News

A Revolution Delayed? Dairy Output and Tenure Institutions in Lower Canada, 1831

I have a new working paper available. This time, I consider the role that Canadian seigneurial tenure might have played in deterring early specialization in dairy production by limiting the ability to finance capital investments needed for that industry. The abstract is below and the paper can be consulted here:

A recent burst of research in the field of economic history emphasizes the role of dairy production in stimulating growth for small open economies like Denmark or Ireland in the 19th century. This paper attempts to link the province of Quebec in Canada, a key producer of cheese intended for export, to the literature in question. In Quebec, the emergence of large-scale dairy production was largely concentrated in areas operating under the British freehold tenure system (as opposed to the French seigneurial tenurensystem (Ouellet, 1988)). Using the censuses of 1831 as my primary data source, I question the role of seigneurial tenure in delaying specialization in dairy production. It is my conclusion that seigneurial tenure depressed production in 1831 relative to freehold areas. It should also be noted that the results hold different data specifications.

Trade or Raid: Acadian Settlers and Native Indians Before 1755

I have another working paper available which I will soon start presenting in order to obtain comments.  In the paper, I consider whether or not North America could have been settled more peacefully with fewer infringements of the property rights of First Nations. I argue that the case of Acadia – the French settlements in Atlantic Canada – offer an interesting counterfactual. The colonists were in a borderland which was largely left ungoverned by European powers and were thus more or less in a situation of statelessness. Being forced to shoulder all the costs of violence themselves, the settlers developed exceptionally peaceful relations with the First Nations of the region. In the paper, I survey this exceptional counterfactual and I provide new information about the region’s living standards. The paper is available on SSRN and the abstract is below:

The peopling of North America by European settlers often conflicted with the property rights of aboriginals. Trade could, and often did, represent a peaceful and mutually beneficial interaction between these two groups. However, more often than not, raid was preferred over trade. This was not always the case (as exemplified in this paper) for the French settlers of Atlantic Canada, known as Acadians, who enjoyed exceptionally peaceful relations with First Nations. In this paper, I argue that this colony was peripheral in the designs of European governments and was largely stateless and was left to fend for itself. As such, all the costs of raiding were borne by settlers who favored trade over raid for more than a century.

 

Book review – The Contradictions of Capital in the Twenty-First Century: The Piketty Opportunity

A few months ago, I was asked by EH.Net (the website for economic historians) to write a review of a recently published book on the legacy of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century which was edited by Pat Hudson and Keith Hudson.  The review is available here and the book, which I do recommend for those who are interested in the finer details of the inequality debate, is available here on Amazon.

Forthcoming in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History: Were Wages That Low? Strasbourg Wages and Welfare Ratios before 1775

My paper that corrects the wage series for Strasbourg in order to properly indicate that non-Paris France was not as poor as commonly portrayed has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History. Those who are interested can consult the working paper version (which differs in minor ways from the accepted version) here on SSRN.

Situating Southern Influences in James M. Buchanan and Modern Public Choice Economics

I rarely venture in the field of the history of economic thought. I much prefer to work on the history of economies per se. However, in the wake of the work of Nancy MacLean on James Buchanan and my own emerging work on institutional roots of inequalities between individuals and groups (I am finishing another working paper on this for Canada), I felt the need to venture in that field. Along with Phil Magness and Art Carden, I revisit the role of southern influences on James Buchanan’s ideas. The abstract of our paper can be found below and the link to the SSRN version can be found here:

Was 1986 Nobel Laureate James Buchanan an intellectual heir of South Carolina slavery apologist and political thinker John C. Calhoun? Further, was Buchanan’s worldview shaped by segregationist Nashville Agrarian poet Donald Davidson? These are claims made by historian Nancy MacLean in her 2017 Democracy in Chains; however, documentary evidence from Buchanan’s Collected Works and other sources suggests that Calhoun and Davidson were not among his influences and that, therefore, MacLean’s attempt to locate Buchanan within the segregationist tradition in Southern political thinking is not supported by the historical record.

Finalist for the Allan Nevins Prize

I have recently received news that my dissertation (see here) was selected as a finalist for the Allan Nevins prize of the Economic History Association. As a result, I will be in San Jose (CA) between the 15th and the 17th of September to present my results in front of the members of the association.

For those who are interested, here are the papers that came out of my dissertation and their current publication status:

A Price Index for Canada, 1688 to 1850 (revise and resubmit to Canadian Journal of Economics).

Distinct from the Rest of North America: Living Standards in French Canada, 1688 to 1775  (second round of revisions requested from Explorations in Economic History).

Growth in the New World during the Colonial Era: Evidence from Canada, 1688 to 1790 (submitted to Canadian Journal of Economics).

The Wild Card: Colonial Paper Money in French North America, 1685 to 1719 (submitted to Journal of Money, Credit and Banking with Mathieu Bédard).

Were Wages That Low? Real Wages in the Strasbourg Regions Before 1775 (revise and resubmit to Journal of Interdisciplinary History).

The Wild Card: Colonial Paper Money in French North America, 1685 to 1719

I have another working paper available which I intend to submit in the next few days. This time, my partner is Mathieu Bédard (with whom I wrote this forthcoming article in the Journal of Private Enterprise). In the paper, we discuss the Canadian colonial experiment with paper money (written on the back of playing cards) between 1685 and 1719 in order to derive insights regarding an important debate in monetary history. For some years now (since the early 1980s), economic historians have debated why some issues of paper money in the American colonies during the 18th century did not lead to inflation. At the time of writing, no resolution seems forthcoming. This is largely the result of the absence of reliable macroeconomic data like wages, prices and outputs. We argue that Canada can help break the deadlock since we now have the needed macroeconomic data for the colony when it was under French rule and conducted similar monetary experiments as the American colonies.  The evidence for Canada suggests that more attention should be awarded to the role of the enforcement of legal tender laws in order. The abstract is below and the paper is here on SSRN and here on Academia.edu:

We argue that the Canadian experiment with paper money (written on the backs of playing cards) can inform the puzzle of low inflation in the American colonies that experimented with paper money. The major impediment to the debate over the American experiment has been the limited data about prices and output—an impediment that does not exist for Canada thanks to recent works on its quantitative economic history (Geloso 2016). We show that variations in the money supply (M) cannot fully explain variations on the right-hand side of the equation of exchange P * Y for Canada, which leaves an important role for changes in velocity (V). The pattern of the velocity of paper money is consistent with changes in the enforcement intensity of legal tender laws. We argue that this narrative can be imported for the American colonies.