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Tenanted land as a share of all cultivated land was around 20 per cent in the first years after the Meiji government instituted its land reform. By the time of the Second World War, almost half of arable land was under tenancy and 70 per cent of Japanese farmers rented some or all of their fields. Despite the global depression, tenant rents did not fall below 50–60 per cent of crops (and this was after the renter had paid the cost of seeds, fertiliser, implements and all taxes and levies bar the main land tax). It was hardly surprising that output stopped rising in the 1920s.

How Asia Works

Joe Studwell

Geographical, biological and economic forces create constraints. Yet these constraints leave ample room for surprising developments, which do not seem bound by any deterministic laws. This conclusion disappoints many people, who prefer history to be deterministic. Determinism is appealing because it implies that our world and our beliefs are a natural and inevitable product of history. It is natural and inevitable that we live in nation states, organise our economy along capitalist principles, and fervently believe in human rights. To acknowledge that history is not deterministic is to acknowledge that it is just a coincidence that most people today believe in nationalism, capitalism and human rights.

Sapiens

Yuval Noah Harari

The secretary general solemnly announced, “Start the pendulum.” The elevated winch released the cable tied to the pendulum, and the weight noiselessly fell along a smooth arc. Initially, it fell slowly, but then it accelerated, reaching maximum speed at the bottom of the arc. As it sliced through the air, the sound of the wind was deep and resonant. By the time the noise disappeared, the pendulum had followed the arc to its highest point on the other side, and, after pausing for a moment, began its backward swing. Wang felt the great force generated by the movement of the pendulum, as though the ground was shaken by its swings. Unlike a pendulum in the real world, this giant pendulum’s period was not stable, but changed constantly. This was due to the continually shifting gravitational attraction of the giant moon. When the giant moon was on this side of the planet, its gravity partially canceled out the gravity of the planet, causing the pendulum to lose weight. When it was on the other side of the planet, its gravity was added to the gravity of the planet, causing the pendulum’s weight to increase, almost to the level it would have had before the great rip. As he gazed up at the awe-inspiring swings of the Trisolaran Pendulum Monument, Wang asked himself, Does it represent the yearning for order, or the surrender to chaos? Wang also thought of the pendulum as a gigantic metal fist, swinging eternally against the unfeeling universe, noiselessly shouting out Trisolaran civilization’s indomitable battle cry.… As Wang Miao’s eyes blurred with tears, he saw a line of text appear against the background of the swinging pendulum: Four hundred and fifty-one years later, Civilization 192 was destroyed by the fiery flames of twin suns appearing together. It had reached the Atomic Age and the Information Age. Civilization 192 was a milestone in Trisolaran civilization. It finally proved that the three-body problem had no solution. It gave up the useless effort that had already lasted through 191 cycles and set the course for future civilizations. Thus, the goal of Three Body has changed. The new goal is: Head for the stars; find a new home. We invite you to log on again.

The Three-Body Problem

Cixin Liu and Ken Liu

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