Yves here. Aside from the real and possibly growing consequences of the monster ship still stuck in the Suez Canal (you can verify here), it has also provided comic relief. And now education!
BTW I asked Lambert about the Evergreen/Ever Given business. The name of the line is Evergreen. Individual ship have names like Ever Given, Ever Willing [not!]….
By Barkley Rosser, Professor of Economics at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Originally published at EconoSpeak
Yeah, to heck with “socialism” in any of its forms, even old varieties that Marx and Engels denounced, neologizing the label “utopian socialism” for its advocates, even as they made clear their respect for the intentions at least of their intentions, even as they did not provide an analysis of the historical dynamic of capitalism and the broader issues arising from that. And we know that while some communes inspired by the utopian socialists survived such as the Israeli Kibbutzim, most failed, making the mockery of Marx and Engels look historically significant.
So it turns out that there was a split within those old utopian socialists between the more idealistic and commune-oriented Fourier and Owen (more complicated for him), and Henri de Saint-Simon, actually the earliest of them, with his main work coming out in 1803. While the others favored small ideal communities, Saint-Simon supported rational social engineering, basically the idea of central planning. His importance in this is verified by the final book of Friedrich Hayek, _The Errors of Socialism: The Fatal Conceit_, 1988.
The intellectually rationalistic view had long held sway in France from Thomas Aquinnas in the 1200s through Descartes in the 1600s on to modern mathematical economics, with Cournot institutionally the follower of Saint-Simon in Paris, with people like Walras later following.
In any case, Saint-Simon was based in the public works-civil engineering portion of the French bureaucracy that still exists and became seriously influential later, with indeed people like Courno part of that. The world-leading civil engineers of France in the 19th century were all basically followers of the “utopian sociialist” Saint Simon.
In 1856 one of his followers, Ferdinand de Lesseps, won a contract from the Ottoman Viceroy of Cairo to build a Suez Canal, with the Saint-Simonians and certain Sufi mystics of the time declaring that building the canal, along with building one in Panama, and and a US transcontinental railway. would bring about a unified world order of peace and tranquility.
As it was, the construction started in the early 1860s, under Viceroy Said (who at least got “Port Said” named for him), with cotton prices especially high due to the US Civil War with Egypt the leading cotton exporter in the world. The canal was finished in 1869 under Viceroy Ismail, with great celebrations, including Verdi composing “Aida’ by 1871. But cotton prices had fallen with the end of the Civil War and the local government had unsustainable debts to British banks. The French followers of Saint Simon may have built the canal, but by the 1880s it was the British who took control of Egypt for not being able to pay off the debts associated with its building.
In 1956 Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal for Egypt over the opposition of UK, France, and Israel, with the support of Eisenhower in the US and the Soviets.
Today we have this canal built on utopian socialist dreams of world unity and peace now shut down over a vessel too large to get through the canal, shutting down something like 10-12% of world trade, this event triggering a doubling of shipping rates on top of a previous doubling of such rates due to a pandemic-induced “chaos” of global shipping.
A central issue in all this is the externality issue involve with large ship. There is an internal economies of scale issue involved that conflicts with the external diseconomies. The internal matter is that direct benefits involve volume while direct costs involve the surface of ships, a quadratic relationship that favors size. But oil tankers ran into the externality decades ago with the Exxon Valdez failure, with its billions of dollars liabilities for Exxon -Mobil. But this did not carry over to vessels just carrying “containers,” 8 of which now stranded in that ideal idealized utopian socialist Suez Canal have live animals aboard.
As of now, it is unclear how long it will take to move the “Ever Given”ship (although all images of it I see say “Evergreen”). But I have read that among all other items now delayed for delivery in this situation, perhaps the most impacted and crucial is wood pulp for making toilet paper. So, yes folks, if this does not get resolved soon, we may have yet another global run for toilet paper like a year ago.
So there you have it: Utopian socialism in 1803 bringing about a possible toilet paper shortage in the not-too distant future.