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When asked about some contemporary problem, his arguments and line of reasoning almost always turn to long-term dynamics and historical circumstances. A question about the job market and unemployment figures, for example, can lead him to speak at length on the effects of slavery and 19 th -century immigration on inequality in Brazil.

The conversation about Leff had begun that way — and piqued my interest. Despite my best efforts, I had run up against all sorts of difficulties in finding any more information about this apparently little-known professor. Do you know of anyone who might know him, some other Brazilianist?

All that I knew about him — and hence my interest — was his academic work. Underdevelopment and Development in Braziloriginally published inwas actually a collection of essays written years earlier, modified and published in a single volume. These were periodicals such as the Journal of Economic Historyin which the ideals and formal models produced by economists began to be applied to the study of the past, the American Economic Reviewthe Journal of Political Economy, and the Quarterly Journal of Economicswhich shaped the history of the discipline and still figure in the dreams of researchers across the world.

Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Paul Krugman, and Joseph Stiglitz, all Nobel Prize winners, presented some of their most important ideas in Married women looking for men Teresina me s of these publications. Below the search box there appears a list of books, articles, and essays. Hardly anything else. It is difficult to find any other sort of record of him. There is nothing indicating the date and place of his birth, his family, where he studied, his having taken part in public events, tributes paid by friends, parties, or photos. The impression is that of someone who vanished before the Internet, at some point between the mids and the early s, cast its painstaking net over every aspect of our lives.

Nathaniel Leff is the guy who wrote the best book on Brazilian economic history that I know of. All that I know is that he is or was an Orthodox Jew. In his essays, the American researcher had put forth hypotheses that were both rigorous and imaginative in an attempt to tackle the two main problems in Brazilian economic history: why we wound up as a relatively poor country, with low per capita income, and why our society is so unequal.

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These laborers had been imported from Africa against their will, for the most part. Important political and institutional frameworks — such as restrictions on access to land, in the 19 th century, and incentives towards the immigration of little-educated European laborers — were put forth so that the mechanism could keep running smoothly even after the end of slavery.

Unable to easily buy a small lot of land to cultivate, workers arriving in Brazil — or those who were already there — had few alternatives beyond selling their labor on the cheap. Many of those texts, written over 40 years ago by a reclusive professor at Columbia University, had never come to the attention of most Brazilian researchers. He offered one to his friend Marcos Lisboa, then secretary of economic policy at the Ministry of Finance under the first Lula administration. Lisboa said that he read the book enthusiastically at night, after he got off work.

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That must have been in Marcos was wild about it. With a Ph. It was a total shock. He was so far ahead of his time. Historian and economist Renato Perim Colistete also discovered Leff around the same time, in the mids. Colistete is 53, with a boyish face and a calm air, with a quiet, gentle tone. This is changing, albeit very slowly.

Colistete himself recommends essays by Leff in his classes. At first he turned up his nose at what he considered Married women looking for men Teresina me overuse of quantitative methods, often using precarious data of dubious quality par for the course for the 19 th century. It seemed strange. Hardly anyone there would hear from him again. Hugh Patrick, 86, an emeritus professor at Columbia Business School was also at a loss to explain what had happened to his old colleague when we met in October. We were both particularly interested in economic development.

I happened to work mostly on Japan and Asia. Of course, as you know, he worked on Latin America. We would often chat. Personally, he was rather quiet. We never talked again. Part of it was that he was a very private, unassuming guy, and part of it was that he had his own family, his own social network. My guess is that not many people did — and maybe that had something to do with the fact that he was so observant. One of the few people with whom the Brazilianist spent time with at the business school and outside it was his Israeli colleague Gur Huberman, who teaches finance there.

For a while, he and his older coworker had ading offices at the university. They eventually grew close. Huberman recalled his friend coming to the campus and walking through the gardens and neoclassical buildings at Columbia in a dark hat and coat, with a full white beard.

Albeit less religious than his colleague, Huberman wound up asking Leff to guide and him in reading the sacred texts of Judaism. He was a kind and considerate person. In some dimensions he was more guarded. Huberman said he spent at least one Shabbat at the house Leff shared with his wife in a suburb of New York. When his first daughter was born in the early s, Huberman was away from the university, working for J. Even so, he insisted on taking his daughter, then just a few months old, to Columbia so that his friend could meet her. Despite their closeness, he also lost contact with Leff after Hugh Patrick remembered hearing around that time that his colleague was in poor health — and that that was the reason for his sudden retirement.

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When you called me, I started thinking back about him. He was a really good colleague. I have two feelings. He was quick to Married women looking for men Teresina me. My impression was that of a humble, modest, profound thinker. One of his hypotheses in the book Underdevelopment and Development in Brazil later became a key theme in my book on the economic history of the railways in Brazil.

He had come to Brazil to give classes at USP and at the Institute of Education and Research, or Insper, a private college focusing on economics and business administration. His thesis on the construction of railways in Brazil, published inis now considered a fundamental work on the Brazilian economy in the 19 th century. Summerhill is 52 years old, tall and strongly built. He speaks nearly impeccable Portuguese, albeit with a typical American accent. Beyond his work as an economic historian, Summerhill was also a paratrooper and captain in the U. He took part in ROTC during college, which guaranteed him a salary and financial independence from his parents.

In the s, the use of mathematical models and the manipulation of statistical databases to test out ideas about the past was made famous by a study from historian Robert Fogel on the effects of railway construction on the growth of the United States in the s.

In his research, Fogel was building on a classic topic in American historiography, but with novel. The building of better highways used for transportation via mule and cartthe opening of canals, steamboat travel, and railway construction helped to connect a of urban centers and small farmers in the former English colonies, driving economic growth. It is difficult to imagine another measure with such wide-ranging effects on an economy. When transportation costs fall, the final price of the product, as paid by the consumer, can also drop. In turn, lower costs allow many more people to gain access to and buy transportable goods, padding the profits of farmers and manufacturers as well as investments and the scale of production.

When we speak of the creation of domestic markets — or even of globalization, which starts with the great voyages of the 15 th century and takes on new force with the steamboats of the 19 th century — that indicates, above all, the connections being established between a greater of markets using cheaper, more efficient means of transport. Improved means of transportation also contributed to the increase in specialization and productivity in the American economy.

Since it was cheaper to cover greater distances with lo of wheat and milk, for example, it was no longer necessary to produce both goods in the same region. A single area — with better soil for cultivating wheat, say — might specialize in grains, while another could increase its concentration of cows per square meter. What Robert Fogel showed in his article from the 60s, however, was that this entire transportation revolution was hardly dependent on railway construction. These means were not much more expensive than rail transport.

If all the locomotives and train cars in circulation in the late 19 th century were taken out of circulation — and their lo transferred to boats and carts — the impact would be minimal. In Brazil, however, the story would be different. But he was there on Saturday night and Sunday, when I was able to talk with him. Leff presented an article summarizing his more than two decades of work on Brazil.

He was the first to put together all these scattered texts about the Brazilian economy, and reflect on the information at his disposal within a conventional framework of economic analysis. He put together what was out there, analyzed it, and thought up an entire narrative, an innovative interpretation for Brazilian economic history. In his texts, Leff argues that the key to understanding why Brazil became a relatively poor country, with per capita income far below the levels reached by Europe and the United States, was to be found in the 19 th century — no earlier, no later. The continuous gains in productivity that followed the adoption of the factory model were what allowed some countries to jump ahead and start growing at a much faster rate than others.

Byafter industrialization had begun in the former British colonies, each American could boast twice as much income as a Brazilian. And injust 70 years later, per capita income in the United States was more than quadruple the figure in Brazil. But the full extent of it only really emerged in the 19 th century. In his book The Economic Growth of Brazilthe economist Married women looking for men Teresina me that for most of its history, Portuguese America was little more than an array of large farms that used slave labor to feed the external market.

The impressive wealth accrued by the sugar mills of the Northeast in the 16 th century, Furtado wrote, could have led the sugar industry to double its productive capacity every two years. Even so, economic development in the surrounding area was paltry. Some of it went to loan payments to European merchants who had advanced resources for the construction of the sugar mills and the purchase of slaves. Part wound up in the hands of the slave traffickers who brought captives from Africa.

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Investments in machinery and labor, purchased outside of Portuguese America, thus had little impact on the local economy and failed to help it develop. Another portion of the income from sugar was spent on imported products — even luxury goods from Europe, such as wines. In this way, the growth of the sugar industry, the income from which might have benefited other activities in the Colony, failed to boost its peers. The gains from the sugar mills did not translate into a more complex economy around them, and the country remained a cluster of farms focusing on exports, with a few sectors, such as cattle-raising, working to supply the internal market.

From a social point of view, the economic logic described by Furtado made the free population engaged in other activities almost irrelevant. We were a country of a few masters and many slaves. Poor, free people had a supporting role, if that. This is not to say that there was nothing being produced on the domestic market. On the contrary — since the s, the Columbia professor had been suggesting that greater attention be paid to that sector, too often downplayed by traditional historiography.

With no detailed information on hand, Leff argued that it would be reasonable to suppose that in the colonial period and the 19 th century, most of the Brazilian population would have been mainly dedicated to agricultural production for internal consumption. The reasons he put forth for this were, above all, logical. It was impossible for this gigantic chunk of the economy to have emerged overnight and not have existed in the 19 th century, Leff reasoned. Moreover, even in the areas focusing on exportable goods, slaves never represented the majority of the population.

Large landowners, meanwhile, were a tiny fraction of Brazilians.

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