The North Atlantic Macroeconomy: Let it Bleed?: We Are Live at Project Syndicate
L'Esprit de l'Escalier: March 29, 2013

Noted for March 29, 2013


  • Corey Robin watches paste-eating pseudos at work at the Mercatus Center: "The libertarian Mercatus Center, which is located at George Mason University, has issued its third edition of… how much freedom there is, state by state, in the US…. North Dakota is the freest state in the union! (It’s also a state that has effectively banned all abortions.)… California is the 49th and New York is the 50th freest state in the union! In other words, the least free states. Which is why we’re color-coded black on the map. Like North Korea at night…. Update (9:30 pm):** Someone in the comments thread pointed out to me that one of the measures on the freedom index—that is, how free a state is—is 'Bachelor Party'. What the hell is that, you ask? According to our friends at Mercatus: 'This user-created category combines a variety of laws including those on alcohol, marijuana, prostitution, and fireworks'. Right. So no measure for abortion because, as the print edition of the report makes clear (see pp. 5-6), it is a controversial issue about which reasonable people disagree. But prostitution? Part, apparently, of what Rawls would call our 'overlapping consensus'."

  • Mark Kleiman: We need to solve our alcohol problem to solve our crime problem: "Drugs are an important part of the question if you include alcohol as a drug…. All illegal drugs combined are to alcohol as the Mediterranean is to the Pacific…. Any sentence about drug policy that doesn’t end with “raise alcohol taxes” is an incoherent sentence…. Half the people in prison were drinking when they did whatever they did…. [A]lcohol shortens time horizons, and people with shorter time horizons are more criminally active because they’re less scared of the punishment. Most people who drive drunk are sensible enough to know when they’re sober that they shouldn’t be driving drunk. It’s only when they’re drunk that they forget they’re not supposed to drive drunk. We need to keep them from drinking, which is what the 24/7 program does. We could also require everyone to be carded. Maybe you still get carded, but I don’t. But imagine everyone got carded, and if I had a DUI, I had a driving license showing I wasn’t allowed to buy a drink. You’d make the alcohol industry regulate its own customers. And I think you’d cut down on crimes substantially. But if I say that, I’m a nanny state fanatic, and if I say adults should be allowed to smoke a little bit of pot, I’m a crazy drug reformer."

  • Harold Pollack: What ‘This American Life’ missed on disability insurance: "Look at the employment rates for people who applied for disability but were then denied. And those are actually quite low, below 50 percent. That suggests we’re not pulling people out of the workforce who would otherwise be there. It’s also worth remembering that the adult benefits for disability are not that high. If people are leaving the labor market so that they can get $13,000 per year and health care because that’s better than anything that employers can provide, what does that tell you about the state of the economy?… [S]ince 1996, the welfare caseloads have also plummeted. It’s always been the case for parents of disabled children who are poor, there has either been welfare or disability, and parents often used one program or the other. So as welfare became more restricted, there were reasons for people to shift into the SSI disability program. But the shift hasn’t been nearly as dramatic as “This American Life” made it seem. The overall proportion of poor kids on SSI has been pretty constant in recent years. And even as the poverty rate has gone up, the rise in children on SSI disability has been dwarfed by the much bigger decline of children in the old welfare system…. There are occasionally anecdotal accounts of parents coaching their kids to misbehave in school so that they can qualify for disability. But that just doesn’t show up in the numbers…. [Nick Kristof's] statistic[s are] very misleading. The program is actually quite stringent at the front end. And that means the kids who do qualify are much more likely to have chronic issues that last into adulthood. Many of the kids on childhood SSI have unambiguous conditions that are lifelong. So the fact that most of them qualify for adult disability doesn’t tell you much about the program."

Walter Hickey: This one goes out to all the Monty Hall "Truthers" out there. You know who your are. | Ezra Klein: The Battle Over Obamacare Moves to the States | Jeff Toobin: Why the Gay-Marriage Fight Is Over | Jacqui Cheng: Frustrated with iCloud, Apple’s developer community speaks up en masse | Simon Wren-Lewis: Why we should stop teaching Mundell Fleming | Paul Krugman: On Mundell-Fleming | Wonkette: Francis Breaks Rule, Washes Lady-Feet | George Perry: The Fed's Trying To Get the Party Started, So Why All the Criticism? |

  • Michael Boskin: Why Consolidate? <- worst thing I have read this week

  • Paul Krugman: Twins No More: "Back in the Reagan years two unprecedented things began happening to the US economy… large peacetime budget deficits… large trade deficits. In a famous analysis, Martin Feldstein pronounced them 'twin deficits', linking the external deficit to the budget deficit, a proposition that made sense at the time: the budget deficit was helping to drive up interest rates, and high rates led to an overvalued dollar…. [M]uch discussion of deficits these days implicitly assumes that something similar applies in today’s world — that by running budget deficits we’re indebting ourselves, as a nation, to foreigners (especially China). So it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t remotely true…. What you see is that the surge in budget deficits after 2008 was accompanied by a significant decline in net foreign borrowing…. There’s no mystery here, of course: what happened in the slump was a collapse in private spending, which actually brought the trade deficit down even as it led to a sharp fall in revenue and rise in spending on safety-net programs. But it’s still very much at odds with the popular perception that our deficits are putting the nation deep into debt to foreigners. And this in turn means that the notion that deficits are impoverishing the nation is all wrong. To the extent that our future wealth is being impaired, it’s overwhelmingly because we’re investing too little, not because we’re borrowing too much."

  • Ryan Avent: Labour markets: America's jobless manufacturing renaissance: "AMERICAN manufacturing… has actually held up very well…. Some sub-industries, like textile manufacturing, have been gutted. Others, like manufacturing of large-scale transportation equipment, have hung in there despite ups and downs, and still others, like advanced electronics manufacturing, look as strong as ever. What has really faced steady decline over the past half-century is manfacturing as a mass employer…. Can we expect this to change in future? Signs of a new era of American manufacturing dynamism are in the air. Signs of a new era of mass employment of medium- and low-skill workers at good wages are not. Consider the latest data point: Google will manufacture its new heads-up display technology, "Glass", in California. The small scale, high cost and complexity of the project’s initial run makes it practical to base manufacturing operations near the search company’s Silicon Valley headquarters, according to people briefed on the plans. Only a few thousand Google Glass devices will roll off the Californian factory line in the coming weeks, rather than the millions of iPhones and other electronics which Foxconn typically produces at its plants in China…. Glass is an incredibly complex product. It will take a lot of tweaking to get the consumer product right and even more tweaking to develop a process for reliable manufacture. It may well be convenient to carry out this tweaking in close proximity to Google's engineers. But for Glass to take off, it will need to be cheap…. Google's options… are to keep production in Silicon Valley and rely heavily on automation (limiting the employment benefits), to move production some place where technically skilled workers are cheap (like Asia), or to lose business to a firm that is able to automate or relocate…. If low-skill workers in America aren't much more productive in manufacture of traded goods and services than low-skill workers in China, then they can't earn much more than workers in China while being employed in manufacture of traded goods and services. They can earn a rich-world wage in production of non-traded goods and services, like sandwiches and haircuts, so long as there is sufficient local demand."

On March 28, 2013: