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March 2018

A Question I Asked a Much Shorter Version of...


A Question I Asked a Much Shorter Version of at the Berkeley "How Did Tax Reform Happen?" Symposium: I have a question for Alan Auerbach: a question hinted at in his slide that contrasted the analyses of the tax cuts from economists from those from “economists“. It was also hinted at in David Kamin's slide the one that contrasted:

  1. the analyses of policy shops with models—including the highly unreliable Tax Foundation (yes, crowding out is a thing; no, the long run does not come in ten years)
  2. that found very small growth effects with the unmotivated and unjustified claims of the Trump administration.

There are two problems:

  1. David's slide omitted a number of estimates of the effect that were even higher
  2. Alan's slide omitted the fact that the most absurd estimates I saw came not from "economists" but from economists—Ph.D. economists with tenured appointments at places like Princeton, Harvard, Columbia and Stanford.

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Vikings and Zombies and Magicians and Dinosaurs, Oh My!

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Graydon Saunders has “committed book” again. The Human Dress is live at Google Play Books. If this is the kind of thing you like, you will like this thing—I like it very, very much. Vikings and zombies and magicians and dinosaurs and much much much more.

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A Question About the Future of Work...

2018 HRBI Center for Responsible Business Berkeley Haas

Asked at: Berkeley Haas School Center for Responsible Business 2018 Microsoft Conference on Business, Technology, and Human Rights: The Future of Work: I think I understand why previous waves of technology have boosted the employment and wages of unskilled workers. It is because “unskilled” human work is a very hard AI problem. Thus enormous numbers of jobs have been created for humans—jobs that are in a sense drudgery, but necessary drudgery:

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Suzanne Scotchmer

Suzanne Andersen Scotchmer 67 Marjorie Holic Parmalee 67 Brian Shute 67 Sitka com Photo Gallery

From The Fall and Rise of the Smithian Economy | | I am very happy to be here this morning, giving the Suzanne Scotchmer Memorial Lecture.

I am happy even though I was mousetrapped into doing this.

A couple of years ago I discovered that Toulouse had a Suzanne Scotchmer Memorial Lectrure. My first response was to blather on the Internet: how come Berkeley, where she worked for the bulk of her career, did not have such a lecture? Paul Seabright took advantage of this, saying: “Well, then, you have to come to Toulouose to deliver such a lecture!” And lo and behold here I am—and very happy.

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Caffeine: Better Living Through Chemistry


Caffeine: Better Living Through Chemistry

As the semester wears on...

  • Nov 1-Jan 14, 2018: no caffeinated coffee drinks
  • Jan 15-Feb 14, 2018: one latte before afternoon lectures (64 mg.)
  • Mar 14, 2018: one double latte before afternoon lectures (128 mg.)
  • Mar 15-Apr 14, 2018: one large coffee before afternoon and after morning lectures (192 mg.)
  • Apr 15-May 14, 2018: ?????

What drink—and how many—should I switch to on April 15?

Live from the Orange-Haired Baboon Cage: Steve M.: TRUMP—NOT COMPLETELY OFF THE CHAIN?:

@Tara_Mckelvey: "Whisked" is right – members of the pool were told to rush - (i.e. run) - to the vans in the motorcade at the White House. We're here at the golf club now, waiting for developments

@christinawilkie: Trump just arrived at his Sterling, Va., Trump National golf club. It’s only 44 degrees outside, but it was pretty imperative that Trump not spend the entire day inside watching television.

@mcdowell_is: Redirection is a parenting technique often used with toddlers.

@hey_leia: And those with dementia.

@TEE1031: And those with behavioral health issues & personality disorders

Should-Read: This makes no sense at all. There is nothing in the formal or informal record suggesting that any of the potential deciders and influencers inside the Trump Administration support the steel and aluminum tariffs as some kind of Xanatos Gambit to persuade China to adopt intellectual property rules more to the liking of U.S. firms doing business in China. Absolutely nothing: Martin Feldstein: The Real Reason for Trump’s Steel and Aluminum Tariffs: "The US tariffs will... increase the likelihood that China will accelerate the reduction in subsidized excess capacity...

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Should-Read: A rather odd piece in its rhetorical pose. It really is not a critique of Allen's hypothesis about the especially strong incentives in Industrial Revolution England to invent and innovate in coal energy and machine intensive ways: it is a reinforcement of it: an argument that British patriarchy reinforced and augmented the imperial, coal-resource, cultural, scientific, and technological forces converging to make the British Industrial Revolution: Jane Humphries (2013): The lure of aggregates and the pitfalls of the patriarchal perspective: a critique of the high wage economy interpretation of the British industrial revolution: "The lure of aggregates and the pitfalls of the patriarchal perspective...

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Wakanda and the Resource Curse

Black panther Google Search

Wakanda and the Resource Curse: Wakanda’s prosperity is based on its possession of vibranium, a stable transuranic elements with unique And extraordinary chemical properties. Yet those of us who have studied the history of emerging markets with powerful natural resource advantages would fear for the present and future of an emerging market country that based its prosperity on such a road so very vulnerable to the “resource curse“.

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Should-Read: Hospital services are somewhat misleading, because they buy us a lot more today than they bought us back in the 1990s. College tuition as well: it is a decline in financial aid as a proportion to cost that has driven the cost up so much. College textbooks is a monopoly intellectual property story. It is an extraordinary-shift-in-relative-prices story. But a large part of that story is a political story: Barry Ritholtz: Inflation: Price Changes 1997 to 2017: "It is notable that the two big outliers to the upside are health care (hospital, medical care, prescription drugs) and college (tuition, textbooks, etc.)...

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Should-Read: By and large a good statement. However, while free speech extends to statements made with "conscious indifference to their truth content", I do not believe that academic freedom does. Professors who make and reiterate and decide to die on the hill that is statements made with "conscious indifference to their truth content" are violating the norms of academic responsibility as much as those who commit plagiarism or falsify experimental results. I do not believe that the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania should continue to employ Professor Wax: Ted Ruger (Dean): Lawyers, Guns & Money: "Dear members of the Penn Law community...

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Should-Read: This is not an economist's forecast. This is affinity fraud. Directed against Trump? Against Kudlow's Fox News viewers? Against some group of right-wing investors? In all cases, the hope is that the marks have short memories—or that something else will turn up. Paul Bedard: Larry Kudlow predicts 4%-5% growth, 'investment boom': "Larry Kudlow, picked to be President Trump’s new economic adviser...

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Misapplied History...


I confess that I am a great fan of Applied History. Theoretical arguments and conceptual frameworks are, ultimately, nothing but distilled, crystalized, and chemically cooked history. After all, what else could they possibly be? And it is very important to know whether the distillation, crystallization, and chemical cooking processes that underpin the theory and made the conceptual frameworks were honest ones. And that can be done only by getting good historians into the mix—in a prominent and substantial way.

But if this is what "Applied History" is to be, AY-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI!!!!

Niall Ferguson: Fetch the purple toga: Emperor Trump is here: "Think of Harvey Weinstein, the predator whose behaviour was for years an 'open secret' among precisely the Hollywood types who were so shrill last year in their condemnation of Donald Trump for his boasts about 'grabbing' women by the genitals...

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The Question of Larry Kudlow...


There has long been discussion of whether Larry Kudlow believes what he says. (1) Is he one of the professional Republican commentators like Stephen Moore, James Glassman, and Kevin Hassett who knows that what he says is wrong, but says it because it is just a game—that feeding one's readers and viewers something that is not bullshit is simply not a goal, and telling the truth will serve when it does not conflict with one's goals? Or (2) is he just not aware of the world outside him, in the sense in which people are usually oriented toward reality?

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