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July 2018

Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality: July 10, 2008

Department of "Huh?" General Motors Bailout Edition: Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Why oh why do we watch the New York Times in a death spiral? Why does it publish Roger Lowenstein telling us that: "Extravagant Pensions Are Killing General Motors.... G.M. acknowledged in its most recent annual report that from 1993 to 2007 it... has been sending far more money to its retirees than to its owners..." When GM offered the UAW more lavish benefits, it did so in order to induce the UAW to accept less generous wages. The money that GM paid in the 1990s and 2000s to fund pension and retiree health benefits was offset by wages that GM did not have to pay in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Lowenstein appears to want to live in a world in which GM (a) gets a break on its wage costs in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s; and can do so (b) without having to pay any money to fund pensions in the 1990s and 2000s. I don't want to live in Roger Lowenstein's world.

Washington Post Death Spiral Watch: Words fail me: "Gerson: The Immorality of Food Stamps". Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

The Transparent Society: Distributed global surveillance: "Spotted Brad DeLong wearing a "Jedi Masters for Barack Obama" t-shirt..."

IMHO, betting that "even the Tory Party can spot a wrong 'un" seems a lot like drawing to an inside straight: Dan Davies: "The hard brexit types have been bounced into deal which has taught them that they're not as clever as they thought they were. Now they'll react to that with a leadership challenge which will teach them that they're not as popular as they thought they were. It's like education in the Montessori system-each little independence of discovery builds on the next..."

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J. Bradford DeLong (2008): Trade and Distribution: A Multisector Stolper-Samuelson Finger Exercise

Il Quarto Stato

An argument that I think is true—and important—but that I have never been able to get anybody else to pay attention to. Maybe I have just made an algebra mistake, and people are silent because they would feel embarrassed if they pointed that out. But I do not think so:

J. Bradford DeLong (2008): Trade and Distribution: A Multisector Stolper-Samuelson Finger Exercise: One of the basic building blocks of the political economy of international trade is the Stolper-Samuelson result: the shift from no trade to free trade is good for the owners of the abundant factor of production, but bad for the owners of the scarce factor of production. This accounts for why support for free trade tends to be stronger in democratic than in authoritarian regimes. The scarce factor of production tends to be, well, scarce. Hence not many potential voters own a lot of it. Hence the political support for trade protection in any system of government that gives weight to broad, as opposed to strong, preferences will tend to produce trade liberalization.

In the United States, and to some degree in western Europe, things are widely thought to be different—or so the argument goes, The relatively abundant factors of production are things like capital, organization, and technology, which have concentrated ownership. The scarce factor of production is labor. Hence free trade tends to be politically unpopular because it is not in the interest of the majority of potential voters.

This argument of an inconsistency between free trade and the well-being of the majority of potential voters rests substantially on the two-factor example of the Stolper-Samuelson result. It does not fare too well when we generalize to a situation in which there are a number of different factors—even if the ownership of the abundant factors of production is very concentrated indeed....

For λ very close to one, the critical φ* is also close to one. Trade among countries with small differences in relative proportions of the trade-relevant factors of production is good only for households that hold a greater than proportionate share of the initially abundant factor... households for which φ > 1. But as λ moves away from 1 things change. Efficiency and productivity gains grow faster than do the income redistributions from changing factor prices. Even households where the share of ownership of the initially-abundant factor is significantly less than proportionate can benefit. In the limit as N becomes large, the condition on φ for free trade to benefit the household becomes: φ* > ln(λ)/(λ−1)... Read MOAR

#free trade

Hoisted/Smackdown: FLASH: Clive Crook and Jack Shafer Upset Because People Informing People Are Claiming to Be Journalists


I was performing one of my standard rants last week at lunch: about how—with very honorable but notably rare exceptions—you should view everything you see on a video screen or read in any medium from somebody paid to be a "journalist" through a hermeneutics of grave suspicion: Assume, unless and until demonstrated otherwise, that they are working for, in this order: (1) their sources, (2) their editors, (3) their advertisers, and (4) for you not at all—they simply are not interested in being a trustworthy information intermediary informing you about the world.

I got some pushback. So it is time to hoist this again from 2005. In one short week, pieces crossed my desk from both Jack Shafer and Clive Crook. Both made it very clear that, in their minds, informing people about the world is positively unprofessional for a journalist (that is the point of Shafer's attack on Klein and Yglesias) or simply not a relevant consideration (that is the point of Crook's relative exaltation of Cramer and dissing of Stewart):

FLASH: Monday Smackdown Clive Crook and Jack Shafer Upset Because People Informing People Are Claiming to Be Journalists: Hoisted from 2015: "Two things that crossed my desk last week that offend the shape of reality itself, and really do deserve to be smacked down.

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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...

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I believe that this is the next-to-last letter from Washington to Jefferson, and that they never met in person thereafter: George Washington (1796): To Thomas Jefferson, 6 July 1796: "As you have mentioned the subject yourself, it would not be frank, candid, or friendly to conceal, that your conduct has been represented as derogating from that opinion I had conceived you entertained of me...

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On the Negative Information Revealed by Marvin Goodfriend's "I Don't Teach IS-LM": Smackdown/Hoisted


So Rich Clarida's (who should be a good Fed Vice Chair) and Michelle Bowman's Federal Reserve nominations (whom I do not know) made it out of the Senate Banking Committee 20-5 and 18-7. Marvin Goodfriend—who made it out 13-12—is still hanging fire on the Senate calendar. There is no reason I see to think that Fed Governor is a job he should have: there are much more sensible and reality-based conservative and inflation-hawkish monetary economists out there. One of them would dominate Marvin along every dimension. So it is time to highlight this again:

Hoisted from the Archives: I think it is time to move Marvin Goodfriend over to the "unprofessional" and "should not have a role making monetary policy" side of the ledger. There are much better inflation hawks as far as policy judgment is concerned. And someone with a demonstrated desire to pander to the yahoos—which is the only way I can make this coherent—is not a good candidate for the Board of Governors: On the Negative Information Revealed by Marvin Goodfriend's "I Don't Teach IS-LM": The smart and snarky Sam Bell wants to taunt me into rising to his bait by twittering a quote from likely Fed nominee Marvin Goodfriend: "I don't teach IS-LM". He succeeds. Here is the quote:

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Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality: July 9, 2008

Real Fiscal Responsibility: And we are underway: Henry Aaron, Nancy Altman, Kenneth Apfel, James Blum, J. Bradford DeLong, Peter Diamond, Robert Greenstein, James Horney, Richard Kogan, Jack Lew, Marilyn Moon, Van Doorn Ooms, Uwe Reinhardt, Charles Schultze, Robert Solow, and Paul Van de Water: (1) agree that the nation faces large persistent budget deficits that ultimately risk significant damage to the economy, (2) concur that policymakers should begin now to make the tough choices needed to avert such deficits, (3) But the methods set forth in the Brookings/Heritage/Concord "Taking Back Our Fiscal Future" proposal strike us as misguided. Specifically: TBOFF subjects Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to the threat of automatic cuts while giving a free pass to regressive open-ended tax-loophole and tax-break entitlements... thus departs from the "shared sacrifice" approach... does not focus adequate attention on... rising health care... attempts to restrain public health care spending growth without taking measures to alter the dynamics of the private health care markets... places a large share of the burden of adjustment on the poorer members of American society... relies on automatic cuts... [that] congress has never in the past been willing to actually let... take effect...

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I Never Knew That George Washington Had Saved the Life of Citizen Edmond-Charles Genêt from Robespierre....

stacks and stacks of books

Conor Cruise O'Brien's book about Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution suffers from the same flaw as the dinosaurs in the original Jurassic Park and as Ronald Syme's superb The Roman Revolution: all take DNA from some place else and use it to fill in the gaps. In the case of The Roman Revolution, Ronald Syme takes Mussolini and uses him to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of the man born Gaius Octavius Thurinus who became Augustus. In the case of Jurassic Park, they use frog DNA to fill out the dinosaur double helixes. In the case of The Long Affair, Conor Cruise O'Brien uses Kerensky, Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin to complete his picture of the French Revolution and of Lafayette, Danton, Hebert, and Robespierre. This method produces a great book to read (or movie to watch). But it is not really history wie es eigentlich gewesen.

My view is that Jefferson believed in the French Revolution not because he wanted the Tree of Liberty to be watered by blood or because he wanted to see the U.S. Congress tamed by the New York or Philadelphia mob, but because he knew he was losing to Adams and Hamilton in the struggle over the future of America, knew that he desperately needed reinforcements, and hence the French Revolution had to succeed in order to provide them. The Long Affair, however, remains a great book—but not quite great history as much as a meditation on "revolutionary excesses" and motivated reasoning: Conor Cruise O'Brien (1996): The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800 (Chicago: University of Chicago: 0226616533) ( "Genêt, although recalled at Washington's request, remained in America, under Washington's protection...

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Edmond-Charles Genêt to Thomas Jefferson, 1797: Weekend Reading

Jefferson Genet 1793 Photograph by Granger

Poor Genêt! Arriving in the United States thinking that his task is to bring the French Republic's steadfast ally the American Republic into the common war against Britain, and finding that everyone in the American government is lying to him save Alexander Hamilton: Edmond-Charles Genêt (1797): To Thomas Jefferson: "...and when the Minister to whom he [Washington] had delegated the executive power during his absence, I imparted to you the resolution I had formed to open my heart to him with frankness, and try to put an end to disputes that were every day becoming more serious...

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Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality: July 8, 2008

Preview of Some Fairly Recent Must and Should Reads About Economic Inequality

Perry Bacon, Jr., is a bad human being: Marcus Brauchli Has, I Think, Made a Big Mistake (Washington Post Death Spiral Watch): Former WSJ executive Marcus Brauchli has agreed to take over the Washington Post.... This is, I think, a huge mistake for him and his reputation.... All you have to look at is page A1 of this morning's paper--at the article by Perry Bacon, Jr., who has already written what the Columbia Journalism Review judged the worst article of the 2008 campaign. The headline of the article is: "Candidates Diverge on How to Save Social Security". The echo of Paul Krugman's 2000 joke: "If Bush said that the world was flat, the headline on the news analysis [the next day] would read 'Shape of Earth: Views Differ'" is clear. But nobody at the Washington Post gets the joke. And the substance of the article is as bad as the headline...

Wise: Ben Bernanke Is Right: If we were back in the late nineteenth century, there would be no question--back then, banks were banks. Anything that promised liquidity, borrowed short, and invested long was a bank. And central banks existed to watch over them. It's only in our more legalistic age that we have non-banks that aren't shepherded by the central bank...

Rare among veterans, John McCain is a big fan of 'preemptive war': Jed Lewison on Why America Cannot Afford to Elect John McCain: My line used to be that John McCain was the best possible Republican candidate--he was, after all, the only one not enthusiastically in favor of torture. But Jed Lewison has now convinced me that McCain is worse than I could previously have imagined. How has he done this. By firing up the Wayback Machine and taking us back to 2002 to listen to John McCain on the virtues of preemptive wars...

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Trade around the Indian Ocean before 1500 was a largely peaceful, stable process. Empires, kingdoms, sultanates, and emirates ruled the lands around the ocean, but they did not have the naval strength or the orientation to even think of trying to control the ocean's trade. Pirates were pirates—but only attacked weak targets, and needed bases, and for the land-based kingdoms providing bases for pirates disrupted their own trade. Then came 1500, and a new entity appeared in the Indian Ocean: the Portuguese seaborne empire: [Non-Market Actors in a Market Economy: A Historical Parable): From David Abernethy (2000), The Dynamics of Global Dominance: European Overseas Empires 1415-1980 (New Haven: Yale), p. 242 ff: "Malacca... located on the Malayan side of the narrow strait... the principal center for maritime trade among Indian Ocean emporia, the Spice Islands, and China...

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Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality: July 1-7, 2008

  • My belief that DHE had any goals other than to suck up to Republican donors and politicians was wrong: Douglas Holtz-Eakin Burns His Credibility: "Holtz-Eakin said, “Sen. Obama can say what he wants this week… but this is about his record. It reveals what his true values are”—that he voted for something that would raise taxes on low-income voters, Holtz-Eakin claimed.... This is, I think, a bad mistake for Doug Holtz-Eakin. If McCain wins in November, Holtz-Eakin will need credibility with Democratic as well as Republican senators. And if McCain doesn't win in November, Holtz-Eakin will need credibility with Democratic as well as Republican economists...

  • Lehman's Off Balance Sheet Entities News: They disturb Jonathan Weil quite a bit...

  • Jim Hamilton Assumes the Role of Dr. Doom: Time to start sending out more stimulus checks--advances on next April's refund checks...

  • The Singularity Is in Our Past...: Will McLean writes: "A Commonplace Book: Buying Power of 14th Century Money: In the second half of the 14th century, a pound sterling would: Support the lifestyle of a single peasant laborer for half a year, or that of a knight for a week. Or buy: Three changes of clothing for a teenage page (underclothes not included) or Twelve pounds of sugar or A carthorse or Two cows or An inexpensive bible or ten ordinary books or Rent a craftsman’s townhouse for a year or Hire a servant for six months... "Think of a world in which a pound of sugar costs two weeks' wages...

  • Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (John F. Harris Edition): "John F. Harris of the Politico, formerly of the Washington Post, confesses that he doesn't even try to do his job of informing Americans about which politicians would make good presidents and legislators--furthest thing from his mind.... I do wonder how he can look at himself in the mirror in the morning. It is a mystery...

  • Atlantic Monthly Death Spiral Watch: Tim Burke reminds us of what may have been the worst article published by the Atlantic Monthly, ever: "Easily Distracted: Political Notes: I keep flashing back to Mark Bowden’s willingness to be a front man for security functionaries eager to normalize torture. Bowden’s article assured readers that 'harsh interrogation' had reached a point of trust-worthy technocratic professionalism in Israel and now potentially the United States. Don’t worry, he said: professionals only use it when they need to, only against those individuals who have knowledge that our trusted leaders must have. It’s won’t be as if some sweaty thug in a filthy gulag is ripping off fingernails just to intimidate a political dissident, that’s only a danger with unprofessional regimes that torture unnecessarily. I mean, it’s not as if we’d be doing something that an infamous authoritarian regime used extensively against dissidents. Besides, who needs moral capital when you’ve got stealth bombers, right?..."

  • Peter Beinart is weighed down under an enormous karmic burden for acts of intellectual evil in the past: Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Peter Beinart Strikes Again Edition): "It is safe to say that Peter Beinart makes a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care: "Balancing Act: The Other Wilsonianism The contrast with the development of modern conservative foreign policy is instructive. When William F. Buckley, James Burnham, and the other founding editors of _National Review+ set out in the 1950s to devise a conservative approach to the Cold War, they did so in the full knowledge that their views were wildly outside the political mainstream. (In fact, Buckley and Burnham did not even live in Washington.) Yet they continued to elaborate and refine them, making few concessions to political necessity, until in 1976 and 1980, when Ronald Reagan brought first the Republican Party, and then the entire country, around to their worldview..." Burnham's and Buckley's foreign policy was "Rollback": a titanic Manichean struggle of total Cold War against a totalitarian adversary that could not be softened or negotiated with or contained—that was Buckley's and Burnham's critique of Harry S Truman, Dean Acheson, George F. Kennan, George Marshall, and the other graduates of what Nixon called "Acheson's Cowardly College of Communist Containment." What was Ronald Reagan's foreign policy?... Once George Shultz, Nancy Reagan, and Nancy Reagan's astrologer had wrested control of the Reagan administration foreign policy apparat from Alexander Haig and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Reagan (and even more so George H.W. Bush) was squarely in the "Containment"—not the "Rollback"—tradition. To Peter Beinart's claim that Reagan's foreign policy was "Buckley['s and] Burnham['s]... conservative approach to the Cold War," all I can do is laugh and say: "Klaatu Barada Nikto!!" Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

  • Ulysses Simpson "Sam" Grant Blogging: "I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse..."

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IIRC, back when I first read Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, I thought it was a joke: He spent all this space ranting about how nobody is allowed to make consequentialist arguments, and then makes the consequentialist argument that Lockeian appropriation of pieces of the global commons as private property is fine because it has the consequence of making the world richer? And then there was this: using the Cambridge Rent Control Board to break his contract—his self-actualization as a promise-making autonomous moral being—to extort 30,000 dollars from Eric Segal: Anarchy, State, and Rent Control.

I now think that Anarchy, State, and Utopia was a joke that turned into a grift. Cf.: Robert Bork, who after a lifetime of calling for "tort reform" files a slip-and-fall lawsuit against the Yale Club of Manhattan...

Tim Noah (2007): Has Jonah Goldberg gone soft on Hillary?: Hoisted from the Internet from Eleven Years Ago/Weekend Reading

Timothy Noah (2007): Has Jonah Goldberg gone soft on Hillary?: "Her name's been removed from his forthcoming book's subtitle...

Three months ago, I speculated that Jonah Goldberg's forthcoming book, then titled Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton, was the victim of a swift and violent paradigm shift. The 2006 elections and the right's critical drubbing of Dinesh D'Souza's The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11--which proposed a strategic alliance between Muslim theocrats and the American right against the degenerate American left—had rendered conservatism's lunatic fringe suddenly unfashionable. This couldn't, I thought, be good news for a book that portrayed Hillary Clinton as a goose-stepping brownshirt.

One hint that Doubleday might be feeling nervous was that the book's publication date, originally planned for 2005, had been delayed repeatedly, and had just been delayed once more, to Dec. 26, 2007. Goldberg's publisher, Adam Bellow, insisted that the book's delays were attributable entirely to the extreme care being taken to get the history just right, and Goldberg himself, after stating on National Review's online chat-fest "The Corner" that he found me to be "a bore and a fairly nasty and humorless fellow," said the book was delayed only because "it's not done yet." My "assertion that the book's delayed for marketing reasons would be a flat-out lie if it weren't flat-out conjecture," Goldberg thundered.

What Bellow and Goldberg said didn't strike me as necessarily inconsistent with what I'd written. I could well envision that the extreme care to which Bellow referred might include frantic tweaking of tone to make Goldberg sound less like Ann Coulter and more like David Brooks. But whatever the reason for the delay, the marketing plan for Goldberg's book has been altered since I last wrote, and the direction has been away from Coulterism. A book's subtitle is part of a book's marketing, is it not? Ladies and gentlemen, the subtitle has been changed. Gone is The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton. Now the subtitle is The Totalitarian Temptation From Hegel to Whole Foods. This is undeniably kinder, gentler, and less political. But it isn't necessarily more truthful.

As liberal blogger Ezra Klein points out, John Mackey, founder and chief executive of Whole Foods, is a libertarian. In a recent speech, Mackey said, "The Left's goal remains either to cripple or to destroy capitalism." That doesn't sound very liberal to me. Perhaps Goldberg has found a way to write around Mackey's inconvenient politics. Or perhaps he'll have to go back to the drawing board. One option might be for Goldberg to change the title to The Road to Serfdom, which is what F.A. Hayek called this book when he published it 50-odd years ago. Goldberg should know, though, that a cartoon version of Hayek's most famous work is already in circulation.

Abigail Adams, Polly Jefferson, Sally Hemings, etc....

Thomas Jefferson to Abigail Adams, 21 December 1786: "PARIS.... My friends write me that they will send my little daughter to me by a Vessel which sails in May for England. I have taken the liberty to tell them that you will be so good as to take her under your wing till I can have notice to send for her, which I shall do express in the moment of my knowing she is arrived. She is about 8. years old, and will be in the care of her nurse, a black woman, to whom she is confided with safety. I knew your goodness too well to scruple the giving this direction before I had asked your permission..."

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Since the mid-1990s we have been, once again, living in a world in which John Maynard Keynes is the most relevant economist to understanding our situation. Robert Skidelsky knows Keynes better than Keynes knew himself. Thus this is likely to be the most valuable economics book you read this year: Robert Skidelsky (2018): Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics (New Haven: Yale University Press: 0300240325)

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From Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 16 June 1792

Thomas Jefferson (1792): To Lafayette, 16 June 1792: "Philadelphia June 16. 1792. Behold you then, my dear friend, at the head of a great army, establishing the liberties of your country against a foreign enemy. May heaven favor your cause, and make you the channel thro’ which it may pour it’s favors...

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Jefferson, Adams, Malone, and the French Revolution: Weekend Reading |

Thomas Jefferson was a great man and a small man. We know the great man well. Biographers like Dumas Malone however, try hard to keep us from knowing the small man: the one who was too approving of the Jacobins and the Terror; the funder of the first Journalistic Slime Machine; the owner of the sex-slave Sally Hemings:

Dumas Malone (1962): Jefferson and the Ordeal of Liberty (New York: Little, Brown), pp. 45 ff.: "Early in the year, Jefferson, writing a private letter to William Short [TJ to Short, Jan 3, 1793; Ford, VI, 153-7], now at The Hague...

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Thomas Jefferson to William Short, 3 January 1793: Weekend Reading

Thomas Jefferson: To William Short, 3 January 1793: "Philadelphia Jan. 3. 1793. Dear Sir...

...My last private letter to you was of Oct. 16. since which I have recieved your No. 103. 107. 108. 109. 110. 112. 113. and 114. and yesterday your private one of Sep. 15. came to hand.

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The Eight 24-Hour Red-Curb Emergency Special Permit We-Will-Tow Parking Spots Just Outside UCSF Medical's Betty Irene Moore Women's Hospital Are Reserved For...

The eight 24-hour red-curb emergency special permit we-will-tow parking spots just outside UCSF Medical's Betty Irene Moore Women's Hospital are reserved...

...three for health care administration, two for capital programs, one for campus planning, one for budget, and one for the obstetrician on call...

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Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality: June 27-30, 2008

Preview of Procrastinating on November 29 2016

Robin Givhan may well have provided the worst Hillary coverage ever: Heathers...: Robin Givhan.... "Hillary Clinton spoke... smiling that talk-show smile—the one that never wavers. She was dressed all in cobalt blue.... The only people who dress from head to toe in bright blue are more than likely telling you to put your seat tray in the upright and locked position. What would possess a woman seeking the highest office to dress in a manner that only Veruca Salt could love?..."

True then; true now: Capital and Its Complements: The hope was that... net capital outflows from the industrial core would finance much late twentieth and twenty-first century industrialization. But we all know the outcome.... The core–especially the United States–offers a form of protection for capital against unanticipated political disturbances.... Net international capital flows are going the wrong way. [But] there are still substantial gross capital flows outward from the world economy’s core to its periphery. And we can hope that these capital flows will carry with them the institutions and managerial expertise that have made the core so wealthy. Nevertheless, a dispassionate observer might point out that for someone with limited resources and opportunities for policy reform to keep betting double-or-nothing on neo-liberalism is a strategy that has a well-deserved name: “Gambler’s Ruin”.

Greg Ransom was the poster child for how training a knee-jerk right-winger in economics could produce someone whose only fit habitation was Beldlam: Attempted DeLong Smackdown Watch: Origins of Central Banking Edition: Greg's argument that attempts to avoid depression through government financial manipulation must necessarily fail was, to my knowledge, first made comprehensively by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels...

Surprisingly few people seem to remember that Reagan had ideological majorities in both houses of congress always—there were back then a bunch of people who voted with the Democrats to organize their house because they remembered that the Republicans had freed the slaves, but that was all they would vote with the Democrats for: Paul Krugman Misreads the Political Situation, I Think: Reagan had ideological majorities in both houses of congress throughout his presidency--remember the "boll weevils"? Clinton did not even have ideological majorities in his first two years. Yet Reagan's conservative achievements were remarkably limited: (1) A tilting of the tax code to redistribute income to the rich. And it was more than offset, IMHO at least, by his major liberal achievements: (1) To end the Cold War by trusting Gorbachev's good faith--in spite of everything the Republican foreign-policy establishment and the wingnut ideologues could throw in his path to try to stop them. (2) To cement the government's entitlement-spending role as provider of a mind-bobbling amount of primarily middle-class social insurance: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as we know them. And then there were Reagan's "achievements" that were simply stupidities...

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Isaiah Berlin (1972): [The Bent Twig: A Note on Nationalism](" title="Isaiah Berlin (1972)- The Bent Twig.pdf" alt="Isaiah Berlin 1972 The Bent Twig">Isaiah Berlin (1972)- The Bent Twig.pdf): "THE rich development of historical studies in the nineteenth century transformed men's views about their origins and the importance of growth, development and time...

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America the Loser: Project Syndicate

Il Quarto Stato

Project Syndicate: America the Loser: The American century ended on November 8, 2016. On that day, the United States ceased to be the world’s leading superpower–the flawed but ultimately well-meaning guarantor of peace, prosperity, and human rights around the world. America’s days of Kindlebergian hegemony are now behind it. The credibility that has been lost to the Trumpists–abetted by Russia and the US Electoral College–can never be regained... Read MOAR

Women's Roles in Agrarian-Age Civilization

Slides for a lecture built around a document...

Document: Abigail Smith Adams in Braintree, MA, to her husband John Adams in Philadelphia, PA: March 31-April 5, 1776

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The American Century began around 1870, when the American openness to immigration and societal experimentation on a continent-wide scale collided with the iron-hulled screw-propellered steamship, the industrial research laboratory, and the global submarine telegraph network. The American Century ended on November 8, 2016. On an... I won't call it "thinking"... elite... level, what we have today is the Republican Party of Henry Cabot Lodge and Robert Taft. On a knee-jerk pre-judged... or perhaps prejudiced... level, what we have is a large number of people who think that the present is not their friend and the future will be less than their friend and that people who look different plus rootless cosmopolites are their enemies. Save for the "normalcy" Republican Ascendancy between Woodrow Wilson's stroke and the defenestration of Herbert Hoover, these currents in the American psyche were under control. But no longer: On Martin Wolf: Donald Trump’s war on the liberal world order: "Striking features of Mr Trump’s behaviour are his fabrications, self-pity and bullying...

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MOAR Links: July 3, 2018

  1. John Fortescue: The Governance of England: "Here He Shewith the Perellis That Mey Come to the Kyng by Ouer Myghtye Subgettes..."

  2. Hans Sluga: Blog

  3. David Strohmaier: The Way of Inquiry

  4. David From et al.: What’s Left of the Right? : Democracy Journal

  5. Karl Marx (1863): ETheories of Surplus-Value: "Ricardo’s Theory of Accumulation and a Critique of it: The Very Nature of Capital Leads to Crises..."

  6. BoingBoing: Scientists accidentally engineer enzyme to eat plastic waste: "Researchers 'accidentally' engineered a natural enzyme found in a Japanese waste recycling plant to eat plastic waste.... the enzyme, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, degrades polyethylene terephthalate (PET).... 'We hoped to determine (the enzyme's) structure to aid in protein engineering, but we ended up going a step further and accidentally engineered an enzyme with improved performance at breaking down these plastics...' [said] NREL's lead researcher Gregg Beckham..."

  7. Valentina Pop: The Ultimate Démarche: France Wants to Oust English From the EU: "Prompted by Brexit, French President Emmanuel Macron wants to restore his language, the way it was before Britain joined..."

  8. Cali Bamboo: Bamboo Flooring

  9. Isaiah Berlin (1958): Two Concepts of Liberty

  10. Day 14 Transcript: Holocaust Denial on Trial: Irving v. Penguin Books and Lipstadt

  11. Francis Fukuyama (1989): The End of History?

Very wise words from close to where the rubber meets the road about how the Rise of the Robots is likely to work out for the labor market over the next generation or so: Shane Greenstein: Adjusting to Autonomous Trucking: "Let’s come into contact with a grounded sense of the future.... Humans have invented tools for repetitive tasks, and some of those tools are becoming less expensive and more reliable...

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Carbon Blogging: Robert J. Samuelson Is Incompetent/The Washington Post Is a Bad Paper: Monday Smackdown/Hoisted

Preview of Carbon Blogging Robert J Samuelson Is Incompetent The Washington Post Is a Bad Paper Monday Smackdown Hoisted

That the Washington Post still gives Robert J. Samuelson a platform is a shameful thing. That it ever gave Robert J. Samuelson a platform is a bad thing: Monday Smackdown/Hoisted: In That Case... Plant the Trees This Afternoon!: Mark Thoma does an evil deed by telling me that somebody should take note of Robert Samuelson. And he's right: somebody should. But why does it have to be me?

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I am of the "Italy restarts the lira and imposes heavy taxes on income from euro-denominated debts owed by Italian citizens" school. But the question of how to exit the eurozone is under analyzed. Best solution, of course, is for Germany to reflate; Joseph Stiglitz: How to exit the eurozone: "The challenge... will be to find a way to leave the eurozone that minimizes the economic and political costs...

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