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February 2020

Note to Self: Polanyi: Aristotle Discovers the Economy: Hoisted from the Archives: A whole bunch of this article is simply wrong: the claims that "in the fourth century... Greeks initiated the gainful business practices that in much later days developed into the dynamo of market comnpetition" are false. This means that Polanyi is wrong when he says that Aristotle is examining a new phenomenon when he looks at the economy. Aristotle is examining an old phenomenon from the point of view of an Athenian aristocrat. But there is much of value in Polanyi's exposition of what Aristotle says...

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Dan Ziblatt argues that right-of-center parties, historically, have sought electoral success in broad-franchise political systems by attempting to focus attention on issues other than plutocracy: on clashes either between economic sectors; or over cultural, ethnic, and nationalist issues. In America, there has been another approach: to argue that conservative pro-plutocracy economic policies are what they are they claiming they will not do what they will do. I join Duncan black in believing that this has had a corrosive impact on the discourse ethics of the American right and of many of the journalists who cover American politics: Duncan Black: No One Will Believe You https://www.eschatonblog.com/2019/11/no-one-will-believe-you.html: 'I think about this a lot: "For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan—and thus championed 'ending Medicare as we know it'—while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing." It is a problem when you can completely accurately describe what Republicans very explicitly say they want and people will refuse to believe you and perhaps get mad at you for "lying" to them...

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This feature, started by Equitable Growth now-alumnus Nick Bunker, is always one of my monthly must-reads. The JOLTS data set is a uniquely valuable source of information: Raksha Kopparam and Kate Bahn: JOLTS Day Graphs: November 2019 Report Edition https://equitablegrowth.org/jolts-day-graphs-november-2019-report-edition/: 'Every month the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases data on hiring, firing, and other labor market flows from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, better known as JOLTS.... This report doesn’t get as much attention as the monthly Employment Situation Report.... Below are a few key graphs using data from the report...

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I tried my cut on these issues in Project Syndicate a little while ago: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/trolls-win-control-of-the-public-square-by-j-bradford-delong-2019-12. I think Annalee Newitz is doing a better job: Annalee Newitz: A Better Internet Is Waiting for Us https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/30/opinion/social-media-future.html: 'Social media is broken. It has poisoned the way we communicate with each other and undermined the democratic process.... Erika Hall’s design firm Mule.... “I absolutely believe that you can design interfaces that create more safe spaces to interact, in the same way we know how to design streets that are safer,” she said. But today, she told me, the issue isn’t technical. It has to do with the way business is being done in Silicon Valley.... Companies like Facebook and Twitter lack an incentive to promote better relationships and a better understanding of the news “because they make money through outrage and deception,” Ms. Hall said. Outrage and deception capture our attention, and attention sells ads. “At a business model level, they are ad networks parasitic on human connection.”.... Scalzi... 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.... After the social media age is over, we’ll have the opportunity to rebuild our damaged public sphere by creating digital public places that imitate actual town halls, concert venues and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.... As we’ve already learned from social media, anonymous communication can degenerate quickly. What’s to stop future public spaces from becoming unregulated free-for-alls, with abuse and misinformation that are far worse than anything today?... We need to stop handing off responsibility for maintaining public space to corporations and algorithms—and give it back to human beings. We may need to slow down, but we’ve created democracies out of chaos before. We can do it again...

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Very Briefly Noted 2020-03-08:

Most important:

  1. Dev Patel, Justin Sandefur, & Arvind Subramanian (2018): Everything You Know About Cross-Country Convergence Is (Now) Wrong https://voxeu.org/content/everything-you-know-about-cross-country-convergence-now-wrong...

  2. Jeffrey P. Emanuel: Cretan Lie And Historical Truth: Examining Odysseus’ Raid On Egypt In Its Late Bronze Age Context ...

  3. Wolfram|Alpha https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=log%286%29%2F43...

  4. Richard R. Nelson & Howard Pack: The Asian Miracle & Modern Growth Theory http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.977.8217&rep=rep1&type=pdf...

  5. Charles I. Jones & Paul M. Romer: The New Kaldor Facts: Ideas, Institutions, Population, & Human Capital https://web.stanford.edu/~chadj/JonesRomer2010.pdf...

  6. The Two Faces of Jean-Baptiste Say... https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/04/the-two-faces-of-jean-baptiste-say.html...

  7. U Va Library: Understanding Diagnostic Plots for Linear Regression Analysis https://data.library.virginia.edu/diagnostic-plots/...

  8. Friedrich A. von Hayek: "The Use of Knowledge in Society https://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/hykKnw.html...

  9. Harry G. Johnson: The Keynesian Revolution and the Monetarist Counter-Revolution https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1816968.pdf...

  10. Novel Investor: Birth of Stocks for the Long Run https://novelinvestor.com/birth-stocks-long-run/...

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Wikipedia: Scillus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scillus: 'Scillus or Skillous (Ancient Greek: Σκιλλοῦς) was a town of Triphylia, a district of ancient Elis, situated 20 stadia south of Olympia. In 572 BCE the Scilluntians assisted Pyrrhus, king of Pisa, in making war upon the Eleians; but they were completely conquered by the latter, and both Pisa and Scillus were razed to the ground. Scillus remained desolate till about 392 BCE, when the Lacedaemonians, who had a few years previously compelled the Eleians to renounce their supremacy over their dependent cities, colonised Scillus and gave it to Xenophon, then an exile from Athens. Xenophon resided here more than twenty years, and probably composed the Anabasis here, but was expelled from it by the Eleians soon after the Battle of Leuctra, in 371 BCE. He has left us a description of the place, which he says was situated 20 stadia from the Sacred Grove of Zeus, on the road to Olympia from Sparta, It stood upon the river Selinus, which was also the name of the river flowing by the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and like the latter it abounded in fish and shell-fish. Here Xenophon, from a tenth of the spoils acquired in the Asiatic campaign, dedicated a temple to Artemis, in imitation of the celebrated temple at Ephesus, and instituted a festival to the goddess. Scillus stood amidst woods and meadows, and afforded abundant pasture for cattle; while the neighbouring mountains supplied wild hogs, roebucks, and stags. When Pausanias visited Scillus five centuries afterwards the temple of Artemis still remained, and a statue of Xenophon, made of Pentelic marble. Scillus's site is near the modern village of Makrisia...

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Sparta as Theme Park: Cicero: Tusculan Disputations https://www.gutenberg.org/files/14988/14988-h/14988-h.htm: 'Do you not see how much harm is done by poets? They introduce the bravest men lamenting over their misfortunes: they soften our minds; and they are, besides, so entertaining, that we do not only read them, but get them by heart. Thus the influence of the poets is added to our want of discipline at home, and our tender and delicate manner of living, so that between them they have deprived virtue of all its vigor and energy. Plato, therefore, was right in banishing them from his commonwealth, where he required the best morals, and the best form of government. But we, who have all our learning from Greece, read and learn these works of theirs from our childhood; and look on this as a liberal and learned education. But why are we angry with the poets? We may find some philosophers, those masters of virtue, who have taught that pain was the greatest of evils. But you, young man, when you said but just now that it appeared so to you, upon being asked by me what appeared greater than infamy, gave up that opinion at a word. Suppose I ask Epicurus the same question. He will answer that a trifling degree of pain is a greater evil than the greatest infamy; for that there is no evil in infamy itself, unless attended with pain. What pain, then, attends Epicurus, when he says that very thing, that pain is the greatest evil! And yet nothing can be a greater disgrace to a philosopher than to talk thus. Therefore, you allowed enough when you admitted that infamy appeared to you to be a greater evil than pain. And if you abide by this admission, you will see how far pain should be resisted; and that our inquiry should be not so much whether pain be an evil, as how the mind may be fortified for resisting it.... I do not deny pain to be pain—for were that the case, in what would courage consist?—but I say it should be assuaged by patience, if there be such a thing as patience: if there be no such thing, why do we speak so in praise of philosophy? or why do we glory in its name?.... By the laws of Lycurgus, and by those which were given to the Cretans by Jupiter, or which Minos established under the direction of Jupiter, as the poets say, the youths of the State are trained by the practice of hunting, running, enduring hunger and thirst, cold and heat. The boys at Sparta are scourged so at the altars that blood follows the lash in abundance; nay, sometimes, as I used to hear when I was there, they are whipped even to death; and yet not one of them was ever heard to cry out, or so much as groan. What, then? Shall men not be able to bear what boys do? And shall custom have such great force, and reason none at all?...

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Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, Diana Beltekian and Max Roser: Trade and Globalization https://ourworldindata.org/trade-and-globalization: 'Over the last two centuries trade has grown remarkably, completely transforming the global economy. Today about one fourth of total global production is exported. Understanding this transformative process is important because trade has generated gains, but it has also had important distributional consequences. From a historical perspective, there have been two waves of globalization. The first wave started in the 19th century, and came to an end with the beginning of the First World War. The second wave started after the Second World War, and is still continuing...

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Weekend Reading: Rereading: William Boyd: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

William Boyd: Rereading: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/jul/24/carre-spy-came-cold-boyd: 'One of the aspects of the novel that always bothered me was the end. Leamas... finally realises how he has been used by his own side, how he has been fooled, manipulated and misinformed to bring about a conclusion that was the opposite of the one he thought he was colluding in. He is offered the chance to flee, to escape and climb over the Wall with the young girl he sort-of loves back to West Berlin. He and the girl are driven to a "safe" area of the Wall in a car provided for him by a double agent. Operationally and procedurally this seemed to me a huge error. My feeling was that an agent of Leamas's vast experience and worldliness would surely be aware that such a means of escape was riven with jeopardy. Yet he goes along with it and pays the price. What had I missed? Reading the book again I now think I understand—but it does require close attention (new readers look away now)...

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Bret Devereaux: The Fremen Mirage, Part II: Water Spilled on the Sand—A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry https://acoup.blog/2020/01/30/collections-the-fremen-mirage-part-ii-water-spilled-on-the-sand/: 'Sallust’s complaints about Roman decadence—which date to the first century B.C. nearly five centuries before its ‘fall‘—are often quoted as somehow explaining Rome’s eventual demise, but Rome wasn’t even done expanding at that point. This isn’t the place to get into a complete periodization of the Roman state, but we’ll break it down into four broad periods based on Rome’s military expansion, and then address each one in turn: 1. Roman Expansion in Italy (509-265 B.C.), during which the Roman Republic consolidated control of the Italian Peninsula. 2. Rapid Roman Overseas Expansion (265 B.C.—14 A.D.), during which the Roman Republic (along with Augustus, the first emperor) defeated the other major powers of the Mediterranean and also rapidly subjugated large numbers of minor states and pre-state peoples. This period also sees political stresses within the Roman Republic eventually tear it apart, leading to a new monarchy under Augustus. 3. Consolidation, Stabilization and Frontier Defense (15—378 A.D.), during which expansion does not stop, but it does slow, and the greater military focus is on protecting what Rome has (which is, to be fair, nearly all of the territory worth having). This period is disrupted by a period of fragmentation and civil war called the 3a. Third Century Crisis (235-284), but Rome stabilizes and regains control of its older borders afterwards and holds them successfully for another century. 4. The Long, Slow Collapse of the West (378-476), during which the Western Roman Empire slowly collapses, while the Eastern Roman Empire remains prosperous, militarily successful and almost entirely intact. That is, you will forgive me on language for a moment, a long ass time...

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Worthy Reads from February 6, 2019

stacks and stacks of books

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth and Friends:

  1. Louis Brandeis believed that bigness is bad per se—thus failing to see that since, well, at least 1870 value chains and the division of the labor had become sufficiently complicated that efficient production required a great deal of central planning on the level of the large firm. Toyota sells 250 billion dollars worth of cars each year—that is 0.2 percent of glow GDP—and roughly 2/3 of that value flow is under the centrally-planned direction of the Toyota design and production management teams, not the result of arms-length market-price deals between truly independent producers. Bork believed that any bigness was good if could be colorably or uncolorably claimed to be the result of some clever economy of scale that a lawyer who was part of the judge's social circle could think up was never credible as anything other than an excuse for rent-seeking corruption. To find the true path, look, and Jonathan Baker says, to FDR antitrust guru Thurman Arnold: Jonathan Baker: Revitalizing U.S. Antitrust Enforcement Is Not Simply a Contest Between Brandeis and Bork—Look First to Thurman Arnold: "Growing market power in the United States today puts a spotlight on our nation’s antitrust laws—the critical policy tool for restoring competition where it is lacking—from airlines and brewing to hospitals and dominant online platforms. But how can these laws be made more effective in this environment? The best guide from the past is Thurman Arnold, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s longest-serving antitrust enforcer. Arnold helped shape a political consensus for effective antitrust enforcement. Yet his singular contribution is often overlooked in the present-day debate over antitrust’s future. That achievement—the embrace of an antitrust enforcement playbook for supervising large firms that is competition-promoting and economic growth-enhancing—is endangered today...

  2. Now you can watch our Fearless Leader Heather Boushey on the video: Peterson Institute: Confronting Inequality: How Societies can Choose Inclusive Growth: "The Peterson Institute for International Economics holds an event to present the book, Confronting Inequality: How Societies can Choose Inclusive Growth, on January 31, 2019. The book’s authors, Jonathan Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Andrew Berg of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), along with PIIE Nonresident Senior Fellow Jason Furman and Heather Boushey...

  3. The social safety net alleviates rural poverty. It does not cause it by creating indolence. The then-Whig and now-Republican idea that the rural poor were idle buggers looking for a handout was overwhelmingly false in early nineteenth-century Britain, and is false in early twenty-first century America today James P. Ziliak: Economic Change and the Social Safety Net: Are Rural Americans Still Behind?: "The U.S. economy has been rocked by major business cycle and secular shocks that differentially affected the fortunes of urban and rural areas... coinciding with... the dramatic growth and transformation of the social safety net.... How the... changes have interacted to at times exacerbate, and other times attenuate, well being across regions and over time is little studied.... The analysis here is descriptive...

  4. This puzzles me: at least semi-stable schedules are relatively easy to provide for employers, and are worth a lot to workers. I do kinda wonder if these trends are the result of now two decades of slack labor markets in which workers are and employers want to remind workers that they ought to be grateful for any jobs at all: Daniel Schneider and Kristen Harknett: For Job Quality, Time Is More than Money: "What we found is striking: Working in the service sector doesn’t only mean low pay and few fringe benefits, it also means turning over the reins to your employer when it comes to when and how much you will work. This so-called 'just-in-time' scheduling approach has consequences for millions of American workers. People with unstable work schedules are markedly less happy. They sleep less well and are more likely to report feeling distressed. This pattern plays out consistently whether we look at short notice, last-minute changes or routine ups and downs in work hours. For instance, employees who worked “on-call” shifts were less likely by half to report good sleep quality than their co-workers who didn’t work on-call...

  5. Bespoke subsidies to individual firms plus lack of transparency equals kleptocracy: Nathan M. Jensen and Calvin Thrall: Who’s Afraid of Sunlight? Explaining Opposition to Transparency in Economic Development: "Why do some firms oppose transparency of government programs? In this paper we explore legal challenges to public records requests for deal-specific, company-specific participation in a state economic development incentive program. By examining applications for participation in a major state economic program, the Texas Enterprise Fund, we find that a company is more likely to challenge a formal public records request if it has renegotiated the terms of the award to reduce its job-creation obligations. We interpret this as companies challenging transparency when they have avoided being penalized for non-compliance by engaging in non-public renegotiations. These results provide evidence regarding those conditions that prompt firms to challenge transparency and illustrate some of the limitations of safeguards such as clawbacks (or incentive-recapture provisions) when such reforms aren’t coupled with robust transparency mechanisms...

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This is truly great from Equitable Growth new hire Claudia Sahm. She writes: "hey it’s Friday morning 🎉 ... what better what to spend an hour than learning about how we can fight the next recession, and why we MUST do better": Vox.com: The Weeds Podcast https://www.vox.com/the-weeds: 'ix recessions by giving people money. Claudia Sahm from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth joins Matt to explain a surprisingly simple strategy to stabilize the economy...

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Susanna Ives: Is Your Victorian Gentleman Sponge-Worthy? Contraception in the Years 1826 – 1891 – : 'Amazon describes the book as “What is Love? provides a timely appreciation of Richard Carlile’s neglected shocker, Every Woman’s Book. Originally published in 1826, it scored a double first: as a progressive sex manual and as the first book in English to specify methods of contraception”: Richard Carlile: "To prevent impregnation, pass to the end of the vagina a piece of fine sponge, which should be dipped in water before being used, and which need not be removed until the morning.... There is a preventive check attempted by many poor women which is most detrimental to health, and should therefore never be employed, namely, the too-long persistence in nursing one baby, in the hope of thereby preventing the conception of another. Nursing does not prevent conception. A child should not be nursed, according to Dr. Chavasse, for longer than nine months; and he quotes Dr. Farr, as follows:—'It is generally recognized that the healthiest children are those weaned at nine months complete. Prolonged nursing hurts both child and mother: in the child, causing a tendency to brain disease, probably through disordered digestion and nutrition; in the mother, causing a strong tendency to deafness and blindness.' Dr. Chavasse adds: 'If he be suckled after he be twelve months old, he is generally pale, flabby, unhealthy, and rickety; and the mother is usually nervous, emaciated, and hysterical.… A child nursed beyond twelve months is very apt, if he should live, to be knock-kneed, and bowlegged, and weak-ankled, to be narrow-chested, and chickenbreasted.' If pregnancy occur, and the mother be nursing, the consequences affect alike the mother, the babe, and the unborn child. To nurse under these circumstances, says Dr. Chavasse, 'is highly improper, as it not only injures her own health, and may bring on a miscarriage, but it is also prejudicial to her babe, and may produce a delicacy of constitution from which he might never recover'...

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The very sharp David Glasner on how Arthur Burns did a really lousy job as Fed Chair, and left his successors with a horrible mess: David Glasner: Cleaning Up After Burns’s Mess: "After prolonging monetary stimulus unnecessarily for a year, Burn erred grievously by applying monetary restraint in response to the rise in oil prices. The largely exogenous rise in oil prices would most likely have caused a recession even with no change in monetary policy. By subjecting the economy to the added shock of reducing aggregate demand, Burns turned a mild recession into the worst recession since 1937-38 recession at the end of the Great Depression, with unemployment peaking at 8.8% in Q2 1975. Nor did the reduction in aggregate demand have much anti-inflationary effect, because the incremental reduction in total spending occasioned by the monetary tightening was reflected mainly in reduced output and employment rather than in reduced inflation.... When President Carter took office in 1977, Burns, hoping to be reappointed to another term, provided Carter with a monetary expansion to hasten the reduction in unemployment that Carter has promised in his Presidential campaign. However, Burns’s accommodative policy did not sufficiently endear him to Carter to secure the coveted reappointment.... A year after leaving the Fed, Burns gave the annual Per Jacobson Lecture to the International Monetary Fund. Calling his lecture “The Anguish of Central Banking,” Burns offered a defense of his tenure, by arguing, in effect, that he should not be blamed for his poor performance, because the job of central banking is so very hard. Central bankers could control inflation, but only by inflicting unacceptably high unemployment. The political authorities and the public to whom central bankers are ultimately accountable would simply not tolerate the high unemployment that would be necessary for inflation to be controlled: "Viewed in the abstract, the Federal Reserve System had the power to abort the inflation at its incipient stage fifteen years ago or at any later point, and it has the power to end it today. At any time within that period, it could have restricted money supply and created sufficient strains in the financial and industrial markets to terminate inflation with little delay. It did not do so because the Federal Reserve was itself caught up in the philosophic and political currents that were transforming American life and culture..."

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This is a must must read. This is a great paper by Alberto and Stefanie. Coming to grips with what generates this may be the most important question in political economy today: Alberto Alesina and Stefanie Stantcheva: Americans Regard Their Economic Prospects More Optimistically than Europeans https://www.city-journal.org/economic-mobility: 'Americans, by and large, view the market economy as fair: if one works hard, poverty can be left behind; and wealth is generally deserved by those who have accumulated it.... Europeans, by contrast, believe that the poor will remain stuck in poverty, no matter how hard they try, and that many of the rich don’t deserve their wealth, which originated mostly from birth and connections in an “unfair” economy, based upon privileges. They believe that social mobility is low and that something like an American dream in their country is an illusion.... A key difference in the responses of Europeans and Americans is... European respondents are more pessimistic than Americans, though their statistical chances now look better.... Individuals more pessimistic about social mobility favored government spending on programs designed to equalize opportunities and favored a progressive tax system. Interestingly, the respondents who believed that social mobility is low seem to favor equal-opportunity policies more than ex-post-redistribution of income. American respondents showed a distinctive—and counterintuitive—geographical pattern. In areas such as the South and the Southeast, where upward mobility is relatively low, Americans were overly optimistic about prospects of upward mobility. The opposite was the case in areas where mobility is higher, as in the North and Northwest. This is an intriguing pattern that will require more study to understand...

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The repeated waves of automation in manufacturing eliminate—or at least severely reduce the salience of—tasks. Whether those waves amount to "deskilling" on the level of occupations is a subtle and empirical question, for what tasks make up on occupation and how those tasks can shift about without destroying the occupation is a complicated and subtle thing. We do not have a good handle on this, theoretically or conceptually. But here we have the smart and hard-working David Kunst doing useful work: David Kunst: Deskilling Among Manufacturing Production Workers https://voxeu.org/article/deskilling-among-manufacturing-production-workers: "Has technological progress in manufacturing been skill-biased or deskilling? This column argues that the conventional distinction between white-collar and production workers has concealed substantial deskilling among manufacturing production workers since the 1950s. Automation has reduced the demand for skilled craftsmen around the world, thereby reducing the number of jobs in which workers with little formal education could acquire significant marketable skills...

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Lecture Notes: Malthusian Agricultural Economies

Th Feb 6: 2.1. Malthusian Agricultural Economies

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Freddie from Barmen is a greatly undervalued thinker. I wonder what would have happened it he had not met Marx—or if he had not decided that Marx was smarter than he was: Friedrich Engels (1843): Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/df-jahrbucher/outlines.htm: 'The productive power at mankind’s disposal is immeasurable. The productivity of the soil can be increased ad infinitum by the application of capital, labour and science.... Capital increases daily; labour power grows with population; and day by day science increasingly makes the forces of nature subject to man.... Here a new contradiction in economics comes to light. The economist’s “demand” is not the real demand; his “consumption” is an artificial consumption. For the economist, only that person really demands, only that person is a real consumer, who has an equivalent to offer for what he receives...

...Every adult produces more than he himself can consume... children are like trees which give superabundant returns.... Each worker ought to be able to produce far more than he needs and that the community, therefore, ought to be very glad to provide him with everything he needs; one must consider a large family to be a very welcome gift for the community. But the economist, with his crude outlook, knows no other equivalent than that which is paid to him in tangible ready cash. He is so firmly set in his antitheses that the most striking facts are of as little concern to him as the most scientific principles.

We destroy the contradiction simply by transcending it. With the fusion of the interests now opposed to each other there disappears the contradiction between excess population here and excess wealth there; there disappears the miraculous fact (more miraculous than all the miracles of all the religions put together) that a nation has to starve from sheer wealth and plenty; and there disappears the crazy assertion that the earth lacks the power to feed men...

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Note to Self: I see no way that live-action Mulan can match animated: animated's delicious subversion of the "Basic Training" tropes seems to me to make it unbeatable?

Actually, where do all the "basic training" tropes come from? They seem well-established by the post-WWI movie "Tell It to the Marines" https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0018471/. Captains Courageous https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captains_Courageous? The Red Badge of Courage https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Red_Badge_of_Courage? But those aren't basic training. Sergeant le Juane and Corporal Himmelstoss aren't this trope. Does it come from Xenophon? Where, when, and how did the "basic training" tropes enter our culture?

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Once again, this ought to be the focus one your attention this year: Ed Luce: The Guilty Verdict on the Republican Party https://www.ft.com/content/b8e67780-3d85-11ea-a01a-bae547046735: 'Washington is staging the opposite of a Moscow show trial. In the Soviet version, Joseph Stalin would coerce innocent comrades into false professions of guilt. In Donald Trump’s Senate trial, the US president’s party is proclaiming the innocence of an allegedly guilty man. The overlap is that each trial was pre-cooked before it began. Republicans would face no firing squads or Siberian exile for defying their leader. The worst Mr Trump could do is to incite primary challenges, or banish them from his clubs. Some might even call that an incentive. How did America’s Grand Old Party turn into a rigged jury for Mr Trump? It is not love of the US constitution, though Republicans ritually profess faith in America’s founding documents. They have been taking their cue from Pat Cipollone, Mr Trump’s White House counsel, part of whose case is that the US president’s impeachment was “rigged”. That is to confuse impeachment with trial. The former is an indictment. The Senate is refusing to conduct a good faith trial, since it will not permit new witnesses or documents to be introduced...

...Trump... used the threat of withheld aid to pressure a foreign leader to interfere in the US presidential election. The only question is whether this amounted to “high crime or misdemeanour”, which America’s founders characterised as abuse of public trust. Having deprived the House of Representatives of critical witnesses and records, Mr Trump is now bragging that his accusers lack proof. “We have the material,” Mr Trump said this week. This is the equivalent of the accused pronouncing from the dock that he is withholding critical evidence because the court has no standing. Stalin might have chuckled at that approach. Mr Trump’s Senate allies are dutifully repeating it.

Mr Cipollone’s second defence is that presidents routinely investigate corruption in foreign countries. The fact that Mr Trump has never shown interest in pursuing corruption anywhere other than Ukraine—and in only one instance—is surely relevant.... Constraining executive power is a basic tenet of US conservatism.... It has become fashionable to dismiss Mr Trump’s impeachment as a dull charade. Republicans may even benefit from the US public’s boredom with the proceedings. That may turn out to be true. Mr Trump could be re-elected in November. Yet it could be worse. Only one of America’s parties has surrendered to a Caesar. Whatever its faults, the Democratic party still shows some faith in the system. If that goes, the founding virtues that Republicans once held dear will vanish with the party...

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