Previous month:
June 2018
Next month:
August 2018

July 2018

Teddy Roosevelt: "We Have Traveled Far...": How to Look on Our Predecessors with Charity and Justice


“We have traveled far...“ said Teddy Roosevelt, looking back at the Puritans.

And we today, looking back at Teddy Roosevelt, have reason to say the same thing.

We can hope that, were Teddy with us today and were he given an opportunity for sober reflection and consideration, he would agree.

  • We can hope that he would agree that many of his attitudes towards women come out of an ideological and cultural superstructure, erected largely for the benefit of men, built on top of a near-Malthusian biological regime in which the typical woman spent 20 years of her life eating for two.

  • We can hope that he would agree that all of his fears about “race“ and its impact on America in his day have been falsified by the history of America since his.

  • And we can hope that, as far as “improving the breed“ is concerned, Roosevelt today would understand that, even on the narrowest perspective of what maximizes the survival probability of the human species as a breeding population, our genetic diversity is already so low that we cannot afford to further reduce it along almost any dimension—that "eugenics" as he understood it is a big no-no.

And we can welcome the valuable things that Teddy Roosevelt tried to carry forward from his time into ours...

Continue reading "Teddy Roosevelt: "We Have Traveled Far...": How to Look on Our Predecessors with Charity and Justice" »

Note to Self: References Relevant to the Kaiping Mines Story...

Continue reading "" »

George Washington's Conviction That Thomas Jefferson Was a French Puppet...


Note to Self: I have been looking for this for a while: Washington's judgment that Jefferson was, at best, not an American patriot but rather an agent of influence for the corrupt French Republic.

It is thought that "John Langhorne" was not Thomas Jefferson, but rather Jefferson's favored nephew Peter Carr. The extent to which Carr was acting on his own rather than for Jefferson is not clear to me. Carr was certainly a "Jeffersonian"—and thus distance between him and Jefferson (like distance between Freneau and Jefferson) seems to me much more like plausible deniability than true divergence: George Washington: To John Nicholas, 8 March 1798: "Nothing short of the Evidence you have adduced, corroborative of intimations which I had received long before, through another channel...

Continue reading "George Washington's Conviction That Thomas Jefferson Was a French Puppet..." »

Rebecca Henderson: People

I got an email from the extremely smart and insightful Rebecca Henderson. It closed with: “hope to cross paths with you soon”; she had remarked at the conference we were at that she had not seen me in... it seemed like forever...

And I had thought: She is right. I have not seen her in... 20? years....

Yet she has been a very live intellectual presence to me—as one of my (regrettably few) go-to persons on intellectual property industrial organization and antitrust.

Continue reading "Rebecca Henderson: People" »

Hoisted from the 2007 Archives: Dilemmas of Economists in Government

Max Sawicky on the Dilemmas of Economists in High Government Office Max Sawicky writes about the dilemmas of economists in government.

These dilemmas were very, very soft indeed in the Clinton administration. (Here's where I state that the "200,000 net jobs projected from NAFTA" number was mine: we took an estimate of overall economic efficiency gains from tariff reductions and an employment elasticity with respect to the real wage from the Labor Department, and estimated that in the long run stable-inflation employment would grow by 0.14 percent as a result of the deal. I think it was the right answer to the question being asked by the entire Washington journamalistic community in 1993; I don't think that was the right question for the public sphere to have been asking.) Indeed, the dilemmas were close to nonexistent, and limited to not getting out your megaphone and saying "that's wrong!" when one of your political masters said somthing wrong in public.

Continue reading "Hoisted from the 2007 Archives: Dilemmas of Economists in Government" »

Jared Bernstein: [Trump did a bunch of stuff to strengthen the dollar; now he’s upset about the strengthening dollar( "Trump is annoyed that the Fed is raising rates and that the stronger dollar is making our exports less competitive...

Continue reading "" »

Eagleton on Rorty: Hoisted from the Archives from 1998

Eagleton: "[Following Rorty,] I now object to nuclear warfare not because it would blow up some metaphysical abstraction known as the human race, but because it would introduce a degree of unpleasantness into the lives of my Oxford neighbors.... The campaign is no longer the bloodless, cerebral affair it once was, but pragmatic, experiential, lived sensuously on the pulses. If my bit of Oxford survives a nuclear catastrophe, I really couldn't care less about the University of Virginia..."

Hoisted from the Archives: Eagleton on Rorty English literary critic Terry Eagleton has a very nice--a very effective--a very snide--a very sarcastic--demolition of U. Va. philosopher Richard Rorty. From Terry Eagleton (1996), The Illusions of Postmodernism (London: Blackwell: 0631203230):

pp. 85-86: ...postmodernism combines the worst of [liberalism and communitarianism].... It has, to begin with, an embarrassing amount in common with communitarianism.... The self for both doctrines is embedded in a purely parochial history, and moral judgements thus cannot be universal. Moral judgements, for [Richard] Rorty and his ilk, really say "We don't do that kind of thing around here"; whereas... to say "sexual discrimination is wrong" usually means that we do do that kind of thing around here, but we shouldn't...

Continue reading "Eagleton on Rorty: Hoisted from the Archives from 1998" »

I badly need to find a usable mental model of how employer-side monopsony in labor markets interacts with downward nominal wage rigidity and search and involuntary unemployment. Analyzing just one of these market failures at a time is just not cutting it for me as I try to understand what is going on: Heidi Shierholz and Elise Gould: Why is real wage growth anemic? It’s not because of a skills shortage: "Despite an unemployment rate at 4.1 percent or less since last October, wage growth has been anemic...

Continue reading " " »

A very nice article from the very sharp Justin Lenhart on one of the three things the Federal Reserve is missing right now. The first thing the Fed misses is that, at least as long as the current interest rate configuration holds, they need an inflation rate of 4% per year not 2% per year, in order to have enough running room to fight next recession. The second thing the Fed misses is that the slope of the Phillips curve has changed, and so going for faster growth and higher employment right now is not risky but, rather, harvesting low-hanging fruit. The third thing the Fed misses is that a near-inverted yield curve is a danger sign—and yet the Fed is, as in 2006, finding reasons to pretend that "this time is different". I confess that fed thought—the governors, the bank presidents, and the staff—is quite opaque to me right now: I do not understand why they are making the analytical judgments that they are making: Justin Lahart: What the Fed Is Missing, Again: "The Federal Reserve isn’t worried about the yield curve, and it has reason why. The problem: It is pretty much the same reason it wasn’t worried about the yield curve before the financial crisis...

Continue reading " " »

Note to Self: Alexander Hamilton: America as "Grand Experiment": Ari Kelman: "The description of the United States as a Grand Experiment in democracy or sometimes as a lower-case grand experiment in democracy. I always assumed that one of the founders* said that, that it was a quote in other words. But no, it seems that’s not the case. Unless I’m missing something—which is entirely possible; no, really, it’s entirely possible—the whole thing is a charade..." How about this? Will it do?: Alexander Hamilton: "The advocates of despotism have... decried all free government as inconsistent with the order of society, and have indulged themselves in malicious exultation over its friends and partisans. Happily for mankind, stupendous fabrics reared on the basis of liberty, which have flourished for ages, have, in a few glorious instances, refuted their gloomy sophisms. And, I trust, America will be the broad and solid foundation of other edifices, not less magnificent, which will be equally permanent monuments of their errors..."

Continue reading "" »

What Is the Best Way to Introduce Myself to Audiences These Days?

image from

J. Bradford Delong is Professor of Economics and Chief Economist of the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California at Berkeley. He is also a weblogger for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. From 1993 to 1995 he was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the United States Department of the Treasury. Right now he is best known for:

Is this ⬆︎⬆︎⬆︎⬆︎ it? What would be better?

Jefferson’s Conversation with Washington, 10 July 1792, and What Came Before: Weekend Reading

Washington thought it was fine that Jefferson argued with Hamilton inside the continent, but that funding and stoking opposition to policies once Washington had decided was not kosher. Did Jefferson get that Washington was on to him?

Thomas Jefferson: To George Washington, 23 May 1792: "I have determined to make the subject of a letter, what... has been a subject of inquietude to my mind without having found a good occasion of disburthening itself to you in conversation, during the busy scenes which occupied you here. perhaps too you may be able, in your present situation, or on the road, to give it more time & reflection than you could do here at any moment...

Continue reading "Jefferson’s Conversation with Washington, 10 July 1792, and What Came Before: Weekend Reading" »

Teasers for "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century"

Il Quarto Stato

Current Versions of Chapters 1-3:

  1. DRAFT: My Grand Narrative
  2. DRAFT: Themes
  3. DRAFT: Making a Global Economy and Society, 1870-1914

Outtakes and Deleted Scenes:

Continue reading "Teasers for "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century"" »

Cory Doctorow: I was naive: "I've been thinking of all those 'progressive' Senators who said that... Jeff Sessions was a gentleman, honorable, decent—just someone whose ideas they disagreed with. They approved Sessions for AG on that basis, and he architected this kids-in-cages moment...

Continue reading "" »

Why Was the 20th Century Not a Chinese Century?: An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century"

15000px Along the River 7 119 3 jpg 15 000×463 pixels

10000 words on why the 20th Century was not a Chinese century. Very few of these belong in a 20th Century history book, alas...

Continue reading "Why Was the 20th Century Not a Chinese Century?: An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century"" »

Benjamin Franklin (1751): Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind: Weekend Reading

Benjamin Franklin (1751): Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, 1751: "The 'immediate occasion' for writing this essay, according to Van Doren,6 was the British Iron Act of 1750, which prohibited the erection of additional slitting and rolling mills, plating forges, and steel furnaces in the American colonies. While English ironmasters rejoiced in the protection the law afforded them, a few farsighted Britons and most Americans appreciated that the act would curb colonial growth at just the moment when Britain and France were engaged in a climactic struggle for possession of North America.

Continue reading "Benjamin Franklin (1751): Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind: Weekend Reading" »

The 1870 Inflection Point in Transport and Trade: An In-Take from "Slouching Towards Utopia": An Economic History of the Long 20th Century

International Trade Our World in Data

The metallurgy to cheaply make the rails and the engines of the railroad had made transport over land wherever the rails ran as cheap as travel up navigable watercourses or across the oceans had every been, and made it faster.

The mid-nineteenth century Massachusetts transcendentalist author and activist Henry David Thoreau’s response to the railroad was: “get off my lawn!”:

To make a railroad round the world.... Men have an indistinct notion that if they keep up this activity of joint stocks and spades long enough all will at length ride somewhere in next to no time and for nothing, but though a crowd rushes to the depot and the conductor shouts “All aboard!” when the smoke is blown away and the vapor condensed, it will be perceived that a few are riding, but the rest are run over—-and it will be called, and will be, “a melancholy accident”...

Continue reading "The 1870 Inflection Point in Transport and Trade: An In-Take from "Slouching Towards Utopia": An Economic History of the Long 20th Century" »

Maria Bustillos: The Anthony Bourdain Interview: Weekend Reading

Maria Bustillos: The Anthony Bourdain Interview: "Anthony Bourdain had started smoking again, was the first thing I noticed as he sat down with me last February. He was a bit hung over from a recent working trip to south Louisiana for Cajun Mardi Gras; 'Harder partying than I’m used to, I gotta say', he said, laughing. Despite his great height his leonine head seemed just huge, and a little fleshier than I’d imagined; there was this slight dissipation to him...

...But no—who could be troubled about the wellbeing of Anthony Bourdain? Just look at him, so debonair, so completely at ease. A veritable prince of savoir vivre. Sixty-one, and still very elegant in his looks; the word sexy came to mind. Almost an old-fashioned word now. The sort of person who seems to think with his hips, his hands. He was in love, he would later admit; he and his new girlfriend, Asia Argento, had started smoking again together. He was a little rueful about the smoking, had the air of someone who meant to quit soon.

Continue reading "Maria Bustillos: The Anthony Bourdain Interview: Weekend Reading" »

Well, Our Three Bridge View from the Graduate Student Lounge Is Not at Its Best This Morning, Is It?

No subject brad delong gmail com Gmail

Well, our three bridge view from the Peixotto Graduate Student Lounge is not at its best this morning, is it?

That is a pity because the new first-year graduate students are arriving this morning...

Continue reading "Well, Our Three Bridge View from the Graduate Student Lounge Is Not at Its Best This Morning, Is It?" »

From Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 9 September 1792: Weekend Reading

As Conor Cruise O'Brien remarks, whenever Jefferson swears by some Higher Power, he is apt to be lying:

Thomas Jefferson: To George Washington, 9 September 1792: "I received on the 2d. inst the letter of Aug. 23. which you did me the honor to write me; but the immediate return of our post, contrary to his custom, prevented my answer by that occasion...

...The proceedings of Spain mentioned in your letter are really of a complexion to excite uneasiness, and a suspicion that their friendly overtures about the Missisipi have been merely to lull us while they should be strengthening their holds on that river. Mr. Carmichael’s silence has been long my astonishment: and however it might have1 justified something very different from a new appointment, yet the public interest certainly called for his junction with Mr. Short as it is impossible but that his knolege of the ground of negotiation of persons and characters, must be useful and even necessary to the success of the mission.

Continue reading "From Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 9 September 1792: Weekend Reading" »

No, the Trump administration is not very competent at achieving its stated goals. But that does not mean that the Trump administration is not doing enormous harm under the radar by simply being its chaos-monkey essence. The smart David Leonhart tries to advise people how to deal with this: David Leonhardt: Trump Tries to Destroy the West: "[Trump's] behavior requires a response that’s as serious as the threat...

Continue reading "" »

The sharp and well-intentioned Will Wilkinson still thinks that the name "libertarianism" is worth fighting for, or perhaps that "liberaltarianism" is worth fighting for. I, however, for one, think that "libertarianism" is poisoned in the same way that "fascism", "communism", "socialism", and "neoliberalism" are poisoned. Too many bad people have waved their banners in bad faith. In libertarians' case, the bad people waving in bad faith have been those who think that the only rights that matter are the rights to discriminate, to exchange, and to hold what you have no matter how you acquired it. Maybe "positive libertarians" has a chance, maybe not: Will Wilkinson: Liberaltarianism: Back the Future: "Misean economics,... filtered through Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard's peculiar views of rights and coercion...

Continue reading "" »

Peter Jensen, Markus Lampe, Paul Sharp, and Christian Skovsgaard: The role of elites for development in Denmark: "How did Denmark get to Denmark?... Hundreds of butter factories could spring up in a few years in the 1880s... dominance in agricultural exports could be so rapidly consolidated... why this happened in Denmark and not elsewhere...

Continue reading "" »

Paul Krugman: Brexit Meets Gravity: "These days I’m writing a lot about trade policy. I know there are more crucial topics, like Alan Dershowitz. Maybe a few other things? But getting and spending go on; and to be honest, in a way I’m doing trade issues as a form of therapy and/or escapism, focusing on stuff I know as a break from the grim political news...

Continue reading "" »

In the internet economy, traditional antitrust doctrines and nostrums are much less helpful than we would wish. We need new thinkin' and new legislatin' here. Not that I know what we need, exactly, but we do need it: Ben Thompson: AT&T, Time Warner, and a Framework for Neutrality: "Unfortunate[ly]... a bad case by the government has led to... a merger... never examined for its truly anti-competitive elements...

Continue reading "" »

David Brooks explicitly practicing identity politics. What's odd is that Jews are almost always first on the block to be excluded from "Western Europe" whenever someone embarks on the journey that leads to ultimately saying that the only true civilization bearers are the Anglo-Saxons (or the Saxon-Saxons, depending), with the wogs starting at either Calais or Liege, depending. Does he even know that the only sovereigns who made significant outreach to rescue the Sephardim expelled from Spain was named Bayezid II Osmanli?: Yastreblyansky: Identity politics with David Brooks: The wolves are in the henhouse: "David Brooks's hot take on the Trump-Putin summit ('The Murder-Suicide of the West') was that it was like when C.S. Lewis's mother died, not that he was there, it was in 1908, but he's read about it, and it's pretty sad...

Continue reading "" »

Tyrannies: An In-Take from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century"

Stalin mao hitler Google Search

The twentieth century’s tyrannies were more brutal and more barbaric than those of any previous age. And—astonishingly—they had much of their origins in economic discontents and economic ideologies. People killed each other in large numbers over, largely, questions of how the economy should be organized. Such questions had not been a major source of massacre in previous centuries.

Twentieth-Century governments and their soldiers have killed perhaps forty million people in war: either soldiers (most of them unlucky enough to have been drafted into the mass armies of the twentieth century) or civilians killed in the course of what could be called military operations.

But wars have caused only about a fifth of this century’s violent death toll.

Continue reading "Tyrannies: An In-Take from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century"" »

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

stacks and stacks of books

Economic Growth:

  • The answer is: probably in the late 1960s: Joe McMahon: When was the last time all the computing power in the world equaled one iPhone?: "When was the last time all the computing power in the world equaled one iPhone?..

  • We may not believe Bob Allen's provocative economic history of Soviet Russia, however. I think that Russia is enough of a "European" country that an "Asian" or "Latin American" baseline is not appropriate. Aside from the value to the world of a heavy industrial complex in Magnitogorsk in 1939 (a big aside), the Stalinist road to industrial society was not only genocidal and long-run counterproductive but medium-run stupid. But why Mehmet Ali Pasha was unable to make Egypt a cotton-spinning and -weaving center remains a fascinating question: Tom Westland: Russia vs Egypt: "In both 19th century Egypt and 20th century Russia, the path to industrial growth was blocked by a formidable swamp: subsistence agriculture...

Continue reading "Economic Growth: Some Fairly Recent Should- and Must-Reads" »

Kevin is, I think, wrong here. Radiologists are not (yet) in trouble. Radiologists as image-reading 'bots are in trouble: Kevin Drum: Puny Humans Crushed By Machines Yet Again: "Radiologists are already in trouble, and if a robot can pass a medical licensing exam summa cum laude then how much longer can it be before robots are making house calls? Everybody thinks of truck drivers and retail clerks as the first victims of the coming robot revolution, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Jobs that require no tricky physical proficiency but very deep analytical skills are going to be some of the first to put people permanently out of work. In a sense, though, this is a good thing, since it means the challenge ahead will finally get some serious attention...."

Continue reading "" »

There are two ways this could go—extending "whiteness" or permanent Republican minority status. In the past, "whiteness" has always been expanded so that it includes a vast majority of the American population—and so now we have people named Mark Krikorian denouncing the threat of a Hispanic wave that will pollute America: Kevin Drum: White Party, Brown Party: "I don’t think that our political system will literally become the White Party vs. the Brown Party, but it’s already closer to this than any of us would like to admit. What’s worse, it’s all but impossible to imagine how Republicans can turn things around in their party. They’re keenly aware of the need to address their demographic challenges, but the short-term pain of reaching out to non-whites is simply too great for them to ever take the plunge. Democrats aren’t in quite such a tough spot, but their issues with the white working class are pretty well known, and don’t look likely to turn around anytime soon either.

Continue reading "" »