by April of 1990.


The red AD/NGDP curve is for Q1 of 1991. The blue line is historical data points. As anyone can see, there was hardly any AD/NGDP decline at all in 1990-91- certainly not enough to spark a significant decline in Real GDP. The decline in Real GDP was pretty much entirely supply-side. Indeed, AD/NGDP was slightly higher at the bottom of the recession than when the recession began.

So Scott Sumner is right: NGDP targeting regimes would create stagflation in all recessions because recessions in modern economies are mostly supply-side phenomena. This might seem counter-intuitive to most New Keynesians, who think of the Great Depression of the 1930s as the ur-example of recessions, but when you’re an Austrian, thanks to ABCT, you’d think most recessions would be inflationary and would be very surprised at the highly unusual Great Depression of the 1930s, which was clearly a demand-side phenomenon, as the American price level was higher in March 1921 than in June 1932 (both months had the same level of real output), thus indicating a movement of the Aggregate Supply curve to the right between these months.


This is What Happens When the Police Don’t Take Back the Streets


, ,



Looters ran out of shops with boxes stacked in their arms up to their chins. Behind them lay overturned shelves, spilled goods and wrecked displays. All the while, police stayed back by their armored vehicles and observed but did not stop them.







Despicable. The police exist to protect the people and their property. What good is a state that does not carry out its functions? It is no better than anarchy! Was the donation of surplus military equipment to the Ferguson police all for naught? The police’s role is not to be subject to the disingenuous whining of the leftist media establishment, but to protect the citizenry under its jurisdiction! Unleash the cops! Take back the streets! Restore order to the residents of Ferguson, Missouri! Ignore the petulant complaints about “police militarization” from the prophets of Ba’al of our day.
A great libertarian intellectual, Murray Rothbard, once (correctly) wrote, at the height of the 1990s crime wave:

There is only one way to fulfill the vital police function, the only way that works: the public announcement–backed by willingness to enforce it–made by the late Mayor Richard Daley in the Chicago riots of the 1960s–ordering the police to shoot to kill any looters, rioters, arsonists, or muggers they might find. That very announcement was enough to induce the rioters to pocket their “rage” and go back to their peaceful pursuits.
Who knows the hearts of men? Who knows all the causes, the motivations, of action? But one thing is clear: regardless of the murky “causes,” would-be looters and muggers would get such a message loud and clear.


4. Take Back the Streets: Crush Criminals. And by this I mean, of course, not “white collar criminals” or “inside traders” but violent street criminals – robbers, muggers, rapists, murderers. Cops must be unleashed, and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error.


And so, Pat proclaimed, “we must take back our cities, and take back our culture, and take back our country.” Yes, yes, yes!


A Note on the Airstrikes


, , , ,

As everyone knows now, Obama, usually a good friend of the Islamic State, has in the past few weeks began performing concrete action against it. Does this negate my position that Obama is a firm supporter of the Islamic State and all the instability in the Fertile Crescent and Libya today? No.

Obama only began countering the Islamic State when it approached dangerously close to the city of Arbela after its decisive victory to the Southwest of Gaugamela. Apparently, the integrity of the government of Iraqi Kurdistan is infinitely more important to the present American administration than the fate of the Kurds of North Syria, the fate of the Shiites of the region of Baghdad, the fate of the Syrian rebels in the region of Deir ez-Zor, or the fate of the Christians who once used to reside in Raqqa and Mosul. That’s a pretty big list. Iraqi Kurdistan is, it seems, a vital client state of the United States, effectively allowed by it to export oil to Turkey without the permission of the Iraqi government. Iraq, if with Maliki, is not. Let us see how the present Iraq, without Maliki, will be treated by the present American administration.

In other news, the media silence on Turkey’s complicity with the Islamic State’s expansion has finally ended. I am very surprised.

Edit: Even Turkey has begun to attempt to reduce Islamist militant activity within its own borders. Apparently, it wants to keep the instability it has created in Iraq and Syria in Iraq and Syria, not within its own territory. This goes for the Syrian rebels, too. Of course, South Carchemish and Tell Abyad are still in Islamic State hands, thus demonstrating Turkey has no full-fledged war on militant Islam.