Briefly Noted: 2021-02-01 Mo
DeLongTODAY: Nudging Ourselves Toward Full Employment...

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.”