Reading Notes on Dasgupta's "Economics: A Very Short Introduction"

Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (January 7, 2020)

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MUST OF THE MUSTS


  1. Reading Notes: A Note on Reading Big, Difficult Books... https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/a-note-on-reading-big-difficult-books.html: These are all big, difficult, flawed, incredibly insightful, genius books. And it is a principal task of a successful modern university to teach people how to read such things. Indeed, it might be said that one of the few key competencies we here at the university have to teach—our counterpart or the medieval triad of rhetoric, logic, grammar and then quadriad of arithmetic, geometry, music and astrology—is how to read and absorb a theoretical argument made by a hard, worthwhile, flawed book. People need to understand what an argument is, and the only way to do that is actually go through an argument—to read the argument and try to make sense of it. People need to be able to tell the difference between an argument and an assertion. People need to be able to do more than just say whether they liked the conclusion or not: they need to be able to specify whether the argument hangs together given the premises, and where it is the premises, and where it is the premises themselves that need to be challenged. People need to learn that while you can disagree, you need to be able to specify why and how you disagree. The first order task is to teach people how to read difficult books. Teaching people five facts about some thinker's theoretical perspective is subordinate: those five facts will not stick with them over the years. Teaching them how to read difficult books will stick with them over the years. Knowing what to do with a book that makes an important, an interesting, but also a flawed argument—that is a key skill...

  2. Slouching Towards Utopia: Feminism: I Need to Include Something Like This in My Twentieth Century History Book. But I Would Like Something from 1870-1950—Not Something from 1776 and 1700 and Before... https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/feminism-1.html: Yes, back in the Agrarian Age the biological requirements of obtaining a reasonable chance of having surviving descendants to take care of one in one’s old age meant that the typical woman spent 20 years eating for two: 20 years pregnant and breastfeeding. Yes, eating for two is an enormous energy drain, especially in populations near subsistence. Yes, Agrarian Age populations were near subsistence—my great-grandmother Eleanor Lawton Carter’s maxim was “have a baby, lose a tooth” as the child-to-be leached calcium out of the mother to build her or his own bones, and she was an upper class Bostonian born in the mid-1870s. Yes, breastfeeding kept women very close to their children, and impelled a concentration of female labor on activities that made that easy: gardening and other forms of within-and-near-the-dwelling labor, especially textiles. Yes, there were benefits to men as a group from oppressing women—especially if women could be convinced that they deserved it: “Unto the woman he said, ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband; and he shall rule over thee’…” But surely even in the Agrarian Age a shift to a society with less male supremacy would have been a positive-sum change?...

  3. Note to Self: Reply to Angelo Houston https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/note-to-self-angelo-houston-auten-splinter-has-been-out-for-over-2-years-but-im-just-now-seeing-economists-much.html: 'Auten-Splinter has been out for over 2 years but I’m just now seeing economists much less journalists even acknowledge it. I find it baffling.' Well, in 1982 the top 5 individuals' wealth was 0.3% of America's GDP; today the top 5 individuals' wealth is 2.1% of America's annual GDP. With little movement in the rate of profit, it's hard to reconcile that with AS's belief that top 10% CMA has only risen from 28% to 33%. The sharp disagreement between AS 10%ile & top order statistics of income & wealth distribution creates, in the absence of any successful reconciliation, a very strong presumption that there is something wrong with their procedures. I think that has caused lots of pause...

  4. It seems clear that Gordon Wood has read neither Jill Lepore nor the papers of Edward Rutledge. Perhaps he should?: Gordon Wood: Response to the New York Times’ Defense of the 1619 Project https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/12/24/nytr-d24.html: 'Dear Mr. Silverstein: I have read your response to our letter concerning the 1619 Project.... I have spent my career studying the American Revolution and cannot accept the view that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” I don’t know of any colonist who said that they wanted independence in order to preserve their slaves. No colonist expressed alarm that the mother country was out to abolish slavery in 1776...

  5. Not a surprise: Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce: Disentangling the Effects of the 2018-2019 Tariffs on a Globally Connected U.S. Manufacturing Sector https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2019086pap.pdf: 'Since the beginning of 2018, the United States has undertaken unprecedented tariff increases, with one goal of these actions being to boost the manufacturing sector. In this paper, we estimate the effect of the tariffs—including retaliatory tariffs by U.S. trading partners—on manufacturing employment, output, and producer prices. A key feature of our analysis is accounting for the multiple ways that tariffs might affect the manufacturing sector, including providing protection for domestic industries, raising costs for imported inputs, and harming competitiveness in overseas markets due to retaliatory tariffs. We find that U.S. manufacturing industries more exposed to tariff increases experience relative reductions in employment as a positive effect from import protection is offset by larger negative effects from rising input costs and retaliatory tariffs. Higher tariffs are also associated with relative increases in producer prices via rising input costs...

  6. John Scalzi (2010): Tax Frenzies and How to Hose Them Down https://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/09/26/tax-frenzies-and-how-to-hose-them-down/: 'I really don’t know what you do about the “taxes are theft” crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires. Sorry, guys. I know you all thought you were going to be one of those paying a nickel for your cigarettes in Galt Gulch. That’ll be a fine last thought for you as the starving remnants of the society of takers closes in with their flensing tools...


  1. Hyman Minsky (1988): Review of "Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country" by William Greider. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987, 799 pp. , $24.95 https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/40720477.pdf: 'Secrets of the Temple is a long and tedious book with a core that could have been interesting and important. The subtitle of William Greider's book... announces... its chief conceit: the Federal Reserve runs the country. As the only unqualified true proposition in economics is that there are no unqualified true assertions, the conceit is false.... Embellished with sleep-inducing asides on psychology, history, anthropology, and politics. The tone is iconoclastic; implicit conspiracies are suggested, but the evidence is anecdotal. The aim might be to demythicize money and the Federal Reserve, but ultimately Greider' s weak command over the relevant economic theory blunts his message. This reader feels that Greider set out to prove a conspiracy but he couldn't marshall the evidence. The main policy recommendation-to bring the Federal Reserve under the control of the administration-is weak, especially in light of Greider' s strong views. Given the economic weirdos that recent administrations have favored, I am reluctant to endorse such a concentration of power.... During the 12 years of Nixon, Ford, and Carter, the Federal Reserve and the central banks of the advanced capitalist countries seemed impotent validators of price levels resulting from the exercise of market power by unions, firms, and cartels of raw material suppliers. No strong claims that the Federal Reserve runs the country were put forth. Proposals for incomes policies were rife.... The Reagan Administration had an incomes policy... high unemployment... welcom[ing] imports, it kept the minimum wage constant, and it bashed unions. Breaking the air controllers strike was the key anti-inflationary act of the Reagan Administration. The second most important such act may have been the acceptance of the flood of imports.... Ultimately, Greider cannot sustain his conceit because his command of economics is incomplete.... Especially when the financial structure is fragile, the Federal Reserve is mainly a crisis-containing mechanism, rather than the agency of a conspiracy to bias income distribution.... In spite of the evident shortcomings in his understanding of economics, Greider had the makings of a good, forceful, 200-page book that could have... opened a public discussion of the proper use of the Federal Reserve. His text runs to 717 pages. In this case, more is clearly less...

  2. It seems clear that Gordon Wood has read neither Jill Lepore nor the papers of Edward Rutledge. Perhaps he should?: Gordon Wood: Response to the New York Times’ Defense of the 1619 Project https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/12/24/nytr-d24.html: 'Dear Mr. Silverstein: I have read your response to our letter concerning the 1619 Project.... I have spent my career studying the American Revolution and cannot accept the view that “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” I don’t know of any colonist who said that they wanted independence in order to preserve their slaves. No colonist expressed alarm that the mother country was out to abolish slavery in 1776...

  3. Jill Lepore: These Truths: A History of the United States https://books.google.com/books?id=v2ZSDwAAQBAJ: 'In November 1775... Lord Dunmore... offered freedom to any slaves who would join His Majesty’s troops in suppressing the American rebellion.... Five hundred men... ran from their owners and joined Dunmore’s forces, a number that included a man named Ralph, who ran away from Patrick Henry, and eight of the twenty-seven people owned by Peyton Randolph, who had served as president of the First Continental Congress. Edward Rutledge, a member of South Carolina’s delegation to the Continental Congress, said that Dunmore’s declaration did “more effectually work an eternal separation between Great Britain and the Colonies—than any other expedient which could possibly have been thought of.” Not the taxes and the tea, not the shots at Lexington and Concord, not the siege of Boston; rather, it was this act, Dunmore’s offer of freedom to slaves, that tipped the scales in favor of American independence...

  4. Fergus Millar (1982): Rich and Poor in the Ancient World https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v04/n11/fergus-millar/rich-and-poor-in-the-ancient-world: 'By comparison with other societies of the same period, the production of an immense volume of refined consumer goods, sophisticated building techniques, a conscious application of agricultural skills, both local and long-distance trade, the circulation of coins–in short, a market economy–are among the primary characteristics of Graeco-Roman society. It is, moreover, precisely the physical reflections of such an economy which the archaeologist will take as indicating the advance of ‘Hellenisation’ into the Near East, or of ‘Romanisation’ into Western and Central Europe and North Africa. Some understanding of the technology of production, including that of agriculture (the economic predominance of which, obvious and banal as it is, provides another of the parrot-cries of contemporary thought on ancient society), is essential if one is to grasp how there was a surplus at all. If the actual processes in which millions of primary producers engaged (not to speak of shopkeeping, shipping and so forth) are all just taken for granted, as they are in this book, the notion of the crucial importance of the relations of production seems empty. What is said here about the social relations of production, or rather of the extraction of a surplus by the propertied classes, is in any case confined to a number of broad propositions, even if (as we shall see) these are of exceptional interest and importance. But the propositions are essentially confined to the producers (slaves, serfs, debt bondsmen, free labourers). One of his central arguments, or rather assertions, is that wage labour was economically unimportant, and that it must–for lack of any clear alternative–have been specifically the exploitation of slaves which provided the Greek upper classes with their surplus. The ‘possessing classes’ themselves are by and large taken for granted, whether in Classical Greece, the Hellenistic world or the Roman Empire. But it makes a crucial difference whether we are talking of descent-groups which enjoyed a stable possession of wealth inherited over generations (and how stable that possession will itself have been in individual cases will have depended in part on how restrictive the laws of inheritance, gift and dowry were), or whether people could easily rise or fall in the scale of wealth.... The main proposition at which the whole book aims concerns the relevance of class relations and exploitation to the fall of the Roman Empire.... De Ste Croix comes finally to the proposition that the late Roman state, with its vastly increased army (a point which is not now as certain as it used to seem), and its much more elaborate bureaucracy, served to intensify the total burden of exploitation suffered by its economic base–the impoverished peasants on the land.... Whether this was the ‘cause’ of the fall of the Empire is (obviously) not a question which allows a simple answer–and especially not in the context of this book, since most of the Greek-speaking part of the Empire took a very long time to fall, or be pushed.... What he has done is to present a consistent and vigorously argued case for seeing not just the Greek world but the whole of Antiquity in a different way. The argument is often unconvincing or partial, and the structure sometimes loose and self-indulgent; in his incapacity to resist an interesting byway he more resembles Herodotus than Thucydides, whom (along with Aristotle) he so much reveres. On the other hand, it is precisely this width of reference, both ancient and modern, which contributes most to the book’s uniquely personal tone.... It does... leave me wishing even more strongly than before that someone would now write a serious book on the overall pattern of economic relations and social structure in one ancient society, for which Classical Athens is the obvious candidate; and that somebody would now produce a detailed study of property, class, the mechanism of economic exploitation, and the struggle between rich and poor citizens, in the ancient Greek world...

  5. Not a surprise: Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce: Disentangling the Effects of the 2018-2019 Tariffs on a Globally Connected U.S. Manufacturing Sector https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/feds/files/2019086pap.pdf: 'Since the beginning of 2018, the United States has undertaken unprecedented tariff increases, with one goal of these actions being to boost the manufacturing sector. In this paper, we estimate the effect of the tariffs—including retaliatory tariffs by U.S. trading partners—on manufacturing employment, output, and producer prices. A key feature of our analysis is accounting for the multiple ways that tariffs might affect the manufacturing sector, including providing protection for domestic industries, raising costs for imported inputs, and harming competitiveness in overseas markets due to retaliatory tariffs. We find that U.S. manufacturing industries more exposed to tariff increases experience relative reductions in employment as a positive effect from import protection is offset by larger negative effects from rising input costs and retaliatory tariffs. Higher tariffs are also associated with relative increases in producer prices via rising input costs...

  6. Duncan Black: Eschaton: Clearly, The Problem Is Our Readers https://www.eschatonblog.com/2019/12/clearly-problem-is-our-readers.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+blogspot/bRuz+(Eschaton): 'One reason I hate the NYT is the absolute contempt it has for the truth and for its readers: Julia Carrie Wong: "Do they actually just think we’re stupid?: New York Times Editors: 'Mr. Stephens was not endorsing the study or its authors' views...' Bret Stephens: 'Jews are, or tend to be, smart. When it comes to Ashkenazi Jews, it’s true. “Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average I.Q. of any ethnic group for which there are reliable data,” noted one 2005 paper. “During the 20th century, they made up about 3 percent of the U.S. population but won 27 percent of the U.S. Nobel science prizes and 25 percent of the ACM Turing awards. They account for more than half of world chess champions...' So the correction makes it ... worse ?? somehow?" Seems like bad qualities in a newspaper!!! "Sorry I wrote that. It wasn't what I meant to say but that happens sometimes." Would be lie but not a "fuck you, readers" lie...' For some reason, the New York Times is unwilling to say either (1) "yes, Henry Harpending is one of Bret Stephens's go-to authorities, but we have told him not to do it again..." or (2) "Bret Stephens often pretends he has read papers that he has not. He just googles, cherry-picks a couple of reported numbers, and then presents them as if he had actually done some research and gained some knowledge. This time this method of working went wrong. But by and large we are happy with him..."

  7. John Scalzi: 2019, Professionally Speaking https://whatever.scalzi.com/: 'For 2020, my life project is going to have to be working on that focus, so that my professional time is more productively organized and spent. This is something I’ve talked about a lot previously and have already instituted some steps toward (software to block social media while I’m sup

  8. Richard Jensen: Unix at 50: How the OS that Powered Smartphones Started from Failure https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2019/08/unix-at-50-it-starts-with-a-mainframe-a-gator-and-three-dedicated-researchers/: 'Today, Unix powers iOS and Android—its legend begins with a gator and a trio of researchers.... In 1965, the GE 645 that Bell Labs used to develop Multics cost almost as much as a Boeing 737. Thus, there was widespread interest in time sharing.... Multics was conceived with that goal in mind. It kicked off in 1964 and had an initial delivery deadline of 1967. MIT, where a primitive time-sharing system called CTSS had already been developed and was in use, would provide the specs, GE would provide the hardware, and GE and Bell Labs would split the programming tasks.... Thompson bundled up the various pieces of the PDP-7—a machine about the size of a refrigerator, not counting the terminal—moved it into a closet assigned to the acoustics department, and got it up and running. One way or another, they convinced acoustics to provide space for the computer and also to pay for the not infrequent repairs to it.... By September, the computer science department at Bell Labs had an operating system running on a PDP-7—and it wasn’t Multics...

  9. Mark Koyama: The End of the Past https://medium.com/@MarkKoyama/the-end-of-the-past-2f028cb970ed: '[Aldo] Schiavone suggests that ultimately the economic stagnation of the ancient world was due to a peculiar equilibrium that centered around slavery.... The apparent modernity of the ancient economy... rested largely on slave labor. The expansion of trade and commerce in the Mediterranean after 200 BC both rested on, and drove, the expansion of slavery. Here Schiavone note that the ancient reliance on slaves as human automatons... removed or at least weakened, the incentive to develop machines for productive purposes.... There was also a specific cultural attitude that formed the second leg of the equilibrium: “None of the great engineers and architects, none of the incomparable builders of bridges, roads, and aqueducts, none of the experts in the employment of the apparatus of war, and none of their customers, either in the public administration or in the large landowning families, understood that the most advantageous arena for the use and improvement of machines—devices that were either already in use or easily created by association, or that could be designed to meet existing needs—would have been farms and workshops.” The relevance of slavery colored ancient attitudes towards almost all forms of manual work or craftsmanship. The dominant cultural meme was as follows: since such work was usually done by the unfree, it must be lowly, dirty and demeaning.... The phenomenon coined by Fernand Braudel, the “Betrayal of the Bourgeois,” was particularly powerful in ancient Rome. Great merchants flourished, but “in order to be truly valued, they eventually had to become rentiers, as Cicero affirmed without hesitation: ‘Nay, it even seems to deserve the highest respect, if those who are engaged in it [trade], satiated, or rather , I should say, satisfied with the fortunes they have made, make their way from port to a country estate, as they have often made it from the sea into port. But of all the occupations by which gain is secured, none is better than agriculture, none more delightful, none more becoming to a freeman’”.... Having taken note of the existence of such a powerful equilibrium... resting on both material and cultural foundations, we can now return to Schiavone’s argument for why a modern capitalist economy did not develop in antiquity.... Economic expansion and growth... between c. 200 BCE to 150 CE... generated a growth efflorescence... but it ultimately undermined itself because it was based on an intensification of the slave economy that, in turn, reinforced the cultural supremacy of the landowning aristocracy and this cultural supremacy in turn eroded the incentives responsible for driving growth.... The most advanced economies of early modern Europe, say England in 1700, were on the surface not too dissimilar to that of ancient Rome. But beneath the surface they contained the “coiled spring”, or at least the possibility, of sustained economic growth... a culture of improvement... a commercial or even capitalist culture. According to Schiavone’s assessment, the Roman economy at least by 100 CE contained no such coiled spring...

  10. Mark Koyama: The End of the Past https://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/11/should-read-mark-koyama-the-end-of-the-pasthttpsmediumcommarkkoyamathe-end-of-the-past-2f028cb970ed-temin.html: 'Temin’s GDP estimates suggest that Roman Italy had comparable per capita income to the Dutch Republic in 1600..... Aelius Aristides celebrating the wealth of the Roman empire in the mid-2nd century AD... a panegyric addressed to flatter the emperor but its emphasis on long-distance trade, commerce, manufacturing is highly suggestive. Such a speech is all but impossible to imagine in an predominantly rural and autarkic society. Aristides is painting a picture of a highly developed commercialized economy that linked together the entire Mediterranean and beyond. Even if he is grossly exaggerates, the imagine he depicts must have been plausible to his audience. In evaluating the Roman economy in the age of Aristides, Schaivone notes that: "Until at least mid-seventeenth century Amsterdam, so expertly described by Simon Schama—the city of Rembrandt, Spinoza, and the great sea-trade companies, the product of the Dutch miracle and the first real globalization of the economy—or at least, until the Spanish empire of Philip II, the total wealth accumulated and produced in the various regions of Europe reached levels that were not too far from those of the ancient world..." This is the point Temin makes. Whether measured in terms of the size of its largest cities—Rome in 100 AD was larger than any European city in 1700—or in the volume of grain, wine, and olive oil imported into Italy, the scale of the Roman economy was vast by any premodern standard. Quantitively, then, the Roman economy looks as large and prosperous as that the early modern European economy. Qualitatively, however, there are important differences...

  11. Yes, austerity still rules in Europe. Which makes it very likely that the next recession will be a deep one, and that the current expansion will remain an anemic one. Why do you ask?: Barry Eichengreen: The Policy Debate Europe Needs https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/eurozone-stimulus-ramp-up-european-investment-bank-by-barry-eichengreen-2019-12: 'National policymakers in a number of eurozone countries, starting with Germany, are dead set against fiscal expansion. Believing that they are being asked to encumber their children with debt in order to provide the stimulus that countries like Italy are unable to deliver, they happily invoke the EU’s fiscal rules to justify not running budget deficits. This impasse has prompted suggestions that the ECB should pursue fiscal policy by stealth.... The legitimacy of the ECB depends on more than legal formalities. Fundamentally, it derives from public support. And public opinion toward quasi-fiscal measures by the ECB would be strongly negative in countries like Germany.... Rather than attempting to circumvent the intent of the ECB’s statute, the resources of the European Investment Bank should be enlisted. The EIB has €70 billion of paid-in capital and reserves and €222 billion of callable capital. It has a board of directors from all 28 EU member states, limiting the danger of capture. Its charge is to fund sustainable investment projects, and it is empowered to borrow for that purpose. Because it is required to place its bonds with private investors, it is subject to market discipline, and it earns positive returns on its investments. Ramping up its borrowing and spending would be entirely consistent with its mandate.... Proposals for doing so will meet with political resistance from those who fear that a larger EIB would be a loss-making EIB. But significant losses are unlikely in an environment where borrowing costs are only a fraction of the return on equity investment. This, in any case, is the debate Europe should be having. Tackling the stimulus issue head-on is more likely to succeed than proceeding by subterfuge...

  12. Eric Loomis: White Nationalism, the Working Class, and Organized Labor http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2019/12/white-nationalism-the-working-class-and-organized-labor: 'I have the lead article in the new issue of New Labor Forum.... I explore the dubious media-driven proposition that Trumpism is a specifically working class phenomena instead of a white issue that crosses classes. I then go on to discuss the history of racism within the American labor movement and ask if there’s anything very new about Trumpism anyway. I then muse a bit on how the contemporary reinforces white male domination through things such as the hyper-masculine and extremely white cultural references that dominate much union-branded clothing (More angry eagles! More flags! More language and symbols that would look fine at a Trump rally!). Finally, I urge all readers to completely reject the idea that we have to appeal to some mythical white working class to build for the future, both in terms of electoral politics and in terms of the politics that actually makes more long-term change, such as movement-building, since the actual working class is by far the most diverse part of the nation and is growing more so every day. Anyway, check it out...

  13. Mark Egan, Gregor Matvos, and Amit Seru: The Market for Financial Adviser Misconduct: 'We construct a novel database containing the universe of financial advisers in the United States from 2005 to 2015, representing approximately 10% of employment of the finance and insurance sector. We provide the first large-scale study that documents the economy-wide extent of misconduct among financial advisers and the associated labor market consequences of misconduct. Seven percent of advisers have misconduct records, and this share reaches more than 15% at some of the largest advisory firms. Roughly one third of advisers with misconduct are repeat offenders. Prior offenders are five times as likely to engage in new misconduct as the average financial adviser. Firms discipline misconduct: approximately half of financial advisers lose their jobs after misconduct. The labor market partially undoes firm-level discipline by rehiring such advisers. Firms that hire these advisers also have higher rates of prior misconduct themselves, suggesting “matching on misconduct.” These firms are less desirable and offer lower compensation. We argue that heterogeneity in consumer sophistication could explain the prevalence and persistence of misconduct at such firms. Misconduct is concentrated at firms with retail customers and in counties with low education, elderly populations, and high incomes. Our findings are consistent with some firms “specializing” in misconduct and catering to unsophisticated consumers, while others use their clean reputation to attract sophisticated consumers...

  14. John Scalzi (2010): Tax Frenzies and How to Hose Them Down https://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/09/26/tax-frenzies-and-how-to-hose-them-down/: 'I really don’t know what you do about the “taxes are theft” crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires. Sorry, guys. I know you all thought you were going to be one of those paying a nickel for your cigarettes in Galt Gulch. That’ll be a fine last thought for you as the starving remnants of the society of takers closes in with their flensing tools...

  15. John Scalzi (2012): Who Gets To Be a Geek? Anyone Who Wants to Be https://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/07/26/who-gets-to-be-a-geek-anyone-who-wants-to-be/: 'The other day CNN let some dude named Joe Peacock vomit up an embarrassing piece on its Web site, about how how awful it is that geekdom is in the process of being overrun by attractive women dressing up in costumes (“cosplaying,” for the uninitiated) when they haven’t displayed their geek cred to Mr. Peacock’s personal satisfaction. They weren’t real geeks, Mr. Peacock maintains — he makes a great show of supporting real geek women, the definition of which, presumably, are those who have passed his stringent entrance requirements, which I am sure he’s posted some place other than the inside of his skull — and because they’re not real geeks, they offend people like him, who are real geeks: "They’re poachers. They’re a pox on our culture. As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting… You’re just gross." For the moment, let’s leave aside the problem of a mentality that assumes that the primary reason some woman might find it fun and worthwhile to cosplay as one of her favorite science fiction and fantasy characters is to get the attention of some dudes, to focus on another interesting aspect of this piece: Namely, that Joe Peacock has arrogated to himself the role of Speaker for the Geeks, with the ability to determine whether any particular group of people is worthy of True Geekdom. This on the basis, one presumes, of his resume and his longtime affiliation as a geek...

  16. Jack Goldstone: Efflorescences and Economic Growth in World History https://delong.typepad.com/efflorescences_and_economic_growth_in_world_histor.pdf: ' Jan de Vries (2001) has attacked the notion of disparate 'premodern' and 'modern' growth patterns to argue that extensive, Smithian, and Schumpeterian growth coexisted 'in both the pre-industrial past and the modern present', although their proportions have varied over space and time....I wish to argue that this attack has not gone far enough.... It was been widely recognized that well before the Industrial and French revolutions, European societies and economies departed from the ideal-typical view of "feudal" economically and technologically stagnant agrarian societies dominated by a predatory elite that wasted all surpluses. Rather... from at least the twelfth century onward... a trans-European set of urban networks that combined management of urban and rural market-oriented craft production... with a flourishing intra-European and extra-European global trade; and from at least the sixteenth century national rulers brought their unruly agrarian elites to heel by building bureaucratized central ("absolutist") governments that provided a rule of law and framework for the protection and accumulation of private property and capital... many of the characteristics of 'modern' growth, or of 'modern' political and social structures, in gestation.... Every one of the above trends observed in Europe and labeled as proof of 'early modern' character—technical improvements in agriculture and production providing rising total output and per capital productivity (including aggressive transformation of the natural landscape); vast urban-based regional and global trade networks supporting wealthy merchant classes; and increasingly centralized and bureaucratized political regimes thatcreated ordered territories and subordinated elites—are also widely evident outside of Europe prior to the eighteenth century... often earlier and in a higher state of development.... Let me propose... 'efflorescence," intended as the opposite of 'crisis'. Where a crisis is a relatively sharp, unexpected downturn in significant demographic and economic indices, often accompanied by political turmoil and cultural conflicts, an 'efflorescence' is a relatively sharp, often unexpected upturn... usually accompanied by political expansion and institution building and cultural synthesis and consoliidation.. involv[ing] both Smithian and Schumpeterian growth... often seen by contemporaries or successors as 'golden ages'... often set[ting] new patterns for thought, political organization, and economic life that last for many generations.... Throughout history, all societies have experienced periods of efflorescence, as well as extensive growth, stagnation, and crises—but that these processes are all distinct from Kuznetzian 'modern' economic growth founded on the continual and conscious application of scientific and technological progress to economic activity...

  17. Lawrence H. Summers: Can Central Banking https://twitter.com/LHSummers/status/1164490326549118976 as we know it be the primary tool of macroeconomic stabilization in the industrial world over the next decade?... This is in doubt. There is little room for interest rate cuts. In every US recession since the 1970s, the fed funds rate was cut >500bps. In most, the real rate fell >400bps below the neutral rate. Now, the max. feasible cut is 200-300bps, bringing the real rate only 150-250bps below neutral. This limited space for interest rate cuts is true of the US, which has the highest interest rates in the industrialized world. It is even more true of Europe and Japan. QE and forward guidance have been tried on a substantial scale. We are living in a post QE and forward guidance world. It is hard to believe that changing adverbs here and there or altering the timing of press conferences or the mode of presenting projections is consequential. We usually agree w/ Janet Yellen, but believed at the time of her 2016 Jackson Hole speech -and believe even more in today’s world of 150bp 10yr rates-that her optimism about the existing monetary policy toolkit is misplaced http://federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/yellen20160826a.html.... Black hole monetary economics-interest rates stuck at zero with no real prospect of escape - is now the confident market expectation in Europe & Japan, with essentially zero or negative yields over a generation. The United States is only one recession away from joining them. Everywhere in the industrial world, the risks of a sharp upturn in unemployment appear greater than the risks of a sharp upturn in inflation (even though market expectations of inflation are clearly below 2 percent targets). The one thing that was taught as axiomatic to economics students around the world was that monetary authorities could over the long term create as much inflation as they wanted through monetary policy. This proposition is now very much in doubt. Many believe that events proved Alvin Hansen wrong about secular stagnation. On the contrary, the fact that it took WW2 to lift the world out of depression proves his point. Absent the military buildup, a liquidity trap deflation scenario would likely have persisted.... We have come to agree w/ the point long stressed by Post-Keynesian economists & recently emphasized by Palley that the role of specific frictions in economic fluctuations should be de-emphasized relative to a more fundamental lack of aggregate demand.... It minimizes our predicament to see it–as is current consensus–simply in terms of a falling neutral rate, low inflation, and the effective lower bound on nominal rates. Secular stagnation is a more profound issue...

  18. MIT: Data, Economics, and Development Policy MicroMasters: "The international fight against poverty is more data driven than ever before. Increasingly, understanding and producing rigorous evidence is critical for those seeking to affect change globally, but opportunities to acquire these skills remain limited. To meet this rising demand and equip development professionals worldwide with the necessary tools to make effective decisions on some of the world’s most difficult questions, MIT’s Department of Economics is now offering a Master’s program in Data, Economics, and Development Policy, which combines online coursework with a short residential campus stay... the first Master’s program to be offered by MIT’s Department of Economics... the first program at MIT to exist exclusively in a blended (online/residential) form. All students must first successfully complete the online MITx MicroMasters® credential at their own pace before applying to MIT for the blended Master’s program. The MicroMasters credential requires learners to pass five rigorous online courses, along with accompanying in-person proctored exams for each course, offered at Pearson Vue testing centers around the world. The semester-long MicroMasters courses are open to learners around the world and offered three times per year. Learners admitted to the blended Master’s program will be credited 48 academic units for the coursework they completed remotely as part of the MicroMasters credential (90 units are necessary for graduation, with the remaining 42 units completed during the residential semester and an approved capstone project) and will be able to earn a Master of Applied Science in Data, Economics, and Development Policy degree within approximately half a year. The first cohort of 20 students is expected to arrive on campus in the academic year 2019 (i.e. the spring semester of 2020)...

  19. Ben Carlson: Non-Intuitive Lessons From the Man Who Solved the Market https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2019/11/non-intuitive-lessons-from-the-man-who-solved-the-market/: 'Gregory Zuckerman tried to get to the bottom... in his book The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched a Quant Revolution. The book... does pull back the curtain in many ways. This was different than most books about legendary investors because, unlike books about Buffett or Graham, you don’t immediately think to yourself "I could do that". "Over time, Simons came to the conclusion that the losers... weren’t those who trade infrequently.... Renaissance was exploiting the foibles and faults of fellow speculators, both big and small. 'The manager of a global hedge fund is guessing on a frequent basis the direction of the French bond market may be a more exploitable participant', Simons said."... Human behavior makes the market go round. Even after reading the book it’s still impossible to succinctly explain how Simons figured out how to mint money. But this was the best simplistic explanation from one of his researchers: "'What you’re really modeling is human behavior', explains Penavic, the researcher. 'Humans are most predictable in times of high stress—they act instinctively and panic. Our entire premise was that human actors will react the way humans did in the past… we learned to take advantage'.... Be humble. Zuckerman compared Ren Tech’s models with those of Long-Term Capital Management.... “LTCM’s basic error was believing its models were truth,” Patterson says. “We never believed our models reflected reality—just some aspects of reality.”... Ren Tech claimed to only be right on roughly 51% of their trades.... Even the world’s greatest investors get nervous just like you and me. Last December, as the stock market was in the midst of a 20% decline, Simons became nervous about his investments. Simons was worth $23 billion at this point and knew he would be fine but he hated losing money. So he called up the manager of his family office and asked, “Should we be selling short?” The market bottomed the next day on Christmas Eve...

  20. Barack Obama is not the biggest author of our current debacle. But he is an author. Every time I see his picture, I think of him in January 2010: "Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same. (Applause.) So tonight, I'm proposing specific steps to pay for the trillion dollars that it took to rescue the economy last year. Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years..." I still cannot find anyone willing to take ownership fo that policy proposal, so I suspect it same direct from Obama: Paul Krugman: The Legacy of Destructive Austerity https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/opinion/deficits-economy.html: 'A decade ago, the world was living in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Financial markets had stabilized, but the real economy was still in terrible shape, with around 40 million European and North American workers unemployed. Fortunately, economists had learned a lot from the experience of the Great Depression. In particular, they knew that fiscal austerity—slashing government spending in an attempt to balance the budget—is a really bad idea in a depressed economy. Unfortunately, policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic spent the first half of the 2010s doing exactly what both theory and history told them not to do. And this wrong turn on policy cast a long shadow, economically and politically... helped set the stage for the current crisis of democracy.... The austerity years left many lasting scars, especially on politics. There are multiple explanations for the populist rage that has put democracy at risk across the Western world, but the side effects of austerity rank high on the list.... Beyond that, I’d argue that austerity mania fatally damaged elite credibility. If ordinary working families no longer believe that traditional elites know what they’re doing or care about people like them, well, what happened during the austerity years suggests that they’re right. True, it’s delusional to imagine that people like Trump will serve their interests better, but it’s a lot harder to denounce a scam artist when you yourself spent years promoting destructive policies simply because they sounded serious. In short, we’re in the mess we’re in largely because of the wrong turn policy took a decade ago...

  21. Jay Rosen: The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd http://pressthink.org/2019/12/the-christmas-eve-confessions-of-chuck-todd/: 'That disinformation was going to overtake Republican politics was discoverable years before he says he discovered it.... Three years after Kellyanne Conway introduced the doctrine of “alternative facts” on his own program, a light went on for Chuck Todd. Republican strategy, he now realized, was to make stuff up, spread it on social media, repeat it in your answers to journalists—even when you know it’s a lie with crumbs of truth mixed in—and then convert whatever controversy arises into go-get-em points with the base, while pocketing for the party a juicy dividend: additional mistrust of the news media to help insulate President Trump among loyalists when his increasingly brazen actions are reported as news. Todd repeatedly called himself naive for not recognizing the pattern, itself an astounding statement that cast doubt on his fitness for office as host of Meet the Press.... [Todd and] the anchors, producers, guests, advertisers and to an unknown degree the remaining viewers colluded in an act of make believe that lurched along until now. One way to say it: They agreed to pretend that Conway’s threatening phrase, “alternative facts” was just hyberbole, the kind of inflammatory moment that makes for viral clips and partisan bickering. More silly than it was ominous. In reality she had made a grave announcement. The nature of the Trump government would be propagandistic. And as Garry Kasparov observes for us, “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” This exhaustion, this annihilation were on their way to the Sunday shows, and to all interactions with journalists. That is what Kellyanne Conway was saying that day on Meet the Press. But the people who run the show chose not to believe it. That’s malpractice. Chuck Todd called it naiveté in order to minimize the error. This we cannot allow...

  22. CNN (January 22, 2017): Conway: Trump White House Offered 'Alternative Facts' on Crowd Size https://www.cnn.com/2017/01/22/politics/kellyanne-conway-alternative-facts/index.html: 'Washington (CNN): White House press secretary Sean Spicer's false claims about the size of the crowd at President Donald Trump's inauguration were "alternative facts," a top Trump aide said Sunday. In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," host Chuck Todd pressed Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway about why the White House on Saturday had sent Spicer to the briefing podium for the first time to claim that "this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period." "You're saying it's a falsehood. And they're giving—Sean Spicer, our press secretary—gave alternative facts," she said. Todd responded: "Alternative facts aren't facts, they are falsehoods." Conway then tried to pivot to policy points. But later in the interview, Todd pressed Conway again on why the White House sent Spicer out to make false claims about crowd size, asking: "What was the motive to have this ridiculous litigation of crowd size?" "Your job is not to call things ridiculous that are said by our press secretary and our president. That's not your job," Conway said. Todd followed up: "Can you please answer the question? Why did he do this? You have not answered it—it's only one question." Conway said: "I'll answer it this way: Think about what you just said to your viewers. That's why we feel compelled to go out and clear the air and put alternative facts out there"...

  23. Our fearless leader over at Equitable Growth Heather Boushey interviews the great Gabriel Zucman. The most important point is that the increase in inequality in America has been largely a choice—a choice of those elected, even if the one elected was done so by a margin of 5-4 Supreme Court justices, or collected 3 million fewer popular votes: Gabriel Zucman: _In Conversation: "There is this widespread view that rising inequality is a mechanical consequence of globalization and technical change, spurred in large part by competition with China and the substitutions between workers and machines. But, you know, France has computers too, and also trades with China—and generally trades more than the United States. So, it does not seem possible to explain the stagnation of U.S. working-class income by globalization and technical change. It’s more likely that this stagnation of income for the bottom half of the U.S. income distribution comes from policy changes. Things such as the collapse of the federal minimum wage, the declining power of unions, changes to taxation, to access to higher education, etc...

  24. Jo Marchant: Antikythera Shipwreck Yields Statue Pieces and Mystery Bronze Disc https://www.nature.com/news/antikythera-shipwreck-yields-statue-pieces-and-mystery-bronze-disc-1.22735: "Marine archaeologists investigating the ancient shipwreck that yielded the Antikythera mechanism — a complex, bronze, geared device that predicted eclipses and showed the movements of the Sun, Moon and planets in the sky—have recovered a wealth of treasures, including bronze and marble statue pieces, a sarcophagus lid and a mysterious bronze disc decorated with a bull. The artefacts were trapped under boulders in a previously unexplored part of the site near the island of Antikythera, Greece, and the researchers think that large parts of at least seven statues are still buried nearby...

  25. Gábor Békés and Peter Harasztosi: Technology Adoption via Machine Imports https://voxeu.org/article/technology-adoption-machine-imports: "In less developed countries, upgrading production technologies by importing machinery is an important source of growth. Using new firm-level data from Hungary for the period 1992-2003, this column finds that firms are more likely to import a particular piece of sector-specific machinery when other local firms previously imported the same machine. A similar pattern holds regarding the choice of the machine’s source country. These benefits are concentrated in large and foreign-owned companies, while small and domestically owned firms may actually be adversely affected...

  26. Carolin Pflueger, Emil Siriwardane, and Adi Sunderam: Financial Market Risk Perceptions and the Macroeconomy https://www.nber.org/papers/w26290: "We propose a novel measure of risk perceptions: the price of volatile stocks (PVSt), defined as the book-to-market ratio of low-volatility stocks minus the book-to-market ratio of high-volatility stocks. PVSt is high when perceived risk directly measured from surveys and option prices is low. When perceived risk is high according to our measure, safe asset prices are high, risky asset prices are low, the cost of capital for risky firms is high, and real investment is forecast to decline. Perceived risk as measured by PVSt falls after positive macroeconomic news. These declines are predictably followed by upward revisions in investor risk perceptions. Our results suggest that risk perceptions embedded in stock prices are an important driver of the business cycle and are not fully rational... Pflueger.pdf...

  27. Barry Eichengreen: Will China Confront a Revolution of Rising Expectations? https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/china-revolution-of-rising-expectations-by-barry-eichengreen-2019-11: 'In France, the Yellow Vests have been protesting most immediately against higher fuel prices but more broadly against a perceived lack of economic opportunity. In Ecuador, anti-austerity protests reflect, more fundamentally, opposition to President Lenín Moreno’s government, which students, unions, and indigenous people criticize as out of touch with the public. Protests in Chile were triggered by an increase in metro fares but have also focused on inequality, the education system, and pension problems. Closest to home, of course, is Hong Kong, where political meddling by mainland China fueled protests that now target the city’s prohibitively high housing costs. These movements are revolutions of rising expectations. They are protests not so much over a deteriorating quality of life as over government’s failure to deliver everything that was promised. Such protests are spontaneous, sparked by small matters, like a hike in fuel prices or metro fares. But, because those small matters are indicative of the government’s disregard and even ignorance of popular concerns, they morph into larger movements. These movements are leaderless, relying as they do on social media, which makes them hard to behead, but also causes them to evolve in unpredictable, even violent, ways. Mainland Chinese are following developments in Hong Kong closely, at least insofar as state media and Internet censorship permit. While some see events there as an affront to their national pride, others appear to be drawing different conclusions. One recent study shows that those exposed to events in Hong Kong as a result of having visited during demonstrations are more likely to engage in online discussions of politically contentious issues...

  28. Andy Matuschak: "In a recent chat with @michaelnielsen and me about quantum.country https://t.co/lnd5Z3zN1g_ https://twitter.com/andy_matuschak/status/1201584298656174082, @delong suggested that the mnemonic medium is a new kind of catechism. We laughed, but… that's a pretty interesting lens! A typical example of a catechism: "Q1: What is the chief end of man? A1: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever." At the surface, catechisms are about memorizing doctrine. But they also effect a change in identity through repeated exposure. Likewise, spaced-repetition helps people remember concrete material, but it also triggers re-engagement across time. Great: maybe readers will spot new connections when they return after a few weeks. But maybe that repetition also fosters a change in identity! With spaced repetition, you’re not just 'a person who read that essay that one time': the repeated engagement may make you feel you're a 'student of that topic', in some more continuous sense. The tail might wag the dog. I'll confess that my own experiences here are mixed. Some questions I'll see for the 20th time and answer by rote, with no emotional connection at all to the original source. Other times I’ll find myself wondering new questions about the topic, feeling gradually more 'in contact with' that topic over time. That’s all indirect: changing identity by memorizing details associated with that identity. But maybe you can use these systems to alter your identity more directly. Sticking with quantum for the moment, one example might be: 'At this instant, what unsolved question do I instinctively find most fascinating in quantum computing?' (nothing on the back). If you saw that regularly over months, would you identify with that space more deeply? You can imagine creating cards about new habits ('Think of a new concrete situation in which I’ll have trouble leaving space for others to speak.') or values ('What’s an unusual recent situation in which you thought on the century scale?'). These are all narrow examples of spaced repetition as more general 'programmable attention'. More exotic systems can be used to schedule arbitrary fine-grained tasks associated with some new identity, like iteratively reaching out to interesting people in a new field...

  29. Noah Smith: 'The University of Chicago surveyed top economists as to whether the Trump tax cuts would increase growth https://twitter.com/Noahpinion/status/1209508842901557248?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw: They found exactly ONE who said it would. https://t.co/S2baePomWa?amp=1. People keep tweeting to me saying that most economists or tons of economists or plenty of economists support tax cuts. If you think this is true, NAME NAMES...

  30. Very interesting work on gender peer effects in American graduate education: Valerie K. Bostwick and Bruce A. Weinberg: Nevertheless She Persisted? Gender Peer Effects in Doctoral STEM Programs: "We study the effects of peer gender composition, a proxy for female-friendliness of environment, in STEM doctoral programs on persistence and degree completion. Leveraging unique new data and quasi-random variation in gender composition across cohorts within programs, we show that women entering cohorts with no female peers are 11.9pp less likely to graduate within 6 years than their male counterparts. A 1 sd increase in the percentage of female students differentially increases the probability of on-time graduation for women by 4.6pp. These gender peer effects function primarily through changes in the probability of dropping out in the first year of a Ph.D. program and are largest in programs that are typically male-dominated...

  31. A piece of evidence that affirmative-action programs two not in fact harm beneficiaries via mismatch: Joshua D. Angrist, Parag A. Pathak, and Román Andrés Zárate: Choice and Consequence: Assessing Mismatch at Chicago Exam Schools: "The educational mismatch hypothesis asserts that students are hurt by affirmative action policies that place them in selective schools for which they wouldn't otherwise qualify. We evaluate mismatch in Chicago's selective public exam schools... show that... mismatch arises because exam school admission diverts many applicants from high-performing Noble Network charter schools, where they would have done well.... Exam school applicants' previous achievement, race, and other characteristics that are sometimes said to mediate student-school matching play no role in this story...

  32. John Scalzi: In Annalee Newitz: A Better Internet Is Waiting for Us https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/30/opinion/social-media-future.html: 'Scalzi is fascinated by the unintended consequences that flow from new discoveries. When he thinks about tomorrow’s technology, he takes the perspectives of real, flawed people who will use it, not the idealized consumers in promotional videos. He imagines a new wave of digital media companies that will serve the generations of people who have grown up online (soon, that will be most people) and already know that digital information can’t be trusted. They will care about who is giving them the news, where it comes from, and why it’s believable. “They will not be internet optimists in the way that the current generation of tech billionaires wants,” he said with a laugh. They will not, he explained, believe the hype about how every new app makes the world a better place: “They’ll be internet pessimists and realists.” What would “internet realists” want from their media streams? The opposite of what we have now. Today, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are designed to make users easy to contact. That was the novelty of social media—we could get in touch with people in new and previously unimaginable ways...

  33. Steve M.: Con Successfully Worked https://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2019/10/republicans-are-so-good-at-two-person.html: 'New York Times: "One pundit on Fox News went as far as to suggest that Colonel Vindman had engaged in 'espionage' against the United States, prompting an unusual rebuke from a Republican member of Congress.... 'Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interest', Ms. Ingraham said. “Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle on this story?' Her guest, John Yoo, a former top lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, agreed. 'I find that astounding,” Mr. Yoo said. “Some people might call that espionage'. The accusation by Mr. Yoo was decried... by Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a Republican lawmaker. 'It is shameful...' Ms. Cheney said..." That's how the con works: One person (or in this case two, Ingraham and Yoo) smear Vindman, then Cheney—a Republican attack dog of the old school, which means her brand requires her to be unfailingly pro-military—calls Ingraham and Yoo out, thus reassuring everyone in the so-called sensible center that Republicans are actually fine people and—with rare exceptions!—won't smear a war hero to get what they want.... So now the mainstream media cries of "Republicans have gone too far!" are quieted—but the smear is out there. Con successfully worked...

  34. Thomas Philippon: Europe, Not America, Is the Home of the Free Market https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/europe-not-america-home-free-market/600859/: 'From plane tickets to cellphone bills, monopoly power costs American consumers billions of dollars a year: When I arrived in the United States from France in 1999, I felt like I was entering the land of free markets. Nearly everything—from laptops to internet service to plane tickets—was cheaper here than in Europe. Twenty years later, this is no longer the case. Internet service, cellphone plans, and plane tickets are now much cheaper in Europe and Asia than in the United States, and the price differences are staggering. In 2018, according to data gathered by the comparison site Cable, the average monthly cost of a broadband internet connection was $29 in Italy, $31 in France, $32 in South Korea, and $37 in Germany and Japan. The same connection cost $68 in the United States, putting the country on par with Madagascar, Honduras, and Swaziland. American households spend about $100 a month on cellphone services, the Consumer Expenditure Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates. Households in France and Germany pay less than half of that.... None of this has happened by chance. In 1999, the United States had free and competitive markets in many industries that, in Europe, were dominated by oligopolies. Today the opposite is true...

  35. John Maynard Keynes: _[Economic ConLenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security but [also] at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become "profiteers," who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery. Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose...

  36. Jameson Minto: Achaea and Rome: 192 B.C.–146 B.C https://musingsofclio.wordpress.com/2019/12/03/achaea-and-rome-192-b-c-146-b-c/: 'Achaea hadn’t really changed: divided into two factions, vying for more autonomy and seeing itself as able to compete with the larger states due to the strength of the collective identity of its people. Rome had changed and changed into a state that didn’t allow any deviation from what it wanted.... The relationship between it and its allies was now one of patron and client.... Achaea’s actions went against this.... Roman dignatas would not stand for that.... Rome... issue[d] an ultimatum: break up the League or war. The strength of Achaean Identity meant that war was the only option, since it became a war against the Achaean people and everything that it had built up to become it.... Survival, one of the key pillars of the Achaean identity had lost all meaning, since the proposed destruction of the League would render it all for nothing. Which was why the divisive assembly unanimously voted for war, even though it meant the destruction of the League.... The Achaean collective identity fostered a sense of unity between the various poleis of the Peloponnese... helped in dealing with other states.... Achaean identity was originally established as a way for a people, an ethnos, to survive and thrive in a world that was fast becoming dominating by poleis. It served a similar purpose in this period, creating a unified people to create a greater bargaining power against the larger states, it simply underestimated the power of Rome until it was too late...

  37. Ezra Klein: Why We're Polarized https://www.google.com/books/edition/Why_We_re_Polarized/1G6gDwAAQBAJ: 'Discover how American politics became a toxic system, why we participate in it, and what it means for our future—from journalist, political commentator, and cofounder of Vox, Ezra Klein.... The 2016 election wasn’t surprising at all. In fact, Trump’s electoral victory followed the exact same template as previous elections, by capturing a nearly identical percentage of voter demographics as previous Republican candidates. Over the past 50 years in America, our partisan identities have merged with our racial, religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities. Those merged identities have attained a weight that is breaking much in our politics and tearing at the bonds that hold this country together. In this groundbreaking book, Klein shows how and why American politics polarized around identity in the 20th century, and what that polarization did to the way we see the world and each other. And he traces the feedback loops between our polarized political identities and our polarized political institutions that are driving our political system towards crisis. Neither a polemic nor a lament, Klein offers a clear framework for understanding everything from Trump’s rise to the Democratic Party’s leftward shift to the politicization of everyday culture. A revelatory book that will change how you look at politics, and perhaps at yourself...

  38. Wikipedia: Philippa Ruth Bosanquet Foot https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippa_Foot: 'Practical considerations involving "thick" ethical concepts–but it would be cruel, it would be cowardly, it's hers, or I promised her I wouldn't–move people to act one way rather than another, but they are as descriptive as any other judgment pertaining to human life. They differ from thought such as it would be done on a Tuesday or it would take about three gallons of paint, not by the admixture of what she considers to be any non-factual, attitude-expressing "moral" element, but by the fact that human beings have reasons not to do things that are cowardly or cruel. Her lifelong devotion to this question appears in all periods of her work...

  39. Laura Tyson & Lenny Mendonca: Making Stakeholder Capitalism a Reality https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/making-stakeholder-capitalism-reality-by-laura-tyson-and-lenny-mendonca-2020-01: 'The recent push by big business in favor of a more socially and environmentally conscious corporate-governance model is not just empty rhetoric. With the public losing trust in business and markets, it is now in everyone's interest to reform the system so that it delivers prosperity for the many, rather than the few.... While some skepticism is justified, there are already promising signs that a change in corporate behavior is coming. Both the WEF and the Business Roundtable have begun to develop blueprints for implementing stakeholder capitalism. Ultimately, long-term self-interest will drive corporate commitments. Customers are the engine of top-line revenue growth, and have always been recognized as essential business stakeholders. As more consumers have begun to seek out “green” goods and services, for example, companies have started investing in new growth opportunities geared toward sustainability. Skilled employees are also essential corporate stakeholders, and with labor markets so tight, they are demanding fair compensation and benefits as well as upskilling and reskilling opportunities...


  • Reading Notes: Dasgupta's "Economics: A Very Short Introduction" https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/01/reading-notes-on-dasguptas-economics-a-very-short-introduction.html: Wy would one want to think like an economist? What is thinking like an economist—rather than like a sociologist (looking for the webs of human connections and common belief), a political scientist (looking at power and at authority both given and taken), or a historian (looking at origins and development)? One wants to think like an economist because it is an especially useful way of thinking about the economy. What, then, is the economy? And why is “thinking like an economist”—marginal, interdependence, benefit-cost, and opportunity cost calculations—a good way of understanding it? Partha Dasgupta provides the best short answer to those two linked questions, and in the process of doing so provides the best introduction to economics, that I have seen...

  • Reading Notes: Book I of Aristotle's "Politics" https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/01/reading-notes-on-book-i-of-aristotles-politics.html: Aristoteles son of Nikomakhos of Stagira: He lived from -384 to -322, in the Greek-speaking communities around the Aegean Sea. He spent most of his time in Athens. For the two millennia following his death, he would be, for a large chunk of the world, THE Philosopher: capital “P” and capital “THE”. 1650 years after his death, poet Dante Alighieri would call him “the Master… of those who know”, “il Maestro di color che sanno”. Aristotle’s was, even at so long a distance in time, the most powerful intellectual name that one could conjure with...

  • Reading Notes: A Note on Reading Big, Difficult Books... https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/a-note-on-reading-big-difficult-books.html: These are all big, difficult, flawed, incredibly insightful, genius books. And it is a principal task of a successful modern university to teach people how to read such things. Indeed, it might be said that one of the few key competencies we here at the university have to teach—our counterpart or the medieval triad of rhetoric, logic, grammar and then quadriad of arithmetic, geometry, music and astrology—is how to read and absorb a theoretical argument made by a hard, worthwhile, flawed book. People need to understand what an argument is, and the only way to do that is actually go through an argument—to read the argument and try to make sense of it. People need to be able to tell the difference between an argument and an assertion. People need to be able to do more than just say whether they liked the conclusion or not: they need to be able to specify whether the argument hangs together given the premises, and where it is the premises, and where it is the premises themselves that need to be challenged. People need to learn that while you can disagree, you need to be able to specify why and how you disagree. The first order task is to teach people how to read difficult books. Teaching people five facts about some thinker's theoretical perspective is subordinate: those five facts will not stick with them over the years. Teaching them how to read difficult books will stick with them over the years. Knowing what to do with a book that makes an important, an interesting, but also a flawed argument—that is a key skill...

  • Slouching Towards Utopia: Feminism: I Need to Include Something Like This in My Twentieth Century History Book. But I Would Like Something from 1870-1950—Not Something from 1776 and 1700 and Before... https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/feminism-1.html: Yes, back in the Agrarian Age the biological requirements of obtaining a reasonable chance of having surviving descendants to take care of one in one’s old age meant that the typical woman spent 20 years eating for two: 20 years pregnant and breastfeeding. Yes, eating for two is an enormous energy drain, especially in populations near subsistence. Yes, Agrarian Age populations were near subsistence—my great-grandmother Eleanor Lawton Carter’s maxim was “have a baby, lose a tooth” as the child-to-be leached calcium out of the mother to build her or his own bones, and she was an upper class Bostonian born in the mid-1870s. Yes, breastfeeding kept women very close to their children, and impelled a concentration of female labor on activities that made that easy: gardening and other forms of within-and-near-the-dwelling labor, especially textiles. Yes, there were benefits to men as a group from oppressing women—especially if women could be convinced that they deserved it: “Unto the woman he said, ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband; and he shall rule over thee’…” But surely even in the Agrarian Age a shift to a society with less male supremacy would have been a positive-sum change?...

  • Talking Points: Scheduled for Squawk Box: January 2, 2020 6:50 AM EST https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/01/scheduled-for-squawk-box-february-2-2020-650-am-est-talking-points.html: The most striking aspect of the political situation is the strong divergence between Trump's good unemployment and inflation numbers and his lousy approval numbers. Yet perhaps what should surprise me the most is that his approval numbers are so high. Policy incoherence while you insult people on Twitter would not have seemed to me to be a governing strategy that many Americans would approve of. It's not just not doing your job. It's undignified...

  • Pairagraph: Neoliberalism: Are We Sure That's the Right Word?: Talking to Noah Smith https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/neoliberalism-are-we-sure-thats-the-right-word-talking-to-noah-smith.html: In a market society a huge amount hinges on having an acceptable distribution of income. People want the community, the living standard, and the insurance from risk that they think they deserve. But in a market economy you have no enforceable right to such things. The only rights you have are your property rights—and then only if they are valuable. You can generate an acceptable income distribution by progressive taxes and benefits, but neoliberals, or at least the politicians endorsed by neoliberals, have not wanted to go there. The only alternative is to be sneaky: to not just tweak but shake market incomes. That is the next necessary task for the center-left, yet identifying ourselves as "neoliberals" does not help us think about how to do that at all...

  • Note to Self: Reply to Angelo Houston https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/note-to-self-angelo-houston-auten-splinter-has-been-out-for-over-2-years-but-im-just-now-seeing-economists-much.html: 'Auten-Splinter has been out for over 2 years but I’m just now seeing economists much less journalists even acknowledge it. I find it baffling.' Well, in 1982 the top 5 individuals' wealth was 0.3% of America's GDP; today the top 5 individuals' wealth is 2.1% of America's annual GDP. With little movement in the rate of profit, it's hard to reconcile that with AS's belief that top 10% CMA has only risen from 28% to 33%. The sharp disagreement between AS 10%ile & top order statistics of income & wealth distribution creates, in the absence of any successful reconciliation, a very strong presumption that there is something wrong with their procedures. I think that has caused lots of pause...

  • Blogging: What to Expect Here... https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/blogging-what-to-expect-here.html: The purpose of this weblog is to be the best possible portal into what I am thinking, what I am reading, what I think about what I am reading, and what other smart people think about what I am reading...

  • 2020-01-05: Very Briefly Noted https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/01/very-briefly-noted-2020-01-05-1-_brendas-oaklanda-new-new-orleans-kitchen_-_-2-_uncut-gems_-3-_little-w.html...

  • 2019-12-31: 'Very Briefly Noted https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/very-briefly-noted-2019-12-31-1-wikipedia-_d%C3%A9rogeance_-2-john-scalzi-_the-10s-in-review-whatever-bes.html...

  • Hoisted from Eleven Years Ago: Oh Noes!!: The New York Times Has Been... Unprofessional for a Long, Long, Time Across a Wide Range of Areas https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/oh-noes.html: To Ben Stein the Times has added... "CATHERINE RAMPELL: 'I’m pleased to introduce Casey B. Mulligan, an economist at the University of Chicago, as the newest addition to our “Daily Economist” panel..." Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Casey Mulligan says—wait for it—that the reason that unemployment is the 7% it is right now rather than the 4.4% it was two years ago because workers today face "financial incentives that encourage them not to work"...

  • Comment of the Day: Kaleberg: Feminism https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/01/kaleberg-_feminism_-i-think-your-tone-is-good-enough-but-i-think-that-a-lot-more-was-going-on-than-simply-rising-pro.html: ': https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/feminism-1.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4fd48d2200b#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4fd48d2200b: '(1) Women do better in monetized societies, that is, in places where there is an objective measure of value that can translate into social status. (2) Women do better in urbanized societies, that is, in places with a variety of trades and where one is forced to accept one's interdependence. (3) Women do better in demilitarized societies, that is, in places where the use of armed force is a less important component of citizenship. These all overlap...

  • Weekend Reading: Harry Brighouse: Teaching a 10 Year-Old to Read https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/01/weekend-reading-harry-brighouse-teaching-a-10-year-old-to-read.html: 'Actually I did teach a kid to read, a 5th grader actually, though just one, when I was 18...

  • Weekend Reading: Publius Aelius Aristides Theodorus (155); The Roman Oration https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/weekend-reading-publius-aelius-aristides-theodorus-155-the-roman-oration.html: 'Of all who have ever gained empire you alone rule over men who are free. Caria has not to Tissaphernes. nor Phrygia to Pharnabazus, nor Egypt to someone else; nor is the country said to enslaved, as household of so-and-so, to whomsoever it has been turned over, a man himself not free. But just as those in states of one city appoint the magistrates to protect and care for the governed, so you, who conduct public business in the whole civilized world exactly as if it were one city state. appoint the governors, as is natural after elections, to protect and care for the governed, not to he slave masters over them. Therefore governor makes way for governor unobtrusively, when his time is up, and far from staying too long and disputing the land with his successor. he might easily not enough even to meet him. Appeals to a higher court are made with the ease of an appeal from deme to dicastery, with no greater menace for those who make them than for those who have accepted the local verdict. Therefore one might say that the men of today are ruled by the governors who are sent out, only in so far as they are content to be ruled. Are not these advantages beyond the old "Free Republic" of every people?...

  • For the Weekend: Patti Smith Group (1979) https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/for-the-weekend-patti-smith-group-1979.html...


#noted #weblogs #2020-01-07

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