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May 2007

What Are We, Chopped Liver?

Thomas Palley writes at TPM Cafe:

Are Heterodox Economists Just Unhappy Whiners? | TPMCafe: I was not planning to make further formal contributions to this discussion. However, Diane Coyle’s... claim is that heterodox economists are just unhappy whiners (a.k.a. whingers)..... I would like to give a couple of concrete examples that counter Diane Coyle’s claim that heterodox economists have nothing to complain about. So please bear with me.

The last time a paper on macroeconomics with a Keynesian structure was published in the American Economic Review was in the early 1980s. Send in such a paper and it will be immediately rejected as “old” economics. That is a matter of taste. There is simply no scientific basis for rejecting the Keynesian description of how the economy works.... Whereas the orthodox cup is filled with hard-core orthodox theory, the lip of orthodox policy practice quickly and easily slips into Keynesian thinking. This suggests Keynesians may be more right than the orthodox.

One example of such slippage is the scare with deflation during the last recession. Suddenly, the orthodoxy started arguing at the policy level that [de]flation could be damaging and the economy might get trapped with sustained unemployment (as happened in Japan). This was exactly what Keynes claimed, yet the orthodoxy dismissed (and still dismisses) Keynesian theory on the grounds that perfectly flexible prices and wages will automatically solve real world unemployment...

What am I, chopped liver? Apparently. Not only am I chopped liver, but others are chopped liver as well. Google MIT for its advanced macroeconomics reading lists and one of the first things that pops up is Jordi Gali's module: This looks to me to be nearly 200-proof modern Keynesianism--it may not be the kind of Keynesianism Palley likes, but Keynesianism it is.

Here are some of the readings:

Calvo, Guillermo (1983): “Staggered Prices in a Utility Maximizing Framework,” Journal of Monetary Economics, 12, 383-398. Yun, Tack (1996): “Nominal Price Rigidity, Money Supply Endogeneity, and Business Cycles,” Journal of Monetary Economics 37, 345-370. King, Robert G., and Alexander L. Wolman (1996): “Inflation Targeting in a St. Louis Model of the 21st Century,” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review, vol. 78, no. 3. (NBER WP #5507). Fuhrer, Jeffrey C. and George R. Moore (1995): “Inflation Persistence”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 110, February, pp 127-159. Galí, Jordi and Mark Gertler (1998): “Inflation Dynamics: A Structural Econometric Analysis,” Journal of Monetary Economics, vol 44, no. 2, 195-222. Sbordone, Argia (2002): “Prices and Unit Labor Costs: A New Test of Price Stickiness,” Journal of Monetary Economics, vol. 49, no. 2, 265-292. Galí, Jordi, Mark Gertler, David López-Salido (2001): “European Inflation Dynamics,” European Economic Review vol. 45, no. 7, 1237-1270. Galí, Jordi, Mark Gertler, David López-Salido (2005): “Robustness of the Estimates of the Hybrid New Keynesian Phillips Curve,” Journal of Monetary Economics, forthcoming. Eichenbaum, Martin and Jonas D.M. Fisher (2004): “Evaluating the Calvo Model of Sticky Prices,” NBER WP 10617. Mankiw, N. Gregory and Ricardo Reis (2002): “Sticky Information vs. Sticky Prices: A Proposal to Replace the New Keynesian Phillips Curve,” Quartely Journal of Economics, vol. CXVII, issue 4, 1295-1328. Rotemberg, Julio (1996): “Prices, Output, and Hours: An Empirical Analysis Based on a Sticky Price Model,” Journal of Monetary Economics 37, 505-533. Chari, V.V., Patrick J. Kehoe, Ellen R. McGrattan (2000): “Sticky Price Models of the Business Cycle: Can the Contract Multiplier Solve the Persistence Problem?,” Econometrica, vol. 68, no. 5, 1151-1180. Wolman, Alexander (1999): “Sticky Prices, Marginal Cost, and the Behavior of Inflation,” Economic Quarterly, vol 85, no. 4, 29-48. Dotsey, Michael, Robert G. King, and Alexander L. Wolman (1999): “State Dependent Pricing and the General Equilibrium Dynamics of Money and Output,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. CXIV, issue 2, 655-690. Dotsey, Michael, and Robert G. King (2005): “Implications of State Dependent Pricing for Dynamic Macroeconomic Models,” Journal of Monetary Economics, 52, 213-242. Golosov, Mikhail, Robert E. Lucas (2005): “Menu Costs and Phillips Curves” mimeo. Gertler, Mark and John Leahy (2005): “A Phillips Curve with an Ss Foundation,” mimeo...

TPM Cafe: Intellectual Claim-Jumping Watch

I have a serious problem with David Ruccio's showing up here with Economics Outside the Mainstream | TPMCafe. Let me tell you why. We need a little intellectual backstory: Fredric Jameson is a powerful, brilliant, provcative, and thought-provoking cultural critic. The arguments he makes in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism about the relationship between cultural forms and the shape of material life at the end of the twentieth century may be right and may be wrong, may be fruitful and may turn out to be dead ends, but are certainly worth exploring--are properly part of anyone's optimally-diversified intellectual portfolio. Jameson has taken his ideas and hung the word "postmodernism" on them as an identifying label.

Now come David Ruccio and Jack Amariglio (2003), Postmodern Moments in Modern Economics (Princeton: Princeton University Press), p. 5: It needs to be said straightaway that we do not pursue an approach that sees postmodernisms as a particular world-historical phase, Nothing in our treatment invokes the "postmodern" as the latest stage in "late capitalist" (or "post-Fordist") economics, and especially the process of "globalization."

The main reason for our neglect of this approach is that we reject its basic premises, first, that capitalism has morphed within the past half century into a distinct socioeconomic phase captured by the concept of "late capitalism" and, second, that "postmodernism" as a noneconomic phenomenon illustrates the existence of such a phase, or that postmodernism refers to a historical rupture in the global economy. Since our main objective is to address the ways in which postmodernism currently appears, or could guide new developments, within the discipline of academic economics, we have chosen not to elaborate our objections to this line of thought.

Still, this work is ubiquitous in the fields "outside" of academic economics, a few words on it will put the rest of our analysis into clearer relief. It is not our aim to disparage this literature or to dissuade economists from interacting with it. To the contrary, economists should read it, partly because its picture of present world economic circumstances is so far from the mainstream neoclassical orthodoxy (and so much loser to heterodox, especially Marxist, views), that it can be engaged productively as a bona fide challenge, not only to that orthodoxy, but to cross-disciplinary dialogue. Our own interests in postmodernism and its contributions to the field of economincs, though, lie elsewhere.

The best known advocate of the "late capitalist" approach is the literary and cultural theorist Fredric Jameson. Jameson (1991) captures the flavor of treating postmodernisn as the cultural form of the latest phase of capitalist development in his frequent reference to three identifying aspects of "late capitalism": mass communication, a shift in the location and conditions of global production, and the rise of new industries (mostly in information technologies) that allow for the unbroken worldwide expansion of capitalist markets and, hence, profitability...

Let me translate this into English:

  • Everybody else uses "postmodern" to mean one thing.
  • We don't: we object to everybody else's meaning of "postmodern."
  • We won't tell you why we object to everybody else's meaning of "postmodern."
  • Even though we object to it, we don't want to disparage everybody else's work on "postmodernism."
  • In fact, we think economists should read this literature on "postmodernism" that we object to--but do not disparage.
  • Fredric Jameson had considerable intellectual success defining and investigating "postmodernism" as a particular cultural style--a reflection of the changes in the economic base of society brought about by globalization and by the rise of mass communications.
  • We're going to pull off an intellectual claim-jump on Jameson's word.
  • We're going to grab some of the intellectual excitement and voltage that Jameson has generated and loaded into "postmodernism."
  • We're going to do pull this energy over to our side by redefining Jameson's word, and using it as a label for our stuff, which is very different from his, which we object to.

Elementary discourse ethics and intellectual honor demand that Jameson be better treated: "postmodern" is his concept, with a meaning that he has given it, and that meaning should be respected.

links for 2007-06-01

Max Sawicky Quotes Herb Gintis

Herb Gintis says:

MaxSpeak, You Listen!: QUOTATIONS FROM CHAIRMAN HERB: Sam [Bowles] and spent several years trying to shore up Marx's labor theory of value. We called it "Sites and Practices," and we tried to make it work. Alfredo Medio, who made the labor theory of value an analytical device, inspired much of our work on this topic, But... [quoting Geoff Hodgson] 'After you make the labor theory of value look pretty and work it out so that it is intellectually credible, you no longer have the labor theory of value, but something quite different. So, why call it the labor theory of value?'

TPM Cafe Book Club: Neoclassical Economics: Threat or Menace?

My comment on the Christopher Hayes discussion over at TPM Cafe:

It's Different for Lefties and Righties | TPMCafe: My view is that the neoclassical economics toolkit can be very, very useful--no, stronger than that, is very useful and necessary--for everybody from the center on left. The methodological individualism of the toolkit forces you to look at real people and how situations help or hurt them. The competitive market benchmark assumed by the toolkit requires you to think carefully and specifically about just where the externalities are that keep you from relying on markets alone to solve whatever problem you are looking at. The equilibrium conditions established by the toolkit force you to check for unanticipated consequences, for blowback due to changes in incentives and so forth.

The result is that the neoclassical economics toolkit makes you a smarter, stronger, more powerful, more effective, more reality-based leftie.

By contrast, the neoclassical toolkit can be absolute poison for people right on center. It functions like a kind of crack, reducing their arguments to empty slogans: "the market takes care of that"; "acts of capitalism between consenting adults"; "they hired the money, didn't they?"; "it's not the government's, it's theirs."

People right-of-center should be exposed to the neoclassical economics toolkit only after posting a $1M bond to cover collateral damage, and only under the supervision of trained professionals.

Historical Scholarship and the New Media

Courtesy of Eric Rauchway and the U.C. Davis History Department:

Historical Scholarship and the New Media: A History Colloquium event sponsored by the UC Davis Department of History, the Institute of Governmental Affairs, and the Center for History, Society and Culture, with Brad DeLong, Scott Eric Kaufman, Tedra Osell, and Ari Kelman, held May 23, 2007, at 12:10 in the Andrews Room of the Social Sciences and Humanities Building.

Downloadable .mp4 podcast (82.2M, slightly over 50 minutes of video):

Copyrights That No One Knows About Don’t Help Anyone

Mark Thoma sends us to Hal Varian:

Copyrights That No One Knows About Don’t Help Anyone - New York Times: Since there is no requirement to register a work and a copyright lasts so long, the legal owner of a work can be difficult to find, particularly when the work is more than a few decades old. When some librarians at Carnegie Mellon University tried to request permissions to digitize a collection of out-of-print books, they were unable to find more than 20 percent of the rights holders, despite persistent efforts. Failing to locate rights holders can be costly since copyright infringement may be subject to statutory damages of up to $150,000 an incident....

[The Copyright Office proposed that] if you conducted a “diligent search” to locate a rights holder and still failed to find the owner, you would be off the hook. You could then incorporate the work in question into your own work, as long as you provided proper attribution. If the legitimate rights holder was subsequently found, he or she could not require that your work be withdrawn from circulation, but could collect “reasonable compensation” for use....

If easily accessible copyright registries existed, the courts would probably find that simply searching the registries would satisfy the diligent search requirement. Creators of works with commercial potential would then have strong incentives to register their works. In such a world, a legal requirement to register works could be redundant, since the commercial incentives to register would be strong....

Creating a registry is not that difficult from either a technological or a business perspective. The Copyright Clearance Center ( was established by a group of publishers in 1978 to provide rights clearance for printed works. The Harry Fox Agency ( serves as a clearinghouse for those who want to make recordings of songs, and there are plenty of Web sites devoted to image search to ease the sharing of photographs...

Hoisted From the Archives: What to Do About the Health Care Crisis

Paul Krugman and Robin Wells:

The Health Care Crisis and What to Do About It - The New York Review of Books: [T]he available evidence suggests that if the United States were to replace its current complex mix of health insurance systems with standardized, universal coverage, the savings would be so large that we could cover all those currently uninsured, yet end up spending less overall. That's what happened in Taiwan, which adopted a single-payer system in 1995: the percentage of the population with health insurance soared from 57 percent to 97 percent, yet health care costs actually grew more slowly than one would have predicted from trends before the change in system....

Exhibit A for the advantages of government provision is the Veterans' Administration, which runs its own hospitals and clinics, and provides some of the best-quality health care in America at far lower cost than the private sector. How does the VA do it? It turns out that there are many advantages to having a single health care organization provide individuals with what amounts to lifetime care. For example, the VA has taken the lead in introducing electronic medical records, which it can do far more easily than a private hospital chain because its patients stay with it for decades. The VA also invests heavily and systematically in preventive care, because unlike private health care providers it can expect to realize financial benefits from measures that keep its clients out of the hospital.

In summary, then, the obvious way to make the US health care system more efficient is to make it more like the systems of other advanced countries, and more like the most efficient parts of our own system. That means a shift from private insurance to public insurance, and greater government involvement in the provision of health care—if not publicly run hospitals and clinics, at least a much larger government role in creating integrated record-keeping and quality control. Such a system would probably allow individuals to purchase additional medical care, as they can in Britain (although not in Canada). But the core of the system would be government insurance....

Imagine, for a moment, that some future US administration were to push through a fundamental reform of health care that covered all the uninsured, replaced private insurance with a single-payer system, and took heed of the VA's lessons about the advantages of integrated health care. Would our health care problems be solved? No. Although real reform would bring great improvement in our situation, continuing technological progress in health care still poses a deep dilemma: How much of what we can do should we do?...

Our Princeton colleague Uwe Reinhardt, a leading economic expert on health care, put it this way: our focus right now should be on eliminating the gross inefficiencies we know exist in the US health care system. If we do that, we will be able to cover the uninsured while spending less than we do now. Only then should we address the issue of what not to do; that's tomorrow's issue, not today's....

Even liberal economists and scholars at progressive think tanks tend to shy away from proposing a straightforward system of national health insurance. Instead, they propose fairly complex compromise plans... to achieve universal coverage by requiring everyone to buy health insurance.... Proponents of such plans make a few arguments for their superiority to a single-payer system, mainly the (dubious) claim that single-payer would reduce medical innovation. But the main reason for not proposing single-payer is political fear: reformers believe that private insurers are too powerful to cut out of the loop, and that a single-payer plan would be too easily demonized by business and political propagandists as "big government."

These are the same political calculations that led Bill Clinton to reject a single-payer system in 1993... he proposed a complex plan designed to preserve a role for private health insurers.... The insurers opposed it anyway.... We believe that the compromise plans being proposed by the cautious reformers would run into the same political problems, and that it would be politically smarter as well as economically superior to go for broke: to propose a straightforward single-payer system, and try to sell voters on the huge advantages such a system would bring...

Hoisted from the Archives: The Health Care Crisis

Paul Krugman and Robin Wells on the health care crisis:

The Health Care Crisis and What to Do About It - The New York Review of Books: [H]ealth care spending is rising rapidly.... "[N]ew medical technology" is the major factor in rising spending: we spend more on medicine because there's more that medicine can do. Third, in medical care, "technological advances have generally raised costs rather than lowered them": although new technology surely produces cost savings in medicine, as elsewhere, the additional spending that takes place as a result of the expansion of medical possibilities outweighs those savings.

So far, this sounds like a happy story. We've found new ways to help people, and are spending more to take advantage of the opportunity. Why not view rising medical spending, like rising spending on, say, home entertainment systems, simply as a rational response to expanded choice? We would suggest two answers.

The first is that the US health care system is extremely inefficient, and this inefficiency becomes more costly as the health care sector [grows].... The inefficiency of our health care system exacerbates a second problem: our health care system often makes irrational choices.... American health care tends to divide the population into insiders and outsiders. Insiders, who have good insurance, receive everything modern medicine can provide.... Outsiders... receive very little.... In response to new medical technology, the system spends even more on insiders. But it compensates for higher spending on insiders, in part, by consigning more people to outsider status—robbing Peter of basic care in order to pay for Paul's state-of-the-art treatment. Thus we have the cruel paradox that medical progress is bad for many Americans' health....

In 2003 only 16 percent of health care spending consisted of out-of-pocket expenditures by consumers. The rest was paid for by insurance, public or private.... [I]n any given year, most people have small medical bills, while a few people have very large bills.... 20 percent of the population accounted for 80 percent of expenses. Half the population had virtually no medical expenses; a mere 1 percent of the population accounted for 22 percent of expenses.... [I]f people had to pay for medical care the way they pay for groceries, they would have to forego most of what modern medicine has to offer, because they would quickly run out of funds in the face of medical emergencies.

So the only way modern medical care can be made available to anyone other than the very rich is through health insurance. Yet it's very difficult for the private sector to provide such insurance, because health insurance suffers from a particularly acute case of a well-known economic problem known as adverse selection.... [I]magine an insurer who offered policies to anyone, with the annual premium set to cover the average person's health care expenses.... Who would sign up?.... Healthy people, with little reason to expect high medical bills, would probably shun policies priced to reflect the average person's health costs.... The insurance company would quickly find that... actual costs per customer were much higher than those of the average member of the population. So it would have to raise premiums to cover those higher costs. However, this would disproportionately drive off its healthier customers, leaving it with an even less healthy customer base, requiring a further rise in premiums.... Insurance companies deal with these problems, to some extent, by carefully screening applicants... [which] tends to screen out exactly those who most need insurance.

Most advanced countries have dealt with the defects of private health insurance in a straightforward way, by making health insurance a government service. Through Medicare, the United States has in effect done the same thing for its seniors. We also have Medicaid... But nonelderly, nonpoor Americans are on their own... [and] get insurance, if at all, through their employers.

Employer-based insurance is a peculiarly American institution... the result of historical accident.... Employer-based insurance has historically offered a partial solution to the problem of adverse selection.... 63.1 percent of Americans under sixty-five received health insurance through their employers or family members' employers.... [T]he whole system of employer-based health care is under severe strain.... Providing health insurance looked like a good way for employers to reward their employees when it was a small part of the pay package. Today, however, the annual cost of coverage for a family of four is estimated by the Kaiser Family Foundation at more than $10,000.... Now that health costs loom so large, companies that provide generous benefits are in effect paying some of their workers much more than the going wage—or, more to the point, more than competitors pay similar workers. Inevitably, this creates pressure to reduce or eliminate health benefits. And companies that can't cut benefits enough to stay competitive—-such as GM—-find their very existence at risk.

Rising health costs have also ended the ability of employer-based insurance plans to avoid the problem of adverse selection.... [E]mployers are starting to make hiring decisions based on likely health costs....

Notice that this unraveling is the byproduct of what should be a good thing: advances in medical technology, which lead doctors to spend more on their patients. This leads to higher insurance costs, which causes employers to stop providing health coverage. The result is that many people are thrown into the world of the uninsured, where even basic care is often hard to get. As we said, we rob Peter of basic care in order to provide Paul with state-of-the-art treatment...

Bush's 'New Climate Strategy'

Impeach George W. Bush now. David Roberts:

Bush's 'new climate strategy' | Gristmill: The environmental news blog | Grist: Today's headlines are full of the news that President Bush is "unveiling a new climate strategy." If your immediate reaction is cynicism, well ... looks like you learned something over the last seven years. Let's look a little closer.... Today's headlines are full of the news that President Bush is "unveiling a new climate strategy." If your immediate reaction is cynicism, well ... looks like you learned something over the last seven years. Let's look a little closer....

As you can see -- and as you would expect -- this announcement from Bush is not a genuine change of heart on climate change. The U.S. still will not agree to any emission reduction targets. It will not agree that the developed countries bear primary responsibility for climate change. It will not sign on to the growing consensus among developed nations about how to tackle the problem

This announcement is an attempt to run out the clock on the Bush administration without committing to anything but sweetheart deals for corporate backers.

Same as it ever was.

The Proposed Health Security Act of 1994

Jonathan Cohn has a very nice piece on the Proposed Health Security Act of 1994, defending the policy proposals. I suspect that his heart isn't fully in it, however. Consider this:

TNR Online | Hillary was Right (1 of 2) (print): Hillary Clinton wants the world to know that... "both the process and the plan were flawed"... demonstrating a level of contrition more fitting for an Iraq war architect. "We were trying to do something that was very hard to do, and we made a lot of mistakes."...

The task force had included this [hard] cap [on what insurance companies could charge for health insurance] partly to satisfy the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which, in its official estimates of the program's cost, wouldn't assume that having a bunch of insurance plans was likely to save money, as the Clintons insisted it would. Since CBO's projections would guide the debate, and since political moderates were likely to abandon the plan if it threatened to raise deficit spending or spark new taxes, the task force threw in the cap. But it was entirely possible premiums would not have exceeded the caps, at least not for a while: In fact, over the next few years, premium increases stayed under the limits set by the caps. And that was without a lot of the administrative savings that Hillarycare would have generated. Don't forget, too, that Congress always had the power to ease the caps if they really threatened to disrupt medical services--although the hope was always that limiting spending would ultimately push the health care system to be even more efficient...

Jonathan's argument is: the bad parts of the bill could have been fixed later on if they turned out to be really bad. But why not simply propose a good bill in the first place? The argument that it's a good bill because even though it's a bad bill you can pass a good bill later--that's not a very strong argument.

As I watched things in 1993 and 1994 from my perch at the Treasury Department, there were four relevant factions in the game: (1) there was a left-wing Democratic faction that would rather have no bill at all than a bill with a benefits package they regarded as insufficient, (2) there was a centrist faction that would not vote for a bill that increased the projected deficit, (3) there was a center-right Democratic-Republican faction that would not vote for a bill that contained explicit large tax increases, and (4) there was a faction that was strongly averse to anything that smelled of price controls and explicit rationing--and thus averse to hard premium caps. The support of all four of these factions was necessary to pass a bill.

The White House's task was to figure out which of these four factions to disappoint, and then to find some way to pressure them so that they would vote for the bill anyway.

The Treasury view--the Lloyd Bentsen view--was that the faction to pressure was faction (1) by saying: This is a very big step in the right direction, this is a very big improvement over what we have now. And this is not the last step America will take along this road.

The view that the White House adopted was that the faction to pressure was faction (4). In my view, this was the big political mistake: The problem was that the head of that faction was the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and that the rest of that faction was composed of moderate Republicans who were looking for a principled reason to justify knuckling under to Gingrich and the other crazies in their leadership.

I am told that Hillary Rodham Clinton rejects Jonathan Cohn's claim that she "was right the first time" and stands by her judgment that the process and the plan were flawed"... we made a lot of mistakes." I think that she is right--and that ability to learn is one of the many things that makes her an attractivce politician today--certainly infinitely more attractive than any of the Republicans on offer.

Speaking of the Thunderdome...

Speaking of the Thunderdome, Whole Foods is moving into downtown Lafayette, where Trader Joe's and Diablo Foods currently thrive. Trader Joe's has already started training, responding to Whole Foods's "You can buy a meal for four here for under $20! We're not that expensive!" with its "You can buy a meal for four here for $1.58!"

Three yuppies grocery stores enter. How many will leave?

Kevin Drum Is Shrill!

He pleads with Andrew Sullivan to stop the insanity:

The Washington Monthly: BEATING A DEAD HORSE.... At the end of a post where he freaks out over a preposterously inappropriate way of measuring the federal deficit, Andrew Sullivan says this:

I also noticed in my latest letter from the Social Security Administration that, as currently configured, I'll get 76 percent of what I'm due if and when I retire. My bet is that it will turn out to be less than half. The boomers are going to hog all of it for themselves.

Please. Just stop it. Assuming Wikipedia has his age right, Andrew will turn 65 in 2028. Even if we do absolutely nothing, CBO estimates that Social Security will pay out full benefits at least until 2053. Andrew will be 90 years old at that point. What's more, a very modest tax increase starting a decade from now combined with a very modest slowdown in benefit growth will keep the system solvent forever.

This is grade school arithmetic, and the basic data is available with no more than a few minutes of googling. Can we please knock off the scaremongering on this subject?

Fruitless. Of course.

Barack Obama Health Plan

Barack Obama has a health plan:

It appears to be a combination of all possible health care plans--children first, beef up public provision, pay-or-play, health alliances to level the insurance playing field, FEHBP for all--accompanied by a commitment to reinforce whatever works.

Impeach George W. Bush. Now

Why we struggle:

Matthew Yglesias: When All Else Fails: Experts note that the Bush administration's reliance on "enhanced interrogation methods" hasn't worked: "a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable." And of course they are. These are the methods that have historically been deployed by authoritarian regimes looking to generate false confessions (think the Spanish Inquisition or Stalin) for the purpose of cowing the population into submission, they're not real investigative techniques.

Comments: While I agree, your analysis only is correct if the purpose of the torture was to gain information to stop terrorist attacks. It's clear instead that the real purpose was to satisfy certain abnormal psychological needs by members of the administration and their supporters to look "tough" and prove to the terrorists that we can be just as inhuman as they can. Posted by Ron.

Views on Bob Zoellick for World Bank President

A Washington insider writes:

Zoellick had tried, very hard, to get the Bank prior to Wolfowitz's selection.... Zoellick is a "safe" choice, in that he is not scandal-prone, and carries no toxic baggage from the Iraq disaster. His work on Darfur should have shown Wolfowitz's Sub Saharan African constituency that Zoellick is sensitive to issues of concern to them. His work at USTR got him into the international elites of trade ministerials, and at State with the foreign ministers and heads of state. Zoellick's contribution to adult supervision of Asia policy was and remains critical, especially his coining of the "responsible stakeholder" concept to give China a set of positive values and ideas to meld with government policy....

There is a potential down side, of course, as with any nomination made in extremis, and in Zoellick's case it's the risk that certain personality traits will carry over, and create problems with his Bank colleagues different than the Wolfowitz debacle, but no less damaging.... Zoellick was forced out of his presidency of CSIS here in Washington... for some of the same problems which cropped up at USTR: He has a terrible temper, he is "prone to tirades" - a daily dump on Japan generally, and its trade ministers specifically, came to be something of a ritual at USTR - and he has been known to keep "enemies lists".... A telling story attributed to Condi Rice by a fellow journalist, "Condi let's Bob do whatever he wants, so long as she doesn't have to talk to him about it."

Zoellick also has some potential problems with Democrats... his tenure at USTR came during the height of the Tom DeLay/Bill Thomas apartheid policy which barely allowed House Dems to vote... his acquiescence to those First Term tactics....

But for the White House, apparently all is forgotten and/or forgiven, and once again it can be seen that Bush values and will promote loyalty, above all else. In Zoellick's case, however, his intellectual qualifications, his sincerity, and his passion for the job cannot be understated.

Matthew Yglesias is more enthusiastic about Bob Zoellick for World Bank President than I have seen him be about any other Bush appointee:

Matthew Yglesias: Sweet Mediocrity: Robert Zoellick, who doesn't seem to have done the country any good as US Trade Representative or as Deputy Secretary of State, but who also has the rare distinction of having served at a high level of the Bush administration without directly causing any major fiascos is set to head the World Bank. A record of solid mediocrity and basic lack of distinction seems like the best we can reasonably hope for from this president, so I'll consider it a reasonably strong pick. Zoellick even has some background in financial and economic issues, unlike his predecessor. Nevertheless, I still feel that Bush should consider appointing Jim Leach to some kind of job at some point rather than endlessly relying on the team of Khalilzad and Zoellick when called upon to give a position to a non-discredited person.

An Historical Document from 1994: Health Care Press Briefing by Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen

Lloyd Bentsen was a great pleasure to work for, in large part because he could make such good use of the stuff we did in his Office of Economic Policy. The White House health care staff made very little use of him in the summer of 1994. I will never understand why not: he was very effective in holding Republican moderates' feet to the fire:

American Presidency Project: Press Briefing by Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen: July 20th, 1994:

MS. MYERS: As you know Secretary Bentsen will be briefing; the briefing is on a Treasury study. Following that briefing, Alicia Munnell, who is the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, will be generally available to answer specific questions about methodology and other questions related more specifically to the study. So, here is Secretary Bentsen.

SECRETARY BENTSEN: This is for all the crowd that's under 40.

Q: You just lost a lot of people here.

SECRETARY BENTSEN: I'm often asked, who are these people, who are these Americans without health insurance? So that's what we've done -- we've dedicated a study to accomplish that information. And we did that analysis, we did it state by state and we did it by congressional districts trying to determine who these people are without health insurance. Are they young, are they out of a job? The bottom line is they're middle-income Americans that are your neighbors. Let me illustrate that with the congressional district that I once represented, and it's now my neighborhood. They blew up this page on Texas for the report. And I hope that you take a look at your states and congressional districts like I'm doing for Texas.

In the 15th congressional district, that's on the Mexican border, that's a district now represented by Congressman Kika del la Garza; once upon a time I represented it. These are 173,000 in that congressional district that are uninsured. Almost 82 percent of them are from working families and 58,000 of them are uninsured children. In Texas there are 3.8 million people with no insurance; 84 percent of them are in working families and 972,000 of them are children. Think about it -- almost a million children in Texas have no insurance.

These are not folks that hire lobbyists. They really don't have anyone to speak for them in this debate. But they're the ones that I think are the most vulnerable. Now you know why as a Senator from Texas I spent so much time trying to get improved health care for children. Now we have a chance to complete that job.

There's a sense in this country that the uninsured are poor; that they're the elderly, they're the disabled. That's just not true. Most of these individuals already have coverage through Medicaid, through Medicare, through public assistance. By far, most of the uninsured are members of middle-income working families. The Treasury study shows there are 37 million uninsured; 84 percent are in working families; 8.3 million of them are children. And these people aren't all poor. One in three is a member of a family making over $30,000 a year. Most uninsured either have an employer who doesn't have or doesn't provide coverage, or the worker can't afford to buy it without help. And for most of the uninsured, being without insurance -- it's a long-term, not a short-term problem.

If you have insurance, it's easy to say, well, you know, this doesn't affect me; the uninsured -- that's their problem, not my problem. Don't you believe that; that's not right. It's your problem, too, because insurance costs are then higher. You've got a bed that isn't paid for in that hospital, you've got a doctor that's not paid, you've got a nurse that's not paid -- those fees go up. The hospital cost per bed goes up for those of us that have the insurance. Or if you have a public-owned hospital, like a city hospital, and the bills aren't paid, your taxes go up.

I used to be on the board of Texas Childrens Hospital in Houston. Last year they had over $40 million worth of unpaid bills. I was visiting a hospital in Dallas -- over $40 million of unpaid bills. They finally get paid -- you pay it; again, either through your taxes or through increased insurance costs. Let me conclude by saying, we have a serious shot at achieving universal coverage. And I think it makes sense to build on the employer-employee relationship, since that's where most people obtain their insurance. And we need health care to be affordable to both employers and employees. And that's important to every one of us.

Every one of us can tell a story about a family member, about a co-worker, about a neighbor who runs into trouble with the current system. That's what we're talking about; that's what we're trying to fix.

And who's first?

Q: Mr. Secretary, if 95 percent of the American public is insured as a result of new legislation, is that universal coverage?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: I think universal coverage, when you define it, what we're talking about is guaranteeing to every American the right of insurance. Now, does that mean you're going to get 100 percent? No, you're not. But I think you have to look at it to see how it's implemented over a period of time; how access is ultimately guaranteed to them. And I think that must remain the objective, not a defined percentage.

Q: You're a former senator, and you know the mix up there on the Hill. Every senator and your former colleagues are saying that employer mandates are dead in the Senate. What other way can you get to universal coverage without the employer mandate?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: Well, I frankly think that's the best way, and so does the President of the United States. And I think that's the least disruptive way. I think that's the way most people get their insurance now. I look at other systems. I look at what's happened in Hawaii in that regard. I look at the German system. So that is preferred. That does not mean that we won't look, and the President shouldn't look at other possible solutions if they achieve universal coverage. You have to stay with that basic need.

Q: Can you get there through an individual mandate, or a combination of mandates?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: I don't think we should try to pick out that one. We're seeing, at this point, there will obviously be negotiations as you look at what's offered -- if they get to the objective of universal coverage. And that just has to be.

Q: What are the other options?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: Well, Helen, there are a myriad of options.

Q: Like what?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: You know what they all are. You've got things with additional incentives and subsidies that are being offered. You're looking at situations where you've still got the single-payer approach by some. So there's a whole myriad of options. But you will look at each as it comes up. I don't think that the President ever expected that his program would come through without some changes. That's the way the congressional system works. I spent 22 years worrying about all the power at this end of Pennsylvania. And I've spent the last year and a half worrying about all the power at the other end of Pennsylvania.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you think employer mandates can go through?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: Well, we're working at it, and we're pushing it. And I think that's the best system.

Q: If you do get a bill with universal health coverage, define who are those who do slip through the cracks. Is it the same $30,000-a-year people who don't choose to buy health care now?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: You can't -- you don't know that until you see the final structure of the legislation.

Q: Who do you miss if you have universal health coverage?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: It depends on which one you adopt. You've got all kinds of proposals out there.

Q: If you adopt the President's plan?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: If you get the President's plan, every person is going to be guaranteed the right for health insurance. The things you worry about is the fact -- as you go through some kind of an illness, they're going to take your insurance away from you. You worry about that. We see that that doesn't happen. You want to change jobs and you want portability. We see that they can't take the insurance away from you. Talk about preexisting conditions, and we take care of that. Those are the concerns of people -- how they might lose their insurance. And the President's legislation sees that doesn't happen.

Q: But he says no plan will actually hit 100 percent of the people. And since you're trying to break a myth on who doesn't have the insurance now, who wouldn't have it? Who is he worried about that wouldn't have it if a bill only sets its sights on 95 percent or 98 percent?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: Well, you set your sights on 100 percent and there will always be some slippage.

Q: Senator Breaux said he would be meeting with the President later this afternoon. And, as you know, he has proposed the idea of a trigger mechanism which would only impose employer mandate if voluntary measures don't work. Is that an idea the administration is willing to accept?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: Well, I've negotiated with the Congress a long time, and I always turn my cards over one at a time. I never turn them all over at once.

Q: Secretary Bentsen, you mention the problem with cost shifting in Texas Childrens Hospital. The President said yesterday that if you get to 95 percent, you can do something about cost shifting. Is that --

SECRETARY BENTSEN: Well, that certainly has a material effect on cost shifting. No question it has an effect.

Q: Are you able to solve the problem?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: That certainly doesn't totally eliminate it.

Q: Sir, some members on the Hill, some of the more liberal Democrats who are suggesting they're feeling let down or even betrayed by the President's remarks yesterday; that he seems to be caving in and he's backing away. You're a veteran of the Senate and the parallel is already being drawn to his withdrawal from support of the BTU tax and leaving some members out on a limb on that one. Do you see a similar kind of situation developing now?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: I don't see the President backing down. He's made these statements before. He's continued to make the statements that he's for universal coverage. He believes in universal coverage. He wants that, that's his objective. If someone can find a less expensive way to do it, a better way to do it, he's ready to listen. But as long as that principle is retained of universal coverage. If they can find a way to do it without employer mandates, fine. That is his preferred way and, frankly, it's mine. I think it's less destructive to the system.

Q: You said in your comments in defining universal coverage that it means guaranteeing the right to insurance. Since we're having such a discussion of semantics in the last 24 hours, what's the difference between guaranteeing the right to insurance and the guaranteeing insurance? Is there any? It sounds like the debate between access and --

SECRETARY BENTSEN: I don't see any difference there, no.

Q: Well, just to follow up on that -- is health care a right? Do Americans have a right to health care?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: Sure. It's got to be paid for, but I think every American ought to have a right to health insurance. And it's talking about the children and how many of them we have. One of the things I worked on in the Senate was trying to get more health coverage and health attainment for children and taking care of those problems. That's an enormous number of the constituents we're talking about that are uninsured.

Q: Does your study show why these people don't have health insurance, particularly those with incomes over $30,000?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: No, it doesn't. But this shows the reality of what's happened. This does not go to the cause. It's not that kind of a study. But you sure know that in many instances, it's because of some of these conditions we talked about -- preexisting conditions; some of them that the premium has gone so high that they can't afford it without some help. I tell you what happens in small business, I used to be a businessman. What you have, when you see that the cost for small business goes 30 and 40 percent above what it is for big business and still trying to be competitive; when you have a situation where somebody in your small business suddenly has a very serious illness and you see an experience rating by the insurance company and they jack up your premiums substantially the next year, and what do you do? You look for a competitor, maybe, to sell you the insurance. Or you increase the deductible. Then you increase the co-insurance, then you drop the dependents. And then, finally, you drop the policy altogether. And that's what we face and what we're trying to take care of after.

Q: Mr. Secretary, how are you sure that this, if it passes, will not become another runaway entitlement?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: Well, I think that cost containment has to be a part of the package and trying to figure out how that can best be done. I think that's essential, and I think that's critical.

Q: And you're satisfied that the Clinton plan achieves that goal?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: We sure looked at the numbers a long time and we crunched those numbers over in Treasury.

Q: Mr. Secretary, how would you characterize Senator Dole's speech yesterday to the governors? Do you see flexibility in his approach or do you think he's hardening his position?

SECRETARY BENTSEN: I would not try to analyze that speech.

Q: Mr. Secretary, while we have you for a second, could you comment on the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, is suggesting today that interest rates --

SECRETARY BENTSEN: I knew I should have left once --

Q: He's suggesting interest rates --

SECRETARY BENTSEN: Wolf, I do not try to predict what the Federal Reserve is going to do. I think that the Federal Reserve and Alan Greenspan shares with us the objective of long-term growth with low inflation. And thank you very much.

END 11:30 A.M. EDT

Citation: John Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database). Available from World Wide Web:

links for 2007-05-30

Gristmill: Global Warming Zombie Arguments Page

David Roberts directs Matthew Yglesias to the "Global Warming Zombie Arguments" page:

Gristmill: The environmental news blog | Grist: How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: Below is a complete listing of the articles in "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," a series by Coby Beck containing responses to the most common skeptical arguments on global warming. There are four separate taxonomies; arguments are divided by: Stages of Denial, Scientific Topics, Types of Argument, and Levels of Sophistication.

Individual articles will appear under multiple headings and may even appear in multiple subcategories in the same heading...

Puzzling College Enrollment Rate

Greg Ip wrote, a while ago:

Washington Wire - Portion of High-School Grads Heading to College Shrinks: A welcome surge in the share of high-school graduates going to college has come to a halt, at least for now. First, some background: College graduates earn more than high-school graduates, and that premium is a lot bigger than it was 20 years ago. There are numerous reasons but one might be that after rising for most of the postwar period, the share of the work force with college degrees stopped growing, constricting supply just as demand for highly skilled workers took off.

Earlier this decade, there were signs of a shift. Responding perhaps to both the college wage premium and the weak job market, the proportion of high-school students who enrolled in college the fall after they graduated rose from 61.7% in 2001 to 68.6% in 2005, the highest since data began in 1959. To be sure, many of those enrollees never finished college but on balance it suggested the supply of college graduates was about to head higher. But last fall, the college enrollment rate dropped back to 65.8%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week.

Exactly why is unclear. The tighter labor market ought to have encouraged some kids to take jobs instead of go to college. But the report showed just 46% of high-school graduates were working last fall, down from 49.3% the prior year. The proportion unemployed but looking for work rose to 13.7% from 11.4%, and the proportion neither working, looking for work nor in college also rose, to 12.3% from 9.9%...

It's not just that the college premium is bigger than it was a generation ago: it's roughly 90% compared to 30% a generation ago. A lot more people should be going to college, for any economist's definition of "should."

Capax Imperii, Nisi Imperasset

If Robert Zoellick had not served the Bush administration without distinction as Special Trade Representative and as Deputy Secretary of State, I would be enthusiastic about his World Bank President candidacy. But the fact that he has done nothing in his last two government jobs makes me wonder whether an alternative candidate should be found.

Eoin Callan of the FT reports: / In depth - Zoellick frontrunner to lead World Bank : Robert Zoellick, former US deputy secretary of state, has emerged as the frontrunner to be the next president of the World Bank. Senior US administration officials expect a decision on the successor to Paul Wolfowitz, who steps down as bank president on June 30 following an ethics scandal, to be announced this week in Washington.... Zoellick, 53, a former US trade representative under Mr Bush, has widespread experience of and high-level contacts with Europe, China, Latin America and Africa. He was heavily involved in the peaceful reunification of Germany and played a leading role in efforts to revive the Doha trade round.

US officials cautioned that the final decision on the successor to Mr Wolfowitz had yet to be made. The other candidate was said to be Robert Kimmitt, deputy US Treasury secretary. Officials have insisted the next bank president will be an American chosen by the White House, despite demands from member countries for an open selection process. Australia has thrown its weight behind demands for a change to the selection process for the presidency of the World Bank. Peter Costello, the Australian treasurer, wants the next head of the Washington-based development aid organisation to be chosen on the basis of an “open, transparent process’’ that will be based on merit and open to candidates from any country, not just the US...

Matthew Yglesias's China Watch

Today's news depresses him:

Matthew Yglesias: I suppose I'm just an optimist at heart, but reading about how the People's Republic of China is going to execute to former head of the PRC food and drug regulatory agency tends to confirm my belief that China's going to find it extremely difficult to continue on the path of prosperity and autocracy.

You reach for these kind of extremely harsh punishments when you recognize that you have a lot of people getting away with a brand of crime that you think it's very important to curb. China, in short, has a large corruption problem, and very little success at catching corrupt officials. Thus, executions. But this sort of law enforcement strategy rarely works. It's much better to catch a large proportion of violators and mete out a moderate punishment than to catch only a small proportion of violators and then clamp down super harshly. But the only even vaguely effective means of clamping down on public corruption is to allow for a free press and competitive politics; the things that create institutions with incentives to expose corruption.

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Washington Post Edition)

Q: Is there any level of stupidity which a Washington Post time-server's column can sink that will get it pulled from the morning paper?

A: No, as Richard Cohen's column this morning demonstrates.

Five years, Washington Post, five years unless you repent.

New Pairodimes makes the catch:

New Pairodimes: Richard Cohen of the Washington Post today has topped himself. By topping, I mean bottomed out. But in Cohen's world words are malleable. If you want to, you can just make s--- up, and still get paid as an expert.

Years ago, someone coined the term "neoliberal." I was never sure what it meant, and it has since fallen into disuse, but whatever the case, I'd like to revive (and mangle) the term and apply it -- brace yourself -- to George W. Bush. He's more liberal than you might think.

Neo-Liberal must mean something like a liberal. Let's call Bush that and see if it flies. He is at 30% in the polls. Conservatives will appreciate not being tainted with him, and it will make liberals mad at me!

You recoil, I know. After all, the conventional wisdom is that Bush is the most conservative of all presidents, an advocate of limited government, minimal taxes and, when it comes to the quintessentially liberal concern with civil liberties, the man who gave us the twin black eyes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. It's an appalling record.

It's a liberal abuse of power. See where I am going with this? No? Well neither do I!...

[L]et's take a look at the much-mocked notion of diversity. Bill Clinton was widely berated for his effort to have an administration that looked like America -- women, African Americans, Hispanics, you name it. Whether by design or not, Bush has also managed that feat. A female education secretary is one thing, but a national security adviser -- the uber-macho post -- is something else, and that went first to Condi Rice. And over at Justice, Bush chose Alberto Gonzales, the son of Hispanic migrant workers and, incidentally, a lawyer with the singular gift of forgetting meetings he attended. (In private practice, did he forget to bill?)... I am not suggesting that any of these appointees -- including Bush's former White House counsel, Harriet Miers -- are what is pejoratively known as affirmative action hires. I am suggesting, though, that Bush has not only diversified his Cabinet and staff but obviously got enormous satisfaction in doing so. You only have to listen to Bush talk about the virtues of immigration -- another liberal sentiment -- or his frequent mention of the "soft bigotry of low expectations" to appreciate that the president is a sentimental softie, what was once dismissively called a "mushy-headed liberal."... Allow me to make the case that this is also true when it comes to Iraq. I acknowledge that the war is a catastrophic mistake and was incompetently managed. But... one reason for our involvement was an attempt to do some good -- rid the world of a really bad guy and make life better for Iraqis.... Bush's neoliberal instincts have come a cropper across the board. His appointees have too often been incompetent, and his well-intentioned education act is underfunded. But it is with Iraq that real and long-term damage has been done. For years to come, his war will be cited to smother any liberal impulse in American foreign policy -- to further discredit John F. Kennedy's vow to "pay any price, bear any burden . . . to assure the survival and the success of liberty." We shall revert to this thing called "realism," which is heartless and cynical, no matter what its other virtues. The debacle of Iraq has cost us -- and others -- plenty in lives. But in the end, it will cost us our soul as well...

If anybody is interested, Richard Cohen could have discovered in less than two minutes that the term "neoliberalism" was coined to describe the Washington Monthly's Charlie Peters and his posse, who wanted a reality-based liberalism, an effective liberalism, a liberalism that sought truth from facts and that proposed policies not because they resonated with a liberal interest group but because they were good for the country and the world. See Ezra Klein and Charlie Peters.

Five years, Washington Post. Five years.

links for 2007-05-29

Matthew Yglesias on the Need for Liberal Internationalism

The U.S. is relatively strong, but is likely to get weaker over time. It needs to build a world that will be friendly to it when it is relatively weaker. Thus the need for liberal internationalism--as opposed to pissing everybody off by acting like a drunk, paranoid brachiasaurus:

Matthew Yglesias: National Journal had a cover story last week that seems to have gone offline that saw America in decline. Ross Douthat had some doubts. Wending to a pragmatic third way, I think the salient point is that America's been in relative decline for a long time. As Robert Keohane points out in After Hegemony, the real "unipolar moment" came in 1945-46 when the United States accounted for something like half of world economic output, had a monopoly on nuclear weapons, and much of Europe and Asia was rubble.

Writing in the late 1980s, Paul Kennedy observed that both the USA and the USSR were experiencing relative decline and that the world order was shifting from a bipolar one to a multipolar one in which Japan, China, and a consolidating Europe would all play more prominent roles. What Kennedy missed, of course, is that the USSR was about to enter an extremely acute period of decline. Thus, from 1989-1993 or so, the #2 power declined so rapidly relative to the #1 power that America's continued slow-but-steady relative decline was masked.

This led to the Clinton years, where the United States played the role of hegemon, but did so relatively cautiously. Neoconservatives spent eight years fulminating that Clinton was being too cautious and missing the opportunity of a world-historical lifetime. In March 2001, Charles Krauthammer explained:

In the liberal internationalist view of the world, the U.S. is merely one among many--a stronger country, yes, but one that has to adapt itself to the will and the needs of "the international community." That is why the Clinton Administration was almost manic in pursuit of multilateral treaties--on chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear testing, proliferation. No matter that they could not be enforced. Our very signing would show us to be a good international citizen.This is folly. America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will.

There was certainly folly lurking somewhere in that column, but it wasn't in Bill Clinton's caution. Green Lantern foreign policy has merely proven that Clinton had this right. We're stronger than anyone else, but not nearly so strong that it doesn't benefit us to play nicely with others.

Michael Kinsley's got a lot of explaining to do for giving Charles Krauthammer a megaphone.

The Reality-Based Community Praises the Los Angeles Times

And the LA Times does indeed do very good on carbon taxes:

The Reality-Based Community: Yay, LAT: "Print it once and print it all" used to be the LA Times tradition for news; instead of dribbling out an evolving story in daily disconnected tidbits, they would run long, coherent, interpretable stories about situations.

Today's editorial on the carbon tax is in that tradition. Informed, thoughtful, and complete. They also resist the meme of "yeah, but it's politically infeasible" on the principle that everything not yet enacted is infeasible, tautologically, and that discourse like this is supposed to change that.

Angelenos: go out (on your feet, of course) and buy many copies of the print edition. Then go shop at everybody with an ad in it; spend a lot.

And here are selections:

Time to tax carbon - Los Angeles Times: IF YOU HAVE KIDS, take them to the beach. They should enjoy it while it lasts, because there's a chance that within their lifetimes California's beaches will vanish under the waves.Global warming will redraw the maps of the world. The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that sea levels will rise 7 to 23 inches by the end of the century; as the water gets higher, the sandy beaches that make California a tourist magnet will be washed away. Beachfront real estate will end up underwater, cliffs will erode faster, sea walls will buckle and inlets will become bays. The water supply will be threatened as mountain snowfall turns to rain and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta faces contamination with saltwater. Droughts will likely become more common, as will the wildfires they breed.

Global warming is happening and will accelerate regardless of what we do today, but the scenarios of climatologists' nightmares can still be avoided. Though the cost will be high, it pales in comparison to the cost of doing nothing.The proposed fixes for climate change are as numerous as its causes. Most only tinker at the edges of the problem, such as a California bill to phase out energy-inefficient lightbulbs. To produce the cuts in greenhouse gases needed to slow or stop global warming, the world will have to phase out the fossil fuels on which it relies....

The first is the simplest, and the least efficient: Just order the polluters to clean up. Unfortunately, that's the strategy favored by the Legislature....

Method No. 2: a cap-and-trade system. Under this system, the government decides how many tons of a given greenhouse gas can be emitted statewide and passes out credits to the emitters. Polluters trade credits among themselves; those for whom it's relatively cheap to cut emissions sell credits to those for whom it's expensive.... Cap-and-trade... has proved to be workable. In 1995, the federal government launched a cap-and-trade program for sulfur dioxide, the main ingredient in acid rain....

[F]or all its benefits, cap-and-trade still isn't the most effective or efficient approach. That distinction goes to Method No. 3: a carbon tax. While cap-and-trade creates opportunities for cheating, leads to unpredictable fluctuations in energy prices and does nothing to offset high power costs for consumers, carbon taxes can be structured to sidestep all those problems while providing a more reliable market incentive to produce clean-energy technology.... A carbon tax simply imposes a tax for polluting based on the amount emitted, thus encouraging polluters to clean up and entrepreneurs to come up with alternatives. The tax is constant and predictable. It doesn't require the creation of a new energy trading market, and it can be collected by existing state and federal agencies. It's straightforward and much harder to manipulate by special interests than the politicized process of allocating carbon credits....

There is a growing consensus among economists around the world that a carbon tax is the best way to combat global warming, and there are prominent backers across the political spectrum, from N. Gregory Mankiw, former chairman of the Bush administration's Council on Economic Advisors, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to former Vice President Al Gore and Sierra Club head Carl Pope. Yet the political consensus is going in a very different direction. European leaders are pushing hard for the United States and other countries to join their failed carbon-trading scheme, and there are no fewer than five bills before Congress that would impose a federal cap-and-trade system. On the other side, there is just one lonely bill in the House, from Rep. Pete Stark (D-Fremont), to impose a carbon tax, and it's not expected to go far.

The obvious reason is that, for voters, taxes are radioactive, while carbon trading sounds like something that just affects utilities and big corporations. The many green politicians stumping for cap-and-trade seldom point out that such a system would result in higher and less predictable power bills. Ironically, even though a carbon tax could cost voters less, cap-and-trade is being sold as the more consumer-friendly approach.

A well-designed, well-monitored carbon-trading scheme could deeply reduce greenhouse gases with less economic damage than pure regulation. But it's not the best way, and it is so complex that it would probably take many years to iron out all the wrinkles. Voters might well embrace carbon taxes if political leaders were more honest about the comparative costs...

Memorial Day

Memorial Day:

Daily Kos: Numbers & Commas: by DarkSyde

Q: "Tony, American deaths in Iraq have reached 2,500. Is there any response or reaction from the President on that?"

MR. SNOW: "It's a number, and every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something." -- White House Press Conference, 15 June 2006

"...I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma..." -- President George Bush, 24 September 2006

Ezra Klein Eats Barbecue on Memorial Day

First, however, he opines about the behavioral psychology of health care:

Ezra Klein: Preventive Care vs. Health Care?: Don't get me wrong, I'm fully for both preventive health measures and better public health policy. But I wouldn't get too excited over the insight that stripping lead paint from walls is a more efficient way to improve health outcomes than restructuring health care delivery.... Mark Kleiman, for instance, writes that "[a]ir quality improvement, noise reduction, better parenting... and changes in the social forces influencing diet and exercise all probably have greater bang for the buck." Than what? Probably not than encouraging the use of statins, or hypertensive drugs, or daily tablets of aspirin. There are a lot of highly effective medical interventions which are very, very cheap. But our system is very poor at incentivizing their use.

Meanwhile, the reason doctors are constantly prescribing statins along with admonitions to exercise and eat better is because using public policy to change diet and exercise habits is really, really, really hard, unless you're prepared to be very heavy-handed (i.e, outlawing trans fats in restaurants, setting portion limits, etc). Indeed, part of the problem with preventive health measures is that, rather often, they don't work very well. Like with traditional health care, some things really succeed (stripping lead out of gasoline, giving people antibiotics), and lots of things... don't. And that's to sidestep the weird reality that what drives health care politics is concern over money which, in fact, is quite rational: Folks don't want to go bankrupt, and smart politicians don't want the government to lose all space for spending on other priorities.

In any case, there is no tension between better preventive health measures and health reform -- a more integrated system would encourage preventive health, and every bill you know of that moves us towards universal health care actually has a massive amount of money, incentives, and policies going towards preventive care -- it's something everyone agrees on. But you're never going to get a focus on preventive care in the way you do on acute care: The politics of health care are about financial and medical peace of mind at the point of absolute need. They're not necessarily rational. If they were, we'd already be running laps and eating 5-11 servings of fruits and veggies, the benefits of which are fully available to us now, and which fully rational, forward-thinking beings would be going to great lengths to take advantage of. Sadly, anyone who's ever been offered decent barbecue knows how rational we are. Damn you, Capps...

Let me go run more laps--if my quadriceps will take it after this morning's climb out of the bowl of Lafayette Reservoir--and eat more vegetables...

Can Anything Perch on Deborah Howell's Olive Branch?

Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell appears motivated to change her spots, and holds out an olive branch:

Deborah Howell - For Ombudsmen, an Evolving Mission - Ombudsmen, not fully trusted either by journalists or readers, are right in the middle of the daily fray of not just what readers may think is wrong with The Post but also the swelling waves that are changing journalism.... Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian... put it well:... readers' "trust has to be re-earned all the time... in each and every single piece of copy."... Rusbridger urged much more openness to readers and the admission that journalism "is something more fluid, a much more iterative thing than the tablet of stone. It is about us saying 'this is how it seems to us; it's not the definitive word on the subject by any means; some of you will know more about this; we can collaborate to try and get closer to the truth on this story; this is how you can contribute.'... The greater the speed required of us in the digital world -- and speed does matter, but never at the expense of accuracy or fairness or anything which would imperil trust -- the more we should be honest about the tentative nature of what is possible."...

[T]he meeting stimulated this ombudsman to not just be the complaint department but to also help readers and staffers surf those waves without drowning the best in journalism...

If she is serious, here is a subject for her next ombudsman column in the Washington Post:

Her newspaper's editorial board--an organization that has torn any trust in it into shreds and gobbets in the past decade--has just attacked the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Here are Fred Hiatt and company on May 27, 2007:

Next Step on Iran - [T]he director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has begun arguing that the Security Council should simply concede that its three legally binding, unanimous resolutions ordering an end to Iranian enrichment have been "overtaken by events" and that it should give up the effort to enforce them.... [W]e can only marvel at the nerve of Mr. ElBaradei, an unelected international civil servant whose mission is to implement the decisions of the Security Council -- and who proposes to destroy the council's authority by having it simply drop binding resolutions...

We cannot help remember that in the run-up to an earlier war Fred Hiatt and company slanderously attacked Mohamed ElBaradei. Here are Fred Hiatt and company on March 11, 2003:

Are Inspections Working?: [T]he three months of inspections so far have demonstrated... that... [U.N. inspectors cannot] locate Iraq's most deadly weapons, much less ensure disarmament.... So why do the [U.N.'s weapons] inspectors sound so upbeat?... Hans Blix and... Mohamed ElBaradei are international civil servants who are desperate to prove that agencies like theirs can be effective.... Mr. ElBaradei has... [turned] on Iraq's accusers. In his first report to the council, Mr. ElBaradei argued against the logic of Resolution 1441, saying that inspectors could be used to contain Iraq even if Saddam Hussein didn't cooperate. He has used his two subsequent presentations to dispute evidence offered by Britain and the United States, while coming close to declaring Iraq free of any nuclear program. Last Friday, Mr. ElBaradei made headlines by denouncing one secondary piece of evidence, about an alleged Iraqi attempt to obtain fissile material from Niger, as a forgery.... Such diversions have lamentably become the substitute for U.N. oversight of real Iraqi disarmament...

Of course, Mohamed ElBaradei was not, in early 2003, shading the evidence to make his agency look more effective. He was not failing to find Iraq's most dangerous weapons. He appears to have been correct in his view that the enforcement regime could contain Saddam Hussein. And, of course, the Niger uranium documents were forged.

I note that today Fred Hiatt and company do not say that Mohamed ElBaradei is wrong in what he is saying; they merely say that they "marvel at [his] nerve" in saying it given his bureaucratic position. I would like Deborah Howell to investigate: Is the Washington Post editorial board being accurate and fair in its current attacks on Mohamed ElBaradei? Or is this another case of the saying, apocryphally attributed to Machiavelli, that we never can forgive those whom we have injured?

links for 2007-05-28

Hoisted from Comments: What If Your Reaction Is: "I Pity the Poor Fool!"

Alex Tabarrok wrote a handy guide for distinguishing Tyler Cowen's writings on from his, and I quoted it:

Distinguishing Tyler Cowen from Alex Tabarrok: Marginal Revolution: Tyler v. Alex: Guide to the Perplexed: Lately I’ve noticed that people are confusing posts from Tyler with posts from me.  Here is a simple guide for the perplexed....

You have no idea what the post means.  Tyler.
You know exactly what the post means and it makes you mad as hell.  Alex...

And now Andres asks:

What if you know exactly what the [Marginal Revolution] post means but it only makes you pity the fool, Mr. T-style? Which one then?

Arnold Schwarzenegger Is Shrill!

Welcome, Arnold! What is best in life? It is to shrilly ululate on the stupidities of the Bush administration beneath the dead, uncaring stars!

Here he is:

Schwarzenegger accuses government on warming | Top News | Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and fellow Republican Gov. Jodi Rell of Connecticut accused the U.S. government on Monday of "inaction and denial" on global warming."It's bad enough that the federal government has yet to take the threat of global warming seriously, but it borders on malfeasance for it to block the efforts of states such as California and Connecticut that are trying to protect the public's health and welfare," the governors wrote in The Washington Post.These two states and 10 others have approved plans for tougher standards than those imposed by the government to limit vehicle emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.But the states can't put the new standards into practice without a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency, which has not yet granted one, 16 months after California first requested it.

The governors also criticized President George W. Bush for an executive order he issued last week giving federal agencies until the end of 2008 -- near the end of Bush's term -- to continue studying what to do about greenhouse gas emissions."To us, that again sounds like more of the same inaction and denial, and it is unconscionable," they wrote."California, Connecticut and a host of like-minded states are proving that you can protect the environment and the economy simultaneously," Rell and Schwarzenegger wrote. "It's high time the federal government becomes our partner or gets out of the way."EPA officials have said they are considering options after the Supreme Court ruled in April that greenhouse gases can be regulated as pollutants under the federal Clean Air Act, which supports the states' case. An EPA hearing on the topic is scheduled for Tuesday in suburban Washington.

Underbelly Praises Sam Bowles

It writes:

Underbelly: "If We Knew How to Do That,
We Would Not Be Poor"
: While others are sorting out the question whether neoclassic econ is a Mafia (link, link), allow me to share this anecdote copped from one of the most interesting and original microeconomics textbooks I’ve ever seen:

Like the overnight train that left me in an empty field some distance from the settlement, the process of economic development has for the most part bypassed the two hundred or so families that make up the village of Palanpur. They have remained poor, even by Indian standards: less than a third of the adults are literate, and most have endured the loss of a child to malnutrition or to illnesses that are long forgotten in other parts of the world. But for the occasional wristwatch, bicycle, or irrigation pump, Palanpur appears to be a timeless backwater, untouched by India’s cutting edge software industry and booming agricultural regions. Seeking to understand why, I approached a sharecropper and his three daughters weeding a small plot. The conversation eventually turned to the fact that Palanpur farmers sow their winter crops several weeks after the date at which yields would be maximized. The farmers do not doubt that earlier planting would give them larger harvests, but no one the farmer explained, is willing to be the first to plant, as the seeds on any lone plot would be quickly eaten by birds. I asked if a large group of farmers, perhaps relatives, had ever agreed to sow earlier, all planting on the same day to minimize losses. “If we knew how to do that,” he said, looking up from his hoe at me, “we would not be poor.”

--Samuel Bowles, Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions, and Evolution, pp. 24-25 (Princeton Paperback ed. 2004)

There must be 100 books entitled “Microeconomics”—-a thousand? This one is so far out of the conventional mode that it might count as a violation of the British Trade Descriptions Act. It’s far closer to what might have passed as “Political Economy”—-Economics before the Mafia took over. Lots more attention to the structure of economies than you would expect in a standard Micro intro. Yet in detail (at the micro level?) it is actually fairly conventional stuff: all the individual items appear to come out of the standard toolbox. The unconventional ordering gives them a fresh and invigorating spin.

Spencer Ackerman Is Shriller than Ever

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach him now. Impeach Richard Cheney too. And Condi Rice. And Stephen Hadley. And Donald Rumsfeld. And Colin Powell. And George Tenet. And everyone on any of their staffs. Do it now.

Spencer Ackerman reports:

toohotfortnr: caution is a word that i can't understand: Very very preliminary read of the SSCI report. In October 2002 and January 2003 -- the January 2003 NIE we knew about -- the intelligence community circulated to the Bush administration several analyses warning that postwar Iraq would most likely be a nightmare.

A post-Saddam authority would face a deeply divided society with a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so.... Use of violence by competing factions in Iraq against each other or the United States -- Sunni against Shia; Kurd against Kurd; Kurd against Arab; any against the United States -- would also encourage terrorist groups to take advantage of a volatile security environment to launch attacks within Iraq.... Some elements in the Iranian government could decide to try to counter aggressively the U.S. presence in Iraq or challenge U.S. goals following the fall of Saddam by attempting to use their contacts in the Kurdish and Shia communities to sow dissent against the U.S. presence and complicate the formation of a new, pro-U.S. Iraqi government...

Needless to say, there are a ton of political reasons why these warnings weren't heeded, not least of which that they cast serious doubt on the wisdom of invading Iraq. But there's another reason that might be even more determinative in a strict sense. From the SSCI's introduction:

Current and former intelligence officials told the Committee that intelligence reporting did not play a significant role in developing assessments about postwar Iraq because it was not an issue that was well-suited to intelligence collection. Accordingly, most prewar assessments cite relative few intelligence sources. Analysts based their judgments primarily on regional and country expertise, historical evidence and analytical tradecraft.

And you just can't have that, as Frank demonstrated quite excellently. "Regional and country expertise, historical evidence and analytical tradecraft" were considered the tools of a hidebound, unreliable and disloyal intelligence apparatus.

September 1, 2007 Is the DAY OF THE LORD--for the Raccoons, that Is

Yes, the Basileia of the raccoons is arriving on September 1, 2007:

City of Lafayette -- CCCSWA Presentation on the Lamorinda Food Scrap Recycling Program: Staff from the Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority (CCCSWA) will make a presentation on the new food scrap recycling program scheduled to begin Sept 1, 2007. Information on participation and options for kitchen food waste collection will be discussed...

Five days a week, 1400 green carts each day, green carts formerly filled just with grass clippings and branches, now filled with a week's food waste, including tea bags and coffee grounds. Unlatched green carts. Green carts made from reasonably tough plastic, but not plastic strong enough to resist the teeth of a family of raccoons with a whole night to work in and... motivation...

Meanwhile, in Kassel, Federal Republic of Germany:

'Nazi raccoons' in Europe: Waschbaeren, or “wash bears,” are raccoons, which habitually wash their paws. In 1934, Nazi official Hermann Goering received a seemingly mundane request from the Reich Forestry Service. A fur farm wanted permission to release a batch of exotic bushy-tailed animals into the wild to “enrich the local fauna” and give hunters something new to shoot at. Goering approved the request and set off an ecological disaster that is spreading across Europe.... Raccoons... range from the Baltic Sea to the Alps....

No place in Germany has more of them than Kassel, a city of about 200,000 people in the central state of Hesse. It has plenty of leafy suburban backyards that border large tracts of public forests. The city lies less than 20 miles from the Nazi fur farm that is usually blamed for Germany’s raccoon explosion.... Five years ago, a family of raccoons got into a house belonging to Ingrid and Dieter Hoffmann of Kassel. They settled into the chimney and — despite efforts to smoke them out — ruined their roof, which cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix. The Hoffmanns also spent $1,300 to raccoon-proof their residence with electrified gutters and other measures.

“The little ones look cute and have a pretty face,” said Ingrid Hoffmann, 70. “But their mother can bite your finger off.” Dieter Hoffmann wagged a finger: “We like the United States of America, but we do not like your Waschbaeren!”

Roasted Red Lentil Curry

I would pay serious, serious money for the recipe, so that we could reproduce this at home for a price of less than the $10 a pound we currently pay:

Roasted Red Lentil Curry: Made with roasted red lentils, curry, and certain spices.  This is a delicious meal that could be served warm and over a plate of steamed rice.  Keeps for about a week in the fridge.


Bolani and Sauce: East and West Gourmet Aghan Food
108 B Medburn St.
Concord, DA 94520
925 497 0538

links for 2007-05-27

links for 2007-05-26

Belle Sawhill and the Economic Mobility Project

A Press release:

Economic Mobility Project: ECONOMIC MOBILITY: IS THE AMERICAN DREAM ALIVE AND WELL?: The report was co-written by John E. Morton, managing director of Pew’s Economic Policy Initiatives and director of the Economic Mobility Project and Isabel V. Sawhill, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Principal of the Economic Mobility Project. It includes analysis led by a research team at Brookings and outlines what economic mobility is, why it matters in today’s economy, and why it is important for policy makers to focus on mobility as part of the ongoing national economic debate.

On May 31, 2007 at 9:30am, the Pew Charitable Trusts will host a panel discussion of the report featuring Project Director John E. Morton and Project Principals, Isabel V. Sawhill (Brookings Institution), Marvin Kosters (American Enterprise Institute), Eugene Steuerle (Urban Institute) and William Beach (Heritage Foundation).  Click here for more information.

Income Distributions Pulled Apart in Both Rich and Poor Countries

Bob Davis, John Lyons, and Andrew Batson write:

Globalization's Gains Come With a Price: Hermenegildo Flores was supposed to benefit from Mexico's decision to open its economy to foreign trade and investment in the 1990s. For a time, he did. As U.S. companies boosted purchases from Mexican factories, Mr. Flores's salary nearly doubled to $68 a week in 2001. Then foreign competition from places like India, Pakistan and El Salvador intensified.... Today, Mr. Flores is unemployed, having accepted a $900 buyout in April after the company switched to new machines.

A decade ago, the globalization of commerce promised to be a boon to low-wage workers in developing nations. As wealthy nations shed millions of jobs making apparel, electronics, and other goods, economists predicted that low-skilled workers in Latin America and Asia would benefit because there would be greater demand for their labor.... [G]lobalization delivered as promised. But there was an unexpected consequence... the gap between economic haves and have-nots has frequently widened... in wealthy countries... [and] in poorer ones like Mexico, Argentina, India and China as well.... [T]he biggest winners by far are those with the education and skills to take advantage of new opportunities....

"While globalization was expected to help the less developing countries, there is overwhelming evidence that these are generally not better off, at least not relative to workers with higher skill or education levels," write economists Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg of Yale University and Nina Pavcnik of Dartmouth in the spring issue of the Journal of Economic Literature.

And I want to call an intellectual foul here. There is compelling evidence that globalization--export-led and import-fueled industrialization in emerging market economies--has paid enormous dividends and made many poor people much better off. It has led to a much less unequal world. But it has led to more unequal countries. The poor are not better off relative to the rich in their own countries. The poor are better off relative to the rich in the world. And the poor are better off *relative to their own (and their parents' own) well-being i the past.

Goldberg and Pavcnik need to phrase what they say more carefully.

Davis, Lons, and Batson continue, and say this.

Globalization deserves credit for helping lift many millions out of poverty and for improving standards of living of low-wage families.... [G]lobalization... has created a vibrant middle class that has elevated the standards of living for hundreds of millions of people.... particularly... in China.... The poor in countries like Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia have also benefited greatly....

But... how much [within-country] inequality [can] countries... bear[?]... [C]ould [these gaps] ultimately produce a backlash that will undermine trade and investment liberalization around the world[?]... From 2000 to 2005, per-capita income of the bottom 10% of urban households in China rose 26% while those at the top saw gains of 133%.

While Mexico hasn't experienced the spectacular growth of China, wages of those at the bottom 10th percentile of urban full-time workers increased 12% between 1987, when the country first took steps toward opening its economy, and 2004. Since 2000, the percentage of Mexicans living in extreme poverty also has fallen below 20%.... In 2004, urban full-time workers at the top 10th percentile earned 4.7 times more than those at the bottom 10th, compared with four times as much in 1987, according to Columbia University economists Eric Verhoogen and Kensuke Teshima.... Growing inequality also feeds the populist argument that globalization is a sucker's game that benefits only the elites. In Latin America, that sense of alienation has powered populist presidential candidates who won in Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela and came close to carrying Mexico last year. In China, the ruling Communist Party worries that support for liberalization could crumble. The government needs to "safeguard social fairness and justice and ensure that all of the people share in the fruits of reform and development," said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in March....

[I]nternational competition forces local firms to add skilled workers who can handle newer technology and shed workers who can't. Foreign firms bring new technology to developing nations and boost demand there for skilled workers.... Access to education also plays an important role.... The effects of globalization are vividly on display in Puebla... between... Veracruz and Mexico City.... During the 1970s, those [trade] barriers helped produce rapid economic growth, but the system collapsed in a debt crisis and deep recession that swept through Latin America in the 1980s.... Towel-maker Industrias Cobitel SA picked up two big new U.S. customers after Nafta and doubled the number of production workers to 250 by 2000. Exports accounted for 40% of the company's sales in 2000, about triple the percentage before Nafta. Business was so brisk that many employers didn't care whether new hires had much schooling. But foreign investment and competition also prompted a big demand for skilled labor. Local companies that had gotten by with outmoded machinery either upgraded or closed.

Volkswagen AG, the city's largest private employer, has had an especially large impact on the local economy.... VW ratcheted up the demands on its work force. The company started building the new Beetle in Puebla in 1998 and followed with other models aimed at hard-to-please U.S. buyers. New machinery was imported. Now welds are done by lasers. Robots paint the exteriors of cars for an even finish.... VW slashed its Puebla work force by about 15% since 2000 to 14,000... outsourced production of seats, steering wheels and wire harnesses to factories... outside... workers at those factories are paid about one-third the $225 a week VW line workers make....

For Poblanos, as Puebla natives are called, with the right education, globalization has also opened opportunities that were absent in Mexico just a decade ago. Victor Pasilla, the 30-year-old son of a hospital security guard, makes $600 a week designing oxygen sensors for a Puebla start-up, Biomedica Integral SA.... In the once-poor south of the city, housing developments of small, brightly colored homes, each topped with water tanks, have opened for young families who have become eligible for mortgage financing. There are also two new shopping malls with international clothing stores, including Zara and Massimo Dutti. Low-paid textile or auto-parts workers don't shop at Zara, although many now frequent the local Wal-Mart.... Low-wage workers live as they have for many years, in cramped urban tenements ringed with razor wire....

Mr. Flores, the unemployed tailor, has two brothers who have decamped for the U.S. but says he doesn't want to follow suit because he doesn't want to leave his wife and daughter. Instead, Mr. Flores is looking for work as a day laborer, building homes for Puebla's surging new middle class. "I have a fight in front of me trying to find work," he says.

Distinguishing Tyler Cowen from Alex Tabarrok

This is directed at me. Alex--no, Tyler--no, Alex writes:

Marginal Revolution: Tyler v. Alex: Guide to the Perplexed: Lately I’ve noticed that people are confusing posts from Tyler with posts from me.  Here is a simple guide for the perplexed:

  • References to a cymbalist/Dadaist/expressionist that you have never heard of.  Tyler.
  • References to Dog/Rush/Hayek (Salma).  Alex
  • A simple question with ten answers.  Tyler.
  • A complex question with one answer.  Alex.
  • You have no idea what the post means.  Tyler.
  • You know exactly what the post means and it makes you mad as hell.  Alex.

Should that be "cymbalist" or "symbolist," Alex... Tyler... Altyexler?

Brookings Announces New Editors for Brookings Papers on Economic Activity

Brookings Announces New Editors for Brookings Papers on Economic Activity:

The Brookings Institution has named three prominent economists as co-editors of Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (BPEA), the flagship economic journal of the Institution, Brookings President Strobe Talbott announced today. The new co-editors, whose first volume will appear in mid-2008, are Douglas W. Elmendorf, N. Gregory Mankiw, and Lawrence H. Summers...

National Review Says What It Thinks of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page

Everything we liberals have been saying about the spectacularly hackish Wall Street Journal editorial page? Finally, National Review agrees: so much smug rich-guy arrogance... blithe indifference to actual human nature... "arrogant elites"... out in the open, brazen and unashamed... dubious factual assertions... mischaracterize... our views... hostile and insulting... [we need] to correct the record because you and Bob Novak and other friends are suggesting otherwise...

Exactly. What we have been saying for more than thirty years. Glad to finally have it confirmed.

Here are three longer clips:

The Corner on National Review Online: the Wall Street Journal editorial conference.... I was...  well, no, not foaming at the mouth, but gaping in wonder at such a concentration of smug rich-guy arrogance on display all in one place. What color is the sky in these guys' world?... [As far as] blithe indifference to actual human nature, but Gigot & Co. take the biscuit.  It's pretty routine now to mock the WSJ editorial crowd for believing that there is no such thing as a nation, only an economy.  Well, there it is.  You saw it.  That is what they actually, literally believe.  We kick around phrases like "arrogant elites" pretty carelessly, but here they are, out in the open, brazen and unashamed...

Stephen Moore's assertion that we are "foaming at the mouth"... isn't worth taking seriously. Rather, it's Gigot's judgment that the bill is in serious trouble. The Journal-ists... make some dubious factual assertions and mischaracterize some of our views...

I do wish the Wall Street Journal wasn't so hostile and insulting when talking about us and immigration.... We don't want legal immigration, WSJ editors explain at their editorial meeting (link is on the opinionjournal site). Yes, out with the Lopezes and Ponnurus and O'Beirnes and O'Sullivans and... immigration is what's wrong with America. Mark Levin points out, defensively, Paul Gigot says, that he is pro-immigration. Well, duh — he needs to correct the record because you and Bob Novak and other friends are suggesting otherwise.


links for 2007-05-25

Marginal Notes Triggered by the U.C. Davis Seminar on Historical Scholarship and New Media

The U.C. Davis history department says that it is going to turn our panel from yesterday into a podcast. The URL is going to be somewhere...

Sitting there, I began thinking about the uses and abuses of pseudonymity. It allows you to:

  • Pollute the stream of discourse by plopping an idea into it that you would rightfully be ashamed to say in your own voice.
  • Clarify the stream of discourse by getting an idea into it that would normally be suppressed because of the social sanctions that would be applied to you if you said it in your own voice.
  • Allow you to speak not as your idiosyncratic self but as the reprsentative of some larger class or interest: "A Lady of Quality"; "A Concerned Citizen of California."
  • To distance yourself from what you are saying: to put forward a point of view that you believe ought to be considered in the discourse but that you do not want to completely support.
  • To provide others with a little breathing space by allowing them to pretend that it was not you who said it.

It made me wonder about the Federalist: why do Madison and Hamilton (and Jay) think that their prose will have more weight as the considered opinion of a thoughtful public citizen than as the view of one of Virginia's and one of New York's leading politicians?

Other notes:

  • Some history graduate students seem unduly alarmed--that people will steal their ideas, that people will hold what they write online against them, and more generally that participating in freewheeling intellectual exchanges in a forum in which nobody knows that you are a dog (or a graduate student) will cause them to be classified as insufficiently deferential to established hierarchies, inclined to rock the boat, and hence not worth hiring.
  • Or are they unduly alarmed? Jobs are scarce and criteria of excellence are in dispute, so one black mark assessed by one member of a hiring committee may be deadly.
  • Ari Kelman claimed that the misspellings in his comments were an hommage to Matthew Yglesias.
  • People assure me that I should not be scared of meeting Ogged in person. Online he may be pure unshackled id, but in person he is polite and charming--a veritable baa lamb.
  • Given all the other things that were on Scott Eric Kaufman's calendar for yesterday, we are very grateful that he showed up at our panel.
  • Scott Eric Kaufman has had great success in thirty-person classes by using class weblogs as warmup exercises for the seminars.
  • A cryptic note: "Josh Micah Marshall--blogging too much like a late 20th C. cable channel?" I presume this means that somebody (Ari Kelman?) said that Josh Micah Marshall wishes for a medium in which he could be more thoughtful and yet keep his audience. But it may not. My problem is that when the adrenaline is flowing long-term memory formation stops...
  • "I don't remember whether this quote is from a post or a paper." "Given the language and the sentence structure, it's definitely from a paper."
  • Tedra Osell: Habermasian enabling fictions as noble lies...
  • Scott Eric Kaufman: graduate student research life as very poor preparation for scholarly discourse; weblogging as far superior in a number of ways.
  • Memo to self: have to figure out how to tag ideas with "Scott Eric Kaufman" or "Adam Kotsko"; current mental tagging system of "something said online by a really smart and thoughtful humanities graduate student" not sufficient.
  • Impact of The Valve
  • Tedra Osell: Everything pisses me off, but I am very optimistic...
  • Ari Kelman: "I suppose it is fitting for this venue that I announce that I have no qualifications to be a discussant save a willingness to open my mouth..."

A Warning to Slacker Lecturers Everywhere!

Robert Solow has waited sixty years to tell us how bad a lecturer Joseph Schumpeter was:

I knew Joseph Schumpeter only in the last five years of his life, from 1945 until his death in 1950, at the age of sixty-six. To say that I knew him is actually a bit of an exaggeration. First as a returning undergraduate and then as a doctoral student in economics at Harvard, I attended his courses on advanced economic theory and the history of economic thought. The theory lectures bordered on incoherent; they alluded to everything but analyzed nothing. He would say: "Of course you know about X or Y, so I do not have to go into detail." But we didn't know about X or Y, as he must have realized. The history lectures were also disappointing. I do not remember where they began, but at the end of the term they had barely reached Adam Smith. The course felt like a stage display of multilingual erudition. More generally, Schumpeter seemed to be playing the role of grand seigneur, and he tended to flatter where flattery was not due, no doubt satirically. All this went along with his reputation as a casual and easy grader. We used to say that he threw the exam books up a staircase: the ones that stuck at the top got an A, the ones that fell to the bottom an A minus...

Readers, beware! Before you slack off on your lecture preparation, or indulge your vanity, first think hard about what future prominent Nobel Prize winners might be sitting in your courses even now!

(But Solow goes on to write that he wished he had known an earlier Schumpeter:

In 1940... a letter urging [Schumpeter] to stay [at Harvard]... urgent, heartfelt, and mind-felt... signed by twenty-six junior faculty and advanced graduate students. The authors included the flower not only of Harvard-trained economists of that time, but of the future of American economics. You have to admire the man who evoked those words from those people. I wish I had known him then. It is to Schumpeter's eternal credit that, at a time when mediocrity often cottoned to mediocrity in Harvard economics, he stood always for intellectual quality and energy, regardless of ideology, ethnicity, or social position. McCraw makes this very clear, and understands its importance...)