Thursday, October 31, 2013

Industrial Medals a Currency of Fame

Most people call it “coin collecting” but numismatics is the art and science that studies the forms and uses of money. That includes money-like objects, which we call “exonumia.”  Examples occupy the latitudes from merchant tokens and bus and bridge tokens to medals including military orders, such as the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The art medal was invented in 1439 by Antonio di Puccio Pisano (called “Pisanello”). The occasion was for the Emperor at Constantinople, John VIII Palaiologos, who came to Italian cities to negotiate treaties. (The standard reference is The Currency of Fame: Portrait Medals of the Renaissance by Stephen K. Scher, which is a catalog of the Frick Collection in the U.S. National Gallery of Art.)

The plethora of adverting exonumia has no easy taxonomy.  The Krause Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1790-1900 by Russell Rulau assigns them to a dozen classes, but then must have another genus for mavericks. Within the classes – Advertising Checks, Counterstamped Coins, Poker Checks, Tool Checks, etc. – physical shapes exceed the limitations of Federal coinage: rectangles and hearts are statistical likelihoods.
41 mm reeded edge non-magnetic. 
Obverse: Durango Silveton Narrow Gauge Railroad.
(Steam from stack of engine with snow plow mounted at front.) 

Reverse: "Durango Rotary Club / Service Above Self /  
This coin is good for two dollars in trade at cooperating businesses 
in Durango through April 30, 1984. / High Noon Club” 
"Durango was founded by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway in 1879. The railroad arrived in Durango on August 5, 1881 and construction on the line to Silverton began in the fall of the same year. By July of 1882, the tracks to Silverton were completed, and the train began hauling both freight and passengers."The line was constructed to haul silver & gold ore from the San Juan Mountains, but passengers soon realized it was the view that was truly precious."This historic train has been in continuous operation for 131 years, carrying passengers behind vintage steam locomotives and rolling stock indigenous to the line. Relive the sights and sounds of yesteryear for a spectacular journey on board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad."
All Aboard Magazine online here the official magazine of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.

 33 mm aluminum. Plain edge. 
1934 Chicago Century of Progress.
Obverse: Union Pacific Lucky Piece

Art deco Union Pacific engine.
Reverse legends: “Sample of the aluminum in the new Union Pacific train
built by Pullman Car & Mfg. Corp.” 

1929 trademark Norman shield with ACOA and ALCOA 
with stars in corners.
“Aluminum Company of America"

in exergue: "GREENDUCK, CHI"
Manufactured by Greenduck of Chicago (about that company here on E-Sylum of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.)  One million given out at fair.

34 mm aluminum 4 mm height. plain edge
Obverse: Heavy machine press with BLISS name.
Legend: "Bettering the Standard of Value Since 1857"
Reverse: Standard US Bicentennial logo and legends.
Though he began building machines in 1857, E. W. Bliss founded his firm in 1867. Reorganized several times, a vestige still operates as Bliss Clearing Niagara in Hastings, Michigan, specializing in the repair and maintenance of industrial metal presses.  Bliss created primary production tools, machines that made other machines. They also produced military ammunition and a wide range of large and small containers made of sheet metal. For a short time around 1906, at their main office Brooklyn, New York, plant they manufactured an automobile.
E. W. Bliss Company on Wikipedia here:
“Walkabout the Lords of Owl’s Head” at the Brownstoner blog
See also the online sales catalog of the Sterling Machinery company.
(Not to be confused with Bliss Machines, founded 1987 outside Buffalo New York by Bill and RandyKanner.) 

J & L Steel. 35 mm non-magnetic plain edge. Spinner. 
Obverse: “YOU [up arrow]  WIN WITH J & L STEEL STOCKS” 
horseshoe and shamrock.
Reverse: “For dependable warehouse service 

call Walnut 1-0470.” J&L Steel in square.
 Every artifact gives evidence to the full context of its culture. A spinner is a coin struck with a raised center point. On the reverse side, an arrow points outward. “You pay” it says. Nicer variations such as “You win!” mean the same thing.

Founded in 1852 by B. F. Jones and Bernard Lauth as the American Iron Company outside Pittsburgh. James H. Laughlin bought out Lauth’s interest. Before 1861 and the firm was renamed in its new offices at Third & Ross in downtown Pittsburgh.  Growing up in Cleveland in the 1950s, our home was so close to the mills that late at night with the windows open, I could hear the yard engines working.  At its peak in the 1970s, the Cleveland facilities employed 4,000 people and produced 3 million tons of steel annually.
See also Wikipedia here

 Bronze 75 mm (3 inches). Extremely high relief.
Plain edge with incuse “Medallic Arts Company Bronze.”
Obverse: “Serving the Graphic Arts / 1906 – Fiftieth Anniversary – 1956”
“Pitman” (At left above P engraver’s name: Harold M).
Center: in Wreath: Camera, Press, Engraver’s hand with tool.
Reverse: three scenes: “Photo Engraving”: “Lithography”: “Rotogravure”.
Center triangle with center circle Camera and operator.
 Harold M. Pitman founded the company in Chicago in 1907. Starting out by himself, he made and sold steel dies and copper plates to engravers. Pitman celebrated its 100th birthday in 2007. Agfa Gevaert Group acquired Pitman for $80 million on July 15, 2010.  The Pitman brand is still seen at 16 sales and operations offices in the USA.

38 mm. Silver. Reeded edge.
Obverse: “Sierra Ball Pens” on Mountain. “Faber Castell / 1986” below.
Reverse modeled on Morgan Dollar.
Legends “
United States of America One Troy Oz. / .999 Fine Silver.”
"Faber-Castell, established in 1761 by the cabinet maker Kaspar Faber (1730-1784), is one of the oldest industrial companies in the world.  The company is the world’s leading manufacturer of wood-cased pencils with a varied range of products for writing, drawing and creative design, as well as decorative cosmetics. …  Today the eighth generation family member Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell, who took over as head of the company in 1978, has been instrumental in new product development and the expansion of international activities."

"One of its biggest eco-initiatives came in the mid-1980s, when the company started a sustainable tree-planting project in Brazil. Developed on former grassland and nowhere near the Amazon River, the company-planted pine forest provides about 75% of Faber-Castell's wood. After the trees are cut down, they're quickly replaced with seedlings of fast-growing pine species.”

The application of steam engines and machine tools to coin production allowed industrial and commercial firms to celebrate their products, services, trades and crafts with coin-like objet’s d’art.  The first of these were the “British Provincial” series of the 1790s, mostly struck by the Soho Mint of James Watt and Mathew Boulton. In half-penny and penny size, they often promised to pay pounds sterling in return for 480 or 240 brought to London or Birmingham. Their beauty, consistency and cost-efficiency eclipsed anything from the Royal Mint. 

In America, private tokens of the Jacksonian Era spoke to the politics of the day.  They skirted the laws against private money. “Millions for Defense NOT ONE CENT for Tribute” was a common reverse legend.  Through the nineteenth century, thousands of taverns, restaurants, and general merchandise retailers issued “Good-for” tokens.  Essentially, these were ad hoc currencies backed by the goods and services of the issuers. 

In parallel to all of that, many coin-like items declared no value, but only announced the firm. Behind government money and private currencies, numismatics grants only a third place interest to these. Nevertheless, they continue a tradition from the Renaissance to honor oneself and to announce one's achievements to the world.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tokens of Capitalism

In the popular adventure Pirates of the Caribbean: at World's End, Jack Sparrow and his friends must battle an array of bad guys headed by the British East India Company.  Like the Hudson Bay Company, the BEI certainly had a complicated past that inevitably included the evils of raw colonialism. On the upside, it was a venture; and venture capitalists profit from risks that no one else wants to take. (See Venture Capital on this blog.) Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley are attractive as freebooters. We denigrate the drudgery of billing department commerce; but, as Deirdre McCloskey famously reminds us, we are all bourgeois now.
British East India Company Rupee. 1840 Calcutta).
28 berries W. W. variety Craig 4a.  30.5 mm silver.
We get so used to seeing dead politicians on government money that we have a hard time imagining anything else. Excavations of Ice Age tombs reveal amber, jade, and shells, other objects of no practical use, hundreds of miles from their places of origin. 

Northumberland & Durham 6-pence Token  20 mm 
Payable by John Robertson
Newcastle on Tyne. 1811. (silver)
The stone ages ended about 8000 BC when copper was discovered. From about 3500 BC other metals (including silver and gold) were also found and worked. Cuneiform records from Mesopotamia at about 2400 BC tell of silver being weighed out in payment. This was indirect trade in a material that, like amber and cowrie shells, had no immediate use. Silver and gold are pretty, but not suited for agricultural or hunting tools. By 700 600 BCE, merchants were die-punching nuggets of electrum to mark them so they would not have to be reweighed. It was not long before monarchies and democracies minted coins

Ireland Bank Token. 10d. 22 mm. 1813. Silver.
Craig 9. Seaby 6618. K&M Tn5
Series ran 1760 to 1820.
In the mid to late 1300s life in England had improved to the point where luxury items were over-priced in terms of the smallest silver coins. So, bronze tokens ("counters" or "jetons") from Europe filled a need for small change. Foreign coins were joined by private issues. By the 1600s, the privately issued copper, tin, and lead tokens completely dominated neighborhood trade. It is not surprising, then, that undervalued copper tokens were among first coins minted for American commerce. For nearly 200 years in America, small purchases were carried out in a wild array of private and foreign coinages. Federal government money was not established in household shopping until the 1840s. Through the 1830s, merchants in the East kept their books in pounds-shilling-pence; and Mexican silver was legal tender until 1857. Counterfeit British copper half pennies from the colonial era circulated as money in western Appalachia through the 1830s.

Norfolk Norweb. Dalton & Hamer 23b (no date)
"Prosperity to Old England / More Trade Fewer Taxes"
so-called Vitriol bottle
Copper half penny
Edge: "Richard Tinmore and Son"
If you look back at history, you will see a curious pattern. We can assume that government money is the norm and that tokens are an interesting exception. However, in every time, a variety of moneys carried the needs of daily commerce.  Stores today to pass out "good-fors," aluminum or wooden coins good for some amount of money toward a purchase whether coffee, ice cream, pop corn, or beer.
Canada Maritimes
Charlton Brett 963. 8.16 grams. copper.
The August/September 1993 issue of Mother Earth News featured a cover story about the
"time dollars" of Ithaca, New York, a local currency still in use today.  People there trade services in units of an hour. The idea of denominating money in labor was suggested by anarchists and syndicalists in previous decades. Community money can be found in many towns, including Traverse City, Michigan, where "Bay Bucks" have been circulating for ten years.  
An interesting twist on "time dollars" comes from the policies of the conservative economic journal, The Freeman. Authors are paid 10 cents per word, plus a subscription. Authors can assign that subscription to anyone, thus commoditizing it.

Middlesex. Dalton & Hamer 1012E
from Erskine, Anderskine, and Gibbs
Law firm successfully defended accuseds on charges of treason.
"Erskine and Gibbs and Trial by Jury"
Two men with banners: "Magna Chart" / "Bill of Right"
"T. H. Hardy,  I. H. Hooke, T. Holcroft. I. A. Bonney, J. Joyce, 
S Rid, J. Thelwall, I. Richter. I Baxter
The shoemaker, Thomas Hardy, was the secretary to the London Corresponding Society. His outspoken support for the French Revolution – including his association with a play called "La Guillotine: or, George’s Head" brought him from his shop at 161 Fleet Street to Old Bailey Prison on charges of sedition.  He was acquitted by his peers and his lawyers struck a token to celebrate their skill and his good fortune.

This narrative was taken from "Money Without Banks and Governments" by Michael E. Marotta, published first by Practical Anarchy, 1994 and then archived at Lloyd Unlimited Numismatics.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Money Without Banks and Governments

The Stock Market Crash of 1929 marked the onset of the Great Depression, but it took 30 months for the banks to fail. After all, the stock market had crashed often, sometimes twice in a decade. While the effects were not to be ignored, they were negligible in an agrarian, frontier society.  More than two years of government intervention were required before total economic collapse occurred. And even so, all that was missing was money. Most people had the same assets and liabilities that they held the day before and would hold the day after. What they needed was a medium of exchange. So, the Howell Board of Commerce issued "stamp scrip." In fact, perhaps 12,000 separate communities across the USA and Canada created a plethora of emergency currencies.

The First National Bank in Howell was placed in conservatorship on February 13, 1933. (Michigan governor William Comstock issued a midnight order to close all the banks, lest Henry Ford withdraw his money. Full story on Necessary Facts here.)  The Howell Trade Dollar was issued on February 22. Within two weeks, all 5000 notes were in circulation. This is telling because in order to get one, you had to spend $5. Some people bought automobiles in order to acquire many of them. Other people paid off accounts three years old. The notes circulated for 6 months and were widely regarded as having been successful.
Back of Howell Trade Dollar with Stamps

What made this scrip special and subject to study on the national level is that it depended on the "velocity" of money. The holder of a note had to spend it every three days. When the note was spent, a 2-cent stamp was affixed to the back. After 52 transactions, the note was redeemed by the Howell Board of Commerce for a real dollar. (If the note was not spent, the holder still had to buy a 2-cent stamp.) The idea was to keep this money in circulation.  Stamp scrip in particular and alternative currencies in general were a special interest of Irving Fisher, the creator of the Chicago "monetist" school of economics championed by Milton Friedman.   

The back of this Fostoria, Ohio, scrip has a simple bank endoresement

The notes had a natural tendency to accumulate in the shops of retail merchants. Therefore, they were sold to businesses, school boards, etc., at a 5% discount. Citizens Insurance of Howell was one of many businesses to pay wages in Howell Trade Dollars.

Some of the details of how the scrip was actually used are no longer clear. Some issues show some kind of tally. It is not likely that these are final evaluations, since about half the places are still open. Many of the stamps have double zeroes written across them. The tallies could represent the whole dollar value of the purchase which necessitated the stamp. If so, the 00 would indicate that the stamp was bought as a penalty for holding the note without spending it.

Also, according to the legends on the back of the note, stamps were required every 10 days. The notes seem to have been intended to circulate from July 25, 1933 to December 6, 1934, a total of 509 days, 519 allowing for a 10-day period before the first stamp was due.

During economic depressions, people invent new forms of money to fill the gaps. Two from the 1990s were Time Dollars and Bone Money.

Ithaca, New York, has developed a local currency called "Time Dollars." People there trade services in units of an hour with an hour being worth about $10 more or less. The idea of Time Dollars has been copied by other communities in both the United States and England. As of this moment, Ithaca Hours are alive and well, celebrating over 20 years of continuous use. (See their website here.)

During the Autumn of 1993, people in Berlin saw the arrival of so-called Bone Money, "Knochengeld". The paper notes originated in the Prenzlauer Berg district. This neighborhood is popular with young artists and writers, similar to New York City's Greenwich Village or the Left Bank of Paris.

They called it "bone money" because the numbers were designed in the form of bones. Neighborhood retailers and restaurants accepted these notes. The experiment ran for three months. Then, the remaining notes were sold at an auction to raise money for charity.

Time dollars and bone money may not take the place of the coins and bills you carry, but they have certainly earned their place in history along with wooden nickels, prosperity scrip and Hard Times tokens which were invented during other economic recessions.

This work was taken from these previously published articles.
"The Howell Trade Dollar" by Michael E. Marotta,  Michigan Token and Medal Society Junkbox, Winter 1995
"Homegrown Currency has a Rich Past" from The Northern Express.
"Passing the Bay Bucks" from The Northern Express.
"Creating a Local Currency" the MSNS Mich-Matist, Summer 2004


Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Art of Finance

Numismatics is the art and science that studies for the forms and uses of money. Numismatists tend to consider government coins as "coins" and all others as "tokens."  Government banknotes are "currency." All other fiduciary instruments are "scrip." Austrian economist Friedrich A. von Hayek argued otherwise.

In The Denationalisation of Money, Hayek suggests that in a truly free market banking system, one bank might issue currency backed by one or more currencies of other banks. 

Gold bug conservatives remain discordant with that proposal; but that is how the stock market works: the corporation's future is evaluated in real time.

While sharing a Libertarian Party tent at the Ann Arbor Art Fair with Ron Paul supporters, one young patriot told me that the Federal Reserve notes are unconstitutional because only Congress has the right to issue money. 

Indeed, the Constitution does give that power to Congress. 

That only Congress should have this power remains an unresolved contradiction from the philosophy of law.  

(Similarly, Congress is empowered to keep a journal; but no one else is forbidden from sitting in the gallery and reporting.)

In fact, private coinage is well-known and highly regarded by American numismatists.  The Red Book (A Guide Book of United States Coins by Yeoman and Bressett) is the standard handbook of every knowledgeable American collector; and it includes several kinds of private coinages.

In the 1830s through the Civil War, American banks were overwhelmingly private businesses. (Some state banks were tried.) The demise of the Bank of the United States opened up the "wildcat" banking era.  

Most of these banks were not successful.  But most frontier businesses also came and went. 

 Among the businesses known to New Yorkers of the Jacksonian Era, perhaps the Van Nostrand bookstore - which issued its own copper coins -  stands out as a name we still recognize.

Money is Speech
Valentines Day: Love and Money
Numismatics Informs Economics
Debt: the Seed of Civilization
Gresham's Conjecture
Supplies and Demands
Murray Rothbard: Fraud or Faker?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Centralization and the Inverse-Square Law

The fundamental tension between planning and discovery forces utopian philosophers to walk a tightrope between their visions and our choices.  

The farther away you are from something, the less you know about it.  Information decreases by the square of the distance.  At about a kilometer or half-mile, it is difficult to know whether a vehicle is moving toward you or not.  Outdoors in a meadow your indoor voice for the kitchen is ineffective at about 10 meters (30 feet).  The boss in her office knows much less about the shipping dock than the workers who are there. The President of the United States knows very little about your needs.  

Trading the specialized division of labor among ourselves delivers to the participants greater rewards than are possible (even conceivable) in a world of self-sufficient generalists.

Organization lowers transaction costs and rationalizes the allocation of resources. Rather than just instinctively grabbing whatever is available, think things through a bit. Use your imagination to create possible outcomes. Then choose among them. Keep records. Then, when you try different ways to achieve a desired result, you will know whether and to what extent one or another methods or procedures or formulas is better, perhaps (nominally or putatively), the best of all possible.

Entropy is the barrier to the organization of specialized labor. Information lowers entropy. Market price measures entropy because market price is information about how much resistance must be overcome to achieve a desired result. 

Trade began as ritual gift exchange. Gifts create reciprocities, if only in the intangible of good will which creates the potential for other exchanges.  Trade became a social pattern that allowed rational actors to maximize their real gains and their expected gains.  The exchange of tangibles is the trading of information. 

Christopher Hitchens was a rational man. He was never recorded to have initiated force against another human being. He was also a member of the Socialist Workers Party and an admirer of Leon Trotsky who commanded the Red Army in the Russian Civil War. Therefore, the passing of Christopher Hitchens leaves unanswered how he would have imagined the consequences of one person offering another person a novelty (sea shells daubed with red ochre or a silver coin) in exchange for help with a project.  That is the story of Ayn Rand's Anthem. Fundamentally, all choices are the desire to discover electricity and invent the lightbulb.

But not all choices are equally informed. Higher entropy brings worse outcomes.  Better information lowers transaction costs.  Smarter people can foresee the errors committed by others, thus the name Prometheus (Fore-thought), whose brother Epimetheus (After-thought), gave all the claws and fangs and hides to all the other animals, leaving Man defenseless.  Prometheus gave us fire. And so, utopians such as Christopher Hitchens - as well as Ayn Rand, if not Leon Trotsky - perceive the potential of a world in which all people are as rational as they are.  To me, that would be a world without religion and without government. But "with" what I cannot imagine. That better day will come... 

In the mean time, the inverse-square law limits both Hitchens and Rand. They were metaphysically constrained in their ability to perceive the future of humanity.  The broad latitudes of science fiction offer a wondrously more varied array of expectations. But all we here and now can do is to hope for the future while we attempt to manage our own lives in the mutable present.

Workers Paradise Promised an End to Money
The Cure for a Failing Empire
Monsters from the Id

Friday, October 18, 2013


A couple of years ago, I did not understood why my libertarian and objectivist comrades were effervescent about Christopher Hitchens.  For a while, Michael Stuart Kelly allocated space to the “Christopher Hitchens Watch” on his Objectivist Living discussion board. I have another friend, a conservative in the basic meaning of that word in American politics - not a libertarian and certainly not an Objectivist. She told me that when Hitchens died, she felt that the universe had cheated her.

I finally viewed a YouTube video of Hitchens debating D’nesh Desouza.  As much as I instantly liked Hitchens, I had to give the debate to Desouza. I was impressed with the fact that the more he drank, the more compelling grew Hitchens’s elocution.

In 93 pages, I learned three new words: inanition, imbricated, and lambent. 

The last flight he took before he received the diagnosis included his millionth mile with United Airlines, earning him free upgrades for life.  He soon realized that his American Express card had an expiration date farther out than his own. Hitchens invested increasingly rare ink reflecting on religion, specifically the various expressions of it by others: some prayed for him; others blogged that he was getting what he deserved.  In all, he suffered 19 months of chemo-therapy and radiation, to die at an age 13 years younger than his father who was taken quickly by the same cancer. Hitchens convinced me that when the time comes, I am better off to eschew the treatments and bring the curtain down without an encore.

“You are tapped on the shoulder and told ‘The party’s over.’  Worse, what you are told is that the party is going on but that you have to leave.” -- Live presentation not in this book.

Also on Necessary Facts

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Etruscans and Americans

If “Common Core” had been discovered in the yellowed pages of a 19th century Presbyterian teachers’ college from Ohio, political conservatives would be insisting that it be instantiated immediately. As it is, political conservatives across the spectrum, including libertarians and Objectivists, are opposed to something they know nothing about. If they understood it, they would be in favor of it.
From the PolitiChicks webpage
denouncing Common Core

Here is a slice of apple pie from the PolitiChicks “voice of conservative women” website, an essay by Macey France of Oregon:
I remember learning about the Etruscans when I was in the 9th grade. To this day I couldn’t tell you what they did or who they were because it was so boring I could barely keep from nodding off while writing the report and pray I didn’t get the uncontrollable giggles when I gave my presentation.So when I discovered this Common Core lesson on Early World Civilizations and began to read up on the things being taught in the unit, imagine my surprise when I discovered this lesson was for 1st grade. Yes, you read that right, FIRST grade. Six year olds will be asked to do the following: Explain the significance of the Code of Hammurabi;Explain the significance of gods/goddesses, ziggurats, temples, and priests in Mesopotamia;Describe key components of a civilization.Those are only three of the eighty one (81!) things that your 6 year old should know at the end of this “ELA Domain.” And none of them have anything to do with the actual mechanics of reading and writing.
Apparently, Ms. France suffered from some kind of communist education plan herself because she should have written "none of them has..."; but languages change and we see this error commonly in the best of places.  More substantially, Ms. France need not worry for her children because she lives in Oregon and the standards that bother her are from New York: Engage-NY (here) is that state's Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Even so, the requirements are interesting to consider.  Many of the 81 learning goals do bear directly on applying the mechanics of reading and writing, including the last: “Use personal pronouns orally.” Among the other goals are:
  • Locate Egypt on a world map or globe and identify it as a part of Africa;
  • Identify Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as major monotheistic world religions;
  • Define monotheism as the belief in one God;
  • Identify the Star of David as a six-pointed star and a symbol of Judaism;
  • Identify the Torah as an important part of the Hebrew scriptures;
  • Identify that a Jewish house of worship is called a synagogue or temple;
  • Recognize the cross as a symbol of Christianity;
  • Identify the crescent and star as symbols of Islam;
  • Identify the Qur’an as the holy book of Islam, containing laws for daily living and many stories that appear in Jewish and Christian holy books;
  • Identify that a Muslim place of worship is called a mosque;
  • Identify who is telling the story at various points in a fiction read-aloud;
  • Ask and answer questions (e.g., who, what, where, when), orally or in writing, requiring literal recall and understanding of the details and/or facts of a nonfiction/informational read-aloud;
  • Identify the main topic and retell key details of a nonfiction/informational read-aloud;
  • Ask and answer questions about unknown words and phrases in nonfiction/informational read-alouds and discussions;
  • Use agreed-upon rules for group discussion (e.g., look at and listen to the speaker, raise hand to speak, take turns, say “excuse me” or “please,” etc.);
  • Carry on and participate in a conversation over at least six turns, staying on topic, initiating comments or responding to a partner’s comments, with either an adult or another child of the same age;
  • Ask questions to clarify information about the topic in a fiction or nonfiction/informational read-aloud;
  • Ask questions to clarify directions, exercises, classroom routines, and/or what a speaker says about a topic;
  • Learn the meaning of common sayings and phrases;
  • Identify new meanings for familiar words and apply them accurately;
  • Use personal pronouns orally
 It is a lot to ask of a six-year old, but we know that as with most people children do rise to meet expectations.  It is also a lot to ask of a teacher in 35 weeks to cover all 81 points when also dealing with discipline and administration. We can only wish them all good luck, while keeping in mind that some children will benefit greatly from the challenge, though most will absorb only about 67% of it, more or less; and nonetheless be better off.  After all, that is the purpose of education.
If any child achieves half of the goals, they will be far ahead of Ms. France when she was a ninth grader, bored and giggling over the Etruscans. for a vacation in Tuscany

Why should we care about the Etruscans, anyway? 
Every four years we inaugurate a President. The inauguration was a Roman ceremony in which Etruscan priests ("augurs") sought (and typically found) auspices for the future.  The Roman gods Vulcan, Minerva, and Mercury were Etruscan gods borrowed into the Roman religion.  The Romans had been politically inferior to the Etruscans. As Rome ascended, the historical Roman kings beginning with Numa Pompilius (716-673 BCE) began the integration of Etruscan nobles into Roman society.  The fourth Roman emperor, Claudius (ruled 41-51 CE), wrote a history of the Etruscan people and was likely the last person who could read their language (Wikipedia for Claudius). Despite centuries of scholarship, while we can sound out the letters, we still have little idea what the words mean.  Will the time come when no one can read English because some other culture ascended over ours? Early Etruscan tombs generally depict smiling, happy people. Then, something caused a cultural shift, and funereal art became grim and sad. Will America's optimism collapse at a stroke whose nature will be lost to time?  But the Etruscan people are still with us: we call them Tuscans and Florentines. We owe them the Renaissance.  

Here is the Common Core State Standards Initiative Home Page 


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Markets Bring Fairness

It is deeply revealing that when free market libertarians are challenged to explain (absent the government) who would take care of the poor, who would find justice for a homeless person who was assaulted, who would provide roads, schools, or parks – they have answers. No one says, “Who cares?” We all care. We all want a fair outcome. For most of the people in most of the world over most of the ages, that is not true.
The Foundations of Human Sociality:
Economic Experiments and Ethnographic
Evidence from Fifteen Small-Scale Societies

edited by Joseph Henrich, Robert Boyd, et al.,
Oxford University Press, 2004.
Anthropologists from UCLA and other schools set out to apply Game Theory exercises in fifteen so-called “primitive” (small-scale) societies. Unusually heavy rains and other exigencies prevented a couple of successful reports. These eleven completed papers and the over-arching explanations reveal first and deepest a long axis of outcomes.  Nothing typifies the non-industrialized peoples of the world.  Some are overly generous by our standards; others stingy. Some hunters follow meticulous rules of status for sharing, others hide their kills until after dark and sneak them in.  

Market societies depend on fairness. Trademarks build reputations. We Americans, in particular, and Westerners in general, are socialized to internalize norms of reciprocity and fairness that are unusual among other peoples.  Few other peoples – especially not those who live “close to the land” or in small-scale societies – would be so generous as to anonymously toss money into the Red Kettle at Christmas time.  More to the point both our egoism and our altruism hallmark us: each is an expression of the other.  

“One of the curiosities of the relationship between Market Integration and fairness is that we have much ethnographic evidence from the least market oriented societies (especially hunters and gatherers/horticulturalists) that emphasizes a tremendous amount of sharing. The fact that such societies show up in this cross-cultural study as often the least generous in the Ultimatum Game appears superficially to be inconsistent with real life. One explanation for this anomaly is that the high degree of sharing we observe in many of these societies is the result of precise rules specifying behaviors such as meat sharing, and the considerable monitoring that occurs naturally in close-knit and small-scale societies. In other words, despite the apparent presence of sharing, it may not be the case that a ‘norm’ of generalized sharing has been internalized that can be applied to new opportunities and circumstances. Self-enforcement need not develop when second party enforcements is ever-present. In market societies, however, where social monitoring is less efficient and rigid rules mandating sharing do not exist, cooperation may require the internalization of basic norms such as fairness that may have their origins in reputation building.”  [Jean Ensminger, “Market Integration and Fairness” ibid., page 359]

When playing the Ultimatum Game, Americans tend to skew toward "fair" sharing and to rejecting "unfair" offers. Around the world, some other people figure that the entire lot is theirs and sharing is not necessary. Yet others feel compelled to give it all away.  The same arrays of outcomes were found for the Public Goods Game and the Dictator Game.  
“Indeed, it is striking that among those less integrated in the market there is no clear normative tendency whatever, nor do we find the bimodal pattern so typical in developed societies where both pure selfishness and pure altruism compete to form two modes.” [Ensminger, page 379]

Differences among people have more to do with cultural norms than with economic modes. Hunters, gatherers, or horticulturalists from around the world, in seemingly similar circumstances played these games differently.  Relative social or personal wealth was not a predictor.  And all played differently from UCLA undergraduates.  It may not be really surprising that hunter-gatherers in different parts of the world have different values. However, university students across the world do seem to share the same ethos. Students from UCLA and the University of Michigan produced nearly identical data.

Marie Curie and Democritus
“Compared with the Mapuche and Machiguenga, Americans seem obsessed with fairness – which includes punishing people who act unfairly.” [Henrich and Smith, “Comparative Experimental Evidence,” ibid., page 143-143]

Several works by this team were cited in the bibliography of The Weirdest People in the World: How representative are experimental findings from American university students? What do we really know about human psychology? by Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine, and Ara Norenzayan.  Drawing on these reports, Henrich, et al., underscored many ways that psychology departments completely misunderstood "human nature" by only taking their own undergraduates (or the infants of those people) for their studies.

The only warning here is that the professors all assume that altruism is “fair” and that egoism is explained as a lack of altruism. Conversely, when discussing Americans, they are clear that we are altruistic because each of us feels that this is in our own best interests. The professors are generally perplexed that other people around the world act altruistically only because they are forced to by family, society, or tradition.  And they generally resent having to share. Conversely, they may not feel resentment toward those who do not distribute largess fairly, but just call that their own bad luck.

Finally, perhaps the most subtle point: "As mentioned earlier, Machiguenga say little during debriefing because they lack the cultural training to produce post-hoc rationalizations of their behavioral choices. The most frequent response to the question why a subject withdrew the amount that he did was that it was the amount he wanted to withdraw. ...  In contrast to the Machinguenga, the American university subjects had plenty to say ..."

Previously on Necessary Facts