With a Little Bit of Luck...
Is Michael Massing Making a Joke?

links for 2009-07-28

  • Wow. As of now, my post on why free markets can’t solve the health care problem has 827 comments; I hear that a diary about it hit the top of the Daily Kos rec list. And I thought I was just saying what everyone knows. Put it down to the wonkish fallacy: when you spend a lot of time immersed in a subject, you tend to forget that others aren’t. But I think there’s another lesson here that I’ll have to remember — namely, a lot of people are hungering for a discussion of the basics. It’s way too easy, as a pundit, to focus on the latest story or the current state of negotiations. At least once in a while, I need to bring it back to the underlying principles. Anyway, thanks to all the readers interested enough to weigh in!
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Sunday said he engineered the central bank's controversial actions over the past year because "I was not going to be the Federal Reserve chairman who presided over the second Great Depression."... "It wasn't to help the big firms that we intervened," Mr. Bernanke said, diving into a discourse on the damage to the overall economy that can result when financial firms that are "too big to fail" collapse. "When the elephant falls down, all the grass gets crushed as well," Mr. Bernanke said. He described himself as "disgusted" with the circumstances that led him to rescue a couple of large firms, and called for new laws that would allow financial firms other than banks to fail without going into bankruptcy.
  • Did living standards stagnate before the Industrial Revolution? Traditional real-wage indices typically show broadly constant living standards before 1800. In this paper, we show that living standards rose substantially, but surreptitiously because of the growing availability of new goods. Colonial luxuries such as tea, coffee, and sugar transformed European diets after the discovery of America and the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope. These goods became household items in many countries by the end of the 18th century. We use the Greenwood-Kopecky (2009) method to calculate welfare gains based on data about price changes and the rate of adoption of new colonial goods. Our results suggest that by 1850, the average Englishman would have been willing to forego 15% or more of his income in order to maintain access to sugar and tea alone. These findings are robust to a wide range of alternative assumptions, data series, and valuation methods.
  • Here's how this game works:  Republican and centrist Dems attack the stimulus and force changes that make it less effective.  Then, a few months later, these same parties turn around and attack the stimulus as being ineffective, even though their own requested cuts and critiques made it less effective.
  • Look, who are you gonna believe? A painstakingly prepared Inspector General's report or a guy who has an interest in making sure he doesn't go down in history as being associated with illegal and unethical activity that also turned out to be pretty useless in fighting terrorism?
  • You will live for longer than 1% of the entire history of human civilization. The first civilization started in Mesopotamia around 5000 BCE (more or less), which is 7,000 years ago. If you live until age 80, that's more than 1% of the history of civilization. Just throwing it out there for anyone else who'd never thought about it before. Certainly changed my perspective a bit.
  • The Washington Post Editorial Page -- keeper of all establishment Washington wisdom -- today advocates that low-level CIA interrogators who went beyond John Yoo's torture guidelines, and only them, be criminally investigated and prosecuted by the Justice Department