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March 2021

BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-03-24 We

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


Very Briefly Noted:


Five Paragraphs:

1) Cutting yourself loose from your relationship with your largest trading partner is not usually a source of strength or freedom. And with an “evasive” fabulist like Boris Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson in charge of setting the course, Britain’s future looks like one of near-stagnation. Think of what has happened in the past fifteen years to Italy, but with much worse weather:

Chris Patten: The UK’s Hard Brexit Choices Have Arrived: ‘Almost all serious economists and business leaders expect… slower economic growth for the foreseeable future (as a result of Britain having left its main export market)…. The government has not released an official projection of Brexit’s economic impact; if the figures were good, they would be published in bold…. While ministers hunt for excuses, businesses face higher costs, more red tape, and delayed supplies. “Global Britain” will apparently get around such problems by finding new markets in Asia…. [But] there is no tunnel between Folkestone and New Delhi, and there are not 10,000 goods trucks a day shuttling between Dover and Shanghai…. Stronger UK-China trade ties would present Johnson with another hard choice. Will Britain continue to stand with other liberal democracies like the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan in trying to contain the threat that China poses to its region and the international rule of law? Or will it kowtow whenever President Xi Jinping’s regime stamps its feet?… The UK’s tough choices accumulate…. The problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge… 

LINK: <>

2) The bullshit flows fast, thick, and plentifully from Facebook these days:

Alyse Stanley: Zuck Slowly Shrinks & Transforms Into a Corncob Ahead of Apple’s Looming Privacy Updates: ‘Facebook has pushed back against Apple’s planned rollout of anti-tracking tools at every possible opportunity, but now the social media giant seems to be changing its tune in a last-ditch effort to save face…. Zuckerberg said Facebook may actually be in a “stronger position” after the privacy updates…. (As you might already suspect, Facebook’s claims have been found to be misleading at best, and self-serving propaganda at the worst)… 

LINK: <>

3) I do not know whether Teslas this-is-definitely-not-an-autopilot here is simply being in human, or is also very badly programmed. But since it is going to deal with humans, acting in a way that communicates verbally and nonverbally with humans in a way that reassures and informs them is a vital importance. And that seems to have been badly neglected here:

Elizabeth Blackstock: Terrifying Drone Footage Of Tesla Making Unprotected Left Turn: ‘Full video on Chuck Cook’s YouTube channel…. His car waits and waits for an opportunity to turn left between bursts of traffic. The left turn isn’t a difficult one for most drivers…. The car just kind of waits in limbo until it deems the moment is right, which it will only do if it decides crossing is safe. So that means it just kind of… takes off. It doesn’t give Cook a warning. It just goes. And as you can see in the clip above, Cook doesn’t always deem it safe to do so, which means he needs to be on high alert to grab the wheel or hit the brakes. It kind of negates the whole purpose of it being a driver assistance program when the driver has to be more alert than normal. This comes just after last week’s video showing the absolute chaos that’s going on with Tesla’s Full Self Driving Beta program… 

LINK: <>

4) I confess that I do not know how to figure out whether or not the decline of the open web and the rise of the wannabe walled gardens—wannabe gardens like Facebook and Twitter and, yes, you too Google that treat their users like cattle to be tripped, drifted, misinformed, and scared out of their wits—was a mirror on the thing or not. Would it have survived had Google not decided that RSS feeds were its enemy as a mode of disintermediation? But it is easy to insert ads in the RSS feeds! Whatever. Google killed its Google RSS Reader, and so here we are. I would really like to know why, and how to make it better:

Kevin Drum: Why Have Blog Audiences Declined Over the Past Decade?: ‘RSS was a threat to practically every platform that aggregates news since it allowed users to decide for themselves what news they wanted to see—and to see it without passing through a gatekeeper. The best way to eliminate this threat was to eliminate or reduce support for RSS, as Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all done. Blogs were just collateral damage here. An RSS reader is the only decent way to read a collection of blogs, and with the demise of RSS and Google Reader it became more difficult to follow blogs. Sure, lots of people switched to a different reader, but lots more didn’t know how or just never got around to it. And with that, the decline in blog readership accelerated. This was the start of a vicious cycle that opened up opportunities for Twitter, Medium, YouTube, podcasts, Substack, and other platforms that increasingly replaced blogs as the place for web-centric conversation…

LINK: <>


5) This strikes me as very, very good news indeed. Now all we have to do is teach people how to do this, and also construct truth sandwiches:

Anna Funk: Scientists Can Implant False Memories—& Reverse Them: ‘Two key methods [that] helped participants differentiate their own real recollections from the false ones: Asking them to recall the source of the memory. Explaining to them that being pressured to recall something multiple times can induce false memories. WHY THIS MATTERS—Ultimately, the team found rich, false memories can mostly be undone. And they can be undone relatively easily. “If you can bring people to this point where they are aware of that, you can empower them to stay closer to their own memories and recollections, and rule out the suggestion from other sources,” Oeberst says. “You don’t need to know what the truth of the matter is, which is why they’re nice strategies,” false memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, who was not involved in the study, tells Inverse…

LINK: <>

PODCAST: Hexapodia VII: Forecasting þe Economy, Now Þt Biden-Rescue Has Been Enacted

with Claudia Sahm, Noah Smith, & Brad DeLong

Listen in podcast app



In the last resort, the the way the government budget constraint balances itself is through the fiscal theory of the price level: levying this inflation tax on holders of money balances, redistributing wealth away from those who have nominal assets to nominal debts, and imposing a large cognitive-load tax on doing your economic calculation arithmetic. That makes this a lousy tax to impose. Larry and Olivier think we are heading down the road toward a world in which, because Republicans will not allow taxes to be raised, this lousy inflation tax will be levied unless Democrats gird their loins and prepare for an eventuality in which they sober-eyed recognize the costs to real people of letting the government budget constraint balance itself via the inflation tax…




with the erudite, witty, & highly influential Claudia Sahm





Olivier Blanchard: In Defense of Concerns Over the $1.9 Trillion Relief Plan <>

Wendy Edelberg & Louise Sheiner: The Macroeconomic Implications of Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Fiscal Package <>

Neil Irwin: Move Over, Nerds. It’s the Politicians’ Economy Now<>

Lawrence H. Summers & Paul Krugman: A Conversation with Lawrence H. Summers & Paul Krugman <>

Claudia Sahm: A Big Fiscal Push Is Urgent, The Risk of Overheating Is Small<>

Larry Summers: The Biden Stimulus Is Admirably Ambitious. But It Brings Some Big Risks, too <>



Vernor Vinge: A Fire Upon the Deep <>

BRIEFLY NOTED: 2021-03-22 Mo

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


Very Briefly Noted:


1) Ben Thompsen's idea that writers have "value" seems to me to be simply wrong. What has value is "easiest way to tap into this element of the zeitgeist". That usually gets attached to a single writer because we are social network animals hotel and listen to stories. But that is a matter of time, chance, opportunity, and market structure—as well as insight, fluency with prose, and ability to produce regularly and to meet deadlines. Ben Thompsen has the last four and happened to hit the sweet spot with respect to the first floor, plus adding a lot of sweat equity and taking a big gamble. More power to him. But he should not think that he has unique or large “value”. To see the business of the sovereign writer as being to sift gold nuggets out of the sand fundamentally mistakes what is going on:

Ben ThompsonSovereign Writers & Substack: ‘Media has reason to fear Substack… not that Substack will compete with existing publications for their best writers, but rather that Substack makes it easy for the best writers to discover their actual market value…. The media’s revenue problems are a function of the Internet unbundling editorial and advertising…. Media’s impending cost problem—as in they will no longer be able to afford writers that can command a paying audience—is a function of the Internet making it possible to go direct… Substack is [just] one of many tools competing to make this easier….

This explains three other Substack realities….Substack is going to have a serious problem retaining its most profitable writers unless it substantially reduces its 10%…. Substack is… [not] threatened by Twitter and Facebook…. Social networks… want to own the reader, but the entire point of the sovereign writer is that they own their audience. Substack’s real threat will be lower-priced competitors…. It would be suicidal for Substack to kick any successful writers off of its platform for anything other than gross violations of the law or its terms of service….

Substack Pro is a good idea…. What would be truly valuable is helping the next great writer build a business…. Ideally these writers would be the sort of folks who would have never gotten a shot in traditional media…. I am by no means an impartial observer here; obviously I believe in the viability of the sovereign writer. I would also like to believe that Stratechery is an example of how this model can make for a better world: I went the independent publishing route because I had no other choice (believe me, I tried). At the same time, I suspect we have only begun to appreciate how destructive this new reality will be for many media organizations….

Substack is not in control of this process. The sovereign writer is another product of the Internet, and Substack will succeed to the extent it serves their interests, and be discarded if it does not.

LINK: <>

2) a very large number of journalists who want to know better, and their bosses, very much want Biden to say good things about Trump which are (a) false, (b) ludicrous, and (c) never anything they would ask Trump to do if positions were reversed. I wonder why:

Kate Riga & Josh Kovensky: No, Trump Doesn’t Deserve Credit For Planning Vaccine Distribution: ‘With the COVID–19 vaccines starting to bring the pandemic to an end, former President Trump has stepped in to take credit for the feat. What’s surprising is that he’s been aided in this by the Washington Post and New York Times, both of which have run articles this week arguing that the speed-up in the vaccine rollout under President Biden only builds off of a plan put into place by Trump…. That’s flat wrong…. Trump… lacked a plan for the “last mile” of distribution, leaving that to the states while lobbying Congress not to pass much-needed funding that would spur state and local governments to get the vaccine into arms….

The Trump… plan to distribute the vaccine… [was] “let the states figure it out.”… Trump… left the country with… a partnership with pharmacies to vaccinate nursing homes—the only real footprint of a federal plan to deliver vaccine into people’s arms. And even that foundered…. What’s more is that that one plan only covered the first phase of distribution: nursing home residents and hospital workers, who received inoculations from the medical facilities at which they worked…

LINK: <>

3) For “high quality voters” read “white voters”:

Jonathan Chait: ‘Everybody Shouldn’t Be Voting,’ Republican Blurts Out: ‘Representative John Kavanagh, a Republican legislator who chairs Arizona’s Government and Elections Committee and is shepherding through a bill to make voting more cumbersome and therefore rare, described his party’s motives with blundering candor; “There’s a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans,” he told CNN. “Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn’t be voting … Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues. Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well”…

LINK: <>

4) Those who always thought J.D. Vance was a con artist, come down and collect your chips!:

Steve M.: The Worst Senate Race: ‘J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy… Ohio Senate seat…. Peter Thiel has given $10 million to a Vance super PAC… Newsweek op-ed… “Nno one seems to care that many migrants test positive for COVID every day and will directly compete with our struggling service sector workers…. Why are we promising amnesty… when… vicious transnational drug cartels use that promise to sell desperate people on the promise of crossing the border?… Scott Lemieux writes….

If you’re wondering why J.D. Vance was throwing out some preemptive racisms, well here you go: ‘Josh Mandel, a candidate in the 2022 Republican primary in the U.S. Senate, had a post removed by Twitter on Thursday…

Of the various types of illegals flooding across the border, will more crimes be committed by… Muslim Terrorists or Mexican Gangbangers….

However, there’ll be a third major candidate in the primary… Jane Timken… describes herself as the ”one candidate in this race who was hand-picked by President Trump to run the Ohio Republican Party."… The first words in her first campaign ad are: “President Trump won Ohio twice because he stood up and fought for hard-working Americans. I’m Jane Timken, and I’m running for the U.S. Senate to defend the Trump agenda….”

It’ll be a three-person race… all be trying to out-MAGA, out-meme, and out-xenophobe one another. It wll be a race to the bottom, the worst Senate primary in America…

LINK: <>

5) Scott Lemieux: Rich Lowry upholds National Review’s Longstanding Policy on Voting Rights: ‘Verbatim Rich Lowry: “That many Democrats say that the filibuster should fall for this bill is a symptom of the fevered state of the party, which despite holding or winning every elected branch of the federal government has conjured out of nothing a vast conspiracy to stop people from voting that allegedly justifies one of the most blatant federal power grabs in memory.” Arizona Rep. John Kavanaugh, defending propose Republican vote suppression measures: “There’s a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans…Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn’t be voting”…

LINK: <>

6) John Ganz: Some Thoughts on Free Speech & Cancel Culture: ‘One of the many ironies of the interminable debates over cancel culture and free speech is that cancel culture is not a phenomenon of censorship so much as one of unrestricted free speech. The fear is not that one will be censored, so much as one will be denounced…. Social media allows anybody a platform for accusation and calumny and allows anyone to join with them to form associations. I think most people agree open criticism of others and freedom of association is just part of having a free society. But who, then, decides when criticism is unfair or even calumnious? Or when associations are mobs and seditious conspiracies rather than public-spirited groups?…

We have a long tradition in this country of free, even raucous, criticism and attacks on public figures…. We’ve now seen very ordinary attacks on politicians branded as “cancel culture,” which is an attempt to make alien and new a very old tradition in our democratic society. It’s attempting to “cancel” criticism in advance, if you will…. We have entered a kind of state of universal hypocrisy on these subjects. Everyone is glad to see their enemies skewered: no one really comes to the defense of principle. Or maybe they feel that principle is best defended through a faction, to which allowances must be made for the sake of political expediency…

LINK: <>

7) Charles I. Jones: Time Series Tests of Endogenous Growth Models: ‘According to endogenous growth theory, permanent changes in certain policy variables have permanent effects on the rate of economic growth. Empirically, however, U. S. growth rates exhibit no large persistent changes. Therefore, the determinants of long-run growth highlighted by a specific growth model must similarly exhibit no large persistent changes, or the persistent movement in these variables must be offsetting. Otherwise, the growth model is inconsistent with time series evidence. This paper argues that many AK-style models and R&D-based models of endogenous growth are rejected by this criterion. The rejection of the R&D-based models is particularly strong… LINK: <>


Briefly Noted: 2021-03-21 Su

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


Very Briefly Noted:


Six Paragraphs:

Of all the things I understand least well, it is that we dare not aim to have production hit potential output and thus hit the inflation target because we cannot handle even a small overshoot because… of what, exactly? This kind of thinking perhaps avoids some risk of a bumpy future by creating an eternal very bumpy present:

Benjamin Wallace-WellsLarry Summers Versus the Biden Administration’s Coronavirus-Stimulus Plan: ‘The Biden rescue package will pour out enough sand to fill a hole, and then keep pouring. In Summers’s view, this is economically risky, because it means that the Federal Reserve will probably eventually need to manage inflation, a recipe for a bumpy future. “My reading is that there are roughly zero historical examples where we got inflation to the point where the Fed got nervous and had to tighten and the whole thing happened smoothly,” Summers told me last week. He also sees the stimulus as politically risky, in that there are only so many times the Biden Administration can ask Congress to spend huge amounts of money without raising taxes to offset it, and fewer still if they spend this round inefficiently…

LINK: <>

The Malthusian picture, the 1870-1914 escape, and fears that World War I had permanently deranged the economic growth process in such a way as to raise the specter of the return of the Devil of Malthus:

John Maynard Keynes (1919): The Economic Consequences of the Peace: ‘[Their] view of the world… filled with deep-seated melancholy the founders of our Political Economy. Before the eighteenth century mankind entertained no false hopes. To lay the illusions which grew popular at that age’s latter end, Malthus disclosed a Devil. For half a century all serious economical writings held that Devil in clear prospect. For the next half century he was chained up and out of sight. Now perhaps [with World War I] we have loosed him again…

LINK: <>

Ummm… You target asset bubbles by reducing leverage, not by raising interest rates. I have a bad feeling about this:

Ruchir Sharma: By Targeting House Prices, New Zealand Shows the Way: ‘While consumer prices have been held in check by globalisation and automation, easy money pouring out of central banks has been driving up the price of assets from stocks to bonds and housing…. A global political celebrity, the liberal Ardern was elected on a promise of affordable housing. Fed up, her government has ordered the central bank to add stabilising home prices to its remit, starting March 1. It is novel and healthy for a politician to recognise the unintended consequences of easy money. If this idea catches on, it could lead to greater financial and social stability worldwide…. Ardern’s move may not slow the housing boom soon, because supply-and-demand dynamics are too strong. But ordering the central bank to make housing price stability a higher priority is a start, and could inspire others to rethink the role easy money has played in driving financial instability…

LINK: <>

I confess hope that Facebook dies rapidly. Silicon Valley needs a very obvious and pointed lesson that treating your users like cattle to be exploited and misled leads to your bankruptcy and to your permanent exclusion from all polite society. Feeding your users to the likes of Alex Jones for the Luz & the advertising dollars is despicable.

This applies to you to, Google, for the current state of Youtube:

Justin Bariso: Tim Cook May Have Just Ended Facebook: ‘Cook aptly points out, “advertising existed and thrived for decades” without using data that was collected in less than transparent ways. And as customers are offered more choice when it comes to how apps and websites track their data, experts predict that more and more people will opt out of said tracking. If you’re an advertiser, you’ll need to adapt. Or die.But there’s also a bigger lesson at stake. Now is the time to ask yourself: Which philosophy do I want to pursue? Do I want a business that serves my customers? Or one that takes advantage of customers to serve my business? Because in the end, only one of these philosophies is sustainable for the long-term. The other will lead you to crash and burn. And while the long-term solution may initially prove more challenging, remember: “The path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom”…

LINK: <>

But, Scott, the ARP is not “a bloated, stealth, and wholly partisan vehicle”. If it were, Republicans would be running against it rather than trumpeting its accomplishments and hoping to make voters think they voted for rather than against it, capisce?:

Scott Lincicome: While You Were Seussing: ‘While Republicans fight the culture war on TV, Democrats enact progressive priorities into law…. Republicans are only now scrambling to define the ARP and are left to hope that it doesn’t work, while Democrats are on the attack. A big reason for that is that instead of mounting an effective messaging campaign to highlight these provisions—ones almost entirely unrelated to the pandemic—and others (such as that ridiculous union pension bailout or the $60 billion in tax hikes), and to define the ARP as a bloated, stealth, and wholly partisan vehicle to achieve progressive social change under the cover of Covid, Republicans were on TV yelling about children’s books and cancel culture…

LINK: <>

The huge gap between the performance of the biomedical establishment and the performance of the Trump administration is truly remarkable:

Jason Kottke: How Were the Covid–19 Vaccines Developed So Quickly?: ‘1. The need was urgent…. 2. Funding & focus. Companies and governments threw billions and billions of dollars at this… 3. Availability of volunteers & high incidence of disease…. 4. International & corporate collaboration. Countries and companies shared research, data, and resources…. 5. We knew a lot about coronaviruses from previous work…. 6. Scientific and technological capability…. Humanity’s general scientific and technological abilities have never been stronger or more powerful…. Bloomberg: “Remember also that technology has evolved rapidly—for example, we’re now about able to sequence the genomes of every mutant version of the virus in less than a day. That helps in speeding up vaccine development.” Dr. Mark Toshner sums up the effort: “However we have collectively now shown that with money no object, some clever and highly motivated people, an unlimited pool of altruistic volunteers, and sensible regulators that we can do amazing things”…

LINK: <>

Why is it, anyhow, that a “measurement” is a self-adjoint operator? A measurement is entangling the quantum wave function of the experiment with that of a measuring device that has a macro-visible pointer. What does that have to do with a self-adjoint operator?

Sydney Coleman: Quantum Mechanics in Your Face: ‘The state of a physical system at a fixed time is a vector in Hilbert space… ѱ…. It evolves in time according to the Schrödinger equation i∂ѱ/dt = Hѱ, where the Hamiltonian H is some self-adjoint linear operator…. Some, maybe all, self-adjoint operators are “observables”. If the state is an eigenstate of an observable A, with eigenvalue a, then we say the value of A is a, is certain to be observed to be a.... There’s an implicit promise in here that, when you put the whole theory together and start calculating things, that the words “observes” and “observable” will correspond to entities that act in the same way as those entities do in the language of everyday speech under the circumstances in which the language of everyday speech is applicable. Now to show that is a long story. It’s not something I’m going to focus on here, involving things like the WKB approximation and von Neumann’s analysis of an ideal measuring device8, but I just wanted to point out that that’s there…

LINK: <>

HOISTED FROM ÞE ARCHIVES (2019): "Passing þe Baton": Þe Interview

I would say that Zack has it slightly wrong here. There is not one core reason for passing the baton. There are three reasons: a political reason, a policy-implementation reason, and a we've-learned-about-the-world reason:


Here's Zack Beauchamp: Zack BeauchampA Clinton-era Centrist Democrat Explains Why It’s Time to Give Democratic Socialists a Chance: “The Baton Rightly Passes To Our Colleagues On Our Left”: "DeLong believes that the time of people like him running the Democratic Party has passed.... It’s not often that someone in this policy debate — or, frankly, any policy debate — suggests that their side should lose. So I reached out to DeLong to dig into the reasons for his position: Why does he believe that neoliberals’ time in the sun has come to an end?...

...The core reason, DeLong argues, is political. The policies he supports depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They’re premised on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were.... The result, he argues, is the nature of the Democratic Party needs to shift. Rather than being a center-left coalition dominated by market-friendly ideas designed to attract conservative support, the energy of the coalition should come from the left and its broad, sweeping ideas. Market-friendly neoliberals, rather than pushing their own ideology, should work to improve ideas on the left. This, he believes, is the most effective and sustainable basis for Democratic politics and policy for the foreseeable future....


Here's me: We are still here, but it is not our time to lead.... Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy. And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they f---ing did not.... While I would like to be part of a political coalition in the cat seat, able to call for bids from the left and the right about who wants to be part of the governing coalition to actually get things done, that’s simply not possible...

And: Our current bunch of leftists are wonderful people.... They’re social democrats, they’re very strong believers in democracy. They’re very strong believers in fair distribution of wealth. They could use a little more education about what is likely to work and what is not. But they’re people who we’re very, very lucky to have on our side. That’s especially opposed to the people on the other side, who are very, very strange indeed. You listen to [Never Trump conservatives]... about all the people they had been with in meetings, biting their tongues over the past 25 years, and your reaction can only be, “Why didn’t you run away screaming into the night long ago?”...

And: We learned more about the world. I could be confident in 2005 that [recession] stabilization should be the responsibility of the Federal Reserve. That you look at something like laser-eye surgery or rapid technological progress in hearing aids, you can kind of think that keeping a market in the most innovative parts of health care would be a good thing. So something like an insurance-plus-exchange system would be a good thing to have in America as a whole. It’s much harder to believe in those things now. That’s one part of it. The world appears to be more like what lefties thought it was than what I thought it was for the last 10 or 15 years…

LINK: <>

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

A Clinton-era centrist Democrat explains why it’s time to give democratic socialists a chance

“The baton rightly passes to our colleagues on our left.” By Zack Beauchamp@zackbeauchamp[email protected]  Mar 4, 2019, 8:30am EST

Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

The rise of the Democratic left, personified by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), has raised a serious question: Should Democrats lean away from market-friendly stances and get comfortable with big government again? Should they embrace an ambitious 2020 candidate like Sanders and policies like the Green New Deal, or stick with incrementalists like former Vice President Joe Biden and more market-oriented ideas like Obamacare?

One of the most interesting takes I’ve seen on this debate came from Brad DeLong, an economist at the University of California-Berkeley. DeLong, who served as deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy in the Clinton administration, who is one of the market-friendly, “neoliberal” Democrats who have dominated the party for the last 20 years. The term he uses for himself is “Rubin Democrat” — referring to followers of finance industry-friendly Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.

Yet DeLong believes that the time of people like him running the Democratic Party has passed. “The baton rightly passes to our colleagues on our left,” DeLong wrote. “We are still here, but it is not our time to lead.”

It’s not often that someone in this policy debate — or, frankly, any policy debate — suggests that their side should lose. So I reached out to DeLong to dig into the reasons for his position: Why does he believe that neoliberals’ time in the sun has come to an end?

The core reason, DeLong argues, is political. The policies he supports depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They’re premised on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were. 

“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,” DeLong notes. “And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.”

The result, he argues, is the nature of the Democratic Party needs to shift. Rather than being a center-left coalition dominated by market-friendly ideas designed to attract conservative support, the energy of the coalition should come from the left and its broad, sweeping ideas. Market-friendly neoliberals, rather than pushing their own ideology, should work to improve ideas on the left. This, he believes, is the most effective and sustainable basis for Democratic politics and policy for the foreseeable future.

What follows is a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Zack Beauchamp

I want to start with your notion of “Rubin Democrats.” What does that mean, exactly? What was the movement you identify with?

Brad DeLong

I would say it’s largely neoliberal, market-oriented, and market-regulation and tuning aimed at social democratic ends. It also involves taking a step in the direction of appeasing conservative priorities. The belief is that if you have a broad coalition behind such policy, it will be much more strongly entrenched in America and much better implemented than if it were implemented by a narrow, largely partisan majority. 

And Rubin Democrats believe that you should prioritize economic growth. Once you have economic growth, electorates want to become a lot less Grinch-y and less likely to feel that redistribution to the poor is coming out of its hide, making them positively worse-off. Economic growth first, redistribution and beefing up the safety net second. 

Zack Beauchamp 

What you’re describing is a broad theory of political economy, in which a vision for what economic policies are best is intertwined with a particular view of what makes policies popular and sustainable. You say something about this is wrong — do you think it’s the political part, the economic part, or both?

Brad DeLong

We were certainly wrong, 100 percent, on the politics.

Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy. He’s all these things not because the technocrats in his administration think they’re the best possible policies, but because [White House adviser] David Axelrod and company say they poll well. 

And [Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel and company say we’ve got to build bridges to the Republicans. We’ve got to let Republicans amend cap and trade up the wazoo, we’ve got to let Republicans amend the [Affordable Care Act] up the wazoo before it comes up to a final vote, we’ve got to tread very lightly with finance on Dodd-Frank, we have to do a very premature pivot away from recession recovery to “entitlement reform.”

All of these with the idea that you would then collect a broad political coalition behind what is, indeed, Mitt Romney’s health care policy and John McCain’s climate policy and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy. 

And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? 

No, they f—-ing did not. No allegiance to truth on anything other than the belief that John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell are the leaders of the Republican Party, and since they’ve decided on scorched earth, we’re to back them to the hilt. So the politics were completely wrong, and we saw this starting back in the Clinton administration. 

Today, there’s literally nobody on the right between those frantically accommodating Donald Trump, on the one hand, and us on the other. Except for our brave friends in exile from the Cato Institute now trying to build something in the ruins at the [centrist] Niskanen Center. There’s simply no political place for neoliberals to lead with good policies that make a concession to right-wing concerns. 

Zack Beauchamp

Let’s talk a little bit about the intra-Democratic fight. When you say “pass the baton to the left,” does that mean give up on substantive policies where you — meaning Rubin Democrats — disagree with the left? 

Brad De Long

No. It means argue with them, to the extent that their policies are going to be wrong and destructive, but also accept that there is no political path to a coalition built from the Rubin-center out. Instead, we accommodate ourselves to those on our left. To the extent that they will not respond to our concerns, what they’re proposing is a helluva better than the poke-in-the-eye with a sharp stick. That’s either Trumpist proposals or the current status. 

Zack Beauchamp

So the position is not that neoliberals should abandon their policy beliefs. It’s that you need to reorient your understanding of who your coalition is. 

Brad DeLong

Yes, but that’s also relevant to policy beliefs, right? 

A belief in cap and trade — rather than the carbon tax plus huge, honking public research — was both a belief that the market really ought to rule here, plus a belief that stakeholders who are producing carbon energy can be bought off with cap-and-trade: that the Koch brothers would rather be selling their carbon allowances than having to actually burn coal to produce things. Plus, a belief there were Republicans who would actually think that global warming is a menace, and be willing to argue strenuously within the Republican coalition that something needs to be done about this. 

A bunch of policies that depended on there being a political-economic consensus to support them, as part of a broad agreement about America’s direction, are a lot worse as policies if that political-economic underpinning is not there. There also are a bunch of lessons about how policies that we thought are going to be very effective are rather less effective. 

Zack Beauchamp

The response you hear from conservative and Democratic centrists, those Blue Dogs that remain, is that they are the partners that you need to appease, not the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez left. The Democratic coalition depends on winning in red states. 

Brad DeLong

The first lesson is the Gingrich lesson: If you’re in a swing state, you lose your seat if the president of your party is perceived to be a failure. The highest priority for Blue Dogs in red and purple states — in 1994 and in 2010 — ought to have been making it clear the president of their party was a great success. 

If there is a good state of the world in 2021 — the Lord willing and the creek don’t rise — everyone and all Blue Dogs in office needs to recognize that and act on that. 

That’s the political level and on the policy level. We tried to do health reform the Republicans’ way ,and what’s now clear with a Republican Supreme Court and with a lot of Republican governors, any attempt to do it the Republicans’ way is going to get shredded. We tried to do climate policy the Republicans’ way, and got nowhere.

Until something non-rubble-ish is built in the Republican center, what might be good incremental policies just cannot be successfully implemented in an America as we know it today. We need Medicare-for-all, funded by a carbon tax, with a whole bunch of UBI rebates for the poor and public investment in green technologies. 

That’s the best policy given the political-economic context. If the political-economic context were different — well, I’m fundamentally a neoliberal shill. It is very nice to use market means to social democratic ends when they are more effective, and they often are. 

If you can properly tweak market prices, you then don’t just have one smart guy trying to design a policy that advances an objective — you have 30 million people all over the country, all incentivized to design a policy. That’s a wonderful thing to have. 

Zack Beauchamp

But despite that substantive view, you think that instead of freaking out about the leftists at the gates, it’s smarter to side with them — to treat them as political coalition partners.

Brad De Long

Our current bunch of leftists are wonderful people, as far as leftists in the past are concerned. They’re social democrats, they’re very strong believers in democracy. They’re very strong believers in fair distribution of wealth. They could use a little more education about what is likely to work and what is not. But they’re people who we’re very, very lucky to have on our side. 

That’s especially opposed to the people on the other side, who are very, very strange indeed. You listen to [Never Trump conservatives] like Tom Nichols or Bruce Bartlett or Bill Kristol or David Frum talk about all the people they had been within meetings, biting their tongues over the past 25 years, and your reaction can only be, “Why didn’t you run away screaming into the night long ago?”

Zack Beauchamp

I don’t know if what you’re describing is a long-running reconfiguration of American politics, an emergency alliance with the left to stop an out-of-control right, or both. How would you describe the conditions that have pushed you toward a more-left oriented position than you had before?

Brad DeLong

I’d say we learned more about the world.

I could be confident in 2005 that [recession] stabilization should be the responsibility of the Federal Reserve. That you look at something like laser-eye surgery or rapid technological progress in hearing aids, you can kind of think that keeping a market in the most innovative parts of health care would be a good thing. So something like an insurance-plus-exchange system would be a good thing to have in America as a whole. 

It’s much harder to believe in those things now. That’s one part of it. The world appears to be more like what lefties thought it was than what I thought it was for the last 10 or 15 years. 

The other part is that while I would like to be part of a political coalition in the cat seat, able to call for bids from the left and the right about who wants to be part of the governing coalition to actually get things done, that’s simply not possible as of now. 

We shouldn’t pretend that it is, or that it’s going to be. We need to find ways to improve left-wing initiatives, rather than demand that they start from our basic position and do minor tweaks to make them more acceptable to their underlying position. 

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"It Seems Plausible Þt þe Neoliberal Era Is Over..."

I now wish that I had said "possible" rather than "plausible", but alea iacta est...


Benjamin Wallace-WellsLarry Summers Versus the Biden Administration’s Coronavirus-Stimulus Plan: ‘“It seems plausible,” Brad DeLong, an economic historian at Berkeley and a Clinton Treasury official, said, that “the neoliberal era is over”…. [He] guessed that about half of the leftward turn within this universe [of economists] was… [because] “there is not nearly so much trust in the ability of the market to heal itself”…. The other half, he said, was the part that tended to isolate Summers. DeLong ascribed it to politics, and to the general feeling (“in my view, twenty-seven years too late”) that Republicans would never be willing partners for expansive economic intervention.

There was little disagreement among liberal economists, he emphasized, over how the Biden Administration ought to spend the money in an ideal world: “Most of us would say infrastructure rather than checks—if we had that option. Only Larry believes we have that option.” DeLong’s own view is that if the Biden Administration had pared back the stimulus in the hopes of building a bipartisan consensus for infrastructure, it would find that no such consensus existed. “In the absence of Republican negotiating partners, center-left Democrats have got to look to the left,” DeLong said. “This is an example of that actually happening”… 


LINK: <>

HOISTED FROM ÞE ARCHIVES (2019): Passing þe Baton...

The original twitter rant. (Note that it is, mostly, advice to the (few) honorable among Republicans. "Passing the Baton" is a preliminary aside...


Brad DeLong (2019–02–25): Passing the Baton: David Walsh went to the Niskanen Center conference. He got hives: <>. I think it is fair to say that the already-broken American political public sphere has become significantly more broken since November 8, 2016. On the center and to the left, those like me in what used to proudly call itself the Rubin Wing of the Democratic Party—so-called after former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin, and consisting of those of us hoping to use market means to social democratic ends in bipartisan coalition with Republicans seeking technocratic win-wins—have passed the baton to our left. Over the past 25 years, we failed to attract Republican coalition partners, we failed to energize our own base, and we failed to produce enough large-scale obvious policy wins to cement the center into a durable governing coalition. 

We blame cynical Republican politicians. We blame corrupt and craven media bosses and princelings. We are right to blame them. But shared responsibility is not diminished responsibility: We ourselves cannot escape all blame. And so the baton rightly passes to our colleagues on our left.

We are still here, but it is not our time to lead.


On the right, however, things are much worse. Looking to the right of the Rubin Wing of the Democratic Party, we see rubble. Then we see more rubble. And more rubble. Beyond that, rubble. And then, at the far end of the political spectrum, what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright can only call [the American version of a twenty-first century neo-fascism <>, devoted to entrenching plutocracy and stoking ethnic and religious hatreds, with which a great many people who ought to know better are making accommodation.

Two recent straws in the wind in this space: former Republican CEA Chair Martin Feldstein egging the Trump administration on to an intellectual-property trade war with China <> without even a whisper of acknowledgement that the Trump administration cannot competently conduct this negotiation; former Republican CEA Chair Michael Boskin claiming that Trump is reaching [“for bipartisan compromise on important issues” <>.

Pitching their flags in the rubble and hoping to rebuild—in a stunning triumph of optimism of the will over rational pessimism of the intellect that I cannot view with anything other than awe—are The Bulwark <> and the [Niskanen Center <> (on whose Advisory Board I sit).

What can those of us who sit to the left of the Niskanen Center and who do wish for a healthy public sphere—i.e., those of us who are not interested in concern trolling for the moment, as much fun as concern trolling is—do to be genuinely helpful? 

I could use some help here, people of twitter! 

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I think that the first piece of advice to give is: restrict yourself to #nevertrump. Trumpists are either morons, grifters, or deluded. Those who have made accomodation with neo-fascism to any substantial degree are not people you want around—they will, for one reason or another, stab you in the back the first moment that it seems opportune. Failing to require a #nevertrump litmus test seems wise. Admittedly, it is unlikely to lead to power and Fox News. But it is the right thing to do. And I urge you to Do the Right Thing.

Second, I at least regard your cultural-historical task as being to wean Republicans away from Trumpist neo-fascism as an orienting frame. Trumpist neo-fascism is, I think, a version of Kentucky-style American nationalism. Kentucky-style American nationalism is a species of standard blood-and-soil nationalism. People have moved to Kentucky because they want elbow room and do not like being forced by government and society to conform, and once people are in Kentucky they become the kinds of people who can build a log cabin with their bare hands in 48 hours, and bring down a squirrel for squirrel stew at 300 yards. Thus heredity and environment—blood and soil—produce a special kind of person. And those who come to the U.S. hoping to live in, say, a little Mogadishu or a little Kishinev or a little Cuzco cannot fit.

This blood-and-soil Kentucky neo-fascist Trumpist nationalism is, I believe, highly destructive, pernicious, and positively un-American. It needs to be fought against. In the center and on the left we fight it with the opposed “Massachusetts” picture of American nationalism—a community engaged in an Errand Unto the Wilderness to build a Utopia that will be a City Upon a Hill, and we are all in this together with no special authorities or leaders because of the Priesthood of All Believers. Never mind that John Winthrop would run screaming from us: we are his children. The Massachusetts-style American nationalism of election—that America really consists of those of us who have come here to build a common Utopia—is very powerful, much more correct, sociologically healthy, and something we all can be proud of in a sense that is simply not possible for the Kentucky-style neo-fascist Trumpist blood-and-soil nationalism. 

The question is whether the Niskanen Center and the Bulwark can take this Errand-Unto-the-Wildnerness narrative and make it sing for the center-right in anything like the way it sings for the center-left. So your task is to build up your own version of the Errand-Unto-the-Wilderness narrative of American nationalism. 

Third, the Niskanen Center and The Bulwark need to build up distinctive center-right policy positions on important issues—to stake out positions in the rubble that center-right #nevertrumpers can rally around. I see five issue areas as key. (a) the public sphere. (b) global warming. (c) income and wealth distribution at the top. (d) the social safety net. (e) the economic growth agenda. Far be it from me to say what those should be—I have enough on my plate figuring out what my position on these issue areas should be, let alone what the position of others should be. I will confine myself to saying that simple opposition to whatever actual policies wind up under the umbrella of GND is not sufficient—not if you want me and people like me to think you belong in the public sphere. And no, Elaine Kamarck, “shut up and adapt to global warming” is not sufficient either, and—if that is your position because you are too scared to endorse George Shultz’s carbon-tax-plus-UBI proposal—you should be ashamed of yourself. Go for the crash space program to build a giant sun umbrella and park it at Lagrange Point 1 if you wish. (And eat the costs as reduced insolation devastates agriculture.) At the very least, it will make us a figure of fun to aliens everywhere:

You know the earthlings? They couldn’t get their act together to stop burning coal before it started to cook their planet! So do you know what they did? You won’t believe it! Rather than cheaply transitioning to green energy THEY TRIED TO BUILD A GIANT SUN UMBRELLA AND PARK IT AT L1!! HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!! Spent a fortune!…

But be for something. 

And be brave. I know you find it hard. But you are camped there in the rubble, and if you won’t Do the Right Thing, then you have decided to go and become a Kentucky-nationalist blood-and-soil neo-fascist Trumpist. If you have, then go to your master the Devil, and stop wasting our time. 

LINK: <>


READING: David Abernethy (2000): Þe Dynamics of Global Dominance: European Overseas Empires 1415–1980

The European edge in the Imperial-Commercial Age 1500-1770: Priests, merchants, soldiers, sailors, & shipwrights all working together under a king for gold, glory, & God...


David Abernethy (2000): The Dynamics of Global Dominance: European Overseas Empires 1415–1980: ‘Beijing… was the capital city of a powerful state lacking both an expansionist foreign policy and an expansionist religion. Mecca was the central city of an expansionist religion but not of a state. Lisbon was the capital city of a state with an expansionist foreign policy and a strong commitment to spread an expansionist religion.


As Muslim merchants predicted, the Portuguese launched a triple assault on Malacca. The city was captured in 1511 by an armada of ships carrying fifteen hundred soldiers whose commander, Vicery Afonso d’Albuquerque, saw himself as an extension agent of the Portuguese state. That the invaders intended to assert permanent political control soon became clear. Albuquereue allegedly cried out to his men in the heat of battle that:

We [should] build fortress iin this city… and sustain it, and… this land [should] be brought under the dominion of the Portuguese, and the King D[om] Manuel be styled true king thereof.

Construction of a stone fortress was begun as soon as the battle was won, and it was kept well supplied with soldiers and cannon. The city was a Portuguese possession until the Dutch took it in the seventeenth century. Once secured, Malacca became a vital outpost used to establish other Portuguese enclaves in the Moluccas and on the China coast.

The conquest of Malacca, in turn, was an integral part of a grand scheme to capture gains from Indian Ocean trade. Political control of enclaves throughout the ocean basin was considered a necessary as well as desirable mans to an economic end. Albuquerque appealed to the profit motive as explicitly as one could: “If we take this trade of Malacca out of [the Moors’] hands, Cairo and Mecca are entirely ruined, and to Venice will no spiceries go except that which her merchants go and buy in Portugal.”

Portuguese actions also reveal the religious dimension of their drive for dominance. Albuquerque waited to launch his attack until the day of Saint James, the patron saint of the Iberian crusaders. That the crusading mentality was alive and well can be seen in his reference to “the great service which we shall perform to our Lord in casting the Moors out of the country, and quenching the fire of this sect of Mohamed so that it may never burst out again hereafter.” Non-Muslims were spared following the battle. But “of the Moors, [including] women and children, there died by the sword an infinite number, for no quarter was given to any of them.” A church was constructed, and in 1557 it became the Cathedral of the Bishop of Malacca. Priests working among non-Muslims in the local fishing community made many converts. The famous Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier visited the city in 1545 on his way from India to Japan.

By one estimate between half a million and a million people, from Mozambique to Japan, converted to Roman Catholicism by the end of the sixteenth century. Malacca’s history and its role as missionary way station to other parts of Asia illustrate the strong expansionist impulses of Euro-Christianity.

By examining actions, motivations, and institutions at a critical juncture of world history when representatives of the three leading candidates for global dominance were present at the same place and time, the case study of Malacca in 1511 tests—and supports—the book’s central proposition. The Portuguese were unlike the Chinese and Arabs in the number and variety of sectoral institutions at their dsposal, in the stretch of these institutions far from their home base, and in the way agents of different sectors worked together for mutually beneficial ends. The Malaccan case highlights not only the contrast between Europeans and others who might have formed equivalent empires, but also the empowering effects when cross-sectoral coalitions were assembled….

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The case study also helps answer a secondary question…. why Europeans concentrated phase 1 settlement and conquest activities on the New World…. Portugal’s grand strategy in the Indian Ocean was to capture gains from a lucrative seaborne trade that had functioned for a long time. Malacca was valued as an enclave… profits literally floated past in the form of ships carrying spices, precious stones, textiles, chinaware, carvings, and so on through a narrow strait. There was no economic or strategic reason for Albuquerque to invade the Malayan interior….

In contrast, the Spaniards in the New World encountered no preexisting maritime trade. The wealth they sought would have to be captured at its source, deep in central and south American hinterlands. Vera Cruz… was seen not as an enclave facing the sea but as the staging area for an arduous march inland…. Spain could attain wealth in the New World only by conquering and settling… revolutionize the New World economies…. 

Portugal, having an essentially conservative economic agenda, felt no need to send settlers to Malacca or to set up plantations or prospect for minerals…. Spain, facing both the necessity and the opportunity in the Americas to design radically new patterns of extraction, production, and trade, exported its people… fostered large-scale, labor-intensive agricultural and mining operations…. Portuguese in Malacca… could prosper without altering indigenous political structures in the city’s immediate environs. Not so Cortes… who could not prosper unless state structures run by Europeans were in place to coerce indigenous peoples to labor long and hard for minimal reward…. A minimalist colonial strategy that worked well in phase 1 Malaya was not sufficient for New Spain.

Not until the nineteenth century did Europeans consider the Malayan interior worthy of their attention. Under British direction, exports from rich tin mines were increased and rubber plantations laid out… a plant Europeans had found in the New [World]… a mode of production perfected earlier in the Americas…. Europe’s concentration on transforming the New World in [European imperalism] phase 1 facilitated conquest and transformation of much of the Old World in [European imperalism] phase 3… LINK: <>

DeLongTODAY: How Did þe “Global South” Become so Underdeveloped?



BRIEFLY NOTED: 2021-03-18 Th

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



Figuring out how to do antitrust in the age of the attention economy is really, really hard:

Ben ThompsonThe FTC’s Google Documents, the Staff Memo, the Economists Memo: ‘The fundamental premise of the Politico article, along with much of the antitrust chatter in Washington, misses the point: Google is dominant because consumers like it. That doesn’t mean the company didn’t act anticompetitively, or that we shouldn’t think seriously about acquisitions or contracts or advertising. Such thinking, though, has to start with a certain degree of humility about the fundamentally different nature of the Internet and how it is leading to these Aggregator-type outcomes. It really might be different this time.…

LINK: <>

Very Briefly Noted:

Six Paragraphs:

Martin Sandbu: US Stimulus Package Leaves Europe Standing in the Dust: ‘Europe and the US will loom less large in the global economy as emerging countries outperform their growth. That is inevitable. What we do not know is how fast that US and European dominance will be whittled away…. US president Joe Biden has delayed his country’s relative decline. EU leaders, however, look set to accelerate theirs. Biden’s $1.9tn fiscal stimulus package, passed last week, may not be literally visible from space, but it is certainly of planetary scale. In the OECD’s March update to its forecasts, the organisation estimated that the US stimulus will add one whole percentage point to projected global growth. It more than doubled its 2021 growth forecast for the US itself, from 3.3 to 6.5 per cent. Biden’s own administration foresees US output returning to its potential three to four years faster because of the stimulus…

LINK: <>

Neil IrwinMove Over, Nerds. It’s the Politicians’ Economy Now: ‘“This legislation has everything to do with restoring the confidence of the American people in democracy and in their government, and if we can’t respond to the pain of working families today, we don’t deserve to be here,” said Senator Bernie Sanders of the Biden bill, known as the American Rescue Plan Act. Republicans unanimously opposed the Biden legislation, but it has not been quite the scorched-earth opposition to deficit-widening action seen during the Obama administration…. f the concerns described by Mr. Summers and Mr. Blanchard about the size of the new relief bill materialize, and the result is excessive inflation or some type of crisis, Democrats will pay a price for their actions… 

LINK: <>

Duncan Black: I’m Gonna Tell You How It’s Gonna Be: ‘Yes he’ll fade away: “Ex-president Donald Trump finds himself adrift while in political exile. And Republicans, and even some allies, say he is disorganized, torn between playing the role of antagonist and party leader. ‘There is no apparatus, no structure and part of that is due to a lack of political understanding on Trump’s behalf’, said a person close to the former president, noting that Trump has struggled to learn the ropes of post-presidential politicking.” He’s lazy, stupid, and a micromanager, and at least somewhat radioactive at the moment. Also it isn’t a secret that he stiffs everybody. Not a magnet for the best people… LINK:


John Paul KoningHacksilver: ‘The first coins were invented in Lydia… in the 7th Century B.C.E…. Belief among some archaeologists that a form of proto-coinage had been invented prior to the Lydians and their electrum coins. This proto-coinage came in the form of sealed and regulated bags of hacksilver…. Morris Silver, an economist who researches ancient economies, describes Mesopotamian texts of the middle of the second half of the third millennium that show silver being used by street vendors, to pay rent, purchase dates, oil, barley, animals, slaves, and real estate…. Assyrian economic texts from the 7th C B.C. show that the majority of all types of payments were already being made in silver, including those for tribute, craftsmen obligations, and for conscription and labor commutations…. 6 minas (c. 3 kg) of silver are owed by two men to the merchant Ashur-idi. One third of the loan must be paid by the next harvest and the rest at a later date. If it is not repaid by that time it will accrue interest charged at a monthly rate….

Hacksilver… silver ingots, hacked pieces of ingot, silver scrap, and cut up bits of silver jewellery…. One reason for the hacking or cutting-up of silver may have been to make small change…. Another less obvious reason for hacking… is that it may have been a way for merchants to check for quality…. For over a thousand years, silver circulated as a medium of exchange, in hacked form. The big innovation with coins is the stamp. Because we trust the issuer’s brand, we needn’t weigh out or assay (i.e. smash/hack) silver prior to engaging in trade. So trade was much more fluid…. Proto-coiners… suggest that bagged and sealed hacksilver was already circulating in a way similar to coins. Some authority, perhaps a government administrator or a merchant, pre-weighed a certain amount of good hacksilver, bagged it, and affixed their seal…. If the proto-coiners are right, that… pushes the effective date of coinage technology back by 500 or so years….

One of the key hoards around which the debate revolves is the Tel Dor hoard… north of Haifa… excavated in the 1990s by Ephraim Stern…. The Tel Dor hoard dates to somewhere between 1000 B.C.E and 900 B.C.E. The hoard consists of a jug containing 17 bundles of hacksilver wrapped up by linen cloth (see photo of one of the bundles below)…. The silver weighs 8.5 kilograms… the equivalent of forty-six years of labour…. The bundles were closed with bullae, or clay seals. But these seals do not contain a name, just a pattern…. One of these bundles… registered at 490.5 grams…. The Babylonian shekel… each shekel weighed 8.3g, and 60 shekels was worth 1 mina. Thus a mina would have weighed 500 grams… as if the bundle was a very large denomination mina coin… 

LINK: <>

Michael R. Gordon & Dustin Volz: Russian Disinformation Campaign Aims to Undermine Confidence in Pfizer, Other Covid–19 Vaccines, U.S. Officials Say: ‘Russian intelligence agencies have mounted a campaign to undermine confidence in Pfizer Inc.’s and other Western vaccines, using online publications that in recent months have questioned the vaccines’ development and safety, U.S. officials said…. Websites played up the vaccines’ risk of side effects, questioned their efficacy, and said the U.S. had rushed the Pfizer vaccine through the approval process, among other false or misleading claims…. “We can say these outlets are directly linked to Russian intelligence services,” the Global Engagement Center official said of the sites behind the disinformation campaign. “They’re all foreign-owned, based outside of the United States. They vary a lot in their reach, their tone, their audience, but they’re all part of the Russian propaganda and disinformation ecosystem.” In addition, Russian state media and Russian government Twitter accounts have made overt efforts to raise concerns about the cost and safety of the Pfizer vaccine in what experts outside the U.S. government say is an effort to promote the sale of Russia’s rival Sputnik V vaccine…

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Holman Christian Standard BibleLeviticus 16: ‘The LORD spoke to Moses…. “Aaron will present the bull for his sin offering and make atonement for himself and his household. Next he will take the two goats and place them before the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting. After Aaron casts lotsm for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other for azazel, he is to present the goat chosen by lot for the LORD and sacrifice it as a sin offering.p 10But the goat chosen by lot for azazel is to be presented alive before the LORD to make purification with it by sending it into the wilderness for azazel…. When he has finished purifying the most holy place, the tent of meeting, and the altar, he is to present the live male goat. Aaron will lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the Israelites’ wrongdoings and rebellious acts—all their sins. He is to put them on the goat’s head and send it away into the wildernessa by the man appointed for the task.ah The goat will carry on it all their wrongdoings into a desolate land, and he will release it there…. The man who released the goat for azazel is to wash his clothes and bathe his body with water; afterward he may reenter the camp…

LINK: <>


Sidney Coleman Is My Interpretation-of-Quantum-Mechanics Guru; Plus BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-12-17 We

The talk that made me a many-worlds Everettian; plus things that went whizzing by that I want to remember...



I have long loved Sidney Coleman’s 1994 Quantum Mechanics in Your Facelecture. Now it has been published, for real, with well-drawn versions of the slides:

Sidney ColemanQuantum Mechanics in Your Face: Transcript and slides edited by Martin Greiter: ’This is a write-up of Sidney Coleman’s classic lecture first given as a Dirac Lecture at Cambridge University and later recorded when repeated at the New England sectional meeting of the American Physical Society (April 9, 1994). My sources have been this recording and a copy of the slides Sidney send to me after he gave the lecture as a Physics Colloquium at Stanford University some time between 1995 and 1998. To preserve both the scientific content and most of the charm, I have kept the editing to a minimum, but did add a bibliography containing the references Sidney mentioned.—MG…

LINK: <>

And, of course, there still is the video: Sidney Coleman (1994): Quantum Mechanics in Your Face <>:

Plus there is the essential reading:

You know, i used to think that I would—someday—understand electron spin.

I used to think that I would—someday—understand why Stern-Gerlach magnets arranged along the x-axis would knock an electron that was in the <↑| state in the z-basis into the z-basis <↓| . And I used to think I would—someday—understand why if we rotated the magnets into the y-direction the little square-root-of-minus-one i’s would start appearing in the math…

Now I know that it is hopeless.

And, similarly, it is hopeless to ask why the triple measurement σ(1x)σ(2y)σ(3z) applied to the three electrons 1, 2, and 3 that are in Coleman’s entangled (<↑↑↑| - <↓↓↓|) state always produce the answer +1.

It is the Pauli matrices that are the underlying reality—or, at least, are our only through-a-glass-darkly shadowy and illusory simulacrum of understanding. They are not the things that can be explained in terms of more fundamental principles. They are, rather, our feeble monkey-brain grasp of what the fundamental data are.

All of which is to say that Sydney Coleman’s Quantum Mechanics in Your Facelecture—the title of which, I am told in good authority, is incomprehensible to Britishers, save that they suspect and fear that it is in some way obscene—is the best thing on the interpretation of quantum mechanics I have seen.

And if it does not convince you to be a root-and-branch Everettian many-worlder—well, then I think that, back in The Day, there would have been nothing to convince you to be a non-Ptolemaic Copernican either. The Copernican points would have whizzed by: In the Copernican model there is no unmotivated sharp division between the behavior of the inferior and the superior planets as there is in the Ptolemaic model? You would have shrugged. The peculiar coincidence in the Ptolemaic model that all of the planets have at least one epicycle that is the same as the main cycle of the sun, which lacks an epicycle? You would have stared blank-eyed.

If Coleman doesn’t convince you now. Copernicus would not have convinced you then…

Very Briefly Noted:

Six Paragraphs:

Steve M.We’re Living in a Post-Trump World, & Republicans Are Still Awful: ‘If you’ve been waiting for the moment when Republicans will start acting abashed, or begin examining their own behavior over the past several years, or acknowledge that their critics have a point about… well, anything, you’re going to have a long wait, because that moment will never come. It might come if Democrats beat Republicans mercilessly in several consecutive election cycles—but Democrats trounced Republicans in 2006 and 2008 and the GOP only got worse. Trumpism hasn’t supplanted old-school Republicanism. Trumpism has simply been added to all the other toxic strains of Republicanism. And we’re getting them all again, full strength…

LINK: <>

David Atkins: Could Democrats Finally Be Taking on the Filibuster?: ‘Most crucial at this inflection point in history, the Republican Party has set itself in fierce opposition to democracy itself. All across America, Republicans are pushing state-based legislation that would dramatically suppress voting rights and limit the ability of marginalized communities to have a voice in government. Republicans know they cannot persuade majorities with their current platform, so they plan instead to legally cheat their way into permanent minority power, reinstituting a new era of Jim Crow and apartheid at the ballot box. Given the current hyperconservative composition of the Supreme Court, The only way to stop it is by a federal act of Congress. But Congressional action will not take place as long as the filibuster remains standing in its current form. Everything, then, comes back to the filibuster…. Even Joe Manchin, the most famous holdout in favor of the filibuster in the Senate Democratic caucus, seems open to a talking filibuster reform…. My Washington Monthly colleague Bill Sher has been taking a contrary stand on this, hoping for compromise legislation between reasonable legislators in both parties and a de-escalation of partisan tensions. But it’s deeply unlikely that the authoritarian white supremacist fever on the right will be broken without destroying the possibility of their taking power through minority rule. Mitt Romney is not going to win the battle for the soul of the GOP–at least, not until the GOP is forced to acknowledge that their only path to legitimate power lies in persuading actual majorities of voters…

LINK: <>

David Atkins: How Facebook Is Killing Journalism and Democracy | Washington Monthly: ‘It’s high time the federal government do something about It: At the heart of much of this bedlam are the deliberate actions of social media companies in general, which have broadly destroyed the revenue model for journalism–often through deliberate lies–and created engagement algorithms that incentivize hateful polarization and outright disinformation. And no social media has been more guilty of both than Facebook. Two big stories dropped this week highlighting Facebook’s ongoing role in sabotaging both journalism and democracy in the pursuit of profit. The first is a devastating story by Karen Hao at the MIT Technology Review on how Facebook’s artificial intelligence unit learned how to efficiently drive engagement on the platform by recommending increasingly inciteful and extremist content and groups. Then, when the teams involved in creating this monster began to realize what they had unleashed and took steps to curtail it, the company (largely at the direction of Mark Zuckerberg himself) refused to do anything significant about it–choosing instead to deflect the problem toward issues of bias rather than polarization and disinformation…. Worse, Facebook’s efforts at controlling bias were manipulated by Trump and the conservative media’s endless factory treadmill of self-pitying victimhood into specially privileging the very conservative disinformation that was the biggest offender for asymmetric polarization…. Facebook is not, of course, the only social media organization that has contributed to this. Youtube (now a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet) in particular is famous for leading users down a primrose path to radicalization, guiding the unsuspecting down a pipeline from videos on anything from Star Wars to fitness to economics, straight to Jordan Peterson, Prager University or Ben Shapiro in just minutes. But Facebook’s algorithms have been particularly aggressive, and its consequences especially devastating…. As if that were not bad enough, Facebook has also been responsible for lying to journalists about what would provide more of the paltry revenue they were still allowed to keep. Most striking was the “pivot to video” era, in which Facebook allegedly dramatically overstated the potential for revenue from video content…

LINK: <>

David Atkins: Facebook’s Vaccine Disinformation Study Shows the Problem with Facebook: ‘Facebook can’t do anything about the fact that there are large pockets of angry, low-trust conspiracy theorists online. But Facebook could do something about the fact that those pockets have disproportionate impact on a larger universe, because Facebook tailors its engagement algorithms to promote the most controversial voices. It is no surprise at all that a small number of obnoxious people on Facebook are impacting the opinions of much larger groups on Facebook…

LINK: <>

Financial Times Editorial Board: The Unhappy Consequences of Lula’s Return: ‘Latin America’s most famous politician has made a triumphant return to centre stage after a supreme court judge unexpectedly quashed his convictions for corruption. No matter that the ruling favouring former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was based on a mere technicality; his supporters hailed the decision as a vindication of their long-held belief that Lula was the victim of a politically motivated vendetta. The consequences of the ruling, assuming that it is upheld by the full court, are immense. At a stroke, it redraws the electoral map for next year’s presidential election by allowing Lula to run again. Hard-right President Jair Bolsonaro had been in a strong position to win re-election against a divided opposition; now he is likely to face a strong challenge from the left. Bolsonaro has a woeful record in power, which has included repeatedly praising dictatorship, allowing Amazon deforestation to surge to 12-year highs and dangerously mismanaging the pandemic, while disappointing investor hopes for big economic reforms. That might invite the conclusion that a ruling allowing Lula’s return can only be good for Brazil. Yet the judge’s decision has unhappy consequences. It strikes a heavy blow against the credibility of Latin America’s biggest and most successful corruption investigation. It raises disturbing questions about Brazil’s justice system. And it increases the chances that the country’s notoriously venal politicians can get back to business as usual…. In their zeal to bring the powerful to book, prosecutors made serious mistakes. Leaked messages between a judge trying the cases, Sergio Moro, and prosecutors discussing what evidence to use against Lula suggested corners were being cut to secure convictions. Moro’s subsequent decision to accept a cabinet post in Bolsonaro’s government only fuelled accusations of political bias…. Brazil now faces the ominous prospect of impunity for the corrupt: the “Lava Jato” investigation was quietly wound up last month after seven years. Almost as unappealing is the promise of a polarised election next year between candidates of the hard right and the old-fashioned left… LINK: <>

Noah Smith: Checking in on the Global South: ‘To some, the idea of a Global South means that history is destiny—that the dead hand of colonialism, or the living hand of neocolonialism, is holding down the developing world. To others, it’s an expression of the idea that poor countries just don’t have what it takes to get rich. Either way, it’s a form of implicit defeatism—a belief that historical and/or cultural forces are stronger than economic forces. Southeast Asia hasn’t yet broken these ideas on the wheel of hard data, but it might not take much longer to do so. Bangladesh’s similar performance, meanwhile, suggests that South Asia might not be far behind…

LINK: <>

Kieran HealyAmerica’s Ur-Choropleths: ‘Maps of the U.S. for whatever variable in effect show population density more than anything else…. The other big variable… is Percent Black. Between the two of them, population density and percent black will do a lot to obliterate many a suggestively-patterned map of the United States… LINK: <>


PODCAST: Hexapodia VI: The Global South Begins to Converge to the Global North!; Wiþ Noah Smith & Brad DeLong

For 200 years—from 1800 to 2000—first the Industrial Revolution Age and next the Modern Economic Growth Age rolled forward, bringing previously unimaginable wealth to the global north. And the global south fell further and further behind. Don’t get us wrong—life expectancy, nutrition standards, and material well-being in 2000 were all much higher in the global south in 2000 than in 1800. But the proportional gap vis-a-vis the global north had grown to staggering and awful proportions that were a scandal, a disgrace, and a crime. But since 2000 the worm may have turned: now it looks as though the global south—virtually the entire global south—is now “converging” and catching up to the global north.


William Baumol (1986): Productivity, Convergence, & Welfare: What the Long-Run Data Show <>

J. Bradford DeLong (1988): Productivity, Convergence, & Welfare: Comment <>

Paul Krugman (1991): _ Increasing Returns and Economic Geography_ <>

Lant Pritchett (1997): Divergence, Big Time <>

Masahisa Fujita, Paul Krugman, & Anthony J. Venables (1999): The Spatial Economy: Cities, Regions, & International Trade<>

Alberto Alesina, William Easterly, & Janina Matuszeski (2009): Artificial States <>

Joe Studwell (2013): How Asia Works: Success and Failure In the World's Most Dynamic Region <>

Noah Smith (2021): _All Futurism is Afrofuturism <>

Dev Patel, Justin Sandefur, & Arvind Subramanian (2021): The New Era of Unconditional Convergence <>

Michael Kremer, Jack Willis, & Yang You (2021): Converging to Convergence <>

Noah SmithChecking in on the Global South: ‘Developing countries are catching up, but not evenly… LINK: <>

BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-16 Tu

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


I have a difficult time figuring out what to do with the NeverTrumpers. They are, most of the time, talking sense—now. But they were all enthusiastic boosters of all of the Littler Trumps who led up to this moment, from Sarah Palin to George W. Bush in a flightsuit proclaiming “Mission Accomplished” to the “why doesn’t anybody ever talk about Black-on-Black crime?”.

If one is going to have a conversion on the road to Damascus and then have the, as it were, scales fall from your eyes on the street called “Straight”, you kinda have an obligation to Testify to that Damascus Moment, don’t you?

Thus the problem is that for “where people are” read “where David French and all of his friends have led them": Donald Trump, after all, is not that different from Newt Gingrich in their common platform that the purpose of politics and governance is simply to own the liberals by every means possible:

David FrenchThe Spiritual Problem at the Heart of Christian Vaccine Refusal: ‘In conversations about the vaccine, I’ve heard a number of people declare, “I’m just less trusting than you.” In reality, these people still trust… a favorite internet voice, a local pastor, or a Bible study full of close friends who have shared counter-cultural health tips and advice for years. There’s a hostile and condescending way of approaching the different ways we trust. Yes, you can caricature objections and claim that Christians “believe the latest hoax video on more than the Centers for Disease Control.” But we must instead meet people where they are…. Just as you don’t mock someone out of fundamentalism or sneer them out of conspiracies, you can’t berate them into trusting institutions they may perceive to be distant, elitist, and hostile…. [It] requires us to listen, to hear exactly why someone is concerned and to respond—again, without condescension—to their fears. In that atmosphere of trust and respect, you’ll often find that you can easily allay their concerns… 

LINK: <>

Very Briefly Noted:

One Video:

Jade: Lagrangian Mechanics—A Beautiful Way to Look at the World<>:

Four Paragraphs:

Mohamed A. El-ErianThe US Recovery’s Promising Moment: ‘Recent macroeconomic figures and the accelerating pace of COVID–19 vaccination suggest… optimism about the US economy…. [A] notable economic pickup is being driven by the release of pent-up demand… and… fiscal stimulus… both likely to intensify as vaccines continue to be administered more quickly…. But three main challenges…. First, progress toward increased vaccine availability is necessary but insufficient…. Second… the pickup in economic activity has yet to be accompanied by a sustained, strong rebound in employment…. Third… the fear is that the additional stimulus will trigger a spike in inflation and market interest rates, which could derail a sustained recovery and heighten the risk of financial-market accidents…

LINK: <>

Barry EichengreenRagnar Nurkse & the International Financial Architecture: ‘Estonian economist… the early Nurkse… concerned with exchange rates, capital flows and what today we call the international financial architecture…. How many of Nurkse’s points about the interwar gold standard are confirmed by subsequent scholarship? How many of his points are still relevant to the international monetary problems of today?… LINK: <>

We should not say “my newsletter, which is on SubStack”; we should say “my weblog, which is at the moment on substack”: 

Dan HonThe One Where I Don’t Want To Talk About Substack Just As Much As You Do, & Yet: ‘We should not say “I have a Substack” but instead “my newsletter, which is on Substack”, because we should not give power to brands in this way. Are we going to see a variant of yeah, I was into {band} before they were cool as a yeah, I used {tech platform} before they became synonymous with right-wing cancelled people Actually, I will go out on a limb and make a prediction: we’re going to see a lot more of the above qualification, that “Yeah, I used {platform} before it became known for being racist/sexist/misogynist/abusive etc.” And that was only the first Substack thing today… LINK: <>

Kaleberg2525: ‘I’m not naturally optimistic, but I think you are too pessimistic on the technology front… the golden age of materials science… glimpses of what is possible with nano-structures, bio-mimetics, non-traditional metallurgy, meta-materials… spin, as opposed to charge, based electronics is much faster and uses much less power. New classes of reflective and transmissive materials…. Much of that 2.1% technological growth has changed the commons. Rothschild couldn’t have bought a modern antibiotic, and neither can you. You can only “buy” amoxicillin because we have a medical-pharmacological-health insurance-research complex…. If you look to the future, it pays to think about what the commons can deliver, rather than individual components of it. Let me make some possibly correct predictions on this basis: In 2525, people will not get cancer…. People will be able to travel from point to point on the planet in less than fifteen minutes…. Energy use per-capita will be lower than today, but heating, cooling, transportation and manufacturing will be more productive. Manufacturing will increasingly be as-needed…. In some ways, society advances one patent expiration at a time…

LINK: <>

CONFERENCE COMMENT: How Should Latin Americans Understand the United States Today?

Not just Mexico but all of Latin America is "so close to the United States..."

The past three months in the United States have been both shocking and hopeful. 

They have sen the end of a 220 year tradition: the end of an unbroken chain in which the transfer of political power at the national (although not the state: not in the South) level is _peaceful_—a tradition that began in 1800 when president John Adams acceded to Thomas Jefferson’s electoral college victory without choosing violence. We lost that on January 6th, 2021. 

Many who wish to make excuses for Donald Trump say that it was not really an attempt by Trump (while preserving plausible deniability that the attempt was his own action and at his behest) to have his goons and fans shoot dead the Speaker of the House, hang the Vice President, and prevent the counting of electoral votes—that it had been, rather, a spontaneous popular outburst. Nevertheless, we came remarkably close to watching the Speaker of the House shot dead and the Vice President hanged. The counting of the electoral votes was delayed. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell made it a point to finish the counting that day, so that the delay was short. But there was a delay. 

However, we did get our transfer of power, albeit not peacefully.

Now we have a $1.9 trillion program—10% of a year's national income—devoted to rescue, relief, support and recovery. This is a remarkably large package. It is the result of a remarkable degree of agreement within the Democratic legislative caucuses. In the past, in both 1993 and 2009, senior Democratic legislators have been very, very interested in demonstrating that they are independent actors rather than loyal members of the party. They have been interested in demonstrating that they think for themselves rather than serve the party leader.. They have been interested in using their control of veto points to shape policy to their personal liking. Even more so, I think, they have been interested in demonstrating that they can require policy must be to their liking. 

That is much less the case this time.

I think this shift is produced by a common view of the mistakes of 2009, and probably of 1994. The legislators, I think now understand that, if they want to govern in the public interest, they have to demonstrate that the president of their party is a successful manager, and that he has their support, and that he deserves to have their support because his policies are good policies.

Here I must insert an asterisk: Senators Manchin and Sinema appear to still be playing the game by the old rules—demonstrating that they are independent voices, and hence can be trusted to do what their constituents and they believe is in the national interest on each and every issue, no matter how the party tries to corral them. Thus they hope to convince centrists, plus Republicans who are unhappy with the neo-fascist notes currently being sung by the soloists and chorus of the Republican party, to vote for them. But note that even Sinema and Manchin are only taking on this role and pose in a very moderate degree. They cheerfully voted for $1.9 trillion, even if not for changing the rules of the Senate to also include an increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour.

Why $1.9 trillion? Is that the right size? The U S government right now does have exorbitant privilege. Rich people and state actors with large amounts of money all around the globe believe that their assets held in dollars in the United States are safe assets. I do not have time to go into why they believe this. But they do. In this environment the near-consensus among the Democratic policy intellectuals is that it is appropriate to take advantage of this extraordinary demand for U.S. assets. When investor expectations and confidence shift, and when interest rates rise, then will be time to deal with the problems thus created: sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. We bet that our successors will be intelligent and farsighted enough to deal with the economic problems of tomorrow when they arise. We do not let the fact that we are unsure about how to deal with the economic problems of tomorrow keep us from solving the economic problems of today.

Perhaps this is the end of the neoliberal intellectual hegemony established in the 1970s, when a critical mass of thinkers came to fear that the market had its own logic that could not be resisted but that could only be accommodated. The market giveth; the market takeeth away. And the only possible response, to those who became the neoliberals, was then to say: blessed be the name of the market. 

The view today is different. It is: the market was made for man, not man for the market. 

One indication of this is that those of us who are still thinking in a more neoliberal the-market-has-its-reasons logic—most prominently now my long-time friend, teacher, and patron Larry Summers and my longtime teacher Olivier Blanchard, both of whom I love dearly—have gotten very little traction in their attempts to issue warnings that perhaps $1.9 trillion is too large, and we should be prepared to recognize that it is—if it turns out to be so—and then rapidly act to reverse course. Those warnings have gotten almost no traction despite all their intellect and influence. That is an interesting signpost to the shifting intellectual climate. 

Thus I forecast that the United States is in a position to have a rapid recovery from the coronavirus plague depression. I forecast a high-pressure U.S. economy for at least a while. That will be a marvelous thing. That will be a good thing for Latin America and others who export to the United States. A United States that becomes once again the world’s importer of last resort may become a locomotive for the world, or at least for the Americas.

Now there are deeper issues, 

A generation ago there was a very effective right-wing political tactician, Lee Atwater. He used to argue that American conservatives were no longer committed to white supremacy—that their arguments, instead, really were economic arguments about the best economic policy, and bourgeois cultural-order arguments about the best forms of social order. How could you tell that these surface rationales were not masks for positions truly rooted in white supremacy? You knew, Atwater said, because no significant fraction of Republicans was calling for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act and the mass disenfranchisement of African Americans. You knew, Atwater said, because no significant fraction of Republicans were calling for the state to sanction open discrimination. 

Well, guess what.

John Roberts and his Supreme Court majority have constructively repealed the Voting Rights Act, and Republicans hope that they can now disenfranchise 20% of African-American voters in states they control. It’s not an attempt to disenfranchise 100%. But 20% is a thing. What do we call this open and notorious embrace of what I think is generally acknowledged to be white supremacy-light? 

And state-sponsored discrimination? As I understand it, there has been one trans-female high school athlete in all of South Dakota in the past decade. Yet banning such is the highest priority of one of the Republican Party’s stars, South Dakota Governor Noem. The Republican Party’s position is clear: where we can—wherever we can construct phony religious or phony national-security rationales for discrimination, and wherever the center of the electorate does not have a strong revulsion that would put us in electoral jeopardy—we will discriminate! Is this “we can no longer openly discriminate against African-Americans, yet here is earnest money that we hope to be able to do in the future”?

This white supremacy-light is so very much softer than the white supremacy of even two generations ago, let alone four, or six when the twenty-five million white citizens of the United States held five of the six million African-Americans in the bondage of slavery. That it is so very much softer is a mercy. And for that we give thanks.

Nevertheless, I believe that Lee Atwater’s deathbed hopes that his Republican Party was no longer anchored on white supremacy—that the real message intended for the base was not “Ni—er! Ni—er! Ni—er!”—have been proven wrong.

And once you start shrinking the electorate, you do damage to the prospects for a recovery of democracy that may be permanent.

Which brings us to the issue of countering voter suppression at this moment, when the Democratic Party has control over the all the major political veto points except for the Supreme Court. And this brings us to the so-called “filibuster” in the U.S. Senate.

First, it is called the “filibuster”. A filibuster is an extraordinary, a contrary to normal procedure, a contrary to morality, raw use of power. I think none of the U.S. reporters covering the filibuster in the United States know the origins of the term in things like William Walker's 1856-1857 expedition to make himself President of Nicaragua in the middle of that country's then-civil war—an office from which he was expelled by a coalition of Central American armies in 1857, and then—IIRC—executed by the government of Honduras in 1860. That was the original “filibuster”: to take over a country by force, and loot it.

That procedural requirements for supermajorities in the U.S. Senate for legislation are called the “filibuster” suggests that there is something wrong with them. We have been seeing such procedural requirements erode. It used to be that a state’s senators’ acquiescence, at least, was required for federal judge confirmations. Reconciliation was supposed to be immune from the filibuster because it was an unimportant, technical procedure that needed to be done and that should not be allowed to become a pressure point that groups of senators could use to get their way by threatening obstruction. But Reconciliation has now become the way that business gets done in the Senate: either by or under threat of Reconciliation.

Erosions of the power of the filibuster have, with the exception of BidenRescue now, ObamaCare in 2010, and the very successful Clinton federal financial rebalancing in 1993, been overwhelmingly used to advance Republican policy priorities: tax cuts for the rich and right-wing judges. Voting rights and perhaps minimum wage expansion are equally strong Democratic legislative priorities right now. Perhaps a procedural move to carve out some more exceptions to the general legislation-requires-60-votes will win the acquiescence of Sinema and Manchin. I think the prospects for that are good. But only the senators know what the senators are thinking. It is often to their political advantage to make their thinking opaque. After all, we still do not know whether the Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare during the Trump administration—was it simply because Senator McCain had decided he had had enough, or were there ten senators who did not want it repealed who were happy to let McCain be the hero, but who would have stepped up to fill his role had it been necessary?

This is related to the question of the missing middle in American politics. Structurally, the 20 most centrist senators have the power to drive legislation and governance according to their priorities. And there are stories of how it used to be so back in the 1980s and before—how centrists of that day like Bentsen of Texas and Danforth of Missouri were setters of national agendas whom presidents found themselves lobbying more often than the reverse. But over the past two generations that pattern has disappeared completely.

Republican centrist senators have turned out, since 1992, to have much more allegiance to whatever the current priorities of their party leaders are than to the norms of centrist governance. Now all the Democratic centrists senators—with the partial exceptions of Sinema and Manchin—appear to have reached the same conclusion: that their job is to support their party leaders to the extent they can without risking their reelection, rather than to be a centrist vote block that drives policy to what it wishes.

This is something that I would like some very smart political scientists to explain to me. I am puzzled. And let me close with that puzzlement.

2075 words


BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-13 Sa

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


James Robinson is scared at the large-scale soft treason of Republican actual and wannabee office holders, but I do not think he is scared enough.

It is not at all clear to me that Trumpian populism has failed. Trump has failed. But neofascism remains a mighty powerful force. If James Robinson would talk to Trumpists, he would recognize that Trump did “deliver the goods”—they imagine that, before the coming of the plague, they were enjoying an unparalleled economic boom; and they are not mistaken to think that Trump delivered the hate he had promised against immigrants, against uppity Blacks who did not know and stay in what Trumpists continue to think is their proper place, and against rootless cosmopolites. The only problem is that the center of the electorate is not—or is not yet—Trumpian. And, for some reason, the knives that actors from James Comey to Dean Baquet used to stab Hillary Rodham Clinton in the back failed to hit Joe Biden’s back this time, for lots of reasons:

James A. RobinsonWhy Trumpian Populism Failed: ‘US democracy remains vulnerable… owing to many Americans’ lack of commitment to democratic institutions. While Trump worked to de-institutionalize America and enrich himself while in office, the Republican Party either sat on its hands or in some cases applauded…. At the end of the day, Trump’s “America First” was mostly posturing, because he couldn’t deliver real improvements in the lives of his base. All successful autocrats—like former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, postwar Argentine President Juan Perón, or current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni—somehow “deliver the goods” for their core constituencies. Trump delivered, but only to the rich, by cutting taxes and regulations. His symbolic gestures won’t endure, and his “Make America Great Again” slogan is destined for burial at the back of millions of American closets.

Republicans would be wise to consider this. Instead, much of the party, both in Congress and at the state and local level, still clings to the false narrative of election fraud and support for the insurrectionists, or advances the notion that the storming of the Capitol was staged to undermine Trump. This is deeply concerning. Perón was able to rule as he did after World War II because increased presidential meddling in Argentina’s Supreme Court and political institutions had eroded these bodies over the previous 15 years. Most Americans do not want to go down this path, even if many of their elected political leaders do… 

LINK: <>


Very Briefly Noted:

One Video:

A very, very nice talk—the intellectual grandchild of Ragnar Nurkse, by way of Nicola Gennaioli and Andrei Shleifer:

Ivan Werning: Taming a Minsky Cycle <>:


Five Paragraphs:

Reminds me of the steel industry around 1900: an absolutely key commodity, with very few firms able to compete at world-class levels of efficiency, cost, and value, and with downstream implications for the prosperity of entire economies:

Debby Wu, Sohee Kim, Gao Yuan & Peter ElstromThe Race for Chip Supremacy Could Reshape the World: ‘Carmakers from Tokyo to Detroit are slashing production. PlayStations are getting harder to find in stores. Even aluminum producers warn of a potential downturn ahead. All have one thing in common: an abrupt and cascading global shortage of semiconductors… chips…. World leaders from Washington to Beijing are making chip supplies a top priority… to keep factories running and ensure national security. Hundreds of billions will be spent in a plethora of sectors in coming years on a global “chip race”…. Key Coverage: Jack Ma Crackdown Casts a Chill on China’s Tech Entrepreneurs. China Revs Up Grand Chip Ambitions to Counter U.S. Blacklistings. Chip Shortage Poses a Risk to the Global Economic Recovery. By The Numbers: $28 billion, the amount TSMC plans to spend on new plants and equipment this year; 81%, share of the semiconductor foundry business controlled by Taiwan and South Korea; $61 billion, estimated lost auto-industry revenue in 2021. Why It Matters…. A handful of missing parts can close auto factories…. The U.S. is willing to choke off chip supplies to its national champions, a vulnerability that Xi Jinping and the Communist Party view as intolerable. Beijing will pour more than $100 billion into efforts to build its own domestic chip industry…. Governments and companies will clash for years to come over semiconductor supremacy…

LINK: <>

The state of my subdiscipline:

Ran AbramitzkyEconomics & the Modern Economic Historian: ‘I reflect on the role of modern economic history in economics. I document a substantial increase in the percentage of papers devoted to economic history in the top–5 economic journals over the last few decades. I discuss how the study of the past has contributed to economics by providing ground to test economic theory, improve economic policy, understand economic mechanisms, and answer big economic questions. Recent graduates in economic history appear to have roughly similar prospects to those of other economists in the economics job market. I speculate how the increase in availability of high quality micro level historical data, the decline in costs of digitizing data, and the use of computationally intensive methods to convert large-scale qualitative information into quantitative data might transform economic history in the future…

LINK: <>

Anne E. C. McCants: Economic History & the Historians: ‘An economics that refuses to engage with the lessons of history or to engage in a dialog about justice and values, or ethics, can go in any or all of three directions: (1) It can wish itself back to a past that never existed, at least not in the way that intellectual shortsightedness remembers it. (2) It can lose sight of the multiplicity of human interactions across varied, but always interconnected, spheres of life—political, social, aesthetic, spiritual, or communal, among others—that affect our attempts to solve specific economic problems. It can become ever-more clever in its ability to build models, test hypotheses, and manipulate data while still remaining confused or, even worse, small-minded about the ends to which its analytical efforts are geared to pursue…

Nice to see all of this intellectual evolution collected in one place;

Pablo Gabriel BortzKeynes’s Theories of the Business Cycle: Evolution and Contemporary Relevance: ‘The paper identifies six different “theories” of business fluctuations. With different theoretical frameworks in a 30-year span, the driver of fluctuations—namely cyclical changes in expectations about future returns—remained substantially the same. The banking system also played a pivotal role… financing and influencing the behavior of return expectations. There are four major changes… a) the saving–investment framework… b) the capabilities of the banking system to moderate the business cycle; c) the effectiveness of monetary policy to fine-tune the business cycle… and d) the role of a comprehensive fiscal policy and investment policy…

LINK: <>

Origins of the word “filibuster”: it’s not a nice word, and it never had a nice meaning:

WikipediaWilliam Walker: ‘William Walker (May 8, 1824 – September 12, 1860) was an American physician, lawyer, journalist, and mercenary who organized several private military expeditions into Mexico and Central America with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control, an enterprise then known as “filibustering”. Walker usurped the presidency of Nicaragua in July 1856 and ruled until May 1, 1857, when he was forced out[2] of the presidency and the country by a coalition of Central American armies. He returned in an attempt to re-establish his control of the region and was captured and executed by the government of Honduras in 1860… 

LINK: <>

Hoisted from the Archives:

2017: Ricardo's Big Idea, and Its Vicissitudes: Gains from Trade: Is Comparative Advantage the Ideology of the Comparatively Advantaged?<>:


Slides: <> <>

Notes: <>

Ricardo's Big Idea, and Its Vicissitudes: Gains from Trade: Is Comparative Advantage the Ideology of the Comparatively Advantaged?: Hoisted from the Archives: 2017


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Continue reading "Ricardo's Big Idea, and Its Vicissitudes: Gains from Trade: Is Comparative Advantage the Ideology of the Comparatively Advantaged?: Hoisted from the Archives: 2017" »

How Should We Teach Political Economy?; & BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-03-10 We

Selections from my comments at an N2PE panel; plus things that went whizzing by that I want to be sure to try to remember...



Brad DeLong: Network for a New Political Economy Teaching Panel: 2021-30-05:

Selections: What are we doing when we do political economy?…

Political economy is social theory in… this [Modern Economic Growth Age of the] extraordinary transformation of technology, understood as human powers to transform nature—not always in a good way—and to organize humans—not always in a good way at all. It is not that economists or political scientists have any special expertise in figuring out what the social theory for this age of extraordinary transformation of technology  is. I was having a discussion with two other economist [in which]…. I… Noah… Arin… found that… [we had all] been profoundly influenced… by the course[s we]… took from Mark Granovetter….

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PODCAST: Hexapodia V: Freeing Us from the Market; Wiþ Mike Konczal, Noah Smith & Brad DeLong


Mike Konczal: Freedom From the Market: America’s FIght to Liberate Itself from the Grip of the Invisible Hand <>

Konczal says that it is only today that “glib libertarians” purveying “fantasies” are trying to make us forget “that free programs and keeping things free from the market are as American as apple pie…” One of the best passages in the book is where he notes the connection between the Fight for $15 minimum wage campaign and human freedom: “Service sector workers demanding a $15 minimum wage and a union… have already won huge victories [with] ideas about how low-wage, precarious work is a form of unfreedom…. The Rev. William Barber noted that ‘it took 400 years from slavery to now to get from zero to $7.25 [an hour]. We can’t wait another 400 years’ to get to $15… Ultimately, if all you can say in response to the ills of society is “the market giveth,  the market taketh away, blessed be the name of the market…” you have very little to say indeed. Konczal quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes’s fear and alarm that his fellow justices on the Lochner Supreme Court were, in their “willingness to use a very specific understanding of economics to override law, writ[ing] a preferential understanding of economics into the constitution itself…” in a fundamentally illegitimate and societally-disruptive way. But a better maxim is: “The market was made for man, not man for the market”.

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Recovering (Economically) from COVID: Scenarios for After May; Plus BRIEFLY NOTED: 2021-03-09 Tu

Thinking about what the U.S. economy might look like after May; plus things that went whizzing by that I want to remember...


Recovering (Economically) from COVID: Scenarios for After May

I see three scenarios with substantial probability mass associated with them for what happens after after May:

1) People conclude that we are living in a much more uncertain world than they thought before March 2020, so they sharply raise their long-term wealth-to-income ratios, and bank rather than spend—and then without 10 Republican senators for infrastructure, which we do not have, we repeat 2010-2015 in the absence of the $1.9T...

2) A giant Mardi Gras commences in June 2021, as people react to the final scotching of the virus as a large systemic worry in a way that they reacted to the ending of rationing after WWII. (Cf.: Gillian Brunet:

<>.) We get one-time sharp rises in wages in previously shutdown sectors, but it is a healthy and warranted jump in relative prices that does not feed through to inflation expectations—again, as after WWII. And we are very glad we did the $1.9T...

3) The multiplier from the $1.9% turns out to be significantly greater than Edelberg & Sheiner project, and the Fed needs to raise 10-year rates by 2-3%-points in order to keep the U.S. economy from overheating significantly. And that's fine, because that normalizes interest rates, and then monetary policy has traction, and normal stabilization-policy governance can resume.

There is also a fourth scenario that some people give a considerable probability to:

4) Either Jay Powell turns out to be Arthur Burns, and we get into a hell of a mess, or the increases in interest rates required to keep the economy from overheating trigger a major financial crisis, and we get into a hell of a mess. That seems to be underpinned by a belief that the Fed cannot push the unemployment rate up by 0.5% ever—that whenever it tries, unemployment rises by 3%—but I see that pattern as driven by the Federal Reserve's unwillingness since 1980 to tolerate anything that at all smells of a high-pressure economy.

I don't think (4) is very likely at all—it seems to me to be a significant outlier scenario. I see the issue as: who do you trust to run policy if things go south? Jay Powell or 10 Republican senators. And the answer to that question seems obvious to me...

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BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-03-06 Sa

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


The global container fleet today has a capacity of 32.9 million TEU (Twenty foot-Equivalent Units). The container ship OOCL Hong Kong has 21,000 TEUs of capacity. Back in 1582 we had perhaps 1/12 of our current population on the globe. Back in 1582, back in the days when the English merchant fleet was 1/20 of the worldwide total, the entire English merchant fleet could carry only 1/3 as much cargo as the OOCL Hong Kong can.

Thus, for the globe as a whole, today 30 million TEUs; 1582 140 thousand TEUs—1/200 as much. That is one dimension of economic growth and globalization since the start of the Imperial-Commercial Revolution Age back in the 1500s:

Yuval Noah HarariLessons from a Year of Covid: ‘A largely automated present-day container ship can carry more tons than the merchant fleet of an entire early modern kingdom. In 1582, the English merchant fleet had a total carrying capacity of 68,000 tons and required about 16,000 sailors. The container ship OOCL Hong Kong, christened in 2017, can carry some 200,000 tons while requiring a crew of only 22… LINK: <>

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BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-03-04 Th

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



Yonatan ZungerTolerance Is Not a Moral Precept. The Title of This Essay Should Disturb You: ‘As with any peace treaty, we must consider toleration in the broader context of the war which is its alternative, and we must recognize that peace is not always a possibility…. Among the worst wars of tolerance were the religious wars which tore through Europe between 1524 and 1648…. Protestants and Catholics each seeing the other as existential threats…. These wars came to an end… each ruler had the right to choose the religion of their state, and that Christians living in principalities where their faith was not the established faith still had the right to practice their religion. A decision was made, in essence, to accept the risk of the monster rather than the reality of the war…. Tolerance, viewed as a moral absolute, amounts to renouncing the right to self-protection; but viewed as a peace treaty, it can be the basis of a stable society. Its protections extend only to those who would uphold it in turn. To withdraw those protections from those who would destroy it does not violate its moral principles; it is fundamental to them, because without this enforcement, the treaty would collapse. It is appropriate, even ethical, to answer force with proportional force, when that force is required to restore a just peace. We seek peace because on the whole it is far better than war; but as history has taught us, not every peace is better than the war it prevents… LINK: <>

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DeLongTODAY: In the Year 2525…

The real thing will live at: <> :: <>

Today is an anti-economic history briefing. 

Back 90 years ago, in another depressing time—one of depression, if not of depression and plague—John Maynard Keynes tried to cheer people up by talking about the bright “economic possibilities for our grandchildren”. And we are they. Or, rather, we are their great-grandchildren and great^2-grandchildren. 

So let me attempt a similar exercise.

How should we understand, from the most Olympian perspective, from a super-Olympian perspective, not the past but the future of the process of economic growth that the human race has undergone over the past half-millennium?

So let us look at our great- and great^2-grandchildren and what are their economic possibilities in 2100, then our great^5-grandchildren in 2200, and then all the way out to the year 2525: our great^15-grandchildren.

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PODCAST: Hexapodia IV: Checks for (Almost) Everyone! Wiþ Noah Smith & Brad DeLong


The classical British social insurance state took large chunks of human activity out of the marketplace and attempted to distribute them to each according to his or her need. The classical American social insurance state was targeted and grouchy, attempting to elicit proper behavior. Now we have a turn that we regard as very hopeful: recognizing that the problem of the poor is primarily the problem of too-little social power, that money brings social power, hence the solution is to get the money to the people...

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READING: Abraham Lincoln (1860-02-27): Cooper Union Address

Would William Seward have been able to beat Stephen Douglass for the North's electoral votes in 1860 had Lincoln not wowed Republicans with his Cooper Union speech? And, had Douglass won, how would a “Popular Sovereignty” United States have evolved thereafter?


Harold Holzer: ‘Abraham Lincoln did triumph in New York. He delivered a learned, witty, and exquisitely reasoned address that electrified his elite audience and, more important, reverberated in newspapers and pamphlets alike until it reached tens of thousands of Republican voters across the North. He had arrived at Cooper Union a politician with more defeats than victories, but he departed politically reborn…’


Abraham LincolnCooper Union Address: ‘Mr. President and fellow citizens of New York: -

The facts with which I shall deal this evening are mainly old and familiar; nor is there anything new in the general use I shall make of them. If there shall be any novelty, it will be in the mode of presenting the facts, and the inferences and observations following that presentation.

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BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-03-01 Mo

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


Michael Kremer, Jack Willis, & Yang YouConverging to Convergence: ‘Neoclassical theory predicts convergence towards steady-state income, determined by policies, institutions, and culture. Empirical tests… in the 1990s found that conditioning on institutions mattered: unconditionally, the norm was divergence…. We revisit…. First, there has been a trend towards unconditional convergence since the 1960s, leading to convergence since the early 2000s. Second, policies and institutions have converged… towards… institutions… associated… with higher levels of income. Third, the institutional changes are larger… than those predicted by the cross-sectional income-institution slope; while the slope itself has remained stable. Fourth, the growth-institution slope… has decreased substantially, resulting in a shrinking in the gap between conditional and unconditional convergence…

LINK: <>

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READING: On Dietrich von der Glezze: Der Siegesgürtel

Not your standard Tannhäuser...

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