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June 2018

June 4, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • Record Prius Parade!: Five--count them, five in a row, red, green, silver, silver, red--proceeding north on Oxford Street...

  • Sunny Wednesday June Afternoon People in Their Forties Drinking Iced Coffee at Starbucks Midlife Crisis "Wilma!!" Blogging: Khelona: "Huh. Is that better or worse than dreaming when you were a teenager that you would grow up to marry Stilgar, and finding in your forties that your husband more closely resembles..." Glaukon: "Fred Flintstone?" Khelona: "Exactly..."

  • The Ascent of Central Bankers: "Paul Krugman writes: "BB sticks to his guns: I have no idea where that picture came from, but I had it on file and couldn’t resist using it..."

  • Ryan Avent on Tyler Cowen on Ryan Avent on Robert Samuelson on Obama's Cap-and-Trade: Ryan: "As Mark Thoma says, it’s Samuelson who’s being misleading. Either that, or utterly confused." It doesn't have to be either/or, Ryan. It can be both/and. Probably is. Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?...

  • Background for Berkeley Political Economy Group Major Advisory Committee and Stakeholders' Meeting

  • Megan McArdle Moves the Ball Downfield on the Cap-and-Trade vs. Carbon-Tax Discussion: To first order cap-and-trade and carbon taxes are the same.... There are five second-order differences.... I don't have a dog in this fight: I think second- and third-order pluses and minuses roughly offset each other. But the substantive case for action seems very clear...

  • Tyler Cowen Misreads Robert Samuelson:: The Weitzman (1974)-based discussion is worth having, and is important. But that's not what Samuelson is doing, is it? I don't see a single word of argument in there about how the risk that the price will go too high is more worth guarding against than the risk that the quantity of emissions will go too high. Do you? All I see are rants about how environmental controls are big government and big government is bad and we never should have passed the Clean Air Act or established the EPA in the first place. Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?...

  • Paul Krugman Pulls Me Back in...: "Each time I think of climbing out of the swamp of shrillness and putting the Economist back on my must-read list, Paul Krugman pulls me back in: "How will the campaign be covered?... 8 years ago the press managed to portray an election in which there were large policy differences as one in which nothing much was at stake.... Part of this came from a remarkable willingness of pundits to dismiss the obviously irresponsible parts of Bush’s plan as stuff that he wouldn’t really do. Thus the Economist, in endorsing Bush , said this: 'Mr Bush’s proposal of a huge tax cut might look reckless (which it is), but either voters are happy with recklessness that gives them their money back, or they don’t take seriously a plan that could be changed as quickly as the White House curtains...'"

Tactics and operations, yes. But also logistics and strategy...

Tactics and operations, yes. But also logistics and strategy. Bobby Lee lost in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Erwin Rommel lost in North Africa and Normany: Adam Tooze (2016): Blitzkrieg manqué or a new kind of war? Interpreting the Allied Victory in the Normandy campaign1 Adam Tooze: "Given the scale of the violence that they were dealing out in the final stages of the war, it is not surprising that at least some people spoke out in protest...

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Matt O'Brien: "The funniest thing is Niall Ferguson now says he's 'going back to what I do best'. What's that, writing conspiracy theories about how inflation is 'really' 10%? Or attacking the Fed for doing its job? Or falsely saying Keynes didn't care about the long run because he was gay?..."

The interesting question is why are those who call themselves conservatives on the brink of extinction in so much of academia. Some self reflection from Niall Ferguson on this might be useful. But it might not. And I am not holding my breath: Jacob T. Levy: "If it appears that a powerful right-wing professor is the source of the suppression of disagreement on campus, that just further proves that left-wing student political correctness is the real threat. #unfalsifiable:"

Continue reading "" »

Paul says: "hyperinflation is coming any day now" and "minimum wages at their current levels are killing millions of jobs" are joining "there is no such thing as global warming" and "evolution is false" as destroyers of "conservatives" in academia: *Paul Krugman: "Today's column has nothing directly to do with... the puzzling failure of wages to grow faster despite what look like tight labor markets

Continue reading " " »

The wise and thoughtful Dan Nexon gets this, I think, exactly right. The question is: Why is conservatism intellectually irrelevant in many academic departments and disciplines? The propensity of prominent conservatives to try to ratf--- 20 year olds is certainly part of the problem: Dan Nexon: "This reads like an excuse for publishing an intemperate opinion-editorial in the student newspaper, not an attempt by a world-famous academic to rationalize conspiring to ratf--- an undergrad at an institution with which he is affiliated:"

Niall Ferguson: "I need to grow up and keep out of student politics, no question. But the context is important. Conservatism is on the brink of extinction in much of academia, especially in history. This isn't healthy."

I endorse this: the Vichy French did not behave materially worse than other countries conquered by the Nazis. Britain was very lucky to be an island: #JeSuisSchlossberg: "Probably not fair to talk about Vichy Republicans and Vichy media. After all, the French faced real threats, including to their very lives, after their defeat in WWII, whereas GOP Congress and anti-anti-Trump media types are perfectly safe, just trying to make an extra buck..."

Noah Smith: "OOOOOOOOOOOOOPS! Trump's tariffs made steel more expensive, which made U.S. manufacturing harder, which pushed consumers to buy more imported goods. WHO COULD HAVE PREDICTED THIS WOULD HAPPEN?

Erik Brynjolfsson: "Economics 101 can be a harsh teacher: 'U.S. firms say some customers are opting to import finished goods rather than absorb price increases; "a nightmare for steel consumers"'—@WSJ..."

Yes. Twitter Has Crap Aggregation Tools

Some Fairly-Recent Must- and Should-Reads: Economic History

Grasping Reality with Both Hands bradford delong com

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A Few Notes on Higher Education in the Age of Trump: Hoisted from June 10, 2017

Hoisted: A Few Notes on Higher Education in the Age of Trump... (June 10, 2017):

I wrote Two points (diversity and finding truth in the sense of rough consensus and running code) where I think Larry Summers is 100% correct. One point (Charles Murray) where I think Larry is broadly right but that things are more complicated. And one point (sensitivity training) where I think Larry Summers is more wrong than right. But more on that anon. Definitely worth reading.

This is the "anon":

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Three Conservatives on Why Charles Murray's Ideas Are Bankupt in the Academic Intellectual Marketplace

Inferno Dante and Virgil among the evil counsellors and Flickr

I have never understood why "conservatives" like Niall Ferguson think that cross-burner Charles Murray is a good standard bearer for their ideas in a university setting. Is it their explicit and deliberate aim to generate counterdemonstrations and further reinforce the link between conservative ideas and white ethnicism in America today? Do they really think that yoking appeals to racial animosity, immutable "racial" differences in intelligence, and white ethnicism to their cause is a winner?

Niall Ferguson won't claim that the immutable-racial-differences arguments in Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve get it right. He will only claim that: "the sheer scale of the discussion that Murray’s work has generated would seem to argue for its importance, regardless of whether one ends up agreeing with him..." In academic speech ideas are not merely presented but evaluated. Cross-burner Murray's ideas have been evaluated by, among others, the impeccably conservative Thomas Sowell, James Heckman, and Glenn Loury. Wouldn't a proper Cardinal Conversation aimed at elevating the debate have featured one of these non-cross-burning conservatives? They would have said something like:

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Niall Ferguson and the Avoidance of Personal Responsibility: Every Accusation a Confession Department: (Early) Monday Smackdown

Inferno Dante and Virgil among the evil counsellors and Flickr

As Mitt Romney said of Niall Ferguson and company, they are: "people who... are dependent... who believe that they are victims, who believe that... they are entitled.... I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives...":

Niall Ferguson descends far into self-parody with this self-smackdown. Jonathan Healey comments:

Jonathan Healey: "Worth pointing out that it also 'might have been avoided' if you'd thought to yourself 'Hang on, a professor with a massive profile trying to find kompromat on a student is a bit off, isn't it?':

Niall Ferguson: From all of this I draw two conclusions. First, it might have been avoided if conservatives at universities did not feel so beleaguered. There is a debate about whether free speech has been restricted on American campuses in recent years. I have no doubt it has. Middle-of-the-road students live in fear that a casual remark will be deemed "offensive" or "triggering" and that social media will be unleashed to shame them. Conservative students have to keep quiet or fight a culture war in which they are hopelessly outnumbered.

The other lesson I have learn[ is that Uncle Jan was right: I do need to grow up. Student politics is best left to students. So I am putting my tweed jacket back on and retreating to my beloved study. It is time to write another book.

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June 3, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Him Now: Outsourced to Matthew Yglesias: "Though unusually juvenile in its phrasing, the underlying sentiment is typical of what I've called the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics—the conservative conceit that willpower is the crucial variable in making our national security policy work..."

  • Felix Salmon Says Bear Stearns—Except for Its CEO—Was Smarter than Lehman Brothers: Felix Salmon: "During a credit crunch, when you're stuck with illiquid assets, you can't hedge them.... Just as short positions in CDO equity tranches turned out to be a really bad hedge for long positions in super-senior tranches, short positions in broad credit indices are not a great hedge for specific loans which have turned sour. Ironically, it was Bear Stearns who had at least some people, led by mortgage head Tom Marano, who understood this. They knew that the big risk to the firm was chaos in the financial markets, so they put on a 'chaos trade' which would make lots of money in such an event, and very broadly hedge the risks the bank faced. But CEO Alan Schwartz, in a fateful decision, reversed that trade..."

  • Hoisted from Archives: David Stockman and William Greider: Brett Ellingson asks for background on William Greider and David Stockman.... William Greider.... "Stockman's... greatest sin, however, was telling the truth, albeit belatedly...." But there was no truth-telling exercise.... Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush knew that Reagan's fiscal policies didn't add up: he and his people coined the phrase "voodoo economics." Republican Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker knew that Reagan's plan made no sense: he called it a "riverboat gamble," meaning an imprudent and unwise throw of the dice...

  • Barack Obama: Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Final Primary Night: Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008: St. Paul, Minnesota: As Prepared for Delivery

  • New York Times Death Spiral Watch: David Brooks Edition: DAVID BROOKS: "Obama‘s problem is he doesn‘t seem like a guy who can go into an Applebee‘s salad bar... "C&Ler Mitzi.... "I called my Applebee’s today to make sure I was correct and they do not have a salad bar.... None of their restaurants have a salad bar. David, sometimes the jokes write themselves. What an idiot..."

Twitter Is Crap at Aggregation Tools...

  • Jeet Heer: "You (smart person): Jeet, it's an unfair caricature that people who loudly complain about political correctness are hypocritical reactionaries who don't care for free speech but want to defend privilege. Me: Um: Niall Ferguson wanted opposition research on a student.Campus arguments over diversity and free speech are causing some distinguished academics to do extremely strange things...

  • Garance Franke-Ruta: "One of America's most famous male journalists of the 1970s did not report on domestic violence in the White House because, he says, he did not understand that the president hitting his wife was a criminal act..."

  • Nick Beaudrot: ";Well we have to have a quote from the opposition' is one of those rules that will suddenly reappear when Democrats have one party control..."

  • Molly Jong-Fast: "Truly spectacular that an administration so stocked with oil company shills could alienate oil companies! Another day of winning in Trumpworld..."

  • Nicholas Weaver: "Or who are people who do understand what is going on, and see that it is basically all fraud, scam, lies, and tulip-mania hype intent on speedrunning 500 years of economic failure with one or two additional disasters grafted on for good measure..."

  • Matthew Yglesias: "Some of the press has partially internalized the White House propaganda which holds that reporting on Trump is opposition politics so there’s little need to incorporate actual opposition party viewpoints—a challenging environment for Dems..."

  • Matthew Yglesias: "McCain’s final political act will be to maximize the GOP’s chances of ensuring a president he sometimes claims to deplore will face no accountability for his rampant corruption..."

  • Matthew Yglesias: "A reminder that Comey used to know what the rules were for commenting on a closed investigation with no charges..."

June 2, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • DeLong Smackdown Watch (Edward Luttwak/Clark Hoyt/David Shipley/Greg Mankiw)_: It tells us—both the handling of Luttwak's and the handling of Mankiw's piece tell us—that the New York Times editors don't think that they have a responsibility to try as hard as they can to carry out their trusted-intermediary function.... I can't think of a reason to keep the organization around...

  • The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear of Inflation Fear, or Something Like That: Paul Krugman: "This time around there’s no wage-price spiral in sight.... And since there isn’t a wage-price spiral, we don’t need higher interest rates.... When the surge in commodity prices levels off... inflation will subside on its own..."

  • The Magic Asterisk: Lessons from the Master, David Stockman, on Fiscal Policy Republican Style: William Greider's ethics suck. They always have. In 1981 he allowed his people to write and his bosses to print stories on the front page of the Washington Post that he knew were false. But he writes well...

  • Robert Samuelson Edition): Mark Thoma on Robert Samuelson: Economist's View: "His Readers are Now Dumber for His Efforts". Matthew Yglesias makes the same catch: "Knowledge Not Required: One might think one would have to know what one was talking about to write an op-ed for The Washington Post but of course if that were the case then Robert Samuelson would be unemployed..."

David Watkins, I think, nails it: a lot of right-wingers project either what they are doing or what they wish they could do onto the left. They do not understand that we are, in fact, different from them: David Watkins: "Today in: 'every accusation a confession'... Scott Lemieux: "Did Niall 'try to ratfuck students with the temerity to disagree with me' Ferguson churn out a rote 'campus PC is the biggest threat to free speech in America' column? I think you know the answer!...

America’s Founders vs. Trump: Now Live at Project Syndicate

Signing of the Constitution by Louis S Glanzman Teaching American History

Project Syndicate: America’s Founders vs. Trump: In the early years of the American republic, James Madison warned his fellow countrymen that their chosen system of governance would only survive if they adhered to the principles of representation and kept factionalism in check. In the era of Donald Trump, it would seem that these two conditions are no longer being met...

June 1, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • Greg Mankiw's Marginal Educational Product Is Negative: No. An UNFUNDED tax cut is not the best simple recipe for promoting long-run growth in American living standards. It is the best simple recipe for promoting long-term decline in American living standards.... Unknown, uncertain future taxes in the long run plus the medium-run costs of carrying the debt until those taxes are levied—they are almost surely a significant net drag on the economy. McCain has no plan to fund the corporate tax cut.... Some editor should have held this up. Some editor should have called Mankiw and said: "Greg, you have written a piece that analyzes McCain's corporate tax cut as if its revenue loss is offset by an equal contemporaraneous revenue gain elsewhere in the system--as if McCain is proposing a funded tax cut. But he isn't. He is proposing an unfunded tax cut. What gives?"...

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Yes, Stanford Has a Serious Intellectual Quality Problem Here: Why Do You Ask?

Yes, Stanford has a very serious quality control problem with its Hoover Institution: Brian Contreras, Ada Statler, and Courtney Douglas: Leaked emails show Hoover academic conspiring with College Republicans to conduct ‘opposition research’ on student: "Emails between the Hoover Institution’s Niall Ferguson and well-known Republican student activists John Rice-Cameron ’20 and Max Minshull ’20 reveal coordination on 'opposition research' against progressive activist Michael Ocon ’20...

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