The Contents of my Brain on a Friday (A Short Post)

1) The Roving Bandit recently posted this graphic (via Ryan Briggs) on his website:



Anyone familiar with Iliffe’s history of the continent, Africans, won’t be particularly surprised at this. It is quite an exciting prospect though: historically Africa’s internal transport links, internal trade and specialization were limited by the sparse population. It might also  be that the development of agrarian capitalism has also been limited by low densities of population. As Lee points out, we need to disaggregate further down than ‘Africa’ to individual countries and even districts, but this could be quite significant.

Of course, the counter-argument is that population densities have been increasing for a while without accompanying economic transformation. Perhaps the impact is mediated by other, missing, factors; perhaps densities need to cross a threshold in a specifically locally distributed manner to have an effect; or maybe they just don’t matter that much.

2) I came across this bio of Chea Mony through the Grauniad’s Achievements in International Development Awards. He’s a labour activist who, according to this short bio, has achieved pretty remarkable improvements in the standard of living for Cambodian textiles workers.

This is a topic close to my heart (and was the subject of my postgrad thesis). I’m a firm believer that responsible collective action by labour can alleviate the harsher aspects of the transition to capitalism, which is something labour tends to have a mixed experience of: better wages accompanied by terrible conditions.

Do any readers know anything about Mony, or know where I can learn more? I’d be particularly grateful for a heads up on any academic or semi-academic studies of the union movement itself.

3) Through Bill Easterly’s Twitter feed, I came across this article. The article itself isn’t very insightful, though the headline is great. It includes a line in it, though, that did make me think:

…bad ideas have the tendency of contaminating good ones faster than the good ones can cleanse the bad…

Is this true, or does it just seem that way because we notice and shout about the bad ideas?