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August 17, 2007

Comments

Yen-Ju Lai

I agree with most of Termin’s view if history would agree with his assumptions. I find it difficult to believe that transportation cost and delays in communication in the earlier days could be easily dismissed when using the models to explain technological divergence between America and Great Britain. Also, he mentions that if America wanted to protect its manufacturing industry, the government could have easily imposed a tariff. Tariff is a governmental matter that involves politics, which tends to complicate economic models. Furthermore, he believes that America and Great Britain had similar technology, and attributed the difference in labor-saving machinery to possible difference in the people's characteristics. I'd be interested to see how one would measure and prove this concluding statement.

Evan Caso

Perhaps one reason Americans were more inclined to use more labor-saving machinery was because the population was more spread out than in Great Britain. If there is less labor available in your area, then an inventor or factory owner has more of an incentive to produce machinery that uses less labor. I found Temin's assertion about how ideas flowed faster from Britain than they did from the United States to be very interesting. Why was this? Do we owe our massive technological expansion during the 19th century to simply acquiring British technology and making it better. Finally, perhaps the higher American interest rate during this time created extra incentives for producers of capital to improve their designs.

Jerry Hong

I agree with Temin's arguments. Labor-saving machinery was highly demanded in America due to the fact that America didn't have all three labor factors in an abundant fashion: land, labor, and capital. Sure, America has a lot of land, and labor is originally questionable, because there aren't that many people here, except for the natives. Capital is hard to define; hence, labor saving machines were a great invention.

I find Temin's argument that "productive lands raised real incomes." Technologies were the same for both Britain and the America, so why do Americans use more machines? A theory I have is that since average real income goes up due to productive lands, the standard of living for people also goes up. When that happens, people want to live better lives and a way to do that is to make the ratio of machines per worker higher. This can mean that there are more machines made or there are less workers. Either way, it seems like it makes the lives of the workers better, and it also makes the lives of the consumers better because they have more food to buy.

However, we should not deny the possibility that America did not merely only match the technologies of Britain. It is highly possible that the technologies were better and that Americans were researching better ways to make machines. If the machines were better/easier to use, then its possible that more machines were made because they made the lives of the workers easier and made the workers more productive at the same time.

Robert Chomik

I like the idea that incomes were higher in America, because everything else is cheaper, including land (relatively to wages), than in England. This logic seems to make sense even though nominally wages were similar to the ones in Britain. The full picture is always more interesting than simple comparisons. This furthers the argument that vast land makes a country richer. If not by output count from the land, then at least relative to earnings, since the land is cheap, due to high supply. The way I understand one of the arguments made in the article is that wages had to be much higher in industry than in agriculture, which were substantial to begin with, to attract workers and since the land was so cheap farm owners could still turn out a profit, despite the higher wage pressure created by industry. This in turn led to more “labor-saving” technology both in agriculture and industry. Maybe this is the reason why today less than 3% of our population makes a relatively good living working on the farms (helped by government subsidies, but that’s not what the argument is about), while the newly created middle class has settled in the cities, benefits from technological industries and grows richer with every generation of Americans.

Lara Palanjian

Temin’s paper truly illustrates how economist must be extremely precise in stating any assumptions they make in their economic analyses. In examining the economic rationale and arguments made by British observers of the American industrial system, Temin considers both the flaws and legitimate ideas of the British theories and observations, and also presents some of his own ideas about the peculiar technological and labor combination in America. While the British believed that America’s high cost of labor perhaps stemmed from the energy of the American people and the American education system, Temin warns that such subjective measures and assumptions are not enough to explain technological progress made in America, especially a process which spurred investment in capital and use of less labor. I appreciated that Temin explored different possibilities. For example, interest rates may affect capital production of specifically labor-saving machines, therefore explaining the “scarce labor” phenomenon that surprised the British.

Tiffany Tam

Termin’s article does a good job at trying to explain the labor scarcity based on the differences in the technological advances, wages, and labor between the United States and Britain. Termin explains that the reason why wages in the United States are higher than the wages in Britain is because of the high interest rates on wages in Britain that drives the wages lower. However, in the long-run with a stable interest rate, there will be stable equilibrium driving wages up. To sum it up, the scarcity of labor cannot explain why Americans used more machines per worker than the British since there was no different between American and British technology. Nonetheless, it does not mean that the Americans were not constantly trying to find more technological advances.

James Wang

Termin's article shows the importance of verifying assumptions before making a connection to a conclusion. Once he showed that the assumption of a scarcity of labor was unfounded, Termin proceeded to find a new explanation for the American focus on labor saving technology. Though his conclusion seems to be more speculation, based on his own proposition about the possible effects of American intelligence and energy, than a well developed theory, it is a stronger argument than previous ones on the validity of its assumptions alone.

Wei Shao

First, Temin provides his definition of "technology" as measured by efficiency, or general productivity and cost, which I find to be bizarre. I can understand his definition of "technology," but in all my previous economic courses, technology is what's used to define productivity and output, not the other way around. Temin then goes on to attribute the reason for U.S. "technology" to cheap land, which causes a labor scarcity since wages must increase to compete for labor, and wages can only increase if cheap capital is developed which will allow for cost to be lowered. Despite his logical argument, I find it hard to comprehend how the industrial sector can compete with the agricultural sector considering how vastly different they are.
Two of the factors that were ignored as irrelevant were the U.S. market size and the education/energy of the American people. Temin indicates that the U.S. market size is the same as Britain's, but is more geographically spread out. This dispersed market is made possible by railroads and transportation, which I believe also lead to many technological developments created solely to accommodate such a market model. Perhaps it is because the population is so spread out that inventions and labor-saving capital were being used in the industries. And as Temin said, it is nearly impossible to measure the effect of education and energy as their causal effects are not empirical and can only be speculated at best. Perhaps the summation of these two effects is the general productivity of the U.S. work force, or often denoted as "A" in economic models.
Lastly, I believe that the initial comparison by the British visitors may be faulty. They looked at the woodworking industry in the U.S. and did not focus on many other sectors, and compared it with Britain. As noted, ironwork is the dominant industry in Britain, and it should not be compared with a different sector here in the U.S. Furthermore, if they were to observe the other industries in America, they may find that things are much different.

Amy Kim

The British were impressed with American woodworking skills as well as the manufacture of military items, but they were not amazed by the way the U.S. manufactured iron products. Although the visitors possessed a condescending attitude toward the U.S. iron industry, Great Britain was at the same time experimenting with the American inventions of the sewing machine, mechanical reaper, and steam engine. I thought that this movement of foreign innovation illustrated Diamond’s point that new technology usually comes from the outside rather than from within. The example demonstrates the importance of trade and communication that allows for the spread of such labor-saving inventions.

Vinit Sukhija

Temin provides ample explanation for labor scarcity in America due to technology and labor, but his support for labor scarcity due to high wages is somewhat unsubstantiated. In a way, Temin uses a Catch-22...he uses labor scarcity to justify high wages and high wages to justify labor scarcity. The former (scarcity to justify high wages), though consistent with microeconomic theory, is less justified than that of the latter. He uses Rothbarth's ideas as a scapegoat; Rothbarth thought high wages could only be caused by a high marginal product, which were aided by labor saving machines. Temin intentionally provides Rothbarth's opinions so he could refute them...Rothbarth did not factor in the cost of capital. When using MRP and MFC analysis, Rothbarth tried to state that a high MRP was a necessary cause for labor scarcity. He did NOT, however, factor in the fact that a higher MP needed labor-saving machinery, which would greatly increase the MFC (marginal factor cost). Temin states, however, that interest rates in America were higher than those in Britain at the time. If this were really true, the MFC would be even greater than originally expected. If the MFC were already so high, I simply do not understand how firms could afford to pay off higher wages. This could, however, lead into a discussion regarding technological advances. I personally believe the only way to define technological advancement is to measure productivity (at a given labor quantity) when everything else is held constant. In this sense, technology could easily explain labor scarcity; increased productivity reduced the need for labor, causing a lower quantity demanded for labor and a higher wage. In this sense, the higher wage would not need to be explained.

Mike Gilroy

I find Temins hypothesis flawed in many ways. I find it extremely hard to believe that a lack of interest on Britains part led to less efficient machines. The communication was there, the skills to produce may not have been for Britain. The next problem I have with Temins view has to do with market size. I think just the opposite. The use of railroads expanded the U.S. market and made it possible to transport goods to most of the country with effective costs. The labor-saving machines were probably produced as a result of two conditions. First, the thinly dispersed population in relation to Britain. Manufacturers had less workers therefore were forced to innovate. Second, the 'intermediately fragmented' work force. The fragmented populaton created the perfect environment for innovation, as explained in last weeks article.

Eric Hsiao

Temin’s assumption that all costs are passed onto users makes theoretical sense, but seems empirically flawed. To state that the higher wage costs in the US were passed onto capital production costs is a huge assumption that must addressed further.

Further, his incessant reference to the interest rates without gleaning at other factors pertaining to indentures raises more red flags. What were the terms of lending in the 1850’s? Nelson’s paper on Hamilton stated that the average loan in the US during the late 1700’s was 45 days… was this true in the 1800’s as well? By isolating interest rates as the sole variable in borrowing, Temin ignores other crucial complexities that go into the financing decision.

James Bebbington

Temin explained in detail why the invention of labor-saving machines in the US could not have been the result of labor market scarcity or of the size difference of the market, nor out of a need for such machines in order to provide a competitive manufacturing industry in the country. He concluded that perhaps the energy and education of American’s may have resulted in the differing technologies.
Although these factors cannot be measured, I think that they are certainly capable of explaining the reason for the invention of these machines. More proactive thinkers would allow new machines to be invented at a far lesser cost, and increase the chance of someone stumbling upon an idea. The reason as to why labor-saving machines were invented over capital-saving ones is unclear, with the best explanation seeming to be Habakkuk’s discussion that labor saving inventions are more widely applicable.

Dragana Ognenovska

I agree with Mike that labor-saving machines were produced due to the "Thinly dispersed population in relation to Britain", but I also believe that it was necessary to produce them due to the insufficient amount of capital.
While reading Temin’s paper I noted him stating several times, that American laborers appeared to be energetic to British travelers, which I believe might be an important driving force behind the innovation of labor-saving machinery. Also, an interesting fact was even though, generally less educated, Americans kept themselves informed on new methods of production more than did the English and were able to learn from others, I believe might have allowed for this technological divergence.

Dragana Ognenovska

I agree with Mike that labor-saving machines were produced due to the "Thinly dispersed population in relation to Britain", but I also believe that it was necessary to produce them due to the insufficient amount of capital.
While reading Temin’s paper I noted him stating several times, that American laborers appeared to be energetic to British travelers, which I believe might have been an important driving force behind the innovation of labor-saving machinery. Also, an interesting fact was even though, generally less educated, Americans kept themselves informed on new methods of production more than did the English and were able to learn from others, I believe might have allowed for this technological divergence.

Kimberly Wong

Temin’s article showed that even when we are examining history to gain a better understanding of why certain societies or countries are doing better than others, we need to carefully examine the root of the assumptions that were made. The four reason’s British visitors believed that America had better technology was because of the scarcity of labor in the U.S, the extent of the American market, the energy of the American people and the education of the American workman. However, there was a big emphasis on scarcity of labor that resulted in more advance technology in America. With this, Rothbarth and Habakkuk reexamined the British visitor’s beliefs, taking into consideration different assumptions and scenarios to see if there was a different in technology.

Kimberly Wong

Temin’s article showed that even when we are examining history to gain a better understanding of why certain societies or countries are doing better than others, we need to carefully examine the root of the assumptions that were made. The four reason’s British visitors believed that America had better technology was because of the scarcity of labor in the U.S, the extent of the American market, the energy of the American people and the education of the American workman. However, there was a big emphasis on scarcity of labor that resulted in more advance technology in America. With this, Rothbarth and Habakkuk reexamined the British visitor’s beliefs, taking into consideration different assumptions and scenarios to see if there was a different in technology.

Yaoyao Wang

I find some of Temin's hypothesis difficult to comprehend and somewhat contradicting. For example, Temin stated that the US had consistently higher interest rate than Britain during the first half of the 19th century. Therefore, since US and Britain had the same technology, the US should have used less machinery than Brittain. Temin continues to say that if that was the case, the US would be capital-scarce rather than labor-scarce. I understand his reasoning, but I don’t understand how capital-scarcity and labor-scarcity must be mutually exclusive. I also don’t see how a high interest rate could induce more capital use, and Temin’s footnotes failed to explain that.

As someone mentioned before, I do agree that we could say the “new technology” that US developed was the railroads. It is perhaps due to the efficient railroad system that the interest rates were so high in the US. The railroads also acted as a catalyst to make US agricultural industry more prosperous. The British visitors failed to assess the railroad industry since their main focus was on woodworking. Since all evidence shows that labor in the US was not scarce, it must mean that an efficient communication and transportation system in the US relative to Britain reduced the need for concentrate labor, thus making it seem like the US experienced labor scarcity.

Chuong Quach

An interesting concept that Temin brings up is that two countries that used the same technology but had different interest rates, the one with the higher interest rate would use the less capital-intensive production processes. He also adds that there is a possibility that the United States was not a labor-scarce economy, but rather a capital-scarce economy (examples were found that high interest rates induced more machines). If this is the case, than there is a possibility that the United State's capital was inefficiently used compared with Britain.

Jun-An Chen

In this article Temin suggests several potential causes that the Americans have more labor-saving machines and proceeds to disprove them using his interpretation of interest rates and land availability. In the case of interest rates, he states that the condition in U.S. does not match the necessary condition for U.S. to produce labor saving machines. The results are contradictory. He also offers a few strategies that U.S. could've adopted instead of producing labor-saving machines; some of which include tariff and agricultural specialization. The basic point i got from this article is that U.S. had many other options and improving machinery did not seem to be the most logical one. I think the author's final argument about education and flow of ideas was rather unconvincing. He states that U.S. was more informed of Britain's technology; however, I'm sure there are British scientists who are just as interested in U.S. technology. I think this explanation is less believable than other speculations in his essay.

Aseem Padukone

Temin does an admirable job of critiquing traditional outsider beliefs of American manufacturing through connecting the dots by examining past works on similar issues. He effectively builds on the analysis of Habakkuk by discussing the disparity in British and American interest rates and how this affects the capital to labor ratio. The fact that he qualifies his focus on the labor scarcity issue (as opposed to the other three factors brought up by the visitors) gives his paper more credibility, as he doesn’t simply ignore the other observations by the British.

Kevin Nakahara

Perhaps the labor scarcity in the United States during the given time period can be explained by the Southern agricultural/Northern industrial divide in the country. As the South was especially adept at cultivating crops (with the help of slavery), the North needed to in turn develop an equally impressive number of industrial goods by which it could facilitate trade with a limited labor population base. As land was more plentiful in the North and crops were cultivated efficiently in the South, real rent and additional costs of living could have been lower than that of Britain, increasing living standards and allowing Northern workers to be more productive. Increased efficiency in both industry and agriculture may have also resulted in greater economic growth, higher consumption and investment, and pursuant to the IS-LM model, higher interest rates.

Kevin Chiu

Reading “Labor Scarcity,” it was really interesting how Temin compares and contrasts Britain and America in order to prove his point. Both these countries begun having similar technological knowledge, but the different conditions and decisions made in each country led these countries to lead in different paths.
Temin’s argument about interest rates as an explanation for higher American wages instead of labor scarcity is quite compelling.

Johnathan Thongma

The United States had a comparative advantage in agriculture and land intensive production, so under free trade it would have been in the best interest of Americans to specialize in agriculture with Britain producing capital intensive goods, for the benefit of both. However, free trade was not in place here and the flow of capital and labor was not completely unhindered between the two countries. With America being so far away from Britain and the rest of Europe, and considering the high costs of overseas transport in those times, it makes logical sense that Americans develop manufacturing technologies that are “superior” to Britain’s, those that utilize less labor.

As someone had mentioned before, I find it interesting that Britons were impressed with American woodworking but scoffed at American iron work. Temin speculates that Americans may have had more of an ability to learn from others than others learning from Americans. He also asserts that the flow of information and ideas may have been asymmetrical in the U.S.’s favor, insinuating that American’s were more interested in learning from the British than the other way around. Does the implied insolence of Brits over their American counterparts actually contribute to the establishment of American manufacturing industry? Was it because of this attitude that Americans may have made the choice to manufacture to assert their independence and prevent a dependence of imported British manufactures, despite a comparative advantage in agriculture? There is a free flow of ideas between the two countries, but I feel that Temin is saying subtly that Americans may have been more receptive to this than the Brits.

Min Ru Jiang

Temin perceives differently on the innovation of American labor-saving machines from the European visitors. I agree with Temin that factor substitution will result differently depends on whether it is within the same technology or in diverse technologies.I recall that marginal rate technology substitute equals to the inputs price ratio(in other words, price of the inputs are the important determinants when determining the lowest cost combination of inputs to produce a given output). Temin also shows that we should also consider the cost of capital which depends on price of the capital and interest rate. Giving the fact that interest rate in US was higher than in Britian during the first half of 19th century,within the same technology, US should have less capital. With these evidences,Temin concludes that labor scarcity doesn't lead to the invention of labor-saving machines. I found Temin's explanation on why labor scarcity does not cause Americans to use more labor-saving machines interesting.

Kim Luong

I think Temin’s point about how the availability of land in America did not lead to increased machinery usage but rather an increase in technology development is very interesting. The article assumes that the United States had a comparative advantage in agriculture (abundant land, many working hands…), which caused Americans to want to invent new technology to be more productive in the industrial field and to avoid the situation of possessing an absolute advantage in agriculture; however, what incentive did Americans have to develop new machinery? I really think that the interest in British machinery and the one-sided flow of information that Temin mentions has a huge impact on how industry rose in the United States. With the growth of the railroad and increases in communication, despite the large land area, it was much easier to spread ideas about technology, especially with the need to manufacture products with the materials produced on farms.

Peter Li

Temin argues that the interest rate in America was consistently higher than in Britain during the first half of the 19th century, and, as a consequence, made capital more expensive for Americans, leading to less capital if the two nations had been using the same technology. However, if the interest rate were higher for a such a sustained period of time, money should have eventually begun flowing into the US from abroad, which would have increased the amount of capital in America to a level greater than that assumed by Temin in his paper, and which could explain how America might have had different technology than Britain.

Justin Fong

I agree with Temin's point that American technological superiority over Great Britain cannot really be explained by the level of education and a newfound energy. It is difficult to find empirical evidence about this American energy and educational training that may have contributed to America's technological advancement. Although both Great Britain and America practiced very similar technological methods, it appears that American workmen possessed a stronger desire to stray away from the norm and initiate innovation. The British were set with their traditional mode of doing things, but the Americans looked to be unique and more adventurous.

Kellie Fitzgerald

Temin does a thorough job of analyzing the causes and effects of the labor, capital, and technological situations of Britain and the United States during the nineteenth century. I found his comparison of education and energy between Brits and Americans and how these factors relate to the divergence of technology interesting and a good continuation of the theme of communication/competition from last week’s set of articles; by staying interested in what Britain was developing the United States was able to pull ahead by using Britain’s achievements as a stepping stone rather than use their own resources to make the same progress. That being said, Temin highlights how the Committee on American Manufactures quickly approved the purchase of American machines that produce musket stocks without looking into alternatives and despite the existence of a similar machine in Britain for 30+ years. Temin notes this as a “mystery” and I find this interesting as well- was there a lack of communication where the Committee did not know about the machine? Was the American version better and was it cheaper to buy it than improve on their own version?

Hanwen Chang

Temin did a great job evaluating the historic consequences of labor scarcity in the 19th century based on land, labor, capital and technological conditions between Britain and the United States. Given the assumption on how both countries use similar technologies but result in different outcome of productivity level is explained by the different techniques and conditions of the two countries. This is an interesting read, but some of Temin’s reasoning is hard to follow.

Delara Bastani

I find the assertion that higher interest rates in the US lowered its capital investment and drove innovations in labor-saving technology to be very convincing. It is also interesting to note that during the 1850’s, resources in America were plentiful. Often, technological advance stems from the need to conserve or replace waning resources, but America’s case was just the opposite. Perhaps this means that the differences between British and American technology have been understated.

I feel that the article does not give due credence to the “energy” of the American people observed by the British. Social climate can be very important, and it is possible that the surplus of land and resources in the United States fostered optimism and hope within the population, motivating workers to produce more in search of higher wages.

Hoi Kwan

Today it is common knowledge that America does have relatively high wages (as compared to the rest of the world). Hence in sync with the law of demand, America's demand for labor would be less. This would push for more capital, as opposed to labor intensive production methods. But the fact that this applied even to the 19th century is intriguing. This actually makes a lot of sense, in that the Caucasian settlers (from Europe) who to moved to America, were among the bottom rung of ladder. For them coming to America would have been a fresh start, with plenty of land to occupy and less bureaucracy to prevent them from rising above in the social ladder. However, ships would be unable to bring in too many settlers hence a scarcity in labor would prevail. In order to make things more efficient it would require more sophisticated technology were employed to increase productivity so that too much ground need not be covered by a single person. As most settlers were from Britain; they would import their technology. But since they are a new country with a lot more needs, it would foster more creativity. As the adage goes, "necessity is the mother of invention."

Hoi Kwan

Today it is common knowledge that America does have relatively high wages (as compared to the rest of the world). Hence in sync with the law of demand, America's demand for labor would be less. This would push for more capital, as opposed to labor intensive production methods. But the fact that this applied even to the 19th century is intriguing. This actually makes a lot of sense, in that the Caucasian settlers (from Europe) who to moved to America, were among the bottom rung of ladder. For them coming to America would have been a fresh start, with plenty of land to occupy and less bureaucracy to prevent them from rising above in the social ladder. However, ships would be unable to bring in too many settlers hence a scarcity in labor would prevail. In order to make things more efficient it would require more sophisticated technology were employed to increase productivity so that too much ground need not be covered by a single person. As most settlers were from Britain; they would import their technology. But since they are a new country with a lot more needs, it would foster more creativity. As the adage goes, "necessity is the mother of invention."

Alex Zhong

Temin did a convincing job debunking the idea that labor scarcity was the reason as to why more labor saving capital was used in American manufacturing. It was interesting how Tenin asserted that communication and the American people’s desire to keep themselves informed helped spur their own innovation, tying in with last week’s reading regarding the correlation with increased communication and invention.

Eric Regan

Temin discusses the difficulty in comparing American and British economies in the middle of the nineteenth century because of the lack of data to determine whether the two countries were using the same technology or different technologies. However, I think he should have taken this a step further by saying that even if it was discovered that the U.S. and Britain were using the same production systems in their factories, it would still be almost impossible to say one country is more efficient than the other because technology is such a hard thing to measure (as opposed to labor and capital). I also feel that Temin's points could have been stronger if he had focused on finding facts to justify his claims instead of trying to explain hypothetical graphs and equations in economic terms. However, some may feel that the graphs are sufficient enough to back up his arguments. I would have found Temin's article more interesting had he used layman's terms instead of graphs in order to explain the differences in factor combinations and prices between the U.S. and Britain.

Xing Zhen Wu

Temin reexamed the four statements that were presented by the British visitors about the American industrie efficiency in the 1850. I agrees that the British visitors drew their conclusions that were based on some selective evidence. The vistors only talked about the labor-saving machinery which meant that the output per man was larger in the United States than in Britain, but they ingored the cost of machines used in American production. They particularly focused on two industries such as woodworking and standarization of products to make conclusions over general areas. These were not strong proof for visitors' points. Also, the small market in America, the American education and energy of people were still not effective support of their conclusion that American industris was more advanced than Britain.

John Janda

Overall I thought this was a very well-written paper that illustrates Temin’s theories that labor scarcity was not the cause of the creation of labor-saving machinery. With that said, I find some of the assumptions a bit questionable. While I don’t doubt that Americans had a great interest in British technological innovation, I find it quite surprising that the British weren’t equally interested in American innovation. Would the British have wanted to keep up on new American ideas on the outside chance that they could find an opportunity to increase their profits?

Sherry Wu

Temin seems to pick apart the importance that the Industrial Revolution had on American manufacturing by approaching the phenomenon from an economic perspective. Whereas other historians attribute rapid American economic growth to the efficiency of new technology and machines, it is interesting how Temin uses ppf graphs and comparisons between output, capital, and labor to question the validity of such claims. However, though it may be true that Great Britain and the United States were simply not suited to adopt each others' manufacturing practices in the 1850's, and that America's "labor-saving" machinery may not have given them a considerable advantage in manufacturing, I still believe that the machinery altered the course of history in stimulating new, innovative ways of production, and changing the way people thought about factories, machines, and technology.

Dawn Oberlin

I agree with Eric’s comment about technology being a hard thing to measure and compare two countries by, especially as opposed to labor and capital. I felt that Termin made many assumptions about the labor scarcity issue prevalent in America in the 1850’s, and his analysis came with flaws, such as his reasoning for less efficient machines being produced and his ideas about the population in America during this time and its affect on innovation.

Richard Paek

I agree with Temin that there existed a difference in interest towards innovation in Britain and the United States. Social class was a bit more rigid in Britain than it was in the U.S. which meant that it was possible for anyone in the U.S. to move up. I would also like to mention that there were no antitrust or monopoly laws so great innovations could mean a lot of money for the inventors.

Casey Lilenfeld

I found the conclusion that Britain and America were using "essentially" the same technology in the 1850's to be fairly reasonable as any useful innovation done by one would be adopted by the other. As Amy pointed out regarding what Diamond says, new technology typically comes from outside and is then brought into a country -- this is definitely what happened in America and Britain (within the examples Termin uses). Britain was learning to use the American inventions of the sewing machine, mechanical reaper, and steam engine while America had been using British musket stock machinery that was 30+ years old. Both sides took technology from each other.

David Thomason

I'll echo a number of others and say that the idea that American's innovation was aided by outside influence is very relevant concerning last week's articles by Diamond. What is especially interesting is that, the way Temin presents it, the British fell behind with innovation simply due to lack of interest in American developments. It's curious that simply turning the other cheek could really prevent technological development. It's hard to believe that some British entrepreneur wouldn't seize the opportunity to use some new technological advancement. That said, I think there has to be some other factors as to why American technology surpassed British technology.

Anita Wong

Termin illustrates that labor scarcity can be affected by varied amounts of labor, technology, and wages per worker. The use of machinery and the population to land ratio could explain that with more machinery and a lower population to land ratio, the US would require less labor and vice versa. With less labor and more machinery being put to use, businesses would be forced to seek technological progress. As companies use more machinery, the demand of labor would decline (when compared to a company that does not use machines) therefore, companies are able to offer lower wages.

Nicole Ngai

While reading "Labor Scarcity," I continued to wonder if such a thing as labor scarcity could exist. Until near the end when Termin mentions that the population was spread out over a larger area, could I justify the idea. If one ponders about it, we can see this as a vital contrast between the US and
Britain. In the US, there is less labor concentrated in one area while in Britain, labor is plentiful anywhere. To make up for the lack of labor, the US became more active in creating technology to fill in for the missing labor. This will give the US an incentive to increase their technological progress.

It's also interesting to note how Termin points out that the US was more interested in British technology than the British in the US. This supports an idea in which US were more open to ideas and more willing to learn from others. Even if both started with the same technology, Britain at the time may have been too proud to have adapted ideas from the US; their supposed superiority may have hurt them in the end.

Termin shows a lot of relationships between capital, labor, output, and interest rate. It's interesting to note that Termin tries to avoid using land as a major factor yet ultimately relies on it for his theory. Land is cheaper in America since it's more bountiful, giving American a high advantage should they specialize. Yet they branched out into the industrial field. Perhaps because profit is greater in the industrial economy rather than the agricultural.

Overall, the article was insightful but I felt Termin made too many assumptions and not enough evidence. I liked how in the beginning it was pointed out that American's woodworking skills were better than Britain yet their iron skills were lacking; yet I wonder how these claims stand today.

Yu C Xu

I think the major cause of the higher labor cost in America than Great Britain is that the difference in the Land-to-worker ratio. Land is an important factor that should not be ignored when we compare almost any kind of economics between the U.S and Britain; in the case of labor-saving machinery, during the industrial age, Britain was crowded and there were limited land, thus limited job opportunity available; but on the other hand U.S had plenty of land, and a greater business extend than Britain, this means more factories was opened and more labors were needed, so the wages goes up as the demand for man-power went up(assuming both U.S and Britain had same level of Technology). As the labor became more expensive, American companies then have developed a labor-saving machinery in order to earn the same amount of profit with hiring less men, and that is why this system worked for Americans then Britain.

Patrick Traughber

I think Temin's article is an example of an economist using the scientific method to reach a conclusion. He isolated variables, presented situations that served as controls, accounted for factors that he deemed insignificant and explained his reasoning throughout the process. In doing so, Temin disregarded major factors such as the agriculture economy, that played into labor supply, and made generalizations about both countries that are easy to criticize. But just as in science, you must be able to isolate factors that can affect your results so that your conclusion carries some significance. It may sound crazy to make generalizations such as the one regarding Americans using technology to avoid becoming an agricultural economy, but when covering a topic so broad as this, and attempting to reach a conclusion, such statements are necessary. Lastly, I find it interesting that today we are a service-based economy and much of our manufacturing is being diverted to other economies. I would like to see an article such as Temin's analyze that change, and why it is more prevalent in the United States than other large, successful economies (or is it not?).

Yufei Li

Temin presents numerous possibilities in order to postulate the reason behind the inherent British interest of certain sectors of American manufacturing. He questions the assumption that capital-intensive technologies is the key difference between American and British manufacturing, instead proving that high US interest rates served to evoke less capital per worker at the time. Instead, he attributes this divergence due to advancements in manufacturing practice on behalf of American factories. Their adaptation of British technologies with added improvements in practice allowed America to become innovative and superior in certain manufacturing sectors such as woodworking.

Yu (Ray) Zhao

While Temin addresses the difference of the United States and Great Britain’s technological innovation despite having similar foundations, I nevertheless found this article to be extremely lacking in terms of evidence. For one thing, Temin provides very little empirical evidence to bolster his statement which he addressed was difficult given the circumstance and the era he was analyzing. Furthermore, because this was an economics based article, many of the reasons offered by Temin seemed to be simplified and color coded. For instance the abundance of land MAY have led to labor scarcity and a higher productivity of capital. Taxes MAY have also spurred the difference of methodology between the US and Great Britain. However, such cases cannot always be explained with graphs conjured by an individual’s assumptions. In order to have a full grasp of the situation, it was essential for Temin to describe certain exterior social factors going on in the United States at the time such as the Industrial Revolution and the social consequences that arose as a result.

Rosemary Lu

Temin focuses his explanation on labor wages, interest rates and technology but argues that they are all relatively the same between Britain and the New World. However, at the conclusion he uses the higher American education and their focus on Britain as possible evidence for greater technological advances in the New World. He ties in education with a better ability to communicate efficiently and uses this as evidence to argue his point. However, many of his assumptions before this ending seemed to be hastily concluded such as his arguments on labor scarcity and capital. Perhaps the beginning of his argument would be more convincing if he presented more evidence for these prior assumptions.

Krista Seiden

Temin's article highlights the necessity of verifying assumptions before making a connection to a conclusion, and he illustrates this with several different points. One example that stood out to me was his conclusion that real wages are the same in the US and Britain and that the "differences in wages is a statistical illusion caused by using exchange rates to compares wages." He does a good job of trying to explain the labor scarcity based on the differences in the technological advances, wages, and labor between Britain and the US. He explains that wages in the US are higher than in Britain because of the high interest rates on wages in Britain that drives the wages lower. He comes to the roundabout conclusion that scarcity of labor cannot explain the difference in machine use per worker between the US and Britain since there is no apparent difference between US and British technologies and that interest rates may have affected capital production of labor-saving machines, therefore explaining the scarcity of labor that the British had noted.

Soo Hyun Kim

Higher interest rates in the United States meant that the US used less capital than Britain did while labor scarcity was only an illusion. Given Temin’s arguments, his conclusion is reasonable, but it would be interesting to compare his ideas with other economists.

In this article, Temin mentions United States’ comparative advantage in agriculture over Britain. Because the US has such an abundance of land, it would have been profitable for the country to have stayed as an agriculture-based economy. What factors in the nineteenth century motivated the US to keep up with technology from abroad?

Guadalupe Garcia

Peter Temin does a very interesting job of analyzing the perceived differences of American and European "technological advancement". I say "perceived" because ultimately, Temin finds little evidence to show that one country had more advanced technology than the other. Temin goes into it very briefly, but I wonder weather higher labor wages in America in the 1850's were necessary to attract labor to relatively unpopulated areas. It is still seen today, that people will migrate to places where they can find a job that pays for a higher standard of living than they currently have. The higher wages in America, could still today only be a result of trying to attract a much less dense population than the British population to specific areas of the country where industry is growing.

Katelynn Nguyen

Although Great Britain had many advantages in its technology field, the Americans were able to achieve their own successful labor-efficient machines that were used despite Temin's argument of the labor scarcity in the United States in 1850's. I think that the main issue was the vast land and resources that existed in America, therefore, the Americans couldn't process their myriad resources as fast as the British. Also, the Americans were more interested in British technology because I think that education in the United States was still developing whereas Great Britain's education system was more advanced then.

Joseph Chang

I'm not quite sure what to say here, but it seems as if during Temin's entire article he is trying to confirm something that is said by two Englishmen. I would think that writing twenty-two pages on this topic is a bit ridiculous. And then, after these twenty-two pages he goes on and dismisses what these Englishmen said. It seems as if the only significant conclusion he comes upon is something he explicitly leaves to others to try and analyze. I understand that economics is a broad field and there must be many thousands of people looking for something to research, but I'm sorry, I would try and pick a more interesting topic than this. Pure rubbish, I say.

I did like the line "Consider a competitive economy where two types of goods -- agricultural(A) and manufactured(M)." It seems like it came directly from an intermediate economics test problem.

Ed Lam

Temin claims that American technology has been more advanced than Great Britain even though interest rates were consistently higher in America. This led to less capital used in America, yet greater technology which highlights the high level of efficiency. Although there is not sufficient proof Americans were better motivated and/or educate, it appears that Americans took more risk and initiative to innovate.

Alice Y. Lin

In this article, Termin shows the connection between labor, capital, output, and interest rate and how they affect one another. Although America is interested in British technology, Great Britain did not show equal interest in America’s innovation. However, because of labor scarcity, Americans developed labor-saving machineries that can still make the same profit. British is far ahead of America and is used to its own traditional way to industrialize.

Richard Schimbor

Due to the harsh environment and labor scarcity in the colonial economy, American producers were forced to innovate to create more efficient means of production. Temin has shown empirical evidence that new technology is developed as a result of necessity and scarcity. The lack of interest in these more efficient tactics by the dominant British producers of the day show a backwards thinking about production and technology, as in the long run developing new and more effiecient technologies is the most effective way to increase potential output and raise standard of living.

Ryan Smrekar

Temin's article is one in which variables are manipulated to formulate a conclusion in agreement with his thesis. He focuses a lot on specific technological advancements, comparing those made in the United States and those in Britain. While examining this relationship, Temin notes that the difference in technology is due to the differing levels of natural resources in each county, with the US using wood and Britain utilizing iron. Is it purely a game of which natural resource you are more gifted with?

Christopher Avedissian

The American colonial economy, as discussed by Temin, supposedly was more technologically advanced and innovative than Britain, due to labor scarcity and their concentration on Britain. However interest rates remained significantly higher than those of Great Britain, but they were unavoidable in my opinion, for with an abundant amount of resources and land, comes more ventures for profit. Therefore, more factories and more job opportunity. But as laborers grew scarce, wages increased and this became taxing for companies. So this led to technological advancement but rising interest rates. The American colonial economy still grew rapidly and efficiently.

Brandon Leong

I do not know if I completely agree with Termin's argument. However, Termin does make a valid point on how the abundance of land in America led to cheaper labor. As labor costs increased, Americans sought ways to reduce cost and thus had more interest in innovation than other countries, like England, where labor was abundant because land was scarce. To be honest, his hypothesis seems sound, but I still would like to have seen more mathematical data to support his hypothesis before I can come to a complete conclusion.

Ian Ebert

Temin addresses the differences in technological innovation between the United States and Great Britain. I found the most believable reason that Temin offers was the concept of the United States and Britain were forced to utilize different natural resources, which resulted in the United States becoming more technologically advanced. The United States offers a wide selection of natural resources compared to what Great Britain had to offer its’ citizens. Another quality reason given by Temin was that he believed Americans are more educated than most British.

Xia Hua

The journal compares the British method of production with the American production. The methods of production are machinery and labor. The Americans use more machinery than labor and seem to produce more per unit of labor. However, the quality and production of machines are unknown. The British noticed American progresses in labor and hardware and ordnance manufacture industries. They find the differences between the economy of the two countries resulting in the scarcity of labor in the U.S., the American market, and the energy and education of the American people.

Lucy McKenzie

Termin brings up a number of interesting points with respect to the comparative uses of labor and capital in Britain and the US, though his original source documents require him to make a number of large assumptions before undertaking his analysis. It would be interesting to travel back to find out whether the early visitors intended for their impressions to be taken so literally, and whether Termin's assumptions are valid.

Simon Zhu

This article reminds me of the long-run growth model presented last semester in 101b. Long run growth is affected linearly by capital intensity, and exponentially by rate of technological change. This article shows that at any slice in time, the surface appearance of the efficiency of labor in a country can be distorted by that country's relative emphasis on labor-saving capital. However, it is difficult to say whether the cost of the capital outweighs the labor saved, unless one country has a clear technological edge.

Sorry this post is late.

Simon Shen

I think that Temin brings up a good point when he argues that higher American productivity per worker may have been a result of different societal conditions rather than different technological levels. It is commonly assumed that increases in productivity (output/worker) are equivalent to technological advancement and are therefore key to long term economic growth. However, in the case of the United States versus Britain, this is simply untrue because the reason for higher output/worker in the U.S. is higher prevailing wages. One could argue that if the prevailing wage rate in the U.S. fell, output/worker would also fall, but this would not constitute a loss of technology or any decline in overall productivity.

Kenneth Salas

In this article, Temin provides strong “technical” support to disprove multiple explanations concerning the divergence in technology between the U.S. and Great Britain. Considering interest rates were higher in the U.S., I agree with Temin that Americans had less incentive to use machinery since the cost of capital was higher relative to Great Britain. One of the weaknesses in this argument is solely taking an economical approach and focusing on the “static” data at the time rather than observing the rapid growth that was taking place at the time in the U.S. In addition, I believe it is necessary to adopt a less technical perspective to explain trends that took place in times in which data was scarce and occasionally unreliable.

Alex Zaman

Temin’s piece analyzing the differences between the American and English technological capacities boils down to a divergence in the availability of resources of the countries. He does in fact utilize too many assumptions and hearsay in constructing his hypothesis (particularly with Whitworth’s statements), which hinders his argument in a sense. And while there is a lack of concrete data for the education and energy of the Americans, Temin should have incorporated these factors more into his analysis of why there was such asymmetry in the flow of information between the two countries.

Alice Kousoum

There are a number of factors that may have contributed to better technology and labor saving machinery in the United States as claimed by Tenim. He believed that it was not from better education. This argument is convincing because America was a developing country and its level of stability in education is unlikely to have developed anymore quickly than Great Britain. The growth of technology may have been spurred by America's snowballing hunger for innovation and its lack of strong traditional labor processes in which Great Britain may have.

Sheena Mathew

Overall, I found Temin’s argument to be quite convincing, but I think the strength of his argument was weakened by the amount of assumptions he made to prove his point. In addition, I found the observations made by the British visitors to be one of the most interesting parts of the article. Specifically, I thought the last two reasons were the most surprising and I would have liked for Temin to elaborate more on these points in addition relating them more to the overall argument. From the piece, I found that many factors lead to the technological differences between the US and Britain, so it is hard to establish which are completely responsible for the disparity, especially since there are so many assumptions being made.

Sheena Mathew

Overall, I found Temin’s argument to be quite convincing, but I think the strength of his argument was weakened by the amount of assumptions he made to prove his point. In addition, I found the observations made by the British visitors to be one of the most interesting parts of the article. Specifically, I thought the last two reasons were the most surprising and I would have liked for Temin to elaborate more on these points in addition relating them more to the overall argument. From the piece, I found that many factors lead to the technological differences between the US and Britain, so it is hard to establish which are completely responsible for the disparity, especially since there are so many assumptions being made.

Sean Salas

Temin raises valid arguments in comparing the national economies of the US and Great Britain in terms of interest rates, real wage, capital per labour and property availability. It seems Temin would agree that there is a high level of uncertainty in explaining the causal economic factors behind the divergence in productivity between the US and Great Britain, since data such as interest rates and real wage at the time are scarce or unavailable. As alluded in some comments above, it seems that an alternative form of analysis is necessary to explain the question at hand; an alterative which focuses on the socio-economic drivers of the US economy. Perhaps further analysis on the relationship between the socio-economic trends (increase in education, American attitude) and economic growth are worth a second look.

Phat Richard Nguyen

It is clear that Rothbarth talked of the three factors of production: land labor and capital. According to him, land was cheap and labor was dear, but capital’s cost was unknown. Habakkuk, on the other hand, argued that the lack of labor in America caused higher price for labor which in the mid 1850s forced factor substitution and technological change. I agree with this theory in the sense that high wages demand more efficient methods of production in order to keep costs down. This idea still holds true today when we think of technology and machinery. Jobs that were around 10 years ago are now replaced by robots and other factory machinery.

Wei Li

I find it interesting that in Temin's point that if either Americans or British were to use the other's factors of production, it would be more costly than sticking with their own. This clearly indicates, contrary to what one might think, that the United States did not have a dominant production strategy/capability. It seems like a paradox, as the United States seemed to be more efficient and less costly, but if the British copied these methods, it would be more costly for them than the existing methods. It is however not a paradox as differences in various other areas lead to this efficiency differential.

Jenna Lee

I think Temin brings up good points, especially when he talks about the labor-saving machinery being in high demand in America because of labor, land, capital, etc (He lists 4 reasons). I think he does a good job of explaining things to even a non-economist and he does a good job explaining exactly his assumptions and definitions. I also think it's very interesting to note that Britain and America had nothing to gain from adopting each other's ways. I like the question of whether or not the technology was actually necessary or not as well. It raises an interesting issue of whether or not invention comes from necessity or simple want or ideas, or perhaps even accident. The last thing I liked was the idea of asymmetric information and how perhaps it was the way that Americans were more interested in borrowing outside ideas and how they adapted them to American lifestyles that made them different.

Robert M Lee

This article addresses the differing situations of labor scarcity in the 19th century between Britain and the US. Temin does a great job analyzing how both countries used similar technologies but ended up with different outputs due to divergences in productivity levels by both countries. I found it interesting that even though the US kept a close watch on Britain’s technological advances, they were able to emulate and exceed their methods. There was labor scarcity in the US due to the bottleneck of workers being brought over. Even though they both practiced comparable manufacturing processes, I believe the American industry thrived in an environment which inspired innovation. It was necessary for the American people to improve communications and focus on labor saving capital/efficiency.

Jennifer Lee

I found Temin's article to be confusing at times, because it seemed like he based his theories on assumptions that were contradictory. Although I agree that when comparing two countries, the country with a higher land-labor ratio (the "labor scarce" country) will have to implement a different technology, does it necessarily mean that that technology will be better?

Temin poses the question as to why America didn't just specialize in agriculture instead of trying to industrialize if it was such a land-rich country in comparison to Britain. Why didn't America export agricultural goods and import manufactured goods? In asking those questions, Temin assumes that to produce agricultural goods, a country needs to devote only its labor and land, but what about capital? Doesn't capital and technology also play a role in producing agricultural goods? Had we only needed labor and land to produce agricultural goods, we would have only had to allocate labor resources between producing agricultural goods and manufactured goods, thereby reducing the amount of labor required for manufacturing, which would then have lead to the implementation of more labor-intensive technology.

However, if production of agricultural goods requires capital as well and production of manufactured goods requires labor and capital, America would have had to split both its labor and capital resources between agriculture and manufacturing. In that case, we can't make any assumptions about the labor-capital ratio in manufacturing.

David Lum

I think that it was not easy or straightforward at all to transfer back and forth technologies between the Americas and Britain. It was hard enough for the voyage between the two locations and time consuming for them to do so. Because of the time period and technologies available i think it would be difficult to just write out instructions on inventions and ideas and have someone on the other side interpret it the same way it was portrayed. Again with the inventions of that time not being simple as ikea furniture, i think it would take a large amount of effort to actually duplicate a technology across the waters.

For instance if there was some new technology in developing the stock of a gun faster and more efficient, you would need two intelligent people on either end, one to create the invention and the other to actually interpret and duplicate it in the way it was developed. Also because the passage over the sea wasn't the most delightful boat ride, it would be hard to actually transport prototypes or even the inventor for that factor.

Im sure there were very general ways for small inventions and ideas to get across but for large scale ideas and not just modifications of existing ideas, it would be necessary to have a lot more effort to transfer the whole technology. Even so, technologies were not focused in the same direction. Americans having the focus of wood development and Britian having iron development. Things would have been very different.

Cam-Tu Nguyen

It seems that during the 1850s, America was still a small and developing country, therefore had less labor available in comparison with Britain at that time. Technological innovations and ideas flowed easily between these two countries, as a result, both countries had similar or comparable technologies but labor scarcity in America encouraged better technologies that enabled more production with the less labor available. In addition, monetary wage in the US was 30% higher than in Britain, therefore causing the demand for labor from employers to decrease. Theoretically , if wages are higher in one country than the other and migration is possible, then labors would flow from higher wage economy to lower wage economy until the wages are equal.

Sung Rho

I think that Temin shows clearly how Britian and America can use the similar base technology, but end up with different results due to different factors. I think that it was interesting to note that America was more productive even with the same technology as Britian. However with the means of transfering technology back within the two countries, I believe that it is nearly impossible for them to do so. It is hard enough trying to go back and forth between the two countries, and the boat ride was probably not that enjoyable. Also, if it is "technological" then it must require someone with brains for them to figure out what was given to them between the two countries. If one person made it, and another person should follow the instruction, it would probably take a long time for that person to figure it out. There might have been small inventions that were simple enough to transfer, but I doubt that any big discoveries would have made it through the ocean.

Christina Chen

Temin's article does an excellent job at distinguishing the variety of reasons behind labor scarcity by comparing the labor situations of the United States in comparison to Britain. By highlighting the these differences in wages and labor between the US and Britain, Termin illustrates how labor scarcity justifies high wages.
While Temin attempts to provide an explanation for how the effects of costs are placed upon the users, ultimately his evidence for this idea is mainly speculative. Because several of his assumptions, like negating the role of capital in agricultural production and only factoring in land and labor, seem to be fundamentally lacking.

Tanya Malik

The main point of this article was to portray the differences in the factors of productions between the United States and Great Britain. Temin’s ideas are very logical and thorough, however, a bit confusing at times. He asserts that because the United States did not have all three factors of production all at the same time in one place, labor saving machines was imperative to keep the prices low. Labor was scarce because America’s population was smaller than that of Great Britain, and because there was such an abundance of land, labor saving machinery was necessary for a successful economy.

Tanya Malik

The main point of this article was to portray the differences in the factors of productions between the United States and Great Britain. Temin’s ideas are very logical and thorough, however, a bit confusing at times. He asserts that because the United States did not have all three factors of production all at the same time in one place, labor saving machines was imperative to keep the prices low. Labor was scarce because America’s population was smaller than that of Great Britain, and because there was such an abundance of land, labor saving machinery was necessary for a successful economy.

Alexis Geno

I felt that this article really dissected the issue. I, for one, did not know that Americans were making more money than their English counterparts but it truly is interesting to see the difference. This idea itself is counterintuitive since without knowing much of the economic history of both US and Britain, one would easily assume that Britain was way ahead of America. I just always had this idea that Britain was technologically advanced while the Americas were largely agricultural. The article did say that this might be true but by this alone, I thought that a more advanced economy will have higher wages and thus better lifestyles.

David M. Aviles

Temin poses interesting points in regard to the production efficiency across the board between Britain and the US in this article. Some of which follows the basic rules of labor supply and demand. He claimed that the US had lower supplies of labor compared to Britain and therefore had higher wages. In order to support those higher wages they had to be more productive in order to stay competitive. So Americans created labor saving machines to increase productivity. This explains the difference pointed out in overall production between two countries with similar technologies. However he does talk about the real wage differences being attributed to higher interest rates in Britain. Also, he wonders why the US didn't stick to agriculture with all its land and just import manufactured goods. With technologies already advancing along with the idea of being a "leader of innovation," agriculture simply just wasn't enough.

Tanya Chang

I found it interesting that America had higher wages than Britain. I thought it would be the other way around because America was still young in its economic development. However, I agree that people in America were probably more interested in new technologies and innovations because they were still in the process of developing their country. I believe that motivation is a very probably reason for America’s success over Britain. America was the land for a second chance, a new life, and a new beginning. People were more motivated to change their social and economic status.

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