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July 2013

James Hamilton: Econbrowser recession indicator index up to 30.5%: Noted for July 31, 2013

James Hamilton: Econbrowser recession indicator index up to 30.5%:

The bare growth of the economy over 2012:Q4-2013:Q1 is the main reason that our Econbrowser Recession Indicator Index jumped up to 30.5%, a significant increase from the 9.2% figure that we released last quarter. This is one objective signal that the recent GDP numbers are even weaker than we've become accustomed to seeing since the economy began its disappointing recovery from the Great Recession in 2009:Q3. Note, however, that this does not mean the economy has entered recession territory. Our index would have to rise above 67% before we would issue such a declaration. Note also that in calculating the current value for the index we allow one quarter for data revision and trend recognition. Thus the latest value, although it uses today's released GDP numbers, is actually an assessment of the state of the economy as of the end of 2013:Q1. However, our index is never revised, so that the numbers plotted in the graph below since 2005 are exactly the values as they were reported one quarter after each indicated historical date on Econbrowser.

Why Does America's Left View Larry Summers as a Right-Wing Hyena?

When I go back through the stuff he has been writing for his FT columns since he started in late 2006, it looks solidly in the progressive redistributionist Keynesian center-left:

  • The global middle cries out for reassurance: October 29, 2006: Two groups have found themselves in the right place at the right time… those in low-income countries… able to plug into the global system… those who already own valuable assets…. Everyone else has not fared nearly as well…. What the anxious global middle is told often feels like pretty thin gruel.

Continue reading "Why Does America's Left View Larry Summers as a Right-Wing Hyena?" »

Noted for July 31, 2013

Jared Bernstein: A Spurned Offer on Corporate Taxes | Jérémie Cohen-Setton: A Guide to Survive Math Camp | randomsubu can haz tumblr!: Peter Orszag: "Howard Dean seems to think that Congress will be perfectly able to fine-tune Medicare’s shift away from fee-for-service payment, despite there being nothing in its 50-year record of legislating on Medicare to support such a belief" | Giorgio Riello: Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World | Cory Doctorow: At 120 degrees, it was so hot in Australia that Koalas were asking people for water, something that's never been seen before | Margaret Sullivan: In Interviewing the President, Why Didn't The Times Ask About Surveillance? But with national security and surveillance issues such hot topics, how could it be that the reporters Jackie Calmes and Michael Shear did not broach these with the president? | Joe Mullin: Sounding the alarm: Ars speaks with vocal NSA critic Sen. Ron Wyden | Noah Smith: Book Review: The Quants | Greg Sargent: Larry Summers will face opposition from some Democrats | Lawrence Summers (2011): To fix the economy, fix the housing market | James Fallows: A False Equivalence Classic | Neil Irwin: We should be horrified at 1.7 percent GDP growth | Zack Beauchamp: The Contradiction At The Heart Of The Latest Movement To Save The GOP | Ron Wyden: Stopping the "Ever-Expanding Surveillance State" | John Cassidy: Where Larry Summers Went Wrong | Mark Pauly: The Unanticipated Consequences of Postponing the Employer Mandate |

The Project Gutenberg eBook of Letters of Ricardo to Malthus, by James Bonar.

Mark Thoma sends us to the Ricardo-Malthus correspondence:

My dear Malthus,

I think that the concession which I have made will not bear the construction you have put upon it. 'An increased power of production must be accompanied with an increase[Pg 188] of productive or unproductive expenditure.' This is the sentence on which you have remarked, and you say could not be true if the gross produce were diminished. Certainly not, but I have never said that with an increased power of production the gross produce would be diminished; I have never said that machinery enables you to get a greater quantity of gross produce; my sole complaint against it is that it sometimes actually diminishes the gross produce.

With respect to the particular subject of discussion between us, you seem to be surprised that I should understand you to say in your book 'that vast powers of production are put into action, and the result is unfavourable to the interests of mankind.' Have you not said so? Is it not your objection to machinery that it often produces a quantity of commodities for which there is no demand, and that it is the glut which is the consequence of quantity which is unfavourable to the interests of mankind? Even as you state your proposition in your present letter, I have a right to conclude that you see great evils in great powers of production from the quantity of commodities which will be the result, and the low price to which they will fall. Saving, you would say, would first lead to great production, then to low prices, which would necessarily be followed by low profits. With very low profits the motives for saving would cease, and therefore the motives for increased production would also cease. Do you not then say that increased production is often attended with evil consequences to mankind because it destroys the motives to industry, and to the keeping up of the increased production? Now in much of this I cannot agree with you. I indeed allow that the case is possible, to conceive of saving being so universal that no profit will arise from the employment of capital; but then I contend that the specific reason is because all that fund, which should, and in ordinary cases does, constitute profit, goes to wages and immoderately swells that fund which is[Pg 189] destined to the support of labour. The labourers are immoderately paid for their labour, and they necessarily become the unproductive consumers of the country. I agree too that the capitalists being in such a case without a sufficient motive for saving from revenue to add to capital, will cease doing so, will, if you please, even expend a part of their capital; but I ask what evil will result from this? None to the capitalist, you will allow, for his enjoyments and his profits will be thereby increased, or he would continue to save; none to the labourers, for which we should repine, because their situation was so exceedingly favourable that they could bear a deduction from their wages and yet be in a most prosperous condition. Here it is where we most differ. You think that the capitalist could not cease saving on account of the lowness of his profits, without a cessation in some degree of employment to the people. I, on the contrary, think that with all the abatements from the fund destined to the payment of labour, which I acknowledge would be the consequence of the new course of the capitalists, enough would remain to employ all the labour that could be obtained and to pay it liberally, so that in fact there would be little diminution in the quantity of commodities produced; the distribution only would be different; more would go to the capitalists and less to the labourers.

I do not think that stagnation is a proper term to apply to a state of things, in which for a time there is no motive to a further increase of production. When in the course of things profits shall be so low from a great accumulation of capital and a want of means of providing food for an increasing population, all motive for further savings will cease; but there will be no stagnation; all that is produced will be at its fair relative price, and will be freely exchanged. Surely the word stagnation is improperly applied to such a state of things, for there will not be a[Pg 190] general glut, nor will any particular commodity be necessarily produced in greater abundance than the demand shall warrant.

You say, 'We know from repeated experience that the money price of labour never falls till many workmen have been for some time out of work.' I know no such thing; and, if wages were previously high, I can see no reason whatever why they should not fall before many labourers are thrown out of work. All general reasoning, I apprehend, is in favour of my view of this question, for why should some agree to go without any wages while others were most liberally rewarded? Once more I must say that a sudden and diminished demand for labour in this case must mean a diminished reward to the labourer, and not a diminished employment of him; he will work at least as much as before, but will have a less proportion of the produce of his work, and this will be so in order that his employer may have an adequate motive for employing him at all, which he certainly would not have if his share of the produce were reduced so low as to make increased production an evil rather than a benefit to him. 'It is' (never) 'said that an increase of unproductive consumption among landlords and capitalists may not sometimes be the proper remedy for a state of things in which the motives for production fail.' I know of no one who has recommended a perseverance in parsimony even after the profits of capital have vanished. I have never done so, and I should be amongst the first to reprobate the folly of the capitalist in not indulging himself in unproductive consumption. I have indeed said that nothing can be produced for which there will not be a demand, unless from miscalculation, while the employment of stock affords even moderate profits; but I have not said that production may not in theory be pushed so far as to destroy the motive on the part of the capitalist to continue producing to the same[Pg 191] extent. I believe it might possibly be pushed so far, but we have never witnessed it in our days, and I feel quite confident that, however injurious such a state of things may be to the capitalist, it is so only because it is attended with disproportionate and unusual benefits to the labourers. The remedy, therefore, and the sole remedy, is a more just distribution of the produce; and this can be brought about only, as I said in my last letter, by an increase of workmen or by a more liberal unproductive expenditure on the part of the capitalists. I should not make a protest against an increase of consumption as a remedy to the stagnation of trade, if I thought as you do, that we were now suffering from too great savings; as I have already said, I do not see how stagnation of trade can arise from such a cause.

We appear then not to differ very widely in our general principles, but more so respecting the applications of them. Such and such evils may exist; but the question is do they exist now? I think not; none of the symptoms indicate that they do, and in my opinion increased savings would alleviate rather than aggravate the sufferings of which we have lately had to complain. Stagnation is a derangement of the system, and not too much general production, arising from too great an accumulation of capital.

Mr. Tooke has been here since Saturday last. I am going with him to-morrow to Bromesberrow[241], from whence he will go to Ross and down the Wye to Chepstow. We have had plenty of talk on subjects of political economy, and have found out points on which there is partial difference of opinion between us. He brought with him two pamphlets, in which you are often mentioned as well as myself; perhaps you have seen them: their titles are An Inquiry into those principles advocated by Mr. Malthus relative to the Nature of Demand and the necessity of[Pg 192] Consumption[242], the other Observations on certain Verbal Disputes in political economy[243]. Mrs. Ricardo unites with me in kind regards to Mrs. Malthus and yourself. Mr. Tooke also desires to be kindly remembered.

Ever truly yours, David Ricardo. LXXVIII[244]. Gatcomb Park, 18 Sept., 1821.

My dear Malthus, Without imputing the least blame to you, I fear that I do not quite understand your 'knotty point.' You appear to me to compare things together, which cannot, under any supposable circumstances, be made the subject of comparison. You compare a commodity, in the production of which the advances in labour remain the same while the profits of stock diminish, to another commodity 'obtained by a given quantity of labour, a given quantity of capital, and a given rate of profits.' Is not this supposing two rates of profit at the same time? Perhaps this was not meant, and your question was asked on the supposition of profits varying equally in all trades. If so, I have no hesitation in answering that, if, from an increased quantity of labour on the land, corn should appear to have doubled in money price, and not from any increased facility in the production of money, we ought to say, as we always do say, that corn had risen a hundred per cent., and not that money had fallen fifty. In differing on this point we in reality come to our old dispute, whether the quantity of labour in a commodity should be the regulator of its value, or whether the value of all things should, under[Pg 193] all circumstances, be estimated by the quantity of corn for which they would exchange. You say 'we cannot surely assume that the cost of producing the necessaries of the labourer is low absolutely when the land is productive, if what is gained by the small quantity of labour employed is counterbalanced by the very high rate of profits.' I, of course, should say the cost of these necessaries was low if they were produced with little labour, but would not you, who adopt another measure and sometimes think value is to be estimated by the quantity of things generally which the commodity could command, would you not say, that the cost of these necessaries was small in value, agreeing, as you would, that they would not command an abundance of other things? I do not know what you mean by the low cost of necessaries being counterbalanced by the very high rate of profits. If a hundred quarters of corn be to be divided between my labourers and me, its cost being made up of wages and profits, its cost will be the same, whether profits be high or low, and this division will in no degree affect the price of the corn; but, if at a subsequent time eighty quarters only can be obtained with the same labour and capital, and in consequence a greater proportion of the eighty be given to the labourers than was before given of the hundred, corn will rise absolutely both in my measure and in yours. It is I who am willing to take some one or more of the external commodities[245] in the production of which, while the advances in labour increase in money value, the profits of stock diminish, as a steady measure, but which you so often reject, and insist that, whether the produce of a given quantity of labour be a hundred or eighty quarters, in either case, corn has remained a steady measure of value. In the case you have supposed, you say that the commodity, in which the same advances for labour were made, while profits diminished, 'would not only fall[Pg 194] one half relatively to corn, but it would appear to do so estimated in any common external commodity which had all along been produced by the same quantity of labour, and at the same rate of profits.' I wish you had named this commodity. In the first place I deny that it would be produced at the same rate of profits, for there cannot be two rates of profit at the same time in the same country, and secondly I contend that this commodity would also fall to one half relatively to corn, and therefore would appear invariable when compared with the other commodities.

Perhaps by external commodity, you mean a foreign commodity to be imported from abroad. If so, why should not that commodity vary in reference to corn in the same degree as any home made commodity? If a hogshead of claret were worth a certain quantity of cloth, of hats, of hardware, etc., etc., would its relative value to these things alter because it was more difficult to raise corn in England, and its price rose because we refused to import it from other countries? To me it appears most clear that claret would not vary as compared with the things which I before enumerated, and that it would vary as compared with corn. Pray think of this and tell me whether I am not right. In the postscript to your letter you ask 'In the two extreme cases of the highest profits, and the lowest profits on the land, may not corn and labour remain of the same value estimated in some external commodity, although in the interval considerable variations may have taken place from supply and demand?' I answer, no, it could not remain of the same value estimated in home commodities, and as it is by means of these home commodities that we should purchase the external commodities, I cannot see the slightest reason for supposing that these commodities so exchanged could alter in relative value. I hope I have made myself understood. I am glad you approach a little towards my views, I wish you had told me to what extent.[Pg 195] Torrens told me he should send me his book[246]; he has not done so, and I have not seen it.

Ever yours, David Ricardo. LXXIX[247]. [28 Sept., 1821.]

My dear Malthus, The case you put to me appears to me to be an impossible one. How can all countries produce their commodities with the same quantity of labour, all, except one, produce their corn with the same quantity of labour also, and yet all, the one not excepted, have their profits on capital at the same rate? The one which you suppose to raise its corn with only half the quantity of labour required in the others would in all probability obtain its labour at a much cheaper price, and consequently profits would be higher in that country. If indeed a free trade should be established between all these countries, then their profits might be all nearly at the same rate, because the price of corn and necessaries estimated in quantity of labour would be nearly the same in all. In carrying on this supposed case we must be informed whether the country in which corn is obtained with comparatively little labour can continue to obtain it on the same terms, after she is called upon to supply the markets of other countries; if she can, then the comparative prices of corn and commodities will be altered in all countries; in the country producing the cheap corn, money will be rather at a higher level than before, and therefore corn rather dearer; but commodities generally will be at no higher price;—they will be indeed rather cheaper, because they will be imported from abroad and[Pg 196] from countries where the level of currency will be somewhat reduced; and therefore the cost price of commodities in those countries will be lower, and consequently they can be sold cheaper to the country importing them. Bulky commodities and the price of labour will only be raised in this particular country, because the level of currency will be somewhat raised; labour will in the real measure of value be rather lowered, that is to say, the portion of produce paid to the labourer, manufactured and raw produce, together, will probably be rather increased, but in consequence of free trade and a better distribution of capital, the proportion of the whole produce of a given capital which the labourer will receive, will be diminished; his proportion will really be obtained with less labour.

The benefit to other countries cannot be doubted; corn and labour will fall very greatly in those countries, and consequently profits will rise, and, as part of their exports in return for corn must in the first instance be money, the general level of currency will be reduced and commodities generally will fall, not because they can be produced cheaper but because they are measured by a more valuable money. This is on the supposition that corn can continue to be produced with little labour in the excepted country; but suppose the increased demand for corn should oblige this country to cultivate poorer land, then the price of corn would rise from another cause besides the higher level of currency; and, if this difficulty should be nearly as great as in other countries, corn would be nearly as high; but, while it could afford on any terms to export corn for commodities, there would be previously to the importation of commodities an influx of the precious metals and a higher level of currency. Without such higher level of currency commodities could never be imported from countries where they were before at the same price, and[Pg 197] where they required the same quantity of labour to produce them. Your case is an impossible one, first because you suppose the profits in two countries to be the same although the cost of producing necessaries in one of them be only one half of what it is in the other, secondly you assume as a matter of course that with a free trade the price of corn in the exporting country would rise to the price of corn in the importing country whereas it would fall in the importing country to the price in the exporting country if its cost of production was not increased in that country, and if it rose it would rise only in proportion to the increased cost of production. When there is a free trade between countries it is impossible that profits can differ very much, the only cause of difference in such case will be the different modes of living of the labourers; in one country they may be contented with potatoes and a mud hovel; in another they may require a decent house and wheaten bread. You say: 'Proceeding from this point it is obvious that in the course of a hundred years (if accumulation were supposed) labour and corn might continue at nearly the same price, while domestic commodities from the fall of profits to the level of other countries would fall to half their price estimated in the money of the commercial world.' Domestic commodities are to fall, because profits fall. If profits fall, I do not see why domestic commodities should fall; but why should profits fall if corn and labour continued at nearly the same price? I know of no cause of the fall of profits but the fall[248] of labour. You say: 'A striking approximation to this case actually exists in America.' 'The only difference,' you continue, 'is that circumstances in America have made labour high'; but this is the only important feature in the case. I am however decidedly of opinion that, if in America labour was very low and profits consequently[Pg 198] much higher than they are, there would be very little fall in the domestic commodities of America.

I agree indeed with you that in the progress of the cultivation of America her corn must rise with the increased difficulty of producing it; this circumstance must have a tendency to reduce the relative quantity, or rather lower the level of American currency, which will not fail by increasing the value of money to lower the value of those commodities in America which are too bulky to be exported[249]. The commodities which America exports will not be similarly affected. Nothing is to me so little important as the fall and rise of commodities in money; the great enquiries on which to fix our attention are the rise or fall of corn, labour, and commodities, in real value, that is to say the increase or diminution of the quantity of labour necessary to raise corn and to manufacture commodities. It may be curious to develop the effect of an alteration of real value on money price; but mankind are only really interested in making labour productive, in the enjoyment of abundance, and in a good distribution of the produce obtained by capital and industry. I cannot help thinking that in your speculations you suppose these much too closely connected with money price.

I have read a very good critique on Godwin in the Edinburgh Review[250]; and I am quite sure that I know the writer. It is very well done and most satisfactorily exposes Godwin's ignorance as well as his disingenuousness.

Ever yours, David Ricardo. [Postscript.] I cannot agree with you that in the progress of the cultivation of America a mean between her corn and[Pg 199] labour will remain nearly at the same price as it now is, estimated in money or in hogsheads of claret; it will in my opinion rise. Let me take your own supposition. A country produces her corn with half the labour of another country; consequently she employs only half the capital in producing a given quantity[251]. In this country corn will be at only half the price at which it is in another; 100 quarters will sell for £200, while in another it sells for £400. Suppose profits in both countries to be 20 per cent.; in one a capital of £166 will be employed in the raising of 100 quarters of corn, in the other £333 will be so employed, and 20 per cent. on each of these capitals will be on one £33, and on the other £66. To get £33 the one must have 16½ quarters for his share of the 100 quarters, the other must have precisely the same quantity, and consequently 83½ quarters are paid in both cases for wages and other charges. But the farmer in the fertile country employs only half the labour that the other employs, and consequently with the same money wages each labourer will have the command of double the quantity of corn, he will have what you call double real wages.

Now suppose that in the progress of the fertile country it [will] at last arrive at the state in which it is necessary to [emplo]y £333 instead of £166 to raise 100 quarters of corn; it is indeed possible, under the extravagant supposition with which we have commenced, that labour might continue at the same money price; but it is quite impossible that corn should not be doubled in money price, for twice the quantity of labourers at these uniform money wages would be required to produce it. If corn doubles in price and wages remain stationary, the mean between the two must necessarily rise, and consequently, estimated in claret or in money, a mean between her corn and labour[Pg 200] cannot as you say remain nearly the same. If (as I had a right to suppose) labour in such a country was at a low money price, when corn could be produced with so much facility, the conclusion, when corn rose, would be much more in my favour.

I cannot allow that hats would fall in a progressive country because of a fall of profits. How can it be said that the cost of producing hats is reduced by a fall of profits, if a fall of profits must be accompanied by a rise of wages? Show me that a fall of profits may take place without a rise of wages in any fixed measure of value, and then I will yield this point. But you have no right to talk of a fall of profits; your case is that of a progressive country with low profits and enormous wages. If of every 100 quarters of corn, where it can be produced with little labour, eighty-three be given to the labourers, while no more is given in countries where double the quantity of labourers are employed to produce 100 quarters of corn, you are bound to say that wages are enormously high. In my measure of value they would not be enormously high: but the commodity on which wages were expended would be extravagantly low; at any rate we should both agree that profits in such a state of things would be very moderate.

It is hardly fair to tax you with so long a letter and so soon too!

Alexander Hamilton: Report on the Subject of Manufactures

Alexander Hamilton’s Final Version of the Report on the Subject of Manufactures:

Philadelphia, December 5, 1791

To the Speaker of the House of Representatives:

The Secretary of the Treasury in obedience to the order of þe House of Representatives, of the 15th day of January 1790,125 has applied his attention, at as early a period as his other duties would permit, to the subject of Manufactures; and particularly to the means of promoting such as will tend to render the United States, independent on foreign nations, for military and other essential supplies. And he thereupon respectfully submits the following Report.

The expediency of encouraging manufactures in the United States, which was not long since deemed very questionable, appears at this time to be pretty generally admitted…. [R]estrictive regulations, which in foreign markets abrige the vent of the increasing surplus of our Agricultural produce, serve to beget an earnest desire, that a more extensive demand for that surplus may be created at home: And the complete success… in some valuable branches… justify a hope, that the obstacles to the growth of this species of industry are less formidable than they were apprehended to be.…

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Laura Tyson: Game Changers for Growth: Noted for July 31, 2013

Laura Tyson: Game Changers for Growth:

There are often-overlooked reasons for optimism about America’s future potential growth… shale energy, big-data analytics, exports in knowledge-intensive industries, infrastructure investment, and talent development. Two of these--shale energy and big-data analytics--build on ongoing technological breakthroughs in which the US has a strong lead and depend primarily on private-sector action, not macroeconomic or structural policies….

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Ann Marie Marciarille: Health Care in the Fiberhood

Kansas City is being wired for high speed internet, in a big way.  Indeed, my neighborhood is fast approaching its installation dates.

Lots of people have been wondering if high speed internet connectivity might improve access to health care in Kansas City, particularly for seniors and the homebound. Kansas City, you see, is a city with limited public transportation and a city with considerable sprawl. 

Now, low income seniors are often concentrated in older residential neighborhoods that can be quite some distance from health services that target them. In addition to beefed up senior transit, I have been wondering if health education and self-care counseling might be transformed by the arrival of the fiberhood.

In Kansas City, Kansas at KU's Alzheimer's Disease Center,  a pilot project is underway to use the fast streaming characteristics of the hood to help people living with dementia and their family caregivers by offering  review and consultation on real-time as well as recorded video of behavioral challenges in need of immediate discussion.

I am all for anything that helps the hidden among us who live with dementia and the, also curiously hidden, who are family caregivers for those who live with dementia.  There is shame there. If I learned only one thing in my time on the State of California's Alzheimer's and Dementia State Plan Task Force Advisory Group,it is that family caregivers are deeply ashamed to admit that they may be having trouble caring for a loved one with dementia -- as if it were a failure of love or effort rather than a brain disorder. People living with dementia can be challenging as can family members. Aging into dependence on an adult child (often a senior themselves) is complicated enough a life transition without cognitive impairment added to the mix.

If we are to face the "silver tsunami" of aging Americans with equanimity, we need to be thinking hard about anything we can do to bolster family caregivers in their darkest hours.


Note to Self: Can Short-Run Stimulative Policy Increase the Chance of a Future Inflationary Breakout?

Paul Krugman says "no"…

Consider Japan and Abenomics. In the long-run, Paul Krugman says, the real interest rate on JGB is determined by supply-side factors: risk tolerance, time preference, and growth. None of these are affected by Abenomics. In the long run the debt-sustainability calculus is what it is, whether favorable or unfavorable.

In the short-run, Paul says, Abenomics raises expected inflation and thus reduces the short-run real interest rate on the debt--that is, after all, the point of the policy. Therefore Abenomics in the short run means that when the long-run arrives the debt-to-GDP ratio is lower, thus reducing the problem of financing the debt that we short-run policymakers hand off to our long-run successors.

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Noah Smith: The Behavioral Finance Case for Buying Gold: Noted for July 31, 2013

World of warcraft gold Google Search

Noah Smith: What is the payoff structure of gold?:

Even if one would not personally choose to make one-way directional bets on an asset, one might want to specify the asset's full state-contingent payoff structure, for those who do choose to speculate or to use the asset to hedge their idiosyncratic risks. In other words, when does gold pay off? [John] Cochrane tosses out a possible answer:

There is all this bit about gold, guns, ammo and cans of beans. If you think about gold that way, you're thinking about gold as an out of the money put option on calamitous social disruption, including destruction of the entire financial and monetary system. That might justify a different answer.

This idea is pretty common. But is it true? Would gold really pay off in the event of a calamitous social disruption? I'm really not sure that it would….

Continue reading "Noah Smith: The Behavioral Finance Case for Buying Gold: Noted for July 31, 2013" »

Philip Aldrick: Was Montagu Norman a Nazi sympathiser?: Noted for July 31, 2013

Philip Aldrick: Was Montagu Norman a Nazi sympathiser?:

Norman was Britain’s… central banker… for… 24 years until 1944…. But he was also an economic dinosaur…. Adam Posen, a former Bank’s rate-setter, has said that when he could not decide which way to vote he would look at the giant portrait of Norman hanging in the Monetary Policy Committee’s meeting room and ask himself “What would Montagu do?”. Then do the opposite. So Mark Carney’s decision to remove the heirloom [portrait]… was loaded with symbolic significance. What he could not have known, though, was that another--more damaging--gold scandal involving Norman was about to erupt…. The Bank revealed that it had helped the Nazis sell gold looted from Czechoslovakia in March 1939….

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Reihan Salam: How Partisan Demographics Shape Policy Thinking

Reihan Salam:

How Partisan Demographics Shape Policy Thinking: A year ago… I argued that because unemployment had more of an impact of Democratic-aligned constituencies than Republican-aligned constituencies, Republican candidates faced less political pressure to focus on the near-term unemployment problem…. [A] similar point: Republican governors of states with large numbers of uninsured individuals generally don’t represent the uninsured population, which is disproportionately Latino and black and low-income…. Republican and Democratic governors are not putting principle before politics. Instead, they are capitalizing on the politics of health care and appealing to the voters most important to their electoral needs. While Republican governors have higher percentages of uninsured in their states, their key voters don’t face the same burden….

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On Larry Summers...

Ezra Klein writes:

The case for Larry Summers: There’s a problem with reporting on the Fed chair race: Janet Yellen’s supporters will talk on the record. Larry Summers’s supporters, by and large, won’t. That’s in part because his key supporters are concentrated in and around the Obama administration, and they stay out of the media almost as a matter of course. But their reticence has led to a real imbalance…. The case for Yellen is clear, and made often…. The case for Summers is largely being made behind closed doors…. This post is the product of numerous conversations with Summers’s supporters who, to my continuing frustration, typically refuse to be quoted even when they’re just saying nice things about their former colleague….

And, indeed, there is only one quote--from me, back in 2008.

What's the matter, guys? If you really do think he would be the best Fed Chair, say so and say why on the record. And none of this whispering to Al Hunt that Janet Yellen lacks "gravitas": not true and not helpful, capisce?

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The Strategy of Monetary Policy: Larry Summers from 1991

A good catch by Evan Soltas: Larry Summers talking about monetary policy. Beware, however, that Larry Summers trying to say something smart and interesting at a conference is different from Larry Summers making policy. And Larry Summers in 1991 is different from Larry Summers in 2013:

Lawrence Summers (1991), "Panel Discussion: Price Stability: How Should Long-Term Monetary Policy Be Determined?" Journal of Money, Credit and Banking 23:3, Part 2 (August), pp. 625-631:

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Malinvestment in the Recession?

I think Daniel Kuehn mistakes Evan Soltas's point. Soltas is arguing not against the fundamentalist Austrians and their claims that the depression is caused by previous malinvestment in the boom. Soltas is arguing against the Martin Feldstein's who claim that interest rates need to be high during the bust in order to guard against additional malinvestments committed then.

Continue reading "Malinvestment in the Recession?" »

Shame on Michael Kinsley: "Wanting to Have the State Recognize Your Marriage" ≠ "Imposing Your Lifestyle on Everybody Else"

Michael Kinsley claims that Ben Carson "has views on gay rights somewhat more progressive than those of the average Democratic senator ten years ago."

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

Ben Carson:

Marriage Equality Could Destroy America Like The "Fall Of The Roman Empire": As a Bible-believing Christian… I believe God loves homosexuals as much as he loves everyone, but if we can redefine marriage as between two men or two women or any other way based on social pressures as opposed to between a man and a woman, we will continue to redefine it in any way that we wish, which is a slippery slope with a disastrous ending, as witnessed in the dramatic fall of the Roman Empire. I don't believe this to be a political view, but rather a logical and reasoned view…. I have no problem whatsoever with allowing gay people to live as they please, as long as they don't try to impose their lifestyle on everyone else. Marriage is a very sacred institution and should not be degraded…. I have no problem with Muslims or other religious groups who want to practice their religion in their homes… as long as they don't try to impose that on others or violate our laws. I could go on with other examples for quite some time, but I hope I have conveyed the wonderful freedom we enjoy as citizens of a government that protects the right to privacy…

Continue reading "Shame on Michael Kinsley: "Wanting to Have the State Recognize Your Marriage" ≠ "Imposing Your Lifestyle on Everybody Else"" »

Kelly Shue: Peers, Luck & CEO Compensation: Noted for July 31, 2013

Kelly Shue: Peers, Luck & CEO Compensation:

I explore how executive social interactions can affect managerial decision making and firm policies using the historical random assignment of MBA students to sections at Harvard Business School. Under the identifying assumption that social bonds are stronger within randomly assigned sections than across sections in the same class year, I test whether executive and firm outcomes are more similar among section peers than among class peers. I find evidence of significant peer effects in firm investment, leverage, interest coverage, and firm size, with the strongest effects in executive compensation and acquisition activity. Section peers are 10% more similar than class peers in terms of compensation and acquisitions. Under the additional structural assumptions of the linear-in-means model, I estimate a substantial lower bound for the elasticity of individual outcomes to mean section peer characteristics of 10%–20%.

Continue reading "Kelly Shue: Peers, Luck & CEO Compensation: Noted for July 31, 2013" »

Josh Marshall: The GOP and the Albatross of White Racial Panic: Noted for July 31, 2013

Josh Marshall The GOP and the Albatross of White Racial Panic:

The biggest news… is… that the political impact of racial division has changed. For decades, the irresistible political catnip of the right was the political appeal… to racial division… good politics. But that’s not clear at all any more…. The declining role of racism… we’re not living in 1955 or even 1995 for that matter…. The rapid growth of the non-white voting population…. A declining percentage of the white population that believe whites are or need to be the dominant social group….

Continue reading "Josh Marshall: The GOP and the Albatross of White Racial Panic: Noted for July 31, 2013" »

Liveblogging World War II: July 31, 1943

The SS reports on British prisoners in Germany:

The British usually take very little notice of the Germans and look straight through them. Many Germans have remarked that their own women, and in particular some of their allies could profit by studying the attitude adopted by the British towards their enemies. Sexual relations, for instance, between British prisoners and German women are very rare.

Continue reading "Liveblogging World War II: July 31, 1943" »

Josh Marshall: Groundswollen: White Racial Panic, the Hapless and the Helpless: Noted for July 31, 2013

Josh Marshall: Groundswollen: White Racial Panic, the Hapless and the Helpless | TPM Editors Blog:

I was reading through David Corn’s great piece on ‘Groundswell’ which is, depending on your point of view, a working group of conservative activists and journalists working together to coordinate storylines and plan the war against RINOs and progressives or a hapless group of doofuses planning regular meetings to vent about being crapped on by more prominent Republicans. My sense is that it’s sort of a hybrid of the two….

Continue reading "Josh Marshall: Groundswollen: White Racial Panic, the Hapless and the Helpless: Noted for July 31, 2013" »

Why I Am Not Surprised That U.S. Treasury Bond Yields Are Still Very Low: Wednesday Hoisted from the Archives from September 2010 Weblogging

Why I Am Not Surprised That U.S. Treasury Bond Yields Are Still Very Low Today: A Sokratic Dialogue: Liquidity Preference, Loanable Funds, and European Hedge Funds that Fear the Collapse of U.S. Treasury Bond Prices - Grasping Reality with Both Hands:

Meno: I haven't seen you since spring classes ended.

Adeimantos: I have been away: Paris. London. Frankfurt.

Meno: Oh. Pleasant? Interesting?

Adeimantos: Not really interesting--too jet-lagged, so I sit in my hotel room in my underwear, read the Economist and Financial Times,, and reflect on how if in my 20s I had been in a fancy hotel in central Paris with someone else paying I would have thought I was in heaven, but that now I am just tired. Thus not too pleasant either.

Continue reading "Why I Am Not Surprised That U.S. Treasury Bond Yields Are Still Very Low: Wednesday Hoisted from the Archives from September 2010 Weblogging" »

Evan Soltas Says That "Malinvestment" Due to Low Interest Rates in a Depressed Economy Isn't a Thing

A powerful point I had never seen before: Evan Soltas:

How to Think About Malinvestment: If the central bank holds interest rates artificially low, it can in fact induce malinvestment--the central bank is creating an incentive to invest in projects which have negative net present values…. That's a bad thing, and it's not "Austrian" to fear that. Nor is it the irrational response of a private sector to malinvest under those conditions….

But all else isn't equal….

[E]vidence that… NPV-related malinvestment is nothing to worry about comes from the fact that businesses founded during recessions are more likely to last and be successful… discrimination towards higher-NPV [projects] during recessions, not negative ones…

Noted for July 30, 2013

Barry Ritholtz: St. Louis Fed: After the Fall: This year’s essay focuses on the need to rebuild household balance sheets in the wake of the financial crisis, a need that is important not only for families but for the economy overall. The co-authors are the director and chief economist for the St. Louis Fed’s new Center for Household Financial Stability | Adam Posen: Op-ed: The Cult of Home Ownership Is Dangerous and Damaging | Aaron Carroll: Government run health care in Montana | Paul Krugman: Triumph of the Doves | Prairie Weather: Obama tried the "right" thing, decides to do what's really needed |

Francis Wilkinson: Guns Are for White People: Noted for July 30, 2013

Frances Wilkinson: Guns Are for White People:

Everybody's white. That's the conclusion from a survey of gun magazines I bought the other day…. There are pictures of guys with guns, gals with guns, animals with guns, ammo with guns and guns with guns. Curiously absent are pictures of black people with guns, brown people with guns or Asian people with guns…. Combat Handguns Magazine, November 2013: Whites: 92. Blacks: 1. Hispanics: 1 Asian: 1.I… Guns & Weapons Magazine, October 2013: Whites: 131. Blacks: 2 (both law enforcement officers, one of whom is accompanied by 4 whites). Hispanics: 0. Asians: 0. GUNS Magazine, September 2013: Whites: 60. Blacks: 0. Hispanics: 0. Asians: 2 (Does it still count if they're Japanese soldiers from WW II in an ad for military surplus?). It's hard to know exactly what to infer from this blizzard of white. Gun politics is always racially fraught. Blacks commit firearms offenses at a much higher rate than whites…. In general, blacks also support gun control much more strenuously than whites. Whether the gun magazines figure it's politically safer to make everyone the same color, or whether they're simply catering to a monochromatic readership with a strong hankering for all-white cultural nostalgia--or both--is impossible to tell.

The Agony of the Washington Lobbyist-Statesman

The normal Washington lobbyist has a job: to help his or her clients make their case to the bureaucracy and to the legislators and their staffs. Everybody understands that the lobbyist is there to make the case, not to present a 360-degree view of the situation--although the hope is that the lobbyist makes the case by bringing previously-overlooked pieces of information to the table, not by telling lies.

The normal Washington statesman has a role: to advise presidents, legislators, staffs, and bureaucrats as to what is in the national interest.

Howard Dean tells the clients of McKenna, Long, & Aldridge that he is the first--and they pay him.

Howard Dean tells us readers of the Wall Street Journal that he is the second--and that they should take him as a statesman, rather than writing angry letters to the Wall Street Journal about not labeling lobbyist advertisements as lobbyist advertisements.

Poor Howard Dean.

Or should that be: poor us, taking the words of a lobbyist as seriously as we would take the words of a statesman?

Or should that be: poor clients of McKenna, Long, and Aldridge, who are cheated by having to pay money to Howard Dean under the illusion that they are thus hiring him as their lobbyist when all he does is write the op-eds that he would write for free anyway as a statesman?

Jonathan Chait watches the dirigible burn:

Continue reading "The Agony of the Washington Lobbyist-Statesman" »

Ex Urbe: “The Borgias” vs. “Borgia: Faith and Fear”: Accuracy in Historical Fiction: Noted for July 30, 2013

Ex Urbe: “The Borgias” vs. “Borgia: Faith and Fear” (accuracy in historical fiction) « Ex Urbe:

I said before that I am not evaluating these shows for their historical accuracy. Shows ignoring history or changing it around does bother me sometimes…. The superb HBO series Rome, which does an absolutely unparalleled job presenting Roman social class, slavery, and religion, nonetheless left me baffled as to why a studio making a series about the Julio-Claudians would feel driven to ignore the famous historical allegations of orgies and bizarre sex preserved in classical sources and substitute different orgies and bizarre sex. The original orgies and bizarre sex were perfectly sufficient! But in general I tend to be extremely patient…. I have learned to relax and let it go.

Continue reading "Ex Urbe: “The Borgias” vs. “Borgia: Faith and Fear”: Accuracy in Historical Fiction: Noted for July 30, 2013" »

Larry Lessig: On MIT's "Neutrality" in the Aaron Swartz Proscecution: Noted for July 30, 2013

Larry Lessig: Lessig Blog, v2:

"Neutrality" does not justify failing to pick up the phone, and telling the prosecutor, “hey, in fact, his access was authorized." Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. Maybe the prosecutor would have stayed the course. But then that would have been (yet another) failure of the prosecution, not MIT’s.

Cory Doctorow: MIT Report on Aaron Swartz's Prosecution a "Whitewash": Noted for July 30, 2013

Cory Doctorow: MIT report on Aaron Swartz's prosecution is out, and it's a "whitewash":

MIT's report on its involvement in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz (PDF) has been published. The report does not apportion any blame to the university for Swartz's prosecution, stating the the university operated as a "neutral party." Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Aaron's partner, vigorously disputes… pointing out… MIT provided significant aid to the federal prosecutors… but refused to supply the same documents to the defense team, who desperately needed them. This makes MIT's claim of "neutrality" ring false…. Larry Lessig has posted some preliminary thoughts… pointing out that it turned on a question of authorized or unauthorized access, and that the report says MIT never told the prosecutors that Aaron's access was "unauthorized," suggesting that the prosecutors knew they had no case:

MIT’s behavior throughout the case was reprehensible, and this report is quite frankly a whitewash…. This report claims that MIT was “neutral”--but MIT’s lawyers gave prosecutors total access to witnesses and evidence, while refusing access to Aaron’s lawyers to the exact same witnesses and evidence. That’s not neutral…. All MIT had to do was say publicly, “We don’t want this prosecution to go forward”--and Steve Heymann and Carmen Ortiz would have had no case. We have an institution to contrast MIT with--JSTOR, who came out immediately and publicly against the prosecution. Aaron would be alive today if MIT had acted as JSTOR did…. And even now, MIT is still stonewalling. Wired reporter Kevin Poulsen FOIA’d the Secret Service’s files on Aaron’s case, and judge ordered them to be released. The only reason they haven’t been is because MIT has filed an objection.

Cardiff Garcia: Already-Strong Case for Yellen Strengthens Further

The very smart Cardiff Garcia joins Team Janet:

Already-strong case for Yellen strengthens further, and a word about the inanity of “market” preferences: With the exception of certain commentators who get paid ostensibly to act like inveterate morons, nobody has doubted Janet Yellen’s record of analytical prescience in the past decade. The examples presented by Bill McBride, and which date back more than eight years, along with the 2007 FOMC transcripts are enough to understand why. Not that Yellen can predict the twists and turns of the economy with perfect clarity--nobody can--but rather she has consistently shown a deep early understanding of the underlying pressures building in the economy and the scale of their potential consequences.

This particular plank of support for a Yellen candidacy was reinforced by the Wall Street Journal’s analysis on Monday of FOMC forecasts since 2009. It turns out that she has also been successful, more than any other FOMC member, at predicting the short-term trajectories of the major economic indicators. Obviously there’s no guarantee that this would continue, but at the very least this serves to further disprove one very peculiar notion given by Ezra Klein’s sources last week for preferring Larry Summers to Yellen--specifically the notion that “the market” trusts Summers more, because (we guess?) he’ll be a tough manly man on inflation while she’s a homeless-hugging San Francisco hippie female person who will let the US economy revert back to the hellspun apocalyptic landscape of the 1970s, ushering in another era of frozen wastelands and broken homes and shattered dreams.

The thing that annoys me most (besides whoever-it-was who told Ezra Klein that the President was on the point of choosing to nominate Larry when the President was not) are people who say: "Janet Yellen is wonderful, but…"

There is no "but".

Janet Yellen would be a wonderful choice for Fed Chair--one of five who I think are head-and-shoulders above other candidates in their triple qualifications for the job: the requisite experience, a modern marked-to-market view on the economy, and feeling the force of the dual mandate in their viscera.

Continue reading "Cardiff Garcia: Already-Strong Case for Yellen Strengthens Further" »

Peter Orszag vs. Howard Dean on the IPAB

What annoyed me most about the Howard Dean op-ed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday was that naive readers would finish it erroneously believing:

  • That our current system of Medicare payments involves less command-and-control than IPAB would.
  • That IPAB introduces rate setting to Medicare.
  • That IPAB's purpose is to "ration" care by deliberately lowering below costs payments for procedures deemed by IPAB to fail benefit-cost tests.
  • That IPAB is somehow blocking the move to wellness-based health care--ACOs, etc.

Continue reading "Peter Orszag vs. Howard Dean on the IPAB" »

Michael Pettis: A great China reckoning might not happen in quite the way you’d expect: Noted for July 30, 2013

Michael Pettis: A great China reckoning might not happen in quite the way you’d expect:

China’s GDP, in other words, does not need to grow at 7 per cent or even 6 per cent a year in order to maintain social stability. This is a myth that should be discarded. What matters for social stability is that ordinary Chinese continue to improve their lives at the rate to which they are accustomed, and that the Chinese economy is restructured in a way that allows it to tackle its credit bubble.

If household income can grow annually at 6-7 per cent, income will double in 10 to 12 years, in line with the target proposed by Premier Li Keqiang in March during the National People’s Congress. What is more, if China can do this while the economy is weaned off its addiction to credit, it will be an extraordinary achievement, even if it implies, as it must, that GDP grows far more slowly that the growth rates to which we have become accustomed.

James Fallows: Why NSA Surveillance Will Be More Damaging Than You Think: Noted for July 30, 2013

James Fallows: Why NSA Surveillance Will Be More Damaging Than You Think:

Because of what the U.S. government assumed it could do with information it had the technological ability to intercept, American companies and American interests are sure to suffer in their efforts to shape and benefit from the Internet's continued growth. American companies, because no foreigners will believe these firms can guarantee security from U.S. government surveillance; American interests, because the United States has gravely compromised its plausibility as world-wide administrator of the Internet's standards and advocate for its open, above-politics goals.

Continue reading "James Fallows: Why NSA Surveillance Will Be More Damaging Than You Think: Noted for July 30, 2013" »

Mark Kleiman: (Un)accountability in Charter School Evaluation: Noted for July 30, 2013

Mark Kleiman: (Un)accountability:

What does a Republican charter-school enthusiast who believes in school-level accountability for educational results do when a charter school run by a big Republican donor gets a lousy evaluation score? Why, he cheats, of course. Tony Bennett, former head education honcho in Indiana and current head education honcho in Florida, to his chief of staff: "Anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work." Bennett to the official in charge of the grading system for schools: "I hope we come to the meeting today with solutions and not excuses and/or explanations for me to wiggle myself out of the repeated lies I have told over the past six months." Somehow, magically, the score for Christel House went from 2.9 (C+) to 3.75 (a solid A).

Continue reading "Mark Kleiman: (Un)accountability in Charter School Evaluation: Noted for July 30, 2013" »

Turning America's Partisan Heat Up to 11: Affordable Growth Act Implementation Weblogging

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We are live at Project Syndicate:

Back in 1883, the authoritarian and imperial government of Prince Otto von Bismarck--he whose most famous sentence is "It is not by speeches and majority votes that the great issues of our time will be decided, but by blood and iron--the Chancellor of the German Empire, established universal and national health insurance for Germany.

The reasons to have national health insurance are as clear now as to Prince Otto more than a century ago: The success of a nation--whether that success is measured by the glory of its Kaiser, by the expansion of its territory, by the security of its borders, or the well-being of its population rests on the health of its population. Serious illness can strike anyone. Seriously ill people, as a rule, don't make very much money. The longer the seriously ill are untreated the more costly does their treatment and maintenance become. Private savings, as a rule, can pay the costs of treatment only for the thrifty and previously well-off. Unless, therefore we adopt the view that the seriously-ill without ample savings should quickly die and so decrease the surplus population, a country with national health insurance will be a wealthier and more successful country. These arguments were entirely 1sza`convincing to Prince Otto. They are equally convincing today.

Continue reading "Turning America's Partisan Heat Up to 11: Affordable Growth Act Implementation Weblogging" »

S.M. of the Economist: Barack Obama and the Economy: Growth and Inequality: Noted for July 30, 2013

S.M. of the Economist: Barack Obama and the economy: Growth and inequality:

THE Wall Street Journal is deeply unhappy with Barack Obama’s recent speech on the economy at Knox College in Galesburg…. A pair of disingenuous arguments fuel the Journal’s claim that Mr Obama’s policies have put a brake on the recovery. Here is the first: "The food stamp and disability rolls have exploded, which reduces inequality but also reduces the incentive to work and rise on the economic ladder."

The Onion has exposed the oddity of this proposition as well as anyone, and recent research into the relationship between the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme (SNAP) and work incentives belies the Journal’s claim. It stands to reason that a few hundred dollars in food stamps for you and your family every month would not turn you into a beach bum or deter you from searching for a job. (There are other bills to pay, after all.) I suppose some people might descend into lethargy if their daily bowl of Cheerios were covered by a federal programme, but according to a recent study, this rarely happens…. The president promises to provide detailed proposals for a long-term solution in the coming weeks, and his ideas should be scrutinised carefully. But dismissive, fact-blind critiques of Mr Obama as an “inequality president” are no help at all.

Joan Robinson: Open letter from a Keynesian to a Marxist: Tuesday Sixty Years Ago on the Non-Internet Weblogging

Joan Robinson’s “Open letter from a Keynesian to a Marxist”: An open letter from a Keynesian to a Marxist

I must warn you that you are going to find this letter very hard to follow. Not, I hope, because it is difficult (I am not going to bother you with algebra, or indifference curves) but because you will find it so extremely shocking that you will be too numb to take it in.

Continue reading "Joan Robinson: Open letter from a Keynesian to a Marxist: Tuesday Sixty Years Ago on the Non-Internet Weblogging" »

The New Zealand Macro Austerity Cheerleaders: Noted for July 30, 2013

John Quiggin: Oz & NZ:

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been looking at the relative economic performance of Australia and New Zealand over the postwar period. For most of the 20th century, income per person in New Zealand grew in parallel with Australia. According to the Penn World Tables, income per person in New Zealand was within 10 per cent of the Australian level for most of the period from 1950 to 1970. Since the 1970s, NZ has declined greatly relative to Australia… [to about] 70 per cent…. Over most of this period, NZ has been governed by radical advocates of the free market. As part of my research, I’m collecting some of their claims about NZ economic performance, relative to Australia and the OECD. I’ve listed some over the fold (links a bit scrappy, as some predate the rise of the interwebs). Further contributions welcome, as would any interesting examples of more accurate assessments (I have some already).

Continue reading "The New Zealand Macro Austerity Cheerleaders: Noted for July 30, 2013" »

Noted for July 29, 2013

The New ClimateProgress | Richard Smethurst: Takahashi Korekiyo’s Economic Policies in the Great Depression and their Meiji Roots | Janet Yellen (2009): A Minsky Moment?: Lessons for Central Bankers | Jim Macdonald: The Firey Keel of Antwerp's Bridge | Paul Krugman: Janet Yellen Is the Best Fed Choice | 80 percent of U.S. adults face near-poverty, unemployment, survey finds |

A Slight Preference for Larry Summers to Be Federal Reserve Chair

A Slight Preference for Larry Summers to Be Federal Reserve Chair:

To be good choices for Federal Reserve chair, candidates must pass three tests. They must have experience at a similar job: this is not something to throw somebody into and expect them to swim. They must fear high inflation as they fear a tornado, and feel in their bones the pain of the unemployed. And they must understand and properly weight the different models of how the economy might behave. Right now, this third means that a good Federal Reserve chair must give a relatively high weight to the Keynesian model, which has been so successful at describing and forecasting the economy over the last six years.

Janet Yellen has a proven record of being able to build consensus inside the Fed. Larry Summers is the least likely to bind himself to an institutional consensus past its sell-by date. Only five potential candidates pass this threefold test: Larry Summers, Janet Yellen, Christy Romer, Alan Blinder and Laura Tyson. They are all, in my view, superior by far to others whose names have been mentioned. Superior, for example, to a Tim Geithner who gives no sign of feeling in his bones the pain of the unemployed, or a Donald Kohn whose estimates of both growth and inflation have been erroneously high since 2007. A choice of any of the five would be a good outcome. A choice of anybody else would be a bad outcome.

Among those five, Janet Yellen has an edge in long-term Fed experience and has a proven record of being able to build consensus inside the institution. Larry Summers has an edge as the most creative thinker likely to successfully think outside the box should outside-the-box thinking be called for, and least likely to bind himself to an institutional consensus past its sell-by date. If times are placid, the stakes are small. If times are turbulent, outside-the-box thinking has its place.

Therefore I have a slight preference for Summers.

We Will Never Convince Mitt Romney That He Should Take Personal Responsibility for His Words

Luke Johnson: Mitt Romney On 47 Percent Remark: 'Actually, I Didn't Say That' About Personal Responsibility:

Asked [by Dan Balz] about the oft-cited quote that 47 percent of Americans can't be persuaded to take personal responsibility, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee [Mitt Romney] said,

Actually, I didn't say that…. That's how it began to be perceived, and so I had to ultimately respond to the perception, because perception is reality….

Romney said:

There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what it looks like.

Daniel J. Hopkins: The Exaggerated Life of Death Panels: The Limits of Framing Effects in the 2009-2012 Health Care Debate: Noted for July 29, 2013

Daniel J. Hopkins: The Exaggerated Life of Death Panels: The Limits of Framing Effects in the 2009-2012 Health Care Debate:

Experiments demonstrate that framing can influence public opinion under certain conditions. Yet outside the laboratory or survey setting, additional constraints might further limit elites' ability to reshape public opinion through framing. The 2009-12 health care debate provides an unparalleled opportunity to observe the interplay of elite rhetoric and public opinion in real-world conditions. This paper couples automated content analyses with survey data from 30,370 Americans to better measure elite frames, public opinion, and their relationship. Multiple empirical tests uncover only limited evidence of framing effects during the debate. While the frames employed by political elites are punctuated, mass attitudes are not. The very language Americans use to explain their opinions proves stable, although there is evidence that the public adopts the language of both parties' elites in a roughly symmetric fashion. Methodologically, the automated analysis of elite rhetoric and open-ended survey questions shows considerable promise in illuminating elite-mass interactions.

Brian A. Nosek, Jeffrey R. Spies, and Matt Motyl: Scientific Utopia: II. Restructuring incentives and practices to promote truth over publishability: Noted for July 29, 2013

Brian A. Nosek, Jeffrey R. Spies, and Matt Motyl: Scientific Utopia: II. Restructuring incentives and practices to promote truth over publishability:

An academic scientist’s professional success depends on publishing. Publishing norms emphasize novel, positive results. As such, disciplinary incentives encourage design, analysis, and reporting decisions that elicit positive results and ignore negative results. Prior reports demonstrate how these incentives inflate the rate of false effects in published science. When incentives favor novelty over replication, false results persist in the literature unchallenged, reducing efficiency in knowledge accumulation.

Previous suggestions to address this problem are unlikely to be effective. For example, a journal of negative results publishes otherwise unpublishable reports. This enshrines the low status of the journal and its content. The persistence of false findings can be meliorated with strategies that make the fundamental but abstract accuracy motive – getting it right – competitive with the more tangible and concrete incentive – getting it published. We develop strategies for improving scientific practices and knowledge accumulation that account for ordinary human motivations and self-serving biases.

We Cannot Satisfy the Demand for Our Free Ice Cream So We Won't Make Any Ice Cream at All!

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You need to go read the whole thing below the fold. Then come back.

Back? Good.

Apparently, Elena Bulygina and Dmitry Krasnoukhov

  • Will provide and maintain a free RSS reader for 10,000 people.
  • Will not charge to provide a paid-for RSS reader for 50,000 people.
  • Will not overwork themselves to provide "a crappy [RSS reader experience" for free to 420,000 readers.
  • Are sorry that they have failed their larger " incredible, supportive and helpful community".
  • Don't "want to be an entrepreneur… just love making a good RSS reader".

From an economist's point of view, the only possible reaction is whiskey-tango-foxtrot-bang-query-bang-query. Charging people money to prevent overloading of resources (in this case, Elena Bulygina and Dmitry Krasnoukhov's time) is what the price system is for. It is its principal virtue.

But rather than charge $5/month for accounts to keep the number of subscribers down to a level they can handle, they prefer to charge $∞/month for accounts--that's right: infinity--as the only alternative to charging $0/month. I can see why they might, ideally, want to charge $0/month. But if you can't charge $0/month, what is the advantage in charging $∞/month rather than $5/month?

Continue reading "We Cannot Satisfy the Demand for Our Free Ice Cream So We Won't Make Any Ice Cream at All!" »

Jonathan Chait: Fear of a Female Fed Chief: Noted for July 29, 2013

Jonathan Chait: Fear of a Female Fed Chief:

The hard-money cranks of the right have spent the Obama years nurturing fears of incipient inflation that never seems to arrive, yet whose arrival never dents their airtight worldview. The current jostling… as introduced a new and even more primal fear… trepidation that their monetary essence will be drained by a woman…. “Are we entering the era of the gender-backed dollar?” asks the right-wing New York Sun….

Continue reading "Jonathan Chait: Fear of a Female Fed Chief: Noted for July 29, 2013" »

Kansas City Judge David Byrn Fires 34-Year Court Veteran for Good Deed: Noted for July 29, 2013

Bill Draper: Jackson County Circuit judge fires 34-year court veteran for good deed:

A Kansas City man freed from prison three decades after being wrongfully convicted of rape considers Sharon Snyder his “angel” for giving him a public document that showed him how to properly seek DNA tests…. Jackson County Circuit judge [David Byrn] considers the 34-year court employee an insubordinate for offering legal advice and being too chatty about courthouse matters…. Sharon Snyder, a 70-year-old great-grandmother who was fired nine months before she was scheduled to retire… insists she would provide the same help if she had a chance to do it again.

Continue reading "Kansas City Judge David Byrn Fires 34-Year Court Veteran for Good Deed: Noted for July 29, 2013" »