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January 2020

Kaleberg: 'I remember the panic about fake geek girls. Since I knew plenty of real geek girls, I never had such worries. Still, my favorite take is in:

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Friedrich Engels (1843): Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy 'According to the economists, the production costs of a commodity consist of three elements: the rent for the piece of land required to produce the raw material; the capital with its profit, and the wages for the labour required for production and manufacture.... [Since] capital is “stored-up labour”... two sides–the natural, objective side, land; and the human, subjective side, labour, which includes capital and, besides capital, a third factor which the economist does not think about–I mean the mental element of invention, of thought, alongside the physical element of sheer labour...

...What has the economist to do with inventiveness? Have not all inventions fallen into his lap without any effort on his part? Has one of them cost him anything? Why then should he bother about them in the calculation of production costs? Land, capital and labour are for him the conditions of wealth, and he requires nothing else. Science is no concern of his.

What does it matter to him that he has received its gifts through Berthollet, Davy, Liebig, Watt, Cartwright, etc.–gifts which have benefited him and his production immeasurably? He does not know how to calculate such things; the advances of science go beyond his figures. But in a rational order which has gone beyond the division of interests as it is found with the economist, the mental element certainly belongs among the elements of production and will find its place, too, in economics among the costs of production.

And here it is certainly gratifying to know that the promotion of science also brings its material reward; to know that a single achievement of science like James Watt’s steam-engine has brought in more for the world in the first fifty years of its existence than the world has spent on the promotion of science since the beginning of time...

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David Laibson: Seminar 218, Psychology and Economics (Joint with Macro): Eliminating Equilibrium Pathologies in Models with Present-Biased Discounting: the β-δ-Δ Sweet Spot 'When agents have present-biased discount functions and are partially or fully sophisticated, intra-personal strategic motives induce equilibria with pathological properties, including non-uniqueness, policy function discontinuities and policy-function non-monotonicities. Harris and Laibson (2013) propose a continuous-time model with an instantaneously short 'present', which eliminates such pathologies. The current paper provides a bridge between this continuous-time approach and traditional discrete-time models. Calibrated buffer-stock consumption models with discrete time periods that are no longer than one month are pathology-free and feature policy functions that are nearly identical to the policy functions associated with the continuous-time model. Researchers working on consumption models with present bias should use discrete time models with time periods that are no longer than one month (and calibrated levels of background noise), or the continuous-time model, whichever framework is computationally more tractable. Within this family of discrete- and continuous-time buffer-stock models, the predictions are indistinguishable and pathology-free....

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Melissa Dell, Nathan Lane, and Pablo Querubin: The Historical State, Local Collective Action, & Economic Development in Vietnam "This study examines how the historical state conditions long-run development, using Vietnam as a laboratory. Northern Vietnam (Dai Viet) was ruled by a strong, centralized state in which the village was the fundamental administrative unit. Southern Vietnam was a peripheral tributary of the Khmer (Cambodian) Empire, which followed a patron-client model with more informal, personalized power relations and no village intermediation. Using a regression discontinuity design, the study shows that areas exposed to Dai Viet administrative institutions for a longer period prior to French colonization have experienced better economic outcomes over the past 150 years. Rich historical data document that in Dai Viet villages, citizens have been better able to organize for public goods and redistribution through civil society and local government. We argue that institutionalized village governance crowded in local cooperation and that these norms persisted long after the original institutions disappeared...

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Scott Lemieux: Great Moments in Subtweeting 'I like the shade the Des Moines Register editorial board throws on the Times here: "Each of the remaining candidates campaigning across Iowa ahead of the caucuses could make a fine president. Each would be more inclusive and thoughtful than the current occupant of the White House. Each would treat truth as something that matters. Each would conduct foreign policy by coalition building rather than by whim and tweet. The outstanding caliber of Democratic candidates makes it difficult to choose just one. But ultimately Iowa caucusgoers need to do that. Who would make the best president at this point in the country’s history?... The Des Moines Register editorial board endorses Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses as the best leader for these times...

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Jason Kottke: The Story of Two Monks and a Woman 'Two monks were traveling together, a senior and a junior. They came to a river with a strong current where a young woman was waiting, unable to cross alone. She asks the monks if they would help her across the river. Without a word and in spite of the sacred vow he’d taken not to touch women, the older monk picks her up, crosses, and sets her down on the other side. The younger monk joins them across the river and is aghast that the older monk has broken his vow but doesn’t say anything. An hour passes as they travel on. Then two hours. Then three. Finally, the now quite agitated younger monk can stand it no longer: “Why did you carry that women when we took a vow as monks not to touch women?” The older monk replies, “I set her down hours ago by the side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”...

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Worthy Reads from January 29, 2019

stacks and stacks of books

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth:

  1. Equitable Growth's Heather Boushey is engaging with Jonathan Ostry, Prakash Loungani, Andrew Berg, and Jason Furman at the Peterson Instute on Thursday January 31: Peterson Institute: Book discussion: Confronting Inequality: How Societies Can Choose Inclusive Growth: "Book discussion with Jonathan Ostry, @LounganiPrakash, and Andrew Berg of @IMFNews on Confronting Inequality: How Societies Can Choose Inclusive Growth with additional comments with @jasonfurman of PIIE & Heather Boushey of @equitablegrowth. January 31, 12:15 pm...

  2. Greg Leiserson has an excellent piece over at MarketWatch for everybody who wants to rapidly get up to speed on what a net-worth wealth tax might be and how it could work: Greg Leiserson: How a wealth tax would work in the United States: "Policy makers looking for a highly progressive tax instrument that raises substantial revenue would find a net-worth tax appealing. Such a tax would impose burden primarily on the wealthiest families—reducing wealth inequality—and could raise substantial revenues. As noted above, the United States taxes wealth in several forms already. Thus, the policy debate is less about whether to tax wealth and more about the best ways to tax wealth and how much it should be taxed. A net-worth tax could be a useful complement to—or substitute for—other means of taxing wealth, as well as a tool for increasing overall taxation of wealth...

  3. I have been waiting for this from Piketty-Saez-Zucman to show up for a while, and here it is now in our WCEG working paper series. This is the simplified and streamlined version on their take on how we should do national income statistics for the twenty-first century—how we can and should take advantage of our data to go beyond averages and seriously track issues of distribution. READ IT! Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman: Simplified Distributional National Accounts: "This paper develops a simplified methodology that starts from the fiscal income top income share series and makes very basic assumptions on how each income component from national income that is not included in fiscal income is distributed.... It can be used to create distributional national income statistics in countries where fiscal income inequality statistics are available but where there is limited information to impute other income.... This simplified methodology can also be used to assess the plausibility of the Piketty, Saez, and Zucman (2018) assumptions. In particular, we will show that the simplified methodology can be used to show that the alternative assumptions proposed by Auten and Splinter (2018) imply a drastic equalization of income components not in fiscal income which does not seem realistic...

  4. Equitable Growth's Will McGrew has a pinned tweet pushing back against the meme that there are "really" no worrisome ethnicity or gender wage gaps because researchers can make such gaps disappear by adding sufficient variables to the right-hand side of a regression analysis. But when you add additional explanatory variables—when you "control"—you need to be very careful that you are only controllin for things that confound the relationship you are trying to study. When you control for things that mediate that relationship, you land up in garbage-in-garbage-out territory: Will McGrew: Wage Gaps: "Some claim that the wage gap disappears if you control for all relevant variables. This is 100% false. According to the evidence, workplace segregation and discrimination are the largest causes of the wage gap faced by Black women...

  5. Equitable Growth's Heather Boushey schools our friend, smart young whippersnapper Noah Smith formerly of Stoneybrook and now of Bloomberg: There is a lot of evidence from political scientists as to how loudlyt money talks in political democracies, and it is very well laid out in Elisabeth Jacobs's contrivbut9ion to our After Piketty: Elisabeth Jacobs (1017): Everywhere and Nowhere: Politics in _Capital in the Twenty-First Century...

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At a deep level, the argument over technology, employment, the workforce, and robots requires that we understand how our tools for thought—for augmenting human intellect—have worked, do work, and will work. And this requires that we have good answers to que44stions like this one. And we do not: Michael Nielsen: On Engelbart: "Augmenting Human Intellect" 'Augmenting intellect with paper and pencil: What is 427 x 784? Hard for an unaided human. Even harder: what is 721,269,127 x 422,599,421? Both problems become easy with paper and pencil. This is strange, a priori: wood pulp + wood + graphite = more intellectual capability! We're used to this, but that doesn't mean we understand it. What's actually going on? For what class of problems does paper and pencil help? For what class of problems does it not help (or hinder)? How much can it help?...

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Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, William Kimball, and Thomas Kochan: How U.S. Workers Think About Workplace Democracy: The Structure of Individual Worker Preferences for Labor Representation: "Although never as powerful as in other advanced democracies, unions remain incredibly important economic and political organizations in the United States. Yet we know little about the structure of workers’ preferences for labor unions or other alternative labor organizations. We report the results of a conjoint experiment fielded on a nationally representative sample of over 4,000 employees. We explore how workers’ willingness to join and financially support labor organizations varies depending on the specific benefits and services offered by those organizations. While workers value some aspects of traditional American unions very highly, especially collective bargaining, they would be even more willing to join and support organizations currently unavailable under U.S. law and practice. We also identify important cleavages in worker support for labor organizations engaged in politics and strikes. Our results shed light on the politics of labor organization, as well as civic association and membership more broadly...

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There is a world of difference between "the market giveth, the market taketh away, blessed be the name of the market" and "properly-structured systems of property rights and market exchange are the best form of social organisation we have yet discovered for solving several important classes of societal organization optimisation problems". Much discussion of "neoliberalism" blurs these two positions into one—and thus elides the difference between Friedrich von Hayek and Barack Obama: Alexander Zevin: Review of ‘Globalists’ by Quinn Slobodian "Every Penny a Vote: Neoliberalism is often conceived as a system of self-regulating markets, shrunken states and crudely rational individuals. Early neoliberals, however, didn’t believe in markets’ self-correcting properties. Instead, as Quinn Slobodian argues in Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, they were concerned above all with establishing governments, laws and institutions in which markets could be embedded in order to make them work as they should–not only at a national but at a global level. This approach was a response to the fragmentation of empires that began after the First World War, and the popular demands for redistribution and self-determination that surged through the nation-states that took their place. When these demands impinged on the free trade order, neoliberals opposed them as a form of juridical trespass: imperium, the authority of territorial states, must not breach the rule of dominium, the boundless sway of private property. In tracing this dynamic, Slobodian draws an intellectual genealogy of the ‘neoliberal world economic imaginary’ from interwar Vienna to 1990s Geneva, and from the furious debates over economic planning that followed the fall of the Habsburg Empire to those that generated the EEC, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the WTO...

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Weekend Reading: Plutarch: Norm-Breaking and the Collapse of the Roman Republic


After this episode of political norm-breaking, thereafter every Roman politico on the make (except for Cicero) drew the obvious conclusion: if you wanted to have a successful career, you needed to have a loyal mob in Rome and a loyal army outside—or be closely allied with somebody who did. And the road to Marius-Sulla-Pompey-Caesar-Brutus-Antony-Octavian was well-paved: Plutarch: Life of Tiberius Gracchus*.html: 'This is said to have been the first sedition at Rome, since the abolition of royal power, to end in bloodshed and the death of citizens; the rest though neither trifling nor raised for trifling objects, were settled by mutual concessions, the nobles yielding from fear of the multitude, and the people out of respect for the senate...

...And it was thought that even on this occasion Tiberius would have given way without difficulty had persuasion been brought to bear upon him, and would have yielded still more easily if his assailants had not resorted to wounds and bloodshed; for his adherents numbered not more than three thousand. But the combination against him would seem to have arisen from the hatred and anger of the rich rather than from the pretexts which they alleged; and there is strong proof of this in their lawless and savage treatment of his dead body. For they would not listen to his brother's request that he might take up the body and bury it by night, but threw it into the river along with the other dead.

Nor was this all; they banished some of his friends without a trial and others they arrested and put to death. Among these Diophanes the rhetorician also perished. A certain Caius Villius they shut up in a cage, and then put in vipers and serpents, and in this way killed him.

Blossius of Cumae was brought before the consuls, and when he was asked about what had passed, he admitted that he had done everything at the bidding of Tiberius. Then Nasica said to him,

What, then, if Tiberius had ordered thee to set fire to the Capitol?

Blossius at first replied that Tiberius would not have given such an order; but when the same question was put to him often and by many persons, he said:

If such a man as Tiberius had ordered such a thing, it would also have been right for me to do it; for Tiberius would not have given such an order if it had not been for the interest of the people. Well, then, Blossius was acquitted, and afterwards went to Aristonicus in Asia, and when the cause of Aristonicus was lost, slew himself.

But the senate, trying to conciliate the people now that matters had gone too far, no longer opposed the distribution of the public land, and proposed that the people should elect a commissioner in place of Tiberius. So they took a ballot and elected Publius Crassus, who was a relative of Gracchus; for his daughter Licinia was the wife of Caius Gracchus. And yet Cornelius Nepos says that it was not the daughter of Crassus, but of the Brutus who triumphed over the Lusitanians, whom Caius married; the majority of writers, however, state the matter as I have done.

Moreover, since the people felt bitterly over the death of Tiberius and were clearly awaiting an opportunity for revenge, and since Nasica was already threatened with prosecutions, the senate, fearing for his safety, voted to send him to Asia, although it had no need of him there. For when people met Nasica, they did not try to hide their hatred of him, but grew savage and cried out upon him wherever he chanced to be, calling him an accursed man and a tyrant, who had defiled with the murder of an inviolable and sacred person the holiest and most awe-inspiring of the city's sanctuaries.

And so Nasica stealthily left Italy, although he was bound there by the most important and sacred functions; for he was pontifex maximus. He roamed and wandered about in foreign lands ignominiously, and after a short time ended his life at Pergamum...

I do wonder how exactly I am supposed to read those last sentences: is Nasica's agency here in that he ended his life or that he went to Pergamum. but I have little Latin and less Greek: "οὕτω μὲν ὑπεξῆλθε τῆς Ἰταλίας ὁ Νασικᾶς, καίπερ ἐνδεδεμένος ταῖς μεγίσταις ἱερουργίαις: ἦν γὰρ ὁ μέγιστος καὶ πρῶτος τῶν ἱερέων, ἔξω δὲ ἀλύων καὶ πλανώμενος ἀδόξως οὐ μετὰ πολὺν χρόνον κατέστρεψε περὶ Πέργαμον..."

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Weekend Reading: John Maynard Keynes: On Speculation, from The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money


Weekend Reading: John Maynard Keynes: On Speculation, from The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money 'The professional investor is forced to concern himself with the anticipation of impending changes, in the news or in the atmosphere, of the kind by which experience shows that the mass psychology of the market is most influenced. This is the inevitable result of investment markets organised with a view to so-called ‘liquidity’. Of the maxims of orthodox finance none, surely, is more anti-social than the fetish of liquidity, the doctrine that it is a positive virtue on the part of investment institutions to concentrate their resources upon the holding of ‘liquid’ securities. It forgets that there is no such thing as liquidity of investment for the community as a whole. The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelop our future. The actual, private object of the most skilled investment to-day is ‘to beat the gun’, as the Americans so well express it, to outwit the crowd, and to pass the bad, or depreciating, half-crown to the other fellow...

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Lecture Notes: A Brief Cheat-Sheet Note: On the Solow-Malthus Model for Understanding Pre-Industrial Economies

What you need to know:

  1. The Malthusian equilibrium level of productivity and income is (a) the zpg subsistence level of necessities consumption (b) times the taste for luxuries (including urbanization and an upper class, as well as middle-class conveniences) (c) bumped up to make the economy prosperous enough to support population growth at the rate (d) warranted by progress in technology and organization.

  2. The Malthusian equilibrium level of population is (a) the quotient of useful ideas divided by the zpg subsistence level of necessities consumption, (b) times the ratio of the savings rate (boosted by law-and-order and by any imperial peace) to the depreciation rate raised to the elasticity of production with respect to capital intensity, (c) divided by the taste for luxuries, (d) all raised to the salience γ of ideas as opposed to resources in productivity, with (e) two nuisance terms tagging along.


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What Is "The West"?: Sam Beer's "Western Thought and Institutions", Courtesy of Irwin Collier and Friends...

The title of Soc Sci 2 is: "Western Thought and Institutions": Irwin Collier: Harvard. Syllabus and assigned readings for interdisciplinary course, Social Sciences 2, 1970-71 'I am a firm believer in the virtues of building a broad interdisciplinary foundation before allowing (compelling?) economics majors and graduate students to turn their attention to the technical methods of the discipline. The former promotes the capacity to pose interesting questions and the latter creates a capacity to seek solutions to those questions.... Economics in the Rear-View Mirror is delighted to provide the course syllabus with its reading assignments from the academic year 1970-71. Students had to write three papers each term and according to the source for this syllabus (see below), he spend “as much work for SocSci 2 as [he] did for the other three courses combined”:


The work of the Fall Term consists of three essays, one for each topic, and the mid-year examination. Section men will make specific assignments and suggest additional reading for these essays.

Books for Purchase: Students should own the following books, available at the Harvard Coop, or elsewhere as announced:

Bunyan, John, THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS Paperback: New American Library: Signet Classics
DOCUMENTS FOR CLASS USE (Assize of Clarendon, Writs from the treatis called “Glanville” Magna Carta, and the Constitutions of Clarendon). Pamphlet: University Printing Office. On sale in General Education office, 1737 Cambridge St., Rm. 602.
Hill, Christopher, THE CENTURY OF REVOLUTION 1603-1714 Paperback: W. W. Norton
Marx and Engels, BASIC WRITINGS ON POLITICS AND PHILOSOPHY Edited by Lewis S. Feuer. Paperback: Doubleday (Anchor)
Marx and Engels, COMMUNIST MANIFESTO Edited by Samuel H. Beer. Paperback: Appleton-Century-Crofts (Crofts Classics)
SOCIAL CONTRACT: ESSAYS BY LOCKE, HUME, AND ROUSSEAU Introduction by Ernest Barker. Paperback: Oxford (Galaxy Books)
Tierney, Brian, THE CRISIS OF CHURCH AND STATE 1050-1300 Paperback: Prentice-Hall (Spectrum) Weber, Max, THEORY OF SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ORGANIZATION, translated by A. Herderson and T. Parsons. Paperback: MacMillan Free Press.
Walzer, Michael, THE REVOLUTION OF THE SAINTS Paperback: Atheneum

Assigned Reading: Everything on the following list is on “closed reserve” in Lamont and Hilles Libraries. The date suggested here will vary during the semester; lectures and section discussions should be your guides.



Weeks of October 5, 12, and 19: FEUDAL MONARCHY IN ENGLAND:
Bloch, Marc, FEUDAL SOCIETY, pp. 59-92, 103-120, 270-274.
Poole, Austin Lane, FROM DOMESDAY BOOK TO MAGNA CARTA 1087-1216, chaps, I, II, V, X-XIV.
John of Salisbury, THE STATEMAN’ S BOOK (from the POLICRATICUS), translated by John Dickinson, Introduction, Text: IV:1, 2, 3, (pp. 9-10), 4, 11; V:1, 2, 5; VI:18, 20, 21, 24; VII:17-19; VIII:17 (pp. 335-9), 18, 20, 23, (pp. 398-9; 405-10)
DOCUMENTS FOR CLASS USE: Assize of Clarendon, Writs from the Treatis called “Glanvill,” Magna Carta.
Optional: ENGLISH HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS 1042-1189 (Vol. II of series) edited by David C. Douglas and George W. Greenaway. Nos. 1 (years 1135-154), 10, 12, (pp. 322-4, 331-3, 335-8), 16, 19, 58-9, 268.


Weber, Max, THE SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION, edited by Talcott Parsons, chaps. VIII, XI, XIII.

Tierney, Brian, THE CRISIS OF CHURCH AND STATE 1050-1300, pp. 1-95, 127-138.
Brooke, Z. N., LAY INVESTITURE AND ITS RELATION TO THE CONFLICT OF EMPIRE AND PAPACY (article listed separately in the libraries)
Tellenbach, Gerd, CHURCH, STATE, AND CHRISTIAN SOCIETY IN THE TIME OF THE INVESTITURE CONTEST, Introduction, chap. 1 (sections 1 and 3), chap. 2, chap. 5 (section 3) and Epilogue.

Duggan, Charles, “From the Conquest to the Death of John,” THE ENGLISH CHURCH AND THE PAPACY IN THE MIDDLE AGEs, edited by C. H. Lawrence, pp. 65-115.
DOCUMENTS FOR CLASS USE: Assize of Clarendon.


Weeks of November 16 and 23: Analytical Perspectives:
Marx and Engels, Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, edited by Louis S. Feuer, pp. 1-67, 82-111.
Marx, Karl, CAPITAL, Modern Library edition, pp. 784-837 (chaps. 26-32). In some editions this is chap. 24, entitled, “Primary Accumulation.”
Beer, Samuel H., Introduction to Marx and Engels, COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, pp. VII-XXIX,.
Weber, Max, THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM, translated by Talcott Parsons, pp. 35-c. 62, 79-128, 144-183.

Weeks of November 30, and December 7, 14: THE PURITAN REVOLUTION:
Hill, Christopher, THE CENTURY OF REVOLUTION 1603-1714, chaps. 1-11. Bunyan, John, THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, portions of the First Part: in Signet edition, pp. 17-30, 66-110, 131-148. Hexter, J.H., “Storm Over the Gentry,” in Hexter’s REAPPRAISALS IN HISTORY.
Walzer, Michael, THE REVOLUTION OF THE SAINTS, chaps. I, II, IV, V (pp. 148-171), and IX.
Walzer, Michael, “The revolutionary uses of repression,” in Richter (Ed.), ESSAYS IN THEORY AND HISTORY.
Locke, John, AN ESSAY CONCERNING…… CIVIL GOVERNMENT, chaps. 1-9, 19. Available in SOCIAL CONTRACT: ESSAYS BY LOCKE, HUME AND ROUSSEAU.   SPRING TERM 1971: Students are asked to buy the following books, which are available at the Harvard Coop, or, in the one case, at the General Education Office.

BRIGGS, Asa, The Making of Modern England Paperback: Harper Torch books. Hardcover title: The Age of Improvement.
BURKE, Edmund, Reflections on the Revolution in France Paperback: Bobbs-Merrill: The Library of Liberal Arts
HOBBES, Thomas, Leviathan Paperback: Penguin
MILL, John Stuart, On Liberty Paperback: Appleton-Century-Crofts: Crofts Classic
NIETZSCHE, Friedrich, The Genealogy of Morals Paperback: Vintage
RUDÉ, George, Revolutionary Europe, 1783-1815 Paperback: Harper Torchbook
de TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis, The Old Regime and the French Revolution Paperback: Anchor Books

Everything on the following list is on “closed reserve” in Lamont and Hilles Libraries. The date suggested here will vary during the semester; lectures and sections should be your guides.


Weeks of February 8 & 15:
HOBBES, Thomas, Leviathan, esp. Intro., Chaps. 11, 13-15, 17-21, 26, 29-30, and Review and Conclusion.
ROUSSEAU, Jean-Jacques, The Social Contract, especially Book I; Book II; Book III, chaps. 1-4, 12-18; and Book IV, chaps. 1-2, 7-8 (in the Galaxy paperback edition used for Locke’s SECOND TREATISE in the Fall Term).
BEER, Samuel, “The Development of the Modern Polity,” chap. 3 (Typescript on reserve).

Weeks of February 22 & March 1:
RUDÉ, George, Revolutionary Europe, pp. 65-241
de TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis, The Old Regime and the French Revolution, Forward, pp. 1-211.
RICHTER, Melvin, “The uses of theory: Tocqueville’s adaptation of Montesquieu” in Richter, Essays in Theory and History, pp. 94-102.
TILLY, Charles, The Vendee, chaps. 1, 2, 4, 9, 13.


Week of March 8:
BURKE, Edmund, Reflections on the Revolution in France, especially 3-4, 18-129, 138-144, 169-200, 233-266, and 286-291 (Page citations to the Library of Liberal Arts paperback edition).

Weeks of March 15, 22, & 29:
BRIGGS, Asa, The Making of Modern England (Hardcover title, The Age of Improvement), chaps. I, II (sections, 2-3), III (section 5), IV-VI, VIII (sections 1-3, through p. 416), and IX (section 3).
DICEY, A. The Lectures on the Relations Between Law and Opinion in England During the 19th century, Lectures 4, 6, 9, 12 (pt. 1).
BEER, Samuel H., British Politics in the Collectivist Age, Introduction, Chaps. I-II, Epilogue (391-409).
MILL, John Stuart, On Liberty, chaps. 1-2, 4


Week of April 12:
NIETZSCHE, Friedrich, The Genealogy of Morals (trans. W. Kaufmann; Vintage paperback).

Weeks of April 19, 26, & May 3:
PINSON, Koppel S., Modern Germany: Its History and Civilization, chaps. 15-21 (First or Second Edition).
EPSTEIN, Klaus, “Three Types of Conservatism” in Richter, Essays in Theory and History, pp. 103-121.
BULLOCK, Alan, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, chaps. 1-4, 7.
REICHSTAG, Election Statistics, 1919-1933, Mimeographed. To be distributed.
PARSONS, Talcott, “Certain Primary Sources and Patterns of Aggression in the Social Structure of the Western World”, Mimeographed. (This essay also appears in Parsons, Essays in Sociological Theory).
VIERECK, Peter, Metapolitics: From the Romantics to Hitler (Capricorn paperback subtitle: The Roots of the Nazi Mind), Prefatory Note (or, in paperback, “New Survey,” sections 3-4, & chaps. 1-2, 5-7, 11-13).
ERIKSON, Erik H., “The Legend of Hitler’s Childhood” in Childhood and Society, chap. 9.
ECKSTEIN, Harry, A Theory of Stable Democracy.

Reading Period Extra: Nazi Films: Wednesday, May 12, at 7 p.m., Lowell Lecture Hall


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Andrew Gelman: China Air Pollution Regression Discontinuity Update 'If fourth-degree polynomials had never been invented, researchers could look at the above graph with just the scatterplot and draw their own conclusions, with no p-values to mislead them. The trouble is that, for many purposes, we do need advanced methods—looking at scatterplots and time series is not always enough—hence we need to get into the details and explain why certain methods such as regression discontinuity with high-degree polynomials don’t work as advertised...

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Lecture Notes: Simulating the Solow Growth Model

How does an economy well-approximated by the Solow growth model—one that has a constant labor-force growth rate n and labor-efficiency growth rate g; a constant savings-investment share of production s and capital deprecation rate δ; and a constant elasticity θ of production Y with respect to the economy's capital intensity κ, where capital intensity is defined as κ = K/Y, the quotient of the economy's capital stock K and its production level Y—behave? What does it do? How are you—if you are a student—to understand it? And to use it?

Standard explanations often focus on graphs like:


which are often unhelpful.

With this class I would like—if I can get it working—to take another tack. If you have a Berkeley CalNet account, click on this link: If you have access to another Jupyter notebook server, go to In either case, then open the file: lecture-support-solow-2020-01-23.ipynb. You should then have, open, my Solow Growth Model Simulator. Click in the second code cell—the one whose first line is—"# SET PARAMETERS, INITIAL CONDITIONS, AND SCENARIO LENGTH IN THIS CELL". You can now edit the text in this code cell. Do so in order to either accept defaults or change the variable assignment statements (those with no "#" in the first column and an "=" sign in them to set values for the model parameter in the lines:

  • n = 0.01 # the labor-force L proportional growth rate
  • g = 0.02 # the labor-efficiency E proportional growth rate
  • s = 0.12 # the share of production Y that is saved and invested
  • δ = 0.03 # the capital depreciation rate
  • θ = 1.09 # the elasticity of production Y with respect to capital intensity κ

Then click lower down and edit in order to accept default or choose alternative starting values L_0, E_0, and κ_0 for the initial values as of time 0 for the labor force, labor efficiency, and capital intensity in the lines:

  • L_0 = 1
  • E_0 = 1
  • κ_0 = 8

Then click lower down again and either accept the default or choose the length of time for which the simulation will run in the lines:

  • T = 100

Then go up to the top of your environment. In the "Kernel" drop down menu click on "Restart Kernel and Run All Cells"

Then scroll down the webpage. If all has gone well you should see, interspersed among the code, ten graphs showing how each of and some combinations of the model variables behave over time.

Note what looks interesting. Then go back to the top, and change something in the second code cell. Once again, go up to the top of your environment, and in the "Kernel" drop down menu click on "Restart Kernel and Run All Cells". What has changed? What strikes you as interesting? Take notes.

Repeat until you think you have an understanding of how an economy that happened to be well-modeled by the Solow growth model would behave.

The assignment? Write 200-300 words on the simulations you carried out, why you chose the parameter values and starting conditions you did, what (if anything) you learned from this exercise, and how useful you think models and exercises like this are in understanding economic growth out there in the real world.

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Yes, Matthew Arnold was a Tory who did not believe hoi polloi should be allowed to engage in "monster processions in the streets". Next question?: Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy 'I remember my father... after strongly insisting on the badness and foolishness of the government, and on the harm and dangerousness of our feudal and aristocratical constitution of society, and ends thus: ‘As for rioting, the old Roman way of dealing with that is always the right one: flog the rank and file, and fling the ringleaders from the Tarpeian Rock!’ And this opinion we can never forsake, however our Liberal friends may think a little rioting, and what they call popular demonstrations, useful sometimes to their own interests and to the interests of the valuable practical operations they have in hand, and however they may preach the right of an Englishman to be left to do as far as possible what he likes, and the duty of his government to indulge him and connive as much as possible and abstain from all harshness of repression.... Monster processions in the streets and forcible irruptions into the parks... ought to be unflinchingly forbidden and repressed; and that far more is lost than is gained by permitting them. Because a State in which law is authoritative and sovereign, a firm and settled course of public order, is requisite if man is to bring to maturity anything precious and lasting now, or to found anything precious and lasting for the future...

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From 2016: RCTs are a truly excellent tool for determining the internal validity of a study—does it accurately model the data it has. But external validity—is the data at hand representative of the broader world in any reasonable sense?—is as important. There needs to be a balance here: Angus Deaton and Nancy Cartwright (2016): The Limitations of Randomised Controlled Trials "The use of randomised controlled trials has spread... perhaps most prominently in development and health economics.... Some of the popularity of such trials rests on misunderstandings about what they are capable of accomplishing, and cautions against simple extrapolations.... Well-conducted RCTs... provide unbiased estimates of the average treatment effect (ATE) in the study population, provided no relevant differences between treatment and control are introduced post randomisation, which blinding of subjects, investigators, data collectors, and analysts serves to diminish.... Randomisation, while doing nothing to guarantee balance on omitted factors, gives us a method for assessing their importance. Yet even here there are pitfalls. The t-statistics for estimated ATEs from RCTs do not in general follow the t-distribution.... In healthcare experiments, where one or two individuals can account for a large share of spending (this was true in the Rand Health Experiment); or in microfinance, where a few subjects make money and most do not (where the t-distribution again breaks down). Once again, inferences are likely to be wrong, but here there is no clear fix.... The ‘credibility’ of RCTs comes from their ability to get answers without the use of potentially contentious prior information about structure.... Cumulative science happens when new results are built on top of old ones–or undermine them–and RCTs, with their refusal to use prior science, make this very difficult.... Demonstrating that a treatment works in one situation is exceedingly weak evidence that it will work in the same way elsewhere; this is the ‘transportation’ problem: what does it take to allow us to use the results in new contexts, whether policy contexts or in the development of theory? It can only be addressed by using previous knowledge and understanding, i.e. by interpreting the RCT within some structure, the structure that, somewhat paradoxically, the RCT gets its credibility from refusing to use...

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Reminder: we know depressingly little about what really works to accelerate economic growth: Ricardo Hausmann, Lant Pritchett, and Dani Rodrik: Growth Accelerations 'We focus on turning points in growth performance. We look for instances of rapid acceleration in economic growth that are sustained for at least eight years and identify more than 80 such episodes since the 1950s. Growth accelerations tend to be correlated with increases in investment and trade, and with real exchange rate depreciations. Political-regime changes are statistically significant predictors of growth accelerations. External shocks tend to produce growth accelerations that eventually fizzle out, while economic reform is a statistically significant predictor of growth accelerations that are sustained. However, growth accelerations tend to be highly unpredictable: the vast majority of growth accelerations are unrelated to standard determinants and most instances of economic reform do not produce growth accelerations...

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The Dead of Iraq

Equitable Growth leader Heather Boushey is going to the Aspen Institute to talk on January 30. If you haven't managed to read her book Unbound yet and are in DC, this would be a relatively painless way to absorb it: Aspen Institute: Measure What Matters: Realigning Measures of Economic Success with Societal Well-Being 'In a new book Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do About It, Heather Boushey, President and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, considers how inequality is restricting growth and imagines how a more equitable economy would function. The book also raises two key questions: How can we better measure our economy to understand how it can improve the lives of individuals and how do we better support working families so we can set them and their children up for success? Join the Economic Opportunities Program, Ascend, Financial Security Program, and Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation for a book talk with Heather and a panel discussion including other experts to explore these questions about defining and measuring economic success and how we can work more broadly to create growth with purpose...

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Worthy Reads from January 24, 2019

Worthy Reads at Equitable Growth:

  1. I should long ago have told people to read this pinned tweetstorm from Equitable Growth's Will McGrew. A great many people who should know better—especially people on the ideological right—do not understand that when one assesses factors, one wants to control only for those complications that confound the effects you are trying to study, and that you have no business controlling for those complications that mediate the effects you are trying to study: Will McGrew: "Some claim that the wage gap disappears if you control for all relevant variables. This is 100% false. According to the evidence, workplace segregation and discrimination are the largest causes of the wage gap faced by Black women....

  2. Will McGrew sends us to new EPI employee and friend of Equitable Growth Pedro Nicolaci da Costa: The U.S. Job Market Doesn’t Feel so Hot Despite the Low Unemployment Rate: "Workers need the economy to stay hot so they can begin to see the dividends of high growth.... There are several reasons a purportedly booming U.S. economy doesn’t feel like much of a boon to millions of American workers, chief among them the startling lack of wage growth many have experienced over the past four decades.... A business- and bank-friendly mindset at the Federal Reserve, whose top officials spend a lot more time with their high-flying Wall Street and industry contacts than with workers and community leaders, deepens this imbalance.... Because of the Fed’s proximity to its business contacts, it tends to think of workers as labor costs (not investments in human capital) and wages as inflation (not improvements in standards of living). This colors the Fed’s definition of 'full employment', making policy makers easily swayed by dubious claims from business executives about chronic labor shortages—made without any contention about why wages are not rising on a sustained basis...

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

  4. A new book coming this fall: Heather Boushey: "On the inaugural weekend of the #womensmarch, I decided to write a book for the new economic era and made a plan. Feels really good to have sent the final manuscript in yesterday! 'Unbound' will be out in early fall...

  5. And another from Will McGrew, who is watching California begin trying to implement policies we at Equitable Growth had hoped to see implemented nationwide starting in 2017: Will McGrew: "Congrats to @AnnOLeary & Team Newsom_ on their bold plan for 6 months of paid leave in CA. Research by @HBoushey, @jacobselisabeth & others confirms paid leave can boost labor supply, family earnings & output, driving gov't savings from more tax revenue + less social spending...

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Anonymous: The Man Who Saw the Deep (Gilgamesh) 'Surpassing all kings, powerful and tall beyond all others, violent, splendid, a wild bull of a man, unvanquished leader, hero in the front lines, beloved by his soldiers...

...Who is like Gilgamesh? What other king has inspired such awe? Who else can say, “I alone rule, supreme among mankind”?

The goddess Aruru, mother of creation, had designed his body, had made him the strongest of men—huge, handsome, radiant, perfect.

The city is his possession, he struts through it, arrogant, his head raised high, trampling its citizens like a wild bull. He is king, he does whatever he wants, takes the son from his father and crushes him, takes the girl from her mother and uses her, the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride, he uses her, no one dares to oppose him.

But the people of Uruk cried out to heaven, and their lamentation was heard, the gods are not unfeeling, their hearts were touched, they went to Anu, father of them all, protector of the realm of sacred Uruk, and spoke to him on the people’s behalf:

Heavenly Father, Gilgamesh—noble as he is, splendid as he is—has exceeded all bounds. The people suffer from his tyranny, the people cry out that he takes the son from his father and crushes him, takes the girl from her mother and uses her, the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride, he uses her, no one dares to oppose him. Is this how you want your king to rule? Should a shepherd savage his own flock? Father, do something, quickly, before the people overwhelm heaven with their heartrending cries...

Anu heard them, he nodded his head, then to the goddess, mother of creation, he called...

Stephen Mitchell, trans.: Gilgamesh

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Terence Bell: The Ancient History of Copper 'Although various copper tools and decorative items dating back as early as 9000 BC have been discovered, archaeological evidence suggests that it was the early Mesopotamians who, around 5000 to 6000 years ago, were the first to fully harness the ability to extract and work with copper. Lacking modern knowledge of metallurgy, early societies, including the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Native Americans, prized the metal mostly for its aesthetic qualities, using it like gold and silver for producing decorative items and ornaments. The earliest organized production and use of copper in different societies have been roughly dated as: Mesopotamia, circa 4500 BC; Egypt, circa 3500 BC; China, circa 2800 BC.... Researchers now believe that copper came of regular use for a period—referred to as the Copper Age—prior to its substitution by bronze. The substitution of copper for bronze occurred between 3500 to 2500 BC in West Asia and Europe, ushering in the Bronze Age...

Continue reading "" » Bronze Age 'Sumer: By the fourth millennium BCE, Sumerians had established roughly a dozen city-states throughout ancient Mesopotamia, including Eridu and Uruk in what is now southern Iraq. Sumerians called themselves the Sag-giga, the “black-headed ones.” They were among the first to use bronze. They also pioneered the use of levees and canals for irrigation. Sumerians invented cuneiform script, one of the earliest forms of writing, and built large stepped pyramid temples called ziggurats. Sumerians celebrated art and literature. The 3,000-line poem “Epic of Gilgamesh” follows the adventures of a Sumerian king as he battles a forest monster and quests after the secrets of eternal life...

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Julka Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic: Neolithic Vinca was a Metallurgical Culture 'The unnamed tribe who lived between 5400 and 4700 BCE in the 120-hectare site at what is now Plocnik knew about trade, handcrafts, art and metallurgy. Near the settlement, a thermal well might be evidence of Europe’s oldest spa. "They pursued beauty and produced 60 different forms of wonderful pottery and figurines, not only to represent deities, but also out of pure enjoyment," said Kuzmanovic. The findings suggest an advanced division of labor and organization. Houses had stoves, there were special holes for trash, and the dead were buried in a tidy necropolis. People slept on woollen mats and fur, made clothes of wool, flax and leather, and kept animals. The community was especially fond of children. Artefacts include toys such as animals and rattles of clay, and small, clumsily crafted pots apparently made by children at playtime. One of the most exciting finds for archaeologists was the discovery of a sophisticated metal workshop with a furnace and tools including a copper chisel and a two-headed hammer and axe. "This might prove that the Copper Age started in Europe at least 500 years earlier than we thought," Kuzmanovic said...

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Model Economic History Papers

Note: Gross and Moser have been heavily, heavily revised since submission: you are not expected to write something that gets into the AER as-is.

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Weekly Economic History Memo Questions Bank

Memo 1: Malthusian Economies

Was the invention of agriculture the worst mistake in the history of the human race?



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For the Weekend: Matthew Arnold: Dover Beach


Matthew Arnold: Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;–on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago heard it on the AEgean,
And it brought into his mind
The turbid ebb and flow of human misery;
We find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

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Lecture Notes: 1.1. Theory: Robert Solow's Growth Model: The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135

Th Jan 23: Robert Solow's Growth Model

Notes & Further Readings:

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Lecture Notes: The Solow Growth Model: The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135

Jupyter (formerly iPython) notebook:

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0. Introduction: The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135


T Jan 21: Growth in Historical Perspective, Humans and Their Economies

Notes & Further Readings:

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-1. Before Class Begins: The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135


  1. Acquire: An iClicker, and access to the course readings

  2. Read: Course administration documents

  3. Read: Partha Dasgupta (2007): Economics: A Very Short Introduction, Prologue & chapters 1-4

  4. Read: Aristotle: Politics, Book I

  5. Do Assignment 1 (3 pts) Write & answer a syllabus FAQ question, due T Jan 21 9:00 am.

Notes & Further Readings:

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The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135: Assignments

Suggested Question (and Answer) for Course FAQ List: Assignment 1: Read the syllabus documents:

Using the information in the syllabus, think up a question that should be on the FAQ—the Frequently Asked Question—list for the course.

Answer the question you thought up.

Upload your question and answer to your account at the course on canvas.

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Note to Self: Richard Dawkins's Existence Poses a Real Problem for the Darwinian Theory of Evolution! 'The author… doesn’t care for “Pride and Prejudice”: “I can’t get excited about who is going to marry whom, and how rich they are.”' On a branch of the evolutionary tree as social as we are, genes that predispose you to such a mind state should have been wiped from the pool 50 million years ago… Just saying'...

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Wikipedia: Turnspit Dog _ 'According to John George Wood in _The Illustrated Natural History (Mammalia) (1853): "The services of the Turnspit Dog were brought into requisition. At one extremity of the spit was fastened a large circular box, or hollow wheel, something like the wire wheels which are so often appended to squirrel-cages; and in this wheel the Dog was accustomed to perform its daily task, by keeping it continually working. As the labour would be too great for a single Dog, it was usual to keep at least two animals for the purpose, and to make them relieve each other at regular intervals. The dogs were quite able to appreciate the lapse of time, and, if not relieved from their toils at the proper hour, would leap out of the wheel without orders, and force their companions to take their place, and complete their portion of the daily toil...

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Walter Jon Williams: Charging A Brick Wall Arley Sorg: 'What can you tell us about your recent novels—the Quillifer books and the Praxis books—what is special about them to you, and what do you really want readers to know about them?' WJW: 'At some point in the Nineties, my books started to grow in scope and got longer and longer. Eventually I wised up and split the huge stories into multiple volumes, which allowed me as much scope as I wanted, and also to be paid multiple times. Win/win! I’ve only recently realized that I’ve had a single project over the last twenty years, which is to examine the artifacts and tropes of genre, take them apart, and reassemble them in ways that make sense to me. It’s a very science fiction thing to do....

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Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy 'This habit of ours is very well shown in that able and interesting work of Mr Hepworth Dixon’s, which we were all reading lately, The Mormons, by One of Themselves.... It seems enough for Mr Dixon that this or that doctrine has its Rabbi, who talks big to him, has a staunch body of disciples, and, above all, has plenty of rifles. That there are any further stricter tests to be applied to a doctrine, before it is pronounced important, never seems to occur to him. ‘It is easy to say,’ he writes of the Mormons, ‘that these saints are dupes and fanatics, to laugh at Joe Smith and his church, but what then? The great facts remain. Young and his people are at Utah; a church of 200,000 souls; an army of 20,000 rifles.’ But if the followers of a doctrine are really dupes, or worse, and its promulgators are really fanatics, or worse, it gives the doctrine no seriousness or authority the more that there should be found 200,000 souls—200,000 of the innumerable multitude with a natural taste for the bathos,––to hold it, and 20,000 rifles to defend it. And again, of another religious organisation in America.... ‘Such are, in brief, the bases of what Newman Weeks, Sarah Horton, Deborah Butler, and the associated brethren, proclaimed in Rolt’s Hall as the new covenant!’ If he was summing up an account of the teaching of Plato or St Paul, Mr Hepworth Dixon could not be more earnestly reverential. But the question is, have personages like Judge Edmonds, and Newman Weeks, and Elderess Polly, and Elderess Antoinette, and the rest of Mr Hepworth Dixon’s heroes and heroines, anything of the weight and significance for the best reason and spirit of man that Plato and St Paul have? Evidently they, at present, have not; and a very small taste of them and their doctrines ought to have convinced Mr Hepworth Dixon that they never could have.... As we shall never get rid of our natural taste for the bathos in religion,––never get access to a best self and right reason which may stand as a serious authority,––by treating Mr Murphy as his own disciples treat him, seriously, and as if he was as much an authority as any one else: so we shall never get rid of it while our able and popular writers treat their Joe Smiths and Deborah Butlers, with their so many thousand souls and so many thousand rifles, in the like exaggerated and misleading manner, and so do their best to confirm us in a bad mental habit to which we are already too prone...

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I daresay I do not think Ross Douthat has read Matthew Arnold. I believe Douthat only quotes him. I think Matthew Arnold was thinking of Douthat's hero Michael Clune—and of Douthat himself—when Arnold cast maximum shade on "futile... bookmen" and noted that "from the faults and weaknesses of bookmen a notion of something bookish, pedantic, and futile has got itself... connected with the word culture...". Getting—from some source—"a fresh and free play of the best thoughts upon his stock notions and habits" was called by Henry Rosovsky "learning approaches to knowledge". And Ross Douthat has no time for Henry Rosovsky: Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy '[I] recommend culture as the great help out of our present difficulties; culture being a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said... and, through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits.... From the faults and weaknesses of bookmen a notion of something bookish, pedantic, and futile has got itself more or less connected with the word culture.... Yet futile as are many bookmen... a man's life of each day depends for its solidity and value on whether he reads during that day, and, far more still, on what he reads during it. More and more he who examines himself will find the difference it makes... at the end of any given day, whether or no he has pursued his avocations throughout it without reading at all; and whether or no... he has read the newspapers only.... [But] if a man without books or reading, or reading nothing but his letters and the newspapers, gets nevertheless a fresh and free play of the best thoughts upon his stock notions and habits, he has got culture. He has got that for which we prize and recommend culture; he has got that which at the present moment we seek culture that it may give us. This inward operation is the very life and essence of culture, as we conceive it...

Ross Douthat: The Academic Apocalypse 'Preservation and recovery depend on... belief that “the best that has been thought and said” is not an empty phrase.... Michael Clune... insist[s]... that the humanities must offer “judgment” on what is worth reading, and G. Gabrielle Starr and Kevin Dettmar of Pomona answer... that no, humanists can only really “teach disciplinary procedures and habits of mind… we model a style of engagement, of critical thought: we don’t transmit value.” The Starr-Dettmar belief was my alma mater’s philosophy when I was an undergraduate; back then our so-called “core” curriculum promised to teach us “approaches to knowledge” rather than the thing itself. It was, and remains, an insane view for humanists to take.... Humanists have often trapped themselves in a false choice between “dead white males” and “we don’t transmit value.” Escaping that dichotomy will not restore the academic or intellectual worlds of 70 years ago. But the path to recovery begins there, with a renewed faith not only in humanism’s methods and approaches, but in the very thing itself...

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Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy 'We see whither it has brought us, the long exclusive predominance of Hebraism—the insisting on perfection in one part of our nature and not in all; the singling out the moral side, the side of obedience and action, for such intent regard; making strictness of the moral conscience so far the principal thing.... Under the sanction of some such text as ‘Not slothful in business,’ or ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might,’ or something else of the same kind. And to any of these impulses we soon come to give that same character of a mechanical, absolute law, which we give to our religion; we regard it, as we do our religion, as an object for strictness of conscience, not for spontaneity of consciousness; for unremitting adherence on its own account, not for going back upon, viewing in its connection with other things, and adjusting to a number of changing circumstances; we treat it, in short, just as we treat our religion—as machinery. It is in this way that the Barbarians treat their bodily exercises, the Philistines their business, Mr Spurgeon his voluntaryism, Mr Bright the assertion of personal liberty, Mr Beales the right of meeting in Hyde Park. In all those cases what is needed is a freer play of consciousness upon the object of pursuit; and in all of them Hebraism, the valuing staunchness and earnestness more than this free play, the entire subordination of thinking to doing, has led to a mistaken and misleading treatment of things...

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Very Briefly Noted 2020-01-16:

  1. Dante Alighieri (1320): Inferno

  2. The Angry Staff Officer: Helm’s Deep 'Gandalf was able to build combat power through liaison networks and would bring victory out of defeat. He remains the most proficient ideal of the staff officer...

  3. Dante's Library: Lancelot '“A Gallehault indeed, that book and he/who wrote it, too; that day we read no more” Galeotto fu ‘l libro e chi lo scrisse/quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante, the pilgrim faints: “And I fell as a dead body falls” [e caddi come corpo morto cade] (Inf.5.142)...

  4. Gustave Doré: Dante Alighieri: Inferno: Plate 12,_Dante_is_accepted_as_an_equal_by_the_great_Greek_and_Roman_poets).jpg: 'Dante is accepted as an equal...

  5. Kenneth Rogoff: The Inequality Debate We Need 'The scientific evidence increasingly indicates that the world may soon reach a point of no return regarding climate change. So, rather than worrying almost exclusively about economic and political inequality, rich-country citizens need to start thinking about how to deal with global energy inequality before it’s too late...

  6. U.C. Berkeley: Course Capture

  7. Jason Kottke: Ridgeline Maps of the World

  8. John D. Grainger (2002): The Roman War of Antiochos the Great

  9. Wikipedia: Roman–Seleucid War

  10. Samuel Pao-San Ho: Colonialism and Development: Korea, Taiwan and Kwantung <(>: "Economic growth in three colonies within the broad context of Japanese imperialism. It discusses Japan's needs and how they determined the economic role played by her colonies.... The Japanese tried to develop Korea, Kwantung, and Taiwan as they had developed their economy in the late nineteenth century. The colonies were closely tied to Japan to create the "bilateralism" so conspicuous of colonialism...

  11. Gregory King: Estimates Population and wealth, England and Wales, 1688...

  12. Scott Alexander: SSC Journal Club: Dissolving The Fermi Paradox

  13. Brad DeLong: Bequests: An Historical Perspective

  14. Brad DeLong: Let's Have a Daniel Davies Day! ("Tricky Cases Where the Rightwingers Happen to Be Right" Department)

  15. Premium Spa Chemicals and Supplies

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George Orwell (1948): Nineteen Eighty-Four ''How many fingers, Winston?' 'Four. I suppose there are four. I would see five if I could. I am trying to see five.' 'Which do you wish: to persuade me that you see five, or really to see them?' 'Really to see them.' 'Again,' said O'Brien. Perhaps the needle was eighty—ninety.... 'How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?' 'I don't know. I don't know. You will kill me if you do that again. Four, five, six—in all honesty I don't know.' 'Better,' said O'Brien. A needle slid into Winston's arm. Almost in the same instant a blissful,healing warmth spread all through his body. The pain was already half-forgotten. He opened his eyes and looked up gratefully at O'Brien.... 'Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Do you remember that now?' 'Yes.' 'Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Since the beginning of your life, since the beginning of the Party, since the beginning of history, the war has continued without a break, always the same war. Do you remember that?' 'Yes.' 'Eleven years ago you created a legend about three men who had been condemned to death for treachery. You pretended that you had seen a piece of paper which proved them innocent. No such piece of paper ever existed. You invented it, and later you grew to believe in it. You remember now the very moment at which you first invented it. Do you remember that?' 'Yes.' 'Just now I held up the fingers of my hand to you. You saw five fingers. Do you remember that?' 'Yes.' O'Brien held up the fingers of his left hand, with the thumb concealed. 'There are five fingers there. Do you see five fingers?' 'Yes.' And he did see them, for a fleeting instant, before the scenery of his mind changed. He saw five fingers, and there was no deformity. Then everything was normal again, and the old fear, the hatred, and the bewilderment came crowding back again. But there had been a moment—he did not know how long, thirty seconds, perhaps—of luminous certainty, when each new suggestion of O'Brien's had filled up a patch of emptiness and become absolute truth, and when two and two could have been three as easily as five, if that were what was needed. It had faded but before O'Brien had dropped his hand; but though he could not recapture it, he could remember it, as one remembers a vivid experience at some period of one's life when one was in effect a different person. 'You see now,' said O'Brien, 'that it is at any rate possible.' 'Yes,' said Winston...


#noted #2020-01-16

MSW: The Black Watch at Fontenoy 'On the morning of the battle, when the Highlanders paraded, the commanding officer saw the regimental minister standing in the ranks with drawn broadsword. This was Adam Ferguson, later Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, who was threatened upon the spot with the loss of his commission if he did not at once return to his more orthodox duties. "Damn my commission!" retorted the bellicose prelate and marched off to battle with his men...

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Peter Jorgensen and Kevin J. Lansing: Anchored Inflation Expectations and the Flatter Phillips Curve 'Conventional versions of the Phillips curve cannot account for inflation dynamics during and after the U.S. Great Recession, leading many to conclude that the Phillips curve relationship has weakened or even disappeared. We show that if agents solve a signal extraction problem to disentangle temporary versus permanent shocks to inflation, then agents' inflation expectations should have become more anchored over the Great Moderation period. An estimated New Keynesian Phillips curve that accounts for the increased anchoring of expected inflation exhibits a stable slope coefficient over the period 1960 to 2019. Out-of-sample forecasts show that this model can account for the missing disinflation during the U.S. Great Recession and the missing inflation during the subsequent recovery. We use a simple three-equation New Keynesian model to show that an increase in the Taylor rule coefficient on inflation (or the output gap) serves to endogenously anchor agents subjective inflation expectations and thereby flatten the reduced-form Phillips curve...

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Scott Alexander: A Very Unlikely Chess Game 'Almost 25 years after Kasparov vs. Deep Blue, another seminal man vs. machine matchup. Neither competitor has much to be proud of here. White has a poor opening. Black screws up and loses his queen for no reason. A few moves later, white screws up and loses his rook for no reason. Better players will no doubt spot other humiliating mistakes. But white does eventually eke out a victory. And black does hold his own through most of the game. White is me. My excuse is that I only play chess once every couple of years, plus I’m entering moves on an ASCII board I can barely read. Black is GPT-2. Its excuse is that it’s a text prediction program with no concept of chess. As far as it knows, it’s trying to predict short alphanumeric strings like “e2e4” or “Nb7”. Nobody told it this represents a board game. It doesn’t even have a concept of 2D space that it could use to understand such a claim. But it still captured my rook! Embarrassing!...

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Note to Self: The Two Faces of Jean-Baptiste Say... Say I (1803): A Treatise on Political Economy Book I, Chapter XV:

To say that sales are dull, owing to the scarcity of money, is to mistake the means for the cause; an error that proceeds from the circumstance, that almost all produce is in the first instance exchanged for money, before it is ultimately converted into other produce: and the commodity, which recurs so repeatedly in use, appears to vulgar apprehensions the most important of commodities, and the end and object of all transactions, whereas it is only the medium. Sales cannot be said to be dull because money is scarce, but because other products are so. There is always money enough to conduct the circulation and mutual interchange of other values, when those values really exist. Should the increase of traffic require more money to facilitate it, the want is easily supplied, and is a strong indication of prosperity—a proof that a great abundance of values has been created, which it is wished to exchange for other values. In such cases, merchants know well enough how to find substitutes for the product serving as the medium of exchange or money...


Say II (1829): Cours Complet d'Economie Politique Pratique:

The Bank [of England], legally obliged to redeem its banknotes in specie, regarded itself as obliged to buy gold back at any price, and to coin money at a loss and at considerable expense. To limit its losses, it forced the return of its banknotes, and ceased to put new notes into circulation. It was then obliged to cease to discount commercial bills. Provincial banks were in consequence obliged to follow the same course, and commerce found itself deprived at a stroke of the advances on which it had counted, be it to create new businesses, or to give a lease of life to the old. As the bills that businessmen had discounted came to maturity, they were obliged to meet them, and finding no more advances from the bankers, each was forced to use up all the resources at his disposal. They sold goods for half what they had cost. Business assets could not be sold at any price. As every type of merchandise had sunk below its costs of production, a multitude of workers were without work. Many bankruptcies were declared among merchants and among bankers, who having placed more bills in circulation than their personal wealth could cover, could no longer find guarantees to cover their issues beyond the undertakings of individuals, many of whom had themselves become bankrupt...

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