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August 2019

Grand Narrative: An Intake from Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016

Il Quarto Stato

Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016

I. Grand Narrative

J. Bradford DeLong :: U.C. Berkeley, NBER, WCEG https://www.icloud.com/pages/0TzensY9YyNvqcY8elYagLUnQ https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0_nA1dc3XLgFa_2rEVsk3nuWQ

1.1: The Long 20th Century in Human History

The Long 20th Century began around 1870 and ended in 2016.

Before 1870 humanity was poor, and life was typically nasty, brutish, and short. Before 1870, over and over again, technology lost its race with human fecundity, and greater numbers coupled with resource scarcity to produce a humanity where most people most of the time could not be confident that they and their families would have their 2000 calories, plus essential nutrients, plus a roof over their head in a year. Before 1870 those on the make overwhelmingly focused on how to take from others or keep what they had while maintaining order, rather on how to make more for everyone. It is true that between 1800 and 1870 technology and organization gained a step or two in their race with fecundity. But only a step. Any post-1870 slackening of the pace of technological or organizational progress, or any major redivision of society’s dividends devoting less to the sinews or peace and more to the sinews of war, and “nasty, brutish, and short” would reassert itself.

But starting in 1870 all that changed. Science reached critical mass and gave birth to engineering. A liberal political order gave birth to a market economy. Engineering and the market produced an explosion of economic growth: these days one single year sees as much proportional technological and organizational advance and change in the human economy as a typical fifty years did back before 1800.

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DevEng 215: Pre-Class Note: Welcome!

Il Quarto Stato

Let us set the scene with an introductory note:

Back in 1800, nearly the entire world lived in dire poverty—what we today see as the dire poverty line of $1.90 a day, a level at which you are spending more than half your income on bare calories and essential nutrients, the minimum of heat and shelter, and the minimum of clothing. Below that line, certainly your health and perhaps your life is impacted: women become too skinny to reliably ovulate, and children become too malnourished to have healthy and effective immune systems. Back in 1800, there were only a few economies where the median household had a standard of living of more than $3 a day: Germany, France, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, the U.K., the U.S., and that was it.

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American Twentieth-Century Exceptionalism: An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"

Il Quarto Stato

Sources of American Exceptionalism

In 1870 the focus of economic growth crossed the Atlantic to America, where continent-wide scale, a flood of immigration, vast resources, and an open society that made inventors and entrepreneurs culture heroes welcomed economic growth. In the United States the Belle Époque, the Gilded Age, the period of the explosion of prosperity set in motion around 1870 lasted without interruption longer than elsewhere in the world. China collapsed into revolution in 1911. Europe descended into the hell of World War I in 1914. In America the period of progress and industrial development lasted longer—perhaps from when the guns fell silent at the end of America’s Civil War at Appomattox in 1865 until the start of the Great Depression in the summer of 1929.

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Comment of the Day: Marc Robbins on Economist James Buchanan: "I think this falls into the "hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue" category. He's guilty enough to acknowledge that discrimination is a problem and greedy enough to clothe himself in those vestments. I think that people who follow this line are actually more vulnerable to coming around than the true believers and principled types who don't believe that in a free-market, libertarian heaven discrimination is impossible...

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Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Solar Eclipse

Journey To Normandy Scene 1

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (J.A. Giles and J. Ingram trans.): Solar Eclipse: "A.D. 664. This year the sun was eclipsed, on the eleventh of May; and Erkenbert, King of Kent, having died, Egbert his son succeeded to the kingdom. Colman with his companions this year returned to his own country. This same year there was a great plague in the island Britain, in which died Bishop Tuda, who was buried at Wayleigh—Chad and Wilferth were consecrated—And Archbishop Deus-dedit died...

...A.D. 667. This year Oswy and Egbert sent Wighard, a priest, to Rome, that he might be consecrated there Archbishop of Canterbury; but he died as soon as he came thither.

A.D. 668. This year Theodore was consecrated archbishop, and sent into Britain.

A.D. 669. This year King Egbert gave to Bass, a mass-priest, Reculver—to build a minster upon...

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Steve M.: Neither Haley Nor Pence Will Be the Republican Nominee: "Elizabeth Bruenig... a conversation... with several evangelical Trump supporters in Texas.... 'I asked whether any of them would be willing to vote for a more traditional evangelical challenger to Trump, should one hypothetically rise to oppose him in the primaries.... Maria Ivy warned that Pence is soft compared with Trump, too decent and mannerly.... Bob Collins agreed: “The president is having to deal with a den of vipers,” he said. “I’m not sure Pence could do that.” “It’s spiritual warfare,” Dale Ivy added, emphasizing that Trump is the only man in the field who seems strong enough to confront it.' Given the choice between a brawler who doesn't talk about Jesus enough and a devout Christian who doesn't brawl enough, evangelical voters will choose the brawler every time.... Dan Crenshaw, Tom Cotton, Liz Cheney, Matt Gaetz, Donald Junior. (UPDATE: I should add Josh Hawley to this list.)... The nominee won't be a break from Trumpism or a 'healer'...

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Duncan Black: No Method In The Madness: "One might be tempted to see bucking trade orthodoxies and reconsidering our various relationships with China as good things. They probably are good things! But Trump has no idea what he's doing and even if he accidentally settled on smart policies he'd forget about them and do something differently the next day...

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Note to Self: A not atypical tankie: Paul M. Sweezy:

An Obituary (2004): Marxist Economist Paul Sweezy Is Dead: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal: I would like Paul Sweezy to be remembered for the following passage: "The publication in 1952 of Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR would make possible today a more satisfactory reply.…In the light of [Stalin’s] explanation…I would like to amend the statement which Mr. Kazahaya criticizes.…[The amended statement] conveys my meaning more accurately than the original wording and is, I think entirely in accord with Stalin’s view." (Paul Sweezy (1953): The Present as History (New York: Monthly Review Press), p. 352.) Paul Sweezy called himself an intellectual. Paul Sweezy publicly revised his opinion on an analytical issue in order to agree with the position taken by a genocidal tyrant. Fill in the blank: Paul Sweezy was a ...

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John Cochrane Prostitutes Himself to Republican Politicians Department: Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from 2015

Clowns (ICP)

Noah Smith: John Cochrane Smackdown: "John writes: 'My surprise in reading Noah is that he provided no alternative numbers. If you don't think Free Market Nirvana will have 4% growth, at least for a decade as we remove all the level inefficiencies, how much do you think it will produce, and how solid is that evidence?...' I don't really feel I need to produce an alternative to a number that was made up as a political talking point. Why 4 percent? Why not 5? Why not 8? Why not 782 percent? Where do we get the number for how good we can expect Free Market Nirvana to be? Is it from the sum of point estimates from a bunch of different meta-analyses of research on various free-market policies? No. It was something Jeb Bush tossed out in a conference call because it was 'a nice round number', after James Glassman had suggested '3 or 3.5'. You want me to give you an alternative number, using the same rigorous methodology? Sure, how about 3.1. Wait, no. 3.3. There we go. 3.3 sounds good. Rolls off the tongue..."

I must say, Cochrane here reminds me of one of my most favorite quotes from tank economist Paul M. Sweezy:

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Who Are the Tankies, and Why Do They Fight for Dystopia?

Il Quarto Stato

Note to Self: And, of course, the curious thing is that when the chips are down it is the authoritarianism rather than the aolition of private property that is the key: Urban Dictionary: Tankie: "The term derives from the fact that the divisions within the communist movement first arose when the Soviet Union sent tanks into communist Hungary in 1956, to crush an attempt to establish an alternative version of communism which was not embraced by the Russians. Most communists outside the eastern bloc opposed this action and criticised the Soviet Union. The 'tankies' were those who said 'send the tanks in'. The epithet has stuck because tankies also supported 'sending the tanks in' in cases such as Czechoslovakia 1968, Afghanistan 1979, Bosnia and Kosovo/a (in the case of the Serbian state)...


German classical liberal Max Weber... saw that [really existing] socialism could become nothing but a synonym for bureaucratic despotism. For:  

History shows that wherever bureaucracy gained the upper hand, as in China, Egypt, it did not disappear. A progressive elimination of private capitalism is theoretically conceivable. What would be the practical result? The destruction of the [dehumanizing] steel frame of modern industrial work? No! Simply that also the top management of the socialized enterprises would become bureaucratic. There is even less freedom, since every power struggle with a state bureaucracy is hopeless.

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Migration 1870-1925 and International Economic InequalityOuttake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016

Il Quarto Stato

What did matter for inequality and upward mobility in the pre-World War I era was not trade but migration. The descendants of those who lived in Ireland at the start of the nineteenth century are, today, one of the richest groups in the world: less than half of the descendants of the Irish of 1800 live in Ireland today; instead, they are spread throughout America, Britain, and Australia, and they have prospered.

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Twenty Worthy Reads at Equitable Growth and Elsewhere... August 23

Worthy Reads at Equitable Growth:

  1. Antitrust law and policy is probably the most "relatively autonomous" piece of our whole legal system. The laws as enacted by Congress and signed by the President change rarely and slowly. How those laws are enforced—and how business is then conducted in the shadow of the possibility of resort to the courts for antitrust cases—changes much more radically and substantially. It is a dance of intellectual fashion, some serious benefit-cost analysis, and a great deal of lobbying and lobbying-funded motivated reasoning. My view is that the answers to the three questions Michael Kades suggests the FTC examine are: yes, no, and no, respectively. But it is very good that the FTC is thinking about this: Michael Kades: In re: Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century: "Equitable Growth suggests that the hearings include the following three topics: 1. Is monopoly power prevalent in the U.S. economy?...

  2. Paul Krugman writes: "As Greg Leiserson of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth points out, 'every month in which wage rates are not sharply higher than they would have been absent the legislation, and investment returns are not sharply lower, is a month in which the benefits of those corporate tax cuts accrue primarily to shareholders'. A tax cut that might significantly raise wages during, say, Cynthia Nixon’s second term in the White House, but yields big windfalls for stock owners with only trivial wage gains for the next five or 10 years, is not what we were promised..." See Greg Leiserson: Assessing the economic effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: "Key takeaways: An assessment... should focus on the impact... on wage rates... [on] the return on business investment, and... [on] future federal budget deficits, as these will determine the impact... and the fiscal sustainability of the law....

  3. Very much worth listening to: Heather Boushey, Helaine Olen, and Katie Denis: Americans vs. vacation: "Half of American workers didn’t take all the paid vacation days they were entitled to in 2017. Why are so many of us unwilling or unable to take the vacation days that we’ve earned?...

  4. This was the first working paper the WCEG published. It did not get the attention it deserved then. So why not hoist it?: Arindrajit Dube and Ben Zipperer: Pooling multiple case studies using synthetic controls: An application to minimum wage policiesh: "We assess the employment and wage effects minimum wage increases between 1979 and 2013 by pooling 29 synthetic control case studies...

  5. Darrick Hamilton is asking the right questions. And he might have the right answers. But I suspect not. Yes, there is something very deep in America's culture that discourages public responsibility for the conditions of poor and especially poor black Americans, to the country's shame. Adam Smith wrote in 1776 that: "no society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity... that they who feed, clothe, and lodge... the people, should... be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged..." We today can replace his "greater part" with "substantial part", and it is still true. But I suspect that the health gaps between high-status, high-income, and high-wealth African Americans and their white peers have other origins—not that I know what those other origins are, mind you: Darrick Hamilton: Post-racial rhetoric, racial health disparities, and health disparity consequences of stigma, stress, and racism: "High achieving black Americans, as measured by education, still exhibit large health disparities...


Elsewhere than Equitable Growth:

  1. Encyclopedia of Chicago (1899): Mr. Dooley Explains Our "Common Hurtage": "In the late 1890s, Finley Peter Dunne's newspaper columns in Irish dialect brought to life a fictional Bridgeport bartender, Mr. Dooley...

  2. Economist: Why is macroeconomics so hard to teach?: "Mr Rowe remained... 'fairly low down the totem pole' as a researcher. But he became a thunderbird at conveying macroeconomic intuition...

  3. Noah Smith wonders if he can make a supply-and-demand argument to people who are allergic to "supply and demand" with a spoonful of sugar. He has three types of housing: newly-built yuppie fishtanks, old housing that can switch between working-class and yuppie, and newly-built "affordable housing" unattractive to yuppies: Noah Smith: YIMBYism explained without "supply and demand": "YIMBYism is the idea that cities need to build more housing in order to relieve upward pressure on rents...

  4. Dick Schmalensee: Handicapping the Highstakes Race to Net-Zero: "Economists argue that a broadly applicable incentive-based system... could reduce emissions at a much lower total cost than any alternative regime. Incentives to reduce emissions could be produced directly by a tax on emissions or through... cap-and-trade system. But the argument for relying primarily on financial incentives has historically not been very persuasive.... Even in California and the European Union, where cap-and-trade systems for CO₂ have been established, so-called “ancillary” or “belt-and-suspenders” policies that target particular sectors or sources have also been deployed...

  5. EG: Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Debora Revoltella, Jan Svejnar, Christoph Weiss: Dispersion in productivity among European firms: "This column uses firm-level data from all EU countries to explore how the dispersion of resources affects macroeconomic performance...

  6. Scott Jaschik: Author discusses his new book on anti-intellectualism and fascism: "A country that is not fascist may still experience fascist politics... efforts to divide society and demonize groups.... How Fascism Works by Jason Stanley...

  7. This is the most hopeful take on American productivity growth relative stagnation I have seen. I thought it was coherent and might well be right 20 years ago. I think it is coherent and might possibly be right today. But is that just a vain hope?: Michael van Biema and Bruce Greenwald (1997): Managing Our Way to Higher Service-Sector Productivity: "What electricity, railroads, and gasoline power did for the U.S. economy between roughly 1850 and 1970, computer power is widely expected to do for today’s information-based service economy...

  8. Potsdam this year is 7F warmer than it averaged in the century before 1980. Berkeley is now Santa Barbara: Stefan Rahmstorf: Europe’s freak weather, explained: "Naive.... The smoothed curve shows... global warming... the scattering of the grey bars... random variations of the weather.... Slightly more than half of the 4.3 degrees would be due to global warming, the rest to weather. That... likely underestimates the contribution of climate change...

  9. Thiemo Fetzer: Did Austerity Cause Brexit?: "The rise of popular support for... UKIP... strongly and causally associated with an individual’s or an area’s exposure to austerity since 2010...

  10. Interesting. The question is always: do you make money by devoting effort to selling them things they will be happy they bought, or do you make money by devoting effort to selling them things they will be unhappy they bought—by grifting them? And what determines the balance of providing value vs. deception in selling commodities aimed at different income classes? I am not sure they have it right here. I am sure that this is very important: James T. Hamilton and Fiona Morgan: Poor Information: How Economics Affects the Information Lives of Low-Income Individuals: "How information is produced for, acquired by, and utilized by low-income individuals...

  11. I concur with Noah Smith here that the biggest dangers of machine learning, etc., are not on the labor but on the consumer side. They won't make us obsolete as producers. They could make us easier to grift as customers: Noah Smith: Artificial Intelligence Still Isn’t All That Smart: "Machine learning will revolutionize white-collar jobs in much the same way that engines, electricity and machine tools revolutionized blue-collar jobs...

  12. We keep looking for thoughtful intellectual voices on political economy and equitable growth to the right of the intellectual center of gravity of our organization. But they turn out to be remarkably hard to find, as we are learning again this week. Suggestions for interlocutors are very welcome: John Holbo: Do The Nordic Codetermination Moonwalk: "Amused: 'Matthew Yglesias: 'Every conservative institution in America appears to be simultaneously maintaining that @SenWarren’s codetermination proposal is economically ruinous but that Nordic countries, which have codetermination, are free market success stories'...

  13. Claudia Sahm: Alice in Wonderland: "One year ago today, Alice Wu’s research about sexism at an online economics forum made the news...

  14. Kimberly Adams: The disturbing parallels between modern accounting and the business of slavery: "The common narrative is that today's modern management techniques were developed in the factories in England and the industrialized North.... According to... Caitlin Rosenthal, that narrative is wrong...

  15. Really surprised that there is no evidence of boom-bust asymmetry here. I am going to have to dig into what reasonable alternatives are and how much power they have here: Adam M. Guren, Alisdair McKay, Emi Nakamura, and Jon Steinsson: Housing Wealth Effects: The long View: "We exploit systematic differences in city-level exposure to regional house price cycles...


Duncan Black: But 100% Of Trump Supporters Who Say They Still Support Trump Still Support Trump: "The bizarre coverage of the electorate in the age of Trump-and all reporters are quite aware of this criticism and they do it anyway-is that the only voters who matter are the people who support Trump. Weirdly if you focus on them, it seems like Trump has 100% support!... Trump has never been popular.... But Obummer was always treated as a fairly unpopular president-with his critics dominating the narrative-and Trump has been treated as a popular one. Again, reporters know this.... They are not too stupid to be aware that this is what they have been doing.... 'Trump's low approval provides a unique challenge for Democrats' will be a NYT headline soon. And the sad thing is, Democrats will believe it...

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Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The Founding of Medhamsted

Journey To Normandy Scene 1

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (J.A. Giles and J. Ingram trans.): Medhamsted: "A.D. 656. This year was Peada slain; and Wulfhere, son of Penda, succeeded to the kingdom of the Mercians. In his time waxed the abbey of Medhamsted very rich, which his brother had begun. The king loved it much, for the love of his brother Peada, and for the love of his wed-brother Oswy, and for the love of Saxulf the abbot. He said, therefore, that he would dignify and honour it by the counsel of his brothers, Ethelred and Merwal; and by the counsel of his sisters, Kyneburga and Kyneswitha; and by the counsel of the archbishop, who was called Deus-dedit; and by the counsel of all his peers, learned and lewd, that in his kingdom were. And he so did...

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Note to Self: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: "Since the recession a decade ago, free-market economics (also known as neoliberalism) has been questioned on multiple fronts. As the dominant governing strategy for the past 40 years—including the Democratic administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—the Left today is increasingly challenging neoliberalism. Indeed, as the primaries approach, many former Clinton and Obama officials are even openly challenging the 'power of markets' belief. In his new book, A Crisis Wasted, Reed Hundt, chair of the Federal Communications Commission under Clinton and a member of Obama’s transition team, makes the argument that Obama missed an opportunity to push for a new progressive era of governance, a miscalculation that ultimately hobbled his administration. Hundt is not alone on this score. In a viral Vox article earlier this year, former Clinton administration economist Brad DeLong said that the Democratic Party has and should move past market friendly neoliberals like himself. Please join us for a very special conversation between Hundt and DeLong about the limits of, and challenges to, free-market economics with Joshua Cohen, co-editor of Boston Review. WHERE: Outdoor Art Club, One West Blithedale, Mill Valley, CA 94941. WHEN: Monday, September 9, 2019, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm (PST)...

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I Want My Country Back!

Note to Self: I Want My Country Back!: It is a really strange situation. It has a lot of "if he were nots":

  • If he were not president, Trump’s family would already have moved for a guardianship ad litem...

  • If he were not so authoritarian, we would be profoundly sad that someone—hate him, love him, simply be amused by him—has been such an entertaining celebrity...

  • And if he were not so deranged, we would be in the streets demanding the constitutional order be observed and wondering just what we should do when someone begins taking him seriously and literally when he says that the Washington Post and Catherine Rampell are the enemies of the people, when he says what we really need to do is get rid of the judges, when he says we should let the guys in the mirrored sunglasses in the security agencies do their thing.

It is not an America I ever thought that I would live in, I must say...

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John Haltiwanger: @jchaltiwanger: "In the past 24 hours Trump cancelled a trip to Denmark because it wouldn’t sell him Greenland, referred to American Jews who vote Democratic as disloyal, and tweeted Israeli Jews view him as the 'second coming of God' and the 'King of Israel'...

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Kevin Drum: Donald Trump Is Not Well: "Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark said today that talk of selling Greenland to the US was an “absurd discussion,” adding that Greenland Premier “Kim Kielsen has of course made it clear that Greenland is not for sale. That’s where the conversation ends.” Donald Trump responded by canceling his upcoming visit to Copenhagen: Donald J. Trump: 'Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time...' Can we finally start talking publicly about Trump’s mental state? This is the action of a child, not an adult in full control of his faculties. Everyone aside from Trump understood that his Greenland compulsion was a sign of cognitive regression in the first place, and this episode demonstrates that it was no passing fantasy. Trump took it seriously enough to treat Frederiksen’s comments as just another incitement to a feud with a political enemy. The man is not well. I don’t care what you want to call his condition, but he’s not well. I can only shiver at the thought of what the folks who work regularly with Trump really think of him these days...

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What Is This "White" You Speak of, Kemosabe?: Hoisted from the Archives

Lone ranger and tonto Google Search

Hoisted from the Archives: _What Is This "White" You Speak of, Kemosabe?: One way to look at Nixon's 'Silent Majority' strategy was that it involved the redefinition of lots of people as 'white'—people who wouldn't have been 'white' even thirty years before, back when they were seen as not-quite-real-American ethnic immigrants living in ghettos and serving the corrupt Democratic political machines against which the Republicans fought—probably entangled in organized crime, too.

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Ben Thompson: The WeWork IPO: "The 'unsavoriness'... is hardly limited to the fact that WeWork can stiff its landlords in an emergency. The tech industry generally speaking is hardly a model for good corporate governance, but WeWork takes the absurdity an entirely different level. For example: WeWork paid its own CEO, Adam Neumann, $5.9 million for the 'We' trademark.... WeWork previously gave Neumann loans to buy properties that WeWork then rented. WeWork has hired several of Neumann’s relatives, and Neumann’s wife would be one of three members of a committee tasked to replace Neumann if he were to die or become permanently disabled over the next decade. Neumann has three different types of shares that guarantee him majority voting power.... Neumann has already reportedly cashed out 700 million of his holdings via sales and loans. Everything taken together hints at a completely unaccountable executive looting a company that is running as quickly as it can from massive losses that may very well be fatal whenever the next recession hits.... The WeWork bull case and bear case... both are the logical conclusion of effectively unlimited capital. The bull case is that WeWork has seized the opportunity presented by that capital to make a credible play to be the office of choice for companies all over the world, effectively intermediating and commoditizing traditional landlords. It is utterly audacious, and for that reason free of competition. The bear case, meanwhile, is that unlimited capital has resulted in a complete lack of accountability and a predictable litany of abuses, both in terms of corporate risk-taking and personal rent-seeking...

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Harry Brighouse: Advice for New College Students: "Bear in mind that while there’s such a thing as getting into too much debt, there’s also such a thing as working too many hours. Seek balance (Finding it is easier said than done). Choose classes on the following bases: does the subject interest you?; how big is the class? (seek out small classes even if you are shy; especially if you are shy, because that’s how you’ll learn not to be); how good is the professor? How do you know who’s a good professor?... Do they engage?... Are they open to a full range?... Do they make you write a lot? (if so, that’s a positive, not a negative) Do they seem to enjoy teaching?... Find out from your friends. Or from your enemies if that’s the best you can do!...

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Donald Trump: That is why we need strong, sound, and steady [pause] leadership, at the United States Federal Reserve. I have nominated Jay to be our next Federal Chairman. [pause] And so important, because he will provide exactly that type of leadership. He's strong. He's committed. He's smart. And, if he is confirmed by the Senate, Jay will put his considerable talents to work, leading our nation's independent central bank. Jay has learned the respect and admiration of his colleagues for his hard work, expertise, and judgment. Based on his record, I am confident Jay has the wisdom and leadership to guide our economy through any challenges that our great economy may face...

Donald Trump: Our Economy is very strong, despite the horrendous lack of vision by Jay Powell and the Fed, but the Democrats are trying to “will” the Economy to be bad for purposes of the 2020 Election. Very Selfish! Our dollar is so strong that it is sadly hurting other parts of the world. The Fed Rate, over a fairly short period of time, should be reduced by at least 100 basis points, with perhaps some quantitative easing as well. If that happened, our Economy would be even better, and the World Economy would be greatly and quickly enhanced-good for everyone!..

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Introducing Partha Dasgupta: Economics: A Very Short Introduction

479 Social Capital and Natural Resources Sir Partha Dasgupta YouTube

Introducing Partha Dasgupta: Economics: A Very Short Introduction

http://amzn.to/2gR2jH3

Back in 1800, nearly the entire world lived in dire poverty—what we today see as the dire poverty line of $1.90 a day, a level at which you are spending more than half your income on bare calories and essential nutrients, the minimum of heat and shelter, and the minimum of clothing. Below that line, certainly your health and perhaps your life is impacted: women become too skinny to reliably ovulate, and children become too malnourished to have healthy and effective immune systems. Back in 1800, there were only a few economies where the median household had a standard of living of more than $3 a day: Germany, France, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, the U.K., the U.S., and that was it.

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Guido Alfani and Cormac Ó Gráda: The Timing and Causes of Famines in Europe: "Studies of modern famines tend to consider them ‘man-made’, resulting from war or from adverse shocks to food entitlements. This view has increasingly been applied to historical famines, against the earlier Malthusian orthodoxy. We use a novel dataset and temporal scan analysis to identify periods when famines were particularly frequent in Europe, from ca. 1250 to the present. Up to 1710, the main clusters of famines occurred in periods of historically high population density. This relationship disappears after 1710. We analyse in detail the famines in England, France and Italy during 1300–1850, and find strong evidence that before 1710 high population pressure on resources was by far the most frequent remote cause of famines (while the proximate cause was almost invariably meteorological). We conclude, in contrast with the currently prevailing view, that most preindustrial famines were the result of production, not distribution issues. Only after 1710 did man-made famines become prevalent...

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Project Syndicate: Brad DeLong for PS Say More: "Welcome to Say More, a new weekly newsletter that brings Project Syndicate's renowned contributors closer to readers. Each issue invites a selected contributor to expand on topics covered in their commentaries, delve into new ones, and share recommendations, offering readers exclusive insights into the ideas, interests, and personalities of the world's leading thinkers. This week, Project Syndicate catches up with Brad DeLong...

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I missed this too when it came out three years ago: Chris Blattman: Black Lives Matter, Economic History Edition: "Trevon Logan’s Presidential address to the National Economics Association. Partly he calculates the productivity of his sharecropping ancestors relative to slave holding estates a century before (a persistent question in American economic history). But mainly he makes an argument for doing more qualitative interviews, which seems like an obvious point, except that systematic qualitative work is the exception in economic history (as it is in development economics): 'That richer, fuller picture reveals that the work behind the estimates came to define the way that the Logan children viewed racial relations, human capital, savings, investment, and nearly every aspect of their lives..... We also learn that it is impossible to divorce the work from its social environment, an era in which Jim Crow, segregation, and other elements of overt racial oppression were a fact of life...

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Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Death of Penda

Journey To Normandy Scene 1

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (J.A. Giles and J. Ingram trans.): Death of Penda: "A.D. 655. This year Penda was slain at Wingfield, and thirty royal personages with him, some of whom were kings. One of them was Ethelhere, brother of Anna, king of the East-Angles. The Mercians after this became Christians...

...From the beginning of the world had now elapsed five thousand eight hundred and fifty winters, when Peada, the son of Penda, assumed the government of the Mercians. In his time came together himself and Oswy, brother of King Oswald, and said, that they would rear a minster to the glory of Christ, and the honour of St. Peter. And they did so, and gave it the name of Medhamsted; because there is a well there, called Meadswell. And they began the groundwall, and wrought thereon; after which they committed the work to a monk, whose name was Saxulf. He was very much the friend of God, and him also loved all people. He was nobly born in the world, and rich: he is now much richer with Christ.

But King Peada reigned no while; for he was betrayed by his own queen, in Easter-tide. This year Ithamar, Bishop of Rochester, consecrated Deus-dedit to Canterbury, on the twenty-sixth day of March...

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Tim Duy: Paving The Way To Rate Cuts: "The Fed will cut interest rates at least 25bp in September.... The manufacturing sector is weak.... Still... the slowdown in the sector has yet to match that of 2015-16 nor does it even approach something consistent with a recession. I have said this before, but it should be said again: As manufacturing becomes a smaller portion of the economy, we should expect more instances of manufacturing downturns or even manufacturing recessions being separate from the overall business cycle. In contrast, the much larger consumer sector of the economy continues to power forward. Retail sales sustained the rebound from turn-of-the-year weakness and core sales are again growing at a roughly 5% year-over-year rate.... The general continued strength in spending reflects the solid labor market. In my opinion, job losses need to mount before consumer spending will crumble. Low and steady initial unemployment claims indicate that those job losses are not yet on the horizon...

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Ancient Economies: A Malthusian Model: Markdown Notebook

DRAFT: Ancient Economies: A Malthusian Model : The math for complicating the standard Solow Growth Model with (a) a rate of population growth that depends positively on the excess of spending on necessities above "subsistence" and (b) a level of the efficiency-of-labor that depends inversely on population, as a higher population induces resource scarcity that makes labor less productive. For understanding both the long-term apparent stagnation of living standards between the Neolithic and the Industrial Revolutions, and for understanding the rise and fall of ancient civilizations. Question: How should we add on to the Python class for the Solow Growth Model to turn this into a tool for doing problem sets for Econ 101b (and perhaps 135):

https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/LS2019/blob/master/2019-08-17-Ancient_Economies.ipynb

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A Competitive Market: Python Class/Notebook

DRAFT: A Competitive Market: A Python class for a competitive market equilibrium with linear supply and demand curves—equilibrium price, equilibrium quantity, producer surplus, consumer surplus, total surplus. Looks for input parameters giving the slopes of the demand and supply curves, plus the maximum willingness-to-pay of the most eager demander and the minimum opportunity cost of the most efficient supplier. Now ready to hand over to others for editing, tightening, and additions.

https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/LS2019/blob/master/2019-08-10_market.ipynb

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Solow Growth Model: Python Class/Notebook

CANDIDATE: Solow Growth Model Derived and modified from Stachurski-Sargent http://quantecon.org. A Python class for simulations using the Solow Growth Model, with additional code for performing simulations with baseline- and alternative-scenario parameter values. Focuses on the capital-output ratio κ as the key state variable, as it is (a) observable, and (b) with constant growth-model parameter values converges exactly (in continuous time at least) as an exponential. Now ready to hand over to others for tightening and additions:

https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/LS2019/blob/master/2019-08-08-Sargent-Stachurski.ipynb

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Federal Reserve Bank of New York: Nowcasting Report: Aug 16, 2019: : "The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 1.8% for 2019:Q3. News from this week's data releases increased the nowcast for 2019:Q3 by 0.2 percentage point. Positive surprises from building permits and retail sales were only partially offset by negative surprises from industrial production and capacity utilization...

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August 16, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update

Daily Treasury Yield Curve Rates

There was little news about real GDP last week: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York nowcast continues to stand at 1.8% for 2019:Q3. The real news was:

  • A change from one week ago: The market continues to lower interest rates at the long end of the yield curve.
  • A change from 1 month ago: The Trump trade war picture becomes increasingly confused and irrational.
  • * **A change from 3 months ago: A no-deal Brexit is now not just a possibility, but more likely than not.
  • A change from 6 months ago: The Federal Reserve has—behind the curve—become convinced that it raised interest rates too much in 2018, and is now likely to cut them.
  • A change from 6 months ago: Trump trade-war tensions are higher.

We saw another twenty-five basis points of market easing at the long end of the yield curve: the 10-Year TIPS yield is now negative. The market has now delivered 170 basis points of easing in the 10-year Treasury window since the end of last October, and 140 basis points to the 30-year bond. On the 30-year bond, you would have made a 30% profit if you bought it last October and sold it today, compared to a 3.5% profit on the S&P Composite over the same period. That is a major, major sentiment shift. That means that a number of people short debt with riskier operations than the S&P Composite are about to face margin calls and rollover difficulties. We will shortly see how solvent the market judges them.

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Worthy Reads at Equitable Growth and Elsewhere... August 16, 2018

Worthy Reads at Equitable Growth...

  1. An excellent piece from Marinescu, Dinan, and Hovenkamp: one of our working papers laying out how the analysis of how antitrust policy should be done given that compensated firms face their counter parties not just in the product but in labor markets. I think this is the most important thing I have seen out of our shop here at Equitable Growth this week*Ioana Marinescu, James G. Dinan, and Herbert Hovenkamp*: Anticompetitive mergers in labor markets: "Increased market concentration in labor markets threatens to facilitate coordinated interaction among employers that could lead to lower output and wage suppression in employment markets...

  2. As Michael Kades writes, “the stakes are much higher than an ideological battle or technical adjustments to a legal regime” here. We need to understand how anti-trust practice affects the degree of monopoly in the United States and Hal monopoly effects equitable growth and societal well being. We do not. I think that attempting to understand these two issues is the most important analytic issue for policy relevant economic research in the United States today: Michael Kades: Why market competition matters to equitable growth: "At first glance, competition in the U.S. economy may seem far afield of the topic of equitable growth.... What could antitrust enforcement have to do with maintaining a healthy economy?...

  3. The analysis of rising inequality and its effects in the United States and elsewhere over the past generation has suffered from a relative downplaying of the role of the family and how income gets earned and then transformed Into well-being. Central to this is the rapidly changing economic role of women in the workforce, but that is not all of it. We need more and better analyses of her public policy needs to shift in the context of changing family structure and rising inequality. Elizabeth Jacobs presents some of our thinking about how Equitable Growth is and will be trying to support this effort: Elizabeth Jacobs: Rethinking 20th century policies to support 21st century families: "...As a raft of research illustrates, economic growth is increasingly concentrating at the top...

  4. Our Kate Bahn Reminds us: Kate Bahn: "This needs to be screamed from the rooftops.... We cannot have a substantive conversation about how tight the labor market is without examining demographic disparities..." ands sends us to Equitable Growth alumnus John Schmitt quoting Janelle Jones at: Laura Maggi: Despite Drop in Black Unemployment, Significant Disparities Remain: "The African-American unemployment rate... low—compared to historic numbers. In July, it was 6.6 percent...

  5. Not to put the pressure on or anything, but I expect very good things from our Equitable Growth grant to: Matthew Staiger: Parental Resources And The Career Choices of Young Workers: "With a specific focus on the impact of parental resources on entrepreneurship and job mobility...

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Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Conversion of the Middle-Angles

Journey To Normandy Scene 1

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (J.A. Giles and J. Ingram trans.): Conversion of the Middle-Angles: "A.D. 652. This year Kenwal fought at Bradford by the Avon. A.D. 653...

...This year, the Middle-Angles under alderman Peada received the right belief.

A.D. 654. This year King Anna was slain, and Botolph began to build that minster at Icanhoe. This year also died Archbishop Honorius, on the thirtieth of September...

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That's a 2.5% reduction in suicides for a 10% rise in two dimensions of the safety net. That seems to me to be large effect: William H. Dow, Anna Godøy, Christopher A. Lowenstein, and Michael Reic: Can Economic Policies Reduce Deaths of Despair?: "Midlife mortality has risen... largely reflect [ing]increased mortality from alcohol poisoning, drug overdose and suicide.... We leverage state variation in policies over time to estimate difference-in-differences models of drug overdose deaths and suicides, using data on cause-specific mortality rates from 1999-2015.... Higher minimum wages and EITCs significantly reduce non-drug suicides.... Increasing both the minimum wage and the EITC by 10 percent would likely prevent a combined total of around 1230 suicides each year...

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I would say that Martin Wolf grossly understates his point here. It is not just that the case for a sane globalism remains strong. Rather, the case for a sane globalism has never been stronger and grows stronger every day. With each passing day, the world needs more and more powerful international public goods in order to remain healthy and sane, and only globalists have a chance of providing them:

Martin Wolf: The Case for Sane Globalism Remains Strong: "We are now close to eliminating extreme human destitution.... The decline in the proportion of humanity living in absolute poverty, to less than 10 per cent, is a huge achievement. I make no excuses for continuing to support policies and programmes, including trade-oriented development, that helped accomplish this. The notion that it may be necessary to thwart the economic rise of non-western countries, in order to cement western domination, is, in my view, an abomination.... The range of public goods we now need has vastly increased, with the complexity of our economies and societies. For the same reason, ever more of those public goods are global.... That is why the victors of the second world war decided to create effective international institutions. They had experienced unbridled national sovereignty. The outcome had been catastrophic. Nothing since then has rendered global co-operation less essential.... [On] the interface between the global and the national... we have gone too far in some areas and done too little in others.... The globalisation of finance has arguably gone too far.... [But] liberal trade has not been a dominant source of rising inequality within countries. Meanwhile, areas where global co-operation has not gone far enough include business taxation and the environment. The final and perhaps most important of all challenges is containing the natural human tendency to scapegoat foreigners for failures of domestic policy and cleavages among domestic interests.... Blaming ills on foreigners may be a successful diversionary tactic. It is also highly destructive. We must think and act globally. We have no alternative...

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Remember: the Trump-McConnell-Ryan tax cut did absolutely nothing to boost investment in America, and thus has no supply-side positive effects on economic growth. And it is another upward jump in inequality: Greg Leiserson: U.S. Inequality and Recent Tax Changes: "Slides from a presentation by Greg Leiserson for a panel 'U.S. Inequality and Recent Tax Changes' hosted by the Society of Government Economists on Tuesday, February 20, 2018. In the presentation, Leiserson argues that the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will likely increase disparities in economic well-being, after-tax income, and pre-tax income...

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Paul Krugman (2015): Artificial Unintelligence: "In the early stages of the Lesser Depression, those of us who knew a bit about the macroeconomic debates of the 1930s... felt a sense of despair...

...Everywhere you looked, people who imagined themselves sophisticated and possessed of deep understanding were resurrecting 75-year-old fallacies and presenting them as deep insights. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.... I feel an even deeper sense of despair.... People are still rolling out those same fallacies, even though in the interim those of us who remembered and understood Keynes/Hicks have been right about most things, and those lecturing us have been wrong about everything. So here’s William Cohan in the Times, declaring that the Fed should “show some spine” and raise rates even though there is no sign of accelerating inflation. His reasoning:

The case for raising rates is straightforward: Like any commodity, the price of borrowing money—interest rates—should be determined by supply and demand, not by manipulation by a market behemoth. Essentially, the clever Q.E. program caused a widespread mispricing of risk, deluding investors into underestimating the risk of various financial assets they were buying...

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An absolute must-read, from Leiserson, McGrew, and Kopparam. It is excellent. I would note that it does not get much into the political economy of wealth taxes—that one goal of them is to persuade the wealthy to distribute their wealth, and thus reduce the amount of control over society that they exercise:

Greg Leiserson, Will McGrew, and Raksha Kopparam: Net Worth Taxes: What They Are and How They Work: "New from @equitablegrowth: “Notably, a business does not pay tax on its assets. Instead, shareholders pay tax on the value of the business.... The revenue potential of a net worth tax in the United States is large, even if applied only to the very wealthiest families. The wealthiest 1 percent of families holds $33 trillion in wealth, and the wealthiest 5 percent holds $57 trillion. The burden of a net worth tax would be highly progressive. The wealthiest 1 percent of families holds about 40 percent of all wealth.... Taxes on wealth—including property taxes, net worth taxes, estate taxes, and capital gains taxes, among others—are ubiquitous in the developed countries that make up the... OECD.... Assets have value because of the income (implicit or explicit) they are expected to generate. As such, taxing wealth through a net worth tax and taxing income from wealth through a tax on investment income can achieve similar ends...

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The labor requirements for this kind of farming were already absurdly low. And one swallow does not make a spring. Nevertheless, the age of intelligent tools draws closer:

Ashley Robinson, Lydia Mulvany, and David Stringer: Robots Take the Wheel as Autonomous Farm Machines Hit Fields: "The first fully autonomous farm equipment is becoming commercially available.... Tractors will drive with no farmer in the cab, and specialized equipment will be able to spray, plant, plow and weed cropland. And it’s all happening well before many analysts had predicted thanks to small startups in Canada and Australia.... Saskatchewan’s Dot Technology Corp. has already sold some so-called power platforms for fully mechanized spring planting. In Australia, SwarmFarm Robotics is leasing weed-killing robots that can also do tasks like mow and spread. The companies say their machines are smaller and smarter than the gigantic machinery they aim to replace. Sam Bradford, a farm manager at Arcturus Downs in Australia’s Queensland.... 'The savings on chemicals is huge, but there’s also savings for the environment from using less chemicals and you’re also getting a better result in the end'...

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I confess I do not see how Tesla is going to survive. BYD or some others are going to dominate battery-making. And there will not be that much both valuable and scarce to an automobile besides an efficient battery in the future we are heading for: *Matthew Campbell and Ying Tian: *: BYD, World’s Biggest Electric Car Maker, Looks Nothing Like Tesla: "BYD, which built the battery in your ’90s cellphone, now produces more EVs than anyone—and it wants to sell them to you, soon: On the floor of a cavernous factory in southern China... a sledlike robot scooted into position.... The robot carried a crucial payload: a battery about the size and shape of a double mattress, wrapped in a gray plastic casing. Suddenly, an accordion lift extended upward from the sled and inserted the battery into the car’s undercarriage. Workers in blue jumpsuits and white cotton gloves moved swiftly to the battery’s edges, carrying rivet guns connected by curling red cables to a supply of compressed air. Once the battery was rattled into place, the accordion retracted, sending its robot host scurrying off in search of fresh cargo...

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We do not really know how we would collect and enforce a net-worth tax—but we did not really know how we would collect and enforce a broad income tax either until Milton Friedman came up with payroll withholding. In some ways the administrative burdens of a net-worth tax will be a lot easier since it is designed to catch only the upper tail: Greg Leiserson, Will McGrew, and Raksha Kopparam: Net worth taxes: What they are and how they work - Equitable Growth: "The wealthiest 1 percent of households owns about 40 percent of all wealth.... Taxes on wealth are a natural policy instrument to address wealth inequality and could raise substantial revenue, while shoring up structural weaknesses in the current income tax system...

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Looking Backwards from This Week at 24, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 Years Ago (August 7-August 13, 2019)

stacks and stacks of books

MUST OF THE MUSTS: J. Bradford De Long and Lawrence H. Summers: Equipment Investment and Economic Growth: "We use disaggregated data from the United Nations International Comparison Project and the Penn World Table to examine the association between different components of investment and economic growth over 1960–85. We find that producers’ machinery and equipment has a very strong association with growth: in our cross section of nations each percent of GDP invested in equipment raises GDP growth rate by 1/3 of a percentage point per year. This is a much stronger association than can be found between any of the other components. We interpret this association as revealing that the marginal product of equipment is about 30 percent per year. The cross nation pattern of equipment prices, quantities, and growth is consistent with the belief that countries with rapid growth have favorable supply conditions for machinery and equipment. The pattern is not consistent with the belief that some third factor both pushes up the rate of growth and increases the demand for machinery and equipment...

 

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Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (August 15, 2019)

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  1. Wikipedia: Charlie Dent

  2. Duncan Black: Healthy Country: "I really don't see a way forward which isn't 'no deal Brexit' though no deal Brexit isn't a real thing. It just means 'we didn't bother to solve all the problems we have to start solving piece by piece now'...

  3. Appian: The Macedonian Wars: "Flamininus came into conference with Philip a second time at the Malian gulf.... The Greeks asked the Roman Senate to require Philip to remove from their country the three garrisons which he called 'the fetters of Greece': the one at Chalcis, which threatened the Boeotians, the Euboeans, and the Locrians; the one at Corinth, which closed the door of the Peloponnese; and the third at Demetrias, which lay, as it were, in ambush for the Aetolians and the Magnesians. The Senate asked Philip's ambassadors what the king's views were respecting the garrisons. When they answered that they did not know, the Senate said that Flamininus should decide the question and do what he considered just. So the ambassadors took their departure from Rome. Flamininus and Philip, being unable to come to any agreement, resumed hostilities...

  4. Simon Wren-Lewis: There Is No Mandate for No Deal

  5. Wikipedia: Ferghana horse

  6. Visit Faroe Islands

  7. Wikipedia: War of the Heavenly Horses: "The War of the Heavenly Horses or the Han–Dayuan war was a military conflict fought in 104 BC and 102 BC between the Chinese Han dynasty and Dayuan (in Central Asia, around Uzbekistan, east of Persia). The result was Han victory...

  8. Paul Krugman (1987): Adjustment in the World Economy

  9. Fred Hoyle: Ossian's Ride

  10. Wikipedia: Li Bai: "Li Bai, Li Po, Li Bo, Ri Haku have been all used in the West, but are all written with the same characters. His given name, (白), is romanized by variants such as Po, Bo, Bai, Pai. In Hanyu Pinyin, reflecting modern Mandarin Chinese, the main, colloquial equivalent for this character is Bái; Bó is the literary variant and is commonly used...

  11. Squawk Box: Business, Politics, Investors and Traders: "'Squawk Box' is the ultimate 'pre-market' morning news and talk program, where the biggest names in business and politics tell their most important stories. Anchored by Joe Kernen, Becky Quick and Andrew Ross Sorkin, the show brings Wall Street to Main Street. It's a 'must see' for everyone from the professional trader to the casual investor...

  12. Sidewalk Street Food

  13. The Art of the Lingnan School, 嶺南畫派的繪畫藝術

  14. Steve Jobs *(2007): Introducing The iPhone At MacWorld 2007

  15. Michael Pettis: Real Growth in China is Less than Half of Reported Growth

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