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August 2018

Nate Silver's Forecast Today Is That the California Republican Congressional Delegation Will Be Cut in Half This November...

2018 House Forecast FiveThirtyEight

I don't think that is good enough.

I think they ought lose more.

Of the fourteen California Republican representatives, eleven—Cook, McCarthy, Nunes, Calvert, Hunter, LaMalfa, Walters, Valadao, Denham, Royce, and Knight—all voted for the tax bill that targeted their core supporters—the prosperous largely-white upper middle class of California that carried Hoover, Nixon, and Reagan to the presidency—with a bullseye. That bill added their state and local taxes—money that their constituents never saw—into the federal tax base, and then taxed them not on the income they received but on money they never saw. Why? Because they are, now, working not for their constituents who have loyally supported them, but for the plutocrats who now fund them and the lobbyists whom they hope to work for in the future.

Mimi Walters' constituents alone are going to have one billion dollars a year taken out of their paychecks as a result of the SALT provision. This money comes out of the prosperous upper middle class of those who have been the backbone of the Republican Party and for whom America has worked very well. But they are of no longer any concern to Republican politicians—their donations are not needed because much more money is provided by plutocrats in these post-Citizens United days, and their votes are unlikely to swing elections to produce national-level senators or electors for the Republican Party.

Of those Republican incumbents running for reelection this year, only Tom McClintock and Dana Rohrbacher were willing to put their constituents above plutocrats and lobbyists in the vote last December. (Young Kim and Dianne Harkey are non-incumbents running in current Republican-held seats.) The rest have broken their contracts with their districts, their voters, and their supporters. Even if you thought they belonged in the House as of last November, you really cannot believe they belong in the House now. Four is the maximum number of Republican representatives the Republican voters of California ought to send to the House this November...

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In Which I Admit That I Fell Down on the Job with Respect to Dietz Vollrath's Book Proposal...

School of Athens

@dietzvollrath Dietz Vollrath "Just signed a contract for a book on the growth slowdown called "Optimal Stagnation", out in 2019. Feelin' good about that. And therefore ending my social media 'diet'..."

My Review of Dietz Vollrath's Proposal Yes, Professor Vollrath’s work is original. Yes, his scholarship is sound. His overall argument is, however, I think, substantially if not largely wrong: There is insufficient good reason to believe that the last decade’s slowdown in productivity growth, as reported by standard measures, is a reflection of our success in managing the process of economic growth.

I think the slowdown is more likely better judged as a failure. However, where and why we have failed to manage economic growth is a damn doubly difficult question. Professor Vollrath’s interpretation is a very intelligent and relatively plausible one. The growth economics community and literature would strongly benefit from its publication. Yes, this is an important work.

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Rory McVeigh, David Cunningham, and Justin Farrell: Political Polarization as a Social Movement Outcome: 1960s Klan Activism and Its Enduring Impact on Political Realignment in Southern Counties, 1960 to 2000: "Short-term movement influence on voting outcomes can endure when orientations toward the movement disrupt social ties, embedding individuals within new discussion networks...

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Economics Gone Wrong. Very Badly Wrong Indeed: Some Fairly-Recent Should- and Must-Reads...

stacks and stacks of books

  • Martin Sandbu: The devastating cost of central banks’ caution: "Timidity on monetary policy since 2008 has been as costly as the financial crisis...

  • Event studies are very dangerous tools if you truly seek robust identification for policies that operate through expectational channels: Joseph Gagnon: QE Skeptics Overstate Their Case: "David Greenlaw, James Hamilton, Ethan Harris, and Kenneth West... argued that the consensus of previous studies overstates the effects of quantitative easing (QE) on long-term interest rates...

  • I am being told that George Borjas still does not understand—or at least says he does not understand—the force of this critique. Can that possibly be true?: Michael A. Clemens and Jennifer Hunt: The Labor Market Effects of Refugee Waves: Reconciling Conflicting Results: "The fraction of blacks is much higher in the post- than pre-Boatlift years in Borjas’s Miami sample...

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How Likely Are the Great Plains Between the Rocky Foothills and the Missouri to Dry Up and Blow Away?

This is from Dodge City to Wichita, and from the western boundary of Oklahoma to Norman. And the Ogallala Aquifer is going. In the nest two generations—save for he oil patches—it now looks as though the Trans-Missouri plains between the Rocky Mountain foothills and the Missouri River are likely to dry up and blow away...: Comment of the Day: Graydon: Should Kansas's (and Missouri's) Future Be "a Lot More Like Texas"?:: "The Hundredth Meridian of descriptive meteorology has moved about 140 miles east since 1950. It looks more and more like we're getting a switch from tropical-temperate-arctic to tropical-not-tropical, and that the air circulation stops being east-west in reliable bands. This does allow us to explain the deserts of the Oligocene but it does nothing good for agriculture..."

Dodge City Google Maps

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Wise to people who want to be journalists in our current age: (1) Don't expect backup from your peers. (2) rather, the reverse. (3) Falsehood comes faster than you can report it, let alone debunk it: Alexey Kovalev: A message to my doomed colleagues in the American media: "Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now—with a short hiatus when our leader wasn’t technically our leader—so quite a few things during Donald Trump’s press conference rang a bell. Not just mine, in fact—read this excellent round-up in The Moscow Times..."

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Robert C. Allen, Jean-Pascal Bassino, Debin Ma, Christine Moll-Murata, and Jan Luiten van Zanden (2005): Wages, Prices, and Living Standards in China, Japan, and Europe, 1738-1925: "'The difference between the money price of labour in China and Europe is still greater than that between the money price of subsistence; because the real recompence of labour is higher in Europe than in China.' –Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776, p. 189...

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There was an opportunity to pass a corporate tax cut—excuse me, "reform"—that would be durable. The Republicans did not do it. So now there is a tax code that has little depth as far as support is concern. And so there is likely to come an opportunity to run the table. The master of legislative and technical detail Greg Leiserson and Equitable Growth Fearless Leader Heather Boushey provide a roadmap: Heather Boushey and Greg Leiserson: Taxing for Equitable Growth: "Tax reform... when the time comes, here are the three areas progressives must focus on...

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I am still clinging to the probably-vain hope that the slowdown in measured productivity growth is a problem of measurement. I cannot see anything that has happened in the world that would have eroded both the incentives and our collective ability to make the things we made last year 2% more cheaply this year: Martin Wolf: The long wait for a productivity resurgence: "We live in an age judged to be one of exciting technological change, but our national accounts tell us that productivity is almost stagnant. Is the slowdown or the innovation an illusion? If not, what might explain the puzzle?... Mismeasurement... diminished competition and expensive rent capture... new technologies are simply not what they are claimed to be...

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Nick Stern is right: Discount rates are highly endogenous to scenarios—and go way, way down in true catastrophe scenarios in which insurance is not possible. Nick Stern is right: Societal discount rates cannot be read off of imperfect capital markets. Climate change studies that start from either the assumption of a pure positive real intertemporal discount rate or from financial market perfection are, I think, as close to worthless as anything on God's Green Earth: Nicholas Stern: Public economics as if time matters: Climate change and the dynamics of policy "Subjects such as the dynamics of innovation, of potentially immense and destabilising risks, and of political economy, together with technicalities around non-linearities and dynamic increasing returns...

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Riccardo Colacito, Bridget Hoffmann, Toan Phan, and Tim Sablik: The Impact of Higher Temperatures on Economic Growth: "What happens to the economy when it gets hot outside? Despite long- standing assumptions that economic damage from rising global tempera- tures would be limited to the agricultural sector or developing economies, this Economic Brief presents evidence that higher summer temperatures hurt a variety of business sectors in the United States...

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Question for the Universe: I dimly remember some time ago thinking that Peter F. Drucker sought the reconciliation between the advantages of capitalism—bold entrepreneurship and growth—and socialism—redistribution, common concern, and all pulling in the same direction—in the figure of the manager, whose social role was precisely to arrange things so that society could be an "association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all". But now I cannot find it. Did I just dream that I had written this down someplace?

How, again, is Donald Trump supposed to win a breath-holding contest with an authoritarian régime that both controls its media and sees little downside in redirecting resources to cushion the impact on potentially noisy losers?: Paul Krugman: How to Lose a Trade War: "Trump’s declaration that 'trade wars are good, and easy to win' is an instant classic, right up there with Herbert Hoover’s 'prosperity is just around the corner'...

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Seattle is pursuing (a version of) social democracy in one metropolitan area. In the 2010s we learned from some of our laboratories of democracy (cough, Kansas, Wisconsin) what really not to do. Will Seattle provide a model for what we should do?: Hilary Wething: Seattle: Paid Sick Leave And Workers’ Earnings Dynamics: "Utilize administrative data from Washington state to study the impact of Seattle’s paid sick time ordinance on...

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In retrospect, this from the usually-reliable Karl Smith and Brandon Arnold looks really, really, really awful, no?

But they really should have known better: Anyone who goes the extra mile to give the version of Kevin Hassett on display these days the benefit of the doubt is likely to wind up naked on the Moon. That, I think, is the real lesson here—shading your thoughts to think more highly of Kevin these days either out of comity or because you think he is broadly on your policy side will put you in the same position as those who surrender their dignity to Donald Trump: Karl Smith and Brandon Arnold: Kevin Hassett’s Defense of Tax Reform is Right on Point: "The Tax Policy Center... had recently issued a report suggesting that the “Big Six” tax-reform proposal would add nearly $2.4 trillion to the budget deficit over the next ten years, raise taxes on many upper-middle class households, and slash taxes for the top 1 percent. Mr. Hassett was invited to respond to the report. His remarks were, unsurprisingly, unsparing. After all, the government’s top economist shouldn’t sit quietly while premature invectives are launched at the administration’s signature fiscal proposal...

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A spectacular catch by the highly-learned Adam Tooze, from his War in Germany, 1618-2018: Lecture 9: 1848 and the Impasse of Conservative Militarism in Prussia. The question here is: is Friedrich Engels threatening that the Angel of History will bring about the cultural elimination of the Slavic peoples of Greater Austria and Greater Hungary, or the physical elimination of the Slavic peoples of Greater Austria and Greater Hungary—"demographic replacement", either via exile or genocide?:

Adam Tooze: In February 1849 Frederick Engels wrote the following truly menacing lines for the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Engels championed the [Magyar] revolution in Hungary against both the Czechs and the Russians...

...The Magyars are not yet defeated. But if they fall, they will fall gloriously, as the last heroes of the 1848 revolution, and only for a short time. Then for a time, the Slav counter-revolution will sweep down on the Austrian monarchy with all its barbarity, and the camarilla will see what sort of allies it has. But at the first victorious uprising of the French proletariat… the Austrian Germans and Magyars will be set free and wreak a bloody revenge on the Slav barbarians.

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The Battle of Diu: Hoisted from the Archives

Hoisted from the Archives: The Battle of Diu (1509): One of the great might-have-beens in world history concerns the 1509 Battle of Diu. What if it had gone the other way? Or what if Sultans Beyezid II, Selim the Grim, Suleiman the Lawgiver, and Selim the Sot, and Murad III had shifted a small additional part of the military effort they were making in the Balkans and the Mediterranean into the Indian Ocean?...

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Should Kansas's (and Missouri's) Future Be "a Lot More Like Texas"?: Hoisted from the Archives

Clowns (ICP)

Hoisted from them Archives: Should Kansas's (and Missouri's) Future Be "a Lot More Like Texas"?: That is one of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's constant applause lines—that he wants Kansas to be a lot less like California and a lot more like Texas.And so I was reading Bryan Burrough on Erica Grieder: ‘Big, Hot, Cheap and Right’: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas.... Burrough applaud's Erica Grieder's "counter[ing] much of this silliness" that "Texas is corrupt, callous, racist, theocratic, stupid, belligerent, and most of all, dangerous.” The problem is that three paragraphs later Burrough is writing of how:

Texas’s laissez-faire mix of weak government, low taxes and scant regulations is deeply rooted in its 1876 Constitution, which was an attempt to vehemently dismantle an oppressive post-Civil War government of Radical Reconstructionists…

What was most "oppressive" about the Radical Reconstructionists? It was, of course, that they thought African-Americans should vote, and enabled them to do so.

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Am I the only one who remembers journamalist Erica Grieder's carrying water for Texas Governor Greg Abbott's tinfoil hat fear of Operation Jade Helm?: "Greg Abbott’s announcement... that he would direct the Texas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm... has been widely derided as political pandering, stoking paranoia, wasting state resources, and making Texas look silly. Way harsh, guys..." Bending over backward to claim tinfoil hat behavior is not tinfoil hat behavior is never "balance", guys: Cassandra Pollock and Alex Samuels: Hysteria Over Jade Helm Exercise in Texas Was Fueled by Russians, Former CIA Director Says: "Gov. Greg Abbott's decision in 2015 to ask the Texas State Guard to monitor a federal military exercise.... A former CIA director said Wednesday that the move emboldened Russians to next target elections...

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What Is the Proper Role of Weblogs in the 2020s?: I Asked My Readers, and They Have Said...

School of Athens

Comments of the Day:

Ezra Klein... was reminiscing about the early days of blogging and how that compares to the new, more popular formats, like Twitter. He made a good case. Twitter is more about talking to those who already agree with you and you really don't expect the person you're "responding" to in your tweets to engage with you. Blogs were often (though hardly always) intended to substantively engage with people you disagree with with the intention, or at least the hope, that that person will actually take what you say seriously and respond in a serious, substantive manner.... I do miss that meatier aspect of blogs, even if they didn't necessarily lead to energetic dialogues between people of differing viewpoints. At least they offered more of a possibility of that happening. So what I would suggest is: use the blog to create energetic dialogues between people of differing viewpoints. It could be used for, oh how could I describe it, maybe "Socratic" dialogues, but between real people even if they're not as witty as the pseudo-Greeks who occasionally pop up on "Grasping Reality".... And that's my what is old is new again idea!

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Economics Gone Right: Some Fairly-Recent Must- and Should-Reads

stacks and stacks of books

  • Cosma Shalizi (2012): In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You: "There’s lots to say about Red Plenty as a work of literature; I won’t do so.... Both neo-classical and Austrian economists make a fetish (in several senses) of markets and market prices. That this is crazy is reflected in the fact that even under capitalism, immense areas of the economy are not coordinated through the market..

  • The extremely wise Randall Munroe on the proper visual display of geographic quantitative information: Randall Munroe: xkcd: 2016 Election Map: "I like the idea of cartograms (distorted population maps), but I feel like in practice they often end up being the worst of both worlds—not great for showing geography OR counting people. And on top of that, they have all the problems of a chloro... chorophl... chloropet... map with areas colored in...

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But are we sure that our debts are in dollars? Would we know it if the big New York banks had been trying to boost their earnings by selling unhedged dollar puts, in the (probably correct) belief that if they all do this together they do not have a problem, the rest of us have a problem?: Paul Krugman: Opinion | Partying Like It’s 1998 - The New York Times: "Those of us who devoted a lot of time to understanding the Asian financial crisis two decades ago were wondering whether Turkey was going to stage a re-enactment. Sure enough...

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Ten Years and One Month Ago at Grasping Reality: July 12-14, 2008

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BBC Reality TV?: Andrew Samwick: "A News Program or Reality TV? | Capital Gains and Games: I agree with Stan—this post by Brad DeLong about his appearance opposite Grover Norquist on a BBC 'news' program is a classic.  If Norquist is the BBC's idea of a right-of-center expert on the challenges facing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the implications of those challenges for federal policy, then the BBC does not qualify as a news organization.  And as a result I care as much for its continued existence as I do any other reality TV program, which is not much at all..."

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The empirical studies are finding more and more hysteresis—more hysteresis in the sense of a persistent downward shadow cast by a recession than I would have believed likely. I keep hunting for something wrong with these studies. But there are too many of them. And they all—at least all those published that cross my desk—point in the same direction: Karl Walentin and Andreas Westermark: Stabilising the real economy increases average output: "DeLong and Summers (1989)... argue that (demand) stabilisation policies can affect the mean level of output and unemployment...

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People are not effective price-sensitive consumers for health insurance. We can argue why they are not. But first we need to admit that we are not: Zarek C. Brot-Goldberg, Amitabh Chandra, Benjamin R. Handel, and Jonathan T. Kolstad: What does a Deductible Do? The Impact of Cost-Sharing on Health Care Prices, Quantities, and Spending Dynamics: "We leverage a natural experiment at a large self-insured firm that required all of its employees to switch... to a nonlinear, high-deductible plan...

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2018 Fall DEVENG 215 Pre-Class Introduction and Notes

School of Athens

DEVENG 215: Global Poverty Challenges and Hopes: A Perspective for Development Engineers:

Discussion: J. Bradford DeLong: TU 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm Mulford 230
Lecture: Fatmir Haskaj: TU, TH 2:00 pm - 3:29 pm Valley Life Sciences 2050

This graduate Development Engineering class has the following goals:

  1. Assist students in orienting themselves to the current global debates about poverty and inequality by exposing them to alternative paradigms of development and welfare situated in their historical context.

  2. Assist students in familiarizing themselves with the institutions and actors—from the World Bank to global social movements, from national and local governments to nonprofits and NGOs, from multinational corporations to philanthropic foundations—attempting to act to diminish global poverty.

  3. Assist students in critically reflecting upon philosophies of global justice, the ethics of global citizenship, their own engagements with poverty action, and their own aspirations for social change.

  4. Prevent students from maintaining or accepting the the comfortable perception that poverty exists elsewhere, can be contained at a distance, does not affect them and their communities every day.

The hope is to accomplish all these tasks at the graduate student level, with a focus on how the social-political-economic context constrains and opens opportunities for successful Development Engineering. The hope is to do this on the cheap, without committing lots of additional resources.

My idea is to do this by building on the lectures and readings of Fatmir Haskaj's undergraduate course GPP 115: Global Poverty: Challenges and Hopes in the New Millennium. We will add additional readings and a graduate-level discussion seminar to attempt to supercharge what Fatmir does. Hence this syllabus incorporates-by-reference the GPP 115 syllabus…

Fatmir's course describes itself as:

seek[ing] to provide a rigorous understanding of 20th century development and thus 21st century poverty alleviation. Students will take a look at popular ideas of poverty alleviation, the institutional framework of poverty ideas and practices, and the social and political mobilizations that seek to transform the structures of poverty...

From the graduate Development Engineering Program perspective, this course—while completely fine for what it is—is not quite what we want. It is too "idealist"—incorporates too much of an implicit belief that once one understands the world, it will immediately become obvious how to change it, which belief is a common disease thought by academics like me. And it is too "macro"—individual development engineers are not going to lead social and political mobilizations and transform structures, but rather work in the context created by existing structures and mobilizations, in the hope of taking small steps in a good direction. Therefore post-lecture discussions will focus on: "OK. Very good. Now how does this affect how we will act when the rubber meets the road?"

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Weekend Reading: Stephen Fritz on Robert Citino's "Death Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942"

stacks and stacks of books

Stephen Fritz (2008): On Citino, 'Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942': "Continuing his examination of the German way of war, Robert Citino has produced a cogently argued, clearly written book in which he asserts that the German defeat in World War II was as much conceptual as it was material...

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The Vexed Question of Prussia in World History...

The proclamation of William I as German Emperor in the Hall of Stock Photo 61637437 Alamy

Reading Adam Tooze's powerpoints for his _War in Germany, 1618-1648 course, and thinking about the Vexed Question of Prussia in World History...

For a bit over the first half of the Long 20th Century global history was profoundly shaped by the peculiarity of Prussia. The standard account of this peculiarity—this sonderweg, sundered way, separate Prussian path—has traditionally seen it has having four aspects. Prussia—and the "small German" national state of which it was the nucleus—managed to simultaneously, over 1865-1945:

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Globalization: Some Fairly-Recent Should- and Must-Reads

stacks and stacks of books

  • Marti Sandbu: EuroTragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts, by Ashoka Mody: "Writing about the euro... doing justice to the technicalities threatens to kill any narrative, while simplified storytelling risks misguided analysis. Ashoka Mody’s... is an ambitious attempt to avoid this trap...

  • We really do not know what effect a trade war would have on the global economy. All of our baselines are based off of what has happened in the past, long before the age of highly integrated global value chains. It could be small. It could be big. The real forecast is: we just do not yet know: Dan McCrum: Trade tension and China : "The war on trade started by the Trump administration is percolating through the world's analytical apparatus.... Tariffs could be bad for the global pace of economic activity, but only if the economic warfare escalates...

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Thomas Babington Macaulay (1831): Speech on the Great Reform Bill (March 2): "Reform, That You May Preserve": Weekend Reading

William Hogarth 032 Reform Act 1832 Wikipedia

Thomas Babington Macaulay: Ministerial Plan of Parliamentary Reform: "It is a circumstance, Sir, of happy augury for the measure before the House, that almost all those who have opposed it have declared themselves altogether hostile to the principle of Reform...

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Weekend Reading: Judith Shklar: The LIberalism of Fear

School of Athens

Judith Shklar (1989): The Liberalism of Fear: "The liberalism of fear... does not... offer a summum bonum... but it certainly does begin with a summum malum, which all of us know and would avoid if only we could. That evil is cruelty and the fear it inspires...

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Mass Politics and "Populism": An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century"

Il Quarto Stato

Once the people—the male people at first, and the white people overwhelmingly, and the adult people always, that is—had the vote, what were they going to do with it?


5.2.1: Inequality in the First Gilded Age: The coming of (white, male) democracy in the North Atlantic was all mixed up with the coming of modern industry—the move out of agriculture and into industrial and service occupations—the coming of the modern city (the move from the farm to someplace more densely populated), and the coming of heightened within-nation income inequality.

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As I often say, academic freedom is not "free speech". Universities are safe spaces for people to learn, for scholars to grow, and for ideas to be propounded and evaluated. You can argue—as Ernst Kantorowicz did, and as I more than half believe—that grownup full members of a university are their own sovereign judges of this propounding-and-evaluating business: that they are under an obligation to think as hard as they can and to argue fairly and fully for what they believe to be the truth, and that the sole sovereign judges of whether they have met this responsibility are their consciences day and their gods. And that makes it very, very important indeed to draw a clear line between those who can and those who cannot fulfill this responsibility: Dani Rodrik: No to Academic Normalization of Trump by Dani Rodrik: "Those who have served the current US president are necessarily tainted by the experience. While they should not be barred from speaking... they should be accorded none of the trappings of institutional esteem such as fellowships, named lectures, and keynote speeches...

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Alexander Hamilton's Constitutional Convention Speech, 18 June 1787: Weekend Reading

Constitutional convention Google Search

James Madison: [Alexander Hamilton's Constitutional Convention Speech, 18 June 1787]]( "Mr. Hamilton, had been hitherto silent on the business before the Convention, partly from respect to others whose superior abilities age and experience rendered him unwilling to bring forward ideas dissimilar to theirs...

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Ten Years Ago: A Federal Reserve Not Understanding the Situation at All

The Ahistorical Federal Reserve by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

Occurrences in August 5, 2008, FOMC Meeting Transcript:

322: Inflation
029: Liquidity
029: Spreads
028: Unemployment
011: Crisis
001: Solvency
000: Minsky
000: Lehman
000: Bear-Stearns

A Federal Reserve looking in exactly the wrong direction ten years ago: Federal Reserve: FOMC Meeting Transcript: BERNANKE: "On inflation, I do have concerns, as everyone else does.... We will continue to see that high level of prices being passed through into the core...

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It wasn't just right-wing politicians who "reframed the crisis as the result of out-of-control fiscal policy rather than the product of an out-of-control financial sector". I keep coming back and back again to the moment in January 2010 when Barack Obama cut us technocrats who knew what needed to be done off at the knees: "families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year. Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years..." Martin Wolf reviews Adam Tooz's book Crashed: Martin Wolf: What really went wrong in the 2008 financial crisis?: "'There is a striking similarity between the questions we ask about 1914 and 2008', writes Adam Tooze...

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