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February 2021

History of Economic Growth: Intro to Jupyter Notebooks, & Resources & Global Inequality

Still Experimenting with Interactive Notebooks

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BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-25 Th

Things that went whizzing by, that I want to remember...


Very Briefly Noted:

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

Tony FreethThe Antikythera Mechanism

A marvelous device, that if we could only understood why and how and why not a flood of such instruments following, we would understand a great deal of the world?

Six Paragraphs:

This, I think, gets it very right: even two weeks after your second vaccination dose, do not get together with all of your friends in a damp, hot basement and have a singing party—wait until the virus is genuinely scotched for that:

Emily OsterVaccines & Transmission Redux Redux: ‘What you shouldn’t do—and I think this is really the key to the continued caution in messaging—is get together with all your vaccinated friends in a damp, hot basement and have a singing party. If you have close contact with 1000 people even if they are all vaccinated there is a reasonable chance someone’s carrying some virus around, and they could then carry it out to the rest of us who are waiting on vaccines. In another few months, when cases are lower, this will not be true anymore and we’ll be able to do our hot basement singing…

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Gertjan VliegheAn Update on the Economic Outlook: ‘The effect of the pandemic on the economy has been unusually uneven. We are really not all in this together…. Should we consider… unspent income as “additional income” or “additional wealth”, or something else altogether? A comparison between UK and US income dynamics is instructive…. In the US, on the other hand, the pandemic stimulus cheques and the increase in unemployment benefits have led to a significant rise in household income relative to its pre-pandemic trajectory. That can more reasonably be interpreted as “additional income” for many. Moreover, it has, by design, been spread more evenly across the income distribution….

The degree to which health risks dissipate later this year will be a key factor in determining to what extent savings are retained or spent. The more there are lingering health risks and associated economic uncertainty, the more it is likely that a larger share of the accumulated savings stock will be retained, and that the desired on-going flow of savings will remain somewhat elevated relative to pre-pandemic flows. Given that we have never experienced an economic situation quite like the one we are now in, a wide range of outcomes are possible. I am genuinely uncertain about this, and it is something that reasonable people can disagree on…


Charles DickensLittle Dorrit: ‘The conference was held at four or five o’clock in the afternoon, when all the region of Harley Street, Cavendish Square, was resonant of carriage-wheels and double-knocks. It had reached this point when Mr Merdle came home from his daily occupation of causing the British name to be more and more respected in all parts of the civilised globe capable of the appreciation of world-wide commercial enterprise and gigantic combinations of skill and capital. For, though nobody knew with the least precision what Mr Merdle’s business was, except that it was to coin money, these were the terms in which everybody defined it on all ceremonious occasions, and which it was the last new polite reading of the parable of the camel and the needle’s eye to accept without inquiry…

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Kirsten DevineRomance Before Bros: ‘A few months further back I wrote a 5 part Valentine’s Day series on romance novels, a feat of insanity that I am going to repeat this year, only I learned my lesson and am starting it at the beginning of January instead ⅔ of the way through. So hopefully unlike last year I’ll make it through mentally unscathed. This time I’m actually reading GOOD romances instead of trashy ones. It’s a lot of work, and do you know why I’m doing this? It’s because romance MATTERS…

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Ben ThompsonCreation, Consumption, & Clubhouse: ‘That “something” was a combination of factors: First, it’s much easier to get a group of people together for an informal conversation that requires nothing more than the tap of a button than a formal podcast recording. Convenience matters! It matters more than anything. Second, the rhythm and “feel” of a conversation is just fundamentally different than a produced podcast. Zeynep Tufecki wrote about this difference on her Substack, and it was tangible in this conversation. Third, this room wasn’t simply about those who were invited, but multiple others that raised their hands and joined in, sometimes to riff on stories that came before…

LINK: <>

Daniel EkOn Clubhouse: ‘My fundamental view is that Clubhouse is really two things. It’s a creative format and it’s super-engaging for creators. It’s very interesting with the interactivity, so we obviously pay a lot of attention to all social and interactive features. The second part is the listening part as well. Long term I believe the major trend on the Internet isn’t linear and live programming, but it’s still time-shifted and on-demand, and to that extent I feel very good about where we’re placed, but obviously, to the extent that creators find interesting ways to interact with their audience that’s definitely something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and looking at and experimenting with as well…

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Hoisted from the Archives

2010Is This an April Fool’s Joke?: Charles Lane of the Washington Post:

Some in the antislavery movement were as extreme, in their way, as the Southern “fire-eaters.”… In 1851, a Boston crowd broke into a federal courthouse to free “Shadrach,” a black man being held there by U.S. marshals enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law…. I am not suggesting a moral equivalency between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces. But I am suggesting an attitudinal equivalency…

First of all, Shadrach Minkins has a name–which does not deserve to be put into scare quotes. He was a human being. Charles—excuse me, ’Charles’—sees an ‘attitudinal equivalency’ between abolitionists who ‘arrested Minkins from his court officers, carried him off and temporarily hid him in a Beacon Hill attic… Boston black leaders Lewis Hayden, John J. Smith and others helped Minkins escape from Massachusetts, and he eventually found his way to Canada on the Underground Railroad…’ and Jefferson Davis and his ilk who raised armies that killed 400,000 Americans.

I am sorry: those who kill tens of thousands have a different ‘attitude’ than those who set people free without killing anybody. Worst Washington Post writer alive.


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READING: The Beginning of: John Q. Marquand (1937): Think Fast, Mr. Moto

Imperialism & the capital-M capital-E Mysterious East...

John P. Marquand (1937): Think Fast, Mr. Moto: 'It had not taken Wilson Hitchings long to realize that the firm of Hitchings Brothers had its definite place in the commercial aristocracy of the East, and that China had retained a respect for mercantile tradition which had disappeared from the Occidental world. There were still traditions of sailing days and of the pre-treaty days in the transactions of the Shanghai branch of Hitchings Brothers. The position of its office upon the Bund was enough to show it. The brass plate of HITCHINGS BROTHERS was polished each morning by the office coolies so that it glittered golden against the gray stone façade. Near by were the venerable plates of JARDINE MATHESON and of the HONG KONG AND SHANGHAI BANK. The plate of HITCHINGS BROTHERS had the same remote dignity, the same integrity, the same imperviousness to time—which was not unnatural.

That plate had been made when a branch of Hitchings Brothers, under the control of Wilson’s great-grandfather from Salem, had moved up to Shanghai from the factories of Canton during the epoch when the place was little more than a swampy China-coast fishing town. Reluctantly, but accurately, Wilson Hitchings could feel the venerable weight of that tradition. The involuntary respect which the tradition had engendered in the narrow European world that maintained its precarious foothold in the Orient was accorded to Wilson Hitchings himself, in spite of youth and inexperience, simply because he bore the name.

Old white-suited gentlemen whom he never recalled meeting previously would suddenly slap him on the back as though he were an Old China Hand. Leather-faced matrons from British compounds would smile at him archly. Sometimes even an unknown, fat Chinese gentleman calling in the outer office would look at him and smile. “Mr. Hitchings,” the old gentleman would say, “so nice you have come here.”

“Gentlemen,” someone would say, toward evening at the bar, “this is young Hitchings, just out from America. He doesn’t know me but I know him. He looks the way old Will did when he came out.… Boy, give Mr. Hitchings a drink.… We have to stick together these days. Anything I can tell you, Mr. Hitchings, simply let me know.”

It had not taken Wilson Hitchings long to realize that he was a public character by right of birth. He grew to understand that the small shopkeeper and the lowest inhabitants of the International Settlement all knew him and that there is no such thing as privacy in the East. Sometimes late at night strange, ragged rickshaw boys would speak to him, in the limpid pidgin English of the place. “Marster Hitchings,” a strange boy would shout. “Please, I take you home. I know where Marster Hitchings lives.”

And sometimes at the street intersections where the pedestrians and the carts and the motors went by in an unending ribbon, the bearded Sikh policeman would bare his white teeth in an unexpected smile. “All right,” the man would say. “All right now, Hitchings Sahib.”

He had begun to realize that a part of Shanghai belonged to him, a part of that rich, monstrous, restive, sinful city where so many races dwelt noisily. It belonged to him because a Hitchings had been there ever since foreigners had come. A Hitchings had seen the city grow out of the East, where China, with that adaptability peculiar alone to itself, had absorbed the conveniences of the West and had made them into something genial and mystic and peculiar. The firm of Hitchings Brothers, on the spot it occupied along the Bund, had become a part of the life. The windows of the firm, never entirely clean in spite of diligent washing, looked out like the eyes of cynical old men upon one of the strangest sights in the world.

Beside the Bund flowed the yellow treacherous currents of the Whangpoo River; warships and huge liners were moored in the river, the last word of Occidental ingenuity, and past them always drifted brown-sailed junks, almost unchanged since the oldest Chinese paintings. Sampans, propelled by a single sculling oar, plied their ways across the river. Scavengers, in the sampans, fought raucously over ships’ garbage; and down on the street beneath, men stripped to the waist struggled like beasts, pulling burdens while limousines passed by. Out of the firm windows one could see all the comedy and tragedy of China struggling in a world of change, all the unbelievable inequality of wealth, ranging from the affluence of fortunate war-lords to a poverty reduced to a limit of existence which no stranger could envisage. It was all beneath the windows, restive and fascinating, something much better accepted than studied.

Wilson Hitchings reluctantly admired his uncle for his cold acceptance of the enigmas which moved about them. Uncle Will Hitchings had grown to accept street riots and homicide as easily as he accepted his whisky-and-soda at the Club, provided dinner was properly and efficiently served as soon as he shouted “Boy!” “My boy,” Uncle Will used to say, “there’s one thing for you to get in your mind—the firm of Hitchings Brothers is an honest firm. It has an excellent reputation upriver. Every Chinese merchant knows us. We seldom lose our customers; you must learn who these customers are; but don’t worry much about the rest. Treat our customers politely, but don’t mix with the natives. It’s confusing to you now. It used to be confusing to me at first, but you’ll get used to it. Don’t try to speak their language. You can’t learn it and it will only make you queer to try. I’ve seen a lot of nice young fellows who have got queer trying to learn Chinese. Just remember our family has got along on pidgin English.

"The main thing is to be seen with the right people. I don’t care how much you drink if you do it with the right people and in the right place; and don’t worry too much about wars and revolutions. Everything is always upset here. All we need is to be sure we get our money, and there’s just one thing more—about women. Be sure you don’t marry a Russian girl. And get as much exercise as you can, and remember I am broad-minded. Come to me when you’re in trouble, remember that nothing will shock me—nothing; and don’t forget you have the firm name. I’ll see you before dinner at the Club.”

It was a strange life, an easy life, and altogether pleasant. In spite of the size of the city, the city was like a country club where everyone of the right sort knew everyone else, where everyone moved in a small busy orbit, surrounded by the unknown, and where everyone was friendly. It did not take him long to realize that it was a responsibility to bear the family name. “You see,” his uncle told him, “we are one of the oldest firms in China and age and name mean a great deal here. I want you to come to dinner to-night. My new cook is very good. I want you to change your cook, he is squeezing you too much. I want you to be sure to be at the Club every afternoon, and I want you to use my tailor. His father and his grandfather have always dressed the Hitchingses.”

“Do you think there is going to be trouble up North, sir?” Wilson Hitchings asked.

His Uncle Will looked at him urbanely. His broad, red face reminded Wilson of the setting sun. “There is always trouble up North,” Uncle William said. “I want you to get yourself a new mess-jacket. The one you wore last night didn’t fit, and that’s more important than political speculation. You had better go to your desk now. I shall have to read the mail. Well, what is it?”

The man who sat in front of the door of William Hitchings’ private office—a gray-haired Chinese in a gray cotton gown—entered. “Please, sir,” he said, “a Japanese gentleman to see you—the one who came yesterday.”

Uncle William’s face grew redder. “My boy,” he said to Wilson, “these Japanese are always making trouble lately. They’re underselling us all along the line. You may as well sit and listen. How long have you been here now?”

“Six months, sir,” Wilson Hitchings said.

“Well,” his uncle said, “we have important interests in Japan. You had better begin to get used to the Japanese. Yes, sit here and listen.” He waved a heavy hand to the office attendant. “Show the man in,” he said.

Red-faced, white-haired, and growing heavy, William Hitchings sat behind his mahogany table with the propeller-like blades of the electric fan on the ceiling turning lazily above his head. Short as the time had been since he had been sent to China, Wilson could understand that much of his uncle’s attitude was a façade behind which he concealed a shrewd and accurate knowledge. He sat there looking about his room with a heavy placid stupidity which Wilson could suspect was part of his uncle’s stock in trade. Even his bland assumption of ignorance of Chinese was valuable.

His uncle had once admitted, perhaps rightly, that it all gave a sense of confidence, a sense of old-fashioned stability. It had been a long while since the firm had started dealing in cargoes of assorted merchandise; and now its business, largely banking, was varied and extensive. The firm was prepared to sell anything up-country through native merchants who had been connected with it for generations, and the firm was the private banker for many important individuals. Wilson could guess that his uncle knew a great deal about the finances and the intrigues of the Nanking Government, although his conversation was mostly of bridge and dinner.

While they waited Uncle William began opening the pile of letters before him with a green jade paper-cutter. Once he glanced at the clock then at the door and then at his nephew. It was three in the afternoon. “My boy,” said Uncle William, “I want you to listen to this conversation carefully and I want you to tell me what you think of it afterwards. I want you to consider one thing which is very important. You must learn to cultivate a cheerful poker face. That is what you are here for, and it will take you years before you can do it.”

“You have one, sir,” said Wilson.

“Yes, my boy,” said Uncle William, “I rather think I have.” He laid down his paper-cutter and raised his voice a trifle. There were footsteps outside the office door. Uncle William looked at the wall opposite him, which was adorned with an oil painting of the first Hitchings factory at Canton, beside which was a Chinese portrait of a stout gentleman in a purple robe seated with a thin hand resting on either knee. It was the portrait of old Wei Qua, the first hong merchant with whom the Hitchingses had dealt. Wei Qua’s face was enigmatic, untroubled and serene.

“Now in the races to-morrow,” Uncle William said distinctly, “I like Resolution in the third. There are going to be long odds on him to-morrow and he is always good in mud. Yes, I think I shall play Resolution.” The office door was opening and Uncle William pushed back his chair. A Japanese was entering, walking across the room in front of the corpulent Chinese clerk with swift birdlike steps.

“Mr. Moto, if you please,” the Chinese clerk was saying.

Mr. Moto was a small man, delicate, almost fragile. His patent leather shoes squeaked slightly as he walked. He was dressed formally in a morning coat and striped trousers. His black hair was carefully brushed in the Prussian style. He was smiling, showing a row of shiny gold-filled teeth, and as he smiled he drew in his breath with a polite, soft sibilant sound. “It is so kind of you to receive me,” he said. “So very, very kind, since I sent my letter such a short time ago. Thank you very, very much.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” Uncle William said. “Thank you, Mr. Moto”...

PODCAST: Hexapodia III: þe Minimum Wage, wiþ Arin Dube, Noah Smith, & Brad DeLong: Should We Be Fighting for $15?

If moderate raises in the minimum wage do not cause unemployment, who can object to them—but why do they not cause higher unemployment, if they in fact do not?

HOISTED FROM ÞE ARCHIVES: Regional & Distributional Policy in a World Where People Want to Ignore þe Value & Contribution of Knowledge- & Network-Based Increasing Returns

From December 2016. Why we seek for but will never be able to find "fair contribution" theories of & justifications for þe distribution of wealth...


Pascal Lamy: “When the wise man points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger…”

Perhaps, in the end, the problem is that people want to pretend that they are filling a valuable role in the societal division of labor, and are receiving no more than they earn—than they contribute. But that is not the case. The value—the societal dividend—is in the accumulated knowledge of humanity and in the painfully constructed networks that make up our value chains.

A “contribution” theory of what a proper distribution of income might be can only be made coherent if there are constant returns to scale in the scarce, priced, owned factors of production. Only then can you divide the pile of resources by giving to each the marginal societal product of their work and of the resources that they own.

That, however, is not the world we live in.

In a world—like the one we live in—of mammoth increasing returns to unowned knowledge and to networks, no individual and no community is especially valuable. Those who receive good livings are those who are lucky—as Carrier’s workers in Indiana have been lucky in living near Carrier’s initial location. It’s not that their contribution to society is large or that their luck is replicable: if it were, they would not care (much) about the departure of Carrier because there would be another productive network that they could fit into a slot in.

All of this “what you deserve” language is tied up with some vague idea that you deserve what you contribute—that what your work adds to the pool of society’s resources is what you deserve.

This illusion is punctured by any recognition that there is a large societal dividend to be distributed, and that the government can distribute it by supplementing (inadequate) market wages determined by your (low) societal marginal product, or by explicitly providing income support or services unconnected with work via social insurance. Instead, the government is supposed to, somehow, via clever redistribution, rearrange the pattern of market power in the economy so that the increasing-returns knowledge- and network-based societal dividend is predistributed in a relatively egalitarian way so that everybody can pretend that their income is just “to each according to his work”, and that they are not heirs and heiresses coupon clipping off of the societal capital of our predecessors’ accumulated knowledge and networks.


On top of this we add: Polanyian disruption of patterns of life—local communities, income levels, industrial specialization—that you believed you had a right to obtain or maintain, and a right to believe that you deserve. But in a market capitalist society, nobody has a right to the preservation of their local communities, to their income levels, or to an occupation in their industrial specialization. In a market capitalist society, those survive only if they pass a market profitability test. And so the only rights that matter are those property rights that at the moment carry with them market power—the combination of the (almost inevitably low) marginal societal products of your skills and the resources you own, plus the (sometimes high) market power that those resources grant to you.

This wish to believe that you are not a moocher is what keeps people from seeing issues of distribution and allocation clearly—and generates hostility to social insurance and to wage supplement policies, for they rip the veil off of the idea that you deserve to be highly paid because you are worth it. You aren’t.

And this ties itself up with regional issues: regional decline can come very quickly whenever a region finds that its key industries have, for whatever reason, lost the market power that diverted its previously substantial share of the knowledge- and network-based societal dividend into the coffers of its firms. The resources cannot be simply redeployed in other industries unless those two have market power to control the direction of a share of the knowledge- and network-based societal dividend. And so communities decline and die. And the social contract—which was supposed to have given you a right to a healthy community—is broken.

As I have said before, humans are, at a very deep and basic level, gift-exchange animals. We create and reinforce our social bonds by establishing patterns of “owing” other people and by “being owed”. We want to enter into reciprocal gift-exchange relationships. We create and reinforce social bonds by giving each other presents. We like to give. We like to receive. We like neither to feel like cheaters nor to feel cheated. We like, instead, to feel embedded in networks of mutual reciprocal obligation. We don’t like being too much on the downside of the gift exchange: to have received much more than we have given in return makes us feel very small. We don’t like being too much on the upside of the gift exchange either: to give and give and give and never receive makes us feel like suckers.

We want to be neither cheaters nor saps.

It is, psychologically, very hard for most of us to feel like we are being takers: that we are consuming more than we are contributing, and are in some way dependent on and recipients of the charity of others. It is also, psychologically, very hard for most of us to feel like we are being saps: that others are laughing at us as they toil not yet consume what we have produced.

And it is on top of this evopsych propensity to be gift-exchange animals—what Adam Smith called our “natural propensity to truck, barter, and exchange”—we have built our complex economic division of labor. We construct property and market exchange—what Adam Smith called our natural propensity “to truck, barter, and exchange” to set and regulate expectations of what the fair, non-cheater non-sap terms of gift-exchange over time are.

We devise money as an institution as a substitute for the trust needed in a gift-exchange relationship, and we thus construct a largely-peaceful global 7.4B-strong highly-productive societal division of labor, built on:

assigning things to owners—who thus have both the responsibility for stewardship and the incentive to be good stewards… very large-scale webs of win-win exchange… mediated and regulated by market prices… There are enormous benefits to arranging things this way. As soon as we enter into a gift-exchange relationship with someone or something we will see again—perhaps often—it will automatically shade over into the friend zone. This is just who we are. And as soon as we think about entering into a gift-exchange relationship with someone, we think better of them. Thus a large and extended division of labor mediated by the market version of gift-exchange is a ver powerful creator of social harmony.

This is what the wise Albert Hirschman called the doux commerce thesis. People, as economists conceive them, are not “Hobbesians” focusing on their narrow personal self-interest, but rather “Lockeians”: believers in live-and-let live, respecting others and their spheres of autonomy, and eager to enter into reciprocal gift-exchange relationships—both one-offs mediated by cash alone and longer-run ones as well.

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

In an economist’s imagination, people do not enter a butcher’s shop only when armed cap-a-pie and only with armed guards. They do not fear that the butcher will knock him unconscious, take his money, slaughter him, smoke him, and sell him as long pig.

Rather, there is a presumed underlying order of property and ownership that is largely self-enforcing, that requires only a “night watchman” to keep it stable and secure.

Yet to keep the fiction that we are all fairly playing the reciprocal game of gift exchange in a 7.4 billion-strong social network—that we are neither cheaters nor saps—we need to ignore that we are coupon clippers living off of our societal inheritance.

And to do this, we need to do more than (a) set up a framework for the production of stuff, (b) set up a framework for the distribution of stuff, and so (c) create a very dense reciprocal network of interdependencies to create and reinforce our belief that we are all one society.

We need to do so in such a way that people do not see themselves, are not seen as saps—people who are systematically and persistently taken advantage of by others in their societal and market gift-exchange relationships. We need to do so in such a way that people do not see themselves, are not seen as, and are not moochers—people who systematically persistently take advantage of others in their societal and market gift-exchange relationships. We need to do this in the presence of a vast increasing-returns in the knowledge- and network-based societal dividend and in spite of the low societal marginal product of any one of us.

Thus we need to do this via clever redistribution rather than via explicit wage supplements or basic incomes or social insurance that robs people of the illusion that what they receive is what they have earned and what they are worth through their work.

Now I think it is an open question whether it is harder to do the job via predistribution, or to do the job via changing human perceptions to get everybody to understand that:

  • no, none of us is worth what we are paid.

  • we are all living, to various extents, off of the dividends from our societal capital

  • those of us who are doing especially well are those of us who have managed to luck into situations in which we have market power—in which the resources we control are (a) scarce, (b) hard to replicate quickly, and (c) help produce things that rich people have a serious jones for right now.

LINK: <>

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BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-23 Tu

Things that went whizzing by, but that I really want to remember...



There comes a point at which the dishonesty—perhaps "dishonesty" is not the right word—there comes a point at which the gaming of the system with a sociopathic disregard for the rights and expectations of your principal counterparties becomes so great that the only rational response is to say: this structure needs to be burned to the ground and a new structure in which the architects of the old have no place needs to be directed to fulfill the functions. I think Uber has reached that point:

John BullSchrodinger’s Cab Firm: Uber’s Existential Crisis: ‘ULL, the lawyers argued, didn’t employ any drivers. It was simply a brand umbrella… drew the judges’ attention to the careful wording within them that confirmed this…. Operators were granted access to UBV’s app. Not ULL’s app. On this they were clear. UBV’s app. Through that app, passengers could contact those operators directly, negotiate a ride and agree a fare. Neither ULL or UBV were involved in the ride itself, Uber’s lawyers were keen to stress…. If there was a contractual arrangement, then it was solely made between passenger and operator…. Uber’s lawyers argued that Aslam and Farrar (and the other 30,000 Uber drivers they indirectly represented) had misunderstood the relationship they had with Uber…. The drivers weren’t like caddies at all…. They were like pole dancers….

When it came, the tribunal’s ruling was unanimous…. “This is,” the tribunal judges explained in their ruling, “we think, an excellent illustration of the phenomenon of which Elias J warned in the Kalwak case, of ‘armies of lawyers’ contriving documents in their clients’ interests which simply misrepresent the true rights and obligations on both sides”…

LINK: <>


Very Briefly Noted:

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

Sofiane SmileFlashing Lights <>:

Five Paragraphs:

1) I do not understand Renaissance’s Medallion Fund. I do not know anybody who understands Renaissance’s Medallion Fund. If anybody has figured out how to come close to replicating whatever renaissance is medallion fund has done, they are not talking and are not on my radar screen. The fact that I have no clue as to what is going on here leaves me massively dissatisfied. I do not think I understand Bridgewater. But I do think I have a vague idea as to how they do what they do and why it might work as well as it does. I have no such insight into Renaissance Medallion:

Bradford CornellMedallion Fund: The Ultimate Counterexample?: ’Over the period from the start of trading in 1988 to 2018, $100 invested in Medallion would have grown to $398.7 million, representing a compound return of 63.3%. Returns of this magnitude over such an extended period far outstrip anything reported in the academic literature. Furthermore, during the entire 31-year period, Medallion never had a negative return despite the crash and the financial crisis. Despite this remarkable performance, the fund’s market beta and factor loadings were all negative, so that Medallion’s performance cannot be interpreted as a premium for risk bearing. To date, there is no adequate rational market explanation for this performance…

LINK: <>

2) At its origin, civilization as we have known it seems to have been quite a cruel and a brutal thing. Our technologies were, for a long long time, much more effective as technologies of extraction and domination then as technologies to boost productivity. Actually, perhaps that is wrong: our technologies were fine at boosting productivity but Malthus’s Devil ensure that the benefits flowed to increasing human numbers rather than raising human prosperity. That's for a long, long time domination and extraction was nearly the only road to individual prosperity:

Patrick WymanUruk & the Emergence of Civilization: ‘The “Uruk Phenomenon.” This was a multifaceted expansion outward from southern Mesopotamia… some combination of colonization movement, proto-imperial takeover, ideological ferment, and mercantile enterprise…. The most ubiquitous item of Uruk culture is actually a humble, misshapen… beveled-rim bowl… mass-produced by the thousands… but in crude molds. The most likely explanation is that they were used to dole out grain rations… molds to bake that grain into daily bread… speaks powerfully to the nature of Uruk society… a deeply unequal and centralized way of organizing the world, with superiors and inferiors…. Those at the bottom were dependent on their betters, who controlled their labor and doled out their food supply, perhaps in those ugly little bowls…. In the early written texts, the most common non-numerical sign is the symbol for “female slave of foreign origin.” “Captive male” isn’t far behind… LINK: 


3) Liars gonna lie. But there may be a way to use their desire to retain a shred of their self-respect in order to uncover somewhat of the truth. Note, however, that this does not work with the Trumps and with their ilk at all:

Zeynep TufekciCritical Thinking isn’t Just a Process: ‘Friends who had grown up in authoritarian or poor countries had a much easier time adjusting…. When Trump got sick with COVID… one detail stood out: he had been given dexamethasone…. The doctors… “Q: Was Trump’s oxygen level ever below 90?” “CONLEY: We don’t have any recordings here of that” “Q: But was it ever below 90, here or at the White House?” CONLEY: No, it was below 94 percent. It wasn’t down in the low 80s or anything…. They don’t have recording below 90s “here” so via Kremlinology, a sadly appropriate method now, we can probably infer that it was probably mid-to-high 80s Friday night which sparked giving him oxygen and transport to Walter Reed….

Metaepistemology may be a fancy term, but it’s actually a mundane skill…. Most deliberate misinformation from authorities—especially in places that are mid-range in terms of institutional trust and strict licensing—comes from omission…. I concluded that the most likely explanation was… that, indeed, the President had faced severe illness. Yesterday, we finally got actual reporting… “Trump… was found to have lung infiltrates… a sign of an acute case of the disease…. Trump’s blood oxygen level alone was cause for extreme concern, dipping into the 80s…” There is often talk of teaching people “critical thinking”… not just formulas to be taught but knowledge and experience to be acquired and tested and re-examined…. It may be a privilege to live in a society that does not always need official statements to be interrogated as such. But if the past few years have shown anything, that privilege is not something to be taken for granted…

LINK: <>

4) At this point, I think you have to presume that Facebook is guilty when charged by insiders:

Hannah MurphyFacebook Reported Revenue It ‘Should Have Never Made’, Manager Claimed: ‘Lawsuit cites product executive’s qualms over figures provided to advertisers. Facebook says that the ‘allegations are without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves’. A Facebook employee warned that the company reported revenues it “should have never made” by overstating how many users advertisers could reach, according to internal emails revealed in a newly unsealed court filing. The world’s largest social media company has since 2018 been fighting a class-action lawsuit claiming that its executives knew its “potential reach metric”, used to inform advertisers of their potential audience size, was inflated but failed to correct it. According to sections of a filing in the lawsuit that were unredacted on Wednesday, a Facebook product manager in charge of potential reach proposed changing the definition of the metric in mid–2018 to render it more accurate. However, internal emails show that his suggestion was rebuffed by Facebook executives overseeing metrics on the grounds that the “revenue impact” for the company would be “significant”, the filing said. The product manager responded by saying “it’s revenue we should have never made given the fact it’s based on wrong data”, the complaint said…


5) Only 23,000 years? That does not seem to me very long—especially when you consider that co-movement implies only a form of weak symbiosis and perhaps semi-domestication, not full domestication:

Angela R. Perri & al.Dog Domestication & the Dual Dispersal of People & Dogs into the Americas: ‘Over the last 10,000 y, the genetic signatures of ancient dog remains have been linked with known human dispersals in regions such as the Arctic and the remote Pacific. It is suspected, however, that this relationship has a much deeper antiquity…. By comparing population genetic results of humans and dogs from Siberia, Beringia, and North America, we show that there is a close correlation in the movement and divergences of their respective lineages…. It suggests that dogs were domesticated in Siberia by ∼23,000 y ago, possibly while both people and wolves were isolated during the harsh climate of the Last Glacial Maximum. Dogs then accompanied the first people into the Americas and traveled with them as humans rapidly dispersed into the continent beginning ∼15,000 y ago…

LINK: <>

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Hoisted from the Archives

2010Is This an April Fool’s Joke?: Charles Lane of the Washington Post:

Some in the antislavery movement were as extreme, in their way, as the Southern “fire-eaters.”… In 1851, a Boston crowd broke into a federal courthouse to free “Shadrach,” a black man being held there by U.S. marshals enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law…. I am not suggesting a moral equivalency between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces. But I am suggesting an attitudinal equivalency…

First of all, Shadrach Minkins has a name—which does not deserve to be put into scare quotes. He was a human being. Charles—excuse me, ’Charles’—sees an ‘attitudinal equivalency’ between abolitionists who ‘arrested Minkins from his court officers, carried him off and temporarily hid him in a Beacon Hill attic… Boston black leaders Lewis Hayden, John J. Smith and others helped Minkins escape from Massachusetts, and he eventually found his way to Canada on the Underground Railroad…’ and Jefferson Davis and his ilk who raised armies that killed 400,000 Americans.

I am sorry: those who kill tens of thousands have a different ‘attitude’ than those who set people free without killing anybody.

Worst Washington Post writer alive.


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BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-22 Mo

Things that went whizzing by, but that I want to remember...



This is, I think, by far the most important thing today. It would be one thing if Facebook has not yet figured out how to create frameworks and algorithms in which people are their better selves as they decide what to engage with and what to look at next.

It is quite another thing that Facebook’s highest executives are in there actively cheering and creating space for people who deny that mass child murders ever actually happened. Zuckerberg needs to go. Or Facebook needs to go. And maybe, by this point, it needs to be not “or” but “and”:

Ryan Mac & Craig Silverman: “Mark [Zuckerberg] Changed The Rules”: How Facebook Went Easy On Alex Jones And Other Right-Wing Figures: ‘Joel Kaplan’s Policy Team Sways Big Facebook Decisions Like Alex Jones Ban: Facebook’s rules to combat misinformation and hate speech are subject to the whims and political considerations of its CEO and his policy team leader: In April 2019, Facebook was preparing to ban one of the internet’s most notorious spreaders of misinformation and hate, Infowars founder Alex Jones. Then CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally intervened. Jones had gained infamy for claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre was a “giant hoax,” and that the teenage survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting were “crisis actors.” But Facebook had found that he was also relentlessly spreading hate against various groups, including Muslims and trans people. That behavior qualified him for expulsion from the social network under the company’s policies for “dangerous individuals and organizations,” which required Facebook to also remove any content that expressed “praise or support” for them. But Zuckerberg didn’t consider the Infowars founder to be a hate figure… LINK: <>


Very Briefly Noted:

One Chart:

What was the Trumpist goal, aim, and point in not following the New Zealand or the Australia or the Taiwan or the South Korea strategy—lock down, scotch the virus, vigilantly shut down again at signs of trouble, and then reopen so we can have a somewhat-normal 2020? What was the gain? What was the win? What did they think the win would be?

Youyang Gu’The strongest single variable I’ve seen in being able to explain the severity of this most recent wave in each state. Not past infections/existing immunity, population density, racial makeup, latitude/weather/humidity, etc. But political lean… LINK: <>

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

New HistoriaWhat Did Ancient Rome Really Look Like? <>

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

Five Paragraphs:

1) Between 1425 and 1525, if you had to bet on which civilization would lead humanity’s progressive way forward over the next half-millennium, you might well have been strongly tempted to be on the Islamic ekumene. It was technologically on par with the others. When Mehmet II “the Conquerer” Osmanli—Sultan of what Europeans called the Ottoman Empire, or, more usually, “the Grand Turk”—besieged Constantinople in 1453, he did so with the most modern artillery park in the world. And Islamic civilization was much better organized. Mehmet’s military establishment—the galleys and the cannon and the janissaries and the sipahis—was unequalled anywhere in the world.

60 years later, at the other end of the Islamic ekumene, a prince, Babur, who has lost his wars to become Emir of Samarkand has to settle for becoming Emperor of India as a consolation prize. And he wins much as the British were to conquer India 300 years later: with massively inferior forces but massively superior discipline and coordination:

Kallie SzczepanskiOverview of the First Battle of Panipat: ‘Babur’s Mughal forces consisted of between 13,000 and 15,000 men, mostly horse cavalry. His secret weapon was 20 to 24 pieces of field artillery, a relatively recent innovation in warfare. Arrayed against the Mughals were Ibrahim Lodi’s 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers… war elephants… from 100 to 1,000 trained and battle-hardened pachyderms…. His army simply marched out in a disorganized block…. Babur… employed two tactics unfamiliar to Lodi… tulughma, dividing a smaller force into forward left, rear left, forward right, rear right, and center divisions. The highly mobile right and left divisions peeled out and surrounded the larger enemy force, driving them towards the center. At the center, Babur arrayed his cannons. The second tactical innovation was Babur’s use of carts, called araba. His artillery forces were shielded behind a row of carts which were tied together with leather ropes, to prevent the enemy from getting between them and attacking the artillerymen. This tactic was borrowed from the Ottoman Turks…

LINK: <>

2) Would there have been a Rush Limbaugh—and the descent of the Republicans of America into neofascist idiocy—without Reagan’s repeal of the Fairness Doctrine? Perhaps yes. But perhaps not:

Erik LoomisThe Gasbag of Fascism: ‘This often drug-addled hypocrite dedicated his entire life to destroying American democracy, to promoting the power of the rich and the racist, to dividing Americans against each other, to ginning up hate and violence. Limbaugh is truly one of the worst Americans to ever pollute this nation…. What made Rush Limbaugh the era-changing blowhard he became was Ronald Reagan’s Federal Communications Commission repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987…. The country has never recovered from this horrible event since, as we’ve been flooded with ever more extreme right-wing propaganda that has moved us increasingly down the road toward fascism, culminating with the election on Donald Trump. Limbaugh was perhaps the first major beneficiary of the Fairness Doctrine’s repeal and he holds more responsibility than anyone else except perhaps Rupert Murdoch in what the hellscape this nation has become…

LINK: <>

3) It would be nice to be able to believe this. But, alas!, I cannot:

David FrumImpeachment Did Not Prevail, But Trump Still Lost: ‘The 57–43 margin wasn’t enough to convict under the Constitution. It wasn’t enough to formally disqualify Trump from ever again seeking office in the United States. But practically? It will do as a solemn and eternal public repudiation of Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office…. The 57–43 margin in the Senate flashes a green light to federal and state prosecutors…. The Senate minority leader condemned Trump’s actions as a “disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty” and said he held Trump “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day”…. His own damning assessment did not suffice to persuade McConnell to convict Trump of impeachable offenses. That abdication will weigh on McConnell’s conscience and historical reputation…

4) Pretending that you speak for a movement while you look for a grift. Making your living out of steel manning racism and sexism. Et cetera. God! I am cranky this morning! But Conor Friedersdorf certainly gives us all cause:

Scott LemieuxHe Just Wasn’t a True Scotsman: ‘Conor is this close to getting it: “As a proponent of conservatism in America, Limbaugh was a failure… culminating in his alignment with the vulgar style and populist anti-leftism of Donald Trump. Character no longer mattered. Budget deficits no longer mattered. Free trade no longer mattered. Nepotism no longer mattered. Lavishing praise on foreign dictators no longer mattered. All that mattered was owning the libs in the culture war, in part to avenge a deeply felt sense of aggrievement…” When oh when did conservatism become about what 99% of conservatives want rather than the priorities of 20 libertarian journalists?…

LINK: <>

5) SAS knows more about how macroeconomics should think about the world than any economist from the so-called “freshwater” school I have ever heard or read:

Scott Alexander SimkinsComplicated Dynamical Systems: ‘Imagine some benevolent aliens surveilling Earth from orbit. They don’t understand our languages, and their own culture is so exotic that even basic ideas like “money” or “war” are hard for them to understand. Still, they have good telescopes, and they’re able to measure things like how much light our cities have, how much traffic is on our roads and sea-lanes, and how much smoke our industries emit…. There are some years (for example late 1929 and the early 1930s) when city lighting, smoke emissions, and traffic all stagnate. In other years (like the late 1990s), all these things grow even faster than usual. After analyzing word frequency in human communications, they hypothesize that the former type of period corresponds to English “recession” and the latter period to “boom”. By performing sentiment analysis of human faces in the media during these periods, they hypothesize that we dislike recessions.

These are benevolent aliens, and they want us to be happy, so they wonder how to prevent recessions. Sometime during the 1970s, they notice that during a recession, there are fewer oil tankers leaving the Middle East, and longer lines at First World gas stations. They know enough chemistry to realize that oil is a pretty useful fuel at our stage of technological development, so they deduce that the recession is caused by an oil shortage. This seems solveable! Using their Materialization Ray, they cause one billion barrels of crude oil to appear on the White House lawn. This actually helps a lot! Light, traffic, and industrial emissions all return to normal. Sentiment analysis of human faces reveal a brief period of extreme confusion, followed by happiness. The aliens have successfully solved the recession. In 2020, they notice another profound decrease in lighting, traffic, and factory smoke; looks like another recession. The aliens, still wanting to help and now confident they know how, materialize another billion barrels of crude oil on the White House lawn. The Earthlings continue sheltering in place from the coronavirus, but now they also have to deal with a billion random barrels of oil tumbling around Washington DC. The aliens have solved nothing….

The global economy behaves like a huge dynamical system. Everything affects everything else in so many different ways that it’s hard to keep track of. If aliens tried to model the economy the same way Borsboom et al are modeling the mind, they’d fail. They could pick ten important economic indicators—maybe employment rate, the S&P 500, inflation, and a few other things—and track how they co-evolved over time. This would probably be illuminating—for all I know some economist in our world is doing it already and learning a lot. But it wouldn’t be enough. They would never be able to predict a recession caused by conflict in the Middle East causing an oil embargo causing an energy shortage. Or a recession caused by deregulation of banks causing them to offer too many subprime loans causing all of them to go belly-up at once…. At best they… could understand that recessions (and booms) are attractor states in a massively complex dynamical system, and come up with vague principles about how that system responds to certain shocks (eg “large stimulus packages can sometimes shift the system from recession to normal growth”)…

LINK: <>

Hoisted from the Archives

2016Regional Policy and Distributional Policy in a World Where People Want to Ignore the Value and Contribution of Knowledge—and Network-Based Increasing Returns: Pascal Lamy: “When the wise man points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger…” Perhaps in the end the problem is that people want more than anything else to pretend that they are filling a valuable role in the societal division of labor, and are receiving no more than they earn—than they contribute. But that is not the case.

The value—the societal dividend—is in the accumulated knowledge of humanity and in the painfully constructed networks that make up our value chains, not in any of our individual contributions. A “contribution” theory of what a proper distribution of income might be can only be made coherent if there are constant returns to scale in the scarce, priced, owned factors of production. Only then can you divide the pile of resources by giving to each the marginal societal product of their work and of the resources that they own.

That, however, is not the world we live in… 

LINK: <>

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Briefly Noted for 2021-02-17


Things that whizzed by today, & that I want to note & remember...


Mike Konczal’s Freedom from the Market<> is a book you should get and read right now:

Henry FarrellFreedom from the Market: ‘Mike Konczal has a new book, Freedom from the Market <>… Polanyian—the stresses of the market lead to social rupture, which may in turn create the conditions for political mobilization. But Konczal doesn’t depict this as necessary or inevitable—people’s choices have consequences. He is also more precise than Polanyi in his understanding of how change happens—through social movements and the state…. Konczal not only employs Polanyi’s ideas, but the ideas of Polanyi’s friendly critics like Quinn Slobodian, to describe how modern Hayekians have sought to “encase” the market order in institutions and practices that are hard to overturn.

Property rights aren’t the foundation of liberty, as both nineteenth century jurists and twentieth century economists would have it. They are a product of the choices of the state, and as such intensely political. This allows Konczal to turn pragmatism against the Hayekians. Hayek’s notion of spontaneous order is supposed to be evolutionary, to provide a more supple response to what people (thought of as individuals want). But if there is a need to provide collective goods for people that cannot be fulfilled through voluntarism, the Hayekian logic becomes a brutal constraint on adaptation.…

Konczal presses for… a very different notion of freedom…. In Konczal’s words, “markets are great at distributing things based on people’s willingness to pay. But there are some goods that should be distributed by need.”… Furthermore, people’s needs change over time, as societies and markets change. Konczal’s framework suggests the need for collective choice to figure out the best responses to these changes, and a vibrant democratic politics… as the best way to carry out these choices…. I want you to read the book itself, if you really to get the good stuff—the stories, the examples, and the overall narrative that Konczal weaves together…

LINK: <>


Very Briefly Noted:

  • Eric Kleefeld’Wall Street Journal news section: Texas is in a catastrophe because gas power plants went offline from the storm, while they’re trying to get wind power back up to cover it. WSJ Editorial Board: Texas is suffering because wind power has failed, while gas “ramped up” to cover it… LINK: <>

  • Eric Topol: ’Update of anaphylaxis from mRNA vaccines: 66 cases out of ~18 million vaccinations (=0.0003%). All but 1 within 11 minutes. No deaths <>. That almost all occur in women needs to be understood… LINK: <>

  • Ryan Lizza’"NEW: 2024 primary poll shows Trump dominating: Donald Trump 53% Mike Pence 12% Donald Trump Jr. 6% Nikki Haley 6% Mitt Romney 4% Ted Cruz 4% Marco Rubio 2% Mike Pompeo 2% Josh Hawley 1% Tom Cotton 1% Tim Scott 1% Kristi Noem 1% Larry Hogan 1% Rick Scott 0%… LINK: <>

  • Joe StudwellHow Asia Works: Success & Failure In the World’s Most Dynamic Region LINK: <>

  • WikipediaIbn Battuta LINK: <>

  • Chalmers JohnsonMITI & the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925–1975 LINK: <>

  • Michael Porter, Mick Takeuchi, Mariko SakakibaraCan Japan Compete? LINK: <>

  • Henry FarrellIn Praise of Negativity: ‘We need negative criticisms from others, since they lead us to understand weaknesses in our arguments that we are incapable of coming at ourselves… LINK: <>

  • Josh GansA Culture in Despair: ‘In the immediate aftermath of Zola’s “J’Accuse” in 1898, mobs took to the street throughout France. The cries of “Long Live the Army” and “Death to the Jews” intermingled…. But it was in France’s colonial possessions, specifically in Algeria, that “a veritable crisis of anti-Jewish hysteria occurred”…. The riots across of France… were the product of concerted organization and agitation. Antisemitic posters… antisemitic conferences… antisemitic press. The Catholic press, not to be outdone, was increasingly packed anti-Jewish articles… LINK: <>

  • Noah SmithDon’t Give Up on Bringing Manufacturing Back to the U.S.: ‘By offering Americans a concrete… instead of leaving it up to the… market, the… Reshoring Initiative may be able to gather broad support for a cohesive growth strategy, even if it isn’t a perfect one…. Leaving industrial policy to the whims of the market has hit the point of severely diminishing returns, so it’s time to brainstorm new approaches.…LINK: <>

  • WikipediaTrimalchio: ‘Trimalchio is a character in the 1st century AD Roman work of fiction Satyricon by Petronius. He plays a part only in the section titled “Cēna Trīmalchiōnis”…. Trimalchio is an arrogant former slave who has become quite wealthy by tactics that most would find distasteful. The name “Trimalchio” is formed from the Greek prefix τρις and the Semitic מלך (melech) in its occidental form… “Thrice King” or “greatest King”…. His full name is “Gaius Pompeius Trimalchio Maecenatianus”; the references to Pompey and Maecenas in his name serve to enhance his ostentatious character. His wife’s name is Fortunata, a former slave and chorus girl… LINK: <>

  • Equitable GrowthBoosting Wages for U.S. Workers in the New Economy: ‘The U.S. labor market is shackled by decades of wage stagnation… persistent wage disparities… sluggish economic growth…many families ill-prepared for the “stress test” of the coronavirus recession…. Boosting Wages for U.S. Workers in the New Economy, a joint effort of Equitable Growth and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley… LINK: <>

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

Ta-Nehisi Coates: When Every Word Does Not Belong to Everyone:

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

Six Paragraphs-Plus:

This I enthusiastically endorse: Figuring out that on Twitter you have a right—nay, stronger than a right: you have a duty—to not mute but block people even if all they do is just waste your time is essential to having a good life.

Either that, or drop Twitter entirely.

In an attention economy, grabbing your attention uselessly is a cognitive attack on your mind. Such cognitive attacks need to be stopped:

Zeynep Tufekci’I try not to block actual criticism but things I’ve started pretty much automatically blocking to make Twitter usable: Snitch-tagging; “Oh you’re surprised?” reply guys; People who respond to an article I wrote with a point made in the article as if I could have no idea. People who respond to an article I wrote with a point made in the article as if I could have no idea. I started blocking them! There are people who sit on their keyboards all day telling others—who never asked them—that what they just said is obvious. And then others reply to them. And then my mentions are unusable. I’ve never had a useful interaction with any of the above categories, and they are just cluttering up my mentions especially since others then respond to them, and it’s an endless, pointless series of pings that hide any signal that may hide in my mentions.

I didn’t tag someone already on Twitter myself? Yeah, I’m not an idiot, thank you. Immediate block if you tag them in my mentions. Go talk to them separately if you want. People wanting to start fights are not doing something healthy and life’s too short. You think my points are obvious? Happy to relieve you of them! Especially since “oh, you’re surprised” adds nothing whatsoever. Point out something obvious I missed? I’m grateful. Object to it substantively? Grateful. Just uselessly smug? On your own time and dime. Finally, I write a lengthy, detailed article about something. Someone comes with a “have you tried rebooting it” type comment as if I’m a novice, and an idiot, and clueless? I used to tolerate and then realized nothing good ever comes out of that because of the clutter they add…. These categories have a lot of repeat offenders so blocking just a few useless repeat offenders really improved my mentions.

Why not mute? I tried. Because people reply to them (which I see) and others see them and affects the quality of the discussion I do want to have, and also because snitch-taggers can work even when muted. I mute some non malicious people who just say the same thing a lot….

This is an attempt to be able to hear real criticism and feedback in my mentions. If I don’t do this, the roar of the people who make the most obvious points back to me or are just uselessly smug will drown others out. The smug and stupid minority are very repetitive…

LINK: <>

Most of you, gentle readers, do not realize what the right-wing fever swamp created by Rush Limbaugh and company is really like. Here is a sample. This is what they are hearing. But do note that even Frank Salvato is not with the program. He is supposed to say that there were more Trump voters than Biden voters—80 million plus. That he forgets this and says “75 million” is a tell of how little he himself believes what he writes, and how much it is a conscious grift:

Frank SalvatoIt’s Time for Mitch McConnell to Go: ‘I am taking square aim at one of our own, not to remove him from office—no I will not acquiesce to the “cancel culture” lunacy, but to demote him from leadership…. The words of the highest-ranking Republican in Washington, DC, currently, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). And more inaccurate and unproductive they could not be. First and foremost, I reject that there was no chicanery in the 2020 General Election. We had a cowardly US Supreme Court that refused to hear a seminal case in whether states whose executive branches formulated election law in fact violated the US Constitution, as the Constitution vests that power solely with the state legislatures. We had routine violations of election law in several key states—and within those states critical urban areas—that saw poll watchers and credentialed Republican election officials tantamount to being forcefully excluded from the ballot counting process….

McConnell should have been screaming about [these] in real time…. The man who should have been leading the charge for the Republican rank-and-file was sitting on his hands, too concerned with retaining his own seat and, in fact, riding on President Trump’s accomplishment coattails to do so…. McConnell single-handedly lost the two run-off races in Georgia with his blunder about not wanting to pass a $2,000 COVID relief package…. And how do Republicans in Washington, DC, punish McConnell for his failures, for his disloyalty, for his selfish exploitation of his elected position? They re-elect him to leadership, this time as Senate Minority Leader. How stupid are the Senate Republicans to do this? I have to say abundantly so.

McConnell wasn’t done with his caustic, unproductive screed—a screed that, mind you, offended 75 million voters (how stupid is McConnell?): “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he’s in office…He didn’t get away with anything yet.”… A person who holds these positions and who has presided over the litany of failures, such as McConnell has, who has effectively forced the Republican Party to be subservient to a group of people who actually hate the United States, well, that person—Mitch McConnell—should not be in a position of leadership, and most definitely not the Senate Minority Leader…

LINK: <>

A right wing made of of grifters and grifters has been a feature of American political life for a long long time now:

Steve PerlsteinThe Long Con: ‘Mitt Romney is a liar. Of course, in some sense, all politicians, even all human beings, are liars. Romney’s lying went so over-the-top extravagant by this summer, though, that the New York Times editorial board did something probably unprecedented in their polite gray precincts: they used the L-word….

There are lies, damned lies, statistics—like his assertion that his tax cut proposal won’t have any effect on the federal budget, which the Tax Policy Center called “not mathematically possible.” That frank dismissal vaulted the candidate into another category of lie, an attempt to bend time itself: Romney responded by calling that group “biased”; last year, he called them “objective.”… Ann Romney told the right-wing site that her husband had “always personally been prolife,” though Mitt had said in his 1994 Senate race, “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country.” And then Ann admitted a few sentence later, “They say he flip-flopped on abortion. Well, you know what? He did change his mind.”…

In 2007… I mainlined a right-wing id that was invisible to readers who encounter conservative opinion at face value…. Back in our great-grandparents’ day, the peddlers of such miracle cures and get-rich-quick schemes were known as snake-oil salesmen. You don’t see stuff like this much in mainstream culture any more; it hardly seems possible such déclassé effronteries could get anywhere in a society with a high school completion rate of 90 percent. But tenders of a 23-Cent Heart Miracle seem to work just fine on the readers of the magazine where Ann Coulter began her journalistic ascent in the late nineties by pimping the notion that liberals are all gullible rubes….… featured an article headlined “Ideas Will Drive Conservatives’ Revival.” Two inches beneath that bold pronouncement, a box headed “Health News” included the headlines “Reverse Crippling Arthritis in 2 Days,” “Clear Clogged Arteries Safely & Easily—without drugs, without surgery, and without a radical diet,” and “High Blood Pressure Cured in 3 Minutes… Drop Measurement 60 Points.”…

The history of that movement echoes with the sonorous names of long-dead Austrian economists, of indefatigable door-knocking cadres, of soaring perorations on a nation finally poised to realize its rendezvous with destiny… [not] the massive intersection between the culture of “network” or “multilevel” marketing—where ordinary folks try to get rich via pyramid schemes that leave their neighbors holding the bag….

And yet this stuff is as important to understanding the conservative ascendancy as are the internecine organizational and ideological struggles that make up its official history—if not, indeed, more so. The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began…

LINK: <>

Clubhouse as Tik-Tok for podcasts? Perhaps?

Ben ThompsonClubhouse’s Inevitability: ‘The fact that audio can be consumed while you are doing something else allows the immediacy and vibrancy of live conversation to shine…. Make no mistake, most of these conversations will be terrible. That, though, is the case for all user-generated content. The key for Clubhouse will be in honing its algorithms so that every time a listener opens the app they are presented with a conversation that is interesting to them. This is the other area where podcasts miss the mark…. Sometimes—a lot of times!—users just want to scroll their Twitter feed instead of reading a long blog post, or click through Stories or swipe TikToks, and Clubhouse is poised to provide the same mindless escapism for background audio….

Why now?… Hardware… how easy AirPods make it to drop into and out of audio-listening mode…. COVID… last April… despite its very rough state it provided a place for people to socialize when there were few other options…. Any suggestion that Clubhouse is limited to Silicon Valley is very much off the mark…

LINK: <>

Telling the truth and being fair appears way way down on the priorities of many—most?—NYT reporters these days. Scott Alexander Simkins has a receipt":

Scott Alexander Simkins: Response to NYT Article: “This is undoubtedly the version [Cade Metz] read, and he still chose to make this attack. I have 1,557 other posts worth of material he could have used, and the sentence he chose to go with was the one that was crossed out and included a plea for people to stop taking it out of context…

LINK: <>

More generally, in the case of Scott Alexander Simkins vs. Cade Metz before the bar of public opinion, I don’t think New York Times reporter Cade Mertz has it right, or did an honest or an honorable competent job here. If the New York Times had an ombudsman, it could defend him and try to change my mind. But it doesn’t. So I can. And I go with Noah Smith’s judgment here. Not as unprofessional as the semi-daily “Ivanka and Jared are working hard to save us all” that the New York Times printed over 2015–2019. But pretty unprofessional all the samel:

Noah SmithSilicon Valley Isn’t Full of Fascists: ‘Eight months later, that article is finally out, and it’s every bit as negative as [Scott Alexander Siskind] feared… draws conclusions… I don’t think are warranted… both draws on and feeds into the mistaken stereotype that Silicon Valley is full of right-wingers…. I don’t think sustaining this misconception is good for America…. Cade Metz… “[Slate Star Codex was] the epicenter of… the Rationalists… [which] included white supremacists and neo-fascists… a window into the Silicon Valley psyche…. The allure of the ideas within Silicon Valley is what made Mr. Alexander, who had also written under his given name, Scott Siskind, and his blog essential reading…”

I always get annoyed at the narrative that Silicon Valley is rife with fascists—a narrative that I feel that Metz’ Times story unfortunately furthers. In reality, the tech industry is almost entirely a bunch of liberals…. In 2020… the internet industry gave 92% of its donations to Democrats!…. “Online computer services”… was the third most liberal industry… more liberal than newspapers and print media!…. A safe space for fascists, this is not. Metz, being a technology correspondent, must know all this….

The narrative of a pipeline of fascist ideas from Rationalist blogs to the minds of the powerful people building the future is certainly a juicy one, but it just doesn’t have much evidence to back it up. Silicon Valley is a bastion of liberalism, tech founders are standard liberal nerds, and Rationalism is a niche subculture primarily concerned with navel-gazing about Bayes’ Rule, utilitarianism, and robots…

LINK: <>

Hoisted from the Archives

Reasoning and Cogitation—by Individuals, by Social Groups, & by Societies: I am all but certain to never teach a course on: Reasoning—Indivdual, Social, and Societal. But if I were to teach such a course, would this be the best reading list? And if not these readings, what would be better replacements: William PoundstoneLabyrinths of Reason… Hugo Mercier and Dan SperberThe Enigma of Reason… Daniel KahnemanThinking, Fast and Slow… T. M. ScanlonBeing Realistic about Reasons… Joshua D. Angrist and Jörn-Steffen PischkeMostly Harmless Econometrics… Judea Pearl & Dana Mackenzie): The Book of Why… William FleschComeuppance… Josiah OberDemocracy & Knowledge… Henry Farrell & Cosma Shalizi: "Cognitive Democracy"… Cosma Shalizi: "In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You"… Herbert SimonThe Sciences of the Artificial… Partha DasguptaEconomics: A Very Short Introduction… Milton Friedman & Rose Director Friedman: Free to Choose… Tom SleeNo One Makes You Shop At Walmart… Paul SeabrightThe Company of Strangers… Richard Thaler (2015): Misbehaving…

LINK: <>


Breaking Out of Agrarian-Age Malthusian Near-Stagnation, & Review: History of Economic Growth: 2021-02-16 Tu 09:30 PST: Econ 135




Breaking Out of Agrarian-Age Malthusian Near-Stagnation, & Review: History of Economic Growth: 2021-02-16 Tu 09:30 PST: Econ 135
<> <>

For President's Day: A Republic, If We Can Keep It

I do not know what today's Republicans want America to be, but it is certainly not a democratic republic. And it is certainly not any form of "populism" that I am aware of. Perhaps we should classify their goal as a minority ethnocentric demogocracy? "Neofascist" still seems the best word to me, but I am told that is much, much, much too impolite to use, even on the internet:

No, Alexander Hamilton was not a president. But he should have been:

Alexander Hamilton (1787): America as "Grand Experiment": Federalist #9: It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy…. From the disorders… advocates of despotism have drawn arguments… against the forms of republican government… [and] decried all free government as inconsistent with the order of society…. I trust America will be the broad and solid foundation of other edifices… which will be… permanent monuments of their errors.

But it is not to be denied that… if it had been found impracticable to have devised models of a more perfect structure [than the petty republics of Greece and Italy], the enlightened friends to liberty would have been obliged to abandon the cause of that species of government as indefensible. The science of politics, however… has received great improvement… distribution of power into distinct departments… balances and checks… judges holding their offices during good behavior… representation of the people… by deputies of their own election… are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided…

LINK: <>

Plus, as always:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure….

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Briefly Noted for 2021-02-11

Very Briefly Noted:

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

Alan Krueger, Richard Blundell, &Arindrajit Dube (2016): RES Plenary Session: Minimum Wages <>:

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

Seven Paragraphs:

Back in 1993, the expanded EITC for childless workers was one of the last things the Clinton Treasury threw out of the wolf-pursued troika as we dashed through the snow in the race to get the Clinton reconciliation bill across the finish line. “We will fix it next year”, we promised ourselves then. Nobody ever has:

Cynthia Miller & Lawrence F. KatzBiden Wants to Boost the EITC for Workers without Dependent Children—What Does the Research Say?: ‘Many commentators have expressed the hope that the inequalities exposed by the pandemic will lead to renewed efforts to address them by expanding the social safety net and by providing basic protections for workers. An expanded EITC can be an effective part of this effort, increasing workers’ incomes (without depressing work effort) and putting them in a better position to recover from this crisis and weather the next… LINK:

Really, really cool EDA by one of our graduate students here at Berkeley:

Emily Murphy EisnerDoes Telework Harm Older Workers? A First Look at Technological Change Spurred by COVID–19: ‘I categorized occupation groups by whether or not they had above median or below median take-up of teleworking technology during the pandemic…. Being able to work from home during the pandemic helped…. In high-teleworking occupations, there is a clear increase in the likelihood of facing unemployment as a worker ages. The positive relationship between age and unemployment is not seen in professions that don’t have a high take-up of teleworking technologies…. A good change (working from home to save lives during a pandemic) can find the cracks in our system and do harm (in this case, reducing job security for older workers). Studying this technological change will help us identify these issues, and bolster the gaps… LINK:

The media diet of Republican stalwarts: a sample:

Christopher G. AdamoCan a Phony Impeachment ‘Validate’ a Stolen Election?: ‘Honest Americans are aghast at the seeming obsession of leftist Democrats (with support from the usual cadre of RINO traitors) to continue pursuing a wholly unprecedented, unwarranted, and unconstitutional “impeachment” of President Trump after he is no longer in the White House. A little “Constitution 101” for those who are in doubt, the sole purpose of impeachment is to remove an unfit occupant from office. In the wake of the stolen 2020 election, President Trump is already out. So absolutely no legal premise can be claimed for this latest bout of leftist Democrat idiocy. As a result of the flagrant chicanery that occurred on Election Day and in its aftermath, Americans who believe in honesty and decency are outraged. And given the enormity of actual turnout for Trump in the 2020 election, that is a massive number of people who remain adamant that the election theft be dealt with. Allowing it to stand abominates and nullifies the Constitution and the rule of law in America.

In response, leftists are redoubling their efforts to suppress, and ultimately erase, any mention of the theft, vainly hoping that the current situation will at some point be regarded as “normal.”… But Americans aren’t buying any of it, so the left has to continually expand its efforts.Make no mistake. President Trump is not the actual target of this onslaught. The second sham impeachment is… an indictment and conviction of the eighty million (and likely more) Americans who voted for him last November. The goal of the leftist Democrats is to tell us that our President, and more importantly our votes, are “invalid.” But their success in convincing us to shut up and grant them this uncontested power is by no means guaranteed. The scheme will either succeed or fail based entirely on whether or not Americans allow themselves to be cowed into abandoning reality under threats and pressure from the left…

LINK: <>

I am thinking this is right—that the inflation of the 1970s was not due to “overheating”, but rather to (a) a high gearing of inflation expectations on recent past inflation taught the economy in the late Johnson and first Nixon administration, (b) the productivity shocks, (c) the oil shocks, and (d) the fact that markets coordinated on the signal provided by spot oil prices—never mind that not that much oil ever moved at the spot price. But Paul could be wrong. I could be wrong:

Paul KrugmanStagflation Revisited : In the 1970s… the economy never seemed to run hot enough to explain such a big rise in inflation…. So what happened? The natural explanation would emphasize supply shocks—oil and other commodity prices—amplified by the widespread existence of cost-of-living adjustments in wage contracts. Maybe these supply shocks led to a rise in headline inflation which caused expectations to become untethered. We don’t know… more work… is appropriate. But suppose something like this is true. In that case, the narrative that saw stagflation both as the cost of excessively ambitious macroeconomic policy and as a vindication of conservative economic ideas was mostly wrong. And that matters not just for history but for policy right now, which is still to some extent constrained by the fear of a 70s repeat…


In an age of neofascist threat and viral dysfunctional political debate, central banks appear to be one of the few still fully-functional far-sighted institutions still around. Hence the demand that they take on more missions. I share Barry’s belief that this demand should be accommodated": those who can do, should do:

Barry EichengreenNew-Model Central Bank: ‘Monetary authorities are increasingly expected to address issues such as climate change and inequality, over the objections of those who insist that central banks’ narrow mandate is what sustains their operational independence. But ignoring these issues, or saying they’re someone else’s problem, is no longer an option…. The US Federal Reserve’s Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility, under which the Fed provides liquidity to lenders who extend loans to small businesses in pandemic-related distress. This, clearly, is not your mother’s central bank. Now we hear calls to broaden this ambit still further…. Such calls horrify central-banking purists…. Central bankers cannot snooze quietly in their bunks in the face of an all-hands-on-deck emergency. Calls for central banks to address climate change and inequality reflect an awareness that these problems have risen to the level of existential crises. If central bankers ignored them, or said, “These urgent problems are best addressed by someone else,” their response would be seen as a haughty and perilous display of indifference. At that point, their independence would truly be at risk…


Oooh! This will be fun to watch:

William JanewayVenture Capital in the 21st Century: ‘In this eight-part lecture series, Bill Janeway investigates the relationship between venture capital and technological innovation, and the interdependent roles of entrepreneurial firms, the mission-driven State and financial speculation in the overall innovation system…


And for a preview of what Bill will be talking about at INET:

Nicolas ColinThe Digital Economy w/ Bill Janeway. Reinvention. Bezos. Musk. Communications: ‘a conversation with Bill Janeway, an economist, faculty member at Cambridge University, and author of the landmark book Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy. It’s a book that really has had a profound influence on me—basically containing everything you need to know about how venture capital came to be and why it’s so relevant today in the context of the transition to the digital economy. Bill’s long career in venture capital, primarily with Warburg Pincus, and his academic work let him comment on today’s economy from both a business and an institutional perspective….

I consider myself, and the world at large, really, to be quite lucky that he is also such an affable person and generous with his time and thinking. Our conversation spanned how he’s experienced the very strange year that was 2020, his thesis regarding the retreat from hyperglobalization, the consequences of Joe Biden’s election on America, the world at large, & the tech industry specifically, how he sees Europe’s future, and much more… LINK: 


Damned-Soul Republican Staffers


First, why do people do this?:

What Fresh Hell Do Republican Staffers Live in?:

Tweeting out that the COVID threat has been overhyped by Democrats while your boss lies dying in the hospital from COVID—this is a form of performance art that I never imagined would appear, even in this Fallen Sublunary Sphere. Yet first Republican presidential candidate Herman 9-9-9 Cain, and not Republican House member Ron White:

Patricia Kayden: ’Just before he died, Republican Rep [Ron White] sent out these tweets: "Democrats are choosing teachers unions and special interests over the well-being of our students. The CDC says schools can safely re-open if proper precautions are taken. What are we waiting for?…

Reporter Robinson: ’So this man was on his deathbed in a hospital and his staffers were pushing covid hoax bulls— while hiding his hospital admission. Now he’s dead. From covid. Republicans… LINK: <> 

MistermixHow Can People Be So Heartless?: ‘Rep Ron Wright (R-TX–6), a man who once said that women should be punished for having abortions, since they had committed murder, has died of COVID–19.  Wright was under treatment for lung cancer, apparently for quite a while, so he had an obvious, serious comorbidity…. Our family managed to keep mom from contracting COVID.  It was a hell of a lot of frustrating, difficult work. It involved great sacrifice, and, at every turn, our work was made harder by Republicans, who chose to make COVID a political issue rather than a medical one. There were a number of close calls caused by covidiots, and a huge amount of extra anxiety because of the unwillingness of Fox-addled small-town Republicans to take basic precautions.  Nevertheless, we persisted…. I’m guessing that Wright’s three children and his wife cared about him. And who knows? Maybe he was very careful, and was just unlucky.  But, given the behavior of most of the House Republican sedition caucus, of which he was a member, my guess is that he was careless. Now he’s dead, like ~450,000 other Americans, in part because his party refused to take COVID seriously…


You literally could not make this up. Or, rather, you could only make this up if you were a sick, psychotic creep…

Briefly Noted: for 2021-02-10 We


In which I survey things that whizzed by...

Very Briefly Noted:

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

The intellectual and technological capability of Classical Greek civilization, as shown in the (reconstructed) design of the Antikythera Mechanism:

M. Wright & M. VicentiniVirtual Reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism

Seven Paragraphs:

Erik LoomisThe Bankruptcy of Right Populism: ‘Daniel Luban has a good piece in Dissent about the total bankruptcy of so-called “right populism”…. ’To no great surprise… instead of an infrastructure bill, there was a massive corporate tax cut; instead of a family leave plan, there was a failed attempt to strip healthcare from tens of millions of people…. a familiar cast of industry shills set to work dismantling labor rights and environmental protections. Trump’s most durable accomplishment was the rubber-stamping of scores of Federalist Society judges, each one a devoted steward of the interests of capital… LINK: <>

Dani RodrikPoor Countries’ Technology Dilemma: ‘Africa’s manufacturing renaissance… [but] few good jobs have been created in the more modern, formal, and productive manufacturing branches…. The bulk of the increase in manufacturing employment coming from small, informal enterprises. This experience stands in stark contrast with that of the rapid industrializers of East Asia…. Large firms in the manufacturing sectors of Tanzania and Ethiopia to be significantly more capital-intensive than these countries’ income levels or factor endowments would suggest… as capital-intensive as firms in the Czech Republic…. African economies [are] in a bind. Their manufacturing firms can either become more productive and competitive, or they can generate more jobs. Doing both at the same time seems very difficult, if not impossible…. This is yet another reason for a public debate on the direction of technological change and the tools that governments have to reorient it… LINK: <>

Noah SmithLarry Summers’ Misplaced Stimulus Anxiety: ‘Moderates are worried for instinctive reasons—the debt just sorta seems Really Big…. Cutting Biden’s relief package in half wouldn’t… change that…. Republicans… are “worried” for political reasons… quick enough to support deficits when the President is a Republican. Then, like clockwork, they flip…. Cutting Biden’s relief package in half wouldn’t alter this…. Put lots more investment in the relief bill. There’s no reason we can’t do this—in fact, we already did it in the December COVID bill! Yes, pandemic relief comes first, but we can start scheduling investment projects for a year or two years from now…. It… seems unlikely that we can increase the chances of getting a big investment package passed later by slashing the size of COVID relief today. Instead, this seems like just another example of the kind of self-defeating preemptive concession-making that hobbled Obama’s first term.… LINK:

Patrick WymanMesopotamia and the Dawn of History: ‘Cities, writing, and states… didn’t actually appear in the Fertile Crescent proper, where the cultivated grasses grew under the steady and predictable rainfall and domesticated animals had plenty of forage. Instead, they showed up some way to the south of that pleasant zone… at the edges of the great marshes… the richest spot in the landscape… full of fish, waterfowl, and edible plants… reeds… for boats, houses, and a variety of other purposes…. Eridu… was soon joined by others. Uruk… had tens of thousands of inhabitants, trade routes that stretched as far as the Eurasian steppe, and enormous collections of temples and palaces. That was where writing and maybe the state were born… LINK: <>

Paul KrugmanFighting Covid Is Like Fighting a Wars: ‘The pandemic slump isn’t a conventional recession… more like a natural disaster… the appropriate policy… is… disaster relief…. Winning… means… a huge vaccination program… limiting the economic misery of families whose breadwinners can’t work… avoiding gratuitous cuts in public services…. And that’s what the American Rescue Plan mostly involves…. Medical spending, school aid, aid to the unemployed, and help for state and local governments dominate the plan. And there’s a good case for those checks, too; more about that later….

Emergency spending may not be intended as stimulus, but it nonetheless has a stimulative effect. And wartime surges in spending have often been accompanied by bursts of inflation.… So is that something that might happen this time? Yes, it might. But we don’t know for sure that it will. And to the extent that inflation is a risk, that’s an argument for seeking ways to limit that risk, not for skimping on Covid relief.

How big is the inflation risk?… There are… three reasons not to get too worked up about the package-gap comparison…. Nobody knows how big the output gap really is…. The Biden plan is… less stimulative than the topline number…. The Federal Reserve can tighten monetary policy…. There is a faint but disturbing echo here of the debate over austerity a decade ago, when advocates of fiscal tightening despite high unemployment kept inventing new theories on the fly to justify their position…

LINK: <>

Alvaro Calderon, Vasiliki Fouka, & Marco TabelliniRacial Diversity, Electoral Preferences, & the Supply of Policy: ‘The 1940–1970 Great Migration of African Americans…. How resulting changes in the racial composition of local constituencies affected voters’ preferences and politicians’ behaviour…. Democrats and union members supported blacks’ struggle for racial equality, but that backlash against civil rights erupted among Republicans and among whites who more exposed to racial mixing…. Politicians largely responded to demands of their constituencies…. Under certain conditions, cross-race coalitions…. Changes in the composition of the electorate can polarise both voters and politicians… LINK:

Peloton InfoSec Analyst (Incident Response)’The claim that the president’s words could not be reasonably seen as a call to violence is kind of refuted by the fact that, you know, it was. there was violence. he said the thing, and then they did the thing. It’s literally what happened… LINK: 

Hoisted from the Archives:

We Know Little About the Origins of High Patriarchy and the Extinction of Most Y-Chromosome Lineages ca. 5000 Years Ago, But…: ‘I do not see textiles as the problem. Yes, in the Odyssey Penelope, Kalypso, the 50 maidservants of Alkinous, Kirke, and the nymphs who are called Naiads are all spoken of as at their looms. Yes, the mother of Nausikaa, the 50 maidservants of Alkinous (again), Penelope (again), and the maidservants of Odysseus are all spoken of as at their spindles. Yes, in the Iliad Khryseis, Helen, Andromakhe, “a woman” are all spoken of as at their looms. yes, Andromakhe (again), “the fair spinster”, and Kryseis are all spoken of as at their spindles. Textile work is (or does not have to be) not drudgery—it is (or can be) a very social activity, for to an experienced seamstress or spinner of weaver the cognitive load of the task is not large enough to discourage conversation.

Instead, I blame the Yamnaya: the Aryans, the Indo-Europeans, the Masters of the sword, the wheel, and the bow, who spread fire and sword and the chariot and the steed from Gibraltar and Cape Finisterre to the Deccan and even to the upper reaches of the Yellow River…


SubStack Navel-Gazing


In which I turn my gaze inward...

why the weblogging Renaissance under the guise of SubStacking?:

What Does SubStack Say That Its Mission Is?:

Hamish McKenzieWelcome, Facebook and Twitter. Seriously: [When] we started Substack… we were concerned about… the attention economy…. Our addiction to social media is having negative effects on both individual and collective thought… doomscrolling… rage-monsters… conspiracy theory-addled mob[s]… poisoned information supply…. We have set out to show that platforms that put writers and readers in charge are just better. Substack… a calm space that encourages reflection… free of advertising or any other distraction… no addiction-maximizing feeds, autoplaying videos, or retweetable quote-retweets to suck you into a psychological space you never asked to be in…. Information… put into your brain based on… writers [who] reward your trust, not… a dopamine hit… performative posturing…. Calmness… is the real killer feature…

LINK: <>

SubStack is… classical weblogging—but. What is the “but”? The “but” is:

  1. A very aggressive push of the post to the email inbox of the recipient, rather than waiting for the recipient to come surfing by, with perhaps an rss-flag tickler to remind readers to come by. A subscription email with a website attached, rather than a website with a push RSS feed attached.

  2. A very, very aggressive focus on what used to be called the tip jar, which hath now fed upon that meat upon which Cæsar doth feed and grown great, and morphed into a paywall.

  3. A focus on longer-form—a newsletter rather than a log of readings and reactions. (That, however, may not turn out to be the stable form of whatever medium it turns into: Adrian Hon’s <> used to have three columns—links with a phrase or a sentence, paragraphs, and essays.)

SubStack is—like Medium <> before it—at one level an explicit reaction to the consumption and destruction of what appeared to be a growing weblog-based public sphere by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and company—each of which consumed part of the space, and each of which succeeded in generating superior dopamine-hit random-reinforcement engagement, which turned what I at least regarded as a functional and improving intellectual ecosystem into: the Net of a Million Lies.

I guess the game is to return Facebook to its role of posting updates for family and friends; to turn Twitter into SubStack’s comment section, and to, as Hamish writes up top, provide “a calm space that encourages reflection… free of advertising or any other distraction… no addiction-maximizing feeds, autoplaying videos, or retweetable quote-retweets to suck you into a psychological space you never asked to be in…”

Will it work? Probably not. Can it be worse than Zuckerberg’s or Dorsey’s firehoses of fear-generating misinformation? Almost surely not. Thus it is, I think, worth trying.

As Noah Smith said on the inaugural edition of our Hexapodia podcast <> <>, we have already tried everything else, with less persistent success than Sisyphus.


& more on what we hope to do with our Hexapodia podcast in the future…

SF Masterworks cover of Vernor Vinge: A Fire Upon the Deep <> <>. Boris Vallejo did the first cover—I do not know who did this one.



The Harvard Administration's 35-Year Tolerance & Shielding of Sexual Harasser Jorge Dominguez; & Briefly Noted: 2021-02-08

Why am I always so effing naïve? Plus things that whizzed past. & some others as well...


I confess that I am so effing naïve.

Jorge Dominguez’s harassment of Terry Karl came to light in 1983: he told her "come across or your tenure case is toast.

I assumed that things thereafter would be under control. It was true that the Crimson wrote that “some professors said they were unhappy Rosovsky did not tell the department members what actions he took against Dominguez and complained that the reported punishment was too light. ‘There’s some feeling that the fact that there was supposed to be no publicity and the fact that he is still here are an inadequate deterrent for the future and an inadequate punishment for this case’, one professor said…” Nevertheless, I assumed that Dean Rosovsky or President Bok or both had told Dominguez, over a martini or two, that if any woman ever complained about him again he would be bounced out of Harvard University, and if the Harvard administration had anything to say about it, out of his profession as well.

But no: Thirty-five years. Not a single person in Massachusetts or University Halls or in the Political Science administrative offices… caring to do the overwatch. And Provost Newell’s words here do not fill me with confidence, for she does not say “top administrators intolerant of sexual harassment” but “accelerating progress toward a culture that is intolerant.”

I had thought Harvard had top administrators in 1983—and since—who were as horrified as I was—people who knew that female assistant professors were getting feedback like “your lectures are awful; they would be much better if you lectured naked”, and were working hard to change things.

Silly me:

Harvard Gazette & Deputy Provost Peggy NewellHarvard Issues Report on Sexual Harassment: ‘GAZETTE: What were the main findings of their report? NEWELL:  The committee’s report is incredibly thorough, and I would encourage community members to read it in its entirety. It clearly outlines several cultural and organizational factors that allowed [Political Science Professor Jorge] Domínguez to escape accountability [and for his academic and administrative career to flourish] for so long, and suggests concrete, actionable steps that Harvard can take to create an environment free from harassment and discrimination. These recommendations include: fostering greater “psychological safety” across our Schools and units, better communicating processes for reporting misconduct, achieving greater faculty gender balance, establishing standardized processes for vetting candidates, improving transparency around investigations and sanctions, monitoring employees with past infractions, and accelerating progress toward a culture that is intolerant of sexual and gender-based harassment, broadly. Some of these things we have been working on already. Other recommendations will be the foundation for new initiatives… 


Very Briefly Noted:

  • Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan‘Culture Warlords’ by Talia Lavin: ‘Far-right chatroom… members discussing whether she is too ugly to rape…. misogyny, anti-Semitism and white supremacy… undercover work in extreme-right spaces to draw out the poison…. Efforts to explain the alt-right proliferated throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, Lavin’s work… has a raw and deeply understandable anger. That is not to its detriment. All too often, analyses of white nationalism and the far-right have devolved into anodyne stories of “Nazis buy milk too”, or else created false equivalence with counter-protesters. Culture Warlords is a compelling read… LINK: <>

  • This “divisive”: what is divisive is not convicting Donald Trump. That would be very, very, very divisive indeed: Financial Times Editorial BoardThe US Senate Must Convict Donald Trump: ‘His trial for inciting insurrection is divisive but necessary… LINK: <>

  • Charlie SykesThe Prodigal Republicans: ‘Liz Cheney may not have been Never Trump, but she is clearly Never Again Trump, and that’s a beginning…. What do we do with the late arrivals?… Cheney… a loyal Trump lieutenant…. Sasse… voted with the president on his emergency declaration for the border wall, and against conviction…. But right now, both of them are saying the right things…. Welcome back the prodigals? Even the original parable acknowledges that this is not an easy call… LINK: <>

  • John Burn-Murdoch & Mehul SrivastavaIsrael Provides First Signs of Mass Vaccination Driving Down Virus Cases: ‘Daily case[s]… 60 and above… fallen by 46%… a much smaller decline of 18 per cent among under–60s… LINK: <>

One Video:

Tony Freeth: The Anti-Kythera Device:

Seven Paragraphs:

Francis FukuyamaWhat Trump Showed Us About America: ‘The single most confounding thing about the Trump era is that we still do not really understand why more than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump, and why there remains a smaller core of fanatical supporters who will believe anything he says—most recently, that he won the election but that it is being stolen through voter fraud. Over the past several years, a legion of explanations for the Trump phenomenon have been put forward—that it is a backlash against the inequalities created by globalization, that it represents the fear of white voters fearing a loss of power and prestige, that is has been generated by social media companies, that it reflects a huge social divide between people living in big cities and those in smaller communities, that it is based on level of education, and so on. All of these factors are probably true to some extent, but none of them adequately explains the fear and loathing evident on the right in America today. There is a qualitative change in the nature of partisanship that conventional explanations fail to capture, reflected in poll data showing that a majority of Republican voters believe some version of QAnon theories about Democrats drinking children’s blood. Nor have I seen a good explanation for why so many conservatives can see such an imperfect vessel as Trump as the object of cultlike worship, or fear the Democrats as the embodiment of Satan. At the end of Trump’s term, what I’ve learned is that I really don’t understand America well at all… LINK: <>

Friedrich A. von Hayek (1988): The Fatal Conceit: ‘I certainly reject every anthropomorphic, personal, or animistic interpretation of the term [god].… The conception of a man-like or mind-like acting being appears to me rather the product of an arrogant overestimation of the capacities of a man-like mind…. Perhaps what many people mean in speaking of God is just a personification of that tradition of morals or values that keeps their community alive. The source of order that religion ascribes to a human-like divinity—the map or guide that will show a part successfully how to move within a whole—as we now learn to see to be not outside the physical world but one of its characteristics, one far too complex for any of its parts possibly to form an ‘image’ or ‘picture’ of it…. Perhaps most people can conceive of abstract tradition only as a personal Will. If so, will they not be inclined to find this will in ‘society’ in an age in which more overt supernaturalisms are ruled out as superstitions? On that question may rest the survival of our civilization…

Karl MarxTheories of Surplus-Value, Chapter 17The Childish Babble of a Say: ‘Incidentally, those economists are no better, who (like John Stuart Mill) want to explain the crises by these simple possibilities of crisis contained in the metamorphosis of commodities—such as the separation between purchase and sale.  These factors which explain the possibility of crises, by no means explain their actual occurrence.  They do not explain why the phases of the process come into such conflict that their inner unity can only assert itself through a crisis, through a violent process.  This separation appears in the crisis; it is the elementary form of the crisis.  To explain the crisis on the basis of this, its elementary form, is to explain the existence of the crisis by describing its most abstract form, that is to say, to explain the crisis by the crisis. “Ricardo says: “No man produces, but with a view to consume or sell, and he never sells, but with an intention to purchase some other commodity, which may be immediately useful to him, or which may contribute to future production.  By producing, then, he necessarily becomes either the consumer of his own goods, or the purchaser and consumer of the goods of some person.  It is not to be supposed that be should, for any length of time, be ill-informed of the commodities which he can most advantageously produce, to attain the object which he has in view, namely, the possession of other goods; and, therefore, it is not probable that he will continually produce a commodity for which there is no demand” [l.c., pp. 339–40].” This is the childish babble of a Say, but it is not worthy of Ricardo… LINK: <>

Noah SmithWelcome to Noahpinion: The Substack!: ‘Feels Good to be Blogging Again: ‘I started when I was a graduate student, continued during my years as an assistant professor, and then kept the blog going intermittently after I started writing professionally for Bloomberg Opinion… refine my thoughts… develop a voice… connect with other[s]…. Over the past few years, though, my blogging dwindled, as I shifted more and more of my commentary to Twitter. It’s time to go back. I’m definitely not giving up my awesome job at Bloomberg…. But there’s lots of stuff I want to write that I can’t put in those op-ed columns, and that stuff will all go here…. Twitter has become a dumpster fire of contentiousness, performativity, negativity, stupidity, and misinformation, and one solution is to go back to blogging. Blogs give readers time to digest and think about ideas, without being interrupted by random shouters with little context and lots of agenda. And they allow writers to insert nuance and elaboration… LINK: <>

John GruberThe Rotting of the American Mind: ‘Kevin Dowd revealed himself to be well on his way to Kookville: “The Democrats remain mystified by the loyalty of Trump’s base. It is rock solid because half the country was tired of being patronized and lied to and worse, taken for granted…” Yes, yes, Trump’s base remains united behind him because they’re… tired of being lied to. That’s it. It’s certainly not that they’re tired of being told truths they do not want to hear: “A word of caution to Fox News: Your not-so-subtle shift leftward is a mistake. You are one of a kind. Watching the quick abdication of Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum following the election (joining an already hostile Chris Wallace) was like finding out my wife was cheating.” This treachery that Kevin Dowd equates to his wife cheating on him was acknowledging that Joe Biden soundly beat Donald Trump in the election. That’s not a leftward shift. It’s a statement of fact. A truth, inconvenient or not… LINK: <>

Bertrand Russell (1921): The Practice & Theory of Bolshevism: ‘The method by which Moscow aims at establishing Communism is a pioneer method…. I do not believe that by this method a stable or desirable form of Communism can be established…. I think these elements of failure are less attributable to faults of detail than to an impatient philosophy, which aims at creating a new world without sufficient preparation in the opinions and feelings of ordinary men and women…. A fundamental economic reconstruction, bringing with it very far-reaching changes in ways of thinking and feeling, in philosophy and art and private relations, seems absolutely necessary if industrialism is to become the servant of man instead of his master. In all this, I am at one with the Bolsheviks; politically, I criticize them only when their methods seem to involve a departure from their own ideals. There is, however, another aspect of Bolshevism from which I differ more fundamentally. Bolshevism is… a religion, with elaborate dogmas and inspired scriptures. When Lenin wishes to prove some proposition, he does so, if possible, by quoting texts from Marx and Engels. A full-fledged Communist is not merely a man who believes that land and… entertains… elaborate and dogmatic beliefs… militant certainty about objectively doubtful matters…. I believe the scientific outlook to be immeasurably important to the human race. If a more just economic system were only attainable by closing men’s minds against free inquiry, and plunging them back into the intellectual prison of the middle ages, I should consider the price too high… LINK: <>

WheatNOilmRNA Vaccines: ‘The mRNA vaccines… brilliant at a science level…. Scientists looked at the COVID virus and saw a protein on the outside of the virus that looked like a good candidate to launch an immune attack against… the virus… uses that protein to get into your cells… makes the virus… more of an asshole…. So scientists took the blueprint for the asshole protein on COVID and made an mRNA version of it. Literally just the instructions on how to make that protein. These instructions “are” the vaccine…. You can’t get infected with COVID from the vaccine. You just get these instructions. Your cells see these instructions and say “sure, I’ll make this”. So your cells make a bunch of the asshole protein. You immune system sees this new protein you’re producing and immediately says “what… the f—… is this?” And it starts attacking the protein…. Your memory cells ‘remember’ the asshole protein. They remember exactly how to destroy it. By the way, your body breaks down the mRNA instructions that you got with the vaccine pretty quickly too. That’s normal. You don’t need a bunch of instructions hanging around forever. Your body breaks those down and gets rid of them. So you’ve broken down the mRNA instructions. You’ve destroyed asshole proteins. Everything from the vaccine is gone. Except for those memory cells who remember that protein very well. So then, a COVID virus enters your body. Your body has never seen the virus before. BUT it’s seen that protein that’s on the outside of the virus. Your memory cells say “you’ve got to be kidding me, THIS asshole again? Get the f— out of here!” Your body’s own ‘natural immune system’ quickly and efficiently launches an all out war, using the template it has… LINK: <>

DeLongTODAY: Nudging Ourselves Toward Full Employment...

The rough transcript & slides for my latest DeLongTODAY briefing


I am Brad DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley and a sometime Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. This is the weekly DeLongToday briefing. Here I hold forth here on the Leigh Bureau’s vimeo platform on my guesses as to what I think you most need to know about what our economy is doing to us right now.

I promised Wes Neff when he agreed to provide the infrastructure for this that I and my briefings would be: lively, interesting, curious, thoughtful, and relatively brief. 


I promised I would provide briefings on a mix of: forecasting, politics, macroeconomic analysis, history, and political economy.

Today is an economic analysis & policy briefing: is Biden doing the right thing? 

But first…

Wednesday the Republican House of Representatives caucus voted 145-61 to endorse Liz Cheney as one of their leaders, and thus to approve of her for her conscience vote to impeach Donald Trump. On Wednesday half the Republican caucus also gave bigoted conspiracy theorist, Marjorie Taylor Greene—she who has called for the assassination of Democratic House leaders, denied that mass school shootings really happened, and blames Jewish Space lasers for forest fires—a standing ovation. The difference? The Cheney vote was a secret ballot. The Greene applause was public.

I harken back to 1993 and then-Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen from Texas describing to some of his senior staff—and to us junior spear-carriers standing in the back of the room against the wall—what his long-time friend Bob Dole, the Republican senate minority leader, from Kansas had said to him. Dole had said that the Republican senate caucus was going to go all-in against Clinton’s deficit-reducing reconciliation bill. It needed to be done for the country’s sake, Dole said, but we Democrats would do it. And he needed to position the Republicans to pick up seats, and the best way to do that was for none of the Republicans to be onboard voting for any of Clinton’s initiatives so that Democrats could be blamed for whatever went wrong, with no water-muddying possible.

It’s been this way for thirty years. And I am tired of it. I would call the Republicans cowardly quislings, except that a not-inconsiderable portion of them appear to be true fascists rather than just going along with the Trump- and Fox-addled base, and World War II-era Vidkun Quisling stood up and was counted when he decided that enthusiastically backing Hitler was best for his career and the only political strategy that promised some hope for Norway.

So whatever is to be done needs to be done by the 50 Democratic senators and Kamala Harris, by Pelosi’s narrow House majority, and by President Biden.

So what needs to be done to bring about full economic recovery?

First, scotch the virus.

The new-case counts are, as always, hopelessly flawed. We guess that Australia detects pretty much every coronavirus case, that Canada and Germany detect 3/4, that the United States detects about half of cases now and a much smaller fraction last spring and summer and even into the fall, that that the United Kingdom—well, a case count per 100,000 roughly equal to the United States since mid-December, but 50% more deaths suggests that Boris Johnson’s MBGA government is only detecting a third. An Australian result was not out of reach for the United States, except for Trump. A German or Canadian response and result was definitely something we should have been able to achieve. We didn’t. 1 in every 100,000 Americans is now dying of COVID-19 every day. That means that roughly 1 in every 500 Americans is catching COVID every day—that is 700,000 per day, and we are only vaccinating 1,000,000. So far we have vaccinated 10% of the population with at least one dose. American Samoa has vaccinated 20%. Israel has vaccinated 60%.

Until the virus is scotched, opening up the country to restore full employment is a fool’s errand: the government needs to be focused on relief—getting families the incomes they need to live, and avoiding permanent shutdowns of businesses that we will want to have when summer comes around and the virus is scotched. But after relief, when the virus is scotched, it will then be time for recovery.

Recovery is going to start from a bad place: 143 million people at work when we want to have 155 million. This 12 million job gap cannot be filled right now: it consists overwhelmingly of workers who do not want to be at work during the plague either for personal-safety or for caring-for-family reasons plus absent customers who do not want to buy during the plague for personal- and family-safety reasons. But it is not worthwhile trying to rejigger the economy to find those 12 million people other jobs in other sectors, because we are highly likely to want them back in their old sectors by late summer at the latest. So right now we stand pat. And as we approach herd immunity we reopen. At the moment we are at, perhaps, 85 million with at least temporary immunity from past infection, 35 million with at least temporary immunity from one-dose vaccination, with that today total of 120 million growing at 2 million per day. That would mean May 1 for being close enough to herd immunity.

Will the economy then pick up its mat and walk? Will people then return to the businesses that they worked for in February 2020, and will those businesses reopen? The experience of 2008 to 2010 strongly suggests that they will not. Back then there was not a biological plague, but there was a psychological and financial plague: a collapse of finance and credit that caused the absence of financing for business and of customers for products that produced an employment gap of about our current magnitude. This financial and credit plague however, was over by the start of 2010. Interest rate risk premium had normalized. And financial institutions were recapitalized.

There was by 2010 no reason why the businesses that were in operation in December 2007 and profitable could not have resumed operation. You may object: but we needed to move workers out of construction, for, as Chicago economist now hiding out at the Hoover institution John Cochrane claimed in late 2008, "workers pounding nails in Nevada need to find something else to do”. But Cochrane and company never did their arithmetic. Employment in construction was back below its long run average share of the economy by December 2007. The fundamental sectoral labor adjustment in response to the collapse of the housing boom had already been accomplished, and had been accomplished without mass unemployment.

And yet there was no rapid recovery. There were no green shoots. There was no "recovery summer". People did not return to the jobs in the businesses, or to the types of jobs and businesses, that they had been working in December 2007 overnight, or even in years. People needed to be pulled back into the labor market by stronger aggregate demand. And a Federal Reserve desperate to normalize interest rates and its asset portfolio and fearful of letting inflation even kiss 2% per year, let alone climb above it even for a short period of time did not help. And a Republican Party eager to hamstring Barack Obama by demanding massive deficit reduction immediately without tax increases did not help. And an Obama administration conflicted and divided between those who saw the situation clearly, those who really believed that deficit reduction was Job One, and those who thought they were being clever by pretending to prioritize deficit reduction—they really did not help the situation either.

But might things be different this time? They might. And there is one important way in which the situation is different which might matter.

The way in which things are different is that there are now $3 trillion of extra savings on household balance sheets. There was no analog to this back in 2010. Then the shortfall in spending was tied to a shortfall in income with no massive household asset accumulations. There were no extra piles of savings that raised people’s wealth to income ratios substantially above their previous targets. Now there are. Is this extra $3 trillion burning a hole in people’s pockets right now? If people spend 5% of it in the year after they feel safe from the plague,If people spend 5% of it in the year after they feel safe from the plague, that would boost economic growth over the year from mid-2021 to mid-2022 by 3/4%-point relative to mid-2020 to mid-2021. if they spend 10%, the boost would be 1.5%-points. If they spend 20%, the boost would be 3%-points. "We will", as my colleague Andres Rodriguez-Clare said earlier this week, “learn a lot about savings behavior in the American economy over the next year". I think that we are as likely to see 20% as 5% because I have been persuaded by Chris Carroll's theory that Americans savers are prudent but impatient: those with money are anxious to spend as long as they can convince themselves that they are unlikely to run out and find themselves even temporarily squeezed.

This time may well be different. I would not be surprised to find this time—because of the great savings accumulation, itself for the result of the wise relief and income support policies of 2020—we do get the semi-spontaneous market led recovery without extraordinary government support and action going forward that we did not get after 2010.

So does that mean that we should not enact extraordinary fiscal support for the economy right now? Does that mean that the Biden administration is barking up the wrong tree, as are Pelosi and Schumer, in moving their $1.9 trillion reconciliation relief, support, and stimulus bill right now?

No it does not. I might be very wrong about what the central tendency likely going forward is. And even if I am right, the balance of risks is extraordinarily asymmetric, and that calls for Biden $1.9 trillion reconciliation relief, support, and stimulus bill as insurance against a repeat of the anemic post-2010 recovery.

Louise Sheiner of Hutchins and Wendy Edelberg of Hamilton have just carried out a nice exercise. Let me enlarge it so that you have a chance of seeing it—I have clearly failed at the task of slide construction here. There.

Sheiner and Edelberg’s standard Keynesian counterfactual forecasting exercise is truly useful. It shows us that the Biden $1.9 trillion reconciliation bill is not well targeted as a fiscal stimulus. Indeed, it is not: it is aimed at relief and support, as well as stimulus. Doing it through reconciliation, and doing it in such a way as to hold all 50 Democratic senators in support—those impose considerable constraints on the form that it can take. As optimal policy, it fails. As politics as the art of the possible, it succeeds. And as boosting an economy that may well need boosting, it seems effective. By contrast, the Republican bill is… too small unless you accept CBO’s depressed view of what potential output is, and unless you in addition hold on to the belief that there should be no recoupment of output gaps: that potential output is a ceiling rather than an average that you should aim to fluctuate around.

But it is a mistake to conceptualize the problem of policy design here as one of producing a policy that is forecast, in the central case, either to get back to potential quickly or to overshoot potential and then return in such a way as to balance out the demand-side component of the coronavirus plague’s depression of economic activity below potential.

Instead, optimal policy design at this point in time needs to deal with uncertainties, asymmetry, and option value. It all discussion needs to start from the premise that this is quite likely going to be the only bite at the apple. It might be possible to provide a further substantial fiscal boost to the economy at sometime in the future if it is needed. But it might well not be politically possible. And it would be massively imprudent to plan on and expect that it will be politically possible to do so. 

What that means is that we need to make the chance that we will wish in the future that we had done more today very low.

How about the chance that we will wish in the future that we had done less today? Do not we need to worry about that? We do need to worry about that to the extent that we do not trust the Federal Reserve to take appropriate steps to control inflation should such steps become necessary. Let me postpone the question of whether we trust the Federal Reserve to the next slide.

In order to calculate what we should do in order to have a low probability of wishing in the future that we had done more, we need to push our judgments to the edge of significant probability in three respects:

  1. We need to act as though we are highly optimistic as to the pace of potential output growth: we do not want, after the fact, to look back and say: “gee, we really underestimated potential output growth”. 

  2. We need not to be optimistic about the multiplier in this case. We need to suppose that that portion of the reconciliation bill money that is going to those who normally have a low marginal propensity to consume will not materially boost the pile of savings that are burning a hole through their pockets and that they will spend quickly. It is thus prudent to suppose that only those income boosts that hit the truly liquidity constraint will be spent. And that is significantly less than half of the total spending bill.

    Shouldn't we then take steps to craft the bill more carefully? If we are giving money away to people who are not liquidity constraint for no good macroeconomic purpose, shouldn't be halt those expenditures and so avoid such a great increase in the national debt? If interest rates were positive, the answer to that question would be yes. But since interest rates are not positive and since we want to have this bill having its impact on the economy over the summer, it seems best to postpone issues of debt management and income distribution and so forth into the future, and right now focus on relief, support, and stimulus.

  3. We need to presume that Americans understand that the world is now a riskier place then we thought it was a year and a half ago. Thus we need to presume that increases in wealth to income ratios even among rich households reflect the changing definition of prudence rather than sums that are going to be rapidly spent-down as a result of impatience.

All of these, I think militate strongly in support of the Biden package—as long as we can trust the Federal Reserve to handle problems that emerge if the policy does what it is supposed to do, that is, boosts production and employment up above potential output and beyond full employment in the absence of monetary policy offset.

So can we trust the Federal Reserve? One thing seems certain about Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell: he will not make his "temper tantrum" mistake again. He and his open-market committee will not prematurely withdraw monetary stimulus before he sees the whites of rising inflation's eyes.

Does that mean that he will hesitate to withdraw monetary stimulus and impose monetary austerity if we do reach a situation in which inflation control is rightly the highest priority of the Federal Reserve? Will Jay Powell, if faced with a return of the 1970s, turn into the equivalent of an Arthur Burns or a G. William Miller and, either out of a sense of loyalty to his political patrons, or out of fear of losing the Federal Reserve’s independence through policies Congress judges as excessively austere, or by misjudging the situation?

Never say “never”. 

But the odds of that seem to be extremely low. First, the more we look at how industrial economies behave, the more it looks as though the inertial inflation of the 1970s was a one off produced by a unique confluence of a central bank that did not take its price-stability mission seriously and an economic structure in which major moves in the price of a single crucial commodity—oil—both of very powerful fundamental importance and served as a signal on which market participants could condition their own inflation expectations. No key fundamental role of oil, no conditioning of market expectations of inflation on the oil price, no absence of trust in central banks, then no inflation of the 1970s.

I am highly confident that Jerome Powell will neither make the Greenspan mistake of viewing unregulated bubble finance with benign neglect, the Bernanke mistake of premature normalization come hell or high water, nor the Burns-Miller mistakes. He will make his own mistakes. But we do not know what those will be. And we should not fear him making Burns-Miller mistakes in the future and have that fear lead us into avoiding appropriate fiscal stimulus out of fear of what is in the shadows.

So, yes, I do think that the Biden reconciliation bill for relief, support, stimulus is highly appropriate at this moment and deserves to pass. And I think it will do a lot of good in easing America's recovery. At this point it is traditional to say something about sausage and legislation. But I do not think we really need to say that: this looks to me like as much of a technocratic triumph as one can have in this fallen sublunary sphere, in this sewer of Romulus in which we live and work. 

I am impressed with the policy design and with the marshaling of the political coalition.

That is, I am impressed with the policy design and the marshaling of the political coalition among the Democrats.

I am not so impressed with the Republicans. These do not seem to me to be partisan issues here. I could understand if the right wing of the Republican Party, with its ideological blinders and its deficiencies and its inability to avoid thinking of an optimal policy is very different when a Democrat than when a Republican is president were to show up with a $600 billion proposal. I am rather embarrassed for the moderate, non-fantasy-based wing of the Republican Party when that is what it brings to the pot-luck

I’m Brad DeLong. This is the DeLongTODAY Briefing.

Briefly Noted: 2021-02-05

First, read & think about:

Schuman may well be right. But he also may well be wrong here:

Michael Schuman: The Undoing of China’s Economic Miracle: ‘Regulators squelched… [Jack] Ma’s fintech giant, Ant Group, a mere two days before its November debut on the Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges… widespread concern that Chinese authorities were punishing Ma for criticizing their oversight of the finance industry….  Jerome Cohen… “a new central campaign to curb the political and economic power of major private entrepreneurs who refuse to follow the central Party line in every respect.”… Though Xi has occasionally implemented market reforms… [but] overall… has shown a preference for the very visible hand of the state… financial aid to a wide range of high-tech industries, including microchips and electric cars….“dual circulation”… self-sufficiency…especially [in] microchips and other critical technologies…. Xi is preparing for protracted conflict between the world’s two largest economies by attempting to fireproof China from measures President-elect Joe Biden might use against him… LINK: <>

I see Xi as seeking to protect himself and his régime against three threats:

  1. Pressure applied from “the west” via weaponized interdependence.

  2. Billionaires who become independent political actors as a bourgeoisie.

  3. The complete corruption of the party that would turn it into a parasitic class without a credible societal role—and, eventually, perhaps trigger a revolution.

Remember that Xi, at some level, believes Marxism. He does not believe in rule by the bourgeoisie. He does not believe in rule by—as so often has been the case in China’s history—a parasitic bureaucratic aristocracy. He wants to see China ruled by a Communist Party that carries the banner of utopia, whatever that turns out to be, into the future.

And he wants to be the boss. And once he is the boss, it is very hard to step down: emperors tend to turn into emperors for life, and—this will be China’s problem of Xi succeeds in his entrenchment—humans have little experience with the problems of imperials succession in an age of modern medicine extending life expectancy well past the age major cognitive decline begins.

And now:

Very Briefly Noted:


Seven Paragraphs:

Dan FroomkinWhat the next generation of editors need to tell their political reporters: ‘I’ve written a speech for the next boss to give to their political staffs. It goes like this…. Hi! It’s so nice to be here…. It’s impossible to look out on the current state of political discourse in this country and think that we are succeeding in our core mission of creating an informed electorate. It’s impossible to look out at the looming and in some cases existential challenges… and think that it’s OK for us to just keep doing what we’ve been doing. So let me tell you a bit about what we need to do differently… LINK:

Kiona SmithThis Is How Hominins Adapted to a Changing World 2 Million Years Ago ‘Jacks of all trades: And even if the earliest hunters and gatherers at Ewass Oldupa would have found later versions of the place totally alien, they would still have recognized the tools people used to survive it. For roughly 200,000 years, hominins relied on the same basic tools to tackle the bracken meadows beside the river, the patchwork of woods and grassland, the lush lakeshore, and the dry steppe. The chopping, scraping, and pounding tools of the Olduwan were relatively simple, but they were also incredibly versatile. According to Petraglia and his colleagues, Olduwan technology offered a basic, general toolkit that worked as well in a lakeside palm grove as it did on a dry steppe. Humans took over the world because we’re generalists, and generalists can adapt to nearly anything. Our early relatives clearly had the same advantage…

Jamie PowellThe EV Bubble Spreadsheet: Update Dos: ‘Just gawp at the aggregate figures in FT Alphaville’s proprietary EV bubble Google Sheet, which we launched a fortnight or so ago. Our favourite ridiculous metric at the moment? BMW’s research and development spend in 2019 is almost double what every electric vehicle stock is expected to spend in 2020. Which somewhat dampens the idea that this particular market bubble will have positive spillover effects in the real economy. So what’s new in the sheet this week? Well, in terms of stocks, we’ve added much hyped electric vehicle maker Faraday Future… LINK:

Steve M.How Republicans Think & How Democrats Think: ‘Democrats have learned… that it’s dangerous to let a crazy, angry extremist become the face of the GOP because there’s no reason to believe that the Republican electorate… will reject crazy, angry extremism. It’s just the opposite, in fact—Republicans love Trump and Greene, and while Trump-like figures might never win majority support nationwide, Republicans don’t need majorities to seize control. During the Obama years, Republicans accused the president and members of his administration (Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice) of malfeasance, but they never seriously tried to punish them. Democrats, by contrast, have (futilely) impeached Donald Trump twice. Democrats aren’t faking outrage, the way Republicans have against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden. Democrats genuinely believe that people like Trump and Greene are dangerous. Given the choice of making them examples or ridding the country of the threat they pose, Democrats will choose the latter… LINK:

Sam ArbesmanReinventing Book Publishing in the Tech World ‘attempts to constantly reexamine and reinvent the democratization, distribution, and furthering of knowledge should be watched closely (and please let me know of other examples you are aware of!). For ultimately, publishers are catalysts of world-changing ideas…

Gerard Baker (2020–11–16): Four Seasons Total Landscaping Isn’t Exactly the Reichstag ‘Trump’s shambolic vote challenges provoke cries of “coup” and the usual comparisons to Hitler…

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong


The Context of John Stuart Mill’s: “Hitherto It Is Questionable If All the Mechanical Inventions Yet Made Have Lightened the Day’s Toil of Any Human Being”

In the Ashley edition that has been standard since… 1909, I believe, the end of Book IV, Chapter 6, “Of the Stationary State” of John Stuart Mill’s Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy reads:

Of the Stationary State: Hitherto [1848] it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of manufacturers and others to make fortunes. They have increased the comforts of the middle classes. But they have not yet begun to effect those great changes in human destiny, which it is in their nature and in their futurity to accomplish. Only when, in addition to just institutions, the increase of mankind shall be under the deliberate guidance of judicious foresight, can the conquests made from the powers of nature by the intellect and energy of scientific discoverers, become the common property of the species, and the means of improving and elevating the universal lot.

The “[1848]” in square brackets was added by W.J. Ashley in 1909 to indicate that that that first sentence, with its “Hitherto,” had been in the book since its first 1848 edition. Mill’s time references, Ashley explained, were:

occasionally a little bewildering: a “now” in his text may mean any time between 1848 and 1871. In every case where it seemed necessary to ascertain and to remind the reader of the time when a particular sentence was written, I have inserted the date in the text in square brackets…

Political Economy came out in seven editions: 1848, 1849, 1852, 1857, 1862, 1865, and 1871. In none of them did Mill himself think that it was worth changing “hitherto” to “formerly.”


Briefly Noted: 2021-02-01 Mo


What I have been reading that has arrested me, and made me think. This may be one use I make of my substack as I try to figure out what this platform is useful for. Let me start with things thatwhizzed by, and follow with some long-paragraph chunks that I think are very worth reading,


But first:

Subscribe now



One Video That Is Very Much Worth Watching:

40 minutes: JaydenXShooting and Storming Of The US Capitol In Washington DC

Very Briefly Noted:

Seven Paragraphs-Plus for Dinnertime:

Matt YglesiasVaccines Are Better than You Think: ‘None of the people in the Pfizer/Moderna treatment groups died or even fell seriously ill and had to be hospitalized…. These days they vaccinate kids against chickenpox, so kids mostly don’t get chicken pox. But even more remarkable, when they do get chickenpox these days it’s a “sick for a few days” kind of thing not “miss weeks of school while suffering in agony.” This is a really big deal with regard to the lower efficacy we are expecting from the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. A vaccine that’s only 70 percent effective at blocking infection would be expected to generate a larger than that reduction in hospitalizations and an even larger reduction in deaths… LINK: <>

Kyle OrlandRobinhood’s plan to “democratize finance” hit a GameStop-shaped speed bump [Updated] | Ars Technica: ‘Tenev said point blank that “there was no liquidity problem” and that Robinhood’s move was made “pre-emptively and proactively” to “protect the firm and protect customers.” But in the same interview, he said he “know[s] how Clorox and Lysol felt in the pandemic when they were running out of hand sanitizer and supplies,” which suggests that the company didn’t have enough of something (e.g. money) on hand to handle the SEC requirements for the trading influx… LINK: <>

James H. Williams & al.Carbon‐Neutral Pathways for the United States: ‘Modeling the entire U.S. energy and industrial system… we created multiple pathways to net zero and net negative CO2 emissions by 2050. They met all forecast U.S. energy needs at a net cost of 0.2–1.2% of GDP in 2050, using only commercial or near‐commercial technologies, and requiring no early retirement of existing infrastructure. Pathways with constraints on consumer behavior, land use, biomass use, and technology choices (e.g., no nuclear) met the target but at higher cost. All pathways employed four basic strategies: energy efficiency, decarbonized electricity, electrification, and carbon capture. Least‐cost pathways were based on >80% wind and solar electricity plus thermal generation for reliability….

In the next decade, the actions required in all pathways were similar: expand renewable capacity 3.5 fold, retire coal, maintain existing gas generating capacity, and increase electric vehicle and heat pump sales to >50% of market share. This study provides a playbook for carbon neutrality policy with concrete near‐term priorities… LINK: <>

Timothy B. LeeNo, WallStreetBets isn’t robbing Wall Street to help the little guy | Ars Technica: ‘The effort has been so effective in part because its architects have convinced people that it’s not just a pump and dump scheme… a seductive story in which retail investors found a loophole that allows them to make money at the expense of hedge funds…. In reality, most of the gains captured by early GameStop investors will come at the expense of later investors who will be left holding the bag when the stock falls… LINK: <>

Noah SmithAbout that TFP stagnation…: ‘Wow! If you look only at the durables sector, there was no Great Stagnation at all…. Durables TFP has been growing more strongly post–1993 than it ever did in the post-WW2 boom! Consider this: In the 26 years from ’47 to ’73, durables TFP nearly doubled, but in the 15 years from ’94-’09, durables TFP more than doubled…. Something big did happen to technological progress… not in 1973… but a decade earlier. In the 15 years to 1963, the two sectors progressed pretty much in tandem. But sometime in the early- to mid–60s, they diverged wildly, with nondurables [and services] TFP rising anemically through the late 70s and then basically flatlining until now….

I think we should look at the “Great Stagnation” as a more subtle phenomenon than simply the exhaustion of the “low-hanging fruit” of nature. Our technologies for producing durable goods are improving faster than ever… LINK: <>

Matt ClancyMaybe There is No Technological Slowdown: ‘Vollrath’s preferred decomposition of the causes of the 1.25% annual slowdown in real GDP per capita growth is: 0.80pp - Declining growth in human capital; 0.20pp - The shift of spending from goods to services; 0.15pp - Declining reallocation of workers and firms; 0.10pp - Declining geographic mobility…. Human capital alone accounts for two-thirds of the slowdown….

This leaves about 0.45pp left over for explanations related to the capital stock and TFP. Indeed, you can see in the graph above that GDP per capita growth drops noticeably in 2007, but TFP growth only drops a bit. Thus, right off the bat, Vollrath argues a slowdown in technological progress explains at most part of one-third of the growth slowdown….

Services involve the purchase of attention from someone: childcare workers, doctors, restaurant servers, and so on. To the extent you are paying for attention from someone, it’s very hard to improve TFP. For these kind of services, TFP growth would entail finding a way to get more minutes of attention out of the same number of workers…. It’s not clear where the extra attention can come from… LINK: <>

Nino Scalia says: The poor should die in the street: Supreme Court (2012–03–27): The Health Care Law & The Individual Mandate: ‘In the health care market, you’re going into the market without the ability to pay for what you get, getting the health care service anyway as a result of the social norms that allow—that—to which we’ve obligated ourselves so that people get health care.’ JUSTICE SCALIA: ’Well, don’t obligate yourself to that. Why—you know?… LINK: