Finance and gambling in early modern Europe or why Arrow-Debreu can be fun

December 25, 2010

Hedge fund managers playing poker and investment gurus using their skills in casinos are part of the contemporary mythology surrounding the world of finance. This makes it surprising that when Merton listed the functions performed by financial markets and institutions he did not include a very important one: entertainment. Had he considered early modern Europe, the striking resemblance between a casino and a stock exchange would certainly not have eluded him.

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Ngrams

December 20, 2010

OK I haven’t understood how it works yet, but I’m already having a hell lot of fun with Google’s Ngram (thanks Sarah).

View of the world


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Saito, O. and T. Settsu: one banker v. seven samurais

December 20, 2010

Saito, Osamu and Tokihiko Settsu (2006) Money, credit and Smithian growth in Tokugawa Japan. Hitotsubashi University. Institute of Economic Research. Discussion Paper #139.

In Osaka, Japan’s commercial capital, under the Tokugawa, rich merchants began to add to their functions that of lender to the mighty overlords (daymo) who needed to transform the production of their domain in bullion in order to cover their expenses in Edo and the taxes due to the Shogun (p.2). At the time, the country was segmented in small local capital market and no security was traded over the whole country. Despite those limitations, the rural industries did grow over the period, yet for that they had to have access to some fundings. Where did this capital come from? (p.3)

This wholesaler system arose in replacement of an inexistent banking sector (p.4). However this organization favored greatly the Osaka merchant who managed to impose de facto their service as a necessary precondition to any industrial or agricultural endeavor (p.5). But at that time, local merchants took on Osaka’s oligopoly.

To develop the production and trade of a wealth of proto-industrial products, they started delivering themselves those products to Edo, thus by-passing the Osaka intermediaries. Local lords backed these initiatives, for instance by issuing bank notes (hansatsu) to remedy to the dramatic shortages of money (p.9). However often successful, these initiatives led to a quick segmentation of the Japanese capital market and each of these small areas suffered from high interest rates (more than 18%), while at the same time interest rates in Osaka kept following (p.10).

A system, close to the earlier one arose after the Meiji Revolution, but this time with several commercial cities as the center of the operations instead of Osaka alone (p.13).


my desk

December 13, 2010


Opper S. (1993): the incredible story of the fleeing Dutchmen

December 13, 2010

Oppers, Stefan E. (1993) The Interest Rate Effect of Dutch Money in Eighteen-Century Britain. The Journal of Economic History, 53/1: 25-43.

Dutch citizens invested heavily in Britain over the 18th century. Even though the English themselves regarded this phenomenon as a necessary evil, it greatly help the Crown to levy the necessary capital for its expenses over the century (p.28). In the 1740s Dutch financiers in London had become critical for the funding of the government’s deficit. To a large extent it can even be said that the Seven Years War was won thanks to foreign money.

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There are many houses in the house of growth

December 10, 2010

Recently I was reminded of the distinction made by Joel Mokyr, in the Lever of Riches, between the four types of growth:

  1. The Solovian growth, after Robert Solow, which is driven by an increase of the saving rate leading to more investment and thus a jump of the production per unit of labor.
  2. The Smithian growth, after you know who, which is driven by the positive feedback between the gain from trade and division of labor (specialization).
  3. The Boserupian growth, after Ester Bosrup, when demographic expansion leads to positive size effects once some thresholds have been reach.
  4. The Schumpeterian growth, after Joseph Schumpeter, where an increase in the stock of knowledge applied to economic production leads to to the increase of the said production.

Meet the gang:


Self promotion

December 10, 2010

I’m trying to become a keen wikipedian. So here are the articles I’ve contributed to so far.

The bank of Scali

Institutional investors

Chronology of European banking (in French, article still not up to standards will be working on it).

The economy of Corsica (in French, already a few years old, should be updated).

Economic history (in French, section on proto-industry)