Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A curious claim

"Output per worker around 1300 was as high as after 1348, even despite the windfall gains caused by the population decline of the Black Death..." -- Bas van Bavel, The Invisible Hand, p. 107.

The thinking here seems to be that with fewer workers working the same amount of land, employing the same amount of capital, output per worker "should" have gone up. But this seems to ignore some important factors, such as the fact that many people were ill, while those who were not ill were often tending to the ill, or burying the dead, or fleeing to a remote retreat in order to avoid becoming ill. Once we take these countervailing factors into account, it is not at all obvious to me that a plague will present a "windfall gain" in output per worker.



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