READING: On Dietrich von der Glezze: Der Siegesgürtel
READING: Abraham Lincoln (1860-02-27): Cooper Union Address

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…

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Very Briefly Noted:

One Video Very Much Worth Watching:

Grant Sanderson: But What Is the Fourier transform?:

Six Paragraphs:

Andrew SprungWhat Change Looks Like in America: ‘Cohn takes us back to a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, in which Democrats still hoped to win Republican support for major legislation. Notwithstanding that by early 2009, Mitch McConnell had already announced the Republican minority’s intentions to block any legislative achievements, many Democrats in Congress had a history of co-authoring legislation with Republicans and put more stock in that past personal experience…. Cohn reports that Democrats never seriously considered passing health care reform using budget reconciliation…. Several administration officials shared Baucus’s belief that bipartisan reform would be easier to sustain…. Moving quickly to reconciliation could alienate more conservative Democrats, who desperately craved the political cover a bipartisan bill would provide. “There were a whole bunch of senators who were hoping that this would be bipartisan both substantively and politically for their own electoral outcomes,” Peter Orszag said to me later…


Dennis RoddyJust Our Bill [Rehnquist]: ‘Charlie Stevens, then the head of the local Young Republicans, said he got a phone call…. The guy wanted to know why Charlie hadn’t joined Operation Eagle Eye. “I think they called them flying squads,” Stevens said. “It was perfectly legal. The law at the time was that you had to be able to read English and interpret what you read.” But he didn’t like the idea and he told Bill this. “My parents were immigrants,” Stevens said. They’d settled in Cleveland, Ohio, a pair of Greeks driven out of Turkey who arrived in the United States with broken English…. Charlie Tsoukalas became Charlie Stevens. “I didn’t think it was proper to challenge my dad or my mother to interpret the Constitution,” Stevens said. “Even people who are born here have trouble interpreting the Constitution. Lawyers have trouble interpreting it.”… Eventually, Arizona changed the laws that had allowed the kind of challenges that had devolved into bullying…. Stevens became a prosperous and well-regarded lawyer… helped Sandra Day O’Connor get her start in law…. Bill Rehnquist… chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States… denied personally intimidating voters and gave the explanation that he might have been called to polling places on Election Day to arbitrate disputes over voter qualifications. Fifteen years later, three more witnesses, including a deputy U.S. attorney, told of being called to polling places and having angry voters point to Rehnquist as their tormentor. His defenders suggested it was a case of mistaken identity… 

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Eric Phipps: Diary 1935-04-01: ‘Over two years have now elapsed since the electorate of this country, stam- peded by the Reichstag fire, voted for the abolition of the Parliamentary régime and the establishment of a National Socialist dictatorship. During these two years, Adolf Hitler, without losing the loyalty of his old followers to any alarming extent, has won over the great mass of the Opposition to himself and his policy both internal and external…. He has obtained work (or what amounts to work so far as the individual is concerned) for 3 million people… torn up Part V of the Treaty of Versailles… liberated Germany from the clutches of his own National Socialist gangsters…. The return to more normal conditions during the last six months has indeed been so rapid and so marked that the great bulk of Hitler’s one-time opponents are now, to say the least of it, reconciled to his rule if not to National Socialism…. It is now dawning upon friends and enemies alike that a benevolent despotism has immeasurable advantages… over the travesty of a parliamentary system known as the Weimar Republic…. Many intelligent Germans are now of opinion that it is preferable to the French and British systems of representative government…. A country… anxious to free itself from the shackles of an oppressive treaty has better prospects if it is prepared to accept a restriction of individual liberty and a concentration of all powers in one hand, provided of course the hand be firm and wise…. His mysterious programme for coping with unemployment… consists not merely of public works of the normal kind but of the very important work of rearming Germany…. Now that Hitler has put his bold plan into execution his influence is highest in those very quarters where it was at first regarded with most suspicion, namely the Reichswehr Higher Command, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, permanent officialdom and responsible circles generally. The Germans are not disposed to minimise their difficulties. But they regard Herr Hitler as a prophet and the majority expect with calm obedience that he will find the way to the promised land…. So far as I can see, only economics and finance can be expected to counter these proud plans, but economics and finance have in the past proved so elastic as to defy all expert prophecy…

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CatRamboOpinion: On Baen Books, Moderating Discussion Boards, & Political Expression: ‘Boards have to have moderators and rules…. Talking about politics has always been fraught…. There are plenty of places online where people can talk politics…. Free speech is a great ideal, up to the point where it’s being used to promote killing people. Popper’s Paradox applies…. Some people are getting pretty hot under the collar about an attack on the publisher, when it’s an article that talks specifically about the message boards and the behavior happening on them…. Stochastic terrorism is a thing, and it’s one that some of the “my wishing you were dead wasn’t really a death threat because I didn’t say I’d do it personally” yahoos are hoping for. That hope that someone will be hurt as a result of their rhetoric flickers dimly in the depths of their creepy little souls, even when they claim otherwise, because here in America, it’s a possibility every time they stir up an audience to think of their opponents as NPCs rather than people…


Ray DalioAre We In a Stock Market Bubble?: ‘A bubble is an unsustainably high price, and how I measure it is with the following six measures. (1) How high are prices relative to traditional measures? (2) Are prices discounting unsustainable conditions? (3) How many new buyers (i.e., those who weren’t previously in the market) have entered the market? (4) How broadly bullish is sentiment? (5) Are purchases being financed by high leverage? (6) Have buyers made exceptionally extended forward purchases (e.g., built inventory, contracted forward purchases, etc.) to speculate or protect themselves against future price gains? Each of these six influences is measured using a number of stats that are combined into gauges…. In brief, the aggregate bubble gauge is around the 77th percentile today for the US stock market overall. In the bubble of 2000 and the bubble of 1929 this aggregate gauge had a 100th percentile read… LINK:

Erik SchatzkerCathie Wood Sees Control Fight Ending, Lifting Cloud Over Ark: ‘Tesla, Bitcoin Bull Cathie Wood Targets 20% ETF Returns…. In addition to the $30.5 billion of assets in its seven ETFs, Ark manages accounts for retail and institutional clients as well as funds in non-U.S. markets. Its ETF revenue alone adds up to at least $225 million a year. That puts Ark, founded in 2014, in a league with long-established firms such as Mario Gabelli’s Gamco Investors Inc. and underscores the stakes in Wood’s fight with Resolute Investment Managers…. Her $16.4 billion Ark Innovation ETF has returned 152% in 2020. Three other ETFs have more than doubled…. Wood, 65, founded the firm expressly to invest in disruptive innovation… artificial intelligence, robotics, energy storage, DNA sequencing and blockchain…. “The biggest upside surprises are going to come from the genomic space,” Wood said in the interview. “That’s because the convergence of DNA sequencing, artificial intelligence and gene therapies, importantly Crispr gene editing, is going to cure disease.”… The idea for active ETFs based on disruptive technology first occurred to Wood while she was chief investment officer for global thematic strategies at AllianceBernstein Holding LP…


Hoisted from the Archives

2019A Note on Reading Big, Difficult Books… <>: Knowledge system and cognitive science guru Andy Matuschak writes a rant called Why Books Don’t Work, about big, difficult books that take him six to nine hours each to read….


His points have strong relevance for students in U.C. Berkeley’s Econ 105: History of Economic Thought: Do we live in a Smithian, Marxian or Keynesian World? The core of the course is an assisted reading of three big books that are d—-ably difficult: Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Karl Marx’s Capital, and John Maynard Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.

These are all big, difficult, flawed, incredibly insightful, genius books. And it is a principal task of a successful modern university to teach people how to read such things. Indeed, it might be said that one of the few key competencies we here at the university have to teach—our counterpart or the medieval triad of rhetoric, logic, grammar and then quadriad of arithmetic, geometry, music and astrology—is how to read and absorb a theoretical argument made by a hard, worthwhile, flawed book. People need to understand what an argument is, and the only way to do that is actually go through an argument—to read the argument and try to make sense of it. People need to be able to tell the difference between an argument and an assertion. People need to be able to do more than just say whether they liked the conclusion or not: they need to be able to specify whether the argument hangs together given the premises, and where it is the premises, and where it is the premises themselves that need to be challenged. People need to learn that while you can disagree, you need to be able to specify why and how you disagree.

The first order task is to teach people how to read difficult books. Teaching people five facts about some thinker's theoretical perspective is subordinate: those five facts will not stick with them over the years. Teaching them how to read difficult books will stick with them over the years. Knowing what to do with a book that makes an important, an interesting, but also a flawed argument—that is a key skill…. We have our recommended ten-stage process for reading such big books: 

  1. Figure out beforehand what the author is trying to accomplish in the book.

  2. Orient yourself by becoming the kind of reader the book is directed at—the kind of person with whom the arguments would resonate.

  3. Read through the book actively, taking notes.

  4. “Steelman” the argument, reworking it so that you find it as convincing and clear as you can possibly make it.

  5. Find someone else—usually a roommate—and bore them to death by making them listen to you set out your “steelmanned” version of the argument. 

  6. Go back over the book again, giving it a sympathetic but not credulous reading

  7. Then you will be in a good position to figure out what the weak points of this strongest-possible argument version might be.

  8. Test the major assertions and interpretations against reality: do they actually make sense of and in the context of the world as it truly is?

  9. Decide what you think of the whole.

  10. Then comes the task of cementing your interpretation, your reading, into your mind so that it becomes part of your intellectual panoply for the future.

Follow this process, and your reading becomes active. Then you have the greatest possible chance of learning the books—of thereafter being able to summon up sub-Turing instantiations of the thinkers Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes and then running them on your wetware….

From Smith, Marx, Keynes: Cement Your Knowledge