Second or Third Worst Coronavirus Response in the World Led by the Most Incompetent, Ignorant, and Undisciplined President Imaginable: Donald Trump

It looks like Brazil and Sweden are going to wind up having worse responses to the coronavirus than we are:

But, still, why am I not surprised that the most incompetent, ignorant, and undisciplined president imaginable backed up by the worst and most corrupt political party in the world produces one of the worst responses to coronavirus in the world?:

Andy Slavitt ‘COVID-19 seems to be a uniquely tough American foe https://twitter.com/ASlavitt/status/1257477774220066827. The rest of the world is figuring it out. The Czech Republic did it with masks. China with isolation. Germany with testing. Hong Kong with experience. New Zealand with alerts. Greece with discipline. The cost of these lessons is already too high. But it is not beyond our power to change it. But I’m afraid [that] to change this, we do have to first face it…

Nearly all other countries have the virus in retreat:

We have the virus plateaued—falling cases in Greater New York, rising cases elsewhere, and we are about to step down social distancing in much of "elsewhere"...

https://delong.typepad.com/files/coronavirus-extrapolations.pdf

Daily Readings:

NEJM Group: Updates on the Covid-19 Pandemic http://m.n.nejm.org/nl/jsp/m.jsp?c=%40kxNtXckRDOq8oG0jJvAXsIzN4mPECIPhltxoTSdTU9k%3D&cid=DM89089_NEJM_COVID-19_Newsletter&bid=173498255: 'From the New England Journal of Medicine, NEJM Journal Watch, NEJM Catalyst, and other trusted sources...

Worldometer: Coronavirus Update (Live) https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/...

Financial Times: Coronavirus Tracked https://www.ft.com/coronavirus-latest...

CDPH: nCoV2019 Updates https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019.aspx...

CDPH: News Releases 2020 https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/New-Release-2020.aspx...

Josh Marshall: Epidemic Science & Health Twitter List https://twitter.com/i/lists/1233998285779632128...

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Gandalf the Grey Talking Shop...

Gandalf the Grey talking shop. Since none of the eight people he is talking to are wizards, nobody he is addressing has the slightest idea what he is talking about—except possibly Legolas: Gandalf: The Fellowship of the Ring: 'I found myself suddenly faced by something that I have not met before. I could think of nothing to do but to try and put a shutting-spell on the door. I know many; but to do things of that kind rightly requires time, and even then the door can be broken by strength. As I stood there I could hear orc-voices on the other side: at any moment I thought they would burst it open. I could not hear what was said; they seemed to be talking in their own hideous language. All I caught was ghâsh: that is “fire”. Then something came into the chamber–I felt it through the door, and the orcs themselves were afraid and fell silent. It laid hold of the iron ring, and then it perceived me and my spell. What it was I cannot guess, but I have never felt such a challenge. The counter-spell was terrible. It nearly broke me. For an instant the door left my control and began to open! I had to speak a word of Command. That proved too great a strain. The door burst in pieces. Something dark as a cloud was blocking out all the light inside, and I was thrown backwards down the stairs. All the wall gave way, and the roof of the chamber as well, I think… #books #noted #2020-06-04


How Are We Supposed to Teach?

My day job as a professor is teaching people at the college level. Americas colleges and universities are highly, highly effective as teaching institutions: we boost people’s incomes by about 7% for each year attended, and it looks as though only 2%-points of those 7 are signaling and selection—the rest are true value. Moreover, those who major in my discipline, economics, appear to gain an extra 20% in income relative to those similarly situated who major in some other non-STEM discipline. Plus we genuinely believe that we open mental doors, and give our students the tools they need to live richer lives.

But there has long been a problem with colleges and universities as an industry: we do not really understand how we do it. Much of what we do is give lectures, assign readings, and administer tests. But the research shows that most of our students learn very little from lectures, are rather poor at learning from readings (when they do them, rather than take a look at the pile we have overassigned and give up), and cram for tests in a way that turns test studying into the opposite of effective reinforcement learning.

The smart money has been that our success as an industry is primarily the result of the social-intellectual rather than the formal-intellectual component of higher education. But we are not sure. This problem, however, has been on the back burner for years… generations… perhaps centuries… because our “customers” have long been highly satisfied.

But now this knowledge problem of ours has suddenly become urgent. The social-intellectual component of education has come crashing down in the age of coronavirus. We badly need to retool. We badly need to retool immediately. Yet we do not know how to do so:

Scott Galloway: How Coronavirus Will Disrupt Future Colleges & Universities https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/scott-galloway-future-of-college.html: ‘The value of education has been substantially degraded. There’s the education certification and then there’s the experience part of college. The experience part of it is down to zero, and the education part has been dramatically reduced.... At universities, we’re having constant meetings, and we’ve all adopted this narrative of “This is unprecedented, and we’re in this together,” which is Latin for “We’re not lowering our prices, bitches.” Universities are still in a period of consensual hallucination with each saying, “We’re going to maintain these prices for what has become, overnight, a dramatically less compelling product offering.” In fact, the coronavirus is forcing people to take a hard look at that 51,000 tuition they’re spending.... It’s a great year to take a gap year.... Ultimately, universities are going to partner with companies to help them expand. I think that partnership will look something like MIT and Google partnering. Microsoft and Berkeley. Big-tech companies are about to enter education…

 #berkeley #cognition #noted #teaching #universities #2020-06-04

Eric Budish Is a Genius...

The insight that a good way to talk to non-economists is to point out that there is a major kink in the benefits as you go from R greater than 1 to R less than one seems to me likely to be very important and likely to be exactly right. And I think the figure Eric put up on the screen during his talk is one of the best ways I can think of to convey that insight to non-economists: Eric Budish: R Less than 1 as an Economic Constraint: Can We “Expand the Frontier” in the Fight Against Covid-19? https://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/eric.budish/research/Budish_expand_the_frontier_covid19.pdf: ‘This note suggests that we view R Less than 1 as an economic constraint, allowing social welfare in the traditional sense (economic activity, societal well-being) to be the policy objective. This formulation highlights two key questions at the intersection of health and economics research in response to the Covid-19 crisis. First, what activities maximize social welfare subject to the constraint that disease-transmission is contained, i.e., R Less than 1. Second, what are ways to “expand the frontier” of how much social welfare we can achieve while keeping disease-transmission contained. For example, could widespread use of masks and gloves, society-wide campaigns to “wash your hands,” “stay home if sick,” and “don’t touch your face,” and aggressive testing, together allow us to meaningfully increase the level of economic activity and societal well-being that is possible while keeping R Less than 1?… #coronavirus #noted #publichealth #2020-06-04


U.S. & China: Economy Size

Note to Self: How does the U.S. economy really compare in size to China's right now?: Statistics Times: Comparing United States and China: "The United States and China are the two largest economies of the world in both Nominal and PPP method. US is at top in nominal whereas China is at top in PPP since 2013 after overtaking US. Both country together share 40.75% and 34.27% of total world's GDP in nominal and PPP terms, respectively in 2019. GDP of both country is higher than 3rd ranked country Japan (nominal) and India (PPP) by a huge margin. Therefore, only these two are in competition to become first. As per projections by IMF for 2019, United States is leading by $7,128 bn or 1.50 times on exchange rate basis. Economy of China is Int. $5,987 billion or 1.28 times more than US on purchasing power parity basis. Acc to estimates by World Bank, China gdp was approx 11% of US in 1960 but in 2017 it is 63%. Due to vast population of China, more than 4 times of US's population, difference between these two country is very high in terms of per capita income. Per capita income of United States is 6.38 and 3.32 times greater than of China in nominal and PPP terms, respectively. US is the 8th richest country of the world whereas China comes at 72th rank. On PPP basis, United states is at 12th position and China is at 75th... #noted #2020-06-04


"Your Young Men Shall See Visions, & Your Old Men Shall Dream Dreams..."

Luke: Acts 2 KJV https://biblehub.com/kjv/acts/2.htm: 'They were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, "What meaneth this?" Others mocking said, "These men are full of new wine." But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them...

...Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath... #noted #2020-06-04


Hoisted from the Archives: Moral Fault Attaches to Anybody Who Pays Money to or Boosts the Influence of the _New York Times

There are many, many reasons why moral fault attaches to anybody who pays money to or boosts the influence of the New York Times. This is one: Thomas L. Friedman (2003): Because We Could: "The failure of the Bush team to produce any weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D.'s) in Iraq is becoming a big, big story. But is it the real story we should be concerned with? No. It was the wrong issue before the war, and it's the wrong issue now. Why? Because there were actually four reasons for this war: the real reason, the right reason, the moral reason and the stated reason...

...The ''real reason'' for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world. Afghanistan wasn't enough. Because a terrorism bubble had built up over there—a bubble that posed a real threat to the open societies of the West and needed to be punctured. This terrorism bubble said that plowing airplanes into the World Trade Center was O.K., having Muslim preachers say it was O.K. was O.K., having state-run newspapers call people who did such things ''martyrs'' was O.K. and allowing Muslim charities to raise money for such ''martyrs'' was O.K. Not only was all this seen as O.K., there was a feeling among radical Muslims that suicide bombing would level the balance of power between the Arab world and the West, because we had gone soft and their activists were ready to die.

The only way to puncture that bubble was for American soldiers, men and women, to go into the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, house to house, and make clear that we are ready to kill, and to die, to prevent our open society from being undermined by this terrorism bubble. Smashing Saudi Arabia or Syria would have been fine. But we hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could, and because he deserved it and because he was right in the heart of that world. And don't believe the nonsense that this had no effect. Every neighboring government -- and 98 percent of terrorism is about what governments let happen -- got the message. If you talk to U.S. soldiers in Iraq they will tell you this is what the war was about...

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I Do Not Trust This Supreme Court...

I am not nearly as confident as Ben Thompson is here. Right now we have 5 Supreme Court justices who are partisans first, Republicans second, Americans not at all, and judges to a negative degree. I have no idea what they will do should Trump’s “executive order “wind up in front of them. The Supreme Court might rule 9-0 against Trump. It might write a 5-4 “non-precedental” upholding on whatever very narrow ground it can find for the particular case brought. It might go all in for Trump, 5-4:

Ben Thompson: Trump’s Executive Order, Section 230 In Court, Public Forums https://stratechery.com/2020/trumps-executive-order-section-230-in-court-public-forums: ‘The problem is with the summary of subsection 230(c)(2)(A).... The part that the executive order is missing: "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected". That’s a pretty important clause!.... Congress clearly enacted § 230 to forbid the imposition of publisher liability on a service provider for the exercise of its editorial and self-regulatory functions.... The imposition of tort liability on service providers for the communications of others represented, for Congress, simply another form of intrusive government regulation of speech. Section 230 was enacted, in part, to maintain the robust nature of Internet communication and, accordingly, to keep government interference in the medium to a minimum...

...The... applicable... case... is Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck... explicit that, except for extremely limited cases, private corporations were not state actors, and thus not beholden to the First Amendment, even in cases where they were fulfilling government functions like running public access television channels.... To be honest, there is a part of me that hopes Trump signs this order. The arguments I have gone through, particularly Section 230, are increasingly widespread, and it would be gratifying to see them soundly refuted in court, as I am confident they would be…

#noted #2020-06-04

On Human Emancipation from Imaginary Financial Constraints...

A vision of public opulence, and of human emancipation from imaginary financial constraints. If there are three things that are at the heart of Keynesian economics, they are (1) the private sector cannot run the economy without assistance, (2) a great deal of evil is done by analogizing the government’s and society’s balance sheet to an individual’s, and (3) this one here: what we can do, we can afford—that if we could do it, it makes no coherent sense to say that we cannot afford it, for the market and finance economy was made for man, not man for the finance and market economy:

John Maynard Keynes: How Much Does Finance Matter? https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/article-keynes-finance-matter.pdf: ‘Where we are using up resources, do not let us submit to the vile doctrine of the nineteenth century that every enterprise must justify itself in pounds, shillings and pence of cash income, with no other denominator of values but this...

...I should like to see that war memorials of this tragic struggle take the shape of an enrichment of the civic life of every great centre of population. Why should we not set aside, let us say, £50 millions a year for the next twenty years to add in every substantial city of the realm the dignity of an ancient university or a European capital to our local schools and their surroundings, to our local government and its offices, and above all perhaps, to provide a local centre of refreshment and entertainment with an ample theatre, a concert hall, a dance hall, a gallery, a British restaurant, canteens, cafes and so forth.

Assuredly we can afford this and much more. Anything we can actually do we can afford. Once done, it is there. Nothing can take it from us.

We are immeasurably richer than our predecessors. Is it not evident that some sophistry, some fallacy, governs our collective action if we are forced to be so much meaner than they in the embellishments of life?…

 #noted #2020-06-04

Deng Xiaoping’s Victory...

Ian Buruma: Deng Xiaoping’s Victory https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/tiananmen-square-massacre-pioneered-illiberal-democracy-by-ian-buruma-2019-06: 'China never looked back (literally as well as figuratively, because the events of June 3-4 are unmentionable). The economy soon steamed ahead. And the educated urban classes, from which most of the student protesters in 1989 sprang, benefited enormously.... Stay out of politics, don’t question the authority of the one-party state, and we’ll create the conditions for you to get rich.... Even educated young Chinese now have little or no knowledge of what happened 30 years ago.... In 2001, a year after Vladimir Putin came to power in Russia, I traveled from Beijing to Moscow and wrote an article comparing Russia favorably to China. I assumed that Russia was well on its way to becoming an open democracy. I was wrong. In fact, Russia became more like Deng Xiaoping’s China, albeit a less successful version.... Something similar has happened in Central European countries. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has been most the most vociferous ideologue of “illiberal democracy,” a system of oppressive one-party rule in which capitalism can still thrive. It looks as if the right-wing populist demagogues of Western Europe, and even the US, would like to follow this example. Like Donald Trump, they are all more or less unreserved admirers of Putin. Of course, this was not the way it was supposed to happen.... China was not an outlier in 1989 at all. Illiberal capitalism has since emerged as an attractive model to autocrats all over the world, including in countries that succeeded in throwing off communist rule 30 years ago. The Chinese just got there first... #noted #2020-06-04


Coronavirus, Wealth, & Social Power...

In a market economy, wealth is social power. In fact, in a market economy, wealth is the only form of social power. If you do not have wealth, your preferences and needs are of no account relative to those of somebody who does have wealth. Moreover, the requirement that people earn the cash with which they buy their daily bread means that no command, no control, and little exertion of force are needed in order to produce the application of social power to make the poor ignore their preferences and needs to satisfy those of the rich. Amartya Sen wrote about how we see this process at work at its sharpest edge: the so-called “entitlement families“, like that of Bengal during World War II. In the age of coronavirus, the edge is not quite as sharp. But it is plenty sharp even so:

Ellora Derenoncourt: ‘This piece captures everything you need to know about the US coronavirus labor market https://twitter.com/EDerenoncourt/status/1263604734348402689. We did not have a freely competitive labor market before the crisis. What we have now is starting to look like forced labor…. “Making employers compete with a generous unemployment insurance system... could reset bargaining power in the low-wage end of the labor market... At the least, it would be a first step toward exiting this pandemic a fairer society than the one that entered it”. By Suresh Naidu https://t.co/6y5WzGUg7k… #coronavirus #equitablegrowth #inequality #noted #2020-06-04


Virus Suppression Is Out of Reach: It Is the Dance & the Hammer

This is tremendously depressing. Stomping the virus is now out of reach. This means that we are in “hammer & dance” land: trying to push cases out beyond the vaccine horizon and the better antivirals horizon, without incurring very large economic costs for little long run mortality benefit. Almost all other countries will do better:

Kelsey Piper: California Coronavirus Cases Are Rising Despite Early Lockdown https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/5/16/21254748/california-coronavirus-cases-lockdown: ‘That’s a problem. One of the hopes for stay-at-home orders was that they would cause significant declines in new case numbers, not just get to a plateau. Once new cases become relatively rare, states could set up contact tracing, isolation of confirmed and possible cases, and other less restrictive strategies for combating the virus. That remains the best way out of lockdown, but those strategies are harder to implement when case numbers keep rising. The fact that California’s stay-home order didn’t decrease, or only slightly decreased, the number of new cases means that the road ahead will be a very hard one.... What went wrong? The best explanation is that California’s stay-home order, like many orders around the country, did not get the so-called R0 for the coronavirus to significantly below 1 (some preprints estimate it around 0.9).... The California stay-at-home order still involves more face-to-face contact with other people than the lockdowns in places that successfully controlled the virus.... And even worse, California has largely been unable to take advantage of the time the lockdown buys them to increase testing capacity, provide hospital workers with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), or establish large-scale contact tracing programs... #coronavirus #noted #macro #publichealth #2020-06-04


My Conclusion: Advertising-Supported Social Media Needs to Die, Quickly...

Very smart thoughts. But I don’t think Jack Balkin stresses the bottom line strongly enough. The true bottom line, I think, is that advertising-supported social media must die:

Jack Balkin: Fixing Social Media: Media Apocalypse, Episode 2 https://balkin.blogspot.com/2020/05/fixing-social-media-media-apocalypse.html: ‘Three key takeaways: First, it's the business models, stupid! Instead of focusing on specific fights over content moderation, focus on the way that social media companies make money: the control of digital advertising networks and the collection and use of personal data, which drive social media companies to choose policies that have harmful social effects. Second, content moderation is necessary for social media to perform their appropriate social function in the new digital public sphere. Third, if content moderation is necessary, it's important to have many different social media sites, with many different affordances and rules, and not just a few very large ones. We need social media federalism, not social media centralization.... Our current degree of centralization is not an inevitable feature of the social media landscape. It is the product of legal rules that we can and should change. For more along these lines, see my ACM lecture here… #journamalism #noted #publicsphere #2020-06-04


Conservative Political Thought in America: "Fascist, Authoritarian, Imperial..."

Scott Horton (2006): On Leo Strauss https://balkin.blogspot.com/2006/07/letter_16.html: 'In the last several months, the New York Times has run four pieces defending Leo Strauss from his critics.... The Times has run no pieces in which Strauss is actually criticized, which suggests an odd editorial posture. Indeed, the Times seems to have mounted a veritable campaign for the defense of the beleaguered Leo Strauss, which seems strange considering that he has been dead for over thirty years. These pieces are remarkably consistent. For one, each turns the very serious criticism of Strauss and his relationship with the American Neoconservative movement into a point of ridicule.... They present Strauss as a “liberal democrat”... [IN] the tradition of... Locke, Hume and J.S. Mill.... [But] Strauss takes firm target at the core values of liberal democracy, and particularly the American variant. Before his arrival in America, Strauss was blunt in these criticisms. After his arrival, he adopted a far more circumspect approach.... But it is an act of serious deception to present Strauss as “democracy’s best friend” (to quote the last, a review essay by Edward Rothstein published on July 10, in turn quoting Steven Smith’s new book, Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism).... Strauss was a Middle European intellectual living in a period where liberalism looked exhausted and unable to function, and many of his contemporaries, and indeed many of Strauss’ mentors, were engaging with fascist thought... Heidegger and Schmitt.... The Löwith letter is profoundly revealing of the nature of Leo Strauss’ conservatism. It places his conservatism outside of the Anglo-American tradition that links to figures like Locke, Hume and Burke. Instead, it springs from a traditional Continental European variant which is deeply rooted in religion and in the notion of a benevolent (though sometimes not particularly benevolent) authoritarian leader legitimized by religion.... "The fact that the new right-wing Germany does not tolerate us [Jews] says nothing against the principles of the right. To the contrary: only from the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles, is it possible... without resort to the ludicrous and despicable appeal to the droits imprescriptibles de l’homme to protest against the shabby abomination.... There is no reason to crawl to the cross, neither to the cross of liberalism, as long as somewhere in the world there is a glimmer of the spark of the Roman thought. And even then: rather than any cross, I’ll take the ghetto.... Dixi, et animam meam salvavi"... #noted #2020-06-04


William Davidow on COVID-19

William Davidow: COVID-19, Radical Uncertainty, and Survival https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/covid-19-radical-uncertainty-survival-william-davidow/: ‘We live in a radically uncertain world (See recently published Radical Uncertainty by John Kay and Mervyn King). About every ten years something completely unpredictable happens that has a major impact on our lives. The unpredictability makes it extremely difficult to make plans to deal with the crisis.... Half the events were a result of financial instability, two war related, and the most recent caused by a pandemic. All the events had major financial consequences. They occurred about once in a decade leading me to conclude that most of us will face six of these events during our adult lives and should plan on these happenings.... Most of us do pretty well at dealing with predicable risk and are poorly prepared for the radically uncertain events. Those events have catastrophic effects on a great number of our lives. Think of the increased suicide rate after the Black Thursday market crash in 1929 or the people who lost their homes in 2008 when the Real Estate Bubble Burst. For this reason, all of us should consider reducing our exposure to radical uncertainty. We should plan on it happening to us—not once but six times... #noted #2020-06-04


What’s the Allure of Hydroxychloroquine?

Josh Marshall: What’s the Allure of Hydroxychloroquine? https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/whats-the-allure-of-hydroxychloroquine: ‘There’s a growing body of clinical evidence that hydroxychloroquine (alone or with an accompanying antibiotic) not only has no therapeutic effect for COVID but can increase substantially the risk of death.... Trump has been pushing it for months, for reasons which are not altogether clear. What is weird and fascinating in its own right, however, is that what we might call hydroxy-mania seems to be a common feature of right-wing nationalism across the globe.... What could possibly be the connection between rightist-populist nationalism and this until-recently relatively obscure anti-malarial drug?... There must be something about this drug or rather the hope of a quick cure it engenders that resonates with this ideology and mentality. And in any case [Trump's endorsement] doesn’t address why it has such a hold on Trump in the first place. My own hunch is that it is precisely the lure of a quick fix. This is an abiding feature of rightist nationalism, quick fixes to often intractable problems, usually focused on seeking revenge against a designated group of internal or external outsiders. But the desire for quick fixes runs deep. So too does the war against expertise and knowledge elites.... TPM Reader PT... suggests that elite disdain for these nostrums is actually part of the appeal… #cognition #coronavirus #easilygriftedmorons #noted #orangehairedbaboons #publichealth #2020-06-04


"The Next Move Is with the Head, & Fists Must Wait..."

John Maynard Keynes: Trotsky On England https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/comments/keynes01.htm: ‘Granted his assumptions, much of Trotsky’s argument is, I think, unanswerable. Nothing can be sillier than to play at revolution—if that is what he means. But what are his assumptions? He assumes that the moral and intellectual problems of the transformation of Society have been already solved—that a plan exists, and that nothing remains except to put it into operation. He assumes further that Society is divided into two parts–the proletariat who are converted to the plan, and the rest who for purely selfish reasons oppose it.... Trotsky’s book must confirm us in our conviction of the uselessness, the empty-headedness of Force at the present stage of human affairs.... We lack more than usual a coherent scheme of progress, a tangible ideal. All the political parties alike have their origins in past ideas and not in new ideas—and none more conspicuously so than the Marxists. It is not necessary to debate the subtleties of what justifies a man in promoting his gospel by force; for no one has a gospel. The next move is with the head, and fists must wait… #noted #2020-06-04


The Development of 'Theory-of-Mind'...

Scott Alexander: Book Review: Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind https://slatestarcodex.com/: ‘Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind is a brilliant book, with only two minor flaws. First, that it purports to explains the origin of consciousness. And second, that it posits a breakdown of the bicameral mind. I think it’s possible to route around these flaws while keeping the thesis otherwise intact. So I’m going to start by reviewing a slightly different book, the one Jaynes should have written. Then I’ll talk about the more dubious one he actually wrote. My hypothetical Jaynes 2.0 is a book about theory-of-mind.... When in human history did theory-of-mind first arise? It couldn’t have been a single invention–more like a gradual process of refinement. “The unconscious” only really entered our theory-of-mind with Freud. Statements like “my abuse gave me a lot of baggage that I’m still working through” involves a theory-of-mind that would have been incomprehensible a few centuries ago. It’s like “I’m clicking on an icon with my mouse”–every individual word would have made sense, but the gestalt would be nonsensical. Still, everyone always assumes that the absolute basics–mind as a metaphorical space containing beliefs and emotions, people having thoughts and making decisions – must go back so far that their origins are lost in the mists of time, attributable only to nameless ape-men. Julian Jaynes doesn’t think that. He thinks it comes from the Bronze Age Near East, c. 1500–750 BC… #books #cognition #noted #2020-06-03


What To Watch For in the Employment Report

Equitable Growth alumnus Nick Bunker is closely watching the labor market in advance of this week’s employment report. The employment report will be one of our first significant clues as to the extent to which the coronavirus supply shock is turning into a demand shock as well:

Nick Bunker: May 2020 Jobs Day Preview: Tracking the Spread of the Coronavirus Shock https://www.hiringlab.org/2020/06/02/may-2020-jobs-day-preview/: ‘The coronavirus has devastated the US economy, leading to the destruction of over 21 million payroll jobs since February.... The concentration of job losses so far is unsurprising, with the leisure and hospitality sector seeing total employment drop by almost 50%. Employment in the utilities sector has barely fallen, losing less than 1% of jobs.

If the cumulative employment drop starts to pile up in utilities or other indirectly affected sectors, that could mean that more of the aggregate job loss is due to a systematic, economy-wide shock rather than a sector-specific one. Cumulative job loss will also put the eventual jobs recovery in a fuller context....

Hopes for a V-shaped recovery were already fleeting, but if more and more employers are shedding jobs, they might be gone for good. Elsewhere in the report, I’ll be looking for the answers to these questions:

  • Will unemployment due to reasons other than temporary layoff start to rise, as job loss becomes permanent?

  • Will employers continue to reduce work hours and shift more workers to involuntary part-time work?

  • How much further will the drop in the labor force participation rate hold down the rise in the unemployment rate?…

    coronavirus #equitablegrowth #labormarket #macro #noted #2020-06-02


What the Democrats Must Do: Project Syndicate

teddy roosevelt at plymouth rock

What the Democrats Must Do https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/democrats-must-embrace-full-employment-by-j-bradford-delong-2020-06: Although the United States has entered a period of deepening social strife and economic depression, the Republicans who are in charge have neither the ideas nor the competence to do anything about it. The Democrats must start planning to lead, starting with a commitment to full employment…. A federal commitment to full employment is not a new idea. The US Employment Act of 1946 embraced the principle.... The best response to... objections has always been John Maynard Keynes.... “Anything we can do, we can afford.”...

Far from acting as an independent binding constraint on economic activities, the financial system exists precisely to support such activities. Finding useful jobs for willing jobseekers is surely something we are capable of doing.

Adjusting the prevailing payments and financial structure to support full employment would of course have consequences.... Supporting full employment... may... require higher and more progressive taxes... sky-high debt... that we divert demand from elite consumption to labor-intensive sectors like public health. It also may require a large-scale labor-intensive public-works program. So be it. It’s time to make full employment our highest priority. Once we have done that, everything else will fall into place...

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Acting Comptroller Brian Brooks Is Way Out of Line

Equitable Growth’s Amanda Fischer finds the acting Comptroller of the Currency going way beyond his competence, apparently in order to try to curry favor with his political masters. It is his job to help avoid unnecessary negative financial and economic fallout from necessary public health measures. It is not his job to try to put constraints that would prevent undertaking necessary and desirable public health measures:

Amanda Fischer: ‘About this letter from Acting @USOCC head Brian Brooks to mayors & county officials... https://twitter.com/amandalfischer/status/1267831757950328832: ‘I have not seen such an opportunistic, inappropriate & frankly dangerous statement from a financial regulatory official maybe ever https://occ.gov/news-issuances/news-releases/2020/nr-occ-2020-73a.pdf. Brooks wrote to state & city officials basically telling them, "nice economy you have there; I wouldn't want anything to happen to it." It should be read as more of a threat than a warning. And it is obviously theatrics meant to endear himself to the President. Brooks is telling mayors & county officials that there may be a banking crisis if they don't reopen, as commercial businesses default on loans & cause a cascade of defaults that elected officials should consider.

A couple points on why Brooks is wildly inappropriate:

First, he's not an epidemiologist, and the OCC is independent of the Executive branch. He has no idea if reopening is actually worse for the economy. In fact, plenty of economists have cautioned against premature reopening as being bad for long-term growth & public health.

Second, it is not mayors' or county officials' responsibility to worry about financial stability. His examiners should do a better job of predicting losses, and the OCC and Federal Reserve should do a better job of ensuring banks are well-capitalized. Don't put this on mayors. It is also rich given the actions taken by the OCC and Federal Reserve to deplete banks' loss-absorbing capital, including allowing banks to continue to pay out dividends given all the risks Brooks cites in this letter.

Finally, the letter is wild, considering the debate in Congress right now. A simple way to keep the economy on ice is to ensure people & small businesses have adequate money to pay their bills. If people have money, creditors have money, & banks will be fine. Brooks' own political leadership seems to oppose extending UI, direct payments or other relief—relief that would ease pressure on the banking sector. Instead, Brooks is trying to threaten states and cities to reopen without regard for public health recommendations…

#coronavirus #macro #noted #orangehairedbaboons #2020-06-02

Why Do We Need Automatic Triggers?

The first and most crucial tasks of economic policy in the coronavirus public health crisis are to keep the supply shock from becoming a distributional shock and from becoming a demand shock as well. Successfully accomplishing these ranks requires, first, a great increase in social insurance spending: in a country as rich as this one is, nobody should be thrown in the poverty and destitution and have to deal with those problems as well as with the disease. The expansion of social insurance spending cannot be precisely targeted: lots of people will wind up getting more than their fair share. Too bad: it is inappropriate to make the best the enemy of the good and the attainable here, and to make it such that in order to prevent some from getting more than their share, we ensure that many who need support get much much less.

Somewhat similarly, the necessary expansion of aggregate demand in order to maintain and return the economy to as close to full employment as possible will attract, in fact has already attracted, critics. Preventing the coronavirus shock from becoming a major and prolonged demand shock will be inconsistent with the government not spending a lot more, will be inconsistent with a stability in the value of the national debt, will be inconsistent with avoiding a long run increase in taxes, may well be inconsistent with any form of normalizing interest rates to gratify rentiers, And might be inconsistent with maintaining a 2% per year Inflation target. Once again, the proper societal response would be: too bad. As John Maynard Keynes said: what we can do, we can afford in the sense of arranging government finances to make it so.

Our task is to arrange government finances so that Americans can do as much as possible, and not to hit what are some times artificial and are sometimes intermediate policy objectives targets:

Heather Boushey: Off-Kilter Podcast: Beyer + Boushey https://medium.com/@OffKilterShow/beyer-boushey-8be89af1e80: ‘Continuing Off-Kilter’s ongoing series on poverty and inequality in the age of COVID19… This week brought the somber news that 2.1 million more Americans filed for unemployment in the past week. This brings the total number of unemployment claims over the last 10 weeks to 40.8 million — more than a quarter of the American workforce. Meanwhile, 1 in 5 families, including 1 in 3 families with children, are reporting they can no longer afford adequate food.... We run through some of our listeners’ top FAQ — like, what are automatic triggers and why do we need them?... Rebecca sat down with Democratic Congressman Don Beyer, Vice Chair of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (and self-described “econ junkie”) and Heather Boushey, president & CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and author of Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do About It. This episode’s guests: Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), vice chair, U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. Heather Boushey, president & CEO, Washington Center for Equitable Growth…

#coronavirus #equitablegrowth #macro #noted #socialinsurance #2020-06-02

Tracking the Labor Market Spread of the Coronavirus Shock

Nick Bunker: May 2020 Jobs Day Preview: Tracking the Spread of the Coronavirus Shock https://www.hiringlab.org/2020/06/02/may-2020-jobs-day-preview/#sendgrid_mc_email_subscribe: ‘The coronavirus has devastated the US economy, leading to the destruction of over 21 million payroll jobs since February.... The concentration of job losses so far is unsurprising, with the leisure and hospitality sector seeing total employment drop by almost 50%. Employment in the utilities sector has barely fallen, losing less than 1% of jobs. If the cumulative employment drop starts to pile up in utilities or other indirectly affected sectors, that could mean that more of the aggregate job loss is due to a systematic, economy-wide shock rather than a sector-specific one. Cumulative job loss will also put the eventual jobs recovery in a fuller context.... Hopes for a V-shaped recovery were already fleeting, but if more and more employers are shedding jobs, they might be gone for good. Elsewhere in the report, I’ll be looking for the answers to these questions: * Will unemployment due to reasons other than temporary layoff start to rise, as job loss becomes permanent? * Will employers continue to reduce work hours and shift more workers to involuntary part-time work? * How much further will the drop in the labor force participation rate hold down the rise in the unemployment rate?…

#forecasting #labormarket #macro #noted #2020-06-02

Note to Self: Books & Articles to Save...

Note to Self: Without access to the Berkeley library, I feel that my brain is 2/3 gone. And it is time-consuming to... take steps...

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do...


Herbert Hoover: As Bad to Ally with Stalin and Churchill Against Hitler as to Ally with Hitler Against Stalin and Churchill: Hoisted from the Archives from 2018

Insane Clown Posse

Herbert Hoover: As Bad to Ally with Stalin and Churchill Against Hitler as to Ally with Hitler Against Stalin and Churchill https://www.bradford-delong.com/2018/08/herbert-hoover-as-bad-to-ally-with-stalin-and-churchill-against-hitler-as-to-ally-with-hitler-against-stalin-and-churchill.html: I was reading Herbert Hoover (1964): Freedom Betrayed https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0817912363 on the plane, and it is really clear to me why nobody wanted Hoover to publish it during his lifetime and why his heirs buried it for half a century. I will tell you what I think. I think Hoover does not quite dare say:

When Hitler attacked Stalin in June 1941, the U.S. should have told Britain to cool it—embargoed Britain until, and then offered it security guarantees when, it made peace with Germany. And then the U.S. should have supported Hitler in his war on Communism, by far the worst of the three totalitarianism of Communism, Naziism, and New Dealism. Afterwards, Hitler and his successors would have had their hands full ruling their Eurasian empire, and Naziism would have normalized itself, and Communism would be gone. Too bad about Nazi rule over the French, Belgians, Dutch, Danes, and Norwegians, but that would have been a price well worth paying...

He does not quite dare say it, but he is thinking it. It is Jeanne Kirkpatrick's: "we should always and everywhere support authoritarian regimes and movements against communist regimes and movements" turned up to 11.

And he tiptoes way way way up to it and almost gets there...

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John Maynard Keynes: How Much Does Finance Matter?

John Maynard Keynes: How Much Does Finance Matter https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/article-keynes-finance-matter.pdf: ‘Where we are using up resources, do not let us submit to the vile doctrine of the nineteenth century that every enterprise must justify itself in pounds, shillings and pence of cash income, with no other denominator of values but this. I should like to see that war memorials of this tragic struggle take the shape of an enrichment of the civic life of every great centre of population. Why should we not set aside, let us say, £50 millions a year for the next twenty years to add in every substantial city of the realm the dignity of an ancient university or a European capital to our local schools and their surroundings, to our local government and its offices, and above all perhaps, to provide a local centre of refreshment and entertainment with an ample theatre, a concert hall, a dance hall, a gallery, a British restaurant, canteens, cafes and so forth. Assuredly we can afford this and much more. Anything we can actually do we can afford. Once done, it is there. Nothing can take it from us. We are immeasurably richer than our predecessors. Is it not evident that some sophistry, some fallacy, governs our collective action if we are forced to be so much meaner than they in the embellishments of life?…

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