Previous month:
March 2019
Next month:
May 2019

April 2019

Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (April 21-2, 2019)

6a00e551f080038834022ad3b05124200d

  • Across the Wide Missouri: Is tonight the Game of Thrones episode when Tony Stark shows up? Asking for a friend...

  1. Jeffrey Adam Sachs: The “Campus Free Speech Crisis” Ended Last Year: "The evidence for a chilling effect... is sketchy at best. By contrast, the evidence for a heating effect is quite robust. Many students explain that the only reason they choose to invite controversial speakers to campus is to challenge or provoke their classmates.... Turning Point USA and Young America’s Foundation proudly tout the ability of their speakers to 'trigger' liberal students. In fact, generating student outrage, even to the point of being deplatformed, has become such a badge of honor that some speakers are fabricating deplatforming incidents where none exist...

  2. Wikipedia: Evolution of Nervous Systems

  3. Wikipedia: Apple A12

  4. Joanna Stern: This Was Supposed to Be a Samsung Galaxy Fold Video Review: "Whatever You Do, Don't Peel The Screen.... WSJ's Joanna Stern had big plans to review Samsung's first foldable phone. Then other Samsung phone screens started breaking and she accidentally began to peel off the screen protector that's not really a screen protector. Here's her non-review...

  5. Dietrich Vollrath: Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success https://books.google.com/books?isbn=022666600X

Continue reading "Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (April 21-2, 2019)" »


Scott Sumner: What Lessons Do Conservatives Need to Learn?: "If the conservative movement were serious about learning from their mistakes in the early 2010s, they’d be looking at the group that provided the most accurate description of what was likely to happen, especially given that this group has a number of people with right-of-center views on economic policy issues.  They’d be embracing market monetarism and encouraging Trump to nominate David Beckworth to the Fed, not Herman Cain and Steve Moore.  Don’t hold your breath, as this not about getting to the truth...

Continue reading "" »


Some of us may be intellectually quicker than others. Some of us may have a greater breadth or depth of real or virtual experience than others. But intellectual quickness, depth or breadth of experience, and depth or breadth of virtual experience—none of those make us smart, or wise. Being stupid is a choice. We can all train ourselves not to make that choice:

Morgan Housel: Different Kinds of Stupid: "Smart is the ability to solve hard problems, which can be done many ways. Stupid is a tendency to not comprehend easy problems. It’s also is a diversified trait. A few kinds of stupid.... 1. Intelligence creep: Not knowing the boundaries of what you’re good at.... 2. Underestimating the complexity of how past successes were gained in a way that makes you overestimate their repeatability.... 3. Discounting the views of people who aren’t as credentialed as you are.... 4. Not understanding that in the... real world it’s you vs. coworkers, employees, customers, regulators, etc., all of whom need to be persuaded by more than having the right answer.... 5. Closed-system thinking: Underestimating the external consequences of your decisions in a hyperconnected world, or dismissing how quickly those consequences can backfire on you...

Continue reading "" »


Richard Baldwin has a new book and has coined the ugliest word I have ever seen to promote it. It is very interesting, and I think it is largely right. But I think it does have a big problem with the word "globotics": "globalization" and "robots", even robot-enabled globalization and globalization-enabled robots, are two very different processes with very different implications. Squashing them into one makes his argument less coherent than it might have been: Richard Baldwin: The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work: "A new form of globalization will combine with software robots to disrupt service-sector and professional jobs in the same way automation and trade disrupted manufacturing jobs.... Software robots... pervasive translation that open[s] new opportunities for outsourcing to tele-migrants.... Future jobs will be more human and involve more face-to-face contact since software robots and tele-migrants will do everything else...

Continue reading "" »


Building up the data base we need to understand inequality on a global scale: Facundo Alvaredo, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman: World Inequality Report 2018: "The World Inequality Report 2018 relies on a cutting-edge methodology to measure income and wealth inequality in a systematic and transparent manner. By developing this report, the World Inequality Lab seeks to fill a democratic gap and to equip various actors of society with the necessary facts to engage in informed public debates on inequality...

Continue reading "" »


On iClickers...

Back when I was an undergraduate, in about a third of my lecture courses, the lecturer would sometimess lose the class completely and go blathering away into outer spade with maybe five people following. I remember one final exam in which Seth Lloyd—the top-ranked person in my undergraduate class, now a physics or maybe not a physics but an information science professor at MIT—he calls himself a "quantum mechanic", sometimes dresses in overalls, has a long blonde ponytail, scarily smart—only got 50% on the exam. iClicker is a way of attempting to keep me at least partially on task...


I will take "the Trumpets are easily-grifted morons" for 2000, Alex:

Ed Luce: A Preacher For Trump’s America: Joel Osteen and the Prosperity Gospel: "Lakewood Church’s 60m ‘smiling pastor’ holds up worldly success as proof of God’s favour: With a fortune estimated at 60m and a mansion listed on Zillow at 10.7m, Osteen is hardly living like a friar. His suburban Houston home has three elevators, a swimming pool and parking for 20 cars—including his 230,000 Ferrari 458 Italia. 'My dad says, "How can you follow the sixth-richest pastor in the world?"' one of the men said. 'You know what I tell him? ‘We don’t want to follow a loser. Osteen should be number one on that list.' Everyone laughed. One or two shouted, 'Hell, yeah' in affirmation—the only time I was to hear the word 'hell'. Another said: 'He didn’t become rich because of our tithes [the practice of giving a 10th of your income to the church]. He became rich because he makes good investments'...

Continue reading "" »


David Gardner: Spain’s Open Election Highlights Its Polarisation Problem: "Spain this month faces the most wide-open electoral contest since the restoration of democracy that followed the death of Francisco Franco.... The three parties on the right are competing to prove who can be the most bellicose towards minority nationalisms—the touchstone issue of rightwing populism in Spain rather than immigration...

Continue reading "" »


Spencer Strub: Why it Matters ‘Game of Thrones’ Is a Climate-Change Story: "The Cersei Lannister story is a good stand-in for the fossil-fuel-funded congresspeople".... The wildlings are stand-ins for frontline communities impacted by extreme weather... the narrative of displacement and migration.... People make meaning out of the books and the show, and that is not limited by the author’s intentions. I think that this is one of the ways that Game of Thrones’ is mobilized into contemporary political discourse...

Continue reading "" »


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

6a00e551f080038834022ad3b05124200d


  1. Hakeem Jeffries: "House Dems remain focused on lowering healthcare costs. We also have a constitutional responsibility to check and balance Individual-1. We will fully investigate the culture of corruption at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave...

  2. Dan Witters: U.S. Uninsured Rate Rises to Four-Year High

  3. Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein: 15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook: "Scandals. Backstabbing. Resignations. Record profits. Time Bombs. In early 2018, Mark Zuckerberg set out to fix Facebook. Here's how that turned out.... Zuckerberg plausibly declared that he knew nothing about Definers. Sandberg, less plausibly, did the same. Numerous people inside the company were convinced that she entirely understood what Definers did, though she strongly maintains that she did not. Meanwhile, Schrage, who had announced his resignation but never actually left, decided to take the fall. He declared that the Definers project was his fault; it was his communications department that had hired the firm, he said. But several Facebook employees who spoke with WIRED believe that Schrage’s assumption of responsibility was just a way to gain favor with Sandberg. Inside Facebook, people were furious at Sandberg, believing she had asked them to dissemble on her behalf with her Definers denials. Sandberg, like everyone, is human...

  4. Rob Price: Facebook Says It 'Unintentionally Uploaded' 1.5 Million People's Email Contacts without Their Consent: "If you entered your email password, a message popped up saying it was 'importing' your contacts without asking for permission first. Facebook has now revealed to Business Insider that it "unintentionally" grabbed 1.5 million users' data, and is now deleting it...

  5. Steven T. Dennis: Mitt Romney Mueller Report Reaction: 'Sickened' by Trump: "Senator cites ‘the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty’.... 'I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest offices of the land, including the President'...

  6. Coming on Friday: BEA: News Release Schedule: "Gross Domestic Product, 1st quarter 2019 (advance estimate)...

  7. Matt Strassler: A Non-Expert’s Guide to a Black Hole’s Silhouette

  8. Matt Strassler: The Black Hole `Photo’: Seeing More Clearly

  9. Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen: Quantum Computing for the Very Curious |

  10. Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen: How the Quantum Search Algorithm Works: "This essay is an example of what Andy Matuschak and I have dubbed a mnemonic medium–it’s like a regular essay, but incorporates new user interface elements intended to make it almost effortless for you to remember the content of the essay...

  11. Pauline Grosjean

Continue reading "Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (April 21, 2019)" »


Oddly elusive about the politics. Yes, Congress should begin an investigation that could lead to impeachment. But Democrats in the House will not vote for a trial of Trump without 20 Republicans in the Senate willing to listen to the evidence and convict. And those Republicans do not care whether Trump has committed offenses worthy of impeachment: he has. They care whether voting to convict Trump would boost their chances of winning their next general election—or their next primary:

Susan Hennessey and Quinta Jurecic: The Mueller Report Demands an Impeachment Inquiry: "Under the current system, the options for checking a president who abuses his power to the degree that Trump has are functionally impeachment proceedings or nothing. There are many factors here, but the main culprit is the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)’s 2000 memo against the indictment of a sitting president—which itself builds on a 1973 OLC memo...

Continue reading "" »


Comment of the Day: Mark Field: How Big a Problem Is the Malapportionment of the Senate?: "It's always possible that the economic argument will work this time. But given that it's been tried repeatedly and yet failed for 400 years, there's a very strong presumption against that. Ira Katznelson and his co-authors explored this in their book Southern Nation, which explored Southern politics during the period 1865-1932. Their conclusion was that left-populist economics could appeal to some Southerners (not necessarily a majority), but ONLY in a context in which voters and politicians were confident in the bulwark of white supremacy. When they had reason to be nervous about that, racial supremacy took a higher priority and support for liberal economics fell. This also explains the racial compromises FDR had to make in order to pass the New Deal programs (detailed in Katznelson's book Fear Itself). This time might be different. But we shouldn't count on that...

Continue reading "" »


John Quiggin: Transactional Trumpism: "Why were so few traditional Republicans repelled by Trump... and why does Trump continue to attract such strong Republican support? One answer is... 'transactional Trumpism'... him because of his success in delivering a traditional Republican agenda. The problem I have with this explanation is: what success? The standard items on the list are: Supreme Court appointments, tax cuts and deregulation. But (1) these things are the absolute minimum that would be expected from any Republican president (2) Trump has made a mess of all them...

Continue reading "" »


Mueller has referred questions of conspiracy and obstruction of justice to Congress. The natural response is that Congress now needs to open an inquiry. It might not turn out to be the prudent and savvy thing to do, depending on how things work out. It might turn out to be not just savvy and prudent but essential. We do not know. But we do know that it is what people of rectitude and sincerity would do. It needs to be done: Winston Churchill: Eulogy for Neville Chamberlain: "At the lychgate we may all pass our own conduct and our own judgments under a searching review. It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values...

Continue reading " " »


Gregory Travis: How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer: "Design shortcuts meant to make a new plane seem like an old, familiar one are to blame.... This propensity to pitch up with power application thereby increased the risk that the airplane could stall when the pilots 'punched it'.... Pitch changes with power changes are common.... Pitch changes with increasing angle of attack, however, are quite another thing. An airplane approaching an aerodynamic stall cannot, under any circumstances, have a tendency to go further into the stall. This is called 'dynamic instability', and the only airplanes that exhibit that characteristic—fighter jets—are also fitted with ejection seats...

Continue reading "" »


Clive Crook pretends not to understand that Britain is a small island off the coast of Europe that will be much poorer without vibrant trade with Europe. Hence Britain is either (a) poor, (b) a member or quasi-member of the EU, or (c) a powerless rule-taker. No amount of national will spurred by Johnson's and Farage's desires to become prime minister can change that. Yet Crook somehow thinks or pretends to think that it can—that hard Brexit does not end in (a) or (c). I wonder why:

Clive Crook: Brexit: In the End, the U.K.'s Choice Will Be Stay or Go: "There’s no point in seeking compromise when no good compromise is possible..... what many see as an appealingly soft Brexit: so-called Norway-plus.... [It] would...leave the U.K. as a powerless rule-taker.... Support for Brexit comes chiefly from resentment at Britain’s lack of control over the policies that affect it. Norway-plus would make that problem vastly worse... politics... devoted to butting heads with the EU over successive policy innovations over which it has no say...

Continue reading "" »


Cosma Shalizi (2011): Dives, Lazarus, and Alice: Weekend Reading

Meister des Codex Aureus Epternacensis 001 jpg 2024×2955

Weekend Reading: Cosma Shalizi (2011): "They've traded more for cigarettes / than I've managed to express"; or, Dives, Lazarus, and Alice: "Let us consider a simple economy with three individuals. Alice is a restaurateur; she has fed herself, and has just prepared a delicious turkey dinner, at some cost in materials, fuel, and her time. Dives is a wealthy conceptual artist1, who has eaten and is not hungry, but would like to buy the turkey dinner so he can "feed" it to the transparent machine he has built, and film it being "digested" and eventually excreted2. To achieve this, he is willing and able to spend up to $5000. Dives does not care, at all, about what happens to anyone else; indeed, as an exponent of art for art's sake, he does not even care whether his film will have an audience. Huddled miserably in a corner of the gate of Dives's condo is Lazarus, who is starving, on the brink of death, but could be kept alive for another day by eating the turkey...

Continue reading "Cosma Shalizi (2011): Dives, Lazarus, and Alice: Weekend Reading" »


"Unexpected Convergers" since World War II

What countries outside of those already-rich Anglo-Saxon settler colonies and the North Atlantic economies have "converged" or are "converging". What are the "unexpected converters:? These:

 

High-Income Non-North Atlantic Convergers: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan:

Singapore US

South Korea US

Japan US

 

Continue reading ""Unexpected Convergers" since World War II" »


Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (April 18, 2019)

6a00e551f080038834022ad3b05124200d

  • Note to Self: Is it really INBOX ZERO if one has snoozed 365 messages? Asking for a friend...

  • Comment of the Day: Tracy Lightcap: "Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Someone would resurrect Enoch Powell. Just to remind folks what people thought when he was still around: http://www.private-eye.co.uk/covers/cover-182. Yep. An unrepentant racist and a constant figure of fun for everyone with a head on their shoulders and anything resembling civic virtue...

  • Comment of the Day: Once again RJW is the first... and, I fear, perhaps the only... person on the internet to understand me: Robert Waldmann: Fascism: "'weapon-or-strong' should be 'weapon-our-strong'. Also great hyphenated fascism there. But then I read the Scruton quote. Ugh. Please don't do that again...

  • Comment of the Day: Robert Waldmann: "The problem, as you note, is that, when they are right, MMTers have a whole lot of company.... They may have contributed something... but you provide no evidence that they have...


  1. Legal Eagle: Real Lawyer Reacts to My Cousin Vinny

  2. Wikipedia: Michael Perelman

  3. William Shakespeare: Richard III

Continue reading "Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (April 18, 2019)" »


I confess that I do not see this as a change. I see this as what we had before Trump. The problems of Americans and of American communities are much more those created by the great recession than thsoe created by the China Shock. Remember: there was no economic or politically salient "NAFTA Shock". And the pushing and shoving over intellectual property... is what always happens with resining future superpowers: Dani Rodrik: Peaceful Coexistence 2.0: "China has little patience for arguments that its exports have been responsible for significant whiplash in U.S. labor markets or that some of its firms are stealing technological secrets. It would like the US to remain open to Chinese exports and investment. Yet China’s own opening to world trade was carefully managed and sequenced, to avoid adverse impacts on employment and technological progress.... Peaceful coexistence would require that... China... have a free hand to conduct its industrial policies and financial regulations, in order to build a market economy with distinctive Chinese characteristics. The US would be free to protect its labor markets from social dumping and to exercise greater oversight over Chinese investments that threaten technological or national security objectives...

Continue reading "" »


The empirical evidence so far seems to be telling us that policies prohibiting employers from knowing early about applicants' criminal records may be leading to employers not looking at all at young Black men. If this holds up, it would be very distressing and suggest strongly that such policies are truly counterproductive: Jennifer L. Doleac: Empirical Evidence on the Effects of "Ban the Box": "I have prepared this written testimony to review existing empirical evidence on policies that prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their criminal records until late in the hiring process...

Continue reading "" »


I am still recovering from my joint appearance at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club with Steve Moore, and my having to listen to an extraordinary number of things from his mouth that simply were not true. It is draining to find oneself thinking over and over again: "But this is different than you said last year" and "but that prediction will be so obviously wrong in six months".

Menzie China has a similar reaction: Menzie Chinn: Why Isn’t Stephen Moore Still Bragging about Coal As #1?: "Recall from July 2017, when Stephen Moore wrote an article entitled 'When It Comes To Electric Power, Coal Is No. 1'? No more. Now, lying has never been an impediment to Mr. Moore claiming something that was untrue (see [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] )—but in this case perhaps it’s just so clearly untrue, he was chastened. So much for “winning” (coal edition). Not that I’m complaining: http://econbrowser.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/powergenshares-1.png

Continue reading "" »


There are many, many ways of generating adverse selection effects that confound statistical studies, and very very few good instruments. Thus I have found myself always very suspicious of the whole "assessing charter schools" literature—not suspicious particularly against any one side, but just suspicious:

Patrick L. Baude, Marcus Casey, Eric A. Hanushek, Greg Phelan, and Steven G. Rivkin (April 2018): The Evolution of Charter School Quality: "Quality dynamics among Texas charter schools from 2001-2011.... Exits, improvement of existing charter schools, and higher quality of new entrants increased charter effectiveness relative to traditional public schools...

Continue reading "" »


It looks as though declining rates of marriage and increasing rates of cohabitation among the American working class are not—whatever hordes of American Enterprise Institute funders are eager to pay people to say—in any sense "sociological breakdown", but rather economic precarity:

Daniel Schneider, Kristen Harknett, and Matthew Stimpson: Job Quality and the Educational Gradient in Entry into Marriage and Cohabitation: "Men’s and women’s economic resources are important determinants of marriage timing.... Declining job quality and rising precarity in employment and suggests that this transformation may matter for the life course...

Continue reading "" »


David Glasner: Arthur Burns and How Things Fell Apart in the 1970s: "Believing the Fed incapable of controlling inflation through monetary policy, restrictive monetary policy affecting output and employment rather than wages and prices, Burns concluded that inflation could controlled only by limiting the wage increases negotiated between employers and unions. Control over wages, Burns argued, would cause inflation expectations to moderate, thereby allowing monetary policy to reduce aggregate spending without reducing output and employment. This, at any rate, was the lesson that Burns drew from the short and relatively mild recession of 1970 after he assumed the Fed chairmanship in which unemployment rose to 6 percent from less than 4 percent, with only a marginal reduction in inflation...

Continue reading "" »


David Glasner: Ralph Hawtrey Wrote the Book that Arthur Burns Should Have Read — but Didn’t: "These mistakes all stemmed from a failure by Burns to understand the rationale of an incomes policy. Burns was not alone in that failure, which was actually widespread at the time. But the rationale for such a policy and the key to its implementation had already been spelled out cogently by Ralph Hawtrey in his 1967 diagnosis of the persistent failures of British monetary policy and macroeconomic performance in the post World War II period, failures that had also been deeply tied up in the misunderstanding of the rationale for–and the implementation of—an incomes policy...

Continue reading "" »


Amy Finkelstein: Welfare Analysis Meets Causal Inference: A Suggested Interpretation of Hendren: "In a pair of interconnected, important and impenetrable papers, Nathan Hendren has provided a framework for translating estimates of the causal effects of policies into welfare analyses of these policies. In this brief note, I describe the framework-which Hendren has named 'The Marginal Value of Public Funds' (MVPF)-and how it can be used for empirical public finance welfare analysis. I also discuss how the MVPF relates to 'traditional' public finance welfare analysis tools such as the marginal excess burden (MEB) and marginal cost of public funds (MCPF). Finally, I describe several recent empirical applications as a way of further illustrating and clarifying the approach...

Continue reading " " »


Carole Cadwalladr: Facebook's role in Brexit—And the Threat to Democracy: "The UK's super-close 2016 vote to leave the European Union. Tracking the result to a barrage of misleading Facebook ads targeted at vulnerable Brexit swing voters -- and linking the same players and tactics to the 2016 US presidential election—Cadwalladr calls out the 'gods of Silicon Valley' for being on the wrong side of history and asks: Are free and fair elections a thing of the past?...

Continue reading "" »


horsesatemymoney: "Abbreviated version of prospectus: We don't make money. We probably will never make money. Our current business relies on shareholders to fund cheap cab rides in the hope that regulators will let us become a monopoly and charge whatever we want but the regulators are not playing along. We have therefore spent more money expanding into other low margin highly competitive activities like food delivery or trucking despite there being lots of specialist logistics firms so not obvious how we are going to make any money there either. We hope in the future there will be driverless cars and that we can then make money because no drivers but other people are developing them too. We have annoyed lots of regulators so we have lots of disputes and problems with regulators. We don't pay much tax and have done lots of aggressive tax planning and so we have lots of disputes and problems with tax authorities. We don't employ anyone (or we say we don't) but we have lots of de facto employees and so we have lots of disputes and problems with drivers and employment tribunals. We don't actually own many assets because we managed to get our drivers to provide their own cars. We have an app but other cab companies also have apps. Current investors want to get out and so we hope you will buy some shares anyway because you have heard of us. Also we need more money to fund the businesses that don't make money. We are expanding into more business lines that don't make money and we need more money to fund those. We are really big and you have heard of us plus we say we are a tech disruptor so don't worry that we make no money it will all be great because you will be an Uber investor...

Continue reading " " »


Arthur Goldhammer: Grieving for Notre Dame: "The survival of the towers, the facade, the windows, the walls, the buttresses—all this is more than I hoped for in those first moments of grief. It was as though France herself had emerged from the smoke and gloom, a survivor—hurting, naked, and vulnerable, but still France. Of course, Notre Dame herself has been through this before. When Paris was liberated in 1944, de Gaulle went to the cathedral for a Te Deum mass. The moment was captured on film by Henri Cartier-Bresson. On the night of the fire, almost 75 years later, President Macron also went to Notre Dame and announced that the damage would be repaired. In 1944 Notre Dame stood witness to the rebirth of France. In 2019 the French president stood witness to the survival of Notre Dame. One good turn deserves another...

Continue reading "" »


Comment of the Day: Once again RJW is the first... and, I fear, perhaps the only... person on the internet to understand me: Robert Waldmann: Fascism: "'weapon-or-strong' should be 'weapon-our-strong'. Also great hyphenated fascism there. But then I read the Scruton quote. Ugh. Please don't do that again...

Continue reading "" »


The most dire and important question in applied behavioral economics is: How to deal with our tech giants understood as confidence game-generating machines?: TED Talks: "'My question to you is, is this what you want? Is this how you want history to remember you? As the handmaidens to authoritarianism?"' Watch as @carolecadwalla calls out the 'gods of Silicon Valley' for being on the wrong side of history: http://t.ted.com/OuxHYs3...

Continue reading "" »


Lori Hinnant: Shock, Sadness, But No Panic: Minutes that Saved Notre Dame: "The first alarm sounded at 6:20 p.m.... For twenty-three minutes, it seemed like a false alarm. Then at 6:43 p.m. a second smoke detector went off and the fire showed its face, flickering in the wooden timbers and visible to anyone who happened to look north from Paris’ Left Bank.... At 7:49 p.m., the 19th-century spire that was the architectural masterpiece of Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and his post-Revolutionary restoration broke apart and fell through the nave. The bronze weathercock tumbled, taking with it three relics sealed inside in 1935. It had been 66 minutes since the first flames were spotted. The sky above the cathedral flamed orange, and the fire lurched toward Notre Dame’s iconic towers, then slipped inside. As darkness fell, 20 firefighters climbed inside the two towers 'at great risk to their lives, to attack the fire from the inside and save the building', said Laurent Nunez, deputy interior minister.... The 20 firefighters struggled on in the towers. Red-hot embers floated down from the glowing hole where the spire once stood, settling on the blackened marble floor and the pile of debris that was all that was left of the spire.... At 11:23 p.m., the fire chief said the rest of the structure, including the cathedral’s twin bell towers, had been saved. It had been within 30 minutes of collapse...

Continue reading "" »


Jonathan Portes sends us to choice quotes from a friend of Hungarian wannabe dictator Victor Urban: Roger Scruton. This is the guy whom Niall Ferguson lines up with, against George Soros and the Central European University; the rest of us rootless cosmopolites who believe in liberal virtues, the open society, and promoting and rewarding the talented whether they come with a white skin or not; and Britain's Tory government. Lots of times these days authoritarians claim to be the real liberals in the tradition of John Stuart Mill, rather than we-are-a-bundle-of-sticks-tied-with-thongs-and-thus-a-brutal-weapon-our-strong-leader-can-use-to-beat-his-enemies people.

But sometimes the mask drops:

Roger Scruton (2010): The Roger Scruton Reader: "The Cumaean Sybil... is foreseeing the troubles that come from immigration.... The immigrant... travels... at the head of a determined retinue, carrying his household gods and a divine right of residence. His intention to settle is not to be brooked.... Modern immigrants don't, on the whole, behave so badly. They don't need to. They come as the heads of families, and even if the family might comprise four wives and twenty children, it arrives to a red carpet of legal privileges, eagerly unrolled by publicly funded lawyers, and to a welcome trough of welfare benefits that few indigenous citizens can claim, however much they have contributed to the common fund.... Our immigrants come... with an unbrookable intention to make a home for themselves. And if their gods dislike the indigenous rivals, they will soon make this fact known. Such predictions as [Enoch] Powell made in his speech, concerning the tipping of the demographic balance, the ghettoization of our industrial cities, and the growth of resentment among the indigenous working class have been fulfilled...

Continue reading " " »


The extremely sharp Jeremy Stein is correct here: we should be talking about positive portfolio balance effects rather than negative reaching for risk effects, unless you have concrete evidence that the people reaching for risks are assuming positions they are unqualified to evaluate:

Olivier Blanchard: “Have low interest rates led to excessive risk taking?”.... Jeremy Stein: “It seems pretty clear that the low interest rates (plus QE) of the last several years have led to significant downward pressure on a variety of risk premiums. Of course, all of this is to be expected, and was explicitly intended to be part of the transmission mechanism for low rates--the so-called 'portfolio balance' channel, which is a nicer and more politically correct euphemism than the 'risk-taking' or 'reaching for yield' channel...

Continue reading "" »


As I have said, until there is a center-right that seriously intends to work to make people's lives better, there is no point to trying to construct a centrist coalition. Until, say, we have Republican policy economists who will not endorse a tax cut unless it will actually boost investment and economic growth, the baton is passed to the left:

Simon Wren Lewis: Triangulation or Bipartisanship Does Not Work When One Side Goes Off the Scale: "The lesson of Brexit and Trump is if you fight a culture war and lies with just well researched and targeted policy proposals, you lose. It is better to fight a culture war with an alternative vision and popular policy proposals, and a bit of class war too...

Continue reading "" »


Austan Goolsbee: You Never Know When a Recession Will Sneak Up on You: "The 2001 recession developed when the internet bubble popped.... But... the internet accounted for, at most, about 2 percent of the economy then. If we use the logic we’ve been applying to trade wars and government shutdowns, it would seem that popping the internet bubble shouldn’t have been enough to cause a recession. But it did...

Continue reading "" »


Liz Hipple on where the labor market is failing—and on how we have learned about these failures from economic research, and could learn useful things about other market failures if only we spent more money getting ourselves better data:

Liz Hipple: U.S. Economic Policies That Are Pro-Work and Pro-Worker: "The Measuring Real Income Growth Act, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), would allow policymakers to see which income segments, demographic groups, and geographic areas of the country are actually experiencing economic growth by disaggregating the Gross Domestic Product statistics that the federal government produces. This is a key first step to better measuring.... There are clearly ways that policy could be doing a better job.... Unpredictable schedules, the lack of paid leave, and monopsony power are all examples of areas where research shows that breakdowns in the market...

Continue reading "" »


This is 100% correct: Narayana Kocherlakota: U.S. Economy: Fed Needs to Start Fighting the Next Recession Now: "Its tools are limited, so the central must compensate by being aggressive: The Fed should be taking steps now to prepare.... Less firepower than in any previous recession.... What, then, can the Fed do? In my view, it needs to be much more aggressive.... If your medicine chest is nearly empty, you want to keep your patient as healthy as possible. That means cutting interest rates now to lower the unemployment rate even further.... A pre-commitment to strong growth could also help. In the last recession and ensuing slow recovery, the Fed treated its low-interest-rate policy largely as an emergency step that would be removed within the next year or two. Instead, the Fed should publicly commit now to maintain maximum stimulus after a recession... as long as the year-over-year core inflation rate remains below 2.5 percent...

Continue reading "" »


Matthew O. Jackson and Leeat Yariv: The Non-Existence of Representative Agents: "We characterize environments in which there exists a representative agent: an agent who inherits the structure of preferences of the population that she represents. The existence of such a representative agent imposes strong restrictions on individual utility functions—requiring them to be linear in the allocation and additively separable in any parameter that characterizes agents' preferences (e.g., a risk aversion parameter, a discount factor, etc.). Commonly used classes of utility functions (exponentially discounted utility functions, CRRA or CARA utility functions, logarithmic functions, etc.) do not admit a representative agent...

Continue reading "" »


Comment of the Day: Robert Waldmann: "The problem, as you note, is that, when they are right, MMTers have a whole lot of company. A more Keynesian than Keynesian school whose 3rd notably accomplishment is to agree with Milton Friedman does, I think, lack exclusivity (not the determination to exclude everyone else but any basis for that exclusion). Reinhart and Rogoff have been very widely ridiculed (for the spreadsheet error which was not quantitatively important, not basing their conclusion on one year in New Zealand which was). You will note distinct mockery of fiscal space by OJ Blanchard now president of the AEA after many years as head economist at the IMF. The three examples you give of points where MMT is right do not establish one point where MMT is both right and original. They may have contributed something for all I know (I have not and will not read the MMT literature) but you provide no evidence that they have...

Continue reading "" »


Niall Ferguson says that in order to defend intellectuals and the public sphere we should line up alongside Hungarian proto-dictator Victor Orban and his friend Roger Scruton rather than alongside George Soros, the Central European University, and... the Tory British government? There is something very wrong here. And the smart Daniel Kuehn is not amused. Nor am I. I have been around long enough to learn a thing or two, and one is that people who only find objection to what plutocrats do when they are Jewish individuals (George Soros) or institutions (Goldman Sachs) are never arguing in good faith: Daniel Kuehn: LOL at intellectuals who have trouble with the idea that there are people out there who are critical of their ideas (possibly lots of people if they consider your ideas bad enough). If this is a stumbling block for you you might be in the wrong line of work: https://twitter.com/nfergus/status/1117233701102821377. I mean I’ll whine if someone disagrees with me just like the rest of you losers do, but demanding Article 5 treatment is awfully melodramatic even for Ferguson...

Brad DeLong: Hold it! Does Ferguson claim that Scruton's "Anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts..." is in some way taken out of context? George Soros is not running an "empire" in Hungary. Kinda surprised that Ferguson isn't invoking Article 5 to defend George Soros's place in Hungary's public sphere and the Central European University's place in Budapest against Orban...

Daniel Kuehn: "That one sort of gives away the game doesn’t it? I don’t know Scruton at all. Maybe he’s being unjustly criticized, maybe it’s perfectly justified. But meaningful defense of academic freedom in Hungary today would have to defend Soto’s if it’s to have even a hint of credibility...

Continue reading " " »


Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (April 12, 2019)

6a00e551f080038834022ad3b05124200d


  1. Peter Diamond (1965): National Debt in a Neoclassical Growth Model

  2. Barack Obama: 2010 State of the Union

  3. 2 Thessalonians 3:10: "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat...

  4. 1 Corinthians 11:5: "But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels...

  5. Acts 4:34: "Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need...

  6. 1 Enoch 7: "It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, (3) the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.... Then their leader Samyaza said to them; I fear that you may perhaps be indisposed to the performance of this enterprise; And that I alone shall suffer for so grievous a crime. But they answered him and said; We all swear; And bind ourselves by mutual execrations, that we will not change our intention, but execute our projected undertaking.... Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees. And the women conceiving brought forth giants, Whose stature was each three hundred cubits. These devoured all which the labor of men produced; until it became impossible to feed them; When they turned themselves against men, in order to devour them; And began to injure birds, beasts, reptiles, and fishes, to eat their flesh one after another, and to drink their blood...

  7. Kevin Hartnett: Mathematicians Discover the Perfect Way to Multiply: "By chopping up large numbers into smaller ones, researchers have rewritten a fundamental mathematical speed limit...

  8. Joe Light: The Tax Law’s Big Winner Is the Millionaire CEO: "Cutting the top marginal rate was always going to help the wealthy the most...

  9. Gene Birz: Stale Economic News, Media and the Stock Market: "I find statistically and economically significant relationship between stale news stories on unemployment and next week’s S&P 500 returns. This effect is then completely reversed during the following week. These findings show that investors are affected by salient information and support the hypothesis that investors overreact to stale macroeconomic news reported in newspapers...

  10. Angela Lashbrook: The Next Wellness Trend Should Be Google Spreadsheets: "How focused planning—and color-coded rows and columns—can make stress melt away...

  11. David Murphy: Lock Down Your Social Media Data With the PlusPrivacy Chrome Extension

  12. Talia Lavin: I wrote up a guide to what to do if you’re targeted by the right-wing smear machine. (Remember that your relative importance doesn’t matter AT ALL; they love crushing the defenseless even more.)...

  13. John Lovett: "See but ending the Skywalker saga gives us the movie we all want: PORGS vs. EWOKS: DAWN OF JUSTICE...

Continue reading "Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (April 12, 2019)" »


What Are Our Plans?

Signing of the Constitution by Louis S Glanzman Teaching American History

The Council on Foreign Relations asked me to come be on a panel on a small conference they were running on the "democratic recession". They were even willing to spring for a JetBlue mint-class lie-flat bed-seat on a nonstop. So I went Video here. Transcript here.

But is there—or, rather, in what sense is there—a "democratic recession"?

I think you need to separate out three different meanings of democracy:

  1. Alexis de Tocqueville’s democracy: social democracy—where everybody can stand on their own two feet and look everyone else in the eye, rather than lowering their gaze and tugging their forelock.

  2. John Judis’s thing: public-square democracy—where everybody can stand up, pick up a megaphone, speak, and actually be heard.

  3. Real, political democracy—where the material and ideal interests of the people are properly represented and aggregated in the formation of the decisions that we collectively make as we govern our own destinies.

The first two—social inclusion, and the ability to speak and feel that you have been heard—are important and are valid. But they are not the Big Enchilada.

Continue reading "What Are Our Plans?" »