Briefly Noted: 2021-03-21 Su
DeLong: Very Short Bio & Headshot

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.

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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…

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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”…

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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…

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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”…

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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…

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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: <>