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October 2007

U.S. Fiscal Policy

From PGL of Angry Bear:

Angry Bear: Total Federal Debt Rose by More Than $550 Billion This Fiscal Year: Total Federal Debt (TFD) stood was just over $9 trillion as of 9/30/2007 as compared to $8.45 trillion as of 9/30/2006. The increase in TFD – which most folks would call the General Fund Deficit (GFD) – was $556.3 billion for the year.... Of course, the water carriers for this Administration prefer to talk about the Unified Deficit (UD), which is the increase in the debt held by the public (DHP). That increase was only $220.3 billion BECAUSE intra-government holdings (IGH) of debt rose by a staggering $336 billion over the fiscal years....

Since 2005... the unified deficit has been rising... [because of] increases in those Trust Fund surpluses...

More in the Never-Ending Stream of Swill From National Review!

Why do they bother? Here is National Review:

Planet Gore on National Review Online: The British government decided that it would be a good idea to send copies of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth to all schools, with then Environment Secretary (now Foreign Secretary) David Miliband declaring that “the debate over science is over.” Well, it may be, but not in the way Gore portrays it.... The judge has decided that this is indeed the case and that the Government’s guidance notes that accompanied the film exacerbated the problem. For the film to be shown in schools, therefore, several facts would have to be drawn to students’ attention.... Eleven inaccuracies... specifically.... This is a far better result than refusing to allow the film to be shown at all. It requires that students be told by teachers that Al Gore is factually inaccurate, misleading.... These inconvenient truths for the former Vice President have been covered up.... Students will now realize that there are significant shortcomings and inaccuracies in the way the global warming scare has been presented to them...

Here's what the judge said in Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education & Skills [2007] EWHC 2288 (Admin) (10 October 2007):

Mr Justice Burton: [An Inconvenient Truth] is... based substantially on scientific research and opinion... [and also] a political film, albeit of course not party political. Its theme is not merely the fact that there is global warming, and that there is a powerful case that such global warming is caused by man, but that urgent, and if necessary expensive and inconvenient, steps must be taken to counter it, many of which are spelt out....

Mr Downes... submits that, in order to comply with its duty under s407 to "offer a balanced presentation of opposing views", a school must give what he calls, by reference to the position in the media, "equal air time".... The balanced approach does not involve equality. In my judgment, the word "balanced" in s407 means nothing more than fair and dispassionate....

I turn to AIT, the film. The following is clear:

It is substantially founded upon scientific research and fact, albeit that the science is used, in the hands of a talented politician and communicator, to make a political statement and to support a political programme.... The Film advances four main scientific hypotheses, each of which is very well supported by research published in respected, peer-reviewed journals and accords with the latest conclusions of the IPCC: (1) global average temperatures have been rising significantly over the past half century and are likely to continue to rise ("climate change"); (2) climate change is mainly attributable to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide ("greenhouse gases"); (3) climate change will, if unchecked, have significant adverse effects on the world and its populations; and (4) there are measures which individuals and governments can take which will help to reduce climate change or mitigate its effects. These propositions... are supported by a vast quantity of research published in peer-reviewed journals worldwide and by the great majority of the world's climate scientists....

There are errors and omissions in the film... and respects in which the film, while purporting to set out the mainstream view (and to belittle opposing views), does in fact itself depart from that mainstream.... Mr Downes produced a long schedule of such alleged errors or exaggerations and waxed lyrical.... I was persuaded that only some of them were sufficiently persuasive to be relevant... 9....

[I]n order to establish and confirm that the purpose of sending the films to schools is not so as to "influence the opinions of children" (paragraph 7 above) but so as to "stimulate children into discussing climate change and global warming in school classes" (paragraph 6 above) a Guidance Note... which, to my satisfaction, addresses all of the above 9... by way of example... in respect of scene 21....

Note: Pupils might get the impression that sea-level rises of up to 7m (caused by the complete melting of Greenland or half of Greenland and half of the West Antarctic shelf) could happen in the next decades. The IPCC predicts that it would take millennia for rises of that magnitude to occur. However, pupils should be aware that even small rises in sea level are predicted to have very serious effects. The IPCC says that "many millions more people are projected to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s" (i.e. within pupils' own lifetimes)....

The Defendant will not be promoting partisan political views by enabling the showing of AIT.... In the circumstances, and for those reasons, in the light of the changes to the Guidance Note which the Defendant has agreed to make, and has indeed already made, and upon the Defendant's agreeing to send such amended Guidance Note out in hard copy, no order is made on this application...

National Review on Al Gore

Kevin Drum:

The Washington Monthly: AL AND OSAMA....National Review, classy as always:

Who Else Should Al Gore Share the Prize With? [Iain Murray]: How about that well known peace campaigner Osama Bin Laden, who implicitly endorsed Gore's stance — and that of the Nobel committee — in his September rant from the cave.


I love the sound of thousands of tiny hamsters tripping off the wheel of their Wingnut's brain. It's been a tough week to be a Wingnut, first the public outcry over beating up a 12-yr old and now Gore. Posted by: ckelly on October 12, 2007 at 1:28 PM....

So if Osama Bin Laden says that the sky is blue, a patriotic American ought to say that the sky is green? Is this the logic now? Posted by: troglodyte on October 12, 2007 at 1:59 PM....

Come to think of it, writing for National Review must be awfully fun. The illogical possibilities are simply endless. Posted by: AJB on October 12, 2007 at 2:18 PM....

Stop brushing your teeth! After all, Hitler thought it was a good idea. Posted by: Virginia on October 12, 2007 at 2:20 PM

Al Gore is not the equal of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and his causes are not the equals either. But parallels are instructive.

So let's do National Review on Martin Luther King, Jr.!:

Recall the Words of the National Review » The Moderate Voice: the doings of such high-minded, self-righteous “children of light” as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his associates in the leadership of the “civil rights” movement. If you are looking for those ultimately responsible for the murder, arson, and looting in Los Angeles, look to them: they are the guilty ones, these apostles of “non-violence.”

For years now, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his associates have been deliberately undermining the foundations of internal order in this country. With their rabble-rousing demagoguery, they have been cracking the “cake of custom” that holds us together. With their doctrine of “civil disobedience,” they have been teaching hundreds of thousands of Negroes — particularly the adolescents and the children — that it is perfectly alright to break the law and defy constituted authority if you are a Negro-with-a-grievance; in protest against injustice. And they have done more than talk. They have on occasion after occasion, in almost every part of the country, called out their mobs on the streets, promoted “school strikes,” sit-ins, lie-ins, in explicit violation of the law and in explicit defiance of the public authority. They have taught anarchy and chaos by word and deed — and, no doubt, with the best of intentions — and they have found apt pupils everywhere, with intentions not of the best. Sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind. But it is not they alone who reap it, but we as well; the entire nation....

The “civil rights” movement and the consequent lawlessness has well nigh shattered these hopes... because of the corruption and demoralization of the children, who have been lured away from the steady path of decency and self-government to the more exhilarating road of ‘demonstration’ — and rioting...

Will Herberg, “‘Civil Rights’ and Violence: Who Are the Guilty Ones?”, The National Review Sept. 7th, 1965, pp. 769-770.

And Jim Fallows adds:

James Fallows: I am old enough... well, there are many ways to end that sentence, but for now: I am old enough to remember, from my school years, the disdainful reaction in my home town to the news that Martin Luther King had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The reaction was, of course, racial at its root. This was a majority-white, minority-Hispanic small town with very few black residents, which went for Barry Goldwater over Lyndon Johnson in the presidential election that same fall. But the stated form of the objection concerned not King's race but his obnoxiousness as a man. He was a windbag. He was pompous and self-dramatizing, He was holier than thou. Plus, he had started getting involved where he didn't belong, in raising questions about the Vietnam War. Through the rest of Martin Luther King's life, the father of my best home-town friend always went out of his way to refer sneeringly to "Martin Luther Nobel."

As is the case now with some similar complaints about Al Gore, the criticisms weren't about nothing. Gore can be pompous, lecturing, pedantic, and all the rest. I agree with the argument in his book The Assault on Reason but wish he made the point with fewer larded-in references to Jurgen Habermas. (Think of of how, yes, Bill Clinton would make similar points about the simplifications and distortions of today's nutty media world.) But in retrospect the criticisms of King look very small, and -- without equating the stature of the two men -- I think something similar will be true regarding Gore.

Like him or not, he has turned his efforts to an important cause, under historical and political circumstances that would have tempted many people to drown themselves in drink or move to Bhutan. It's interesting about the Nobel Peace Prize -- unlike the quirky and PC-conscious prize for Literature, or the quasi-Nobel* "medal" in economics -- that its list of winners holds up very, very well under historical scrutiny.

There are a few choices that look fishy in retrospect. (Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho in 1973??? Arafat as co-winner with Peres and Rabin in 1994?) But the great majority stand up very well. Desmond Tutu, and then Mandela and deKlerk. Albert Schweitzer. George C. Marshall. Lech Walesa, Willy Brandt, and Mikhail Gorbachev. The Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kyi. The Norwegian Nobel Institute has earned the benefit of the doubt...

links for 2007-10-13

Did African Americans Exist as Moral Agents in 1860!

James Poulos sings the old neo-Confederate song:

Postmodern Conservative.: Abraham Lincoln, Suffering Sovereign: These are some of the most praiseworthy things I have to say about Lincoln, and by saying them, faithful readers might already know, I in no way intend to obscure the fact of US history that Lincoln resolved to bring that smiting and suffering upon large portions of Americans who exercised, through their elected representatives, their sovereign right to remain in the American nation but depart the American nation-state...

From my perspective, this is very bad and very extraordinary. The extraordinary thing about this sentence by James Poulos is how it overlooks the fact that a free vote of the inhabitants of each of the American slave states--including South Carolina--would almost surely have produced majorities not to secede but to stay in the union.

Anybody setting forth the self-evident principle that:

governments... instituted... deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

And asserting the people's sovereign right that:

any form of government... destructive of these ends... [triggers] the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government... on such principles and organizing its powers in such form... most likely to effect their safety and happiness...

had better have a solid majority on their side. Not a solid majority of an aristocracy. Not a solid majority of a political class. Not a solid majority of a race. But a solid majority of the people.

The confederate secessionists did not--few of the African-American slaves in the south, you see, preferred Jefferson Davis to Abraham Lincoln.

But it doesn't bother James Poulos very much that a majority of the people on whose behalf the "sovereign right to... depart the American nation-state" did not approve of the exercise of that right by those who claimed to be their representatives. African-Americans don't exist, after all--at least not as human beings with a moral claim to a form of government instituted to secure their unalienable rights.

We have seen this before in law professor Mark Graber's claim that the U.S. Constitution "ought" to have been revised in 1860 because it was a bargain between "Tribe A" northerners and "Tribe B" southern slaveholders, and it had unexpectedly worked out to the disadvantage of "Tribe B" (see Once again, African-Americans simply did not exist--at least not as human beings with moral claims.

Data from the IRS on Rising Income Inequality

The 2005 data point in this series from the IRS is brand new:

See: Piketty-Saez picked it up last March, but the IRS just issued the SOI numbers last week.

It tends not to support claims like this one from Greg Mankiw that the rise in income inequality stopped at the end of the 1990s:

July 14, 2006: In today's NY Times, Paul Krugman calls attention to the update of the Piketty-Saez data on income inequality, although Paul describes the data differently than I would. Here is what I see: After rising substantially from 1986 to 2000, income inequality is essentially the same in 2004 (the most recent year of data) as it was in 2000...

Or this one from Alan Reynolds that income inequality did not rise at all:

The Top 1% . . . of What? - The incessantly repeated claim that income inequality has widened dramatically over the past 20 years is founded entirely on these seriously flawed and greatly misunderstood estimates of the top 1%'s alleged share of something-or-other.... Some economists seem ready and willing to supply whatever is demanded. And there is an endless political demand for those able to fabricate problems for which higher taxes are, of course, the preferred solution. In Washington higher taxes are always the solution; only the problems change...

iPhone Calculators

Hoisted from Comments: JRoth on iPhone Calculators:

Grasping Reality with Both Hands: Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Hope you see this comment (or just find it on your own): It's a "graphing calculator;" no idea if it will meet your needs. I was a bit shocked myself that there's no option for a better calc built in to the iPhone - Macs had a nice scientific calculator built-in by about '92....

Oh, for cryin' out loud - here's a much better (looking) one:

Liberalism Is an Affinity for Things that Are New and Trendy

Hoisted from Comments: Bruce Bartlet:

Grasping Reality with Both Hands: Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Under the best of circumstances, getting a tenured position at an elite university is very hard. Because you can't get rid of someone with tenure and may be stuck with them as a colleague for decades, it stands to reason that the process of choosing someone for such a position is going to be very intense. For the same reason, the choice is not entirely meritocratic--elite universities don't choose the best scholars as professors any more than they choose the best applicants as students. There are a lot of factors that go into a hiring decision that don't favor conservatives and go beyond simple ideology.

Just to mention one area, conservatives have a tendancy to choose sub-disciplines within academic fields that are not very fashionable. For example, in political science, conservatives tend to gravitate toward political theory--a field that has been out of fashion since at least the 1960s. In history, conservatives often excel at military and diplomatic history--again, fields that have been out of fashion for decades.

One of the basic elements of liberalism is a greater affinity for things that are new and trendy. For conservatives, it is the opposite--an affinity for the familiar, the tried and true. This means that conservatives are always going to be behind the curve in any field where changing fashion is a key to advancement.

Al Gore [and IPCC] lands a Nobel Peace Prize

Mary Anne Ostrom and Mark Gomez:

After Oscar and Emmy, Al Gore lands a Nobel Peace Prize: The former Vice President and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change jointly won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize today for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and to lay the foundations for fighting it.

"We face a true planetary emergency," Gore wrote on his Web site this morning, adding that he is "deeply honored" to win the award. "The climate crisis in not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."

And the beneficiary of half of Gore's $1.5 million prize is the Palo-Alto based Alliance for Climate Protection. Gore co-founded the Alliance, a bipartisan, non-profit organization, as a vehicle for raising money to encourage Americans to find ways to address global warming. Gore is scheduled to appear at the Palo Alto headquarters this morning....

Vinod Khosla, one of the leading Silicon Valley venture capitalists investing in green technologies, said the award recognizes Gore's ability to make the issue of global warming "mainstream" and predicted the exposure of the prize would help win more financing for clean energy ventures....

In its citation, the Nobel committee lauded Gore's "strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted"...

Good News for Women and for the Well-Educated

Bad news for non-immigrant relatively uneducated men. (America still offers an amazing deal to immigrants.) David Wessel writes about the latest labor market research. The Journal really should put Wessel on page A1:

Why Job Market Is Sagging in the Middle: The salaries of Wall Street's financial engineers are surging while wages in industrial companies stagnate. Manufacturers complain about "skill shortages" while cutting payrolls. The number of health-care jobs soars 45% over 15 years, outstripping the 25% increase in other jobs. Computers seem to have infiltrated every job, yet demand for unskilled, low-wage immigrants doesn't abate....

For decades, employers in the U.S. and other industrialized countries sought more skilled workers as technology and the availability of low-wage workers abroad diminished the employers' appetite for lesser-skilled workers at home. It was painful, but simple: Employers of all sorts wanted more skills and more education, and paid more to get them....

There is still strong demand for high-end workers -- the stars of finance, software, law, sports and entertainment -- as well as for the highest-skilled factory workers. The only news is the intensity of that demand, which is pushing up pay for those at the top.

-- and here's the switch -- demand is increasing for some workers at the low end of the pay scale: the ones who wipe brows in hospitals, care for kids, clear tables at bistros and stand guard in office-building lobbies. In 1980, about 13% of workers without any college education were working in such personal-service jobs, according to David Autor.... In 2005, 20% of them were.

The losers? "The sagging middle," says Princeton University economist Alan Krueger.... Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin... "U.S. employment has been polarizing into high-wage and low-wage jobs at the expense of traditional middle-class jobs."... Technology and globalization are boosting demand for the most-educated.... Top hedge-fund managers aren't being replaced by computers; they're harnessing them.... [T]echnology and globalization are eroding demand for workers who do routine tasks in factories and offices, many of whom are high-school or even college grads. The voice-mail system does away with switchboard operators; back-office software eliminates bookkeepers; robots replace assembly-line workers.... But technology and globalization are not eroding demand for personal-service workers... [which] have to be delivered here in the U.S. -- and in person -- either by natives or by immigrants....

Autor and colleague David Dorn examined places that were particularly heavy with easy-to-automate or easy-to-outsource jobs in 1980. By 2005, they discovered, wage inequality in those communities had widened more than elsewhere.... [W]hat, if anything, should the U.S. do about this? That's a harder question.... [S]horing up the middle by... meddling with the market would cost consumers heavily. Some, certainly not all, suggest letting the market be, and using the tax code to transfer money.... Others suggest "professionalizing" personal-service jobs, perhaps encouraging unionization, to boost wages. Unlike factory jobs, advocates reason, these jobs can't be moved offshore or automated if employers have to pay more.

The more popular solution -- at least among economists -- is a familiar one: Educate all workers so they are better at interpersonal or abstract skills... as opposed to dial-turning or keyboard-pounding...

This does call for more redistribution through the tax system: that is why the Star-Maker made progressive income tax systems on the Fourth Day, after all. I don't understand how any professional economist can disagree with the fact that more technology-driven inequality should call forth more social insurance in response.

Jim Fallows on Andrew Sullivan as Magazine Editor

"A Triumph of Misinformation," from the January 1995 Atlantic:

Fallows: Elizabeth McCaughey, then of the Manhattan Institute, published in The New Republic last February. The article's working premise was that McCaughey, with no ax to grind and no preconceptions about health care, sat down for a careful reading of the whole Clinton bill. Appalled at the hidden provisions she found, she felt it her duty to warn people about what the bill might mean. The title of her article was "No Exit," and the message was that Bill and Hillary Clinton had proposed a system that would lock people in to government-run care. "The law will prevent you from going outside the system to buy basic health coverage you think is better," McCaughey wrote in the first paragraph. "The doctor can be paid only by the plan, not by you."...

These claims, McCaughey's and Will's, were simply false. McCaughey's pose of impartiality was undermined by her campaign as the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of New York soon after her article was published. I was less impressed with her scholarly precision after I compared her article with the text of the Clinton bill. Her shocked claim that coverage would be available only for "necessary" and "appropriate" treatment suggested that she had not looked at any of today's insurance policies. In claiming that the bill would make it impossible to go outside the health plan or pay doctors on one's own, she had apparently skipped past practically the first provision of the bill....

It didn't matter. The White House issued a point-by-point rebuttal, which The New Republic did not run. Instead it published a long piece by McCaughey attacking the White House statement...

Steven Pearlstein Has Definitely Eaten His Wheaties Today

Steven Pearlstein on the Republican debate:

Two Hours, Nine Candidates, and Almost Nothing New: To hear it from the Republican presidential hopefuls, the only way for the party to win back the trust of voters on economic issues is to start telling the truth. Well, fellas, what are you waiting for? Instead, for two hours yesterday, the nine white men who would be president were each peddling the Big Lie that the only way to ensure economic growth is by cutting all the taxes ever created -- and when you're finished with that, cutting them some more.

Two hours, nine candidates, each one vowing to slash federal spending, but only one (Mitt Romney) able to mention a program whose funding he would cut (some advanced technology program). Two hours, nine candidates and not one with anything to offer to millions of Americans now facing foreclosure on their houses in what is shaping up as the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression. Two hours, nine candidates, each acknowledging that something needs to be done to rein in entitlement spending, but only one (Fred Thompson) willing to offer a concrete suggestion for doing it (indexing Social Security benefits to increases in cost of living, not wages).

Two hours, nine candidates, and lots of debate about whether globalization has been good or bad, but only one (John McCain) with anything fresh to offer to workers who are the losers from free trade (wage insurance for displaced older workers). Two hours, nine candidates, every one professing his support for the right of workers to form a union, but not one willing to acknowledge that that right no longer exists because of rampant employer intimidation. Two hours, nine candidates, but only one (Mike Huckabee) willing to draw the connection between growing disenchantment with the economy, widening income inequality and the obscene pay packages of chief executives and hedge fund managers. Two hours, nine candidates, all eager to hurl the scurrilous charge of "government-run health care" against Hillary Clinton but not one willing to call for an end to Medicare as we know it.

It is becoming clear, not just from this and previous debates but also from their speeches and position papers, that the leading Republican candidates aren't serious about economic issues. Romney, for example, issued a 23-point economic plan yesterday that, if you didn't know better, you might think was a parody written by Jon Stewart for "The Daily Show." In addition to proposing additional cuts in every major revenue source (income, inheritance and corporate taxes), he would effectively eliminate all taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains; make all health-care spending tax-deductible; give additional tax breaks to make America "energy independent"; and provide a rebate to businesses for tax payments that might be "embedded" in the cost of anything they export. He opposes raising the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax.

Clearly, Romney's view is that the tax code is supposed to be used in the service of every economic objective other than raising revenue for government services. He figures his other initiatives -- like repairing transportation infrastructure, improving education and worker retraining, and strictly enforcing immigration laws -- can be accomplished without spending an extra dime. While he's at it, Romney intends to tear up the Constitution by giving himself a line-item veto and the right to cut back any congressional appropriation by 25 percent, while requiring a 60 percent congressional "supermajority" to raise any tax. And in a stunning display of intellectual inconsistency, Romney is determined to let each state figure out its best solution to the health-care crisis but not let every state figure out how to structure its legal system, instead imposing a federal one-size-fits-all version of tort reform. This is hardly the kind of program you'd expect from a seasoned businessman and investor with a deep and sophisticated understanding of how an advanced industrial economy sustains growth and creates wealth. It reads, rather, like a last-minute cut-and-paste job by the same old political operatives and spinmeisters who've been running Republican primary campaigns for decades.

As hackneyed as it is, however, the Romney plan is a four-course meal compared with the policy pu-pu platter offered so far by Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and even the straight-talking McCain. "We need market-based approaches to reform that guarantee benefits for those who need them and embrace personal responsibility and cost-effectiveness without raising taxes," Thompson says about the looming entitlement crisis, managing to combine just about every conservative policy cliche in a single sentence. And we certainly all look forward to the getting the details on Thompson's plan for the "dissolution of the IRS as we know it" and a "new tax code that gets the government out of our citizens' pocketbooks." Who writes this stuff, anyway?

Given the competition, it is easy to understand why Giuliani is leading this sad pack of candidates. In policy terms, he's offered nothing particularly original or detailed. But his basic message -- that economic policy should be built around the self-reliance and entrepreneurial success of the American people -- is a soothing antidote to the relentless negativism of the Democratic candidates. Judged by who can offer a serious approach to economic policy, the hands-down winner in the Republican race so far is Huckabee, who combines intelligence, candor and comfortable familiarity with the issues and a practical approach anchored in solid conservative beliefs. If only the political press were as impressed with the quality of a candidate's program as with his name recognition, it would be Huckabee, not Thompson, who was energizing the Republican contest.

Gail Collins could learn something.

Andrew Samwick on Conservatives in Academe

Two and a half years ago, Andrew Samwick wrote about the lack of conservatives in academe:

Vox Baby: A Kibbutz Hooked up to an ATM: I should have my head examined for getting into this discussion.... I am a self-proclaimed conservative.... I agree with the general terms that Krugman uses to frame his explanation:

The sort of person who prefers an academic career to the private sector is likely to be somewhat more liberal than average, even in engineering.

But I do not buy into the remainder of his argument, which can be loosely paraphrased as not enough conservatives believe in the virtue of scholarship.... Rather, I think the explanation... is that [liberals] actively like the way the academy is organized. An elite university is like a kibbutz hooked up to an ATM. It is the closest thing we may ever find to a socialist enterprise that endures... faculty governance.... The notion that this is a sensible way to organize one's professional life is bound to resonate more with people who have a soft spot for socialist, utopian ideals.... Under normal circumstances, we would expect such an enterprise to implode, because some members of the collective are more productive than others, and they eventually get tired of subsidizing.... So what keeps the elite university alive?

It's the ATM--alumni generosity. With outside money, even those who cross-subsidize the rest can feel like they are being adequately rewarded.... Take away that ATM, and I wager that a lot of the perks that make the quasi-socialist utopian enterprise so interesting to those who are left-of-center would disappear. Universities would have to conduct their daily operations more overtly like a business, and we would find a more balanced mix of people trying to get jobs there.... Krugman makes thinly veiled accusations from the left that conservatives have no respect for scholarship, and the David Horowitz crowd makes equally absurd accusations from the right of a left-wing conspiracy.... I have just offered a much more benign explanation...

Today he says that he thinks Krugman is much closer to being correct--right now:

Vox Baby: Conservatives in Academia: [A]t present, we are in a low point for conservatives or Republicans self-identifying as such among academics.... Krugman's argument regarding the virtue of scholarship--while it is not true for most of the conservative- or Republican-leaning people whom I know--seems to be a pretty good characterization of the top Republican in the White House. (And this is coming from someone who spent a year working at the CEA for this Administration and, despite the ample misgivings I have aired on this blog, would do so again.)... When there is a new person in the White House, particularly if it is a Democrat who now has to take on the responsibilities and potential failures of governing rather than merely criticizing the job that others are doing, we will see a bit less self-identification as Democrats or liberals and a bit more as Republicans or conservatives...

First, I do want to thank Andrew Samwick for being willing to work for the Bush administration as a reality-based Republican.

Second, I want to say that I fear that the conservative- and Republican-leaning people whom Andrew Samwick knows are not representative. It is not just because of George W. Bush that natural scientists are embarrassed to be Republicans--it is the whole range of creationist and other yahoos. It is not just because of George W. Bush that economists are embarrassed to be Republicans--it is the entire party full of supply-side kooks. As one of my ex-Republican friends put it yesterday: the left-wing Democrats are the party of Jefferson and Roosevelt, the right-wing Democrats are the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower, and today's Republicans are the party of Bozo.

links for 2007-10-12

We Need Numbers!

Mark Gimein writes:

The Curious Capitalist: The fact that [home] buyers could have thought things through better doesn't mean we should have no sympathy for their plight. But I'd temper that with this observation: losing your home sucks no matter what, but it sucks a lot less if you didn't need to put any cash down to buy it.

If you put down nothing on a house, that doesn't mean you're willing to lose it. But it's just not the same as losing both your house and your life's savings with it. Lose a house on which you've put zero down and you're back where you've started. It's "foreclosure lite."

I know some people will say, "But your credit record is ruined." And indeed, for some years it is. But these days having a bad credit record means you're just in pretty much the same boat as people with good credit records were two decades ago: instead of being able to get a house with 5 percent down or zero percent, you need to actually have a down payment of 20 percent.... [T]he biggest losers in the subprime mess are often not the borrowers, but the holders of the's those lenders and investors, not the borrowers, who are taking the biggest financial hit from these failed loans....

Another caveat is that I'm also not talking about the bottom feeder lenders who found struggling, often elderly, people who had houses that they owned free and clear and persuaded them that they could solve their financial problems by taking out high interest mortgages on their fully paid for homes.... I do want to do is ask whether those who would rush to protect future borrowers from subprime loans might not be advocating solutions that will have unintended and unpleasant effects. Remember this: A borrower with no money to make a down payment who takes out a loan at 12 percent and can't pay it winds up with no house. But the person who can't get a loan because he has no money for a down payment has no house to lose in the first place...

It's true that somebody who took out a zero-down teaser-rate loan in a non-recourse state has essentially gotten a couple of years of living in a house at a very reasonable rent. And it is true that California is a non-recourse state. But to evaluate this argument we need the numbers. And we do not yet have them.

Andrew Sullivan Would Rather Be Thought a Knave than a Fool

It has long been wondered whether Andrew Sullivan was a knave or a fool: whether he knew that he was publishing lies about the Clinton administration back in the early 1990s. Now Andrew Sullivan says that he is a knave: yes, he knew, he says:

The Daily Dish: My sin was to publish a major article by Elizabeth McCaughey called "No Exit.".... I was aware of the piece's flaws...

But he did it anyway, because he:

nonetheless was comfortable running it as a provocation to debate. It sure was...

And if any of his readers were misled--thought that the article was true--had their opinions affected by it, well that was their fault:

[I]f the readers of TNR are incapable of making their own minds up, then we might as well give up on the notion of intelligent readers...

Unfortunately, we are now trapped in the Cretan Liar's paradox: perhaps his admission that he was a knave in the early 1990s is just another "provocation"--perhaps he reallu was a fool. We cannot tell. We cannot draw any conclusions at all.

We can, however, wonder why the Atlantic Monthly thinks it is smart to take the reputational hit of employing a guy who says that he prints things he thinks are false. The only reason for anybody to read the Atlantic Monthly is if it warrants that it is publishing things by smart people who are trying as hard as they can to inform--not misinform--their readers. If that warranty is false or is even widely perceived to be false, it is unlikely to survive.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?


Five Priuses in a row parading down Bancroft. I am one of them. Still have not broken the 50 mpg barrier on any tank of gas.

Right now we are at 49.1...

Cumulative gas savings since we bought the car: $378...

Lenin: The Position and Tasks of the [Third] Socialist International

A historical document:

Lenin: The Position and Tasks of the Socialist International: November 1, 1914:

The gravest feature of the present crisis is that the majority of official representatives of European socialism have succumbed to bourgeois nationalism, to chauvinism. It is with good reason that the bourgeois press of all countries writes of them now with derision, now with condescending praise. To anyone who wants to remain a socialist there can be no more important duty than to reveal the causes of this crisis in socialism and analyse the tasks of the International.

There are such that are afraid to admit that the crisis or, to put it more accurately, the collapse of the Second International is the collapse of opportunism.

Reference is made to the unanimity, for instance, among French socialists, and to the fact that the old groups in socialism have supposedly changed their stands in the question of the war. Such references, however, are groundless.

Advocacy of class collaboration; abandonment of the idea of socialist revolution and revolutionary methods of struggle; adaptation to bourgeois nationalism; losing sight of the fact that the borderlines of nationality and country are historically transient; making a fetish of bourgeois legality; renunciation of the class viewpoint and the class struggle, for fear of repelling the “broad masses of the population”(meaning the petty bourgeoisie)—such, doubtlessly, are the ideological foundations of opportunism. And it is from such soil that the present chauvinist and patriotic   frame of mind of most Second International leaders has developed. Observers representing the most various points of view have long noted that the opportunists are in fact prevalent in the Second International’s leadership. The war has merely brought out, rapidly and saliently, the true measure of this prevalence. There is nothing surprising in the extraordinary acuteness of the crisis having led to a series of reshufflings within the old groups. On the whole, however, such changes have affected only individuals. The trends within socialism have remained the same.

Complete unanimity does not exist among French socialists. Even Vaillant, who, with Guesde, Plekhanov, Hervé and others, is following a chauvinist line, has had to admit that he has received a number of letters of protest from French socialists, who say that the war is imperialist in character and that the French bourgeoisie is to blame for its outbreak no less than the bourgeoisie of any other country. Nor should it be overlooked that these voices of protest are being smothered, not only by triumphant opportunism, but also by the military censorship. With the British, the Hyndman group (the British Social-Democrats—the British Socialist Party) has completely sunk into chauvinism, as have also most of the semi-liberal leaders of the trade unions. Resistance to chauvinism has come from MacDonald and Keir Hardie of the opportunist Independent Labour Party. This, of course, is an exception to the rule. However, certain revolutionary Social-Democrats who have long been in opposition to Hyndman have now left the British Socialist Party.

With the Germans the situation is clear: the opportunists have won; they are jubilant, and feel quite in their element. Headed by Kautsky, the “Centre” has succumbed to opportunism and is defending it with the most hypocritical, vulgar and smug sophistry. Protests have come from the revolutionary Social-Democrats—Mehring, Pannekoek, Karl Liebknecht, and a number of unidentified voices in Germany and German-speaking Switzerland. In Italy, the line-up is clear too: the extreme opportunists, Bissolati and Co. stand for “fatherland”, for Guesde-Vaillant-Plekhanov-Hervé. The revolutionary Social-Democrats (the Socialist Party), with Avanti! at their head, are combating chauvinism and are exposing the bourgeois and selfish nature of the calls for   war. They have the support of the vast majority of progressive workers.

In Russia, the extreme opportunists of the liquidators’ camp have already raised their voices, in public lectures and the press, in defence of chauvinism. P. Maslov and Y. Smirnov are defending tsarism on the pretext that the fatherland must be defended. (Germany, you see, is threatening to impose trade agreements on “us” at swordpoint, whereas tsarism, we are expected to believe, has not been using the sword, the knout and the gallows to stifle the economic, political and national life of nine-tenths of Russia’s population!) They justify socialists participating in reactionary bourgeois governments, and their approval of war credits today and more armaments tomorrow! Plekhanov has slid into nationalism, and is endeavouring to mask his Russian chauvinism with a Francophile attitude, and so has Alexinsky. To judge from the Paris Golos, Martov is behaving with more decency than the rest of this crowd, and has come out in opposition to both German and French chauvinism, to Vorwärts, Mr. Hyndman and Maslov, but is afraid to come out resolutely against international opportunism as a whole, and against the German Social-Democratic Centrist group, its most “influential” champion. The attempts to present volunteer service in the army as performance of a socialist duty (see the Paris declaration of a group of Russian volunteers consisting of Social-Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries, and also a declaration by Polish Social-Democrats, Leder, and others) have had the backing of Plekhanov alone. These attempts have been condemned by the majority of our Paris Party group.

The leading article in this issue will inform readers of our Party Central Committee’s stand. To preclude any misunderstanding, the following facts relating to the history of our Party’s views and their formulation must be stated here. After overcoming tremendous difficulties in re-establishing organisational contacts broken by the war, a group of Party members first drew up “theses” and on September 6-8 (New Style) had them circulated among the comrades. Then they were sent to two delegates to the Italo-Swiss Conference in Lugano (September 27), through Swiss Social-Democrats. It was only in   mid-October that it became possible to re-establish contacts and formulate the viewpoint of the Party’s Central Committee. The leading article in this issue represents the final wording of the “theses”.

Such, briefly, is the present state of affairs in the European and the Russian Social-Democratic movement. The collapse of the International is a fact. It has been proved conclusively by the polemic, in the press, between the French and German socialists, and acknowledged, not only by the Left Social-Democrats (Mehring and Bremer Bürger Zeitung ), but by moderate Swiss papers (Volksrecht ). Kautsky’s attempts to cover up this collapse are a cowardly subterfuge. The collapse of the International is clearly the collapse of opportunism, which is now captive to the bourgeoisie.

The bourgeoisie’s stand is clear. It is no less clear that the opportunists are simply echoing bourgeois arguments. In addition to what has been said in the leading article, we need only mention the insulting statements in Die Neue Zeit, suggesting that internationalism consists in the workers of one country shooting down the workers of another country, allegedly in defence of the fatherland!

The question of the fatherland—we shall reply to the opportunists—cannot be posed without due consideration of the concrete historical nature of the present war. This is an imperialist war, i.e., it is being waged at a time of the highest development of capitalism, a time of its approaching end. The working class must first “constitute itself within the nation”, the Communist Manifesto declares, emphasising the limits and conditions of our recognition of nationality and fatherland as essential forms of the bourgeois system, and, consequently, of the bourgeois fatherland. The opportunists distort that truth by extending to the period of the end of capitalism that which was true of the period of its rise.

With reference to the former period and to the tasks of the proletariat in its struggle to destroy, not feudalism but capitalism, the Communist Manifesto gives a clear and precise formula: “The workingmen have no country.” One can well understand why the opportunists are so afraid to accept this socialist proposition, afraid even, in most cases, openly to reckon with it. The socialist movement cannot triumph within the old framework of the fatherland. It creates new   and superior forms of human society, in which the legitimate needs and progressive aspirations of the working masses of each nationality will, for the first time, be met through international unity, provided existing national partitions are removed. To the present-day bourgeoisie’s attempts to divide and disunite them by means of hypocritical appeals for the “defence of the fatherland” the class-conscious workers will reply with ever new and persevering efforts to unite the workers of various nations in the struggle to overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie of all nations.

The bourgeoisie is duping the masses by disguising imperialist rapine with the old ideology of a “national war”. This deceit is being shown up by the proletariat, which has brought forward its slogan of turning the imperialist war into a civil war. This was the slogan of the Stuttgart and Basle resolutions, which had in mind, not war in general, but precisely the present war and spoke, not of “defence of the fatherland”, but of “hastening the downfall of capitalism”, of utilising the war-created crisis for this purpose, and of the example provided by the Paris Commune. The latter was an instance of a war of nations being turned into a civil war.

Of course, such a conversion is no easy matter and cannot be accomplished at the whim of one party or another. That conversion, however, is inherent in the objective conditions of capitalism in general, and of the period of the end of capitalism in particular. It is in that direction, and that direction alone, that socialists must conduct their activities. It is not their business to vote for war credits or to encourage chauvinism in their “own” country (and allied countries), but primarily to strive against the chauvinism of their “own” bourgeoisie, without confining themselves to legal forms of struggle when the crisis has matured and the bourgeoisie has itself taken away the legality it has created. Such is the line of action that leads to civil war, and will bring about civil war at one moment or another of the European conflagration.

War is no chance happening, no “sin” as is thought by Christian priests (who are no whit behind the opportunists in preaching patriotism, humanity and peace), but an inevitable stage of capitalism, just as legitimate a form of the   capitalist way of life as peace is. Present-day war is a people’s war. What follows from this truth is not that we must swim with the “popular” current of chauvinism, but that the class contradictions dividing the nations continue to exist in wartime and manifest themselves in conditions of war. Refusal to serve with the forces, anti-war strikes, etc., are sheer nonsense, the miserable and cowardly dream of an unarmed struggle against the armed bourgeoisie, vain yearning for the destruction of capitalism without a desperate civil war or a series of wars.

It is the duty of every socialist to conduct propaganda of the class struggle, in the army as well; work directed towards turning a war of the nations into civil war is the only socialist activity in the era of an imperialist armed conflict of the bourgeoisie of all nations. Down with mawkishly sanctimonious and fatuous appeals for “peace at any price"! Let us raise high the banner of civil war! Imperialism sets at hazard the fate of European culture: this war will soon be followed by others, unless there are a series of successful revolutions. The story about this being the “last war” is a hollow and dangerous fabrication, a piece of philistine “mythology”(as Golos aptly puts it). The proletarian banner of civil war will rally together, not only hundreds of thousands of class-conscious workers but millions of semi-proletarians and petty bourgeois, now deceived by chauvinism, but whom the horrors of war will not only intimidate and depress, but also enlighten, teach, arouse, organise, steel and prepare for the war against the bourgeoisie of their “own” country and “foreign” countries. And this will take place, if not today, then tomorrow, if not during the war, then after it, if not in this war then in the next one.

The Second International is dead, overcome by opportunism. Down with opportunism, and long live the Third International, purged not only of “turncoats” (as Golos wishes), but of opportunism as well.

The Second International did its share of useful preparatory work in preliminarily organising the proletarian masses during the long, “peaceful” period of the most brutal capitalist slavery and most rapid capitalist progress in the last third of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. To the Third International falls the task   of organising the proletarian forces for a revolutionary onslaught against the capitalist governments, for civil war against the bourgeoisie of all countries for the capture of political power, for the triumph of socialism!

Graeme Frost and S-CHIP

Karen Tumulty of Time writes about the right-wing smearing of twelve year old Graeme Frost--without, however, inquiring into the role of the office of Senator McConnell (R-Kentucky), Rush Limbaugh, cable-TV personality Michelle Malkin and other slime machine tools of the Republican leadership. And without pointing out that this has been standard Republican Party operating procedure since before Satan mated with Cthulhu and hatched Richard Nixon.

And Time's editors hedge their bets with the headline "The Swift-Boating of Graeme Frost": for the 30% Republican dead-enders, "swift-boating" is, as Marcia Stewart says, a good thing.

Here is the story:

The Swift-Boating of Graeme Frost - TIME: If you listen closely to the two-minute radio address that 12-year-old Graeme Frost delivered last week for the Democrats, you can hear the lingering effects of the 2004 car crash that put him into a coma for a week and left one of his vocal chords paralyzed. "Most kids my age probably haven't heard of CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program," he says in a voice that sounds weak and stressed. "But I know all about it, because if it weren't for CHIP, I might not be here today."... [A] Category 5 hurricane.... Mark Steyn wrote on National Review Online: "Bad things happen to good people, and they cause financial problems and tough choices. But, if this is the face of the 'needy' in America, then no one is not needy."...

[N]ot everything about the Frosts' life pops up on a Google search. While Graeme does attend a private school, he does so on scholarship. Halsey Frost is a self-employed woodworker; he and his wife say they earn between $45,000 and $50,000 a year to provide for their family of six. Their 1936 rowhouse was purchased in 1990 for $55,000. It was vacant and in a run-down neighborhood that has improved since then, in part because of people like themselves who took a chance. It is now assessed at $263,140, though under state law the value of that asset is not taken into account in determining their eligibility for SCHIP. And while they are still uninsured, they claim it is most certainly not by choice. Bonnie Frost says the last time she priced health coverage, she learned it would cost them $1,200 a month. In short, just as the radio spot claimed, the Frosts are precisely the kind of people that the SCHIP program was intended to help....

Halsey did have this to say in an e-mail to me:

My son Graeme has helped put on a human face, that of a young boy, representing the needs of children and families across this nation. We are a hard working family that has stepped forward to support SCHIP. Mudslinging from the fringe has now been directed at the messenger. To be smeared all over the Internet and receive nasty e-mail — my family does not deserve this retribution. It is both shameful and pathetic.

Driven by a most dubious agenda, shortsighted cut-and-paste bloggers, lacking all the facts, have made a feeble attempt at being crack reporters. This is an aberrant attempt to distract the American people from what the real issues are. Hard working American families need affordable health insurance.

I find it morally reprehensible, and the act of a true coward, to publicly (world wide) smear a man and his family and not sign one's own real name to what they have written. I sign my name to what I write.

Dunne's fictional saloonkeeper Martin Dooley observed that women, children and prohibitionists would do well to stay out of it, because "politics ain't beanbag." But surely, even Mr. Dooley could never have imagined a day would come when a mere seventh grader could be swift-boated.

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (New York Times Edition)

Sixteen paragraphs from Gail Collins in the New York Times this morning, of which one--and only one--is concerned with the substance of policy, and that one she spends mocking those who talk about policy substance:

Calvin Coolidge Redux: The main action in the Republican race is currently the squabbling between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. At the debate, Romney tried to brand Giuliani as an enemy of the line-item veto. This is, of course, fatal in a party in which everybody quails in fear of the powerful right-to-veto lobby. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good line-item veto fight. Not as exciting as the moment when John McCain laced into the Smoot-Hawley tariff, but quite the dust-up...

The other paragraphs are things likie:

Standing next to the towering Thompson and Giuliani, who always looks a little strange and skeletal, Romney resembled the handsome prince in “Shrek.” Not exactly the most reliable character in the kingdom, but a truly great head of hair...


Fred Thompson did great in that debate! He stayed upright the whole time! And he knew the name of the prime minister of Canada! No question, this man is ready to lead...


So there we are. Thanks to two hours of Republicans talking, Americans can now rest assured that Fred Thompson A) has all his marbles and B) is a terrible candidate. All actors, it seems, are not Ronald Reagan. Thompson not only isn’t charismatic, he doesn’t even seem pleasant. If Fred is a man of the people, I am Jennifer Lopez...

Why? Why? Why?

Ed Glaeser Reviews Paul Krugman's "The Conscience of a Liberal"

I found this sad--especially its last paragraph:

The World According to Paul Krugman - October 10, 2007 - The New York Sun: Human knowledge is produced by intellectual combat that exposes weak premises and faulty conclusions to withering challenge. We are often improved more by our ideological enemies than by our friends, because our enemies push us hardest. In that spirit, I welcome... Paul Krugman's "The Conscience of a [Liberal]"... the process of intellectually disagreeing with Mr. Krugman fired my own passion for liberty more than the rhetoric of any current GOP presidential candidate does.

Mr. Krugman has written a sweeping political history of the past 135 years from a stridently liberal Democratic viewpoint... noble Democratic progressives... a conspiracy of Republican knaves who are themselves the pawns of selfish plutocrats.

He advances his viewpoint... omitting those parts of the past that make history messier... Tilden's Southern victories were achieved through the violent suppression of black votes by Democratic henchmen and the Ku Klux Klan. He derides Barry Goldwater for his long-standing support of Joseph McCarthy, but does not seem disturbed that John F. Kennedy also chose not to censure "Tailgunner Joe." We read a great deal about Nixon's Southern strategy and implicit Republican appeals to racism... but little about the explicit Democratic strategy of race hatred... Theodore Bilbo.... Mr. Krugman's... two major themes are correct... the Democratic party has long battled inequality... Republicans have done a lot of dubious things in their quest for political dominance....

During the 20th century, Democrats have favored redistribution and social policies that would make America more equal.... But the price of equality can be the loss of economic productivity and, more importantly, of freedom.... Reading "The Conscience of a [Liberal]" left me hungry for a rival book... [with] two great themes... just as true... that the Republican party has long fought for freedom... that Democrats have done a lot of dubious things in their quest for power....

Such a book... [would] remind us that while "not every Democrat was a rebel, every rebel was a Democrat"... the century-long battle of leading Democrats to support Jim Crow... the majority of votes for the Civil Rights Act of 1957 were cast by Republicans... prosperity at home... freedom abroad under Republican leadership that put liberty first.... Neither the New Deal nor the Great Society were unmixed blessings.... Aaron Burr turned Tammany Hall into a political machine... political clout... banking privileges for the Manhattan Water Company... Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson... indicting one of the last century's most important Democrats... hard to argue that Jimmy Carter was a model of presidential competence.

Men are sinners and politics ain't beanbag. The inherent imperfection of our leaders has led conservatives, for centuries, to wisely limit the power of the state....

His book is not a pleasant read for those who don't share his views, but Republicans have much to learn from their Democratic opponents, just as Democrats have much to learn from the party of Lincoln.

It is sad because today's Republican Party seems very far indeed from being the Party of Lincoln--from which I think that Democrats do have an enormous amount to learn.

We wish Ed Glaeser luck in turning the Republican Party back into the Party of Lincoln--the party of free soil, free labor, and free men. But we don't see his chances as very good. Today's Republican politicians are not the children of Abe Lincoln: rather they are the children of Richard Nixon and Theodore Bilbo.

Paul Krugman Wishes He Was a Happier Man

He writes:

What makes me happy - Paul Krugma: So, I was teaching one of my classes (WWS593), and somehow the subject veered off into monetary policy and the lessons of Japanese experience — so I decided to drop the prepared lesson plan and talk about Japan in the 90s. And one of my students said, “You look so happy!”

It’s true: back in the 90s, when I was writing about Japan’s liquidity trap and other overseas problems, were good years. My own country was governed by responsible people; we were actually having policy discussions based on intelligent, if differing, viewpoints. The truth is that I don’t like having to do what I do in the Times, pointing out lies and corruption all the time. I wish we were having a civilized discussion. But we aren’t.

Paul Krugman wishes he was a happier man. So do I.

I do think he views the Republicans of the 1990s through rose-colored glasses: remember, these were the people who explicitly said that the thing they had to stop above all were Democratic proposals that were good for the country.

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach him now.

Clive Crook on CAFE

Clive Crook says:

  • A stronger CAFE is better than what we have now
  • A full-fledged gas tax would be better than a stronger CAFE
  • There is little chance of a full-fledged gas tax
  • I'm against a stronger CAFE

I think I am missing something.

Here is Clive Crook: / Comment & analysis / Columnists - Posturing will not save the planet: The website of the Sierra Club, the environmental group, says that “the biggest single step” America can take to reduce global warming and save consumers tens of billions of dollars is to adopt a stricter corporate average fuel economy (Cafe) standard. Legislation that would force carmakers to sell more fuel-efficient cars is being debated again on Capitol Hill. A lot of people think the Sierra Club is right.... Thomas Friedman, the trope-injected megapundit of The New York Times....

Far from being the biggest single step the US can take on this issue, tighter Cafe standards might be the smallest single step – apart that is, from doing nothing, and doing nothing at least has the virtue of being cheap.... Support for a stricter Cafe rule is not a sign of being serious about climate change but just the opposite.... In the end, a tighter rule would make America burn less gasoline and emit less carbon dioxide than otherwise – but not that much less....

It is bad that the underlying cost of Cafe is hidden, but worse that its effects are misdirected. The climate does not care whether greenhouse gases come from Hummers or Priuses.... Make all carbon-based energy dearer and innovation on a wide front will follow, as it must if this problem is to be seriously addressed....

Switching to a lower-carbon economy has a cost. A high tax on gasoline makes it explicit, and is therefore dismissed as politically impossible. But the idea that the Cafe approach is costless, or that its costs will fall entirely on companies that had it coming anyway, is infantile. Given a choice between the ambitious and the fatuous, is it not better to press for the first?

And is the carbon-tax approach really so unrealistic?

Its chances are not improved by calling for inferior alternatives. A lot depends on who speaks up for the idea. Mr Dingell, so criticised by Mr Friedman and others on this issue, is trying to drum up support for a gas tax, a carbon tax and a cap on mortgage-interest tax relief for energy-guzzling houses. He has put draft legislation out for comment. Sure, Michigan’s Mr Dingell is in the pocket of America’s car companies. That does not mean he is wrong.

"Trope-injected megapundit Thomas Friedman" is very good. But methinks Clive Crook is naive. If a high tax on gasoline had a snowball's chance in hell of passing, Dingell would be leading the opposition to it. He is only supporting it because he thinks if he holds it out there he can get some naive individuals like Clive Crook to oppose CAFE, which might pass.

Clive Crook is, I think, still a grasshopper in politics: unable to snatch the pebble from the hand.

Why Is Rich Lowry so Stupid?

He goes to Iraq, comes back, and writes:

Rich Lowry on Iraq on National Review Online: [the Bush administration] has never brought to bear its resources in a truly national effort to win; [Bush's] State Department has left almost the entire nonmilitary aspect of the war to the military; [Bush's] Pentagon’s slow-moving procurement program has an internal clock still set to peacetime; the top brass [appointed by Bush] worry more about relieving the strain on the ground forces than achieving success on the ground; and the Bush administration hasn’t been willing — until too late — to begin to provide a bigger force that would relieve that strain.... An officer at Forward Operating Base Justice in northwestern Baghdad explains that one translator who works there has to take three or four different taxis to get to the base, with a different faction ready to kill him from neighborhood to neighborhood. Sometimes our supposed allies in the Iraqi National Police work against us, and sometimes our enemies can be leveraged against our even-more-lethal enemies....

President Bush doesn’t seem much more relevant. In discussions of what motivates Iraqis, Bush’s favorite theme of freedom never comes up. It’s always survival, fear, power, or pride, or some combination of all of them. Bush has been famously resolute, but one wonders how much — even after four grueling years — he truly understands the war on which he has staked his presidency.

If this were the middle of a piece written by anybody not-stupid, it would begin:

George W. Bush should resign immediately, or be impeached. Richard Cheney too.

And it would end.

George W. Bush should resign immediately, or be impeached. Richard Cheney too.

But it doesn't. Because Rich Lowry is stupid. Really stupid.

Come to My Office Hours!

My office hours are Tuesday 1-3 in Evans 601. When people come to my office hours, they are enjoyable and fun.

When people don't come to my office hours, an unhealthy dynamic starts: First, I start accomplishing other tasks during them. Second, I start mentally slotting other tasks as things I can do during my (empty) office hours. Third, I start resenting students who come to my office hours and getting grouchy.

Nip this vicious spiral in the bud!

Monthly Review: An interview with Paul M. Sweezy

From 1999. Christopher Phelps:

Monthly Review: An interview with Paul M. Sweezy - founding editor of the 'Monthly Review - Interview:

Q: Do you regret any of those positions in the early days of the magazine? The editorial after Stalin died in 1953, for instance, called him one of the greatest men in history, I believe.

SWEEZY: Something like that. Well, in some ways he was, but he had his underside, too. I guess one should have been more cautious, but I think you had to take positions which were pretty much unambiguous. Either you were for or against the regimes, the actually existing socialist countries. I should have been, of course, much more perceptive, selective, and better informed. No doubt about that. I'm sure I wouldn't write anything the same now as I would have at any given time in the past. I wouldn't want to go back and try to rewrite those articles.

Q: Did you ever respond to Irving Howe's famous article "New Styles in Leftism" in Dissent, where he referred to you as a leading authoritarian leftist?

SWEEZY: No, but I did one time appear on a program someplace with Irving Howe. What I remember is Howe taking the position that I was the most dangerous of all, because I knew what was going on, and still kept supporting these horrors. See, the rest of the left were just dupes, who believed the nonsense. Pretty early on, there was a position like the Webbs's - that the Soviet Union was an ideal new society. Gradually one had to get over that. But not by turning around, becoming an enemy, joining the other side. That's always a difficult line to follow, I think, but it's absolutely essential.

Q: And in some way it involved defense of those states?

SWEEZY: Yes, yes, indeed...


Q: Then again, by the sixties, your criticisms of the Soviet Union were quite penetrating, of a very fundamental nature, calling it a new class society.

SWEEZY: Yes, to my way of thinking, the problem of the revolutions of the twentieth century is that they did not bring to power the proletariat organized as a class. What they did bring to power is tightly organized revolutionary parties drawn from elements of various sections of society. Those parties expropriated the traditional bourgeoisie but did not do away with the capital-labor relation as such. They substituted the state for the private capitalists as the employer of labor, unifying the many capitals which had grown up independent of each other in the course of capitalist history. That is not to say that all units of capital were put under one management, of course - only that all the separate managements became subject to the same ultimate authority, which now assumed the life-and-death powers that had previously been exercised by the impersonal forces of the market.

The question then arose of what we should call these states. They weren't socialist, but were they capitalist? Charles Bettelheim and I had an exchange on this point, among others, that lasted a period of some years. Bettelheim thought that we should call the Soviet Union a capitalist society, but I thought that would introduce into our analysis preconceptions, expectations, and biases which would inevitably influence our findings and cause much confusion. To my way of thinking, the power, prestige, and privileges of the Soviet rulers did not derive from the ownership of private wealth but from unmediated control over the state apparatus and hence over total social capital. The Soviet Union, though a class society and not the socialist society it claimed to be, had none of the economic laws of motion comparable to those of capitalism. For example, there was nothing like the chronic unemployment typical of the West.

To me, the precise terminology made no great practical difference, so I called the Soviet Union, rather indeterminately, a post-revolutionary society. I held that most of the distortions in post-revolutionary societies could be traced to the conditions of capitalist hostility, that the behavior and ideology of the Soviet ruling class was the result of its long struggle against an economically and militarily more powerful enemy...

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another New York Times Edition)

Roger Cohen: a man of bad faith with a bad conscience. Any reason to read anything he writes? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Nevertheless, Matthew Yglesias reads Cohen, and writes::

Red Baiting: Roger Cohen shows us all that he's actually the kind of liberal hawk who likes going in for a little McCarthyite red baiting now and again, analogizing my former colleague Mike Tomasky to a Stalin apologist. He doesn't cite any actual examples of Tomasky excusing or denying Saddam Hussein's depredations and, indeed, he has to concede that Mike did, in fact, acknowledge Saddam's crimes.

As Chris Hayes points out, Cohen's logic seems to be that anyone who didn't favor launching an unprovoked war with the USSR was, as such, an apologist for Stalinism.

And here we see the basic point that the I-was-wrong-but-I-was-right-anyway crowd on Iraq doesn't really think they were wrong at all. They regret nothing! Sure, spending over a trillion bucks on an operation that's led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis while leading hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- to become refugees doesn't seem like a very sound humanitarian position but the point is that they took a stand, damnit. And against Saddam Hussein. So there. In "Politics as a Vocation", Max Weber calls this sort of thing the "ethic of ultimate ends" and contrasts it with an "ethic of responsibility":

You may demonstrate to a convinced syndicalist, believing in an ethic of ultimate ends, that his action will result in increasing the opportunities of reaction, in increasing the oppression of his class, and obstructing its ascent--and you will not make the slightest impression upon him. If an action of good intent leads to bad results, then, in the actor's eyes, not he but the world, or the stupidity of other men, or God's will who made them thus, is responsible for the evil. However a man who believes in an ethic of responsibility takes account of precisely the average deficiencies of people; as Fichte has correctly said, he does not even have the right to presuppose their goodness and perfection. He does not feel in a position to burden others with the results of his own actions so far as he was able to foresee them; he will say: these results are ascribed to my action. The believer in an ethic of ultimate ends feels 'responsible' only for seeing to it that the flame of pure intentions is not quenched: for example, the flame of protesting against the injustice of the social order. To rekindle the flame ever anew is the purpose of his quite irrational deeds, judged in view of their possible success. They are acts that can and shall have only exemplary value.

And that's what this is all ultimately about -- an effort to evade responsibility by suggesting that what's really at issue here is a controversy over ends. The hawks must have felt Saddam's evil more intensely, must have been more moved by Kenan Makiya's pleas, been more attuned to the gulag, whatever. But no. Everyone knows and everyone knew that Saddam was a bad man. What some also knew was that invading Iraq was unlikely to have beneficial consequences. Cohen considered this possibility and rejected it. Or perhaps he failed to consider it. But either way, he was wrong.

links for 2007-10-09

UC Berkeley Economic History Seminar: October 8, 2007

Joachim Voth and Nico Voigtlaender, "The Three Horseman of Growth: Plague, War, and Urbanization in Early Modern Europe" UC Berkeley Economics Department Economic History Seminar:

So in the five minutes remaining in the seminar, let me describe the model...

Gravamen of the paper is that it is likely that early modern war 1500-1800 was much more destructive than feudal war 1000-1400, and that war-related mortality--largely disease--kept population down and hence farm sizes and living standards up.

The march from La Rochelle to Mantua in 1630--6000 soldiers spreading the plague...

Is There a "Liberal Professor" Problem?

Larry Summers thinks about it:

The Liberal (and Moderating) Professoriate: Summers said he identified strongly as a liberal and a Democrat, but that while in Washington he viewed himself as being on “the right half of the left,” in Cambridge, he landed “on the right half of the right.”... Summers said, he found “even less ideological diversity” than he thought he would, and that in the humanities and social sciences, Republicans are “the third group,” after Democrats and Nader and other left-wing third parties.

To date, Summers said, he has largely viewed the political imbalance as one of “able people making choices.” He said that if you are a smart individual, and you like the market, profits, and “striving for profits,” you have “a wide range of choices in life,” of which an academic career is but one. If you are a smart person who doesn’t like the world of markets and profits, “you have a much narrower range of choices,” he said, and academic careers may be quite desirable. In this way of thinking, he said, it’s not surprising to find more liberals than conservatives on college faculties.

At the same time, he added, the extent of the imbalance and some informal research he has conducted “give me pause”.... It’s not that there are no conservative professors, he said, but their share is so small as to raise questions that deserve more attention. Summers wondered if the situation isn’t like it was in the early days of baseball’s racial integration, when people trying to say equality had arrived could point to the relatively equal performance of black and white stars. “But it appeared that there were not any African-American 0.250 hitters,” Summers said. “The only [black] players who played were stars.”

Summers said it would be “extraordinarily unwise and dangerous” for government to try to force more balance in hiring. And he said it would be “a real horror” if, in the name of respecting all views, Harvard’s astronomy department hired an astrologer or the biology department hired a creationist. But while there is a “tension” in calling for more diversity of views, while excluding views such as those, he said it was worthy to seek more ideological diversity.

One reason... is to help liberalism. “As someone who is a strong Democrat and is a liberal, and does not think that we have won the argument with the country over the last 40 years, rather to the contrary, it makes me wonder whether if you do not engage in intense dialogue with those whom you disagree with in substantial number whether your own arguments will be sharpened and honed to maximum effect,” Summers said....

There is another argument for saying that more ideological balance in higher education shouldn’t be a goal, Summers said, and it is one that he understands, but questions. This perspective relates to conservative success in much of American society. “From the perspective of many, they’ve got the White House, the Supreme Court, the CEO’s of 85 percent of the Fortune 500. They’ve got Fox News. They’ve got an increasing share of the media, so is the right way to have diversity to change the one thing that’s progressive?” While Summers said that this attitude creates “a problematic role for universities to put themselves in,” he said that it explains the “extreme hostility” of some in academe to conservative ideas.

From where I sit, I don't think that either economics or political science has a conservative problem--meaning that I find myself slightly on the left as far as both disciplines are concerned. And I don't think any institution anywhere has a too-few-Republicans problem: universities don't need more believers in intelligent design or the appicability of the Laffer curve or the unitary executive or the genetic inferiority of Africans or more disbelievers in global warming. Do other disciplines have a too-few-conservatives problem? Perhaps, but I don't think it can be solved: I cannot think of a sociology department that would be improved by hiring Charles Murray or a philosophy department that would be improved by hiring William Kristol or a Middle Eastern studies department that would be improved by hiring Daniel Pipes. Perhaps there are history departments that would be improved by Ronald Radosh, perhaps not. But anti-meritocratic discrimination against thoughtful conservatives should create an opportunity and an obvious pool of potential high-quality conservative hires. I don't see such a pool anywhere.

Costa Rica's CAFTA Referendum

Dani Rodrik writes:

Dani Rodrik's weblog: How will Costa Rica vote on trade?: Costa Rican voters are deciding in a referendum today whether to participate in a U.S.-led regional trade agreement, CAFTA. Proponents tout the benefits on enhanced market access in the U.S., while opponents fret about provisions that will require changes in domestic regulations (in telecomms and insurance in particular), increase rights of U.S. investors, tighten intellectual property rules, and open up domestic agricultural markets. Here is a detailed summary of the agreement.

I have been a critic of these regional agreements in the past because their benefits tend to be greatly oversold. The additional market access you get is generally not worth the restrictions on your policy space that you have to accept. Developing countries have tended to sign on to these more for their signaling value ("we are a nice country and open for business") than for the direct economic gains. If NAFTA has proved such a disappointment for Mexico, it is hard to imagine that CAFTA will do a great deal for the development prospects of these countries.

Costa Rica is a long-standing democracy that rightly prides itself in its social arrangements and the quality of its polity. I do not know enough to have a strong view as to whether CAFTA is good or bad for this country. But I am happy that there is a referendum on the subject. Let the people decide.

I think that this is not something that Dani would ever have written had he been smart enough to accept our offer to come to Berkeley. Here in California we have referendums. LOTS of referendums. It is not an inspiring sight. It is much better for voters to elect representatives who share their values, and for the representative to then study and think and so develop informed opinions on the issues.

This idea--"the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election"--is, as Alexander Hamilton wrote 220 years ago, a great innovation in the

science of politics... [which] like most other sciences, has received great improvement. The efficacy of various principles is now well understood, which were either not known at all, or imperfectly known to the ancients.... [W]holly new discoveries... [and ideas that] have made their principal progress towards perfection in modern times... are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided..."

Referendums have advantages as symbolic actions raising the issue decided to a higher place as far as the consent of the governed is concerned. But for making good decisions? Very doubtful.

I am also puzzled by Dani Rodrik's lack of a view. If an economics professor specializing in global development and political economy doesn't have an informed view, who does?

I do have a view. Some of the provisions of CAFTA on intellectual property, et cetera, are bad for Costa Rica. Guaranteed tariff-free access to the largest consumer market in the world is very good. And almost all of the "restrictions on the policy space" imposed by CAFTA keep governments from going places where they should not go in the first place. On balance, CAFTA is a plus--although not a huge plus--for Costa Rica.

UPDATE: And it looks like I agree with a majority of the voters of Costa Rica:

AFP: Costa Rica votes yes to US free trade deal: partial results: Voters in Costa Rica narrowly backed a free trade deal with the United States, according to partial official referendum results released by electoral authorities on Sunday. Out of 73 percent of votes counted, just over 50 percent of voters said yes to the agreement against 47.5 percent who voted no, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal said. Turnout was around 60 percent.

If the small, relatively rich nation accepts it, the Central American Free Trade Agreement will open local markets to US products but also boost Costa Rican exports to the United States. It has been accepted by several other countries in the region, but faced left-wing opposition in Costa Rica, where President Oscar Arias was forced to call a referendum on it after more than three years of domestic debate...

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The 'Fala' Speech

Via Avedon Carol: FDR on September 23, 1944, to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America:

FDR: The 'Fala' Speech: WELL, here we are together again - after four years - and what years they have been! You know, I am actually four years older, which is a fact that seems to annoy some people. In fact, in the mathematical field there are millions of Americans who are more than eleven years older than when we started in to clear up the mess that was dumped in our laps in 1933.

We all know that certain people who make it a practice to depreciate the accomplishments of labor - who even attack labor as unpatriotic - they keep this up usually for three years and six months in a row. But then, for some strange reason they change their tune- every four years- just before election day. When votes are at stake, they suddenly discover that they really love labor and that they are anxious to protect labor from its old friends.

I got quite a laugh, for example - and I am sure that you did - when I read this plank in the Republican platform adopted at their National Convention in Chicago last July: "The Republican Party accepts the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act, the Wage and Hour Act, the Social Security Act and all other Federal statutes designed to promote and protect the welfare of American working men and women, and we promise a fair and just administration of these laws."

You know, many of the Republican leaders and Congressmen and candidates, who shouted enthusiastic approval of that plank in that Convention Hall would not even recognize these progressive laws if they met them in broad daylight. Indeed, they have personally spent years of effort and energy - and much money - in fighting every one of those laws in the Congress, and in the press, and in the courts, ever since this Administration began to advocate them and enact them into legislation. That is a fair example of their insincerity and of their inconsistency.

The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels. The object is to persuade the American people that the Democratic Party was responsible for the 1929 crash and the depression, and that the Republican Party was responsible for all social progress under the New Deal. Now, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery - but I am afraid that in this case it is the most obvious common or garden variety of fraud.

Of course, it is perfectly true that there are enlightened, liberal elements in the Republican Party, and they have fought hard and honorably to bring the Party up to date and to get it in step with the forward march of American progress. But these liberal elements were not able to drive the Old Guard Republicans from their entrenched positions. Can the Old Guard pass itself off as the New Deal? I think not. We have all seen many marvelous stunts in the circus but no performing elephant could turn a hand-spring without falling flat on his back.

I need not recount to you the centuries of history which have been crowded into these four years since I saw you last. There were some - in the Congress and out - who raised their voices against our preparations for defense - before and after 1939 - objected to them, raised their voices against them as hysterical war mongering, who cried out against our help to the Allies as provocative and dangerous. We remember the voices. They would like to have us forget them now. But in 1940 and 1941- my, it seems a long time ago - they were loud voices. Happily they were a minority and - fortunately for ourselves, and for the world - they could not stop America.

There are some politicians who kept their heads buried deep in the sand while the storms of Europe and Asia were headed Our way, who said that the lend-lease bill "would bring an end to free government in the United States," and who said, "only hysteria entertains the idea that Germany, Italy, or Japan contemplates war on us." These very men are now asking the American people to intrust to them the conduct of our foreign policy and our military policy.

What the Republican leaders are now saying in effect is this: "Oh, just forget what we used to say, we have changed our minds now - we have been reading the public opinion polls about these things and now we know what the American people want." And they say: "Don't leave the task of making the peace to those old men who first urged it and who have already laid the foundations for it, and who have had to fight all of us inch by inch during the last five years to do it. Why, just turn it all over to us. We'll do it so skillfully - that we won't lose a single isolationist vote or a single isolationist campaign contribution." I think there is one thing that you know: I am too old for that. I cannot talk out of both sides of my mouth at the same time.

The Government welcomes all sincere supporters of the cause of effective world collaboration in the making of a lasting peace. Millions of Republicans all over the Nation are with us - and have been with us - in our unshakable determination to build the solid structure of peace. And they too will resent this campaign talk by those who first woke up to the facts of international life a few short months ago when they began to study the polls of public opinion.

Those who today have the military responsibility for waging this war in all parts of the globe are not helped by the statements of men who, without responsibility and without' the knowledge of the facts, lecture the Chiefs of Staff of the United States as to the best means of dividing our armed forces and our military resources between the Atlantic and Pacific, between the Army and the Navy, and among the commanding generals of the different theaters of war. And I may say that those commanding generals are making good in a big way.

When I addressed you four years ago, I said, "I know that America will never be disappointed in its expectation that labor will always continue to do its share of the job we now face and do it patriotically and effectively and unselfishly." Today we know that America has not been disappointed. In his Order of the Day when the Allied armies first landed in Normandy two months ago, General Eisenhower said: "Our home fronts have given us overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war."

The country knows that there is a breed of cats, luckily not too numerous, called labor-baiters. I know that there are labor baiters among the opposition who, instead of calling attention to the achievements of labor in this war, prefer to pick on the occasional strikes that have occurred - strikes that have been condemned by every responsible national labor leader. I ought to say, parenthetically, all but one. And that one labor leader, incidentally, is certainly not conspicuous among my supporters. Labor-baiters forget that at our peak American labor and management have turned out airplanes at the rate of 109,000 a year; tanks - 57,000 a year; combat vessels - 573 a year; landing vessels, to get the troops ashore - 31,000 a year; cargo ships - 19 million tons a year - and Henry Kaiser is here tonight, I am glad to say; and small arms ammunition- oh, I can't understand it, I don't believe you can either - 23 billion rounds a year. But a strike is news, and generally appears in shrieking headlines - and, of course, they say labor is always to blame. The fact is that since Pearl Harbor only one-tenth of one percent of man-hours have been lost by strikes. Can you beat that?

But, you know, even those candidates who burst out in election-year affection for social legislation and for labor in general, still think that you ought to be good boys and stay out of politics. And above all, they hate to see any working man or woman contribute a dollar bill to any wicked political party. Of course, it is all right for large financiers and industrialists and monopolists to contribute tens of thousands of dollars - but their solicitude for that dollar which the men and women in the ranks of labor contribute is always very touching. They are, of course, perfectly willing to let you vote - unless you happen to be a soldier or a sailor overseas, or a merchant seaman carrying the munitions of war. In that case they have made it pretty hard for you to vote at all - for there are some political candidates who think that they may have a chance of election, if only the total vote is small enough.

And while I am on the subject of voting, let me urge every American citizen - man and woman- to use your sacred privilege of voting, no matter which candidate you expect to support. Our millions of soldiers and sailors and merchant seamen have been handicapped or prevented from voting by those politicians and candidates who think that they stand to lose by such votes. You here at home have the freedom of the ballot. Irrespective of party, you should register and vote this November. I think that is a matter of plain good citizenship.

Words come easily, but they do not change the record. You are, most of you, old enough to remember what things were like for labor in 1932. You remember the closed banks and the breadlines and the starvation wages; the foreclosures of homes and farms, and the bankruptcies of business; the "Hoovervilles," and the young men and women of the Nation facing a hopeless, jobless future; the closed factories and mines and mills; the ruined and abandoned farms; the stalled railroads and the empty docks; the blank despair of a whole Nation--and the utter impotence of the Federal Government. You remember the long, hard road, with its gains and its setbacks, which we have traveled together ever since those days. Now there are some politicians who do not remember that far back, and there are some who remember but find it convenient to forget. No, the record is not to be washed away that easily.

The opposition in this year has already imported into this campaign a very interesting thing, because it is foreign. They have imported the propaganda technique invented by the dictators abroad. Remember, a number of years ago, there was a book, Mein Kampf, written by Hitler himself. The technique was all set out in Hitler's book - and it was copied by the aggressors of Italy and Japan. According to that technique, you should never use a small falsehood; always a big one, for its very fantastic nature would make it more credible - if only you keep repeating it over and over and over again.

Well, let us take some simple illustrations that come to mind. For example, although I rubbed my eyes when I read it, we have been told that it was not a Republican depression, but a Democratic depression from which this Nation was saved in 1933 - that this Administration this one today - is responsible for all the suffering and misery that the history books and the American people have always thought had been brought about during the twelve ill-fated years when the Republican party was in power. Now, there is an old and somewhat lugubrious adage which says: "Never speak of rope in the house of a man who has been hanged." In the same way, if I were a Republican leader speaking to a mixed audience, the last word in the whole dictionary that I think I would use is that word "depression."

You know, they pop up all the time. For another example, I learned - much to my amazement - that the policy of this Administration was to keep men in the Army when the war was over, because there might be no jobs for them in civil life. Well, the very day that this fantastic charge was first made, a formal plan for the method of speedy discharge from the Army had already been announced by the War Department - a plan based on the wishes of the soldiers themselves. This callous and brazen falsehood about demobilization did, of course, a very simple thing; it was an effort to stimulate fear among American mothers and wives and sweethearts. And, incidentally, it was hardly calculated to bolster the morale of our soldiers and sailors and airmen who are fighting our battles all over the world.

But perhaps the most ridiculous of these campaign falsifications is the one that this Administration failed to prepare for the war that was coming. I doubt whether even Goebbels would have tried that one. For even he would never have dared hope that the voters of America had already forgotten that many of the Republican leaders in the Congress and outside the Congress tried to thwart and block nearly every attempt that this Administration made to warn our people and to arm our Nation. Some of them called our 50,000 airplane program fantastic. Many of those very same leaders who fought every defense measure that we proposed are still in control of the Republican party - look at their names - were in control of its National Convention in Chicago, and would be in control of the machinery of the Congress and of the Republican party, in the event of a Republican victory this fall.

These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him - at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars- his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself - such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.

Well, I think we all recognize the old technique. The people of this country know the past too well to be deceived into forgetting. Too much is at stake to forget. There are tasks ahead of us which we must now complete with the same will and the same skill and intelligence and devotion that have already led us so far along the road to victory. There is the task of finishing victoriously this most terrible of all wars as speedily as possible and with the least cost in lives. There is the task of setting up international machinery to assure that the peace, once established, will not again be broken. And there is the task that we face here at home - the task of reconverting our economy from the purposes of war to the purposes of peace. These peace-building tasks were faced once before, nearly a generation ago. They were botched by a Republican administration. That must not happen this time. We will not let it happen this time.

Fortunately, we do not begin from scratch. Much has been done. Much more is under way. The fruits of victory this time will not be apples sold on street corners. Many months ago, this Administration set up the necessary machinery for an orderly peacetime demobilization. The Congress has passed much more legislation continuing the agencies needed for demobilization - with additional powers to carry out their functions. I know that the American people - business and labor and agriculture - have the same will to do for peace what they have done for war. And I know that they can sustain a national income that will assure full production and full employment under our democratic system of private enterprise, with Government encouragement and aid whenever and wherever that is necessary.

The keynote of all that we propose to do in reconversion can be found in the one word jobs. We shall lease or dispose of our Government-owned plants and facilities and our surplus war property and land, on the basis of how they can best be operated by private enterprise to give jobs to the greatest number. We shall follow a wage policy that will sustain the purchasing power of labor - for that means more production and more jobs. You and I know that the present policies on wages and prices were conceived to serve the needs of the great masses of the people. They stopped inflation. They kept prices on a relatively stable level. Through the demobilization period, policies will be carried out with the same objective in mind -to serve the needs of the great masses of the people.

This is not the time in which men can be forgotten as they were in the Republican catastrophe that we inherited. The returning soldiers, the workers by their machines, the farmers in the field, the miners, the men and women in offices and shops, do not intend to be forgotten. No, they know that they are not surplus. Because they know that they are America. We must set targets and objectives for the future which will seem impossible - like the airplanes - to those who live in and are weighted down by the dead past. We are even now organizing the logistics of the peace, just as Marshall and King and Arnold, MacArthur, Eisenhower, and Nimitz are organizing the logistics of this war.

I think that the victory of the American people and their allies in this war will be far more than a victory against Fascism and reaction and the dead hand of despotism of the past. The victory of the American people and their allies in this war will be a victory for democracy. It will constitute such an affirmation of the strength and power and vitality of government by the people as history has never before witnessed. And so, my friends, we have had affirmation of the vitality of democratic government behind us, that demonstration of its resilience and its capacity for decision and for action - we have that knowledge of our own strength and power - we move forward with God's help to the greatest epoch of free achievement by free men that the world has ever known.

Problems with Individual Health Insurance Mandates

Tyler Cowen writes:

Marginal Revolution: Mandatory health insurance: Glen Whitman reports:

  1. According to an Urban Institute study, uncompensated care for the uninsured accounts for only three percent of U.S. health care costs.
  2. 47 states require drivers to buy automobile insurance, yet the median percentage of uninsured drivers in these states is 12%.
  3. States should eliminate required benefits from insurance policies and allow the poor to buy policies for (relatively) cheap catastrophic care.

Here is the full piece, from Business Week; this is a topic deserving of more attention.  I'm still wondering what -- de facto -- will be done against those poor people who are required to buy health insurance but don't do so.

As Matthew Yglesias writes:

Matthew Yglesias: Enforcement: Tyler Cowen says "I'm still wondering what -- de facto -- will be done against those poor people who are required to buy health insurance but don't do so." Tyler comes at this from the perspective of a bad right-winger, an opponent of universal health insurance, but I wonder, too. To me, this problem seems like a significant disadvantage of the current vogue for mandate-and-subsidize over a more traditional set-up wherein the government pays for all or some of people's health expenses and collects taxes from people in order to do so. We already have a mechanism in place for enforcing payment of taxes.

Megan McArdle Wrestles with Darwin at the Ford of the Jabbok...

Thereafter, Megan walked with a limp. That is why, to this day, Atlantic Monthly webloggers eat not of the muscle that is upon the hollow of the thigh...

She writes:

I am my own lodestar: It takes some chutzpah to argue that intelligence is not heritable, and variant--frankly, I don't know why these people are arguing with me when they could be teaching their dog nuclear physics. But this is no stupider than using IQ to explain all differences in racial and gender outcomes, when we have good evidence that plain old discrimination is alive and well in the labor market. Resumes with identifiably black names on them are much less likely to be picked out of the pile than identical resumes with white names... white job seekers are more likely to be offered a job after an interview than black applicants, even when they've been coached to give the same answers.

Similarly, while I am broadly comfortable with the notion that male IQ distributions may have fatter tails than female distributions... it's hard to avoid the evidence that women are judged by a different standard than men. For example, the "natural" difference in the representation of women and men in the ranks of professional orchestra turned out to be mostly due to the "natural" bias of the judges; when the auditions were "blind" (done behind a screen), suddenly we found out [as documented by Ceci Rouse and Claudia Goldin] there had been a lot of talented women hidden under those skirts. Similarly, as Neil the Ethical Werewolf points out...

Dr. Urry cited a 1983 study in which 360 people - half men, half women - rated mathematics papers on a five-point scale. On average, the men rated them a full point higher when the author was "John T. McKay" than when the author was "Joan T. McKay."... Princeton students were asked to evaluate two highly qualified candidates... picked the more educated candidate 75 percent of the time... when the... educated candidate bore a female name, suddenly she was preferred only 48 percent of the time....

But of course, the people in those studies, those auditions, didn't think that they were being sexist... most of them undoubtedly thought that they were doing their level best.... [S]elf-examination is not always the best way to determine whether you are discriminating.... I think a lot of us, in considering whether America, especially our little part of it, is racist or sexist, rely mostly on this kind of self-check.... I don't think I've ever discriminated--but I don't know.... I doubt its much consolation to the black people I didn't hire that I had no urge whatsoever to lob the n-word in their direction.

I don't think affirmative action works, for a variety of reasons, but with data like this presenting a sketchy but coherent emerging picture of systematic discrimination, it's not hard to understand the moral logic that motivates the program's supporters. And while I found the hysterical reaction to Larry Summers more than a little embarassing, it's also not hard to understand why their supporters get a mite testy when their opponents say that underrepresentation of blacks and women in high-level jobs just proves that they aren't good enough. Genetics could be a factor in distributional differences (and I think probably is, within groups)--but in a society that seems to have measurable levels of latent discrimination, I don't think there's any way to tell how much of a factor it is in inter-group outcomes.

Put me down as somebody who is not comfortable with the idea that male distributions have "fatter tails" than female ones. The small size of the Y chromosome that makes males genetically fragile is an argument for a fat lower tail in the male distribution, not "fatter tails." The genetic argument-from-brainpower has to go something like: "male Y--genetically fragile--musch greater susceptibility to autism-spectrum disorders--have no social and family life--hence don't mind working all the time." I don't think it works.

But otherwise, a very good wrestle with a very hard problem.

King Lear Blogging

King Lear at the California Shakespeare Theater. Very well done.

There are, of course, the Berkeley moments: the announcement beforehand that there is a silver Prius in the parking lot with its interior lights on, and four men (including me) get up to check...

Were I Berkeley law professor John Yoo, I would never agree to take part in the production and come on stage to waterboard and then blind the Earl of Gloucester. And I would never agree to make Gloucester confess not just to conspiring with Cordelia and the French but also to being the twentieth highjacker...


Cory Doctorow reviews Jo Walton's Ha'Penny_:

Ha'penny, haunting thriller about an alternate British Reich: Ha'penny is the sequel to Jo Walton's chilling, heartbreaking novel Farthing, an alternate history about a quisling Britain that makes peace with Hitler and helps create a stable, thousand-year Reich on the Continent....

Ha'penny is a thriller, not a murder-mystery, but it is otherwise the twin of Farthing. It continues the story of New Scotland Yard Inspector Carmichael, a compromised, closeted homosexual who is the pained lackey of the fascist plan to sell Britain out to the Reich. In Ha'penny, Carmichael is called on to investigate a plot to assassinate Hitler and the Prime Minister, a plot that's mixed up with the IRA, radical Lords, and a family of divided aristocratic girls... a Britain that is credibly and horribly transformed, a Britain where fear of terrorists has driven sensible people to believe evil things, such as the need for the ubiquitous identity cards that play a key role in the oppression that is at the heart of this book.

Walton is doing amazing work here, writing a kind of latter-day 1984, a savage blast against the authoritarian opportunists who have cynically manipulated terrorist tragedies to suppress political speech and whip up fear to a high froth of CCTVs and identity papers.... Ha'penny is a literary Guernica.... It doesn't hurt that this is a top-notch thriller.... I hear there's a third in the series, and I can only pray that it brings some hope to Walton's Quisling Britain, some chance of redemption for the all-too-plausible authoritarian alternate history that is such a sharp mirror of our sad present world.

Ha'Penny is highly recommended.

I think Jo Walton has set herself a very, very difficult task here with the third book. A trilogy is too much for dystopia: it is all very well to have a boot stamping on a human face, forever, in theory. But in practice three boots is too much.

On the other hand, to have a happy ending to the trilogy is likely to destroy the artistic, moral, and message integrity of the series. The only out I can see is for Carmichael to die heroically at the end of the third book, and so cause the United States to enter the war...

UPDATE: Oh dear. I appear to have eroded the morale of Jo Walton, which was not my intention. I have enormous confidence in her ability to write her way out of the corner she is in:

papersky: Why one shouldn't pay attention to reviews: I was looking for Ha'Penny reviews (it's been out nearly a week now, surely some more people should have read it, and what about Kirkus?) and I found Brad Delong quoting Cory and saying he doesn't think I can pull off a happy ending at the end of the series -- well, I think it nearly works and I'm fixing it, but what do I know. Hoom, hom. Next year.

I also found Pamela's Eric loving Farthing with spoilers and a stranger in Bristol loving Farthing without spoilers and an Amazon review saying it's worthless and that they stopped reading in the first ten pages because the dialogue sucked.

The dialogue? I thought dialogue was one of those things I could sort of do, not brilliantly but kind of OK and invisibly? Nobody has ever complained about my dialogue since I figured out, rather late but before being published, how to format it properly. I turn frantically to the first ten pages of Farthing, which reassured me that in fact I can do dialogue OK, and also cheered me up somewhat -- and I figured out what the reviewer actually didn't like. He didn't like Lucy's voice. Now I can see that. You either like it or you don't, and if you don't it's going to grate like nails on a blackboard, because it runs on like that for the whole book, with her "Henry the Eighth, or King James, or whoever it was" and all of that. It isn't dialogue in the conventional sense that was worrying me, but it is her voice, and he called it dialogue because what does he know?

Having resolved that to my satisfaction, I have achieved precisely nothing but wasting time. I spent two minutes each being gratified at the good reviews and ten minutes panicking at the one liner put down -- and honestly Charlie, this is me not paying attention to them.

But it's hard not to look at them, because writing is such a solitary thing, and reviews and reactions are one of the things that are reassuring to my sense of it not being quite real. This isn't imposter syndrome exactly, it's more the floating-in-black-space hoping for echoes thing.

The Gazette, our local English-language paper, has a listing inj their Saturday Books section for my "launch" of Ha'Penny on Wednesday at 19h00 in Paragraphe on McGill. (I hope to see some of you...) Seeing it in print on paper in the paper I read anyway was odd. It made it seem no more real, but somehow much more grown up.

Top Ten Results for Brad DeLong on Google, October 6, 2007

What Google pays most attention to about me, at least this weekend:

  1. J. Bradford DeLong, "The Invisible College," Chronicle of Higher Education: Right now I'm looking out my office window, perched above the large, grassy, Frisbee-playing, picnicking, and sunbathing area that stretches through Berkeley's campus. I'm looking straight out at the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a view that I marvel at every dayI wonder why the chancellor hasn't confiscated such offices and rented them out to hedge funds to improve the university's finances. I walk out my door and look around: at the offices of professors who know more about topics like the history of the international monetary system or the evolution of income distribution than any other human beings alive, and at graduate students hanging out in the lounge. It's a brilliant intellectual community, this little slice of the world that is our visible college. You run into people in the hall and the lounge, and you learn interesting things. Paradise. For an academic, at least. But I am greedy. I want more. I would like a larger college, an invisible college, of more people to talk to, pointing me to more interesting things...

  2. J. Bradford DeLong and A. Michael Froomkin, "Speculative Microeconomics for Tomorrow's Economy," First Monday: Governments and societies that bet on the market system become more materially prosperous and technologically powerful. The lesson usually drawn from this economic success story is that in the overwhelming majority of cases the best thing the government can do for the economy is to set the background rules - define property rights, set up honest courts, perhaps rearrange the distribution of income, impose minor taxes and subsidies to compensate for well-defined and narrowly-specified "market failures" - but otherwise the government should leave the market system alone. The main argument for the market system is the dual role played by prices. On the one hand, prices serve to ration demand: anyone unwilling to pay the market price does not get the good. On the other hand, price serves to elicit production: any organization that can make a good, or provide a service, for less than its market price has a powerful financial incentive to do so. What is produced goes to those who value it the most. What is produced is made by the organizations that can make it the cheapest. And what is produced is whatever the ultimate users value the most. The data processing and data communications revolutions shake the foundations of this standard case for the market...

  3. J. Bradford DeLong, "Sailing into Harm's Way versus the Dangerously Eloquent Jeff Faux," TPMCafe: I think it's time to put myself seriously in harm's way here.... I reply: There aren't many commissars-turned-capitalists. Scratching on the back of my envelope, I find that at current exchange rates, China's GDP per worker--and there are 800 million workers--is $3,000 per year. (In 1990 it was $1,100 of today's dollars per year.) According to Piketty and Qian's guesses, the top 0.1% of China's workers get an average of $30,000 per year at current exchange rates. This elite of some 800,000 do live considerably better in their homes in Shanghai than Americans with $30,000 do--unskilled labor and the services it provides are really cheap in Shanghai because China is still really poor (perhaps at a level equivalent to $100,000 per year if you like being waited on and having a household staff; much less if you don't). Redistribute all the income of the 800,000 commissars-turned-capitalists back to the masses, and you boost median standards of living in China by 1% above current levels. In 1877, it was the United States that was the rising superpower across the ocean to the west of the world's industrial and military leader. Today it is China. In 1917 and again in 1941 it was greatly to Britain's benefit that America regarded it as a friend and an ally rather than as a competitor and an enemy...

  4. J. Bradford DeLong, "A man who hated government," Salon: "Lord, enlighten thou our enemies," prayed 19th century British economist and moral philosopher John Stuart Mill in his "Essay on Coleridge." "Sharpen their wits, give acuteness to their perceptions, and consecutiveness and clearness to their reasoning powers. We are in danger from their folly, not from their wisdom: their weakness is what fills us with apprehension, not their strength." For every left-of-center American economist in the second half of the 20th century, Milton Friedman (1912-2006), Nobel Prize winner, founder of the conservative "Chicago School" of economics and advisor to Republicans from Goldwater to Reagan, was the incarnate answer to John Stuart Mill's prayer...

  5. J. Bradford DeLong, "The odds of economic meltdown," Salon: Forecasting recessions is a fool's game. If there is enough solid economic information to make it appear highly likely that a recession is coming -- that production, unemployment and consumer demand will actually fall -- then it is highly likely that there already is a recession. Businesses are not stupid, and they don't have to wait for economists to tell them what they already know. By the time a gloomy forecast has been issued they've probably already noticed a drop in consumer demand and responded by firing workers and reducing production. So: Never say that a recession is coming. Say only that a recession is here, or that there might be a recession on the way. Which, in fact, is what I'm saying today...

  6. J. Bradford DeLong, "'The Age of Turbulence' by Alan Greenspan": Los Angeles Times: For nearly 20 years Alan Greenspan, as head of America's central bank, was the most powerful economic central planner the world has ever seen. What did he do? Roughly twice a year, the Federal Reserve chairman had to make a substantive decision about whether to raise, lower or keep the level of U.S. interest rates the same...

  7. Russell Roberts, Cafe Hayek: DeLong looks back: Two wonderful posts by Brad DeLong on the economic changes of the last century...

  8. Project Syndicate: Thought Leaders: Anatomy of the Global Economy...

  9. J. Bradford DeLong - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: James Bradford DeLong (b. June 24, 1960, Boston) is a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration. He is also a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and is a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. DeLong is chair of Berkeley's political economy major and a professor in the economics department. He teaches intermediate macroeconomics, graduate economic history, American economic history, economic growth, and other courses...

  10. J. Bradford DeLong, Academic Filters...: Matthew Yglesias asks a good question: Why are people talking about what Larry Summers said were his "guesses" about gender, genetics, and math achievement? Why aren't people talking about the main point of Larry Summers's talk on the underrepresentation of women in high-prestige prize academic jobs?: "Now that the full text of the speech is out, I'm surprised so much of the discussion has focused on the genetics issue to the [exclusion of the] number one [most important] item on the Summers list [of reasons for the underrepresentation of women] -- women's alleged unwillingness to work long hours because they're too busy having kids and taking care of them. This is, I think, undoubtedly a major factor..." I think that Matt is too glib in characterizing what is in fact Larry's main point. The process of climbing to the top of the professoriate is structured as a tournament, in which the big prizes go to those willing to work the hardest and the smartest from their mid-twenties to their late thirties. Given our society (and our biology), a man can enter this tournament this without foreclosing many life possibilities: they can marry someone who will bear the burden of being for a decade a "happily married single parent," or they can decompress in their late thirties, look around, marry someone five years younger, have their family, and then live the leisured life of the theory class--or not. But given our society (and our biology), a woman cannot enter this particular academic tournament without running substantial risks of foreclosing many life possibilities if she decides to postpone her family, and a woman cannot enter this particular academic tournament without feeling--and being--at a severe work intensity-related handicap if she does not postpone her family...

Now I need to think about a hard question: what are the ten substantive pieces that I wish google would list first about me?