Previous month:
July 2008
Next month:
September 2008

August 2008

Income and Poverty Over the 2000-2007 Business Cycle

2000-2007: the first business cycle during which median household income in America falls from peak to peak:

It's not all George W. Bush's fault, but I can think of a number of things he did to hurt and not a damned thing he did to help.

The poverty rate rose from 12.3 to 12.5 percent of the population between 2006 and 2007.

And private health insurance coverage continued to decline.

To Leave Error Unrefuted Is to Encourage Intellectual Immorality!

Two from Paul Krugman:


Savings delusions: Hmm. Stan Collender praises Tyler Cowen for his insight that “people” have been treating capital gains as saving, setting us up for the current mess. But it wasn’t just “people”: the assertion that all’s well thanks to capital gains has been a staple argument of conservative economic commentators, notably David Malpass; in fact, it’s an argument that pops up every couple of months on the WSJ editorial page. So this isn’t a delusion of the great unwashed; it’s a doctrine, one that has played a big role in conservative thinking.


The Tax Foundation is not a reliable source: Greg Mankiw [vs] Everyone who did a little fact-checking.

Here is the link to Mark Thoma:

Economist's View: "The Greek Menace": First, Paul Krugman:

There’s a lot to say about this stuff, but right now I’d just like to mention one aspect. The Tax Foundation people start off with a graph that’s supposed to be terrifying, with the headline “Europe cuts rates while U.S. stands still”; the graph shows European tax rates dropping far below the US rate.... [T]hey don’t explain how they calculate the “average” tax rate, the fact that their own data show that all the big economies have tax rates above 30%, while their graph shows an average rate of about 27%, seems to indicated that they’re showing us an unweighted average — that is, one that makes small economies like Ireland and Greece seem as important as big economies like Japan and Germany. And whaddya know, corporate taxes in big economies tend to be similar to those in the United States, a point made by the Congressional Budget Office in the study from which the chart above is drawn...

Next, from Linda Beale:

Tax Foundation and Competitive Environments: more bunk!, by ataxingmatter: As a result, the US is actually a corporate tax haven, with the lowest effective corporate tax rates of almost all the countries that participate in the OECD. That's a little fact that the Tax Foundation apparently doesn't want the American public to understand, since all its hype is in terms of statutory rates and not in terms of effective tax rates...

As Dean Baker notes, the Washington Post has been pushing the same line:

Washington Post Misleads Readers to Push for Lower Corporate Tax Rates, Beat the Press: The Washington Post editorial page has no qualms about making up data to further its agenda. ... Most newspapers might feel embarrassment about using such a blatant misrepresentation to push its preferred policies, but not the Post. Today, the preferred policy is further reductions in corporate income taxes. To advance this agenda the Post tells readers that, "U.S. companies operating abroad already labor under a bigger tax burden than most foreign competitors." That's not what the OECD says. Data from the OECD show that in the average member country corporate taxes are equal to about 3.5 percent of GDP. In the United States, corporate taxes have generally been between and 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent of GDP over the last two decades, according to the Congressional Budget Office (Table F-4)...

Morning Coffee: Why McCain's Health Reform Plans Frighten Me (August 25, 2008)

The biggest economic bad news is that health care costs keep rising. The total bill charged by insurers for employer and employee averages $12,100 for a family of four--twice the level of seven years ago, and comfortably more than the full-time earnings of a minimum-wage worker. On top of this come the taxes for government health care programs. The American health care bill is over $7,600 per person per year.

This matters for American businesses. Businesses pay for health insurance coverage for 165 million non-elderly Americans, for the high-wage jobs that make use of the educations, skills, and high potential productivity of American workers come with benefits. This creates a direct link between rising health care costs and slower economic growth. When health costs rise, the costs of employing workers in high-wage high-benefit jobs rise as well. Businesses find that they cannot afford to expand employment as rapidly as they would otherwise: higher health care costs make maintaining their old workforce and expanding it via new hires very expensive. They economize. They hire fewer workers. They offer lower wages. Workers resist. The result is slow employment growth and higher unemployment until workers recognize that the scarcity of good jobs and the higher risk of unemployment teaches them they have little bargaining power--a process that takes years. Meanwhile workers who ought to be in high-skill high-wage high-productivity jobs with benefits find themselves in low-skill low-wage low-productivity jobs without benefits instead. This is a waste. Workers who could hold down high-productivity jobs don't, and so don't get the wages that they deserve. Firms who could employ high-skill workers don't, and so don't get the profits that they deserve.

Successful economic growth requires a more efficient, lower cost health care sector. John McCain and Barack Obama propose diametrically-opposed plans for trying to get the health care system to where we all want it to be.

John McCain proposes a root-canal surgery approach. The problem, he and his health-care advisors believe, is that good jobs are linked to health-care benefits. Break that link--remove the expectation that good high-productivity jobs come with benefits--and the health care sector will no longer be a major drag on the American economy as it goes its own way, whatever that way might be. Hence John McCain proposes, relative to the current system, to penalize employers that offer high-value employer-sponsored coverage and subsidize individuals who get health insurance outside the employment relationship.

We see two problems with McCain's approach: the journey and the destination. The journey: The McCain plan works in the long-run by making employer-sponsored coverage more expensive in the short- and the medium-run. It thus attempts a cure by giving American business a worse case of the rapidly-rising health-cost disease from which it currently suffers. Rapidly rising health costs are a drag on high-wage high-profit high-productivity employment now, and they will be a much worse drag on high-wage high-profit high-productivity employment under the McCain plan--at least until we come out the other side and enter a world in which it is no longer expected that high-productivity jobs come with benefits.

The destination: The biggest problem in health care today is that insurers are rewarded not for keeping their customers healthy but for figuring out which customers are likely to get sick first--and then dumping them onto other insurers or onto the government. At present, this problem is restrained by the institution of employer-sponsored insurance: bid for an employer's contract and ERISA requires that you take any of their workers who want to purchase your plan. The destination of McCain's plan is a place where insurers have much more freedom to spend money, administrators' time, and computer power separating the healthy sheep from the costly and sick goats--but the profits to doing this for one insurer are not savings for the system because the sick and uncovered do show up at the emergency room eventually and are more expensive to treat when they get there. We believe that when the McCain plan does move us to a world in which the expectational link between high-productivity jobs and benefits is broken we will then have a system that works even less well than our current one.

Barack Obama, by contrast, offers a much more conservative approach to the problem of health care reform. Instead of using tax penalties and incentives to break the existing system and create a whole new set of untried health care financing institutions, Barack Obama proposes to build on those components of our current system that do work--and to make them work better.

But I've talked for More than Long Enough


We return from vacation to find ourselves with a yellow house.

A definite improvement, I think...


I have been In Teh Zone for the past three hours, furiously writing and finding connections falling into place with the effortless grace that comes about when one is In Teh Zone.

But at some point during the past three hours--I cannot remember doing it--I went to the refrigerator and grabbed the large iced coffee I was saving for breakfast tomorrow.

The glass is now empty beside my computer--I don't remember drinking any of it. The problem is:

  • It was caffeinated.
  • I have not had caffeinated coffee in three months.
  • It's 11:30 PM.
  • I am now bone-tired and exhausted from having gotten up at 5 AM.

I don't think I can sleep. And my brain is now too fried--I've come down from Teh Zone--to do anything serious.

I think that I have just flunked the Turing Test. This isn't the kind of thing that a sentient intelligence would do to itself, is it?

Maybe I'll go buy Steven Brust's Jhegaala on the kindle and read it until dawn...

History of Political Economy: A New Course I Am Not Going to Teach This Year--or the Year After



  • Albert Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests
  • David Hume, "On the Balance of Trade"
  • Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
  • Paul Krugman, Ricardo's Difficult Idea
  • David Ricardo, On Foreign Trade (chapter 7 of Principles of Political Economy and Taxation)
  • David Ricardo, An Essay on the Influence of a Low Price of Corn on the Profits of Stock
  • John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy (selections)
  • Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
  • Karl Marx, Wage Labor and Capital
  • Karl Marx, Capital (selections)

Late Classics:

  • Alfred Marshall, Principles of Political Economy (selections)
  • Max Weber, The National State and Economic Policy
  • Norman Angell, The Great Illusion


  • Polanyi, The Great Transformation (selections)
  • John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace
  • John Maynard Keynes, A Tract on Monetary Reform
  • John Maynard Keynes, Essays in Persuasion
  • George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier
  • Friedrich Hayek, The Use of Knowledge in Society
  • Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Friedman
  • James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent

Moderns (Africa):

  • Albert Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty
  • Robert Bates, Markets and States in Tropical Africa
  • James Scott, Seeing Like a State
  • Rene Dumont, False Start in Africa
  • Margaret Macmillan et al., When Economic Reform Goes Wrong: Cashews in Mozambique
  • Daron Acemoglu et al., An African Success Story: Botswana

Draft: To Spend Is to Tax

We economists have a scenario that we call "current policy plus Bush tax cuts." It is made up of (i) the laws currently in force in the United States of America, plus (ii) the assumption that the defense, veterans, and other spending currently appropriated year-by-year by the congress remains the same as a share of GDP, plus (iii) the assumption that the tax breaks like the R&D credit and the regular pruning-back of the Alternative Minimum Tax that are voted for year by year by overwhelming congressional majorities continue to be enacted year-by-year, plus (iv) the assumption that the tax cuts George W. Bush proposed in 2001 and 2003 but made time-limited and set to expire early next decade are renewed. This "current policy plus Bush tax cuts" scenario has the federal government taxing about 20% of GDP over the next seventy-five years. It has the federal government forecast to spend 28% of GDP on average over the next seventy-five years. This is the fiscal gap.

A number of policies could be enacted to eliminate this fiscal gap. Simply doing nothing and letting the Bush tax cuts expire as current law requires them to do would reduce the fiscal gap from 8 percent to 6 percent of GDP. Raising Social Security taxes or cutting back future Social Security benefits by the about 1/7 needed to get the Social Security system back into projected 75-year balance would further reduce the fiscal gap from 6 percent of GDP to 5 percent of GDP. Returning military spending to its late-1990s share of GDP--not fighting wars in Iraq, et cetera--would reduce the fiscal gap from 5% to 3.5% of GDP. And eliminating "excess" cost growth in the government health care programs Medicare and Medicaid--allowing Medicare and Medicaid spending per eligible beneficiary to grow only as fast as the rate of growth of income in the economy as a whole--would bring the federal government into projected balance.

I believe that when we Americans look deep into ourselves and ask us what we want our government--because it is our government: it is our agent to do what we want with our money just as the guy in Florida we hire to keep grandma's one bedroom condo in repair is our agent--to do, we conclude the following:

  1. We want to let the Bush tax cuts expire.
  2. We want to close the 75-year Social Security gap, half by raising the limit on earnings taxed by Social Security so that the upper middle class and the rich pay more for Social Security and half by reducing the rate of growth of benefits at retirement.
  3. We want to stop sending our soldiers--the best-trained and best-equipped high tech armed forces in the world--abroad to be military police in countries riven by sectarian conflict where they do not speak the language--and so return defense spending to its late-1990s share of GDP.
  4. We want to reduce but not eliminate the "excess" cost growth in Medicare and Medicaid: we believe our doctors, nurses, and druggists will learn how to do wonderful things over the next two generations, and we do not want those wonderful things in the way of medicine applied only to the rich but to the poor and old as well.
  5. Whether or not we decide to do (1) through (4) above, we want to raise taxes to cover whatever of the long-run fiscal gap remains, and so bring the federal budget back into balance over the long run.

Note that (5) is not optional. As the late Milton Friedman liked to put it: to spend is to tax. If the government buys things, it must get the money to buy them from somewhere. It can get the money from three places. It can tax. It can borrow--but then the borrowing has to be repaid with interest, and the more is borrowed the higher the interest and the worse the value the taxpayers ultimately get for their money when they are taxed to repay the borrowing. Or it can print the money and so inflate the currency--but that too is a tax, and an especially unfair, painful, and destructive one, as lots and lots of people victimized by inflation find their wealth doesn't buy what it used to and what they expected.

We can argue over whether (1) through (4) is what we want to do--that is what politics is about. But whatever we decide to do with (1) through (4), (5) is not optional--not, that is, if we want to continue to have a rich country in the long run. And the politicians who have told you that (5) is optional from Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush to Robert Dole to George W. Bush and now John McCain are not your friends, or America's friends.

links for 2008-08-24

The Hispanic Pickle Menace

The plastic containers of handmade pickles sold by the lady with a thick Polish accent at the farmer's market contain... a large jalapeno!


The old Kowalski-Garcia family recipe, no doubt...

Joint New York Times/Atlantic Monthly Death/Washington Post/AP Spiral Watch

Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times:

Bayh, Kaine and Dodd Are Out; Obama’s Announcement on Saturday: As Mr. Obama sought to capitalize on the anticipation building around the disclosure of his new political partner, his campaign was reveling in the collection of tens of thousands of cellphone numbers, with people rushing to sign up to be notified of the announcement through a text message...

In email, Mark Nickolas of points out that the campaign claims three million people have signed up to receive the text message.

And Mark Ambinder of The Atlantic Monthly:

Marc Ambinder: Says an Obama aide:  "It's [McCain's] Bush grocery scanner moment - but far worse."... [T]he word "John McCain" means a lot of different things, but rich isn't one of them.... If McCain's gaffe had been somehow age-related, then they'd have an easier time...

John McCain and his wife spend more money--$270,000--on servants in a year than the average American's house is worth. There may be 4,000 households in America today richer than John and Cindy McCain. There may not.

To say "'John McCain' means a lot of different things, but rich isn't one of them" shows an extraordinary degree of ignorance about America, and about John McCain.

And Ron Fournier of AP:

Analysis: Biden pick shows lack of confidence: In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness — inexperience in office and on foreign policy — rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.... The picks say something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn't beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack...

To whom Lindsay Beyerstein has the only possible response:

Majikthise : Ron Fournier: If Obama were confident, he would have picked a ficus tree:

Because nothing says confidence like picking a VP who adds nothing to your ticket. A photosynthesizing running mate would have been a decisive break from the status quo, not to mention a source of fresh air. By picking a ficus tree, Obama would have signaled his readiness to win the entire election by himself.

Of course, such a bold selection by Obama would have telegraphed arrogance to many observers, especially Ron Fournier.

In that last, Lindsay is referring to:

Kevin Drum Steve Benen: In March, for example, Fournier wrote an item -- whether it was a news article or an opinion piece was unclear -- that said Barack Obama is "bordering on arrogance," "a bit too cocky," and that the senator and his wife "ooze a sense of entitlement." To substantiate the criticism, Fournier pointed to ... not a whole lot. It was basically the Republicans' "uppity" talking point in the form of an AP article...

Meanwhile, Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post says that John McCain pays no attention to what his chief advisors tell him--and that that is a good thing:

From Matthew UYglesias:

Matthew Yglesias: Jim Lehrer and Ruth Marcus talk about John McCain’s lobbying ties to the Georgian government:

JIM LEHRER: Yes. What about the McCain lobbyist who lobbied for Georgia and is now McCain’s number-one foreign affairs adviser? Is that going to come up to bite McCain more, do you think?

RUTH MARCUS: So the Obama campaign hopes. I look at this on two different levels. On the substantive level, anybody who knows Senator McCain knows that he would have the same views on Georgia no matter what lobbyist came to talk to him. He feels this one in his bones. And he wasn’t going to — this is not a shift in position because some lobbyist came and whispered in his ear.

Matt is dumbstruck by:

[T]he extraordinary... benefit of the doubt that John McCain... get[s] from the press.... Normally reporters are ruthless about the motives behind politicians’ decisions, but everything McCain does is above question.... [I]t’s possible that America’s interests vis-à-vis Russia are identical to Georgia’s interests, but that doesn’t seem very likely to me....

His commenters:

El Cid Says: August 18th, 2008 at 6:01 pm.... I am surprised she didn’t go on to mention that those were awesome, America-serving bones, the kind of bones that not just any politician would have, not the kind of ordinary politician to get involved in some cheap banking scandal in the 1980s, but a towering, magical figure, a Leader whose bones cry out to us of honor, truth, and Maverickness.

Nell Says: August 18th, 2008 at 6:01 pm: “Whispered in his ear”? How about: was employed as his major foreign policy advisor?

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

Don't trust them. Don't patronize their advertisers. Don't believe them. Listen, instead, to people with substantive expertise and knowledge trying to convey that knowledge rather than the ignorant trying to score points with their owners, editors, and sources.

Senator Biden

Joe Klein writes:

Biden on McCain: Biden's opinion of his old friend John McCain has changed significantly--for the worse--during the course of this campaign. Biden called me in June to express his amazement that McCain continued to insist that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the leader of Iran, even after I pointed out--during a press conference--that the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei controlled Iran's foreign policy and nuclear program. McCain's response was that the "average American" thought Ahmadinejad was Iran's leader...and Biden proceeded to jump all over that in a subsequent interview with Think Progress:

I don’t want an average American as president.... [A]verage Americans don’t want an average American president of the United States of America. I want someone above average. I want someone who knows what they’re dealing with. And it surprises me that John didn’t understand the complexities of the power struggle going on in Iran right now.

Biden told me that he was amazed and disappointed by the changes in McCain during the course of the campaign. "I just don't recognize the guy anymore," he said. "It's a shame." No doubt, Biden will have more to say on that subject now--which is one of the great advantages of picking him for vice president: according to the polls, foreign policy is McCain's greatest strength. In reality, McCain has been captured by neoconservative extremists and is proposing an extremely dangerous course of action internationally. Biden has the stature and knowledge--and the blue-collar, no bull pugnacity--to call McCain on his imprudent militarism.

Another advantage: If McCain does go with Romney, Biden would have a significant knowledge advantage in the vice presidential debate. (And if McCain goes with Joe Lieberman, I'd be willing to pay good money to watch that one.)

The Only Way to Win Is Not to Play

An email I just sent:

I'm sorry, but it just doesn't seem worth it to participate in your poll. These are not questions on which I have any particular value or insight to add. And they are not questions the answers to which would inform America's voters about their choices. I think you should rethink this project. Ask yourself: "What can I report to do the most to help America's voters learn about and weigh their choice this fall?"


Brad DeLong

And here is the backstory:

On Fri, Aug 22, 2008 at 9:35 PM, Madigan, Tom wrote:

Hi Brad,

Just wanted to touch base with a reminder about the blogger poll. Please take a moment and send me your responses to our first round of questions. Thanks for taking part.

  1. Pick the demographic group that Obama most needs to sway during the convention: Women; Whites over 45; Blue-collar workers. Comment:

  2. Do you think Michelle Obama will help or hurt her husband’s candidacy in the general election? Help; Hurt. Comment:

  3. What portion — if any — of the Democratic convention program should be devoted to tearing down John McCain and the Republican brand? More than half; About half; About a third; About a quarter; Hardly any. Comment:

  4. What do you expect Hillary Clinton will focus more on in her convention speech? Attacking John McCain; Burnishing the Clintons’ image; Praising Barack Obama.Comment:

Charlie Stross's Saturn's Children

Boingboing recommends Charlie Stross's highly excellent Saturn's Chidren:

Stross's new novel: Saturn's Children, a late Heinlein homage - Boing Boing: Charlie Stross's new novel, Saturn's Children, is out -- this is Charlie's Heinlein tribute, and unlike everyone else who does classic, adventure -story Heinlein tributes, Charlie's written a novel in the style of the late, indulgent, sex-saturated Heinlein, from the period before a cutting-edge surgery fixed a problem with the blood-supply to his brain (seriously). Orbit, the book's UK publisher, has also put an excerpt online.

Today is the two hundredth anniversary of the final extinction of my One True Love, as close as I can date it. I am drunk on battery acid and wearing my best party frock, sitting on a balcony beneath a pleasure palace afloat in the stratosphere of Venus. My feet dangle over a slippery-slick rain gutter as I peek over the edge: Thirty kilometers below my heels, the metal-snowed foothills of Maxwell Montes glow red-hot. I am thinking about jumping. At least I’ll make a pretty corpse, I tell myselves. Until I melt. And then –

You Couldn't Make This Up: "What's That?" "That's Our House, Dear"...

My extended family has ownership stakes in eleven houses or condos. Many of those are shared ownership with still other relatives. Some of us have more than 100% of the value of our portfolios in real estate...

Nevertheless, I know where they are.

But I'm not smart enough and don't have a good enough memory to be qualified to be president:

McCain unsure how many houses he owns - Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen - McCain unsure how many houses he owns: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own. "I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told Politico in Las Cruces, N.M. "It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you." The correct answer is at least four, located in Arizona, California and Virginia, according to his staff. Newsweek estimated this summer that the couple owns at least seven properties.

In recent weeks, Democrats have stepped up their effort to caricature McCain as living an outlandishly rich lifestyle — a bit of payback to the GOP for portraying Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as an elitist.... Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Politico’s Ben Smith that it was McCain “who wears $500 shoes, has six houses and comes from one of the richest families in his state." And David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, referred in an interview with Adam Nagourney of The New York Times to an imagined meeting of McCain strategists “on the portico of the McCain estate in Sedona — or maybe in one of his six other houses.”...

McCain, by anyone's measure, is well-off, if you account for his wife's fortune. Cindy McCain inherited control of her father’s beer distributorship, the largest in Arizona, and has an estimated worth of more than $100 million.

Department of "Huh?"

Tom "Airmiles" Friedman writes a column:

[S]ince we had finally brought down Soviet communism and seen the birth of democracy in Russia the most important thing to do was to help Russian democracy take root and integrate Russia into Europe. Wasn’t that why we fought the cold war — to give young Russians the same chance at freedom and integration with the West as young Czechs, Georgians and Poles? Wasn’t consolidating a democratic Russia more important than bringing the Czech Navy into NATO?...

No, said the Clinton foreign policy team, we’re going to cram NATO expansion down the Russians’ throats, because Moscow is weak and, by the way, they’ll get used to it. Message to Russians: We expect you to behave like Western democrats, but we’re going to treat you like you’re still the Soviet Union. The cold war is over for you, but not for us...

Clive Crook says that Friedman is pretty much wrong: | Clive Crook’s blog | Friedman and Ignatius on Georgia: I don’t think we fought the cold war to give young Russians freedom, actually, but put that aside.

The risks of humiliating Russia after the Wall came down were perhaps given too little weight. The dilemma was certainly understood by advocates of Nato enlargement, and there were attempts at outreach through various forms of partnership between Russia and and the alliance, though perhaps this seemed like adding insult to injury. But bear two other points in mind. One, Nato was not enlarged all the way, out of concern for Russia’s reaction: Ukraine and Georgia have been sort of promised membership, but with no timetable. Two, the question was, what were we to say to Poland, Hungary, and then-Czechoslovakia, desperate for release from Russo-Soviet imperium and for the protection of the West? Remember also that the success of their post-socialist transition to market economics was very much in doubt. This was a finely balanced argument.

The real mistake, to my mind, was in taking too long to admit the Eastern Europeans to the European Union–and that in turn owed everything to the fact (a grave mistake in its own right) that the EU had deepened its political integration too fast and too far. A shallower economic union, rather than a United States of Europe in progress, would have been able to embrace Poland and the others more eagerly. As it was, the only fast-acting institutional support for the East European reformers was Nato, a military alliance explicitly created to confront the Soviet Union, and implicitly still aimed at Russia. Friedman accuses the Clinton and Bush foreign-policy teams of “rank short-sightedness” in all this. He makes a good point, but the error was not as clear-cut as he says...

But Clive Crook also says that this is a "[v]aluable column."

I say: "Huh?"

Clive also enthusiastically and I think correctly praises David Ignatius for writing:

There’s a moral problem with all the pro-Georgia cheerleading, which has gotten lost in the op-ed blasts against Putin’s neo-imperialism. A recurring phenomenon of the... [Eisenhower-Nixon-Dulles administration] was that America encouraged oppressed peoples to rise up and fight for freedom — and then, when things got rough, abandoned them to their fate.... After the brutal suppression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956... [the Eisenhower-Nixon-Dulles administration] learned to be more cautious, and more honest about the limits of American power.

Now, after the Georgia war, McCain should learn that lesson: American leaders shouldn’t make threats the country can’t deliver or promises it isn’t prepared to keep. The rhetoric of confrontation may make us feel good, but other people end up getting killed.

Clive says:

I think Ignatius is absolutely right about this. The empty threat is a very bad way to conduct foreign policy. Now, recognizing this gets you only so far. It does not tell you whether Nato enlargement–in effect, a threat backed up with tanks–was a good idea. Does Georgia ever join? What about Ukraine? Should Poland have been brought in? Should Nato have been shut down altogether after the collapse of the Soviet Union? Those hard questions don’t go away. But in the meantime, as Ignatius says, the diplomatic zinger is best avoided.

Given that making empty threats seems to be McCain's foreign policy SOP, it sounds like Clive Crook comes down on the Obama side.

His colleague Gideon Rachman last month made what he describes an an accidental endorsement of Obama:

I wasn’t consciously sitting down to write an endorsement column.... There are a few subjects on which I prefer McCain. Trade is the most obvious.... But I think that Iran is shaping up as the biggest foreign-policy dilemma facing the next president. And there - as far as I’m concerned - Obama is clearly the better choice. In fact, the McCain position is downright dangerous. Does that amount to an endorsement of Obama? Just about, I suppose...

The logic of events appears to be leading Clive Crook down the same road...

T+113 Means One Chance in Four Freddie Mac Goes Under

From Across the Curve:

Across the Curve » Blog Archive » Agency Close: Benchmark agency spreads are unchanged in the 2 year sector and 2 basis points tighter in the 5 year and 10 year sector.Freddie Mac was able to fund itself as it successfully placed $3 billion 5 year notes. The issue priced at T+113 and has narrowed by 5 basis points. It is currently 108/106. Notwithstanding the relative success of the Freddie sale the agency market is still a very troubled venue. One analyst notes that central bank demand for the sector has diminished significantly since June....

Some are troubled by the recent statements of Secretary Paulson that he is not eager to use his new powers. Some have extrapolated from his statements that he is only prepared to exercise his powers in an emergency. What constitutes an emergency? Suppose we walk in tomorrow and Freddie or FNMA can not get rolled over in the discount note market. Treasury exercises its powers and the taxpayers have an ownership interest in the GSEs. The central banks are anxious for a resolution or some clarification. On the other hand Paulson would probably be happy if the stocks run close to zero and he never has to spend a penny. As long as they open for business each day he is likely to be a contented former partner of Goldman Sachs...

It is hard to see a bankruptcy of Freddie Mac costing its bondholders more than 1/5 of their capital. That means that risk-neutral investors would have to rate the odds of a Freddie Mac bankruptcy over the next five years at 1/4 or they would be willing to hold five-year Freddie Mac debt at a higher price than they are.

Maybe it's just me. But that seems a very, very high spread...

McCain Has Bad Judgment

From the Jed Report:

Judgment? McCain Says He'd Have Picked Cheney, Rumsfeld - The Jed Report: John McCain says this election is about judgment.... But as this video shows, John McCain has bad judgment.... [I]f he'd been elected president, he would have chosen Dick Cheney as his vice president and nominated Donald Rumsfeld to be his Secretary of Defense... the "strongest" national security team we've ever had...

Course Cast Information: Econ 113

In today's mail:

Course Cast Information: webcast.berkeley presents online video podcasts and/or audio podcasts of UC Berkeley courses for on-demand remote viewing. (Video podcasts are similar to what the program previously referred to as “webcasts”: video and audio of the lecture are presented.)

webcast.berkeley is a service of Educational Technology Services (ETS). ETS is responsible for the entire audio/video production including class recording, digitizing, website publishing, and hosting. The entire process is handled automatically, from recording through publishing on the website. All you have to do is turn on your microphone.


The primary benefit of coursecasting is the flexibility it allows students and colleagues to view and review a given class or seminar. Whether they missed the class, need to study during midterms and finals, or want to share the material with others, video and audio content are available for viewing from anywhere at anytime.

Costs Involved. Video Podcast - $2,000. Video Podcasting automatically delivers MP4 video and audio to webcast.berkeley, iTunesU and YouTube. This option is available only in selected classrooms. The videotaping portion of the webcasts costs $2000 for one course for one semester. That fee pays for most of the labor and equipment involved.

An Instructional minigrant may be available to help offset costs. The first step toward this approach is to include a support letter from your department chair. Feel free to contact Stephen Tollefson ( or 642-1811 for grants assistance. If funding for webcasting is simply impossible please let us know, we may be able to find a solution.

Audio Only Podcast - Free

Audio Podcasting automatically delivers MP3 audio recordings of classroom lectures to students computers or portable MP3 players via webcast.berkeley and iTunesU. Please note that despite the name “podcast” an iPod is not required. There is no charge for audio podcasting since there are no fees typically involved with video capture. Our intent is to allow more instructors to take advantage of classroom recording and delivery services. If you plan to video podcast, there is no additional charge to also audio podcast.

Accessing Lectures

Lecture archives will be available to students and a worldwide audience as free and open access from the webcast.berkeley website. Some video podcast courses are also available through YouTube. Podcasts will also be promoted through popular podcast aggregators such as the iTunes Music Store. Video podcasts and audio podcasts can also easily be made available through your bSpace course website.

There are several ways that students can receive the lecture recordings:

  • Online access: Students can browse the online course archives and view or listen to lectures  on-demand.
  • Downloads: Students can browse the online course archives and download specific lectures. These lectures can be played on the computer, and audio podcasts can be loaded to a handheld MP3 player for listening on-the-go. Some users may be able to load video podcasts on their handheld player, as well.
  • Subscription: Students can subscribe to a course podcast, so that they automatically receive the lectures as they become available.


Faculty teaching in a video and/or audio enabled room will be invited to participate in the webcast.berkeley program through email. Faculty can approve their participation in the program by clicking through to their bSpace account (no prior bSpace use required), where they can agree to the terms of the program. (Faculty in video-enabled rooms will also need to indicate whether they want both video and audio, or only audio.) Faculty will need to approve their participation within one week before the beginning of the semester to insure staff scheduling to video capture for the first week of classes — even if there has been participation in the past.

Archive Policy

Video and audio archives are available online for at least one year, though we are working to extend this period. Podcast MP3s are much smaller, therefore there is no shelf life at this time...

Mitt Romney: John McCain Doesn’t Speak For John McCain. I Speak for John McCain

McCain apparently cannot remember that applause lines in Arizona are not applause lines in Colorado. So John McCain sends Mitt Romney out to announce that John McCain does not speak for him:

Think Progress» Romney: McCain Doesn’t Speak For McCain When He Suggests Renegotiating The Colorado River Compact: Last week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) walked into a bipartisan wave of condemnation in Colorado when he told the Pueblo Chieftain that the 1922 Colorado River compact, which governs the allocation of the river’s water among seven states, “needs to be renegotiated over time”:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt the major, major issue is water and can be as important as oil. So the compact that is in effect, obviously, needs to be renegotiated over time amongst the interested parties,” McCain said while on his way to the Aspen Institute. “I think that there’s a movement amongst the governors to try, if not, quote, renegotiate, certainly adjust to the new realities of high growth, of greater demands on a scarcer resource.”

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) called the compact “sacrosanct,” adding that opening it up “would only happen over my dead body.” Senate candidate and former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) agreed, telling the Grand Junction Sentinel, “Over my cold, dead, political carcass.” The Denver Post editorialized that McCain “displayed a disturbing ignorance of the realities of the West’s scarce water resources.”

Now, one of McCain’s top surrogates, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is claiming that McCain didn’t mean what he said. Romney told 9News that McCain “has no interest in reopening the compact“:

“Senator McCain has no interest in reopening the compact,” Romney said. “Senator McCain believes as I do that a compact that’s been worked out between the governors and between the states is the right way to go. States are the ones who build these kinds of understandings. The federal government shouldn’t meddle in that compact.

Salazar’s Press Secretary Matt Lee-Ashley responded to Romney’s comments: “Either Senator McCain is so out of touch with Western water issues that he needs the former Massachusetts governor to defend him, or he really has some interest in overhauling the law of the river that has been in place since 1922. Both scenarios are troubling.”

Why John McCain Would Not Make a Good President

Because he would rather be on TV than safeguard the nation. Max Bergmann: A Pundit Not a President: [O]n almost every crisis or incident over the last decade, McCain has sounded the alarm, ratcheted up the rhetoric and often called for military action - with almost no regards to the practical implications of such an approach. The big concern with a McCain presidency – a concern which I am surprised has not been vocalized more fully – is that the U.S. will lurch from crisis to crisis, confrontation to confrontation, whether it be with Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. The danger is that McCain’s pundit-like rhetoric will entrap the U.S. in descending spiral of foreign policy brinksmanship. Just think about the very likely scenario of McCain giving Iran/Russia a rhetorical ultimatum and Iran/Russia ignoring it. Now we are stuck - either we lose face by not following through on our threats or we follow through and go to war.  We can’t afford such a reckless approach after the last eight years. For the next eight we need a president not a pundit.   

At the Top of Stephens Hall...

It is a student lounge, 40 x 20 x 30, with faux-Oxford wooden paneling, threadbare furniture, monstrous chandeliers, and coffee. I had never been here before... It seems an obvious place to hold meetings...

Academic Administration for Dummies

"OK. So Gerard is the new Ben. And Paul was the old new Jim. But now Paul has gone to Poughkeepsie. So who is the new Paul?" "I don't know. I've been on vacation. I do know that Clare is the new Clare..." " Paul has not been Revealed as of yet." "Are you the new Paul?" "I? I could never be the new Paul. I am not fit to tie the thong of his sandle." "I want to know when the other new Jim is showing up to play with Alan, Raj, Emmanuel, and Gene..." Four public finance graduate students poke their heads out of their offices. "Yes, tell us!" they say. They look the least bit like characters on the Nature Channel show "Meetkat Manor"...

Matthew Yglesias Says David Brooks Judges McCain To Be an Unprincipled Sellout


Matthew Yglesias » Brooks: McCain is an Unprincipled Sellout: Recall that Brooks has historically been a big McCain fan. Back during the 2000 campaign, he was one of the relatively small number of decidedly conservative journalists to fall for McMania. And while lots of writers have gushed with praise for McCain over the years, Brooks was something more like an important ideologist of McCainism, someone who both praised McCain and also helped shape the higher rationale for his political ambitions. McCain, Brooks thought, was an ideal political vessel for ideas that Brooks thought were important... substantially different from and better than your average politician.

Brooks’ column from yesterday... is about how Brooks no longer thinks that’s true.... McCain... turns out to be happy to put his personal ambition ahead of his ideals and principles.... McCain doesn’t have any special qualities whereby his ambition is best served through honorable methods. He’s a typical pol pulling the typical stuff....

[T]he main theme of McCain campaign is that he isn’t like that: that he “puts country first”... that he’s a much, much, much better and more elevated kind of political leader than your average politician. And Brooks is saying that’s not true....

[I]t’s all the more valuable for coming from a conservative McCain fan and for being written with the “more in sadness than in anger” tone you would expect from a conservative McCain fan.

David Ignatius on Why John McCain Should Not Be President

The article has flaws--Ignatius writes "early Cold War... America" where he should write "Richard Nixon, John Foster Dulles, and other cynical and evil politicians playing politics with national security." But the argument for voting against McCain is spot on.

David Ignatius:

The Risk of the Zinger: John McCain's eyes were flashing with the mischievous spark.... "I've got a zinger coming," he told me, referring to a speech on Russia.... He blasted Vladimir Putin for "the pursuit of autocracy at home and abroad"... urged that Russia be excluded from the G-8... call[ed] for Georgia, already a thorn in Russia's side, to join NATO. McCain's 2006 speech made news, as he knew it would....

[W]hat sticks in my memory of that day in Munich was the flash in McCain's eyes before he made his provocative speech.... We've all seen that mischievous look... it worries me. Zingers don't make good foreign policy.....

[T]he mercurial Saakashvili walked into a trap by launching an attack Aug. 7 on the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali -- providing the pretext for the brutal Russian response.... So what encouraged Saakashvili to make his reckless gamble?... [T]he Bush administration, which told the Georgian leader one month that "We always fight for our friends" (as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in July in Tbilisi about Georgia's bid to join NATO).... [P]artly it was cheerleading from the pro-Georgia lobby, in which McCain has been one of the loudest voices.

Let's put aside the fact that McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, has in fact been a lobbyist for Georgia. In his own feisty comments... McCain encouraged Georgians to believe America would back them up in a crisis. That expectation was naive, and it was wrong to encourage it. It was especially wrong to give a volatile leader such as Saakashvili what he evidently imagined was an American blank check.... The better part of wisdom sometimes is to tell small, embattled nations and ethnic groups: Swallow your pride and compromise; the cavalry isn't coming to save you.

There's a moral problem with all the pro-Georgia cheerleading.... [E]arly Cold War... America encouraged oppressed peoples to rise up and fight for freedom -- and then, when things got rough, abandoned them to their fate.... After the brutal suppression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, responsible U.S. leaders learned to be more cautious, and more honest.... [T]hat lesson: American leaders shouldn't make threats the country can't deliver or promises it isn't prepared to keep. The rhetoric of confrontation may make us feel good, but other people end up getting killed.

Clive Crook Does Not Compute...

If I were a Star Trek computer, I would be saying "error, error" and smoke would be coming out of my CPU right now. You see, Clive Crook watched the joint Saddleback appearance of Obama and McCain, and writes:

Clive Crook: If this event were all I knew of the two candidates, I would prefer Obama, though with reservations. McCain crossed the line between concise and simplistic (not to say bombastic) too many times.... If it's a choice between (a) handwringing over specificity and (b) dogmatic certainty on an issue that (in my view) does not support it, I'll reluctantly take (a).

But then he also writes:

[S]urely McCain won. Much to my surprise, given some of his recent outings, he seemed much more presidential...

"Presidential" means "acting in a way that would make one a good president." Crook says that at this event Obama acted more in a way that would make a good president. Crook says that McCain was "much more presidential."

Does not compute. Error. Error. Sputter. Whirr. Error. Crackle...

More Marshall Sahlins Blogging...

An interesting discussion going on at It fails, I think, to distinguish between the four arguments that might be made against the establishment of the University of Chicago's Milton Friedman Institute:

  1. The MFI will produce not good intellectual work but instead propaganda for a powerful and exploitative interest group--think of the Heritage Foundation, or Stanford's Hoover Institution. This is my objection to the MFI.

  2. Even if the MFI follows the academic norms of scholarly discourse, such an organization is inherently an enemy of humanity: the questions that define the disciplines of classical, neoclassical, and liberal economics have answers that are oppressive, hence these disciplines should not be allowed to expand or even tolerated but repressed and suppressed. This is, I think, Herbert Marcuse's "Repressive Tolerance" risen, Dracula-like, from its coffin.

  3. It's fine for the economists to get more slots, but only if everybody else gets more slots too. Freezing the relative sizes of disciplines is the prime objective. This is, I think, the objection of Professors Hussein Agrama, Muzaffar Alam, Yali Amit, Clifford Ando, Leora Auslander, Ralph Austen, Lauren Berlant, Michael Bourdaghs, et al..[1]

  4. The MFI is illegitimate for the same reasons that George Soros's Open Society Institute is illegitimate and that the Friedrich Engels Institute of Political Science that funded Karl Marx's work on Capital was illegitimate. This is, I think, Marshall Sahlins's objection.

As I understand it, the answer to (1) is that the University of Chicago is aware of the dangers, and will not establish a MFI with the freedom from norms of intellectual excellence and from academic procedural quallity checks found at Heritage and Hoover--but if it were to allow such a carve-out that would, I think, be a decisive argument that the MFI was a bad idea. I am confident that UC understands what has gone wrong with Hoover and Heritage, and guards against repeating those mistakes.

As I understand it, (3) is beneath contempt and unworthy of notice and discussion.

These leaves (2) and (4). What struck me as interesting about Marshall Sahlins is that I expected him to make the Marcuse argument (2), but instead he made (4)--expressly said that the Friedrich Engels Institute of Political Science was as illegitimate as the MFI would be, and that the arguments against the MFI were equally strong arguments against Soros's OSI. I understand (2), but I think that it is wrong. However, I genuinely do not understand (4).

[1] "In the interests of equity and balance, many of us feel that the University ought to reconsider contributing to the proposed Milton Friedman Institute, which will inevitably be a powerful magnet for scholars and donors who share a specific set of interests.... Still others believe that, given the influx of private contributions to the MFI, the University now has the opportunity to provide roughly equivalent resources for critical scholarly work that seeks out alternatives to recent economic, social, and political developments. Virtually all of us are distressed by the position the University has taken and by the process through which decisions have been made..."

More Milton Friedman Institute Blogging...

Tyler Cowen points us to University of Chicago anthropologist Marshall Sahlins's denunciation and condemnation of George Soros's Open Society Institute as:

Marshall Sahlins: an exclusive rich-man's club of millionaire members entitled to special academic privileges. That sort of participation of the wealthy is discriminatory, and perhaps the most obvious clue to the ideology behind the promoters' assurances of free empirical inquiry.... [The] Institute... [is] the vanguard of an intellectual coup d'état in the academy of the same nature as the one the Chicago Boys helped pull off in Latin America.... By rendering the production of knowledge dependent on the highest financial bidders, the institute would literally transform the university into a free market in ideas — wherein those ideas backed by the most capital will be the most true. That is not intellectual diversity but academic perversity because it fundamentally subverts the disinterested pursuit and dissemination of knowledge for which universities were founded...

Marshall Sahlins also, for good measure, denounces Friedrich Engels's funding of the work of Karl Marx as illegitimate. For Engels's funds established a:

Friedrich Engels Institute for Political Science... [a] radical... approach to society and the economy... directly subsidized by private funds... an academic instrument of a certain ideology... an extremist version... that has proven to serve the welfare of the ruling elite in a number of countries at the cost of whom it may concern — notably the society in general and the poor in particular...

Forgive me if I do not find Marshall Sahlins's principle to be a neutral principle. It seems to be that wealthy philanthropists should only be allowed to fund lines of work in subdisciplines if senior anthropology professors approve.

Sahlins's true purpose, of course, is not to denounce as illegitimate either George Soros's funding of democratization efforts and scholars around the world or Friedrich Engels's funding of the work that became Capital. Sahlins's true purpose is, rather, to denounce the University of Chicago's Milton Friedman Institute. I must say that Sahlins doesn't think much of the power and robustness of his own "substantivist" ideas about economic anthropology:

[P]romoters' defense of the Milton Friedman Institute on the grounds of freedom... academic freedom, individual freedom, or free enterprise... is... a recipe for tyranny, since it would consist mainly of their ability to dominate the academy by virtue of the assets in cash and clout they command in the larger society. The Milton Friedman Institute will provide the rich and powerful with the best self-promoting ideas their money can buy... the university will be compromised by this commodification of knowledge in which a certain orthodoxy about free markets and self-serving individualism easily proves to be the highest bidder.

In fact, neither markets nor individualism of this sort are present in the majority of societies known to history and anthropology — even as the study of these societies provides an understanding of our own family existence, where the relations between goods are likewise governed by the relations between persons. Yet along with much else, such understandings of economy and society are destined to be buried by the behemoth Friedman Institute, whose so-called scientific work... is committed to the elimination of all such alternative forms of the human condition...

I must admit I never got much out of the work of Marshall Sahlins...

Sahlins's claims that hunter-gatherers lived in "the original affluent society" where all their wants were easily satisfied seemed to me a dishonest evasion of the fact that many people in all societies want to see their grandchildren grow up--and relatively few hunter-gatherers do. Sahlins's claims that it was "the market-industrial system [which] institutes scarcity, in a manner completely without parallel... [because where] all livelihoods dependon getting and spending, insufficiency of material means becomes the explicit, calculable starting point of all economic activity..." seemed to indicate a total, willful, and culpable ignorance of practically all of the non-market settled agricultural societies of the past ten thousand years.

And it had always seemed to me that Gananath Obeyeseke had a good point in his debate with Sahlins: Obeyeseke maintained that British insistance that the Hawai'ians regarded Captain James Cook as a living avatar of a God had little to do with Hawai'ians imposing their myths about Lono on Captain Cook. It had, he said, more to do with the British imposing on the Hawai'ians their myths about how the British acquisition of technological knowledge had made them "like God":

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying... of the tree of knowledge... thou shalt not eat of it.... And the serpent said unto the woman: 'Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God...

From GMU's "History Matters: The U.S. History Survey Course on the Web": "The Hunters of Kentucky"

About 1815:

"The Hunters of Kentucky": A Popular Song Celebrates the Victory of Jackson and his Frontier Fighters over the British, 1824: Angered by the effect of the British naval blockade on cotton prices and British support for Indian attacks against white frontier settlers, farmers in the South and West strongly supported the War of 1812. The war ended two years later with few issues settled between the two nations. The most significant battle took place after the peace treaty was signed in 1814, when General Andrew Jackson, a Tennessee slaveholder, decisively defeated the British forces at New Orleans. This resounding victory made him a national hero and symbol of frontier fighters and earned him the nickname “Old Hickory.” Although he secured victory using regular troops armed with artillery power, ten years later Samuel Woodward celebrated the role of sharpshooters armed with Kentucky long rifles in his song “The Hunters of Kentucky.” This immensely popular song, filled with images of Old Hickory and his men overwhelming the well-trained army of John Bull (a symbol of Britain), became an effective element in Jackson’s successful 1828 campaign for president.

The Hunters of Kentucky:

Ye gentlemen and ladies fair, who grace this famous city,
Just listen, if you’ve time to spare, while I rehearse a ditty;
And for the opportunity conceive yourselves quite lucky,
For 'tis not often that you see a hunter from Kentucky.
Oh, Kentucky! the hunters of Kentucky.

We are a hardy free-born race, each man to fear a stranger,
Whate’er the game we join in chase, despising toil and danger;
And if a daring foe annoys, whate’er his strength and forces,
We’ll show him that Kentucky boys are alligator horses.
Oh, Kentucky, &c.

I s’pose you’ve read it in the prints, how Packenham attempted
To make old Hickory Jackson wince, but soon his schemes repented;
For we with rifles ready cocked, thought such occasion lucky,
And soon around the general flocked the hunters of Kentucky.
You’ve heard, I s’pose, how New Orleans is famed for wealth and beauty
There’s girls of every hue, it seems, from snowy white to sooty.

So Packenham he made his brags, if he in fight was lucky,
He’d have their girls and cotton bags in spite of old Kentucky.
But Jackson he was wide awake, and wasn’t scared at trifles,
For well he knew what aim we take with our Kentucky rifles;
So he led us down to Cyprus swamp, the ground was low and mucky,
There stood John Bull in martial pomp, and here was old Kentucky.

A bank was raised to hide our breast, not that we thought of dying,
But then we always like to rest unless the game is flying;
Behind it stood our little force, none wished it to be greater,
For every man was half a horse and half an alligator.
They did not let our patience tire, before they showed their faces— We did not choose to waste our fire, So snugly kept our places; But when so near to see them wink, we thought it time to stop 'em, And ‘twould have done you good I think to see Kentuckians drop ’em They found at last 'twas vain to fight, where lead was all their booty, And so they wisely took to flight, and left us all our beauty, And now if danger e’er annoys, remember what our trade is, Just send for us Kentucky boys, and we’ll protect your ladies.

Source: The Hunters of Kentucky (New York: Andrews, Printer, 38 Chatham St., N. Y. [n. d.])

Washington Post Death Spiral Watch (Corporate Tax Burden Edition)

Outsourced to Dean Baker:

Beat the Press Archive | The American Prospect: Washington Post Misleads Readers to Push for Lower Corporate Tax Rates: The Washington Post editorial page has no qualms about making up data to further its agenda. Last December, when it wanted to attack the Democratic presidential candidates for their criticisms of NAFTA, the Post told readers that Mexico's GDP had quadrupled since 1987. In fact, the actual growth during this period was about 83 percent, according to the IMF. Most newspapers might feel embarrassment about using such a blatant misrepresentation to push its preferred policies, but not the Post.

Today, the preferred policy is further reductions in corporate income taxes. To advance this agenda the Post tells readers that, "U.S. companies operating abroad already labor under a bigger tax burden than most foreign competitors."

That's not what the OECD says. Data from the OECD,3343,en_2649_34533_39663797_1_1_1_37427,00.html#Tables show that in the average member country corporate taxes are equal to about 3.5 percent of GDP. In the United States, corporate taxes have generally been between and 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent of GDP over the last two decades, according to the Congressional Budget Office (Table F-4)

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

The Washington Post editorial board consists of Fred Hiatt, Jackson Diehl, Autumn Brewington, Jo-Ann Armao, Robert Asher, Jonathan Capehart, Lee Hockstader, Charles Lane, Ruth Marcus, and Eva Rodriguez.

For Those Thinking About Taking Economics 113 This Fall...

For you to think about over the next three weeks: >Roughly 14000 years ago rough 100 humans made it to the Americas across the Bering Land Bridge. >A Malthusianly-unstressed preindustrial human population with reasonable access to food (whether hunter-gatherer, herder, or settled agriculture) roughly doubles in a generation of 25 years or so. >If the incipient Amerindian population had remained unstressed, how many Amerindians would there be today? >What implications does this have for how we think about the human history of the Americas between ca. 12000 BC and 1492?

Ask the Internet: Cookies

  • How much more of the reading would my students in American Economic History do this semester if I hypnotized them into believing that we are in some sort of gift exchange relationship by feeding them cookies--specifically Berkeley-themed cookies (i.e., Cal, Oski, the campanile, Birgeneau) from Parker's Crazy Cookies?
  • How many cookies would I have to feed each student in order to accomplish the desired effect (the cookies are small)?
  • At what price point is this worth doing (Parker's list price is $0.50 a cookie, and wish me good luck in finding any place in the teaching budget to reimburse me for this)?

A commenter emails:

  1. Muffins or donut holes are extremely effective at increasing attendance, alertness and participation in early morning sections
  2. Cookies do NOT increase reading. There's a high depreciation rate to glucose-based gift relationships - it works for the duration of the class in which the cookies are given, but does not influence out of class behavior.
  3. Cookies baked by a faculty member's wife (and distributed as such) are NEVER EVER EVER okay.
  4. Bringing cookies to classes with particularly tedious math is not recommended; by mid semester the students began greeting the cookies with apprehension...

Notes for Econ 113 September 3 Lecture: Settling the United States

Lecture Topics:


Also Look at:

Ancient Alaskans peopled America first 2014 Far North Science

clovis_points_lg.jpg 800�72 pixels

Untitled1 - NeoOffice Calc




12000 BC Clovis People: Migration to America? (100 people?)
300 Teotihuacan (10 square miles; 150,000 people?)
800 Tikal (15 square miles; 150,000 people?)
1001 Norse: Leif Eiriksson to Newfoundland
1200 Inca: Manco Capac founds Kingdom of Cuzco
1248 Mexica Tenochca: Settle Chapultepec
1325 Mexica Tenochca: Found Tenochtitlan (peak population 200,000?)
1425-1487 Mexica Tenochca: Hutzilopochtli Reformation under Tlacaelel
1428 Mexica Tenochca: Triple alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan
1442 Inca: Tawantinsuyu Empire under Pachacutec
1449 Mexica Tenochca: Motecozoma I becomes the sixth Hueyi Tlatoani
1492 Spain: Columbus to America
1497 England: John Cabot to Newfoundland
1500 Portugal: Pedro Álvares Cabral to Brazil
1508 Spain: Cuba settled
1518 Spain: Slavery introduced into Caribbean
1521 Spain: Cortes conquers Mexico
1524 France: Verrazano to the U.S. Atlantic Coast
1527 Inca: Smallpox epidemic kills Inca Emperor Huayna Capac and crown prince Ninan Cuyochi
1529-1532 Inca: Huascar-Athualpa civil war
1533 Spain: Pizarro conquers Peru
1565 Spain: Settles St Augustine, FL
1585 England: Settles Roanoke Island, NC
1588-1603 England-Spain: War of the Armada
1607 England: Settles Jamestown, VA
1608 France: Settles Quebec
1609 Spain: Settles Santa Fe, NM
1620 England: Settles Plimouth Plantation, MA
1624 Holland: Settles New Amsterdam
1629 England: Settles Boston, MA
1634 England: Settles Maryland
1643 Sweden: Settles Pennsylvania
1664 England-Holland: England captures New York and New Jersey
1670 England: Settles Georgia
1718 France: Settles New Orleans, LA
1763 Spain-France: Spain captures New Orleans
1761 England-France: England captures Canada
1763 England: Royal proclamation places a moratorium on settlement beyond the Appalachian mountains
1769 Spain: Fray Junípero Serra settles San Diego
1771 Spain: Gaspar de Portola arrives at San Francisco Bay
1784 Russia: Grigory Shelikhov settles Alaska
1812 Russia: Settles Fort Ross, CA
1836 Spain: Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo settles Sonoma, CA
1843 England: Settles Vancouver, BC

The Future Is Now!

Courtesdy of PNH:

TopatoCo: Futurism Print

TopatoCo: Futurism Print: The future is now! The people of the past were a little off in the picture they painted of it, though they can be excused for being simpler people in a simpler time. We're pretty close though! Instead of flying cars we have $3 ring tones. Instead of jet packs we have a closed-circuit cameras at intersections. Instead of moon bases we have a machine on which watch teenagers talk about their problems in a language they invented, 24 hours a day! And instead of a cure for all diseases, we have cars that have neon lights attached to the undercarriage. Marvelous.

This loverly print is 18" x 24" on 10pt cover stock and ships in a sturdy tube. It was conceived by David Malki! and designed and painted by the talented Carly Monardo, whose work you can also see on Dr. McNinja Books and Posters! Carly gets 50% of the proceeds from this print because she is pretty amazing.

Morning in America Blogging

From Rick Perlstein:

Morning in America | Longtime readers know my fascination with debunking of the absurd myth that Ronald Reagan ascended because of his "sunny optimism." I'm reading a forthcoming book about Patty Hearst, and I'd somehow missed this example. The Hearst family, responding to the demands of their daughter's kidnappers, began a program to distribute food to the poor. Reagan's response? "It's too bad we can't have an epidemic of botulism."

Washington Post Death Spiral Watch (Alec MacGillis Edition)

As long as the Washington Post employs reporters like Alec MacGillis, it is doomed.

Outsourced to Oliver Willis:

Is It A GOP Press Release Or A Washington Post Story?: Just dreadful stuff from the paper that seems on some days to want desperately to be Pravda on the Potomac. First this.

McCain hails from an America that exalted service to country, and he is the scion of a military family who endured five years in enemy captivity and who preaches a mantra of personal honor and of the nation over the individual — “Country First,” as his campaign slogan declares.

Because clearly John McCain’s family is so different from the rest of us in their belief in honor and patriotism. I mean, the rest of us unwashed masses couldn’t dare to hold a candle to their belief, right?

Then it gets worse.

Obama’s embodiment of a newer America begins but hardly ends with the fact that he would be the first black president. In a country where people liked to know where you were from, Obama lacks a ready answer — he is part Hawaii, part Kansas, part Chicago. In a recent speech in Berlin, he declared himself a “citizen of the world.”

OMG BARACK OBAMA’S FAMILY MOVED. Clearly this disqualifies him as a True AmericanTM. Of course, I’ve moved around a lot too (I even lived in a foreign country!) so I might as well be an alien. As to the quote in Berlin, here’s what Sen. Obama actually said:

I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.

Wow, that’s really… a lot less controversial.

Notes for PEIS 101 Guest Lecture: August 15, 2008


What was traded: 1500 and before:

  • Silks, gems
  • Spices
  • Slaves
  • Knowledge (but very slowly: 500 years from China to Europe): spaghetti, compass, printing, gunpowder

What was traded: 1500 to 1800: add:

  • Textiles
  • Sugar
  • Intoxicants (coffee, tea, chocolate, tobacco, opium)
  • Slaves (industrial plantation slavery: middle passage)

All due to the ocean-going caravel; digression on Zheng He

What was traded: 1800-1870: add:

  • Cotton
    • Consequence: U.S. Civl War (300K dead of 1.2M white southerners; 300K dead of 6M white northerners and Blacks; same number maimed)

What was traded: 1870-today: add:

  • All staple commodities that don't spoil
  • the iron-hulled ocean going steamship
  • the submarine telegraph cable

How cheap is trade today?:

  • A standard container, 5500 cubic feet
  • An iPhone, worth $200, in a box 1/32 of a cubic foot
  • One container can carry $35M in iPhones
  • Costs $8000 to ship a container across the Pacific (used to be $3000)

Economic Growth:

  • Current U.S.: $25/hr ($2008)
  • U.S. 1900: $3/hr ($2008)
  • U.S. 1800: $1/hr ($2008)

Today: You can buy 80,000 calories of potatoes from a day's wages at $1 an hour

  • 1700 Beijing: 2000 calories purchased with a day's wage
  • 1700 Leipzig: 3000 calories purchased with a day's wage
  • 1700 London: 8000 oat calories, but only 3500 wheat calories

International income differentials on the order of 2-1


  • U.S.: $25
  • Coastal China: $6
  • Interior China: $3
  • India: $2
  • Ethiopia, etc.: $1

Post-WWII Development Strategies:

  • Soviet (seems a good idea because no Great Depression in the Soviet Union, and Soviet victory over the Nazis in WWII)
  • "Commanding Heights"
  • Import substitution
  • Independence as a magic bullet

All failures

The Washington Consensus:

  • Maximize economic contact--eliminate trade barriers
  • Minimize regulation--an excuse for bureaucracy and bribery
  • Shrink the state--outside of East Asia and maybe western Europe, emerging market economies can establish property rights and enforce contracts, and that is pretty much all they should dare try to do...


  • Regulatory arbitrage on health and safety--race to the bottom
  • Capital mobility: is the constraint savings, or investment demand?
  • Perverse savings flows
  • Needed: global scale institutions (like the EU, only more so)



  • 300M people
  • 150M workers


  • 100M people
  • 35M workers
  • Of whom, 9M in U.S.

Winners from immigration:

  • Mexican migrants bigtime
  • Mexican stay-at-homes (remittances, larger farms)
  • American businesses
  • American consumers
  • American workers who become straw bosses


  • Past legal immigrants
  • African-American males with little education

The Second Coming of Norman Angell

China's government attempts to reassure its citizens of its power and worth by hosting the Olympic Games. Russia's government attempts to reassure its citizens of its power and worth by picking up a small country and throwing it against the wall--as recommended by AEI scholar Michael Ledeen. Paul Krugman meditates on the Great Illusion identified by Norman Angell, and the Great Illusion of Norman Angell:

The Great Illusion: I found myself wondering whether this war is an omen — a sign that the second great age of globalization may share the fate of the first.... [O]ur grandfathers lived in a world of largely self-sufficient, inward-looking national economies — but our great-great grandfathers lived, as we do, in a world of large-scale international trade and investment, a world destroyed by nationalism.

Writing in 1919, the great British economist John Maynard Keynes described the world economy as it was on the eve of World War I. “The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth ... he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world.” And Keynes’s Londoner “regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement ... The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and exclusion ... appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalization of which was nearly complete in practice.”

But then came three decades of war, revolution, political instability, depression and more war. By the end of World War II, the world was fragmented economically as well as politically. And it took a couple of generations to put it back together....

Europe’s dependence on Russian energy, especially natural gas, now looks very dangerous — more dangerous, arguably, than its dependence on Middle Eastern oil. After all, Russia has already used gas as a weapon: in 2006, it cut off supplies to Ukraine amid a dispute over prices. And if Russia is willing and able to use force to assert control over its self-declared sphere of influence, won’t others do the same?... Some analysts tell us not to worry: global economic integration itself protects us against war... because successful trading economies won’t risk their prosperity by engaging in military adventurism. But this, too, raises unpleasant historical memories.

Shortly before World War I another British author, Norman Angell, published a famous book titled “The Great Illusion,” in which he argued that war had become obsolete, that in the modern industrial era even military victors lose far more than they gain. He was right — but wars kept happening anyway.... [W]ar among the nations of Western Europe really does seem inconceivable now, not so much because of economic ties as because of shared democratic values. Much of the world, however, including nations that play a key role in the global economy, doesn’t share those values....

Angell was right to describe the belief that conquest pays as a great illusion. But the belief that economic rationality always prevents war is an equally great illusion...