October 30, 2014

Did you ever wonder. . . .

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 11:39 am

Were Chinese workers cheaper than English horses?

I calculate, the unit labour cost (wage relative to productivity) of horse haulage in England, compared with the in extremis case of human-only portage in China, would have been 2:1 in silver-money terms and 3:1 in PPP terms. (See the first post in the comments section for my calculation.) This implies that for any given acre’s worth of goods made accessible by human portage, horse haulage was 2-3 times as cheap/productive. No, this does not take into consideration that using horses probably saved on the number of wagons/carts. And presumably you could not produce 5 hp with 50 men because, as a speculative example, the canal walkways weren’t wide enough. (As with most input substitutes, the isoquant curve for horses/substitutes is convex to the origin, and there is a diminishing marginal rate of technical substitution — but not inordinately.) But the point is, the 20:1 ratio is in no way plausible, especially since the Chinese also must have driven oxen, mules and donkeys.

Interesting read if you’re at all interested.

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