Previous month:
December 2019
Next month:
February 2020

January 2020

Andrew Bacevich: Trump's Iranian General Killing Same Old Losing Mideast Game Plan https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-01-03/qassem-suleimani-donald-trump-iran-drone-assassination: '“The game has changed.” So announced Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in warning that the Trump administration would take preemptive action to prevent further attacks on American personnel and facilities in Iraq. The killing of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds Force, by U.S. drone strikes at Baghdad‘s international airport shows that Esper is as good as his word. Yet, except in a nominal sense of enlarging the target set, the game remains unchanged, even if violence escalates further in the days ahead. It’s a game that the United States has been playing — and losing — for close to a generation. The purported objective of the game, which dates to the enunciation of the Carter Doctrine way back in 1979, is this: the use or threatened use of U.S. military might to impose order on the Persian Gulf and its environs. Ideally, that order would include respect for the values that Americans profess to cherish, among them democracy and regard for human rights. Minimally, it would permit the free flow of gulf oil to nations that rely on it to fuel their economies (our own not among them, given recent increases in U.S. domestic oil and gas production). Yet since 9/11, U.S. military exertions in the region have destroyed what little order once existed there. In place of order, today there is anarchy: civil wars, failed states and terrorist organizations that did not even exist when the American “Global War on Terrorism” commenced nearly two decades ago...

Continue reading "" »


Comment of the Day: Howard https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/the-policy-debate-europe-needs-by-barry-eichengreen-project-syndicate.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4af592b200c#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4af592b200c: 'Honest to goodness, did none of these moronic European policy makers ever study the rise of fascism in Germany? Did they not notice that it wasn't inflation, it was austerity that paved the way? wWat could possibly justify this stubborn stupidity?...

Continue reading "" »


muqaddimah

Ibn Khaldun: Muqaddimah: "At the beginning, dynasties maintain the Bedouin attitude, as we have stated 652 Therefore, they have few needs, since luxury and the habits that go with it do not (yet) exist. Expenses and expenditures are small. At that time, revenue from taxes pays for much more than the necessary expenditures, and there is a large surplus. The dynasty, then, soon starts to adopt the luxury and luxury customs of sedentary culture, and follows the course that had been taken by previous dynasties. The result is that the expenses of the people of the dynasty grow. Especially do the expenses of the ruler mount excessively, on account of his expenditures for his entourage and the great number of allowances he has to grant. The (available) revenue from taxes cannot pay for all that. Therefore, the dynasty must increase its revenues, because the militia needs (ever) larger allowances and the ruler needs (ever) more money to meet his expenditures. At first, the amounts of individual imposts and assessments are increased, as we have stated. Then, as expenses and needs increase under the influence of the gradual growth of luxury customs and additional allowances for the militia, the dynasty is affected by senility. Its people are too weak to collect the taxes from the provinces and remote areas. Thus, the revenue from taxes decreases, while the habits (requiring money) increase. As they increase, salaries and allowances to the soldiers also increase. Therefore, the ruler must invent new kinds of taxes. He levies them on commerce. He imposes taxes of a certain amount on prices realized in the markets and on the various (imported) goods at the city gates. 653a (The ruler) is, after all, forced to this because people have become spoiled by generous allowances, and because of the growing numbers of soldiers and militiamen. In the later (years) of the dynasty, (taxation) may become excessive. Business falls off, because all hopes (of profit) are destroyed, permitting the dissolution of civilization and reflecting upon (the status of) the dynasty. This (situation) becomes more and more aggravated, until (the dynasty) disintegrates...

Continue reading "muqaddimah" »


Weekend Reading: From Robert Harris (2015): Dictator

Vengeance-of-fulvia-on-cicero

Weekend Reading: Robert Harris (2015): Dictator https://isbn.nu/9780307948137: 'On the flatter ground at the top of the slope Cornutus had drawn up four cohorts—almost two thousand men. They stood in lines in the heat. The light on their helmets dazzled as brightly as the sun, and I had to shield my eyes. When Cicero stepped out of his litter there was absolute silence. Cornutus conducted him to a low platform beside an altar. A sheep was sacrificed. Its guts were pulled out and examined by the haruspices and declared propitious: “There is no doubt of ultimate victory.” The crows circled overhead. A priest read a prayer. Then Cicero spoke. I cannot remember exactly what he said. All the usual words were there—liberty, ancestors, hearths and altars, laws and temples—but for once I listened without hearing. I was looking at the faces of the legionaries...

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: From Robert Harris (2015): Dictator" »


Scott Lemieux: "Designed by Clowns... Supervised by Monkeys": Boeing and Finance Bro Culture http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2020/01/designed-by-clowns-supervised-by-monkeys-boeing-and-finance-bro-culture: 'The 737 MAX was poorly designed, Boeing cut as many corners as it could in conducting training, and employees viewed foreign pilots and regulators with contempt. Upwards of 400 dead people were the result: "Boeing released more than a hundred pages of documents to Congress on Thursday detailing internal messages that reveal how, during certification of the 737 MAX, company employees spoke of deceiving international air safety regulators and Boeing’s airline customers, and successfully fought off moves over several years to require anything but minimal pilot training for the new airplane. The documents also confirm that Boeing rejected a proposed system safety upgrade to the MAX on the grounds that doing so would add cost by triggering a need for all pilots to have flight-simulator training to qualify to fly the MAX. Just this week, Boeing finally relented and is now recommending flight-simulator training for all pilots before the MAX returns to service. The documents also suggest that Boeing’s development of the simulators, working in Miami, Singapore, London and Shanghai with a new equipment supplier called TRU, was plagued with all sorts of technical problems. And they show that Boeing planned to carefully present the new flight control software on the MAX that went haywire during the two crashes—the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS)—as simply an extension of an existing system so as to avoid increased certification and pilot training impact. The documents include derogatory references to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and foreign regulators, to simulator supplier TRU, and to airline customers. 'This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys', one Boeing pilot wrote to another in a 2017 exchange. Boeing issued a profuse apology as it released the documents and promised to take disciplinary action against individuals involved." The whole thing is worth reading. Natasha Frost has another good story rooting the story in Boeing’s merger with McDonnell Douglas, which transformed Boeing’s more experimental, engineering driven corporate culture into one focused on short-term profits and share prices...

Continue reading "" »


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

6a00e551f080038834022ad3b05124200d

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...

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


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

why 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


https://www.icloud.com/pages/0CLYIvKyZgxnRUMDgkL7RyWZQ


https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0hD8Le6gFIjTAwOWnBGv8PF5A


Partha Dasgupta: Economics: A Very Short Introduction https://delong.typepad.com/files/dasgupta-economics.pdf

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


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...

Continue reading "" »


Reading Notes on Book I of Aristotle's "Politics"

Let me remind you about 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...


https://www.icloud.com/pages/0nLIYWAFXAkPWR0xug-NT21vg


https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0SKox_f6G3cEvDxV-biXLgcPA


Aristotle: Politics, Book I https://delong.typepad.com/files/aristotle-politics-book-i.pdf

Continue reading "Reading Notes on Book I of Aristotle's "Politics"" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


Very Briefly Noted 2020-01-05:

  1. Brenda's Oakland–A New New Orleans Kitchen https://brendasoakland.com/_...

  2. Uncut Gems https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/uncut_gems...

  3. Little Women https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/little_women_2019...

  4. Stefan Link and Noam Maggor (2019): The United States as a Developing Nation: Revisiting the Peculiarities of American History https://delong.typepad.com/files/us-development.pdf

  5. Marica Restaurant Oakland https://www.maricaoakland.com/...

  6. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Richard Kogan https://www.cbpp.org/richard-kogan...

  7. Main Street Grill http://halfmoonbay-restaurants.com/main-street-grill/#.Xg1cNS2ZPOQ...

  8. Nolita Hall https://www.nolitahall.com/...

  9. Ross LaJeunesse: I Was Google’s Head of International Relations. Here’s Why I Left. https://medium.com/@rossformaine/i-was-googles-head-of-international-relations-here-s-why-i-left-49313d23065: 'The company’s motto used to be “Don’t be evil.” Things have changed...

  10. Michelle Pacansky-Brock: Benefits of a Liquid Syllabus https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDpO5hIpBBE...

  11. Michelle Pacansky-Brock: Publications https://brocansky.com/publications...

  12. BBC Radio 4: Great Lives https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000cmrz: 'Novelist Enid Blyton: Janice Turner nominates Enid Blyton for giving her a sense of adventure when she was a child...

  13. Jameson Minto: Musings of Clio https://musingsofclio.wordpress.com/...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


Weekend Reading: Harry Brighouse: Teaching a 10 Year-Old to Read

Weekend Reading: Harry Brighouse: Teaching a 10 Year-Old to Read http://crookedtimber.org/2020/01/05/teaching-a-10-year-old-to-read/: 'My then-18 year old daughter was home with her friends when I opened my author-copies of Family Values. After they left she said “My friends are really impressed that you’ve written a book. But I’m not really. I mean, it’s just part of your job, isn’t it? It’s just what you’re supposed to do. I mean….it’s not like you taught a third grader to read, or something like that“. If you’ve read the book, or simply know its main theses, you’ll see many layers of irony in that exchange, and probably further layers of irony in the sense of pleasure and pride I got from it. But actually I did teach a kid to read, a 5th grader actually, though just one, when I was 18...

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Harry Brighouse: Teaching a 10 Year-Old to Read" »


Worthy Reads from January 3, 2019

stacks and stacks of books

Worthy Reads at Equitable Growth

  1. If you have not already read all of the WCEG's top 12 of 2018, go read them now: Equitable Growth: Top 12 of 2018: "The effects of wealth taxation on wealth accumulation and wealth inequality.... Why macroeconomics should further embrace distributional economics.... The links between stagnating wages and buyer power in U.S. supply chains.... U.S. income growth has been stagnant. To what degree depends on how you measure it.... Income inequality and aggregate demand in the United States.... Presentation: U.S. Inequality and Recent Tax Changes.... The latest research on the efficacy of raising the minimum wage above $10 in six U.S. cities.... Competitive Edge: There is a lot to fix in U.S. antitrust enforcement today.... Labor Day is a time to reflect on reviving workers’ power in the U.S. economy.... Kaldor and Piketty’s facts: The rise of monopoly power in the United States.... How the rise of market power in the United States may explain some macroeconomic puzzles.... Puzzling over U.S. wage growth...

  2. Robert Bork and his followers' belief that the test for anticompetitive behavior was whether it could be moved anticompetitive in theory beyond a reasonable doubt was poisonous. And here we see people having to argue against it again in a new context: Jonathan B. Baker and Fiona Scott Morton: Antitrust Enforcement Against Platform MFNs: "Antitrust enforcement against anticompetitive... pricing parity provisions... can help protect competition in online markets.... These contractual provisions may be employed by a variety of online platforms offering, for example, hotel and transportation bookings, consumer goods, digital goods, or handmade craft products. They have been the subject of antitrust enforcement in Europe but have drawn only limited antitrust scrutiny in the United States. Our Feature explains why MFNs employed by online platforms can harm competition by keeping prices high and discouraging the entry of new platform rivals, through both exclusionary and collusive mechanisms, notwithstanding the possibility that some MFNs may facilitate investment by limiting customer freeriding...

  3. The Joint Tax Committee should do this, staring January 4, 2019: Greg Leiserson and Adam Looney: A framework for economic analysis of tax regulations - Equitable Growth: "The economic analysis conducted in these cases should focus on the revenues raised and the economic burden imposed on the public as a result of the agencies’ exercise of discretion or the new application of existing authority. The revenues raised and the burden imposed reflect the fundamental tradeoff in taxation, and thus determine a regulation’s costs and benefits. However, the analysis should not attempt to quantify the net benefit or net cost of a regulation as doing so would require the agencies to make controversial assumptions about the social value of revenues and the appropriate distribution of the tax burden. Treasury’s Office of Tax Analysis is well-equipped to provide estimates of revenues and burden as they can be built from analyses the Office already produces: revenue estimates, distributional analyses, and compliance cost estimates...

  4. We here at Equitable Growth are certainly doing a good job of picking them, so far: Corey Husak: "So excited and honored that 5 of the 8 Best Young Economists named by @TheEconomist are grantees of @equitablegrowth! Its great to work with and fund the best economic minds of our generation https://twitter.com/TheEconomist/status/1075370969789882368...

  5. And if you want to join some future such list of 8, take a look at our current Equitable Grrowth Request for Proposals at: https://equitablegrowth.org/research-paper/request-for-proposals/?longform=true

Continue reading "Worthy Reads from January 3, 2019" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


Comment of the Day: Kaleberg: Feminism https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/feminism-1.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4fd48d2200b#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4fd48d2200b: 'I think your tone is good enough, but I think that a lot more was going on than simply rising productivity. (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. The Enlightenment ideas of the early 18th century encouraged thinking in terms of objective measures of value being more important than ancestry, recognizing that no man is an island unto himself and the increasing professionalization of armed forces...

Continue reading "" »


Scheduled for Squawk Box: January 2, 2020 6:50 AM EST: Talking Points

Squawk-box

From: xxxx@nbcuni.com
Subject: Your Squawk Box segment this Thursday, January 2: Please get to the studio at UC Berkley by 6:40am est
Body: The anchors will be Joe and Becky. You’ll share the segment with Shermichael Singleton, political consultant, contributor at The Hill. The discussion will be about "running against the Trump economy". Trump has had the best 3 year performance out of every president since Reagan, since being elected. How does one run against this? Who has the potential to compete? Can Trump keep it up, how? Please send thoughts and talking points.

  • Jump in the S&P over the past eight years from 1300 to 2600 3200 [1]

    • A 1.5x 1.8x in the valuation ratio
    • A 1.16x due to inflation
    • A 1.15x due to an increase in the fundamental earning power underpinning each share of stock
      • All of that is due to buybacks. None of that is due to greater business earning power
      • Thus the optimism with respect to the valuation ratio—even given limited opportunities to earn money elsewhere—somewhat puzzles me
      • Plus there is the joker in the deck: will the wage share remain depressed indefinitely?
      • Usually I'm a "150% of your net worth in stocks" guy
      • Now we are moving money out, and I'm a "50% of your net worth in stocks" guy
  • The talk I hear about the "strong Trump economy" makes no allowance for the difficulty of the dive he has faced relative to that that other presidents face...

    • Trump was handed very good cards
    • Taking account of the difficulty of the dive, I think you have to say that:
      • The Clinton economy turned out much better than expected (due to good policy)
      • The Obama economy turned out better than expected (due to good but inadequate policy)
      • The Trump economy has turned out as expected—but with extra damage done by the trade war, which has on net hurt manufacturing and agriculture, and with no investment boom
      • The Reagan economy turned out somewhat worse than expected—policy incoherence between the tax cutter, the defense spenders, and Paul Volcker really stomped the entire economy over 1981-3 and the Midwest over 1981-1987.
      • The George H.W. Bush economy turned out worse than expected—they took their eye off the ball on the S&L crisis
      • The George W. Bush administration really _ _ the pooch...
  • It looks like we have dodged a recession...

    • We have had a manufacturing recession, but domestic manufacturing is no longer an important enough sector for a manufacturing recession to bring down the economy as a whole...
    • The Trump economy is very weak in productivity growth and the wage share, and those are very worrisome for long-term trends.
  • 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
    • Yet he has his fans—and very few of them are beneficiaries of his tax cut, and there are no beneficiaries of his trade war or his foreign-born sliming...
      • Perhaps all his fans think they will benefit from his tax cut?
      • Recall John Steinbeck: "We didn’t have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist..."
      • A new paper out by Alberto Alesina and Stephanie Stantcheva on how Americans think there is much more and Europeans think there is substantially less upward mobility than in fact there is—and how in real life there is more in Europe than in America

Continue reading "Scheduled for Squawk Box: January 2, 2020 6:50 AM EST: Talking Points" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


Nilso: Tax Frenzies and How to Hose Them Dow https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/john-scalzi-2010-_tax-frenzies-and-how-to-hose-them-down_-i-really-dont-know-what-you-do-about-the-taxes-are.html?cid=6a00e551f0800388340240a4fd42e6200b#comment-6a00e551f0800388340240a4fd42e6200b: 'I live in Jackson County, Oregon, home to Ashland (and Phoenix, Talent and Medford). We have taxes. Nearby Josephine County (home of Cave Junction) has not, until recently, voted for a property tax increase in so many years, that their policing had to be taken over by Oregon State Police. Needless to say, the result was meth-heads having car-chase shootouts in broad daylight, etc. Finally they realized this was a disaster and voted for enough of a property tax to get a sherriff back on the payroll. This has been an instructive case in point...

Continue reading "" »


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"...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »


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...

Continue reading "" »