Liberia: America’s “Settler State”

This paper was written for Economics 1339: Generating Wealth of Nations, a Harvard undergraduate course taught by visiting professor Jeffrey Borland.


Despite its abolishment of the international slave trade in 1808, America in the period following the American Revolutionary War was home to an ever-increasing population of both free and enslaved African Americans. This growing demographic posed a threat to the white community, which was concerned about the implications of black assimilation into American society. Many northerners were afraid of free blacks taking their jobs, while slave owners in the South were concerned that the presence of freedmen living in slave states would encourage slave revolts and runaways. In response, some proposed an expatriation of African Americans to colonies in Africa, which would grant blacks their freedom and whites their peace of mind. This idea took hold, and in 1816, the American Colonization Society (ACS) was formed with the mission to facilitate the establishment of such settlements. In addition to the central goal of mitigating white-black tensions in America, the operation also aimed to “civilize” and evangelize African natives. The ACS also stressed the economic benefits of establishing trade agreements with the African populations via colonies, which would secure for American merchants trade currently monopolized by Europeans. In 1819, when the ACS received funding from Congress, the enterprise began in earnest, and the first of many ships set sail for West Africa, with three white ACS agents and 88 emigrants on board. Over the next few decades, the ACS would work closely with the Liberian colonies in a struggle to establish permanent, self-sufficient settlements.

Prior to the 1830s, the US government only maintained an official interest in Liberia insofar as it served as an outpost from which to execute America’s anti-slave trade campaign. The Monroe Doctrine, which stymied international involvement between the Eastern and Western hemispheres, prevented the government from taking a more direct interest in Liberia’s internal affairs. Instead, the American Colonization Society maintained control over the territory’s administration until 1838, when Liberia proclaimed itself a self-governing commonwealth. This declaration of sovereignty was prompted by criticism that accused the ACS of attempting to acquire an empire as well as the ACS’s own financial problems. At this point, ACS still maintained some control over Liberia’s internal affairs, but its political and commercial influence waned substantially. In 1847, Liberia declared itself a Republic and legislative powers found themselves in the hands of the settlers. This paper examines the ways in which government policy affected the economic growth of the Liberian settler society from the early periods of its settlement in the 1820s to the worldwide depression in the latter part of the 19th century.

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A Survey of Causes for Income Inequality in the US

This paper was written for Economics 1339: Generating Wealth of Nations, a Harvard undergraduate course taught by visiting professor Jeffrey Borland.


The United States during the later part of the 20th century experienced a reversal in the pattern of decreasing income inequality that had slowly been establishing itself since the end of the Great Depression. Indeed, by 1982, inequality in the distribution of American family incomes had eclipsed the same figure measured in 1950, the year that had seen the highest level of inequality since record keeping began in 1947.

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Figure 1 (above) depicts the top ten percent income share in the United States during the decades between World War I and present day. The data points are logically separated into three discrete periods – The Great Depression (characterized by high inequality), the Great Compression (a decrease in inequality), and the Great Divergence (a return to higher inequality). This last period came as a surprise to many who had previously studied income inequality in America. At the time, the prevailing school of thought regarding the mechanics of economic inequality was one first proposed by Simon Kuznets in his 1955 paper entitled “Economic Growth and Income Inequality”. Kuznets hypothesized that as economies matured in less developed regions, certain emergent factors like industrialization and urbanization would increase income inequality. Then, as those economies continued to develop, social and political forces would come into play to relieve the poorest in society while the upper income group would experience slower growth than under early industrialization. These two observations produced an inverted-U curve of inequality as a function of development, a model that had been supported by empirical evidence from the first half of the 20th century. Around the 1980s, however, income inequality began a steady climb that has carried through to present day. Furthermore, a closer look at family incomes during this time reveals that the income gap has increased the most between the top and the middle of the distribution, while it has remained fairly stable between the middle and bottom. The search for causes of this upward trend in income inequality has been the topic of much research, though a consensus has hardly been reached. Truly, pinpointing a cause would help address inequality in the real world and its associated negative effects, such as increased rates of mortality and obesity. This paper presents a survey of the most compelling theories for income inequality in America and seeks to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each.

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“The Economist” Cover

This past Thursday, I did a quick 2-hour design job at Harvard Business School for a conference they were holding on Integrated Reporting.  Basically, the participants (comprised of leading business professionals from around the world) were split into groups and asked to design a cover for The Economist magazine that might run in ten years about the progress that the business world had made in Integrated Reporting.  I worked with a group of industry leaders to craft a cohesive design plan and then proceeded to generate the final product in Photoshop.  The designs will be published in an ebook about the workshop to be released in mid-November.


A Malthusian Study of 20th Century Korean Economic Development

This paper was written for Economics 1339: Generating Wealth of Nations, a Harvard undergraduate course taught by visiting professor Jeffrey Borland.


While there exists substantial literature regarding the application of Malthus’s economic model to European countries prior to and following the Industrial Revolution, little effort has been spent applying the model to Europe’s neighbors in the east. South Korea in particular seems to be a compelling subject, insofar as its meteoric rise to economic power in the 20th century remains largely unprecedented and a fairly complete data set exists for many of its economic indicators. Dubbed the “Miracle on the Han River” by some economists, South Korea’s recent history has seen the country’s per capita national income increase 80-fold from US $125 in 1966 to over US $10,000 in 1995. Like Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution, Korea prior to the Korean War followed the Malthusian economic hypothesis of rising populations preventing sustained increases in standards of living. Statistics from the post-Korean War era up to the present day, however, indicate that South Korea (hereinafter as “Korea”) has since broken free of the Malthusian trap, thanks in large part to a series of government-endorsed economic development plans and also to cultural shifts like the rise in family planning.

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More Syntax Highlighting for Coda

Coda ships with syntax highlighting support for a lot of great languages, but some are noticeably left out of the mix. I was recently helping a buddy set up an environment to develop C programs on an external server, and while Coda seemed a clear better alternative to using Nano (particularly since we could still compile and run the programs from Coda’s built-in terminal), the program lacked syntax highlighting for the C language.

Adding highlighting for C (and a host of other languages) turned out to be pretty easy.

To add support for other languages, download this zip file, unzip, and copy the Modes folder into Contents > Resources of the Coda package distribution. To access the contents of the package, right click on the Coda application and select “Show Package Contents”. Then navigate to Contents > Resources.


If you are asked, overwrite existing folders and files. Note that if you only want to install certain syntax highlighting modes, just copy and paste what you need (of the .mode files in the downloaded Modes folder) into the Modes folder in the Coda package. I forgot which languages were standard to Coda so I’ve just included all of the ones I have in the download.
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Office 2007 MIME Types

Here’s a list of MIME Types for Office 2007 files (those pesky files extensions that end with an x). Useful for file type checking in web applications and the like.

  • .docm – application/
  • .docx – application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.document
  • .dotm – application/
  • .dotx – application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.template
  • .potm – application/
  • .potx – application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.template
  • .ppam – application/
  • .ppsm – application/
  • .ppsx – application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.slideshow
  • .pptm – application/
  • .pptx – application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.presentationml.presentation
  • .xlam – application/
  • .xlsb – application/
  • .xlsm – application/
  • .xlsx – application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.sheet
  • .xltm – application/
  • .xltx – application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.spreadsheetml.template

How to Remove the Top Border from Drupal Tables

I’ve been very busy developing a couple projects over the past couple days, but here is a quick little trick to get around one of Drupal’s quirks. If you’re unfamiliar with Drupal, it’s a fantastic CMS (content management system) built on PHP and MySQL. For those blog-savvy among us, it is to general websites what WordPress is to blogs. I use Drupal to get sites up quickly and with great functionality, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to build powerful, custom websites without “re-inventing the wheel.”

Anyway, Drupal has this strange quirk in its source that creates a small grey border on the top of tables inserted in a page’s content.  A quick trip to my inspector revealed how to remove the top border from Drupal tables.  Simply add the following line to your CSS.

body tbody { border-top: none; }

All there is to it. 🙂