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You call THAT chopping? Look at that awkward square-on stance! Would you swing a baseball bat with that posture? Is he clowning for the camera? You can probably get away with it if the wood splits clean and easy, but in Australia we mostly chop the hard wood of gum trees (eucalypts) and if the grain is not dead straight you really have to put your back into it. It is still a big sport here and the most spectacular event is the simulated tree felling when the axeman goes up the trunk.

"The object of the event in the modern day arena is to climb the tree pole by cutting “board holes” and placing special tree boards in the notches to ascend up the tree in a spiral fashion. Whilst balancing on the top board (3 boards high) the axeman cuts the block half-way through (such as in the Standing Block events) and then descends bringing the same boards back down. The axeman repeats the process up the reverse side of the tree concluding by severing the block in half. The 3 board trees are approx. 4.6m from the ground including the block being cut. The axemen stand on a board at a height of approximately 3.1m above the ground."


Like everything done at the highest level, the skill, strength and athleticism of the best choppers has to be seen to be believed.

Nothing demonstrates the importance of skill and know-how better than chopping, a novice from the city can rain blows on a tree trunk and just generate sawdust while the person who knows the right angle to lay on the blade will be throwing out big chips and melting through the log.

Oh dear, I guess I'm outta the club then Pete. :)

Son of a college professor. Two car garage. Worked in libraries most of my life. No railroad track in sight.

I do shovel lots of snow though - of course, as I write, my driveway is being plowed for me.

I'm not sure it's physical labor that matters as much as a willingness to work hard and a respect for others who do. I'm always struck by the way in which some of my colleagues dismiss businesspeople with the usual lefty stereotypes, never seeming to consider whether some of their colleagues, perhaps sitting right next to them, are the children of very hardworking businesspeople who busted their butts to make their children's lives better and get them through school. Some of the hardest working colleagues I have are the children of businesspeople and corporate manager types. Even my own dad, as Pete knows, comfortable as he was as a college professor and dean and provost was, and still is even in retirement, someone who works very hard (and efficiently!) I think that model tends to make people, whether economists especially I don't know, more respectful of market values.

So perhaps rather than working with their hands specifically, it's a matter of having hard work modeled for them, whether with their hands or otherwise.

"You call THAT chopping?"

Dr. Boettke did, but it's what we Americans call wood splitting, and we know the difference between splitting and chopping.

I'm not sure what the point of the video but I know this: I just wasted 9 minutes watching it.

Actual footage from Australia:


Great footage PJ! You see what happens when the grain of the wood is not straight!!

Can you find some footage of tree-felling?

OK I should have spelled out the distinction between splitting and chopping, having spent countless hours doing both on a frontier farm in Tasmania I thought it was obvious:)

This is it folks!

Don't stop watching until you see the guy on the far right, he starts last but I think he finished first. Many of these events are done with handicaps to make the finish interesting. Often the "front marker" will be done with the first side of the log before the "back marker" striks a blow.

Rafe is originally from Tasmania - where I'm sure tree chopping is atill a popular sport. Everyone else uses chain saws for that sort of thing. (Rafe, that's called 'progress' - illegal in Tasmania I realise :) ).

The point here though is that tree chopping is sport, while 'wood splitting' is work. Actually a work substitute. Pete really means to say that economists need to have a work ethic and believe in a work ethic.

In his excellent 'Ethics and economic progress' James Buchanan writes about the work ethic and its importance. What really struck me was that I though his argument to be intuitivily obvious, yet Buchanan suggests that economists would not find it obvious at all. This gives rise to the great irony that many economists have a personal work ethic, yet do not espouse that ethic in their actual work.

There is another irony here. I'm sure there are professional wood splitters; by splitting their own wood Buchanan and Prychitko are reducing the size of the market - but providing a signal of their own work ethic.

Ignoring Sinclair's gibe about Tasmanians (chain saws were just coming in when I went to uni), without wanting to argue about it, Pete suggested that the boys split their own wood for fun and contemplation, and fun it is when the grain is straight and true.

For contemplation it is hard to beat driving a tractor in ever decreasing circles around a paddock, (mowing, raking, baling, rolling, harrowing) actually baling and ploughing can be too demanding for contemplation because more things are happening, more skill is involved and things can go badly and expensively wrong. On the topic of making hay while the sun shines, one year we were baling hay on Christmas day and we took turns at dinner so the work never stopped! (It rains a lot in Tasmania).

This distinguished Australian political economist meets Pete's requirements in several ways.

GIBLIN, LYNDHURST FALKINER (1872-1951), political economist, was born on 29 November 1872 in Hobart...he entered King's College, Cambridge, in 1893, graduating senior optime (mathematics and science) in 1896 (M.A., 1928). He rowed for King's but excelled at Rugby Union, representing not only his college and university but England too. Revisiting King's in 1938, an extraordinary career behind him, he was elected to an honorary fellowship and given the use of Keynes's rooms. When Giblin died the college established a studentship in his name.

After coming down from Cambridge he and a fellow Kingsman joined to prospect for gold in the Cassiar-Stickine district of North British Columbia. The isolated life, if at times adventurous, was always harsh and ultimately meagre of reward; it was essential to work as lumberman, teamster or boatman to help pay one's way. Giblin's correspondence from this period conveys the deprivation, the routine and the eccentric acquaintance of his mining existence. In 1904 he joined the crew of a schooner bound for Australia...

For the full story.

A friend from Detroit tells me that at one point in the 80s, Bill Laimbeer was the only player in the NBA who earned less than his dad. This may be apocryphal (Wikipedia mentions but does not confirm it), and one example does not refute a statistical argument, but Laimbeer was certainly as upper middle class as they come and was a great rebounder.

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