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May 2016

Procrastinating on May 27, 2016

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Today's Economic History: Leszek Kolakowski vs. The Hacks of the New Left

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Hoisted from 2006: Main Currents of Marxism: Back in the early 1970s, Leszek Kolakowski tells English historian E.P. Thompson what he thinks of him:

Socialist Register (1974): Your letter contains some personal grievances and some arguments on general questions. I will start with a minor personal grievance. Oddly enough, you seem to feel offended by not having been invited to the Reading conference and you state that if you had been invited you would have refused to attend anyway, on serious moral grounds. I presume, consequently, that if you had been invited, you would have felt offended as well and so, no way out of hurting you was open to the organizers.

Now, the moral ground you cite is the fact that in the organizing Committee you found the name of Robert Cecil. And what is sinister about Robert Cecil is that he once worked in the British diplomatic service. And so, your integrity does not allow you to sit at the same table with someone who used to work in British diplomacy.

O, Blessed Innocence!

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Must-Read: Perhaps I have fallen down on the job. Perhaps I have not EconomistSplained enough to the very sharp Eric Loomis that the Education Fraction does not believe that everybody ought to get a college education. The Education Fraction, rather, believes that the demand for college-educated workers is relatively inelastic, so that small increases in the relative numbers of college-educated workers will produce large decreases in the college wage premium and large increases in the wages of high school-educated workers. They--we--may be right and we may be wrong. But it's not that we completely ignores the fact that some people are simply not cut out for a college education. Rather, we believe in supply and inelastic labor demand...

Eric Loomis: Jobs for Those Who Lack College Degrees: "As I have stated many times here...

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Procrastinating on May 26, 2016

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Liveblogging World War I: May 27, 1916: Jutland

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Winston S. Churchill: The World Crisis:

In the tense naval controversy upon Jutland the keenest minds in the Navy have sifted every scrap of evidence. Every minute has been measured. The speed, the course, the position of every ship great or small, at every period in the operation, have been scrutinized. The information in the possession of every Admiral in each phase has been examined, weighed, canvassed. The dominant school of naval thought and policy are severe critics of Sir John Jellicoe. They disclaim all personal grounds or motives; they affirm that the tradition and future of the British Navy join in demanding that a different doctrine, other methods and above all another spirit must animate our captains at sea, if ever and whenever the Navy is once again at war. They declare that such an affirmation is more important to the public than the feelings of individuals, the decorous maintenance of appearances, the preservation of a superficial harmony, or the respect which may rightly be claimed by a Commander-in-Chief who, over the major portion of the war, discharged an immense and indeed inestimable responsibility.

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Liveblogging World War I: May 26, 1916: Jutland

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Andrew Gordon: The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command:

Interaction between Beatty and Evan-Thomas appears, by contrast, to have been non-existent.

Evan-Thomas was by age, temperament and background a root and branch Jellicoe man and by no stretch of the imagination a potential member of the Beatty club. His Victorian code of honour – his sense of what was and wasn’t ‘the done thing’ – itself precluded a hail-fellow friendship with his fast and flashy (and considerably younger) superior. Vice-Admiral Sir Geoffrey Barnard later wrote:

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Zeynep Tufekci: Underrated? No, But...: Promiscuous LInk Sluttage for Late May 2016

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A month ago I wrote:

"You are not doing enough in the way of promiscuous link-sluttage", my conscience says to me, occasionally. "You are not doing enough in the way of making people who come to your weblog aware of very smart people whom they ought to be paying attention to--but are not. You have an obligation not only to punch up, but to extend a hand down--to promote people who, by accidents of chance and historical contingency, are just as smart (or more) and are as (or more) worth reading as you are."

"So what can I do?" I say.

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Comment of the Day: Lee Arnold: Why is it that Tocqueville, Keynes, and Polanyi are still "it" as far as policy-relevant useful social theory is concerned?: "I sometimes think about your question...

...and I think that the answer is because we still remain in their era, but we don't know it.

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Procrastinating on May 25, 2016

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The Intellectual Industry of Manufacturing Objections to Helicopter Money/Social Credit Is a Peculiar One...

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The very sharp Nick Rowe is distressed and depressed:

Nick Rowe: "This article on helicopter money is such a mare's nest...

...I don't know where to begin to untangle the mess. https://t.co/C0sqyNSjM3

— Nick Rowe (@MacRoweNick) May 25, 2016

I agree with Rowe: Borio, Disyatat, and Zabal seem to me to be confused.

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Today's Economic History: John Maynard Keynes (1931): Unemployment as a World Problem

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Unemployment as a World Problem

John Maynard Keynes :: Harris Foundation Lectures

I. THE ORIGINATING CAUSES OF WORLD-UNEMPLOYMENT

I. We are today in the middle of the greatest economic catastrophe—the greatest catastrophe due almost entirely to economic causes—of the modern world. I am told that the view is held in Moscow that this is the last, the culminating crisis of capitalism and that our existing order of society will not survive it. Wishes are fathers to thoughts. But there is, I think, a possibility—I will not put it higher than that—that when this crisis is looked back upon by the economic historian of the future it will be seen to mark one of the major turning-points. For it is a possibility that the duration of the slump may be much more prolonged than most people are expecting and that much will be changed, both in our ideas and in our methods, before we emerge. Not, of course, the duration of the acute phase of the slump, but that of the long, dragging conditions of semislump, or at least sub-normal prosperity which may be expected to succeed the acute phase. Not more than a possibility, however. For I believe that our destiny is in our own hands and that we can emerge from it if only we choose—or rather if those choose who are in authority in the world.

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Live from the Republicans' Self-Made Gehenna: Overwrought. But prescient for the Age of Trump. From 1998: Chris Hedges quoting Richard Rorty on Edward Luttwak: The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism: "Richard Rorty in his last book, ‘Achieving Our Country’...

...written in 1998, presciently saw where our postindustrial nation was headed.

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The Huffington Post Has a Serious, Serious Quality Control Problem with Seth Abramson...

Live from the Huffington Post's self-made Gehenna of Lies: It has a serious quality control problem with Zach Carter too. But the time to talk about that won't come until November...

Clean up your act, Huffington Post!

Seth Abramson: On Bernie Sanders and Experimental Journalism: "When I began covering Bernie Sanders for The Huffington Post...

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Live from Cupertino in 1997: Ben Thompson: The Curse of Culture: "Shein defines leadership in the context of culture:

When we examine culture and leadership closely... cultural norms define how a given nation or organizations will define leadership.... On the other hand... the only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture... it is an ultimate act of leadership to destroy culture when it is viewed as dysfunctional.

A great example of this sort of destruction was Steve Jobs’ first keynote as interim CEO at the 2007 Boston Macworld, specifically the announcement of Apple’s shocking partnership with Microsoft:

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Hoisted from the Archives: Me Reviewing Robert Skidelsky on John Maynard Keynes

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J. Bradford DeLong(2001): Review of Robert Skidelsky, John Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed and The Economist as Saviour: Robert Skidelsky (1983), John Maynard Keynes: Hopes Betrayed (London: Macmillan: 033357379x). Robert Skidelsky (1992), John Maynard Keynes: The Economist as Saviour (London: Macmillan: 0333584996). And my review of volume 3: Fighting for Britain.

A couple of months ago I wrote a less-than-totally-enthusiastic review of the third volume of Robert Skidelsky's Keynes biography--Robert Skidelsky (2000), John Maynard Keynes: Fighting for Britain (London: Macmillan: 0333604563). I wrote that I was disappointed: that:

I was expecting this to be a great book: as stunning as the first two volumes.... But it was not. Do not get me wrong: it is still a good book, well worth reading. Anyone who loved Skidelsky's first two volumes will like this one...

Now let me repair the damage by writing a totally enthusiastic, totally adulatory review of Skidelsky's first two volumes. He gives us John Maynard Keynes's life, entire. And he does so with wit, charm, control, scope, and enthusiasm. You read these books and you know Keynes--who he was, what he did, and why it was so important.

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Hoisted from the 1930s: Party Discipline, Comrade!

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Live from Hollywood in the 1930s: From the literary critic of the New Masses. How dare Ernest Hemingway write anything bad about a Comintern apparatchik!

Alvah Bessie: Review of "For Whom the Bell Tolls", by Ernest Hemingway: "To Have and Have Not was a vastly imperfect work...

...the author’s satirical treatment of the human parasites who lived on luxury yachts of the Florida keys was both brittle and jejune, and his old limitations were amply manifest: the interchangeability of his conversation; his feeble understanding of female character; his inability to fully explore and plumb character at all....

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Liveblogging World War I: May 25, 1916: Jutland

Andrew Gordon: The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command:

Two dramatic events at the end of April 1916 greatly weakened Sir John [Jellicoe]’s grip on the disputed [5th Fast-Battleship] Squadron. First, on the 22nd, the battlecruisers Australia and New Zealand illustrated his worry about fog by colliding in it.... The B[attle ]C[ruiser ]F[leet] entered a sudden fog-bank which made the flagship invisible. What should the individual ships do? Australia zagged by the clock while New Zealand held her course. The enquiry found BCF Signal Orders to be ambiguous, and Beatty himself shouldered the blame.... Australia had to go down to Devonport for repairs and would be absent for several weeks, diminishing Beatty’s margin of strength over Franz Hipper.

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Procrastinating on May 23, 2016

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Must-Read: An absolutely key issue: why doesn't the logic of cost-reduction via scale and technology work for finance as a whole? It certainly works for commissions...

Thomas Philippon: Finance vs. Wal-Mart: Why are Financial Services so Expensive?, in Rethinking the Financial Crisis, edited by Alan Blinder, Andrew Lo, and Robert Solow (Russell Sage Foundation, 2012): "Despite its fast computers and credit derivatives...

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Monetary Policy 201

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Over at Equitable Growth: This from Paul Volcker strikes me as substantially wrong:

Paul Volcker and Cardiff Garcia: AlphaChatterbox Long Chat:

[My] first economics course... at Harvard... Arthur Smithies.... Session after session he would drill into our head that a little inflation was a good thing. And I could never figure out why. But I know he kept saying it, so already at the time I for some reason had an allergy to what he was saying. But it's interesting, his lectures, it's the same thing that central banks are saying today.... Read MOAR at Equitable Growth

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Must-Read: Again. I do not understand Janet Yellen and Stan Fischer's thinking at all. A 25 basis-point rate hike is a small contractionary thing. But it is a thing. The credibility gained by sticking to a bad policy long past the point where its badness ought to have been recognized is not the credibility worth gaining. The rest of the world is shaky--and the last thing it needs is to have risk-bearing capacity pulled out of it by a U.S. rate hike. And whatever interest-rate hikes might be made this summer could be made up with ease next spring, after the situation becomes clear.

Yet they continue:

Tim Duy: This Is Not a Drill. This Is the Real Thing: "The June FOMC meeting is live...

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Social Credit and "Neutral" Monetary Policies: A Rant on "Helicopter Money" and "Monetary Neutrality"

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Must-Read: Badly-intentioned or incompetent policymakers can mess up any system of macroeconomic regulation. And we now have two centuries of history of demand-driven business cycles in industrial and post-industrial economies to teach us that there is no perfect, automatic self-regulating way to organize the economy at the macroeconomic level.

Over and over again, the grifters, charlatans, and cranks ask: "Why doesn't the central bank simply adopt the rule of setting a "neutral" monetary policy? In fact, why not replace the central bank completely with an automatic system that would do the job?"

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Links for the Week of May 22, 2016

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Monday Smackdown: Fox Thinks Birds Are Mammals, or Mammals Are Birds, or Something...

Live from Rupert Murdoch's Employees' Self-Made Gehenna: News Hound Ellen: Fox & Friends Attacks Obama For Making The Bison The National Mammal: "Apparently... the Curvy Couch Crew suggested the bison was going to replace the bald eagle...

...which is a bird....

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Procrastinating on May 22, 2016

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