This year I’ve set a goal of learning a few things about the history of China–you know, that country that’s holding a substantial portion of our national debt.
So far I have listened to eight out of 30 lectures, bringing me (roughly) from pre-history up through the birth of Jesus. One thing that has struck me is that underlying today’s political debates are disagreements that go back at least 2,000 years, if not longer.
For example, in (roughly) 80 BC, the Han emperor Wudi dies, setting off the “salt and iron” debate. Where should people look to for the essentials of life–government, or the marketplace? That’s the big lesson of the debate on salt and iron.
Thayer Watkins, an economics professor at San Jose State University, offers a very short synopsis of the debate.
To quote the world’s best-known ancient document, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
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