#economichistory Feed

Historical Nonfarm Unemployment Statistics

Historical Nonfarm Unemployment Statistics: An updated graph that Claudia Goldin had me make two and a half decades ago. The nonfarm unemployment rate since 1869:

2016 04 05 Historical Nonfarm Unemployment Estimates numbers

Then it was 1890-1990, now it is 1869-2015, thanks to:

  • J.R. Vernon (1994): http://delong.typepad.com/1-s2.0-0164070494900086-main.pdf
  • C.D. Romer (1986): http://delong.typepad.com/spurious-volatility.pdf
  • BLS (2015): http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/surveymost?ln

with spreadsheet at: http://tinyurl.com/dl20160405

The assumption–debateable–is that “unemployment” is not a farm thing–that in the rural south or in the midwest or on the prairie you can always find a place of some sort as a hired hand, and that “unemployment” is a town- and city-based nonfarm phenomenon.

I confess I do not understand how anyone can look at this series and think that calculating stable and unchanging autocorrelations and innovation variances is a reasonable first-cut thing to do.

Continue reading "Historical Nonfarm Unemployment Statistics" »


PREVIEW: Economic Growth in Historical Perspective: U.C. Berkeley: Spring 2020

After hearing Ellora Derenoncourt rave about being a TA for Melissa Dell and her Econ 142: The History of Economic Growth, I have decided to go full parasite and stand up my own version of the course for the spring of 2020 here at U.C. Berkeley. Tell me what you think! Here are my notes so far:


Course to be at: Teaching Economics: https://delong.typepad.com/teaching_economics/econ-135.html


Econ 135: Economic Growth in Historical Perspective

This course examines the idea and reality of economic growth in historical perspective, beginning with the divergence between human ancestors and other primates and continuing through with forecasts for the 21st century and beyond. Topics covered include human speciation, language, and sociability; the discovery of agriculture and the domestication of animals; the origins and maintenance of gross inequality; Malthusian economies; the commercial and industrial revolutions; modern economic growth; international prosperity differentials; OECD convergence and East Asian miracles; the political economy of growth and stagnation; and the stubborn persistence of poverty.

Continue reading "PREVIEW: Economic Growth in Historical Perspective: U.C. Berkeley: Spring 2020" »


Killing My Darlings: A "Great Depression Recovery" Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"

No, Brad: The "Great Depression Recovery" chapter needs to be 7000 words, not 30,000. I am willing to torment editors by shipping them 10000 words, but not more:


World war i Google Search

13.1: Recovery Outside the United States

The rule to memorize about recovery from the Great Depression is: the sooner countries went off the gold standard, the better; and the less that gold standard habits of orthodoxy fettered countries thereafter, the better. The Scandinavian countries bailed first, and did best. Japan and Britain abandoned the gold standard in 1931, but Japan embraced expansionary policies more thoroughly. The U.S. and Germany abandoned the gold standard in 1933, but Hitler had a clearer view that Nazi persistence and success required putting people to work than FDR did with the try-everything-expediency of his New Deal. France stuck it out on the gold standard until 1937, and did worst of all.

Continue reading "Killing My Darlings: A "Great Depression Recovery" Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"" »


The Great Depression: An Intake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"

This is the current draft of chapter 10 of Slouching Towards Utopia?. I am, again, of several minds with respect to it. I think it says what really needs to be said. I am not sure it says it in the right length. And I am not sure that I have successfully assembled the puzzle pieces in the right way...

So tell me what you think of it:


The road to Wigan Pier 75 years on Books The Guardian

X. The Great Depression

https://www.icloud.com/pages/0mzIvbURq0n3I0Ct0e3aCZbEw

George Orwell (1937): The Road to Wigan Pier:

Presently the train hove in sight. With a wild yell a hundred men dashed down the slope to catch her as she rounded the bend. Even at the bend the train was making twenty miles an hour. The men hurled themselves upon it, caught hold of the rings at the rear of the trucks and hoisted themselves up by way of the bumpers, five or ten of them on each truck. The driver took no notice. He drove up to the top of the slag-heap, uncoupled the trucks, and ran the engine back to the pit, presently returning with a fresh string of trucks. There was the same wild rush of ragged figures as before. In the end only about fifty men had failed to get on to either train.

We walked up to the top of the slag-heap. The men were shovelling the dirt out of the trucks, while down below their wives and children were kneeling, swiftly scrabbling with their hands in the damp dirt and picking out lumps of coal the size of an egg or smaller. You would see a woman pounce on a tiny fragment of stuff, wipe it on her apron, scrutinize it to make sure it was coal, and pop it jealously into her sack.

 

10.1: Understanding the Business Cycle

10.1.1: Say’s Law

When market economies emerged, there was great worry that things would not necessarily fit together: Might not the farmers be unable to sell the crops they grew to the artisans because the artisans could not sell the products they made to the merchants who would be unable to make money carrying artisans products to the farmers because the farmers would not purchase anything? Back at the beginning of economics it was Jean-Baptiste Say who wrote that such an idea of a “general glut”—of economy-wide “overproduction” and consequent mass unemployment—was incoherent. Nobody, Say argued, would ever produce anything for sale unless they expected to use the money they earned in order to buy something else. Thus, “by a metaphysical necessity”, as subsequent-generation economist John Stuart Mill outlined Say’s argument in 1829, there can be no imbalance between the aggregate value of planned production-for-sale, the aggregate value of planned sales, and the aggregate value of planned purchases. This is “Say’s Law”.

Continue reading "The Great Depression: An Intake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"" »


The Knot of War 1870-1914: An Intake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"

World war i Google Search

This is chapter 7 of Slouching Towards Utopia?. I am of several minds with respect to it. I think it says what really needs to be said. I think it says it all in a remarkably short space—or it says it all to me. But it seems, to me, very different in tone from both the rest of the book I have written and from how this stuff is usually presented...

So tell me what you think of it:


VII. The Knot of War, 1914-1920

Nikita Sergeyevitch Khrushchev to John F. Kennedy (1962):

We and you ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter that knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you, because you yourself understand perfectly of what terrible forces our countries dispose…

Two chapters ago we shifted our focus from economics to political economy: we needed to look not just at technology, production, organization, and exchange, but also at how people governing themselves and others tried to regulate the economy to preserve or produce a good society, or a society good for them. One chapter ago we shifted our focus to imperial politics: we needed to look not just at how peoples and their elites governed themselves, but how they governed others. Each of these two shifts brought us away from processes and factors that seem almost inevitable—in which the actions of individuals mostly cancel out, and if an opportunity was not seized by one person at one date it would have been seized by another soon after. Each of these two moved us closer to that part of history where individual actions matter: where individuals and their luck can divert history for good, either because of their place in the society or because of the waves of belief and expectations that they set in motion. And so the history became less a flowering of long-planted seeds and more choice and chance.

This chapter takes a further step in that direction: into politico-military affairs, where choice and chance is dominant. This fits awkwardly into an economic history. But it is necessary. For we cannot understand what the world was like in 1918 without looking at World War I. The world in 1914 had been a growing, substantially peaceful, prosperous—with problems, but prosperous—world, in which it was not irrational to be optimistic about human civilization. The world, especially Europe, in the ashes after World War I was different.

Continue reading "The Knot of War 1870-1914: An Intake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"" »


It is interesting to note that Adam Smith's one explicit use of the phrase "Invisible Hand" in his Wealth of Nations is not a situation in which the competitive market equilibrium is Pareto-optimal. It is of a situation with two market failures—a home bias psychological failure among the merchants of Amsterdam, and agglomeration economies for mercantile activity in Amsterdam. And the two offset each other: if merchants were rational, the free-market equilibrium would ternate an inefficient sacrifice the agglomeration economies. If the agglomeration economies were absent, psychological home bias would lead to an inefficient concentration of activity:

Glory Liu: How the Chicago School Changed the Meaning of Adam Smith’s ‘Invisible Hand’: "For Friedman and Stigler, economics’ scientific power came from its ability to predict outcomes based on two central insights... in The Wealth of Nations... self-interest... [and,] of course, the invisible hand.... Few economists were as successful as Friedman in spreading this interpretation of Smith’s ideas to the public... populariz[ing] this interpretation of Smith’s invisible hand for an overtly conservative political agenda.... What makes the Smith of Milton Friedman and George Stigler so... problematic... is that they 'economized' Smith in a way that obscured if not precluded the relevance of his moral philosophy and political theory.... Whether his political value stems from the idea that he is an economist or moral philosopher or something else, however, is something that we—Smith’s readers—get to decide...

Continue reading " " »


"Unexpected Convergers" since World War II

What countries outside of those already-rich Anglo-Saxon settler colonies and the North Atlantic economies have "converged" or are "converging". What are the "unexpected converters:? These:

 

High-Income Non-North Atlantic Convergers: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan:

Singapore US

South Korea US

Japan US

 

Continue reading ""Unexpected Convergers" since World War II" »


Anna Stansbury: "The Black Death in England in the mid-1300s was an enormous human tragedy-and a fascinating labor supply shock. (Who said economists are heartless?) A thread FRED has a new record holder: The longest data series now belongs to a new addition, Population in England, which dates back to 1086. Check it out here: http://ow.ly/Dzkb50kfrvA. The Black Death first hit England in 1348. The population fell by more than a third in just a few years: from over 6 million to less than 4 million. As the graph from @stlouisfed and @bankofengland shows, it would take another 250 years for the population to recover...

Continue reading "" »


Greenspan and Wooldridge Argue the American Love and Embrace of Capitalism Is the Key...

Il Quarto Stato

The world as a whole is much richer than it was three centuries ago. Back then, at the end of the long era since the invention of agriculture, the typical human lived on two dollars a day, had a life expectancy at birth of 25, and was protein deprived in utero. Mothers worldwide no longer run a one-in-six chance of dying in childbed. Literacy in no longer a rare accomplishment. Less than one in six humans worldwide live like all of our pre-industrial ancestors—and even those less-than-one-in-six likely have some access to the village smartphone.

Continue reading "Greenspan and Wooldridge Argue the American Love and Embrace of Capitalism Is the Key..." »


Raising the Curtain: Trade and Empire

Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"


Il Quarto Stato

Raising the Curtain: The Long Twentieth Century—Trade and Empire

The extent to which the navies and trading fleets of the great European sea-borne empires of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries shaped the industrial development of western Europe has always been one of the most fiercely-debated and unsettled topics in economic history. That European expansion in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries were catastrophes for the regions of west Africa that were the sources of the slave trade; for the Amerindians of the Caribbean; for the Aztecs, Incas, the mound-builders of the Mississippi valley; and for the princes of Bengal and others who found themselves competing with the British East India Company in the succession wars over the spoils of India’s Moghul Empire—that is not in dispute.

But how much did pre-industrial trade and plunder affect European development? That is not so clear.

Continue reading "Raising the Curtain: Trade and Empire" »


“An Extraordinary Episode in the Economic Progress of Man!”: Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-1914"

DIE, DARLINGS, DIE!!!!!


Il Quarto Stato

“An Extraordinary Episode in the Economic Progress of Man!”

Yet all in all it is not possible to see the 1870-1914 making of the single global economy—and society—as anything other than an extraordinary and wonderful episode in the history of humanity. Looking back from 1919 on the optimistic, economists’ world that he had thought he had lived in up until the start of World War I in August 1914, John Maynard Keynes wrote, in his Keynes-centric upper-class-focused way:

What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end in August, 1914!... Conveniences, comforts, and amenities beyond the compass of the richest and most powerful monarchs of other ages. The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages.... He could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate....

Continue reading "“An Extraordinary Episode in the Economic Progress of Man!”: Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-1914"" »


Six Migrants and Their Descendants Who Made History: Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"

MOAR DARLINGS MUST DIE!!!!!


Il Quarto Stato

Six migrants and their descendants who made a lot of our history:

Continue reading "Six Migrants and Their Descendants Who Made History: Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"" »


The Lighting Budget of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas jefferson jpg 307×200 pixels

On December 21, the sun sets at Monticello at 4:57 pm. Civil twilight—when there is still enough light to conduct normal activities—ends at 5:27 pm. By March 21, the sun sets at 6:26 eastern standard time—Monticello is west of the center of America's eastern time zone—and civil twilights ends at 7:52. And on June 21 the sun sets at Monticello at 7:39 pm. Civil twilight ends at 8:11 pm (standard time). Even in the summer, moreover, Thomas Jefferson was unlikely to want to go to sleep when it got dark, with the chickens.

Hence his concern with candles:

1791 September 15: I will now ask the favor of you to procure for me, in the proper seasons 250 lb. of myrtle wax candles, moulded, and of the largest size you can find...

1792 January 24: Myrtle candles of last year out...

1792 November 4: I must now repeat to you my annual sollicitation to procure and send me 200 ℔ myrtle wax candles. I do not know whether the mixing tallow with the wax be absolutely necessary. If not, I would wish them of the pure wax; but if some mixture be necessary, then as little as will do...

Continue reading "The Lighting Budget of Thomas Jefferson" »


Still Haunted by the Shadow of the Greater Recession...


key: https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0UtILjGfChXSFFUBSCJ3PTf1g
pages: https://www.icloud.com/pages/0eLbd_zXINsC-YRNSL1zQxIdA
html: http://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/02/haunted-by-the-shadow-of-the-greater-recession.html

#highlighted #presentations #greatrecession #macro #economicgrowth #economichistory #economics #finance #monetaryeconomicss

"Gunpowder Empire": Should We Generalize Mark Elvin's High-Level Equilibrium Trap?: Hoisted from the Archives

Natalie Pierson A Comparative Look at the Gunpowder Empires

Hoisted from the Archives: "Gunpowder Empire": Should We Generalize Mark Elvin's High-Level Equilibrium Trap?: OK. Popping the distraction stack again. A chance remark by the extremely sharp Cosma Shalizi when he came through Berkeley has caused me to spend a lot of time meditating upon a passage written by Bob Allen:

Robert Allen (2006): The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective: "The different trajectories of the wage-rental ratio created different incentives to mechanize production.... It was not Newtonian science that inclined British inventors and entrepreneurs to seek machines that raised labour productivity but the rising cost of labour... due to... Britain’s success in the global economy... in part the result of state policy... Britain['s] vast and readily worked coal deposits...

Continue reading ""Gunpowder Empire": Should We Generalize Mark Elvin's High-Level Equilibrium Trap?: Hoisted from the Archives" »


Some Great Past First-Year Berkeley Economic History Course Papers

Economic history Google Search

Yes, some of these have been highly revised since they were submitted for a grade. Why do you ask? :-)

Continue reading "Some Great Past First-Year Berkeley Economic History Course Papers" »


Dietz Vollrath: The Deep Roots of Development: "Institutions versus geography?... Compare... Melissa Dell’s paper on the mining mita in Peru... forced labor... to provide work in the Potosi silver mine for Spain. Dell established in her paper that areas today that were once inside the mita have lower development levels.... Marcella Alsan’s paper on the effect of the TseTse fly on African development. She builds a measure of the natural geographic range of the TseTse fly.... Both... show that aspects of development are persistently affected by deep roots... the mita... continues to cast a shadow... historical shocks have persistent effects.... In Alsan, the deep root is the range of the TseTse fly, which affected how ethnic groups within Africa subsisted, with effects on the role of women and type of agriculture...

Continue reading "" »


According to my Grandmother Florence Richardson Usher Lord, my Great-Great Uncle Abbott Payson Usher back in The Day used to teach—very boringly, she said—(1) Middle Ages, (2) Commercial Revolution, (3) Industrial Revolution, (4) Age of Modern Science, with growth accelerations in each of the four: Dietz Vollrath: Sustained growth and the increase in work hours: "Jane Humphries and Jacob Weisdorf... labor contract terms in England over several centuries... annual labor contracts starting seeing sustained growth in their value around 1650 or so, far sooner than the day wages indicated...

Continue reading "" »


Why Economic History?

Economic history Google Search

We economists have gotten too good at making theories. In fact, the set of plausible and admissible economic theories is now dense in the space of possible conclusions: For every desired conclusion X, for every ε, there is a degree of theoretical complexity nδ and a chain of theories of increasing complexity T such that:

(∀X)(∃nδ)(∃T(.))(∀n)(n > nδ -> | T(n) - X | < ε)

Continue reading "Why Economic History?" »


Richa Gupta and Umang Aggarwal: Is there a “Late Converger Stall” in Economic Development? Can India Escape it?: "A major driver of these good times is 'economic convergence', whereby poorer countries have grown faster than richer countries and closed the gap in standards of living. The convergence process has been broadening and accelerating for the last 20-30 years.... [But] the possibility of... a 'Late Converger Stall'...

Continue reading "" »


I now think the right dates for the "long" 20th Century are: May 10, 1869-November 8, 2016: Frederick Studemann: The New Year Could Mark the Beginning of a New(ish) Century: "There are those, such as the economic historian Brad DeLong, who wonder whether Hobsbawn may have short-changed the 20th century. Can a case can be made, they ask, for the 20th century to run from 1870, when the wider impact of the industrial revolution became clear, political economics became central and liberal democracy took hold, to just after the global financial crisis?...

Continue reading "" »


The Appalachian and Other Trails

https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0HORQ6Ql3Ejvf5PSeGJkEXOyQ

Let's consider the United States in the time of major westward expansion and "Amerindian removal": the century 1760 to 1860 before the Civil War. We have U.S. output-per-worker growth then at about 1.0% per year, in contrast to British output-per-worker growth at about 0.5% per year. We have the U.S. population and labor force growing at 2.5% per year, from 2.5 to 30 million. Our conclusion:

An America penned behind the Appalachians would probably have seen its living standards and productivity levels not growing at 1% per year from 1760 to 1860 but shrinking. For the $ \gamma = 3.0 $ benchmark case, living standards and productivity levels would have shrunk at a pace of -0.325% per year had population growth been the historical 3% per year.

Continue reading " The Appalachian and Other Trails" »


Patrick Karl O’Brien: The Contributions of Warfare with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France to the Consolidation and Progress of the British Industrial Revolution: "A traditional and unresolved debate on economic connexions between the French and Industrial Revolutions.... The costs flowing from the reallocation of labour, capital and technical knowledge to wage warfare from 1793- 1815 have been overstated in relation to a range of benefits...

Continue reading "" »


Adam Tooze: Keynes and the Calculations of Liberalism: "We were once again living through a profound crisis of the liberal order.... I had Keynes on my mind and the thinker of liberal reconstruction... seemed in many ways more relevant than ever. This led me to put together a slide pack of notes on Keynes’s collection Essays in Persuasion (1931)...

...The slide pack is long, but the Keynes material is worth the effort!... The key to understanding Keynes’s politics is... the boundary between politics and the economy fluid.... In Keynesianism their manipulation becomes the key variable in liberalism’s updated repertoire of politics and government.... [In] the crisis of 2008... not only monetary and fiscal policy, but also a dramatic extension of the macroprudential regime in the name of financial stability.... Wherever there were activist central banks and an ability to withstand a currency devaluation the bond vigilantes were held at bay.... As Keynes said the key is to keep “minds flexible” and to push the argument in “detail”...

https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0C7hB7cRkP6cell7FwNnu8MHw

Continue reading "" »


Friedrich Engels (1843): Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy: Weekend Reading

Friedrich Engels 1820 1895 German socialist directing the Stock Photo 57348937 Alamy

Friedrich Engels (1843): Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy: "The eighteenth century, the century of revolution, also revolutionised economics. But... all the revolutions of this century were one-sided and bogged down in antitheses...

Continue reading "Friedrich Engels (1843): Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy: Weekend Reading" »


Hoisted from teh Archives: Joseph Schumpeter on "Liquidationism"

Greatdepress banner jpg 650×375 pixels

Today's Economic History: Joseph Schumpeter on "Liquidationism": "Three things strike me while rereading Schumpeter's 1934 "Depressions" (and also his 1927 Explanation of the Business Cycle):

  1. How much smarter Schumpeter is than our modern liquidationists and austerians--he says a great many true things in and amongst the chaff, which is created by his fundamentally mistaken belief that structural adjustment must be triggered by a downturn and a wave of bankruptcies that releases resources into unemployment. How much more fun and useful it would be right now to be debating a Schumpeter right now than the ideologues calling for, say, more austerity for and more unemployment in Greece!

  2. How very strange it is for Schumpeter to be laying out his depressions-cause-structural-change-and-growth theory of business cycles at the very same moment that he is also laying out his entrepreneurs-disrupt-the-circular-flow-and-cause-structural-change-and-growth-theory of enterprise. It is, of course, the second that is correct: Growth comes from entrepreneurs pulling resources into the sectors, enterprises, products, and production methods of the future. It does not come from depressions pushing resources into unemployment. Indeed, as Keynes noted, times of depression and fear of future depression are powerful brakes halting Schumpeterian entrepreneurship: "If effective demand is deficient... the individual enterpriser... is operating with the odds loaded against him. The game of hazard which he plays is furnished with many zeros.... Hitherto the increment of the world’s wealth has fallen short of the aggregate of positive individual savings; and the difference has been made up by the losses of those whose courage and initiative have not been supplemented by exceptional skill or unusual good fortune. But if effective demand is adequate, average skill and average good fortune will be enough..."

  3. How Schumpeter genuinely seems to have no clue at all that the business cycle is a feature of a monetary economy--how very badly indeed he needed to learn, and how he never did learn, what Nick Rowe and company teach today about the effects of monetary stringency on economic coordination.

  4. And, finally, how absolutely bonkers liquidationism and austerianism remain...

Continue reading "Hoisted from teh Archives: Joseph Schumpeter on "Liquidationism"" »


Tail Risks

Stegosaurus jpg 700×455 pixels

Tail risks. Can we afford right now to think about tail risks? Probably not: right now what were our tail risks have become head risks, and given them and our day jobs we are all fully absorbed. But if we are going to be spending even a little time thinking about tail risks, the big worry has to be that something happens to cause the Global North to stop investing, as it did in 2008-2009.

Cast your minds back to ten years and two months ago. Back then people were patting themselves on the back; The United States had wound down from its over-the-top overcommitment to housing construction, and had done so without a recession. The Federal Reserve had handled the unpleasantness of mortage-firm, structured-product, and Bear-Stearns bankruptcy. In doing so the Federal Reserve had effectively guaranteed the unsecured debt of every systemically-important commercial and investment bank in and out of New York. The forecast—at least among those who were not close students of Hyman Minsky, an who had not paid attention to Paul Krugman's The Return of Depression Economics—was for at most a small recession, with the balance of risks such that the major risk to the economy—at least in the minds of the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee—was an increase in core inflation.

Continue reading "Tail Risks" »


Weekend Reading: Robert Allen on Japan

Weekend Reading: On Japan: Robert Allen** (2013) Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Oxford: Oxford University Press: ) https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0199596654: On Japan: "Japan is a particularly interesting case, for it was the first Asian country to catch up with the West...

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: Robert Allen on Japan" »


Note to Self: "The Song of Everlasting Sorrow" and Historical Patriarchy...

Note to Self: The Song of Everlasting Sorrow and Historical Patriarchy: I was reading, as one does—I do not remember why I was reading this, however—an English translation_ of poet, landlord, scholar, bureaucrat, drunkard Bai Juyi's Song of Everlasting Sorrow. And I was struck by four short lines:

Tang Poems English Translation

The overturning of the natural order as a consequence of the love of Emperor Xuanzong for Lady Yang Guifei was so great that all cross the empire parents wished for girl- rather than boy-children...

This struck me as having obvious bearing on my ["Historical Patriarchy"][] lecture...

Continue reading "Note to Self: "The Song of Everlasting Sorrow" and Historical Patriarchy..." »


Big Questions for Left Opposition Social Scientists: Cedarbrook Notes

2018-03-12_Brad_DeLong_Party_Card_pages

Cedarbrook Notes: Occupy had zero impact on austerity budgets. Mont Pelerin was not important because they gathered by a lake, sang “kumbaya”, and felt a sense of solidarity. We should not pretend defeats were victories.

What can we do? I think there are three levels that we ought to be operating on—all, right now, understanding the world rather than trying to change it: understanding policies, understanding mobilizations, and understanding utopia:

  • The first is understanding the effects of policies: the policies adopted between 1980 and 2007 did not have the results that their advocates expected nor the results that their critics expected. We really do need to figure out how to understand what the social world is rather than what the models—both pro and con—in use during the neoliberal era said the social world was.

  • The second is understanding the vicissitude of mobilization. The standard political center-left plans to promote full employment, progressive taxation and social insurance, upward mobility, and infrastructure and public services—equitable growth—all these are things that should meet with near-universal applause. By contrast, con-game kleptocracy in the interest of plutocracy should not get 60 million votes. Fascism—the belief that you need a strong leader who is a bully, because he is your bully, and he will bully your enemies, who may be corporations, foreigners, people who look or think differently, and who are always the rootless cosmopolites—should not be attractive to a 21st-century electorate on any level. Yet, somehow, it, terrifyingly, is. The same social-science models that failed to adequately track the effects of neoliberal policies failed to predict the seductive attractiveness of 21st century neo-fascism. Thus we have two different levels at which we need to understand the societal world: the effects of neoliberal policies, and the possibilities for mobilization.

  • The third is the question of what our Utopia is. How will our different view of the social world change our goals for a good society? Our utopia will almost surely still include full employment, progressive taxation and social insurance, upward mobility, and lots of infrastructure. But it will also include other and deeper objectives—objectives that have not been on the New Deal and social democratic bucket lists.

These three tracks all need to be pushed forward. But they also very much need to be three tracks. And they need to be three different tracks.


Nils Gilman: The Toba Eruption, by Spawning the #Transformationofthehuman Known as Behavioral Modernity...: "'Never before have I encountered someone so gleeful about catastrophe. When we discussed the risk that the Yellowstone supervolcano might blow at any time, Keller’s eyes twinkled. "It’s a fun idea", she said' https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/09/dinosaur-extinction-debate/565769/...

Continue reading "" »


MOAR Problems with Twitter...

San Francisco Bay

There are more problems with Twitter than the Nazis, the shrillness, the out-of-context mobs, the unhinged rants, the Nazi shrillness, the out-of-context Nazi mobs, the unhinged Nazi rants, the shrill out-of-contezt mobs, the unhinged shrill rants, the out-of-context unhinged rants, the shrill Nazi out-ofcontext mobs, the shrill Nazi unhinged rants, the unhinged rants by Nazi out-of-context mobs, the shrill out-of-context unhinged ranting mobs, and the Nazi shrill unhinged rants by out-of-context mobs.

When something good happens on Twitter, it has no positive externalities: it is too compressed and allusive to be of use to anybody not immediately and directly plugged in—and often it is not even of use to many who are engaged but who cannot follow the compressed and coded 280-character discourse. Back in THE DAY, debates between weblogs produced things of value to a large watching audience, and had large positive externalities.

For example, this day. Great for me and for a few others. But any good for a larger audience?:

Suresh Naidu: @CoreyRobin clarifies the s-word:

Corey Robin: The New Socialists: Socialists hear “the market” and think of the anxious parent... the insurance representative... decree[inig] that the policy... doesn’t cover her child’s appendectomy.... We bow and scrape, flatter and flirt, or worse—just to get that raise or make sure we don’t get fired.... Socialists want to... establish freedom from rule by the boss, from the need to smile for the sake of a sale, from the obligation to sell for the sake of survival.... The biggest boundary today’s socialists are willing to cross is the two-party system.... Democrats are also complicit in the rot of American life. And here the socialism of our moment meets up with the deepest currents of the American past.... It was said that liberalism was freedom plus groceries. The socialist, by contrast, believes that making things free makes people free.... Socialism is not journalists, intellectuals or politicians armed with a policy agenda.... It is workers who get us there, who decide what and where “there” is. That, too, is a kind of freedom. Socialist freedom.

Rakesh Bhandari: You mean the s-d compound word, right? And it's a pretty weak s-d too insomuch as the promise here seems to be that universal health insurance would make it easier for some employees to escape more-than-ordinarily abusive bosses. Not really the socialist critique of capitalism! It's pretty much the end of ideology where the leftist Jacobin and the Nobel economist both agree that capitalism can be fixed by universal health insurance that makes it easier to leave extraordinarily abusive bosses and restrictions on arbitrary sacks. Yet catastrophes await

Brad DeLong: Steering by the Socialist Idols in the Heavens Leads Us to Sail Not Towards but Away from the Shores of Utopia: (Early) Monday Corey Robin Smackdown: Robin writes of "the anxious parent, desperate not to offend the insurance representative on the phone, lest he decree that the policy she paid for doesn’t cover her child’s appendectomy". But that is not a problem with "the market": that is a problem with bureaucracy. National health systems face the same problems and make the same kinds of decisions with respect to "medical appropriateness" as do private insurers. Robin writes of freedom from "the need to smile for the sake of a sale". But that is not a problem with "the market": that is a problem with the need we have for a complex division of labor in order to be a rich society, in the context of the very human fact that people will not be eager to deal with you as a cooperative partner if you are a misanthropic grouch. The market provides a partial way around the unfreedoms generated by institutions of bureaucratic organization and social cooperation.... [But] the market pays attention to the wealthy and only the wealthy. But the problem then is one of poverty—that we have managed to arrange a very wealthy society in such a way that it has a lot of not-wealthy people in it. Contrary to what Robin claims, utopia is indeed the liberal dream of freedom plus groceries—with "groceries" standing in for enough wealth to route yourself around the unfreedoms created by bureaucracy and by your own misanthropic nature when they bind too tightly...

Cosma Shalizi: In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You: Capitalism, the market... bureaucracy... democratic polity... can be... cold monster[s].... We... live among these alien powers... try to direct them to human ends... find the specific ways in which these powers we have conjured up are hurting us, and use them to check each other.... Sometimes... more... market mechanisms, sometimes... removing... goods and services from market allocation.... Sometimes... expanding... democratic decision-making... and sometime... narrowing its scope.... Leaving some tasks to experts... recognizing claims of expertise to be mere assertions of authority... complex problems, full of messy compromises. Attaining even second-best solutions is going to demand “bold, persistent experimentation”, coupled with a frank recognition that many experiments will just fail, and that even long-settled compromises can, with the passage of time, become confining obstacles...

Suresh Naidu: The Shalizi and Robin essays are complements not substitutes. Borrowing your language: Corey is showing the undemocratic nature of negishi weighted swfs; Cosma is saying all feasibly computed swf are inefficient (criticizing both planning and markets).

Brad DeLong: Touché... Except that Corey's examples are flaws of bureaucracy and of the modes of sociability ("smile for a sale"), not flaws of market—which are externality, moral hazard, monopoly, negishi values, etc. Getting rid of markets won't tame bureaucracy or change modes of sociability.

Ilyana Kuziemko: Suresh to borrow our fave example of powerlessness and “nonfreedom,” I wonder if there is more joyless, dutiful laughing at the bad jokes of superiors in capitalism or socialism...

Brad DeLong: Now that is genuinely funny...

Ilyana Kuziemko: There is a hell a lot of it under capitalism! :)

Steven Klein: Freedom as non-domination-Pettit is in the background. I think just saying "its bureaucracy" underestimates the difference between a for-profit companies bureaucracy and government health care subject to public accountability, however attenuated. And what about this core example: "we’re forced to submit to the boss"? There's an interesting debate about whether freedom as non-domination—being free not just from external restraints but from subordination—is furthered or hindered by the market: https://t.co/goUG5FkwRF. Robert Taylor defends market freedom: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/exit-left-9780198798736?cc=us&lang=en&. Gourevitch argues basically you need full workplace democracy to realize freedom: https://t.co/hWZJCE4QEg. And I advance basically a left-wing social democratic critique of Pettit and Taylor (although Pettit would say he is closer to my position than I think he is): https://t.co/Q720I6724Q.

Suresh Naidu: I find that Taylor book interesting, in that he basically rests his case on an ideal of perfect competition/complete contracts. If real world markets are rife with deviations from that (e.g. monopsony and efficiency wages), I think the neo-republican case for markets falls apart.

Rakesh Bhandari: I think the language Robin is reaching for to describe his annoyingly vague sense of freedom can be found in Sen's and Nussbaum's capability approach. I think you need that before you can coherently critique welfare functions 1 reply 1 retweet 0 likes Reply 1 Retweeted 1 Like Direct message

Steven Klein: It's freedom as non-domination-Pettit is in the background. I think just saying "its bureaucracy" underestimates the difference between a for-profit companies bureaucracy and government health care subject to public accountability, however attenuated.

Brad DeLong**: There are failures of insurance that are market failures—the inability to purchase insurance because of moral hazard is a big one. But "bureaucracy" ain't one. To pretend getting rid of markets will cure bureaucracy takes you in a very bad direction...

Steven Klein: Right, but I think the difference is between decisions on treatment being opaque and nebulous and them being made through some public procedure. Yes, public health systems ration - they key is in how the rationing is done.

Suresh Naidu: There are real limits to the traditional neo-republican notion of freedom when it comes to big impersonal institutions. i.e. the problem is the discretion/caprice available to the bureaucrat/boss, not the institutional logic being implemented by the bureaucrat/boss.

Brad DeLong: But the institutional logic can be as alienating and as large a source of unfreedom as the caprice of the boss... Cf.: Ursula K. LeGuin: The Dispossessed, passim...

Suresh Naidu: "Freedom as non-domination". Absolutely.

Rakesh Bhandari: Eduardo Porter gave the disturbing example of old age homes that go private overprescribing medications that rob the elderly of many of their remaining conscious hours so that they require fewer staff members to take care of them.

Steven Klein: when it comes to health care, I'd take a government quisling terrified of breaking the rules over some precarious worker incentivized to find ways to deny claims or limit payments

Suresh Naidu: Right, assuming the bureaucrat doesn't have any discretion, and is just implementing the agenda of his employer, it matters whether her employer is a democratic government or a profit-maximizing firm. But you can imagine both democratic or market failures that could go either way.

Scotrt Ashworth: This is where I declare Brad a better empirical political scientist than Steven.

Steven Klein: Give me my political theory idealizations :)

Scott Ashworth: If your defense of Corey here is that BS-ish but inspirational talk is politically valuable and the NYT is for politics not intellectualism, I will concede defeat. 😏

Suresh Naidu: Why is it BS-ish? I think it's putting in public an academic conversation about freedom and markets that has been happening for awhile.

Suresh Naidu: Scott, is it because there is no distinctive market/nonmarket solution to bureaucratic agency problems, so scope for arbitrary whims remain constant?

Pseudoerasmus: I'm sympathetic to the healthcare example but I wonder how much of the “smiling for the boss” stuff is really about having to deal with tyrannical employers who can threaten your livelihood, rather than just middle-class intellectuals’ distaste for hustling to acquire luxuries...

Brad DeLong: But the health care example is a problem with bureaucracy! Not with the market! We know where socialists who destroy the markets in an attempt to deal with the evils of bureaucracy wind up, and it is not a good place!'

Pseudoerasmus: I totally agree with that! Socialism does not eliminate people’s subjections to other people’s whims; but the guy thinks ‘democracy’ will, I guess.

Brad DeLong: But "democracy" subjects all minorities to the whims of the demos. The demos serves you a hemlock cocktail, you drink a hemlock cocktail...

Suresh Naidu: The neo-repubs have a broader definition of democracy than majoritarianism....in including robust checks and balances/civil rights

Ilyana Kuziemko: As we were discussing, I think the freedom argument is a clever argument in that it neutralizes a common defense of capitalism but isn’t an effective central theme for socialism...

Brad DeLong: Say, rather, that power is minimized by having multiple societal organizing mechanisms—wealth and market, direct democratic, representative democratic, by lot, technocratic, cultural, ideological affinity. The key is to keep one from subsuming all the others, as one or the other is wont to do...

Suresh Naidu: Yes I like this.... It's a variant of Walzer's spheres of justice..but in means putting up barricades against "markets in everything"...

Ilyana Kuziemko: Wasnt that Uncle Milton’s argument? That economic inequality helped check government tyranny by creating a separate power center? But then we got Citizens United.

Brad DeLong: Yep. And indeed...

Brad DeLong: Yes. Immense barricades...

Ilyana Kuziemko: Like confiscatory marginal tax rates on income over some very small multiple of one million or what?

Brad DeLong: Yup... But, as I said, Corey’s implicit claim that bureaucratic and mode-of-societal-cooperation forms of domination would melt away if not for "the market" strikes me as false and jejune. As I said: needed editorial attention... Read Cosma Shalizi instead...

Steven Greenhouse: Why so many young Americans are attracted to Socialism, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Rakesh Bhandari: Except it's wrong. Clinton whom these new socialists (sic) hate proposed wildly progressive income taxes, stricter regulations on shadow banking than the putative socialist Sanders, and a massive green infrastructure program. They did everything to alienate the left from her.

Manu Saadia: More on the @CoreyRobin article and @de1ong rejoinder. To PK "socialism with American characteristics" is Western European social democracy…

Paul Krugman: Corey Robin and... Neil Irwin... get at a lot of what’s wrong with the neoliberal ideology... [of] low taxes and minimal regulation... that free markets translate into personal freedom.... In fact, the daily experience of tens of millions of Americans – especially but not only those who don’t make a lot of money – is one of constant dependence on the good will of employers and other more powerful economic players.... And it’s even more naïve now than it was a few decades ago, because, as Irwin points out, large economic players are dominating more and more of the economy.... What can be done about it? Corey Robin says “socialism” – but as far as I can tell he really means social democracy: Denmark, not Venezuela. Government-mandated employee protections may restrict the ability of corporations to hire and fire, but they also shield workers from some very real forms of abuse. Unions do somewhat limit workers’ options, but they also offer an important counterweight against corporate monopsony power. Oh, and social safety net programs can do more than limit misery: they can be liberating. I’ve known many people who stuck with jobs they disliked for fear of losing health coverage; Obamacare, flawed as it is, has noticeably reduced that kind of “lock in”, and a full guarantee of health coverage would make our society visibly freer.... Seriously, do the real differences between New York and Florida make New Yorkers less free?... If you’re a highly paid professional, it probably doesn’t make much difference. But my guess is that most workers feel at least somewhat freer in New York than they do in FL. Now, there are no perfect answers to the inevitable sacrifice of some freedom that comes with living in a complex society; utopia is not on the menu. But the advocates of unrestricted corporate power and minimal worker protection have been getting away for far too long with pretending that they’re the defenders of freedom–which is not, in fact, just another word for nothing left to lose...


Steering by the Socialist Idols in the Heavens Leads Us to Sail Not Towards but Away from the Shores of Utopia: (Early) Monday Corey Robin Smackdown

Preview of Steering Toward Socialist Idols Leads Us to Sail Not Towards but Away from the Shores of Utopia

I find Corey Robin smart most of the time. I find him annoyingly and profoundly stupid some of the time. Why? Because of occasional but stubborn blindnesses to very important parts of recent history and, indeed, very important parts of the world in which he lives—what seems to me a willful, trollish blindnesses.

For example, his piece in the New York Times last week. It really could have used some proper editorial attention it did not get: The examples presented of what is wrong with "the market" are simply... not examples...

Robin writes of "the anxious parent, desperate not to offend the insurance representative on the phone, lest he decree that the policy she paid for doesn’t cover her child’s appendectomy". But that is not a problem with "the market": that is a problem with bureaucracy. National health systems face the same problems and make the same kinds of decisions with respect to "medical appropriateness" as do private insurers.

Robin writes of freedom from "the need to smile for the sake of a sale". But that is not a problem with "the market": that is a problem with the need we have for a complex division of labor in order to be a rich society, in the context of the very human fact that people will not be eager to deal with you as a cooperative partner if you are a misanthropic grouch.

The market provides a partial way around the unfreedoms generated by institutions of bureaucratic organization and social cooperation. The market—if and only if you have wealth—allows you to be a misanthropic grouch and still get people to cooperate with you. The market—if and only if you have wealth—allows you to avoid having to work to make the gear-wheels of bureaucracy turn and yet still gain access to resources. It is certainly the case that if people are poor then the market does them no good at all. It cannot, then, be a way around bureaucracy or norms of social agreeableness. The market pays attention to the wealthy and only the wealthy. But the problem then is one of poverty—that we have managed to arrange a very wealthy society in such a way that it has a lot of not-wealthy people in it.

Contrary to what Robin claims, utopia is indeed the liberal dream of freedom plus groceries—with "groceries" standing in for enough wealth to route yourself around the unfreedoms created by bureaucracy and by your own misanthropic nature when they bind too tightly. The problem is not "the market" or "capitalism": Corey Robin: The New Socialists: "Under capitalism, we’re forced to enter the market just to live...

Continue reading "Steering by the Socialist Idols in the Heavens Leads Us to Sail Not Towards but Away from the Shores of Utopia: (Early) Monday Corey Robin Smackdown" »


On Removing My Tweed Jacket at the Start of Lecture...

Observing Drought in California with Remote Sensing LP DAAC NASA Land Data Products and Services

A word about this peculiar costume—the closest thing you can get to goretex if all you have is a sheep—that I am now taking off...

Because of central heating, these male formal and semi-formal clothes aren't comfortable these days even in Oxford and Cambridge, England, where they were originally developed. They are really only comfortable in Scotland. That is well-and-good if you teach at the University of Edinburgh or in Glasgow—or, perhaps, in Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, or maybe in Washington or Oregon.

It used to be that these clothes were comfortable here in Berkeley. But, because of global warming, the climate here these days is a lot like what I remember Santa Barbara being like half a century ago when I was a child. When I got a job here at Berkeley in the mid-1990s, I looked forward to living in a place in which tweed jackets and such were comfortable both inside and out. The fact that these clothes were actually comfortable here was a factor—a small factor, but a factor. Increasingly, however, that is no longer the case. A problem resulting from global warming, albeit a small problem.

Continue reading "On Removing My Tweed Jacket at the Start of Lecture..." »


Monday DeLong Smackdown/Hoisted: Greenspanism Looking Pretty Good...

Oy: This was perhaps the biggest thing I got most wrong in 2008. It's not saved by the weasel-words at the end: "If the tide of financial distress sweeps the Fed and the Treasury away--if we find ourselves in a financial-meltdown world where unemployment or inflation kisses 10%--then I will unhappily concede, and say that Greenspanism was a mistake...: Greenspanism Looking Pretty Good...: Martin Wolf is gloomy:

A year of living dangerously for the world: It is now almost a year since the US subprime crisis went global. Many then hoped that the repricing of risk would be no more than a brief interruption.... Such hopes have been disappointed.... So where is the world economy now? And where might it go? Here are some preliminary answers to these questions.

Continue reading "Monday DeLong Smackdown/Hoisted: Greenspanism Looking Pretty Good..." »