Hipster Luddites

Today, Jonah is joined by Virginia Postrel – former editor-in-chief of Reason magazine and author of many of the latter-day holy tomes of libertarianism, such as The Future and Its Enemies – to talk about her new book, The Fabric of Civilization. Virginia and Jonah do a deep dive into several moments in which the changes in textile manufacturing created giant, revolutionary, consciousness-shifting ripple effects regarding how civilizations viewed their relationship to markets and the economy. In particular, Virginia addresses how the un-guilded spinners of Europe were like the Luddites before it was cool, why textile-making would be one of the most laborious processes in the world without advanced technologies, and what made cotton fabric from India so special that “the French treated it much the same as the American government treats cocaine.” At least that kind of wild protectionism confirms a long-held American instinct: Never trust the French.

Show Notes:

Virginia’s book, The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World

“Isaiah’s Job”

Our first episode with Matt Ridley (on technical innovation)

Our second episode with Matt Ridley (on more technical innovation)

Virginia at Volokh Conspiracy: The textile industry’s relationship to literacy

The salaries of spinners may be higher than one thinks

The High Sparrow and the Labor Theory of Value

Some bits from “The Bad Polanyi” on ancient Assyria

Virginia talks about Indian cotton prints

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