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June 2020

Why Were University of Chicago Professional Economists Republicans So Stupid About Coronavirus?

I look at the Trump professional economists Republicans—Kevin Hassett, Tomas Philipson, Casey Mulligan, & co.—and I really do wonder: Why were they so incompetent? Why did they get so strongly behind the "epidemiologists have it wrong", the "reopen the economy"—originally by Easter—and the "this will burn itself out quickly"—deaths down near zero by mid-May—pushes? At least now Philipson and Hassett appear to be silent—although Mulligan is still out there, claiming that the depression is the result of government lockdowns alone, which he values at "15,000 dollars per household per quarter" not counting "intrinsic costs of forgone civil liberties".

By the end of January we knew that this coronavirus was (a) highly infectious, (b) transmitted by the presymptomatic, (c) something against which no human had immunity, (d) a disease with a normal-behavior herd-immunity point likely to be more than 50% of the population, and (e) a disease that killed—with treatment—about 1% of the infected. Those facts made it obvious that keeping it from killing 30 million people worldwide would bet a very difficult task, and that adding up mortality and morbidity costs valued at three million or so per death meant that the stakes we were playing for to avoid a worst-case three million dead epidemic amounted to ten trillion dollars, compared to which the 350 billion cost of a one-month complete non-essential business lockdown that reduced national income by 20% was relatively small change.

And, indeed, the rest of the global north—even Britain—with the exception of Sweden has bit the bullet, taken the lockdown hit, now has the virus (temporarily) on the run, and can move to test-and-trace and social distancing to stomp the virus. We and Sweden have not. We have thus become pariah nations, as far as coronavirus is concerned.

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Tomas Philipson: Such a Maroon—Note to Self

Dunning-Krueger to the max: Shorter Tomas Philipson: It's great that Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine, & encouraging others to suck up the supply away from lupus patients for whom it works. It's great that Trump refuses to wear a mask!: Tomas Philipson (2020-05-20): 'There's nothing new about @POTUS using healthcare, in consultation with a physician, that hasn't undergone government approved randomized trials. Most healthcare spending is on services/procedures lacking such evidence. And the majority of cancer drugs are prescribed without it. Patients and doctors, based on trade-offs between effectiveness, side-effects, and prices, often correctly disagree with one-size-fits-all blind randomized trials, which have many problems. This is one reason why @POTUS signed Right to Try to let patients—not bureaucrats—decide. Indeed, the same people who argue POTUS should wear a mask to guard against COVID, for which there is no randomized evidence yet and blinding would be difficult, are the same people who argue that such evidence is crucial for COVID Rx use… .#economicsgonewrong #moralresponsibility #noted #notetoself #orangehairedbaboons #2020-06-30

Was the Great Recession More Damaging Than the Great Depression?

Brad DeLong: Was the Great Recession More Damaging Than the Great Depression?: Your parents’—more likely your grandparents’—Great Depression opened with the then-biggest-ever stock market crash, continued with the largest-ever sustained decline in GDP, and ended with a near-decade of subnormal production and employment. Yet 11 years after the 1929 crash, national income per worker was 10 percent above its 1929 level. The next year, 12 years after, it was 28 percent above its 1929 level. The economy had fully recovered. And then came the boom of World War II, followed by the “thirty glorious years” of post-World War II prosperity. The Great Depression was a nightmare. But the economy then woke up—and it was not haunted thereafter. Our “Great Recession” opened in 2007 with what appeared to be a containable financial crisis. The economy subsequently danced on a knife-edge of instability for a year. Then came the crash — in stock market values, employment and GDP. The experience of the Great Depression, however, gave policymakers the knowledge and running room to keep our depression-in-the-making an order of magnitude less severe than the Great Depression. That’s all true. But it’s not the whole story. The Great Recession has cast a very large shadow on America’s future prosperity. We are still haunted by it... Read MOAR at Project Syndicate

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78 Years Ago Today: The Nazi "Operation Blue" Commences...

Remind Me Again: Friedrich Paulus The Nazis planned to push four armies forward and only four armies forward in the summer and fall of 1942—Sixth, Seventeenth, First Panzer, and Fourth Panzer. One can understand why an army personnel office would choose Hermann Hoth as commander of Fourth Panzer Army and von Kleist as commander of First Panzer Army. But Richard Ruoff as commander of the Seventeenth Army? And Friedrich Paulus as commander of the Sixth Army? What was there in their previous careers to mark them as the right people for army command in Southern Russia in the summer and fall of 1942?

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John Bell Hood Blames Everybody Else for His Failure to Win the Battle of Spring Hill—Weekend Reading

The anti-Patton. Maybe he was a good regimental or brigade commander. Maybe. But no appreciation for the frictions of war in attempting complicated simultaneous actions, and no appreciation for the power of the defense and the rifle: John Bell Hood: Advance & Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies 'I dispatched a messenger to General Cheatham to lose no time in gaining possession of the pike at Spring Hill. It was reported back that he was about to do so.... I became somewhat uneasy, and again ordered an officer to go to General Cheatham.... I entrusted another officer with the same message... finally requested the Governor of Tennessee, Isham G. Harris, to hasten forward and impress upon Cheatham the importance of action without delay...

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Siegele: Can Technology Plan Economies & Destroy Democracy—Noted

There was much talk two decades ago about how the high-tech information age economy would be an attention economy, in which convincing people to focus their attention on commodities and activities would be truly though. What people did not talk about but should have was that the information age was bringing an information overload attention polity as well: there in order to rift the public and the political system, you needed not cogent arguments and policies but rather to flood zone and distract with irrelevancies. The others – the Chinese communist party, for one – look at the north Atlantic‘s public sphere and conclude John Milton and Jon Stewart Mill's praise of free speech was definitely miss guided. Those of us who do still believe in free speech need to figure out answers:

Ludwig Siegele: Can Technology Plan Economies & Destroy Democracy? ‘Democracy, [Farrell & Shalizi] argued, has a “capacity unmatched…in solving complex problems”. To understand why this may be, consider the informational challenges faced by centralised or authoritarian regimes. They lack what Mr Shalizi calls a “feedback channel”. Just as markets generate information about what people want, so does open discussion. In autocracies, citizens have no interest in openly discussing problems or experimenting with solutions, lest they end up in jail or worse. As a result, an unelected government has a limited capacity to understand what is going on in its polity—and thus tends to make bad decisions. Dictators maintain extensive security apparatuses not just to repress the people but to understand them; they serve as the feedback channel through which dictators get the information which they need to govern. Such measures are not just an affront to human rights. They are politically destabilising. The head of an effective security service can easily become either a rival for the top spot or a self-censoring information block, neither of which bodes well for the boss.... Despite its advantages, both in terms of economic growth and problem solving, 21st-century free-market liberal democracy has not enjoyed quite the apotheosis that some expected at the beginning of the 1990s. The setbacks to democratic norms at the level of the state have been well documented. The persistence of planning goes unnoticed because it is so familiar: it is the way that companies are run.... “Internally, firms are planned economies no different to the Soviet Union: hierarchical, undemocratic planned economies,” write Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski, two leftist activists, in “The People’s Republic of Walmart” (2019), a highly readable romp through the history and possible futures of planning.... The Chinese Communist Party shows every sign of wanting... not the democratisation of planning, but the sort of planning that permits democracy to be minimised.... When it comes to eroding an existing democracy, rather than shoring up a dictatorship, there are somewhat similar technologies on offer. Some are destructive. Social media, driven as its commercial interests are by the desire to “go viral”, offers ways to inject the equivalent of computer viruses into the public’s political information processing, degrading and distorting its output through misinformation, emotional incontinence and cognitive sabotage...

.#noteed #2020-06-28

Mathai & DeLong: Artists Paint Hundreds of Social Justice Murals Across the Bay Area—Noted

Raj Mathai & Jonathan DeLong: Artists Paint Hundreds of Social Justice Murals Across the Bay Area ‘We’re now seeing hundreds of murals across the Bay Area. Color, creativity and social justice. But who’s organizing all of this? spoke to one of them—Jonathan DeLong from Oakland.…

.#noted #2020-06-28

Goolsbee: Cases Back on the Rise Ominous—Noted

Somewhat paradoxically, the coronavirus plague turns out not to be a huge supply shock to the American economy. Yes, a great many activities become essentially impossible as too costly—but for the overwhelming majority, they have close substitutes that use essentially the same factors of production in the same proportions: take-out and grocery stores rather than sit-down restaurants; shopping online and delivery by truck rather than shopping in person. And those that do not have close substitutes in terms of contemporaneous substitution have close substitutes in terms of intertemporal substitution.

Thus lockdowns had little effect on the overall level of economic activity—it was the rise in savings, and the failure of the government to take steps to ensure that rise in planned savings was absorbed by greater planned private investment and government investment and consumption. And this strongly suggests that anything that boosts caseloads will, be further raising planned savings, further depress the economy. It makes this week one hell of a moment to have a large, loud indoor gathering in of all places Arizona, I tell you:

Austan Goolsbee: 'The results from March-May suggest that the fact that cases are back on the rise is very ominous not just for public health but for the economy. If people get scared again, a lot of activity may start to tank.... Short version: they don't do much. Of the 60% drop in consumer activity, only 7 came from shutdown orders. Fear of the virus is the main thing. The collapse of economic activity in 2020 from COVID-19 has been immense.... We have consumer visits to 2.3m businesses in 110 industries through the crisis. We tracked down the county level shutdown orders and can compare across borders in the same metro area where the policy differs.... Evidence of fear as the driver: 1) more covid deaths in your county drive down economic activity signif[icantly] even including metro-week dummies, 2) people heavily shift visits away from larger/busier stores to smaller/less busy ones in the same industry (and especially if lots of local deaths). We have data up to late May and include some states ending their shutdown orders. The increase in economic activity is just as modest coming out as it was going in. Policy itself isn't the driver. But there is one way policy matters: diversion from one kind of business to another. We have essential/non-essential definition in each place. Non-essential business collapses. Essential business soars. Restaurant/bar orders cause massive hit there but an equally big increase to grocery and food stores.... If people get scared again, a lot of activity may start to tank... #coronavirus #depression #macro #noted #publichealth #2020-06-27

Stokes: Unpacking the Logic Behind “Slow Testing"—Noted

Jon Stokes: Unpacking the Logic Behind “Slow the Testing Down, Please” ‘A lot has been made of the President’s claim that we should “slow the testing down,” a claim that he doubled down on in subsequent remarks to reporters. Most commentators state that he’s under the mistaken impression that if we just don’t look at the problem, it’ll go away. But I follow a bunch of virus skeptics.... I think I understand the reasoning behind the president’s remark.... There is an actual school of thought behind this.... I want to unpack all this... because it’s important... to understand... [the] virus skeptics... [and the] story they’re telling themselves and anyone who’ll listen, and that this story is driving the US response to the virus at the highest levels.... The story the virus skeptics are currently telling goes something like this: "The outbreak actually peaked in March, and at far higher numbers than we know about. The cases were probably in the millions, and were undercounted... because the virus is very mild... unless you’re very old or otherwise compromised.... The number of uncounted cases has been dropping dramatically as the outbreak fizzles, and you can see this in the ongoing drop in deaths.... Therefore, the rise in detected cases is simply because we’re doing a bunch of track-and-trace and testing, which is leading us to uncover all these previously undetected cases that were out there. So the bottom line... is that if we weren’t sending “hotspot hunters” (a real term I’ve come across) to do contact tracing and find all the remaining pockets of infections, we wouldn’t be seeing these alarming rises in case counts. By this logic, this “phantom” rise in apparent cases (remember, really we’re just finding more old cases that are mild) is giving rise to media hysteria and economic devastation.... At this point, goes the reasoning, the economic damage from the “fake” rise in cases is far worse than any damage from the very mild virus, so we need to just quit testing.... To be clear, the above is still head-in-the-sand-ism, but it reflects a sophisticated head-in-the-sand-ism that’s being earnestly promoted by a crowd that includes some prominent medical professionals in the US and abroad. The government of Sweden, for instance.... What's happened in Sweden is crystal clear, as it has happened out in the open: the Swedes thought & said the virus was very weak & already quite widespread, and that assumption was the basis of their strategy & projections. It turns out they were wrong .#coronavirus #noted #orangehairedbaboons #publichealth #2020-06-26

Capos—Remember When Bret Stephens Said COVID Was Just a NYC Problem?—Noted

Paul Campos: Remember when Bret Stephens Told Us That Covid Was Just a NYC Problem? ‘[Bret Stephens (2020-04-24):] "Much of America has dwindling sympathy with the idea of prolonging lockdown conditions.... The curves are flattening; hospital systems haven’t come close to being overwhelmed; Americans have adapted to new etiquettes of social distancing. Many of the worst Covid outbreaks outside New York... have specific causes that can be addressed without population-wide lockdowns. Yet Americans are being told they must still play by New York rules—with all the hardships they entail—despite having neither New York’s living conditions nor New York’s health outcomes. This is bad medicine, misguided public policy, and horrible politics." Remember when firing James Bennet was the worst persecution of free speech since that thing that happened at a college somewhere? The claim was that the New York Times wasn’t willing to publish conservative voices on its op-ed page, and that just proved that Political Correctness Has Gone Too Far. James Bennet hired this guy, and he’s still there… .#noted #moralresponsibility #orangehairedbaboons #2020-06-26

Respect Mah Authoritah—Noted

Edge of the American West: Respect Mah Authoritah ‘Serious question: are there good reasons why an individual’s background or cultural positioning should provide that person more authority in a political argument? I ask, because as I read the incredibly predictable debates about the nightmare unfolding in Gaza, I keep seeing people say things like, “Well, I’m a Jew, and I think what Israel is doing is wrong/immoral.” The implicit points apparently are: 1) “My Jewishness should insulate me from charges of anti-Semitism. So don’t go there.” And 2) “My Jewishness provides me with a window, through which the goyim can’t possibly see, into this intractable problem.” I’m slightly sympathetic to the former point. Maybe.... The latter argument, though, leaves me shaking my head. I’m not entirely sure it’s wrong. But I don’t like its implications at all. And if it’s valid, I’d like someone to explain why.... I don’t feel like linking to Marty Peretz, professional asshat, or the incensed commenters weighing in on the Gaza incursion in various corners of the blogosphere. Sorry. I’m both a bit flummoxed by the whole thing and also, as this post notes, more focused here on the broader question of argumentation...

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Hernandez & al.: Catching Covid-19—Noted

Daniela Hernandez & c.: How Exactly Do You Catch Covid-19? There Is a Growing Consensus ‘It’s not common to contract Covid-19 from a contaminated surface.... Fleeting encounters with people outdoors are unlikely to spread the coronavirus.... The major culprit is close-up, person-to-person interactions for extended periods. Crowded events, poorly ventilated areas and places where people are talking loudly—or singing, in one famous case—maximize the risk.... Reopening... to protect public health... includes tactics like installing plexiglass barriers, requiring people to wear masks in stores and other venues, using good ventilation systems and keeping windows open when possible.... Better protections for nursing-home residents and multigenerational families living in crowded conditions, they said.... Stressing physical distancing and masks, and reducing the number of gatherings in enclosed spaces. “We should not be thinking of a lockdown, but of ways to increase physical distance,” said Tom Frieden, chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit public-health initiative.... The group’s reopening recommendations include widespread testing, contact tracing and isolation of people who are infected or exposed.…

.#coronavirus #noted #publichealth #2020-06-26

MOAR on Kissinger & Pinochet—Noted

And news on the relationship between Pinochet and Kissinger: Cable Ties Kissinger to Chile Controversy 'the U.S. State Department became concerned that Condor included plans for political assassination around the world. The State Department drafted a plan to deliver a stern message to the three governments not to engage in such murders. In the Sept. 16, 1976 cable, the topic of one paragraph is listed as "Operation Condor," preceded by the words "(KISSINGER, HENRY A.) SUBJECT: ACTIONS TAKEN." The cable states that "secretary declined to approve message to Montevideo" Uruguay "and has instructed that no further action be taken on this matter." "The Sept. 16 cable is the missing piece of the historical puzzle on Kissinger's role in the action, and inaction, of the U.S. government after learning of Condor assassination plots," Peter Kornbluh, the National Security Archive's senior analyst on Chile, said Saturday. Kornbluh is the author of "The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability." Jessica LePorin, a spokeswoman for Kissinger, says that the former secretary of state dealt many years ago with questions concerning the cancellation of the warnings to the South American governments and had no further comment on the matter.... William D. Rogers, Kissinger's former assistant secretary of state, said Kissinger "had nothing to do with" a Sept. 20, 1976 cable instructing that the warnings to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay be canceled. Rogers died in 2007... .#noted #2020-06-25

Simon Wren-Lewis: "Social Consumption" & COVID-19—Noted

The bottom line appears to be that ending “lockdowns” will not produce rapid economic recovery. People have increased their savings substantially—are planning to do next year, after the plague has passed, things that they can reasonably postpone to next year. Such an increase in savings requires an increase in planned investment spending (or in government public consumption spending) to maintain macroeconomic balance. But that maintenance of macroeconomic balance is not being greased by government action to make sure that that investment spending appears. And government consumption spending is not growing but shrinking as a new wave of austerity kicks in. But what about ending the lockdowns? Doesn’t that help? Probably not. Ending the lockdowns gets more people sick—which further raises savings. And the lockdowns themselves did not so much decrease spending as shift spending from nonessential (restaurants) to essential (grocery stores and take-out) spending categories:

Simon Wren-Lewis: Locking Down Too Late but Ending Lockdown Too Early ‘All this is important... because it means that the number of new infections is declining very slowly, which in turn means that most people will not return to previous patterns of ‘social consumption’. That in turn means that there cannot be a complete recovery. We do not know at what level of daily infections people will be happy to resume social consumption, but it is bound to be well below 17,000. The difference between R=0.8 and R=0.9 in getting to that much lower number of infections is measured in months, as is the difference between R=0.9 and R=0.95. We are relaxing lockdown at much higher levels for daily new infections compared to Italy, France and Germany. Relaxing the lockdown might (I stress might) be justified if there was a tried and tested alternative mechanism to suppress R. That mechanism does exist: a well functioning and comprehensive track, trace and isolate (TTI) infrastructure.... It seems clear that many/most of the scientists advising the government also think lockdown is ending too quickly. The alert level remains at 4, despite Johnson/Cummings’ wishes. As Rafael Behr put it, “Johnson's relationship with science has gone the way of most of his relationships.” Yet this divergence does not seem to worry him and those around him at all, which is a bit odd for a government that kept claiming they were following the science. I should resist the temptation to suggest that all this is obvious. When I modeled the economic impact of a pandemic I was surprised at how much of aggregate consumption was social. It isn’t just pubs, restaurants and tourism, but large parts of recreation, culture and transport. These sectors make up over a third of consumption. Even the demand for clothing may decline if there are no parties to go to. The pandemic creates a huge demand shock even without any lockdown measures like school closures. That is why many better-off households have been saving much more during the pandemic.... There is no trade-off between public health and the economy: better public health (less COVID-19 infections) is the sure way to a substantial recovery. The idea that we have to lift the lockdown for the sake of the economy is the new austerity.... Could we get a similar recovery by some other means, such as a large fiscal stimulus? The short answer is no. Because social consumption is such a large proportion of the total, you would need a ridiculously large increase in spending in other sectors even to come close to substituting for that loss. The only reason why you would contemplate not doing the first best option, getting infections down, is because your ideology is screwing your common sense. Which is a pretty good description of how this government has dealt with this pandemic so far… .#noted #2020-06-25

Andy Matuschak: Narrated Explorables: Three Mental Models 'Today our former colleagues Ben Eater and Grant Sanderson published Visualizing quaternions, an exciting addition to a hazy new medium. It combines video-like narrative explanation, interactive representations, and game-like challenge prompts. At first, it feels like watching a YouTube video that uses great visualizations to explain something… but then you realize that you can interrupt the speaker to manipulate with the representation, and they intermittently prompt you to do so with some challenge. How should we design such systems? What are their prospects? I’ll explore a few ideas here. I know of no common name for this medium, so I’ll call these narrated explorables... .#noted #2020-06-25

Newitz: A Better Internet Is Waiting for Us—Noted

Let me not think about our current problems and dysfunctions for a moment and instead cast our eyes forward to the task of how to build something closer to Utopia over the next decade, after this mess wins its way to its likely very sorry end. The thoughtful Annalee Newitz is worth listening to as we face the task of constructing a better functioning public sphere. We can certainly do it. But it almost surely cannot be built on the backs of advertising supported social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Company will probably have to die and be replaced by subscription and by public services:

Annalee Newitz: A Better Internet Is Waiting for Us 'My quest to imagine a different reality: Social media is broken. It has poisoned the way we communicate with each other and undermined the democratic process. Many of us just want to get away from it, but we can’t imagine a world without it. Though we talk about reforming and regulating it, “fixing” it, those of us who grew up on the internet know there’s no such thing as a social network that lasts forever. Facebook and Twitter are slowly imploding. And before they’re finally dead, we need to think about what the future will be like after social media so we can prepare for what comes next.... What will replace social media the way the internet replaced television, transforming our entire culture?... 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.... [John] Scalzi... 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.... There isn’t a decent real-world analogue for social media, and that makes it difficult for users to understand where public information is coming from, and where their personal information is going. It doesn’t have to be that way.... Public life has been irrevocably changed by social media; now it’s time for something else. 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... #cognition #democracy #noted #politicaleconomy #publicsphere #2020-06-25

Worthy Reads for June 20, 2019

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth:

  1. Relationships between user and supplier firms were never arms-length. But while the assumption that they were may have been a minor error three generations ago, it is a major error today. We need more people like Susan Helper thinking about the consequences of the information and technology flows generated in today's value-chain economy. Such flows are a very important piece of our community of engineering practice: Susan Helper: Building High-Road Supply Networks in the United States: "A different kind of outsourcing is possible—'high-road' supply networks that benefit firms, workers, and consumers... collaboration between management and workers and along the length of the supply chain, sharing of skills and ideas, new and innovative processes, and, ultimately, better products that can deliver higher profits to firms and higher wages to workers. Firms could take a key step by themselves, since it could improve profits. Collaboration among firms along a supply chain can lead to greater productivity and innovation. Lead firms can raise the capabilities of supplier firms and their workers such that even routine operations can benefit from collaboration for continuous improvement...

  2. This is exactly the kind of work we at Equitable Growth want to see carried out by exactly the kind of young people we ought to be financing. Very well done: Ellora Derenoncourt and Claire Montialoux: Minimum Wages and Racial Inequality: "The earnings difference between black and white workers fell dramatically in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This paper shows that the extension of the minimum wage played a critical role in this decline. The 1966 Fair Labor Standards Act extended federal minimum wage coverage to agriculture, restaurants, nursing homes, and other services which were previously uncovered and where nearly a third of black workers were employed...

  3. Inequality leads to leverage. Leverage leads to instability. Instability leads to depression: Heather Boushey: A New Economic Paradigm: "We should let go of the workhorse macroeconomic models.... [that] have all but ignored inequality in their thinking... [making the] 'implicit, if not explicit, assumption... that inequality doesn’t matter much when gauging the macroeconomic outlook'.... [In] the long-term picture or consider[ing] the potential for the system to spin out of control... higher inequality increases the likelihood of instability...

  4. I am trying to think through what the issues we should be talking about when we talk about "manufacturing jobs" really are. I am not having a great deal of success: Resonse to Noah Smith: Yes, Susan [Houseman] is right; yes, the index-number problem rears its ugly head; yes, there are absolute numbers and there are employment shares; yes, there is manufacturing; yes, there is non-computer manufacturing; yes, there are traditional blue-collar occupations. One reading of Susan is "traditional blue-collar occupations are of special concern, and manufacturing excluding computers is important because computer manufacturing is not really a blue-collar semi-skilled easy-to-unionize source of employment". That characterization of computer manufacturing is increasingly true over time—but it also applies increasingly over time to sunbelt manufacturing as well...


Worthy Reads from Elsewhere:

  1. The Fed now seems to be saying: "We misjudged the situation late last year. We are going to reverse our policy. But not quite yet." And I do not understand the frame of mind in which that is a coherent system of thought. I wish they would explain: Tim Duy: Rate Cut On The Way: "The Fed turned... dovish... basically announcing a July rate cut.... The proximity to the lower bound coupled with low inflation was always going to lead the Fed to err on the side of a rate cut. It just took them some time to find their way there.... It would be exceedingly difficult to pull back on a rate cut now. Nor is there any reason to...

  2. The evidence for the position that minimum wage increase can often be an effective policy for equitable growth continues to pile up: Péter Harasztosi and Attila Lindner: Who Pays for the Minimum Wage?: "A large and persistent minimum wage increase in Hungary.... Employment elasticities are negative but small even four years after the reform... 75 percent of the minimum wage increase was paid by consumers and 25 percent by firm owners; that firms responded to the minimum wage by substituting labor with capital; and that dis-employment effects were greater in industries where passing the wage costs to consumers is more difficult...

  3. I am with David Autor here: individual tasks that are components of jobs will be automated, but human thought and judgment will continue to be able to add value throughout the economy. There is, however, nothing to require that a world of abundant capital and sophisticated computers will be a world in which the income distribution will be relatively equal: David Autor: Polanyi’s Paradox: Will It Be Overcome?: "Jobs are made up of many tasks.... Understanding the interaction between technology and employment requires thinking about... how human labor can often complement new technology.... The tasks that have proved most vexing to automate are those demanding flexibility, judgment, and common sense—skills that we understand only tacitly. I referred to this constraint above as Polanyi’s paradox.... Is Polanyi’s Paradox soon to be at least mostly overcome, in the sense that the vast majority of tasks will soon be automated? My reading of the evidence suggests otherwise...

  4. In very important dimensions, Europe is handling the coming of the Second Gilded Age significantly better than we are handling it here in America: Thomas Blanchet, Lucas Chancel, and Amory Gethin: Forty Years of Inequality in Europe: "Despite the growing importance of inequalities in policy debates, it is still difficult to compare inequality levels across European countries and to tell how European growth has been shared across income groups. This column draws on new evidence combining surveys, tax data, and national accounts to document a rise in income inequality in most European countries between 1980 and 2017. It finds that income disparities on the old continent have increased less than in the US and shows that this is essentially due to ‘predistribution’ policies...

  5. One very peculiar thing about America is majorities that believe that government doesn't have our back and indeed, shouldn't have our back. This is a very puzzling attitude to see in a democracy: Gillian Tett: Why Japan Isn’t Afraid of Robots: "The social safety net.... 63 per cent of people in Japan think that it is up to the government... to help the population adapt to automation.... In the US, however, only about 30 per cent of the public expect the government to help.... A recipe for anxiety: some of America’s current problems can be traced to the sense of abandonment felt by many workers in deindustrialised regions...

  6. Anybody who has spent any time looking at the data knows that it is in the boom, not in the depression, that the work of sectoral readjustment is done. Indeed, that work cannot be done in the depression. In the depression nothing is profitable. So how could entrepreneurs possibly judge then what will be profitable when the depression is past? They must wait for the boom to see: Robert Heilbroner (1996): The Embarrassment of Economics: "Schumpeter arrived in his famous riding habit and great cloak, of which he divested himself in a grand gesture. He greeted us in a typically Schumpeterian way: 'Gentlemen, a depression is for capitalism like a good, cold douche'. The remark shocked us...

  7. Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie: Simpson's Paradox: "Any claim to resolve a paradox... should explain why people find the paradox surprising or unbelievable.... When the paradox does occur, and we have to make a choice between two plausible yet contradictory statements, it should tell us which statement is correct.... A paradox... should entail a conflict between two deeply held convictions...

  8. When "Prince of Whales: suddenly shows up in my timeline, only one thing can possibly be gong on: Darth: "😹 u know it wasn’t even a typo: he really thinks it is prince of whales:

.#noted #weblogs #2019-06-20

Note to Self: Pre-Kameron Hurley Uses of the Phrase "Women, Cattle, & Slaves"

Hurley wc s

Note to Self: Pre-Kameron Hurley uses of the phrase "women, cattle, & slaves":

Alexina Mackay Harrison: The Story of the Life of Mackay of Uganda: Pioneer Missionary
Dwayne Woods: Bringing Geography Back In: Civilizations, Wealth, and Poverty
David Robinson: Sources of the African Past
Jeffrey Herbst: States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control
Alison Jolly: Lords and Lemurs: Mad Scientists, Kings with Spears, and the Survival of Diversity in Madagascar

& Kameron Hurley (2013): 'We Have Always Fought': Challenging the 'Women, Cattle and Slaves' Narrative

.#books #economichistory #inequality #notetoself #2020-06-25

Roser: Is the World Making Progress Against the Pandemic?—Noted

I confess that I really wish that Max Roser & company would do more than just color-code the confirmed case data by frequency of testing. What we really want are estimates of true ‘rona plague cases, inferred from testing frequencies and confirmed cases. My own guess—but I am not an epidemiologist—is that the United States is still missing two out of three new ‘rona cases, and that our true nationwide case replication rate R here in the United States, after shrinking to 0.85 per week in mid-May, is now back up at 1.00 and is about to start growing again, as Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and southern California shift from being hot spots to being inferno spots.

It is, I must say, one hell of a time to have a big revival-style campaign event in Arizona.

But other people could do a better job at guessing at the answers to these questions than I can, and I wish they would:

Max Roser & al.: Is the World Making Progress Against the Pandemic? We Built the Chart to Answer This Question ‘Data on the number of confirmed cases only becomes meaningful when it can be interpreted in light of how much a country tests. This is what the chart shows.... Trajectories show the daily number of cases. The goal is for every line to bend towards zero. And line color gives an indication of the quality of a country’s data at each point in time. If a country finds a case for every few tests they perform the line is shown in shades of red. Here it is likely that the unknown number of cases is high.... The darker shades of blue mean that a country does many tests for each case it finds.... The goal is that a country tests widely in relation to its outbreak, shown by the line color turning into dark shades of blue.... Two very different groups of countries.... Slovakia, Thailand, New Zealand, South Korea, and Germany... monitored the outbreak well... were able to bend the curve and bring down the number of confirmed cases.... These are not the only countries, that achieved this; you can add for example Austria, Iceland, Slovenia, Tunisia... Latvia... similar trajectories.... Brazil, Mexico, the United States, UK, Sweden, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and Nigeria... test little... report unfortunately still very high daily case counts… #coronavirus #noted #publichealth #2020-06-25

Kottke: Vietnam, Population 95 Million, Has Recorded 0 Deaths from Covid-19—Noted

I am sure that they missed some deaths, or that the ruling party regards reporting zero deaths as a boasting point to be maintained. But it looks as though as long as they can maintain their 14-day quarantine requirement on those entering the country, the Vietnamese have this plague licked, and life can return to normal. They, and New Zealand, and Mauritius and company, may well get out of this thing with the least economic damage:

Jason Kottke: Vietnam, Population 95 Million, Has Recorded 0 Deaths from Covid-19 ‘Vietnam, a nation of 95 million people that borders China, has recorded only 334 total infections and 0 deaths... currently on a 61-day streak without a single community transmission.... They acted early and aggressively.... From the BBC: "Vietnam enacted measures other countries would take months to move on, bringing in travel restrictions, closely monitoring and eventually closing the border with China and increasing health checks at borders and other vulnerable places. Schools were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of January and remained closed until mid-May. A vast and labour intensive contact tracing operation got under way. 'This is a country that has dealt with a lot of outbreaks in the past', says Prof Thwaites.... By mid-March, Vietnam was sending everyone who entered the country-and anyone within the country who’d had contact with a confirmed case—to quarantine centres for 14 days. Costs were mostly covered by the government, though accommodation was not necessarily luxurious...." Forced bussing to quarantine centers in the US, could you even imagine? Better that hundreds of thousands of people die, I guess. The Vietnamese health system also implemented aggressive contact tracing… .#coronavirus #noted #publichealth #2020-06-25

Münchau: Merkel’s Successor Must Confront Germany’s Decline—Noted

Since 1945 and since 1995 Germany’s economic growth trajectory has been the most successful and impressive in the entire global north. But, with respect to individual people, there is a rule that the richest are not the wisest and smartest, but rather those who have overleveraged, underdiversified, and been very very lucky. The judgment of the richest of the superrich is, in fact, on average rather poor, and always at least tinged with Dunning-Krueger monomania that the universe has not yet called to account. Is the same true of countries? The very sharp Wolfgang Münchau fears that it is—that Germany’s economic success has led it to a place in which its institutions are in fact poorly built to manage the future, producing a “misdirected focus on fiscal surpluses” and a lack of focus on the need for innovation:

Wolfgang Münchau: Merkel’s Successor Must Confront Germany’s Decline ‘The Merkel years... as the moment when Germany lost its technological edge through a misdirected focus on fiscal surpluses and lack of innovation.... Germany’s medium-sized industrial companies… are still grappling with digitalisation. The country has not made the necessary investments in mobile telecommunications.... The car industry was unprepared for the shift to electric…. Merkel’s spontaneous decision to switch off nuclear power stations has made Germany more reliant on fossil fuels, putting the country on course to miss Paris climate targets...

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Edlagan & Monroe: Equitable Growth Expert Focus—Noted

We at Equitable Growth are launching a new monthly feature: Expert Focus. Please check it out—and please tell us how we could launch it better so that it becomes more effective and more useful:

Christian Edlagan & Maria Monroe: Expert Focus: Leading Black Scholars on U.S. Economic Inequality & Growth ‘In this installment of “Expert Focus,” we highlight Black scholars whose cutting-edge research draws on the respective roles of history, power, and institutions.... William A. Darity, Jr... stratification economics, an approach to economics that focuses on economic disparities between persons, groups, and regions.... Dania V. Francis... socioeconomic disparities in education, wealth accumulation, and labor markets... how to design and carry out a reparations program.... Trevon D. Logan... historic links among intergenerational economic mobility, race, and the Black-White divide in income and wealth.... school segregation, disinvestment from public goods, and divergent levels of investment in education since the 1950s have combined to create a nexus of low mobility for Black Americans.... Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman & Fanta Traore.... As the share of Black women awarded doctorates in economics is declining, groups such as the Sadie Collective—co-founded by Opoku-Agyeman and Traore, a senior research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board—provide crucial support to help Black women thrive in fields where they are woefully underrepresented and where they can sometimes feel out of place.... Jhacova Williams... the role of structural racism in shaping racial economic disparities in labor markets, housing, criminal justice, higher education, voting, and other areas…

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Worthy Reads for June 27, 2019

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth:

  1. If you did not read this when it came out five years ago—or if it is not fresh in your brain—you need to read or reread it today: Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman (2014): Exploding Wealth Inequality in the United States: "Income inequality has been on the rise... [with a] large portion of this increase is due to an upsurge in the labor incomes earned by senior company executives and successful entrepreneurs. But is the rise in U.S. economic inequality purely a matter of rising labor compensation at the top, or did wealth inequality rise as well?... (Hint: the answer is a definitive yes, as we will demonstrate below).... Currently available measures of wealth inequality rely either on surveys (the Survey of Consumer Finances of the Federal Reserve Board), on estate tax return data, or on lists of wealthy individuals, such as the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans...

  2. One would imagine that market logic would lead inescapably to a consensus for expansionary fiscal policy when safe interest rates on government debt are very low and unemployment is high. When safe interest rates on government debt are very low, government debt is a very valuable asset to hold—hence any government that regards the creation of private wealth as a plus should be eager to create more government debt. And when safe interest rates on government debt are lower than the economy's growth rate, there is no sense in which long-term debt must be financed via taxes—hence those who want to reserve fiscal space either for other forms of future spending or for future tax cuts should have no objection. Yet even the most Keynesian audience in mainstream economics was extremely resistant to this message when Larry Summers and I tried to propagate it most of a decade ago. And I do not see how to break through—how to add expansionary fiscal policy in a recession to our panoply of recession-fighting tools in light of our failure to succeed in breaking through most of a decade ago: Various: Discussion of J. Bradford DeLong and Lawrence H. Summers: "Fiscal Policy in a Depressed Economy...

  3. And if you did not read Austin Clemens and Heather Boushey a year ago last spring on the need to track growth not just for the economy as a whole but for Americans at every point along the income curve, you should go do so: Austin Clemens and Heather Boushey: Disaggregating Growth: "Measuring who prospers when the economy grows.... The National Income and Product Accounts, or NIPA (also referred to as System of National Accounts, or SNA, outside of the United States), were a radical advance in economic measurement when they were instituted in the early 20th century. These accounts track aggregate output and income for the national economy. Most notably, they measure Gross Domestic Product and the quarterly fluctuations in GDP that tell us if the economy is growing or contracting. Before their advent, ascertaining the health of the economy was an inexact and patchwork procedure...

  4. Great conversation between Heather Boushey and Emmanuel Saez. My favorite highlight: Heather Boushey: In Conversation with Emmanuel Saez: "Kansas... illustrates beautifully from a research perspective even though it’s a disaster in terms of public policy... tax avoidance... pass-through businesses... huge incentives for high-income earners to reclassify... a big erosion of the wage income tax base in the state... a much bigger negative impact on tax revenue than would have been predicted mechanically.... When governments have actually to balance their budgets, they realize that taxes are useful, and that brings the two pieces of the debate together.... Certainly Kansas didn’t experience an economic boom...

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Litman: Cautious Congratulations—Noted

Leah Litman: Cautious Congratulations ‘I... offer... cautious congratulations—congratulations on joining a profession that will offer you the tools and the credentials to do… just about anything you want to do.... But the congratulations I offer is cautious because as all of you graduates know, not all Presidents, not all Senators, and not all Supreme Court Justices have done great things; many of them have fallen well short of even doing good. So... I also want to caution you about the profession.... After Brown, it was lawyers—law professors who argued the decision was wrong because it favored blacks over whites... did not offer a “neutral principle” that gave as much consideration to white people as to black. It is lawyers who argue that courts cannot stop the President from rescinding the protections of the DACA program because it would do grave harm to the separation of powers.... It was lawyers who argued that the federal government cannot provide health insurance to Americans who cannot afford it. It is lawyers who argue that Congress cannot provide protections against breaking up Native American families, or that law schools cannot refuse to fund positions at employers who discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. You can be whatever kind of lawyer you want to be. But... there is nothing about being a lawyer that requires you to do good. That has to come from you. There will be professional pressures that will make it difficult for you to do justice, even when you want to.... Do not be indifferent to the lives of people who are different from you. Otherwise you may become one of the people who says“don’t worry about the DACA case; if it’s rescinded it’s not like they’re going to deport the DREAM-ers.” Do not let false neutrality be the enemy of fairness. Question people who say that they are not separating families, they are just enforcing the laws. Laws can fix some injustices. But law can also create injustice too.... You have made the kind of commitment and put in the kind of work that will allow you to do justice. We all have to find ways to do justice.... Don’t wait until it is too late to do so... .#noted #2020-06-25

Davies: Belligerent Idiots Are Not Good at Game Theory—Noted

Daniel Davies (2011): The ECB and the Davies Folk Theorem ‘If... being [thought] a belligerent idiot with no sensible regard for one’s own welfare was worth the candle, in the sense of conferring benefits which outweighed the cost of gaining it, then everyone would want to get that reputation, whether they were genuinely an idiot or not. But if everyone wanted that reputation, then everyone would know that simply acting like an idiot didn’t mean that you were one, in which case it would be impossible to establish a reputation as an idiot.... It’s one of the more important things in game theory that a signal has to be a costly signal.... A reputation in deterrence theory is something that is worth having, but not worth getting. People who use the word “signal” in this context (usually on the basis of a poorly understood or second-hand reading of Schelling) don’t always seem to realise that they are explicitly admitting that the costs of being in Iraq are greater than the benefits… .#noted #2020-06-24

Gould-Werth: Low-Wage Worker Casey Miller:—Noted

It is essential to dig down through the numbers to the real lives of representative and typical people whom the numbers aggregate: Alix Gould-Werth: What's happening with low-wage workers who are benefiting from the 600 boost in weekly unemployment benefits[?] I’d like to introduce you to one of those workers: Casey Miller. Casey’s job designing and serving high-end cocktails was his passion. He made about 700 a week, including tips...

...When the coronavirus hit, he feared contracting COVID-19 at work. Then, the bar closed, and his worries shifted to his economic future. The servers hosting his state's Unemployment Insurance system crashed. But Casey was persistent. He filed at 3 in the morning, when web traffic was low. Now, each week, he receives $60 in regular benefits and a 600 pandemic-specific top-off. The simple 600 increase lets average workers cash unemployment checks roughly equal to their old paychecks. The lowest earners bring home more than they made on the job, and the highest earners bring home less....

This is a smart way to target benefits. What did Casey do when he received an unemployment check that was larger than his paycheck? He spent it. To make ends meet, he needed every penny of his unemployment check.... While high-earning workers save benefit dollars, low-earning workers spend them out of financial necessity. And these low-earning workers are precisely who is being affected by the coronavirus recession. So, the extra 600 creates a virtuous cycle. Directing cash to those who need it most channels dollars to businesses, which employ more workers, who in turn have income to spend.

Those worrying that the 600 will disincentivize a return to work miss the point: With 4.6 unemployed workers per opening, what jobs are they trying to incentivize people to take? And many low-wage employers are operating at the expense of worker safety. Letting the 600 top-off expire in July spells disaster for our families and for our economy…

.#noted #2020-06-24

Mitchell: Bold Policies to Ensure Broad-Based Recovery—Noted

This. This. This. This will be very much worth spending part of your Thursday watching; David Mitchell: Bold Policies to Ensure Broad-Based Recovery ‘The recovery from the coronavirus recession must be different from the previous recovery.... To have a chance of emerging on a stronger footing, with less economic and racial inequality and more sustainable economic growth, policymakers need to respond with robust, evidence-based measures that attack the underlying problems causing inequality and help achieve economic security for all. As part of our Vision 2020 initiative to ensure that the election-year economic policy debate focuses on big ideas grounded in the latest research, the Washington Center for Equitable Growth is hosting a webinar with top economic experts on June 25 to discuss the kind of bold policy initiatives that can help transform the U.S. economy.... Two panels. The first, “Democratizing the Economy,” will focus on the need for new or drastically reformed institutions to address how financial institutions and the Federal Reserve have exacerbated inequality. The second, “Building Power for Workers and Families,” will describe how enhanced collective bargaining rights, public benefit and social insurance programs, anti-discrimination protections, and other power-building policies… .#equitablegrowth #noted #2020-06-25

Campbell: Relative Prices and Hysteresis: Evidence from US Manufacturing—Noted

It was from economic and technological historians like Nate Rosenberg, David Hounshell, and my own great great uncle Abbott Payson Usher’s works that I first learned about the crucial importance of externalities from communities of engineering practice in fueling industrial-age economic growth. Here we have the smart Doug Campbell showing the importance of such factors in slowing US economic growth in the past generation in America, where the political system prioritized tax cuts for the rich and financialization above other concerns:

Douglas Campbell: Relative Prices and Hysteresis: Evidence from US Manufacturing ‘A central tenet of economics is that prices matter. A corollary is that in a world with sunk costs, historical prices can affect current economic outcomes. There exists a large theoretical literature on exchange rate hysteresis, but recent empirical treatments are scarce. To fill the gap, I employ new measures of real exchange rates (RERs) to study the impact of large, temporary RER shocks on the US manufacturing sector. To identify a causal impact of RER movements on manufacturing, I test whether sectors more exposed to international trade respond differently when relative prices appreciate. I also compare the US experience to Canada’s in the mid-2000s, when high oil prices and a falling US dollar led to an equally sharp appreciation of the Canadian dollar. I find that temporary RER shocks have a surprisingly persistent impact on employment, output, and productivity in relatively more open manufacturing sectors, and that the magnitude of the shock in the early 2000s was large enough to have played a role in the onset of secular stagnation, lending support to the Bernanke Hypothesis… #noted #2020-06-24

Paulus: COVID Was Never “Under Control”—Noted

A conceit of my in-draft economic history of the long twentieth century is that it was the American century, and that it came to an end, finally and ultimately, on November 8, 2016—when the second minority government led by somebody really not up to the job of president in anyone’s estimation took control. But I confess I did not think that even Donald Trump and his enablers could do so much damage. And I confess that I did not think that the most competent rank of Trump enablers would be as… simply stupid… as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin really does seem to be:

Shannon Paulus: COVID Was Never “Under Control” in America ‘We need to remember this as we proceed with reopening: If we’ve learned anything in the past several months, it probably ought to be that the coronavirus is hard to contain.... Or at least, some of us have learned that. On Wednesday, in making a case for restaurants opening up indoor seating, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin suggested otherwise: “I don’t see why on an indoor basis, socially distanced, that restaurants can’t be serving indoors,” he said. “Particularly in parts of the country where COVID is under control.” He also seemed to not understand why indoor dining is a particular point of focus: "This distinction between indoor & outdoor seems a bit random, and I don’t know what people would do when it rains..." Let’s set aside Vox journalist Aaron Rupar’s correct point that people dining indoors is scientifically more dangerous for COVID spread than people dining outside. Mnuchin’s other suggestion is that the virus isn’t really an issue in some places of the country. He thinks that there are some places where case counts are low (this is objectively true) and that in these places we can begin loosening restrictions on activities not slowly and thoughtfully, but significantly... #coronavirus #depression #macro #noted #publichealth #2020-06-24

Goolsbee: 'Rona Cases, Not Lockdowns, Depress the Economy—Noted

Hell of a moment to have a large, loud indoor gathering in Arizona: Austan Goolsbee: 'The results from March-May suggest that the fact that cases are back on the rise is very ominous not just for public health but for the economy. If people get scared again, a lot of activity may start to tank.... Short version: they don't do much. Of the 60% drop in consumer activity, only 7 came from shutdown orders. Fear of the virus is the main thing. The collapse of economic activity in 2020 from COVID-19 has been immense.... We have consumer visits to 2.3m businesses in 110 industries through the crisis. We tracked down the county level shutdown orders and can compare across borders in the same metro area where the policy differs.... Evidence of fear as the driver: 1) more covid deaths in your county drive down economic activity signif[icantly] even including metro-week dummies, 2) people heavily shift visits away from larger/busier stores to smaller/less busy ones in the same industry (and especially if lots of local deaths). We have data up to late May and include some states ending their shutdown orders. The increase in economic activity is just as modest coming out as it was going in. Policy itself isn't the driver. But there is one way policy matters: diversion from one kind of business to another. We have essential/non-essential definition in each place. Non-essential business collapses. Essential business soars. Restaurant/bar orders cause massive hit there but an equally big increase to grocery and food stores.... If people get scared again, a lot of activity may start to tank.…

.coronavirus #depression #macro #noted #publichealth #2020-06-23

State cases 2020 06 23

State new cases 2020 06 23

Marx: Letter to Lincoln—Noted

Karl Marx & al.: Letter to Abraham Lincoln ‘When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, "slavery" on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century...

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Are Deniers of the Tulipmania Rational?: Hoisted from the Archives

Hoisted from the Archives: Are Deniers of the Tulipmania Rational?: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds Weblogging To claim that the tulip market between September 1636 and March 1637 was not a bubble-and-crash—that the market was "impressively price-efficient [and] fundamentally-driven"—is itself yet another striking example of extraordinary popular delusions, and the madness of crowds.

Efficient markets are those in which prices move far and fast only when fundamentals change a lot. And fundamentals change a lot only when a lot of information—information that changes rational assessments of fundamentals—arrives in a very short time. With respect to the seventeenth-century rare tulip market, the fundamentals are the patterns made by the tobacco mosaic virus on infected tulips, human aesthetic preferences, and the biology of tulip reproduction. Those are not fundamentals about which much information can arrive quickly.

Without any such information arrival, attempts to claim that the tulipmania bubble and its collapse was a rational event are not, themselves, examples of human rationality…

Finance the cheaters

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Farrell & Schneier: Information Attacks on Democracies—Noted

I find this incredibly difficult to grasp and retain, but I do think it is one of the most important arguments of this decade: Henry Farrell & Bruce Schneier: Information Attacks on Democracies 'Democracy is an information system. That's the starting place of our new paper: “Common-Knowledge Attacks on Democracy.” In it, we look at democracy through the lens of information security, trying to understand the current waves of Internet disinformation attacks. Specifically, we wanted to explain why the same disinformation campaigns that act as a stabilizing influence in Russia are destabilizing in the United States. The answer revolves around the different ways autocracies and democracies work as information systems...

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Graydon Saunders: Learning Teamwork—Noted

Graydon Saunders: Education: Teaching Insecurity Management ‘You don't get an understanding of anything important about insecurity management—that fear is in you, so killing fear means killing yourself; that you are helpless, but maybe not hapless; that it is not so much "bare is back without brother behind it" as "lone monkeys die"—in the abstract, by study, or by reading. You get it by doing actually dangerous things in groups. (I do not mean "fight in a war"; I mean "use power tools", "split wood/use an axe", "build something to keep the rain off and sleep under it", "assemble a pontoon bridge", "portage in haste", "use a wood-fired oven", "make jam" (think about the failure modes for a minute), and such like; all of these things can hurt or kill you, and at group scales you can't possibly take sufficient care of yourself by yourself. Such activities don't usually do us any harm because we're pretty good at being a band-forming primate and working out social mechanisms to control the collective machinery of our effort.) Much effort has gone into preventing any such thing for anyone we'd call "educated" for a few generations now, and this is a mistake. If you have no personal experience of the whole band-forming process, this might benefit the Randite myth of the individual and it certainly benefits the corporate desire to prevent any ganging up on problems by the prey animals, but it does not benefit you at all. Education could do with much, much more of "theory informs; practice convinces." If you want people to exhibit empathy for those whose state is not theirs and whose expertise is different, you need to make most of education involve failure; do this material thing at which you are unskilled. Allowing education to be narrow, and to avoid all reminder that the world is wider and that to a first approximation everyone is utterly incompetent, just encourages arrogance. Arrogance is terrible insecurity management; it makes the other monkeys less inclined to help you. (Yes of course we should overtly teach both insecurity management and band forming best practices in simple overt language)...

Nathanael: 'This is a truly good comment. Try "Get home from random location without ID, money or family". (The topic of the Odyssey, in fact!)…

.#education #noted #teaching #2020-06-20

Doug Jones: My Handaxe—Noted

Doug Jones: My Handaxe ‘Possession is a social relationship.... Robinson Crusoe didn’t 'own' anything on his island before Friday came along. Linguists have noted something interesting about the language of possession.... Compare... João went to Recife. Chico stayed in Rio. The gang kept Zezinho in Salvador.... The Crampden estate went to Reginald. The Hampden estate stayed with Lionel. Thag kept axe. Of course the Crampden estate didn’t go anywhere in physical space, but it still traveled in the abstract social space of possession.... The Russian preposition y means at/near when applied to a place (People are at Nevsky street) but possession when applied to a person (Hat is 'at' Ivan = Ivan has hat.) What may be going on here... mental machinery for thinking about physical space... gets retooled/borrowed/exapted for thinking about more abstract relationships... close and distant social relationships... time ahead and behind… #noted #2020-06-20

Andrew Marvell: An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland: Weekend Reading

Andrew Marvell: An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland ‘The forward youth that would appear
Must now forsake his Muses dear,
Nor in the shadows sing
His numbers languishing.

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Rivera & Walker: Weekly COVID-19 Data Update, June 18—Noted

Jessica Malaty Rivera & Peter Walker: Weekly COVID-19 Data Update, June 18: The Regional Gap Widens ‘If the average lag between symptom onset and death reporting is roughly 28 days, as suggested by the CDC, we should see this week’s death counts as the result of COVID-19 infections from the week leading up to Memorial Day. We would look to next week’s death numbers to reveal more about the outcomes of new cases from Memorial Day gatherings and reopenings... #coronavirus #noted #publichealth #2020-06-18

Note to Self: Slavery Course Topics

Emily Eisner asked me: What would you teach if you were to teach an entire course on slavery and the shadows it cast? So I dusted out my "unfreedom" file from the "courses I have never taught" box, & updated the topics:


Ancient & medieval slavery & serfdom

  1. Hierarchy and patriarchy to 1000 BC
    • Inequality, slavery & the poisoned chalice of agriculture
    • Horses, wheels, chariots, & nobles
    • High patriarchy & polygyny
  2. Slavery and serfdom in the early classical world
    • Managing the household
    • “Slaves by nature”
    • Slavery & empires
  3. Inequality, domination, and the market in the classical efflorescences
    • War booty
    • Plantation & mine slavery
    • Slaves “skilled in literature & music”
  4. Did slavery prevent a Hellenistic or Roman industrial revolution?
    • Gaining wealth and power in the classical world
    • Merchants, princes, & oligarchs
    • Culture & work: keeping your hands clean & getting them dirty
  5. From slavery to serfdom: late antiquity & after
    • Manumission & its opposite
    • Honestiores & humiliores
    • Barbarians, thralls, knights, & raids
    • High feudalism
  6. Slave raids & slave trades in the Old World 500-1500
    • Slaves from Ireland, England, & Russia
    • Slaves from France, Italy, Ukraine, & the Caucasus
    • Slaves from Africa
  7. Slaves on horses
    • The creation of Islamic polities
    • Sultans, amirs, clans, & slaves
    • Eunuchs & households
    • Mamelukes & janissaries
  8. The Black Death & the end of the first serfdom, 1300-1600
    • Serfdom on the eve in 1345
    • The class struggle in western Europe
    • Ending feudal tenures & privileges
  9. The Commercial Revolution & the coming of the second serfdom, 1300-1900
    • Cash crops & domination
    • Nobles, czars, & cossacks
    • Ending serfdom in eastern Europe
  10. Conquistadores & enslaving Amerindians
    • Genocide
    • Forced labor
    • Long-term political-economy consequences for Latin America


Modern & capitalist slavery

  1. The Atlantic slave trade, 1500-1780
    • Guns in Africa
    • Sugar islands and the middle passage
    • Calories & luxuries to Britain & elsewhere
  2. Slavery & cotton
    • Who profited from cotton slavery?
    • Westward expansion & the Slavepower
    • The financial calculus of emancipation
  3. Consequences of slavery for Africa
    • The political economy of African slave trades
    • Nathan Nunn’s correlations
    • African growth retardation
  4. Modes of New World slavery
    • “Like a poor third cousin”
    • Industrial & craft slavery
    • Plantation slavery under the slave trade
    • Plantation slavery after the slave trade
    • Selling people south and west
  5. The political & moral economy of a slave society
    • Thomas Jefferson
    • Cassius Clay
    • Roger B. Taney
    • Jefferson Davis
    • Abraham Lincoln


Post-slavery North American “herrenvolk” democracy

  1. Abolitionism, abolition, & “reconstruction” 1820-1880
    • The Selling of Joseph & Uncle Tom’s Cabin
    • Wartime “necessity”
    • 40 acres & a mule—not
  2. Jim Crow 1865-2020
    • The corrupt bargain of 1876
    • “Separate but equal”
    • Disenfranchisement & disempowerment
  3. “Race science” & eugenicism 1850-2020
    • “Survival of the fittest”
    • “Improving the race”
    • The need to believe in racial hierarchies
  4. Civil rights 1920-2020
    • The appeal to American ideals
    • The opportunity of 1965
    • The corruption of the Republican Party
  5. The Great Migration & the Great Redlining 1920-2020
    • Other immigrant ghettoes in America
    • How the Black inner city was different
    • Long-term consequences of the great redlining
  6. Mass incarceration & policing
    • White fear & flight
    • Crack & incarceration
    • “Aggressive policing” & Black Lives Matter
  7. The “declining significance of race”? 1970-2020
    • Roads to upward mobility
    • The coming of the second gilded age
    • The mockery of "equal opportunity"


Other dimensions of unfreedom

  1. Master & servant
    • The duties of a servant
    • The duties of an employee
    • Employer monopsony power
  2. The arrival of modern feminism
    • Being female in the agrarian age not for sissies
    • Eating for two & “women’s work”
    • The demographic transition
    • Institutions & opportunities
    • Gender & identity
  3. Wage slavery
    • Marx’s vision
    • Forcing people to enslave themselves
    • The Polanyian view of the market
  4. Gilded ages
    • “I can hire half the working class to shoot the other half”
    • Pinkertons & porters
    • Mass media & the public sphere
    • Monopoly capitalism

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Who Can Tell What Harald Uhlig Said Six Years Ago in Front of 60-Plus Witnesses?

Yes, it is John Cochrane blogging once again. Once again, some of the plain people of the internet who wish me ill tell me I need to go and read John Cochrane—presumably to make me ill. And I do. And it does: John Cochrane: "This account of events does not hold water. Ba, now a professor at U.C. Irvine, was sitting in—not taking for credit—a class in 2014, six years ago. At the University of Chicago, there was always the issue for classes that meet on Mondays, how do you reschedule the class that would normally take place on Martin Luther King day? It was always a mess. In that discussion, Harald said something that Ba found offensive—that much is undeniable. What "fun" did Harald make of Dr. King? Precise words would help. Clearly in this interaction the tone fo voice—whether Harald's inquiry as to offense was "sarcastic" or well-intended—mattered as much as what was actually said. Yes, this merits investigation, to the extent that one can investigate comments made in classes six years ago reported via tweet..."

.#economicsgonewrong #highlighted #moralresponsibility #racism #2020-06-16

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Thomas Robert Malthus: Birth Control as the Technology That Dare Not Have Its Name Be Spoken—Noted

Thomas Robert Malthus (1798): An Essay on the Principle of Population (1st ed.)_ ‘Mr Condorcet’s picture of what may be expected to happen when the number of men shall surpass the means of their subsistence is justly drawn. The oscillation which he describes will certainly take place and will without doubt be a constantly subsisting cause of periodical misery. The only point in which I differ from Mr Condorcet with regard to this picture is the period when it may be applied to the human race...

...Mr Condorcet thinks that it cannot possibly be applicable but at an era extremely distant. If the proportion between the natural increase of population and food which I have given be in any degree near the truth, it will appear, on the contrary, that the period when the number of men surpass their means of subsistence has long since arrived, and that this necessity oscillation, this constantly subsisting cause of periodical misery, has existed ever since we have had any histories of mankind, does exist at present, and will for ever continue to exist, unless some decided change take place in the physical constitution of our nature.

Mr Condorcet, however, goes on to say that should the period, which he conceives to be so distant, ever arrive, the human race, and the advocates for the perfectibility of man, need not be alarmed at it. He then proceeds to remove the difficulty in a manner which I profess not to understand.

Having observed, that the ridiculous prejudices of superstition would by that time have ceased to throw over morals a corrupt and degrading austerity, he alludes, either to a promiscuous concubinage, which would prevent breeding, or to something else as unnatural. To remove the difficulty in this way will, surely, in the opinion of most men, be to destroy that virtue and purity of manners, which the advocates of equality, and of the perfectibility of man, profess to be the end and object of their views…

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Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963): Letter from a Birmingham Jail—Noted

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963): Letter from a Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.] ‘16 April 1963 :: My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms...

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No. Roland Fryer's "Race & Lethal Force" Paper Never Made Much Sense to Me...

Cody Ross & al.: Resolution of Apparent Paradoxes in the Race-Specific Frequency of Use-Of-Force by Police ‘Analyses of racial disparities in police use-of-force against unarmed individuals are central to public policy interventions; however, recent studies have come to apparently paradoxical findings concerning the existence and form of such disparities. Although anti-black racial disparities in U.S. police shootings have been consistently documented at the population level, new work has suggested that racial disparities in encounter-conditional use of lethal force by police are reversed relative to expectations, with police being more likely to: (1) shoot white relative to black individuals, and (2) use non-lethal as opposed to lethal force on black relative to white individuals All currently described empirical patterns in the structuring of police use-of-force—including the “reversed” racial disparities in encounter-conditional use of lethal force—are explainable under a generative model in which there are consistent and systemic biases against black individuals.... Statistical assessments of racial disparities conditioned on problematic intermediate variables, such as encounters, which might themselves be a causal outcome of racial bias, can produce misleading inferences. Population-level measures of use-of-force by police are more robust indicators.... Research on encounter-conditional use-of-force by police can also fruitfully contribute to public policy discussions, since population-level measures alone cannot address whether racial disparities are driven by disparities in encounters or disparities in use-of-force conditional on encounters. Tests for racial biases in the encounter-conditional use of lethal force, however, must account for individual-level variation across officers in terms of race-specific encounter rates or risk falling to Simpson’s paradox.…#noted #2020-06-14

Baldwin: The Fire Next Time—Noted

God gave moses the rainbow sign

James Baldwin (1963): The Fire Next Time 'You may be like· your grandfather in this.... Well, he is dead, he never saw you, and he had a terrible life; he was defeated long before he died because, at the bottom of his heart, he really believed what white people said about him.... You really are of another era, part of what happened when the Negro left the land and came into what the late E. Franklin Frazier called "the cities of destruction". You can only be destroyed by believing that you really are what the white world calls a nigger. I tell you this because I love you, and please don't you ever forget it.... I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it. And I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. One can be, indeed one must strive to become, tough and philosophical concerning destruction and death, for this is what most of mankind has been best at since we have heard of man. (But remember: most of mankind is not all of mankind.) But it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime. Now, my dear namesake, these innocent and well-meaning people, your countrymen, have caused you to be born under conditions not very far removed from those described for us by Charles Dickens in the London of more than a hundred years ago. (I hear the chorus of the innocents screaming, "No! This is not true ! How bitter you are !"-but I am writing this letter to you, to try to tell you something about how to handle them, for most of them do not yet really know that you exist. I know the conditions under which you were born, for I was there. Your countrymen were not there, and haven't made it yet. Your grandmother was also there, and no one has ever accused her of being bitter. I suggest that the innocents check with her. She isn't hard to find. Your countrymen don't know that she exists, either, though she has been working for them all their lives)...

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Cicero: Those White People in Britain—Too Stupid to Even Make Good Slaves...

Marcus Tullius Cicero (1 Oct. -54): Ad Atticum 4.17.6 ‘Scr. Romae K. Oct. a. 700 (54). Cicero Attico Sal.... Ex fratris litteris incredibilia de Caesaris in me amore cognovi, eaque sunt ipsius Caesaris uberrimis litteris confirmata. Britannici belli exitus exspectatur; constat enim aditus insulae esse muratos mirificis molibus. etiam illud iam cognitum est neque argenti scripulum esse ullum in illa insula neque ullam spem praedae nisi ex mancipiis; ex quibus nullos puto te litteris aut musicis eruditos exspectare…' ('From my brother's letter I gather surprising indications of Caesar's affection for me, and they have been confirmed by a very cordial letter from Caesar himself. The result of the British war is a source of anxiety. For it is ascertained that the approaches to the island are protected by astonishing masses of cliff. Moreover, it is now known that there isn't a pennyweight of silver in that island, nor any hope of booty except from slaves, among whom I don't suppose you can expect any instructed in literature or music...) #noted #2020-06-13

The Problem of George Stigler—Noted

George Stigler (1962): The Problem of the Negro ‘The great disservice of the leaders of Negro opinion was to direct the discontent at the white population.... It was a terrible disservice to identify the white man as the main obstacle to the rise of the negro. It was a disservice because it must lead to hatred, and hatred to violence, and violence to the retardation of the mounting compassion and assistance of the white mean. Could the stream of demonstrations, growing in size and in insolence, approved or at least tolerated by the political, intellectual, and religious leaders of the nation, have any other message for a semi-literate Negro teenager in a slum, than that evil prejudice of the white man was the fundamental cause of his low estate?… Consider employment. The Negro boy is excluded from many occupations by... prejudice.... But he is excluded from more occupations by his own inferiority as a worker.... Lacking education, lacking a tenacity of purpose, lacking a willingness to work hard, he will not be an object of employers' competition. What leader of Negro thought is fostering the ancient virtues of diligence and honesty and loyalty? It is so much easier to seek quotas.... It is not easy or popular to place the Negro's discontent upon himself. People will insist upon speaking of the previous or present faults of the white community, which numerous and deplorable—and now unimportant.... People will denounce any talk of the Negro's cultural and economic inferiority as racism... .#economicsgonewrong moralresponsibility #racism #2020-06-11

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Kipling: The Gods of the Copybook Headings—Noted

Rudyard Kipling (1919): The Gods of the Copybook Headings ‘AS I PASS through my incarnations, in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations, to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers, I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all...

...We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn.
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind....

With the Hopes that our World is built on, they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things....

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew.
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled, and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man.
There are only four things certain, since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit, and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing, and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

.#books #noted #kipling #2020-06-10

Henry Farrell: End of Bleeding-Hearts Libertarians—Noted

Henry Farrell: Broken Hearts ‘US libertarian intellectuals are increasingly divided.... Some are opting for a renewed commitment to democracy (where they are building arguments that are in some ways far more radical, and in other ways less radical than standard liberals)... pushing them towards... political commitments... rang[ing] from... NeverTrump Republicanism through to... Elizabeth Warren. Others are doubling down on the commitment to markets (and, tacitly, or explicitly, the Schumpeterian benefits of continued inequality), and a more opportunistic approach to politics where they are willing to strike tactical policy alliances.... This divide has surely been sharpened by the events of the last few weeks, and is likely to get sharper still over the next several months… #noted #2020-06-09