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March 2019

Branko Milanovic: A Grand Fresco: Francis Fukuym's "The Origins of Political Order': "When does the political order decay? When the state is incapable to reform itself  to respond to new challenges (say, a powerful neighbor) and when it gets repatrimonalized.  The decay section is not exactly novel (to  be unable to reform is not very original), but the emphasis on repatrimonization as the source of decay allows us to better see that the state remains an unnatural organization in the sense that it is permanently in danger of succumbing to the more atavistic instincts of human nature—to prefer own kin rather than be subject to impersonal rules...

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Any New York Times Employees Go Up to Bennet and Baquet Today to Say "You Are Really Screwing the Pooch by Keeping Bret Stephens on!"?

Clowns (ICP)

Bret Stephens is an ass. As are his bosses. Sister Souljah in context: 1992: In Her Own Disputed Words; Transcript of Interview That Spawned Souljah's Story:

Sister Souljah. Black people from the underclass and the so-called lower class do not respect the institutions of white America, which is why you can cart as many black people out on the television as you want to tell people in the lower and underclass that that was stupid, but they don't care what you say. You don't care about their lives, haven't added anything to the quality of their lives, haven't affectuated anything for the quality of their lives, and then expect them to respond to your opinions which mean absolutely nothing? Why would they?

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Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from Others' Archives from Six -and-a-HalfYears Ago: Dan Drezner on Chuck Lane

Clowns (ICP)

Every time I try to get out, they drag me back in...

Now I am being told that nobody with any audience ever thought 15/hour in California was a really bad idea. So time to recall this:

Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from Others' Archives: A correspondent asks me for help: Chuck Lane is being used as an authority on the California's 15/hr by 2023 minimum wage proposal. And Chuck Lane says:

A hot concept in wonkdom these days is “evidence-based policymaking.”… Gov. Jerry Brown and the state’s labor leaders have announced legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage… to $15 per hour…. Whatever else might be said about this plan, it does not represent an exercise in evidence-based policymaking. To the contrary: There’s a total lack of evidence that the potential benefits would outweigh potential costs—and ample reason to worry they would not…

Dan Drezner: Why I Don’t Need to Take Charles Lane Seriously: "The Washington Post’s Chuck Lane wrote an op-ed arguing in favor of Jeff Flake’s amendment... cut National Science Foundation funding for political science. In fact, Lane raised the ante, arguing that NSF should stop funding all of the social sciences, full stop. Now, I can respect someone who tries to make the argument that the opportunity costs of funding the social sciences are big enough that this is where a budget cut should take place.  It’s harder, however, to respect someone who: 

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Over the past three centuries success at economic development has always gone with an absolute conception of property rights. in China today, however ,your property rights are always conditional on your service to the state and on the power of your friends in the party. Thus American corporations and their American shareholders are going to find serving China’s market a very interesting thing indeed over the next generation:

Ben Thompson: China Blocks Bing; Tencent, China, and Apple;: "The warning signs for Apple are flashing bright red: not only is Apple the most successful hardware company in China (and, relatedly, the most successful software company), the company also runs by far the most profitable service. China is the biggest market for the App Store, and it is fair to wonder how long China will tolerate Apple’s total control of app installation for the iPhone...

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The great and the good of America's establishment have been unwilling to use the F-word as a label for the political movement that now rules in places like Hungary, Poland, India, and Brazil. But Madeleine Albright goes there: Sean Illing: "Fascism: A Warning" from Madeleine Albright: "A seasoned US diplomat is not someone you’d expect to write a book with the ominous title Fascism: A Warning. But that is what Madeleine Albright, who served as the first female secretary of state from 1997 to 2001, has done—and it’s not a reassuring read. In it, she sounds the alarm about the erosion of liberal democracy, both in the US and across the world, and the rise of what she describes as a 'fascist threat'. And yes, she talks about President Donald Trump...

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Via Adrienne Porter Felt: A "SMASH THAT LIKE BUTTON!!' from 1355: William: William and the Werewolf:

...And there he saw the lovely child, weeping in that horrible hollow, clothed like a king's son.

So ends the first part of this tale. All who would like to hear more should offer an 'Our Father' to the High King of Heaven for the noble Earl of Hereford, Sir Humphrey de Bohun, nephew of old King Edward who lies at Gloucester. For he is the first to have this tale translated from French into English for the benefit of all Englishmen; whoever prays thus, may God grant him bliss!

The cowherd's wife looked after the little boy as though he were her own son...

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I do not think that Steve Moore was "an amiable guy" to the people of Kansas (except for those who benefitted from his pass-through loophole). I would accept "a seemingly-amiable grifter", but "an amiable guy" seems to me to miss the mark...

Now where are all the other professional Republican economists? Coming out against Moore-to-the-Fed is a really cheap and easy virtue signal to make even if you are not virtuous at all. Failing to come out against Moore-to-the-Fed is to send a strong vice signal to the administration, and the world:

Greg Mankiw: Memo to Senate: Just Say No: "The president nominates Stephen Moore to be a Fed governor. Steve is a perfectly amiable guy, but he does not have the intellectual gravitas for this important job.... It is time for Senators to do their job. Mr. Moore should not be confirmed...

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David Glasner: James Buchanan Calling the Kettle Black: Weekend Reading

San Francisco from Abovee Berkeley

IIR, back in 1986 I was one of two two people at the MIT economics Wednesday faculty lunch willing to say that I thought the award of the Nobel Prize to James Buchanan was not a travesty and a mistake. I would now like to withdraw that opinion.

Buchanan was a hedgehog. Hedgehogs are wise in one big thing and very stupid otherwise. They may be intellectually useful for a community, or they may be tremendously destructive—it depends. But they are not wise. And they should not be given prizes that lead outsiders to think that they are wise:

David Glasner: James Buchanan Calling the Kettle Black: "In the wake of the tragic death of Alan Krueger, attention has been drawn to an implicitly defamatory statement by James Buchanan about those who, like Krueger, dared question the orthodox position taken by most economists that minimum-wage laws increase unemployment among low-wage, low-skilled workers whose productivity, at the margin, is less than the minimum wage that employers are required to pay employees. Here is Buchanan’s statement...

...The inverse relationship between quantity demanded and price is the core proposition in economic science, which embodies the presupposition that human choice behavior is sufficiently relational to allow predictions to be made. Just as no physicist would claim that “water runs uphill,” no self-respecting economist would claim that increases in the minimum wage increase employment. Such a claim, if seriously advanced, becomes equivalent to a denial that there is even minimal scientific content in economics, and that, in consequence, economists can do nothing but write as advocates for ideological interests. Fortunately, only a handful of economists are willing to throw over the teachings of two centuries; we have not yet become a bevy of camp-following whores.

Wholly apart from its odious metaphorical characterization of those he was criticizing, Buchanan’s assertion was substantively problematic....

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Leonid Bershidsky: Russia's Annexation of Crimea 5 Years Ago Has Cost Putin Dearly - Bloomberg: "His overconfidence after the successful annexation lured him into a trap where he lost all bargaining power: Five years ago, on March 16, 2014, the Kremlin held a fake referendum in Crimea to justify after the fact the peninsula’s annexation from Ukraine.... The highest cost to Putin came in bargaining power rather than in cash. Immediately after Crimea, geopolitical bargains were still possible for Putin.... After the eastern Ukraine adventure, and especially after the downing of Flight MH17 and all the laughable Russian denials that followed, his credibility was shot. Nobody knew if he would keep his end of any bargain.... Putin’s lack of credibility is an important reason he can’t build any alliances at all.... At the same time, Russians’ post-Crimea enthusiasm is gone, eroded by six years of falling incomes.... Russia, the world and, likely, parts of the Russian establishment are waiting for Putin to go, even if no one can make him leave.... Meanwhile, Fortress Russia is locked and no one’s coming to parley...

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I confess, I do not understand any of these three objections: (1) Weinberg is disturbed by many-worlds just as earlier physicists were disturbed by quantum waves, but the universe does not care and does not avoid every feature that might disturb East African Plains Apes. (2) The Born rule is a problem for all formulations of quantum mechanics, but many-worlds has come closer to it than any other formulation and may well have derived it. (3) The non-locality of EPR, "entanglement", and "spukhafte Fernwirkung" is not a problem for many-worlds, but rather a problem for all other formulations—including instrumentalist ones—as Sidney Coleman said, it's either "quantum mechanics in your face" or non-locality; it's not "quantum mechanics in your face" and non-locality: Steven Weinberg: The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics: "The realist approach has a very strange implication... Hugh Everett... The vista of all these parallel histories is deeply unsettling, and like many other physicists I would prefer a single history. There is another thing that is unsatisfactory about the realist approach.... We can still talk of probabilities as the fractions of the time that various possible results are found when measurements are performed many times in any one history.... Several attempts following the realist approach have come close to deducing rules like the Born rule that we know work well experimentally, but I think without final success. The realist approach to quantum mechanics had already run into a different sort of trouble... Einstein... Podolsky and... Rosen... 'entanglement'.... Strange as it is, the entanglement entailed by quantum mechanics is actually observed experimentally. But how can something so nonlocal represent reality?...

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Comment of the Day: Graydon: "Education could do with much, much more of 'theory informs; practice convinces'. If you want people to exhibit empathy for those whose state is not theirs and whose expertise is different, you need to make most of education involve failure; do this material thing at which you are unskilled. Allowing education to be narrow, and to avoid all reminder that the world is wider and that to a first approximation everyone is utterly incompetent, just encourages arrogance. Arrogance is terrible insecurity management; it makes the other monkeys less inclined to help you. (Yes of course we should overtly teach both insecurity management and band-forming best practices in simple overt language.)...

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Note to Self: There are few enough things in the world or concerning the state of the (non-House) federal government to be thankful for these days. But one i that, despite his enormous deficits and unfitness for the office of president, Donald Trump is not a chickenhawk:

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Hoisted from the Archiyes: Why We Hate Chickenhawks: Selections from SFF Author David Drake

Hammers slammers Google Search

David Drake, a good chunk of whose work is best classified as horror and is really about his experiences as an interrogator in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the "Blackhorse", when it went through the Cambodian market town of Snuol:

I [now] had much more vivid horrors than Lovecraft's nameless ickinesses to write about.... I wrote about troopers doing their jobs the best they could with tanks that broke down, guns that jammed—and no clue about the Big Picture.... I kept the tone unemotional: I didn't tell the reader that something was horrible, because nobody told me.... Those stories... were different. They didn't fit either of the available molds: "Soldiers are spotless heroes," or... "Soldiers are evil monsters"... [...] The... stories were written with a flat affect, describing cruelty and horror with the detachment of a soldier who's shut down his emotional responses completely in a war zone... as soldiers always do, because otherwise they wouldn't be able to survive. Showing soldiers behaving and thinking as they really do in war was... extremely disquieting to the civilians who were editing magazines...

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Hoisted from the Archives: Why We Have Good Reason to Hate Chickenhawks

I need an adult How are you supposed to even play Muscovy in ironman eu4

Hard Power, Soft Power, Muscovy, Strategy, and My Once-Again Failure to Understand Where Niall Ferguson Is Coming From: Live from Le Pain Quotidien: In which I once again fail to understand where Niall Ferguson is coming from:

Niall Ferguson: The ‘Divergent’ World of 2015: "Hard power is resilient...

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The Fed Should Buy Recession Insurance: Now Not Quite so Fresh at Project Syndicate

Hundred Dollar Bill Peel and Stick Jumbo Size Removable Wall Decal 100 Dollar Bill Google Express

Now Not Quite so Fresh at Project Syndicate: The Fed Should Buy Recession Insurance: If the United States falls into recession in the next year or two, the US Federal Reserve may have very little room to loosen policy, yet it is not taking any steps to cover that risk. Unless the Fed rectifies this soon, the US–and the world–may well face much bigger problems later.

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Lesson one of central banking: yield curve inversion should only be allowed when the central bank wants to push inflation down. So what does the Fed think it's doing? Is it that confident that the bond market does not know what it is doing? Show me any optimal control exercise that says that right now is a good time to allow yield curve inversion: Vildana Hajric and Sarah Ponczek: Stock Market Today: Dow, S&P Live Updates for March 22, 2019: "U.S. equities fell and Treasuries rose after miserable data from the German manufacturing sector.... The yield on 10-year Treasuries, already at a more-than-one-year low, extended its decline. The three-year/10-year yield curve inverted for the first time since 2007...

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This Has Certainly Been One Crazifying Fed Tightening Cycle...

FRED Graph FRED St Louis Fed

This has certainly been one crazifying Fed tightening cycle.

The 10-year nominal Treasury rate is only 0.2%-points higher than it was back in mid-2015, when liftoff appears imminent. the 10-year real rate is back where it started at 0.65, after having gone as low as zero and as high as 1.1%. And—unless it is triggered by strong good growth news—any further increase in the federal funds rate would invert the yield curve, which the Federal Reserve has decided not to do.

I really wish I had some idea of just what the Federal Reserve plans to do to fight the next recession, whenever the next recession come along. It has know since at least mid-2010 that the bond market believes that secular stagnation—at least in its effect on long-term interest rates—is a very real thing.

Presumably the Fed still believes that when the next recession comes it has one job: to drop the 10-year real Treasury rate so that expanded construction and exports can take up some of the emerging labor-market slack and so cushion the downturn. But I have no idea what policies it thinks it will pursue that will accomplish that...

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A Baker's Dozen of Books Worth Reading... (2019-03-21)

The Vela

  1. The Vela
  2. Barbara Chase-Ribaud: Sally Hemings; A Novel
  3. Annette Gordon-Reed: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy
  4. Kevin O'Rourke: A Short History of Brexit
  5. E.M. Halliday: Understanding Thomas Jefferson
  6. Guy Gavriel Kay: A Song for Arbonne
  7. Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin
  8. Keri Leigh Merritt: Masterless Men
  9. Gareth Dale: Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left
  10. Philip Auerswald: The Code Economy: A Forty-thousand-year History
  11. John Judis: The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization
  12. Richard Baldwin: The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work
  13. Patricia Crone: Pre-Industrial Societies: Anatomy of the Pre-Modern World

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Martin Wolf: Theresa May Is Taking a Hideous Brexit Gamble: "Why, then is the prime minister so set on getting this deal through parliament? It is surely because she believes it is the only way to achieve three conflicting objectives at one and the same time: keep her party united; agree with the EU; and deliver the promised Brexit. These objectives are not unreasonable.... But sticking so doggedly to this strategy is also extremely risky...

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Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (March 21, 2019)


  1. David Warsh: Austerity is Defunct: "Long-term stagnation is a real possibility...

  2. Wikipedia: Gregor MacGregor

  3. Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen: Quantum Computing for the Very Curious: "Presented in an experimental mnemonic medium, which makes it almost effortless to remember what you read...

  4. Remaniacs Podcast

  5. Laura Tyson and Susan Lund: The Blind Spot in the Trade Debate: "Digital flows and services.... As governments assess their external balances and competitive positions, hammer out trade deals, and set national policy agendas, they need to look beyond manufacturing and agriculture...

  6. Notice anyone missing from Clive Crook's list of Brexit villains? That's right: no Johnsons, no Farages, no ERGs. Somehow the right-wing nutjobs whom he has spent so much of his career carrying water for have no agency, and so are not worth mentioning as bearing responsibility. Bless their little hearts: Clive Crook: Britain’s Next Great Brexit Mistake: "No great regard for the EU.... Cameron’s bungling.... Rarely... did May miss a chance to make things worse.... This pitiful result... the Remain majority in Parliament chose to let it happen...

  7. Casey Newton: Instagram's Reckoning Arrives

  8. Petitions: Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU: "The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is 'the will of the people'. We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now, for remaining in the EU. A People's Vote may not happen-so vote now...

  9. Robert Shrimsley: No words: "We're close to a gangrene moment" said one senior European Commission official...

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Comment of the Day: Erik Lund: "In later stages, the AI taught itself to recognise school ties and to perform Masonic handshakes. Unfortunately, on being informed that software wasn't eligible for Skull and Bones or Opus Dei, it became critically unstable and tried to run away to join SEAL Team 6...

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I agree. This is bending to reality. But the reality has only changed a little bit since last December: John Authers: Federal Reserve Bends to Economic Reality: "Looking at various recession indicators, several of which are produced by the Fed, it looks as though Powell may be bending to the evidence of economic trouble ahead and not, as many claim, bending to pressure from the financial markets...

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John Authers: Things Are Finally Looking Up for Theresa May: "EU... patience has run out and they do not want to waste more time waiting for the infuriating British to make up their minds.... EU leaders have decided that they are ready for a no-deal Brexit and could handle the consequences. This is probably not true of the U.K. And so the EU is prepared to risk forcing the issue, and forsaking the (still slim) chance that the U.K. might yet decide to stay. Thus, Theresa May, for whom personal support appears to have evaporated, might conceivably be in position to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat...

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The real lesson, I think, from AI-machine learning is that AI-machine learning is a lot like "human judgment"—we have remarkably little insight into what features decisions of the situation are salient to the mind or to the whatever that is actually making the deciding. Thus this is not just a cautionry tale for AI-machine learning, it is also a cautionary tale for human "experts": Andrew Hill: Amazon Offers Cautionary Tale Of AI-Assisted Hiring: "Amazon, one of the most innovative and data-rich companies in the world, leapt on that possibility as early as 2014. It built a recruiting engine that analysed applications submitted to the group over the preceding decade and identified patterns. The idea was it would then spot candidates in the job market who would be worth recruiting...

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In response to a query from Nancy M. Birdsall on what are the most important contributions to feminist economics, Equitable Growth's Kate Bahn provides a shoutout to, among others, my college classmate Joyce Jacobsen of Wesleyan—who got me my first economics RA job: Kate Bahn: "Some good resources are Beyond Economic Man and Toward a Feminist Philosophy of Economics. I particularly like Joyce Jacobsen's essay on 'Some implications of the feminist project in economics for empirical methodology' in the latter...

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Dani Rodrik has, I think, a better way to frame the problems that he and Richard Baldwin are both thinking about this winter: Dani Rodrik: The Good Jobs Challenge: "[For] developing countries... existing technologies allow insufficient room for factor substitution: using less-skilled labor instead of skilled professionals or physical capital. The demanding quality standards needed to supply global value chains cannot be easily met by replacing machines with manual labor. This is why globally integrated production in even the most labor-abundant countries, such as India or Ethiopia, relies on relatively capital-intensive methods.... The standard remedy of improving educational institutions does not yield near-term benefits, while the economy’s most advanced sectors are unable to absorb the excess supply of low-skilled workers. Solving this problem may require... boosting an intermediate range of labor-intensive, low-skilled economic activities. Tourism and non-traditional agriculture... public employment ... non-tradable services carried out by small and medium-size enterprises, will not be among the most productive, which is why they are rarely the focus of industrial or innovation policies. But they may still provide significantly better jobs than the alternatives in the informal sector...

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Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, newly-installed over at EPI, is doing a bang-up job: Pedro Nicolaci da Costa: These 5 Charts Show Inequality Is Bad for Your Health—Even If You Are Rich: "Pickett and Wilkinson kept coming back to a single uniting factor—inequality: 'What the research shows—not just ours but that of hundreds of researchers around the world—is that inequality brings out features of our evolved psychology, to do with dominance and subordination, superiority and inferiority, and that affects how we treat one another and ourselves, it increases status competition and anxiety, anxieties about our self worth, worries about how we are seen and judged'.... Here are five charts from their presentation...

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Question: How long before internet searches for "Delong economist" come up not with me but with this guy?: Delong Meng: Optimal Mechanisms for Repeated Communication: "We consider a repeated communication model with a long-run sender and a long-run receiver.... A biased adviser who prefers policy θ + b, whereas the receiver wants to implement policy θ. The sender’s utility is uS(a,θ) = -(a−θ−b)2, and the receiver’s utility is uR(a,θ)= −(a−θ)2.... For the optimal mechanism the receiver chooses a function a(ht) that maximizes her expected payoff with respect to the sender’s incentive constraint.... We characterize the payoff set as the discount factor goes to one, and we analyze the rate of convergence to points on the frontier of this limit payoff set...

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Andrew Rilstone: The Opening of the Gospel of Mark: "I almost wish that Mark's Gospel could be presented in some kind of Tony Harrison pidgin: 'God-Is-Gracious dips people in the Desolation./God-Is-Gracious heralds dipping to change their minds and undo their near-misses./Everyone from Praise-Land comes!/Everyone from Peace-town!/They are all dipped in the Flowing/Acknowledging their near-misses...

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A brilliant paper. But I have a worry: those at the upper tail of the income distribution are, to a substantial degree, those whose broadly-construed portfolios are ludicrously risky who happen to be unusually lucky. I am not sure they have properly accounted for luck here: Matthew Smith, Danny Yagan, Owen M. Zidar, and Eric Zwick: Capitalists in the Twenty-First Century: "Entrepreneurs who actively manage their firms are key for top income inequality. Most top income is non-wage income, a primary source of which is private business profit. These profits accrue to working-age owners of closely-held, mid-market firms in skill-intensive industries. Private business profit falls by three-quarters after owner retirement or premature death...

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Raising the Curtain: Trade and Empire

Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"

Il Quarto Stato

Raising the Curtain: The Long Twentieth Century—Trade and Empire

The extent to which the navies and trading fleets of the great European sea-borne empires of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries shaped the industrial development of western Europe has always been one of the most fiercely-debated and unsettled topics in economic history. That European expansion in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries were catastrophes for the regions of west Africa that were the sources of the slave trade; for the Amerindians of the Caribbean; for the Aztecs, Incas, the mound-builders of the Mississippi valley; and for the princes of Bengal and others who found themselves competing with the British East India Company in the succession wars over the spoils of India’s Moghul Empire—that is not in dispute.

But how much did pre-industrial trade and plunder affect European development? That is not so clear.

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James Felton: Nine days from ‘Brexit day’, does anyone have a clue what’s happening?: "We’re begging for an extension and seeking trade deals with the mighty Liechtenstein. Everything is fine.... It was admittedly quite funny that Theresa May is in the position of defending getting people to vote over and over again until she gets the result that she wanted.... After the announcement, some ERG members expressed dismay that they weren’t allowed to vote again (see how funny this is?) Strongly approve of Bercow making decisions based on how funny they are to people who retain the capacity for rational thinking)....If only they’d treated the meaningful vote more like a meaningful vote and less like tantric legislative foreplay before a full 29 March climax, but you live and learn.... So here we are. Nine days to go, hoping that 27 countries that May said would be crushed if they didn’t offer her a good deal are kind enough to all let us stay a little longer if we beg. If we’ve annoyed any one of them enough, say, by calling them Nazis or likening them to Soviet prisons for the past three years, they could veto our extension...

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“An Extraordinary Episode in the Economic Progress of Man!”: Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-1914"


Il Quarto Stato

“An Extraordinary Episode in the Economic Progress of Man!”

Yet all in all it is not possible to see the 1870-1914 making of the single global economy—and society—as anything other than an extraordinary and wonderful episode in the history of humanity. Looking back from 1919 on the optimistic, economists’ world that he had thought he had lived in up until the start of World War I in August 1914, John Maynard Keynes wrote, in his Keynes-centric upper-class-focused way:

What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August, 1914!... Conveniences, comforts, and amenities beyond the compass of the richest and most powerful monarchs of other ages. The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages.... He could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate....

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Six Migrants and Their Descendants Who Made History: Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"


Il Quarto Stato

Six migrants and their descendants who made a lot of our history:

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"A 'period'... could be three years, or it could be 20": Paul Krugman (May 1998): Japan's Trap: "The basic premise-that even a zero nominal interest rate is not enough to produce sufficient aggregate demand-is not hypothetical: it is a simple fact about Japan right now. Unless one can make a convincing case that structural reform or fiscal expansion will provide the necessary demand, the only way to expand the economy is to reduce the real interest rate; and the only way to do that is to create expectations of inflation...

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Wise from Simon: a "Green New Deal" needs to be not just technocratically efficient but politically popular: Simon Wren-Lewis: How to Pay for the Green New Deal: "Tackling climate change is resisted by powerful political forces that have in the past prevented the appropriate taxes, subsidies and regulations being applied. Which is a major reason why the world has failed to do enough to mitigate climate change.... Just as proponents of a Green New Deal are savvy about the need to overcome the resistance of, for example, the oil and gas industry, they also realise that the Green New Deal needs to be politically popular. So the New Deal package has to include current benefits for the many, perhaps at the expense of the few.... If you cannot make the polluter pay, it is still better to take action to stop climate change even if future generations have to pay the cost of that action...

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Jacob Levy: Democracy for Republicans: "American conservatism and market liberalism... overlook the deep relationship between democratic government and modern commercial capitalism.... The kind of positive-sum market economy that has transformed the world since 1800 through compounding productivity increases and economic growth is very different from the ancient Rome riven by class conflicts over zero-sum land distribution, but the Founders understood the Roman precedents better than they understood the world that was about to emerge. And that economic world emerged with, not against, the development of a kind of democratic government they also did not foresee, government by contending, permanent political parties alternating in power by competing for votes in a mass-suffrage society...

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Excellent insight into police-community relations in America from a very observant and thoughtful peace officer: Patrick Skinner: "One of the questions I ask every class: When was the last time you had a positive encounter with a cop who didn’t know you were a cop in which she wasn’t telling you to do something (Traffic) or you weren’t asking something. The answer 100% has been ‘never’. That’s an issue.... I’m speaking to literally the most cop supportive group-other cops-and they can’t think of a positive voluntary encounter with a cop. The problem isn’t our neighbors. It’s us the cops. It doesn’t have to be this way. So, that’s my whole 1 day course kinda.... We need to train cops entirely as if they didn’t have a badge and a gun. And only at the end say ‘by the way, you have this authority, use it as a parachute.’ The badge gets you in the door. The rest is anti-drama. Act accordingly...

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Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (March 20, 2019)


  1. Jennifer Jensen Wallach (2002): The Vindication of Fawn Brodie: "Julian Bond... articulated the feelings of many black Americans when he said: 'Through all my life, as long as I have known there was a Thomas Jefferson, I have known there was a Sally Hemings. And I have known, not in a... scholarly way... I know this relationship existed and while, I cannot prove it, I don't find it at all odd that it might have, or could have, or actually did happen. A man who owns slaves is not far away from one who will sleep with his slave.... Brodie noted that: /The unanimity with which Jefferson male biographers deny him even one richly intimate love affair after his wife's death suggests that something is at work here that has little to do with scholarship, especially since they are so gifted in writing about every other aspect of his life'...

  2. Fawn M. Brodie (1971): Jefferson Biographers and the Psychology of Canonization: "The women who have written about Jefferson in Paris see neither inhibitions nor 'hangups', nor an absurd preoccupation with the god of reason; they also read the Cosway letters without preconceptions about Jefferson's lack of masculinity.... One could continue, in describing the varied biographical treatment ofJefferson's intimate life, by discussing the ancient, controversial story of Sally Hemings. The documentation is so scattered and complicated, however, that it deserves a small volume in itself, and simply cannot be adequately reported in this essay.... Malone, who finds the story even more abhorrent than does Peterson, devotes a whole appendix in his new volume to a discussion of the evidence. He holds that the father of Sally Hemings's children may have been Peter Carr, but that it was more likely to have been his dissolute brother Samuel. 'It is virtually inconceivable', he writes ofJefferson, 'that this fastidious gentleman whose devotion to his dead wife's memory and to the happiness of his daughters and grandchildren bordered on the excessive could have carried on through a period of years a vulgar liaison which his own family could not have failed to detect'.... The unanimity with which Jefferson male biographers deny him even one richly intimate love affair after his wife's death suggests that something is at work here that has little to do with scholarship, especially since they are so gifted in writing about every other aspect of his life...

  3. E. M. Halliday (2001): Understanding Thomas Jefferson

  4. The very sharp John Lukacs on what I call "fascism"—proletarian ethnoi that need to fight enemies foreign and domestic with economic cleavages within the ethnoi papered over, rather than proletarian classes that need the economic system unrigged. For some reason he calls it "nationalism", which I think is properly something different: there may well be elective affinity between belief in the nation-state as a political and sociological community and fascism, but it is certainly not an identity: John Lukacs: The Duel: The Eighty Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler: "The principal force of the twentieth century is nationalism...

  5. Brilliant from my freshman roommate Robert Waldmann: Robert Waldmann: The Transformation of Left Neoliberalism: " We should want a small state, but the key is a small surface area not a small volume. Shrinking the state by drilling so there are private-sector salients worsens the problem...

  6. David Brooks: The Case for Reparations: "Sitting, for example, with an elderly black woman in South Carolina shaking in rage because the kids in her neighborhood face greater challenges than she did growing up in 1953...

  7. Brishen Rogers: Beyond Automation: The Law & Political Economy of Workplace Technological Change: "Companies are, however, using new information technologies to exercise power over workers in other ways, all of which are enabled by existing employment laws...

  8. Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman: Screenplay: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

  9. Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo (2007): The Economic Lives of the Poor

  10. Wikipedia: Greek to me: "It may have been a direct translation of a similar phrase in Latin: 'Graecum est; non legitur'...

  11. Daniel Davies: One-Minute MBA

  12. David Leonhardt: Trump’s Trade Grade: "'He set out to fix a non-problem (a trade deficit) and created real ones including international conflict, higher consumer prices and gross inefficiency'...

  13. George Magnus: China Leadership Monitor: "Before the 1980s and again since 2012, when reforms were suppressed or stifled and inputs were boosted, but without any improvements...

  14. Jonathan Bernstein: 2020 Elections: Far Left Won’t Take Over the Democratic Party: "It lost five of six presidential elections through 1988. The Democratic Leadership Council of that era was split...

  15. SF Eater: Ginto Izakaya Japonaise

  16. Ramen Shop

  17. Iyasare

  18. *Gregory Travis *: 737 MAX Article

  19. Juliane Stockman: @JulianeStockman: "If you haven't subscribed to @tressiemcphd, you need to.... I'm gonna have to journal about this months' essay. Hell, I'm probably gonna take it into therapy to process it. It packs a wallop...

  20. John Harwood: @JohnJHarwood: "Trump/GOP promised lasting 3+% growth from self-financing tax-cuts. Mainstream economists predicted brief deficit-fueled growth burst...

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"The... value of names... was changed into arbitrary.... Inconsiderate boldness, was counted true–hearted manliness: provident deliberation, a handsome fear: modesty, the cloak of cowardice: to be wise in every thing, to be lazy in every thing. A furious suddenness was reputed a point of valour. To re–advise for the better security, was held for a fair pretext of tergiversation. He that was fierce, was always trusty; and he that contraried such a one, was suspected. He that did insidiate, if it took, was a wise man; but he that could smell out a trap laid, a more dangerous man than he. But he that had been so provident as not to need to do the one or the other, was said to be a dissolver of society, and one that stood in fear of his adversary.

"In brief, he that could outstrip another in the doing of an evil act, or that could persuade another thereto that never meant it, was commended.... To be revenged was in more request than never to have received injury. And for oaths (when any were) of reconcilement, being administered in the present for necessity, were of force to such as had otherwise no power; but upon opportunity, he that first durst thought his revenge sweeter by the trust, than if he had taken the open way. For they did not only put to account the safeness of that course, but having circumvented their adversary by fraud, assumed to themselves withal a mastery in point of wit. And dishonest men for the most part are sooner called able, than simple men honest: and men are ashamed of this title, but take a pride in the other...":

Neville Morley: Lawful Neutral?: "Victor Davis Hanson, and the use of ‘consensual’ to describe attempts at doing without the active consent of the governed is a neat trick.... Hanson['s]... first chapter explicitly presents The Two Americas as an echo of Athens v Sparta, sophisticated coastal elites versus rough unlettered rural folk, with the majority of Greek poleis rooting for the later. Hanson presents himself as the detached observer, who lives among the real people of the countryside on his ancestral estate but knows his way around the world of the city–and so his choice to side with the ‘Spartans’ is based on full knowledge and understanding of both sides, not the ignorance of knowing no other way of life (a fault of the clever Californian and Beltway elites as well).... His depiction of a divided America is Thucydidean not only in its chosen tropes but in authorial self-conception: he... recognises, even as he recoils from... the charisma and power of a Cleon, despising and desiring at the same time his rough anti-aristocratic manliness; Cleon’s methods are not those of Thucydides’ class, but they promise to have the desired effect on the corrupt status quo, simultaneously too democratic and anti-populist. This Thucydides is Chaotic Evil: dedicated (even if just as cheer-leader) to... the triumph of individualism and naked self-interest.... As Thucydides described and this modern Thucydides exemplifies, every action is praiseworthy insofar as it benefits one’s own faction and hurts the enemy, and reckless vulgarity and self-interest are redefined as the traits of an off-putting Homeric hero...

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I am of the view that a surprisingly large chunk of American (and British) political history from 1990-2020 may well turn out in historians' future judgments to revolve around Rupert the Kingmaker, in a role analogous—but in a really weird way—to the role of the Earl of Warwick in the Wars of the Roses.

As David Frum once put it: "We thought that Fox News worked for us, but then we learned that we worked for Fox News".

Thus the Murdoch succession—the transition from Rupert the Decider to Lachlan the Decider may well be a key moment. Rupert thinks it is a huge joke to boost his fortune by scaring the piss out of his viewers and so glueing their eyeballs to the screen so they can be sold fake diabetes cures and overpriced gold funds. Rupert thinks this is a huge joke even though—or, rather, especially because—it leads to him getting lots of side-eye from his peers.

Lachlan is likely to value the side-eye less, if it all, and value being one of the great-and-good in good standing more: Steve M.: Is This Why Fox Suspended Jeanine Pirro?: "I don't believe there'll really be major changes at Fox. I think the hope is that small, insignificant steps will bamboozle investors and advertisers. But we'll see...

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Benjamin Wittes: ‘Speaking Indictments’ by Robert S. Mueller III: "Bob Mueller has already told a remarkable story. He’s told it scattered through different court filings in a variety of cases, indictments, plea agreements, stipulations of fact. We decided to distill it, to organize it, to put it all in one place, to tell the story of the Russia investigation orally, to let a remarkable group of speakers read the speaking indictments that Mueller has issued. So here’s the story of the Russia conspiracy, distilled to a brief audiobook in seven chapters. What you’re about to hear is all taken nearly verbatim from actual Bob Mueller filings. We’ve cut a lot, moved stuff around, and changed a few words here and there to make it sound more like a narrative. We have changed the meaning not at all...

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The Disjunction Between Production and Distribution: An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016

Il Quarto Stato


In the world as it stood in 1870–and even more so in 1914—there was a huge disjunction between the growing effective economic power of the human race and the proper distribution of this potential wealth. Science, technology, and organization were clearly wreaking miracles. The rewards, however, were not going to the scientists and the engineers and the workers, but to the landlords and the financiers and to the organizer-entrepreneurs. The sociological contribution of this latter group in creating organizations and setting them in motion was mighty. Best friends Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels probably put it best in 1848:

The business class, during… scarce 100 years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to [hu]man[ity], machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?…

However, the benefits of greater human power to harvest fruits from nature and organize persons did not trickle down. There were, broadly speaking, as of 1870 three views about why it did not trickle down; and about what, if anything, ought to be done about it:

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