#highlighted Feed

Adam Smith: Society & the “System of Natural Liberty”

2.3) Society & the “System of Natural Liberty”: Adam Smith was a genius because he had a truly game-changing insight into how our societal division of labor should be organized. As far as the production and distribution of our collective material wealth is concerned, you see, most of what we need and want is both excludible and rival.

If something is “excludible”, that means we can assign it an owner—some one of us can be designated to control it, and to decide on its use, or decide to transfer “ownership” of it to something else. If something is excludible, we can push the decisions about how it is to be used out to the periphery of society, to the people on the ground who know what is going on, rather than have the decision made by some centralized bureaucracy clueless because of its inability to reliably judge information conveyed to it at third- or fourth-hand. Having ownership makes sense if information about what is going on is dispersed and hard to assemble: giving control to people on the spot is then a very good idea.

If something is “rival”, that means that one person's use of it forecloses the opportunities of others: if I am using this iPhone, you cannot be using the same iPhone. If a good is rival, that one of us is using it diminishes the opportunities and possibilities available to others. That makes them poorer. Thus it makes sense to charge a price for somebody using a rival commodity. That makes them feel in their gut the effects of their decisions on the opportunities open to others. Charging prices is a way to align individuals’ incentives about whether it is worth it for them to make use of a commodity with the effects of their decision on the overall well-being of the society.

Hence, Adam Smith argued in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, the wealth of nations is most greatly enhanced by following the dictates of what he named the System of Natural Liberty—“liberty” because it leaves people free to do what they wanted with their labor and their possessions, “natural” because it conforms with human nature, "system" because it can be and is extended to the status of a general principle. Let people decide what they want to do with their things and their labor, and they arrange themselves in a large highly-productive societal division of labor. Self-interest focuses people on creating value. Competition curbs any distracting focus of self-interest on accomplishing exploitation.

This “System of Natural Liberty” is, Smith argues, good. As Heilbroner summarizes:

Self-interest… drives men to action…. [But] a community activated only by self-interest would be a community of ruthless profiteers. This regulator is competition, the socially beneficial consequence of the conflicting self-interests of all the members of society. For each man, out to do his best for himself with no thought of social cost, is faced with a flock of similarly motivated individuals who are in exactly the same boat…. A man who permits his self-interest to run away with him will find that competitors have slipped in… will find himself without buyers in the one case and without employees in the other. Thus very much as in the Theory of Moral Sentiments, the selfish motives of men are transmuted by interaction to yield the most unexpected of results: social harmony…. The… market is that it is its own guardian. If output or prices or certain kinds of remuneration stray away from their socially ordained levels, forces are set into motion to bring them back to the fold. It is a curious paradox which thus ensues: the market, which is the acme of individual economic freedom, is the strictest task master of all…

This leads to a fraught question: Is this a theological point? Is the fact that acting “naturally” in the sense of giving market exchange free rein produces good results evidence that there is a benevolent Providence out there? Is this a teleological point? Are, in some sense, money and gift-exchange aimed at creating prosperity? How is it that processes that are not human—that lead to consequences not desired directly by any human—have a mind of their own, and lead to good ends? It is indeed a marvel that, as Smith puts it, in his theory at least:

[While] every individual… endeavours… to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value… labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can…. He… neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it…. He intends only his own security…. He intends only his own gain…. In this, as in many other cases, [he is] led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention…”

It is a marvel. But what kind of a marvel is it?

It is not that Smith is opposed to government. Government is necessary to protect property, and to enforce contracts: people—most people—will respect others’ property and keep their own contracts, most of the time. But for the non-most people and at the non-most times we need the police, hence we need government. We need public works. We need public education. We need national defense. Adam Smith is very clear on all of these. In fact, Book V of the Wealth of Nations on what the government should do and how it should do it is the largest of the five parts of the book. But, Smith is certain, attempts of some centralized bureaucrat to undermine the System of Natural Liberty in its proper sphere—to direct who should do what when and where—were likely to produce not wealth and prosperity but poverty and misery.

Continue reading "Adam Smith: Society & the “System of Natural Liberty”" »


Lecture Notes: Adam Smith

Salon

Adam Smith starts with the observation that humans are largely but not exclusively self-interested creatures: we are, largely but not exclusively greedy. Yet we have a complex and sophisticated societal division of labor. And that division of labor is essential to our prosperity. Indeed, it is essential to our survival: drop one or two of us into the Sierra Nevada, even in summer, and we will quite likely die. Drop 100 of us, and we will quite likely survive, and even flourish. How can animals that are by nature greedy nevertheless cooperate on a large scale? That is the deep moral-philosophical question that we can see in both of Smith’s big books...

pages: https://www.icloud.com/pages/0DimW1dRNmxkH9qXpOdbHyOjw
latest pdf: http://delong.typepad.com/files/lectureadam-smith-2019-11-21-1.pdf

this html: https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/11/lecture-notes-adam-smith.html
edit html: https://www.typepad.com/site/blogs/6a00e551f08003883400e551f080068834/post/6a00e551f0800388340240a4c8cd8e200d/edit
#berkeley #economics #highighted #historyofeconomicthought #lecturenotes #moralphilosophy #politicaleconomy #2019-11-21

Adam Smith: From Human Nature to Human Society

2.2) From Human Nature to Human Society: Hence the key importance of the human cultural invention of money in forming our large-scale human society: money means that any one of us can make a short-term one-shot exchange relationship with any other one of us, someone who we may well never see again. Money, you see, is manufactured trust, and it allows us to extend our societal division of labor to encompass, indirectly, nearly everybody else in the world.

For example, consider the 30-foot bronze statue of Athene Promakhos—Athena Fighting-in-Front—that the council and people of Athens had cast and installed on the Acropolis around -450. The Greek geographer Pausanias wrote that anyone approaching Athens by sea by day could see her gleaming helmet and the tip of her spear as soon as they had rounded Sounion Head at the southern tip of Attika. 70 tons of bronze supposedly went into the statue, which survived until 1204—63 tons of copper, 7 tons of tin. Copper was abundant. But where in the -5th century were the artisans of Athens to find 7 tons of tin? The historian Herodotos states that he could find nobody in Athens who knew where the tin was coming from: all anyone could say was that the ships had picked up the tin, already mined, in Sicily, and that they thought it came from “tin islands” in the ocean on the other side of Europe. But he could find nobody who would claim to have actually seen these tin islands, or this ocean on the other side of Europe. So he doubted the stories.

The answer, of course, was that the tin was in Cornwall, at the southwestern tip of the island of Britain. The societal division of labor, as governed by the market, was a mechanism that “knew” that 7 tons of tin needed to be mined in Cornwall and then shipped, probably via the English Channel-Seine-portage-Rhone-Mediterranean route, to Athens via Sicily. And so it happened. But, apparently, nobody anywhere in the value chain knew its entire extent. The market knew things that no human individual knew. And this was almost 2.5 millennia ago: the market knows much, much, much more now.

Language, weak dominance, gift exchange, and money have enabled us to progress from perhaps 10,000 of us 70,000 years ago living at a global average living standard of perhaps three 3.5 dollars a day to today’s world-girdling societal division of labor now 7.5 billion strong, with a global average standard of living no about $35 a day. We are now, collectively, on average, at least 10 times as well-off and 750,000 times as numerous as we were 70,000 years ago back in the environment of evolutionary adaptation when we last passed through a Darwinian bottleneck.

Continue reading "Adam Smith: From Human Nature to Human Society" »


Adam Smith's View of Human Nature

2) Economic Sides of Adam Smith’s Philosophy: 2.1. Starting Points in Human Nature: Adam Smith starts with the observation that humans are largely but not exclusively self-interested creatures: we are, largely but not exclusively greedy. Yet we have a complex and sophisticated societal division of labor. And that division of labor is essential to our prosperity. Indeed, it is essential to our survival: drop one or two of us into the Sierra Nevada, even in summer, and we will quite likely die. Drop 100 of us, and we will quite likely survive, and even flourish.

How can animals that are by nature greedy nevertheless cooperate on a large scale? That is the deep moral-philosophical question that we can see both of Smith’s big books—his The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations—as aimed at. As Robert Heilbroner puts it in his The Worldly Philosophers, Smith:

is interested in laying bare the mechanism by which society hangs together. How is it possible for a community in which everyone is busily following his self-interest not to fly apart from sheer centrifugal force? What is it which guides each individual’s private business so that it conforms to the needs of the group? With no central planning authority and no steadying influence of age old tradition, how does society manage to get those tasks done which are necessary for survival?...

Adam Smith says that our ability to create and maintain a complicated societal division of labor that is so productive rests on three facets of human nature:

  1. language, that makes us an anthology intelligence—what one of us knows or learns, pretty quickly all of us within and many of us without earshot will quickly learn;

  2. hierarchy, in that we tend to form and respect weak dominance hierarchies in which we can command and obey;

  3. gift exchange: we bind ourselves by forming gift-exchange relationships, what Adam Smith called our “natural propensity to truck and barter“. We firmly expect to be and are very happy when I we trade favors with each other, and we are uneasy when we feel as though we are always giving or always receiving, for we want the exchange of gifts and favors to be reciprocal, and roughly balanced.

Back in our environment of evolutionary adaptation, we could form gift-exchange relationships only with a few: our close neighbors, our good friends, and our near kin. Trust, you see, is necessary for a long-term gift-exchange relationship, and short-term such relationships are rare because each has to have and be willing to give up something the other wants or needs right now. And since we are largely self interested, trust is hard to generate and maintain without other binding social ties.

Continue reading "Adam Smith's View of Human Nature" »


Three Great Books to Have Read—But Not Nefessarily to Read

I have been remiss in posting here because I have had the unexpected load of getting together lectures for the last 40% of: Economics 105: The History of Economic Thought: Smith, Marx, Keynes.

So let me apologize for the dearth of material by stepping through my lecture notes:

1) Smith, Marx, Keynes: The aim of this course it to examine the history of economic thought through the lens of three major economic thinkers: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes, each of whom wrote one long, difficult, but undeniably great book. Adam Smith in 1776 published his An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Karl Marx in 1867 published his Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (volume 1). John Maynard Keynes in 1936 published his The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (note the absence of the Oxford comma from Keynes’s title: Keynes was a British academic but not one from Oxford but rather from the University of Cambridge). In addition, read Robert Heilbroner’s excellent (if old) The Worldly Philosophers, a short survey of the history of economic thought, for context and background.

Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Marx’s Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, and Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money are great books to have read, if not easy books to read. They are, in fact, downright painful. (Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers is, by contrast, painless, easy, and still great.) Learning how to read great but difficult books and make sense of them on your own is a very valuable skill to learn, but a difficult one to teach in any way but by doing it. Moreover, a great book is a great book only if the reader is ready and prepared to read it—and so learning to figure out how to become the kind of reader to appreciate a particular great book is another important skill to learn as well.

Continue reading "Three Great Books to Have Read—But Not Nefessarily to Read" »


Lecture Notes: Smith, Marx, Keynes: A View of the History of Economic Thought (UNFINISHED)

Well, I have wound up, by surprise, giving the last third of the lectures in Economics 105: The History of Economic Thought: Smith, Marx, Keynes. I admit I was not as averse to being imposed on by the Department as I might have been because I thought it might push me to get my head and my thoughts together.

Here they are—unfinished. But I should give the students an opportunity to see how I think about these thinkers and their works: https://www.icloud.com/pages/0howtV7CndvjkSCCLmtjmq_SA

Continue reading "Lecture Notes: Smith, Marx, Keynes: A View of the History of Economic Thought (UNFINISHED)" »


Ricardo's Big Idea, and Its Vicissitudes: Hoisted from the Archives

Hoisted from the Archives: Ricardo's Big Idea, and Its Vicissitudes https://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/10/ricardos-big-idea-and-its-vicissitudes-inet-edinburgh-comparative-advantage-panel.html:

INET Edinburgh Comparative Advantage Panel


Ricardo's Big Idea, and Its Vicissitudes

https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0QMFGpAUFCjqhdfLULfDbLE4g

Continue reading "Ricardo's Big Idea, and Its Vicissitudes: Hoisted from the Archives" »


Hoisted from the Archives: From Eight Years Ago: The Way the World Looked to Me in the Summer of 2011

Hoisted from the Archives: The Way the World Looked to Me in the Summer of 2011: Back in the summer of 2009, Barack Obama had five economic policy principals on the Treasury Bench:

Continue reading "Hoisted from the Archives: From Eight Years Ago: The Way the World Looked to Me in the Summer of 2011" »


On the Word "Growth"...

Thor_and_Loki

"Growth" is a word borrowed from the Norse groði, the process of vegetation becoming green and becoming larger. In the later 800s, you see, England was invaded by an army of Danes. This Great Heathen Army's leaders wanted to avenge the execution by being thrown into a pit of poisonous snakes of their father Ragnar Lothbrok—Ragnar "Furry Pants", supposedly because he had successfully fought a giant snake while wearing furry pants that the snake could not bite through. The sons of Ragnar were: Ivar the Boneless (or Legless?), Björn Ironside, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, Halfdan Ragnarsson King of Dublin, Hvitserk, and Ubba. (Halfdan and Hvitserk may have been the same person—Hvitserk means "white shirt" and would thus be much more appropriate as a nickname like "Boneless", "Ironside" or "Snake-in-the-Eye".

Continue reading "On the Word "Growth"..." »


Perhaps. And Sometimes: Hoisted from the Archives from 2010

Empres_s_Theodora

Hoisted from the Archives: Perhaps. And Sometimes https://www.cato-unbound.org/2010/09/16/j-bradford-delong/perhaps-sometimes: In 542 AD the late Roman (early Byzantine?) Emperor Justinian I wrote to his Praetorian Prefect concerning the army — trained and equipped and paid for by the Roman State to control the barbarians and to “increase the state.” Justinian was, Peter Sarris reports in his Economy and Society in the Age of Justinian, upset that:

certain individuals had been daring to draw away soldiers and foederati from their duties, occupying such troops entirely with their own private business…. The emperor… prohibit[ed] such individuals from drawing to themselves or diverting troops… having them in their household… on their property or estates…. [A]ny individual who, after thirty days, continues to employ soldiers to meet his private needs and does not return them to their units will face confiscation of property… “and those soldiers and foederati who remain in paramonar attendance upon them… will not only be deprived of their rank, but also undergo punishments up to and including capital punishment.

Justinian is worried because what is going on in the country he rules is not legible to him. Soldiers — soldiers whom he has trained, equipped, and paid for — have been hired away from their frontier duties by the great landlords of the Empire and employed on their estates and in the areas they dominate as bully-boys. One such great landlord was Justinian’s own sometime Praefectus Praetorio per Orientem Flavius Apion, to whom one of Flavius’s tenants and debtors, one Anoup, wrote:

Continue reading "Perhaps. And Sometimes: Hoisted from the Archives from 2010" »


No, We Don’t “Need” a Recession

No__We_Don’t_“Need”_a_Recession_by_J__Bradford_DeLong_-_Project_Syndicate

Project Syndicate: No, We Don’t “Need” a Recession https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/myth-of-needed-recession-by-j-bradford-delong-2019-10: Business cycles can end with a "rolling readjustment" in which asset values are marked back down to reflect underlying fundamentals, or they can end in depression and mass unemployment. There is never any good reason why the second option should prevail: BERKELEY – I recently received an email from my friend Mark Thoma of the University of Oregon, asking if I had noticed an increase in commentaries suggesting that a recession would be a good and healthy purge for the economy (or something along those lines). In fact, I, too, have noticed more commentators expressing the view that “recessions, painful as they are, are a necessary growth input.” I am rather surprised by it.

Of course, it was not uncommon for commentators to argue for a “needed” recession before the big one hit in 2008-2010. But I, for one, assumed that this claim was a decade dead. Who in 2019 could say with a straight face that a recession and high unemployment under conditions of low inflation would be a good thing?

Continue reading "No, We Don’t “Need” a Recession" »


Income and Wealth Distribution, or, Watching Professional Republicans Sell Their Souls Back in 1992: Hoisted from the Archives

Inbox 31 brad delong gmail com Gmail

I have long wanted an undergraduate to write a senior thesis about this episode. I have never found one to advise to do so:

Hoisted from the Archives: The income distribution came on to the stage that is America's public sphere between February 14 and December 12, 1992. And the rhetoric of "X% of gains in per capita income over years Y-Z went to the top W%-iles of the income distribution" became a one in American political-economic discourse over that time period as well. Over those ten months then-New York Times economics reporter Sylvia Nasar wrote eight stories about income inequality in America. All of them were pitched at a high substantive and intellectual level—they would have fit into the New York Times's later Upshot (which has recently refocused at a less analytically-substantive level as concerned with "politics, policy, and everyday life"). This was, needless to say, very unusual for the New York Times.

Sylvia's first story addressed the peculiar fact that the "80's Boom", as Reagan Republicans and the New York Times called it, had seen the poverty rate not diminish but rise. Sylvia attributed that rise to union-busting, and a growing disparity between high- and low-wage jobs springing from a decline in relative manufacturing employment and possibly from boosted high-wage white-collar productivity from computerization. Her second story, on March 5, took a turn. Instead of continuing to investigate the causes of rising poverty and wage stagnation in a decade of supposed boom, it focused on "who had reaped the gains" from "the prosperity of the last decade and a half". It highlighted the "Krugman calculation". It began:

Populist politicians, economists and ordinary citizens have long suspected that the rich have been getting richer. What is making people sit up now is recent evidence that the richest 1 percent of American families appears to have reaped most of the gains from the prosperity of the last decade and a half. An outsized 60 percent of the growth in the average after-tax income of all American families between 1977 and 1989—and an even heftier three-fourths of the gain in average pretax income—went to the wealthiest 660,000 families, each of which had an annual income of at least $310,000 a year...

Continue reading "Income and Wealth Distribution, or, Watching Professional Republicans Sell Their Souls Back in 1992: Hoisted from the Archives" »


My Job as the Economist Here Is to Do the Numbers...

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

Council on Foreign Relations: The Future of Democracy Symposium: Session Two: Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: My job as the economist here is to do the numbers.

Over the past forty, fifty years we’ve seen some alleviation of—call them gender hierarchies. Women, even women who are high school dropouts are making more money adjusted for inflation now than women were back in 1981. And that progress spreads up the distribution, so that the group that’s done at least as well as anyone else are women with advanced degrees in America. For them, America is fulfilling the promise that people thought or expect to have of it...

Continue reading "My Job as the Economist Here Is to Do the Numbers..." »


Listening to Arsonists

No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate: Listening to Arsonists: Barack Obama made a significant mistake in naming the Republican ex-senator Alan Simpson to co-chair the president’s deficit-reduction commission. Simpson was a noted budget arsonist when he was in the Senate, and he has recently expressed views that make no sense whatsoever: Simpson was a noted budget arsonist when he was in the Senate. Indeed, he never met a budget-busting, deficit-increasing initiative from a Republican president that he would not lead the charge to pass. Nor did he ever meet a sober deficit-reducing initiative from a Democratic president that he did not oppose with every fiber of his being...

Continue reading "Listening to Arsonists" »


How Damaging Is Plutocracy for Economic Policy?

Is Plutocracy Really the Problem by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate: Is Plutocracy Really the Problem?: After the 2008 financial crisis, economic policymakers in the United States did enough to avert another Great Depression, but fell far short of what was needed to ensure a strong recovery. Attributing that failure to the malign influence of the plutocracy is tempting, but it misses the root of the problem.... In fact, big money does not always find a way, nor does its influence necessarily increase as the top 0.01% captures a larger share of total income.... The larger issue...is an absence of alternative voices. If the 2010s had been anything like the 1930s, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Conference Board would have been aggressively calling for more investment in America, and these arguments would have commanded the attention of the press. Labor unions would have had a prominent voice as advocates for a high-pressure economy. Both would have had very powerful voices inside the political process through their support of candidates. Did the top 0.01% put something in the water to make the media freeze out such voices after 2008?... Read MOAR at Project Syndicate

Continue reading "How Damaging Is Plutocracy for Economic Policy?" »


Podcast: Trump's Impact on the Economy

Cotto/Gottfried: What Happens to America's Economy If Trump Is Reelected? Brad DeLong Explains https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZZEI4jRqEo&feature=youtu.be: "Donald Trump... if he manages to secure a second term, what would four more years of his presidency mean for America's economy? Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury Brad DeLong, who now is an economics professor at UC Berkeley, addresses this hugely important question¸—and much more—on 'Cotto/Gottfried.'... See more episodes here: https://wtcgcottogottfried.blogspot.com/. San Francisco Review of Books main page: http://www.sanfranciscoreviewofbooks.com...

Continue reading "Podcast: Trump's Impact on the Economy" »


Unstructured Procrastination: Hoisted from the Archives

stacks and stacks of books

Hoisted from the Archives (2005): Unstructured Procrastination https://www.bradford-delong.com/2005/08/unstructured_pr.html: I usually am quite good at structured procrastination—working not on the thing that is most immediate and imminent on my calendar, but on the priority #3 or #4 that is actually more important in the long run and that excites me at the moment. But today this system has broken down. I have done something nobody should ever do: I have spent an hour thinking about Louis Althusser.

It's all Michael Berube's fault, but its worth it, for (highlighted below) he has the best paragraph on Louis Althusser ever written. The rest is (or ought to be) silence:

Michael Berube: "The otherwise incomprehensible question of why anyone would think it necessary to devise a 'structuralist Marxism'. Structuralism is so antipathetic to all questions of hermeneutics and historicity that one might imagine the desire for a structuralist Marxism to be something like a hankering for really spicy ice cream. And yet, in the work of Louis Althusser, spicy ice cream is exactly what we have. I don’t like it myself. But because it’s an important byway in the history of ice cream...

Continue reading "Unstructured Procrastination: Hoisted from the Archives" »


Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: Podcast

Brad DeLong, Reed Hundt, and Joshua Cohen: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: "At the end of the Carter administration and throughout the Reagan Revolution, belief in the power of markets became America's preferred economic policy doctrine. President Bill Clinton all but announced the triumph of free markets when he declared that 'the era of big government is over'. President Barack Obama faced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and pushed a recovery plan that was more limited than many had hoped, seeming to protect the very sectors that had created it.... In his new book, A Crisis Wasted, Reed Hundt... makes the argument that Obama missed an opportunity to push for a new progressive era of governance, a miscalculation that ultimately hobbled his administration.... A very special conversation between Hundt and DeLong about the limits of, and challenges to, free-market economics... in conversation with Joshua Cohen, co-editor of Boston Review...

Continue reading "Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: Podcast" »


Grand Narrative: An Intake from Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016

Il Quarto Stato

Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016

I. Grand Narrative

J. Bradford DeLong :: U.C. Berkeley, NBER, WCEG https://www.icloud.com/pages/0TzensY9YyNvqcY8elYagLUnQ https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0_nA1dc3XLgFa_2rEVsk3nuWQ

1.1: The Long 20th Century in Human History

The Long 20th Century began around 1870 and ended in 2016.

Before 1870 humanity was poor, and life was typically nasty, brutish, and short. Before 1870, over and over again, technology lost its race with human fecundity, and greater numbers coupled with resource scarcity to produce a humanity where most people most of the time could not be confident that they and their families would have their 2000 calories, plus essential nutrients, plus a roof over their head in a year. Before 1870 those on the make overwhelmingly focused on how to take from others or keep what they had while maintaining order, rather on how to make more for everyone. It is true that between 1800 and 1870 technology and organization gained a step or two in their race with fecundity. But only a step. Any post-1870 slackening of the pace of technological or organizational progress, or any major redivision of society’s dividends devoting less to the sinews or peace and more to the sinews of war, and “nasty, brutish, and short” would reassert itself.

But starting in 1870 all that changed. Science reached critical mass and gave birth to engineering. A liberal political order gave birth to a market economy. Engineering and the market produced an explosion of economic growth: these days one single year sees as much proportional technological and organizational advance and change in the human economy as a typical fifty years did back before 1800.

Continue reading "Grand Narrative: An Intake from Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, 1870-2016" »


DevEng 215: Pre-Class Note: Welcome!

Il Quarto Stato

Let us set the scene with an introductory note:

Back in 1800, nearly the entire world lived in dire poverty—what we today see as the dire poverty line of $1.90 a day, a level at which you are spending more than half your income on bare calories and essential nutrients, the minimum of heat and shelter, and the minimum of clothing. Below that line, certainly your health and perhaps your life is impacted: women become too skinny to reliably ovulate, and children become too malnourished to have healthy and effective immune systems. Back in 1800, there were only a few economies where the median household had a standard of living of more than $3 a day: Germany, France, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, the U.K., the U.S., and that was it.

Continue reading "DevEng 215: Pre-Class Note: Welcome!" »


American Twentieth-Century Exceptionalism: An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"

Il Quarto Stato

Sources of American Exceptionalism

In 1870 the focus of economic growth crossed the Atlantic to America, where continent-wide scale, a flood of immigration, vast resources, and an open society that made inventors and entrepreneurs culture heroes welcomed economic growth. In the United States the Belle Époque, the Gilded Age, the period of the explosion of prosperity set in motion around 1870 lasted without interruption longer than elsewhere in the world. China collapsed into revolution in 1911. Europe descended into the hell of World War I in 1914. In America the period of progress and industrial development lasted longer—perhaps from when the guns fell silent at the end of America’s Civil War at Appomattox in 1865 until the start of the Great Depression in the summer of 1929.

Continue reading "American Twentieth-Century Exceptionalism: An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"" »


John Cochrane Prostitutes Himself to Republican Politicians Department: Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from 2015

Clowns (ICP)

Noah Smith: John Cochrane Smackdown: "John writes: 'My surprise in reading Noah is that he provided no alternative numbers. If you don't think Free Market Nirvana will have 4% growth, at least for a decade as we remove all the level inefficiencies, how much do you think it will produce, and how solid is that evidence?...' I don't really feel I need to produce an alternative to a number that was made up as a political talking point. Why 4 percent? Why not 5? Why not 8? Why not 782 percent? Where do we get the number for how good we can expect Free Market Nirvana to be? Is it from the sum of point estimates from a bunch of different meta-analyses of research on various free-market policies? No. It was something Jeb Bush tossed out in a conference call because it was 'a nice round number', after James Glassman had suggested '3 or 3.5'. You want me to give you an alternative number, using the same rigorous methodology? Sure, how about 3.1. Wait, no. 3.3. There we go. 3.3 sounds good. Rolls off the tongue..."

I must say, Cochrane here reminds me of one of my most favorite quotes from tank economist Paul M. Sweezy:

Continue reading "John Cochrane Prostitutes Himself to Republican Politicians Department: Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from 2015" »


Who Are the Tankies, and Why Do They Fight for Dystopia?

Il Quarto Stato

Note to Self: And, of course, the curious thing is that when the chips are down it is the authoritarianism rather than the aolition of private property that is the key: Urban Dictionary: Tankie: "The term derives from the fact that the divisions within the communist movement first arose when the Soviet Union sent tanks into communist Hungary in 1956, to crush an attempt to establish an alternative version of communism which was not embraced by the Russians. Most communists outside the eastern bloc opposed this action and criticised the Soviet Union. The 'tankies' were those who said 'send the tanks in'. The epithet has stuck because tankies also supported 'sending the tanks in' in cases such as Czechoslovakia 1968, Afghanistan 1979, Bosnia and Kosovo/a (in the case of the Serbian state)...


German classical liberal Max Weber... saw that [really existing] socialism could become nothing but a synonym for bureaucratic despotism. For:  

History shows that wherever bureaucracy gained the upper hand, as in China, Egypt, it did not disappear. A progressive elimination of private capitalism is theoretically conceivable. What would be the practical result? The destruction of the [dehumanizing] steel frame of modern industrial work? No! Simply that also the top management of the socialized enterprises would become bureaucratic. There is even less freedom, since every power struggle with a state bureaucracy is hopeless.

Continue reading "Who Are the Tankies, and Why Do They Fight for Dystopia?" »


Migration 1870-1925 and International Economic InequalityOuttake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016

Il Quarto Stato

What did matter for inequality and upward mobility in the pre-World War I era was not trade but migration. The descendants of those who lived in Ireland at the start of the nineteenth century are, today, one of the richest groups in the world: less than half of the descendants of the Irish of 1800 live in Ireland today; instead, they are spread throughout America, Britain, and Australia, and they have prospered.

Continue reading "Migration 1870-1925 and International Economic InequalityOuttake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016" »


Introducing Partha Dasgupta: Economics: A Very Short Introduction

479 Social Capital and Natural Resources Sir Partha Dasgupta YouTube

Introducing Partha Dasgupta: Economics: A Very Short Introduction

http://amzn.to/2gR2jH3

Back in 1800, nearly the entire world lived in dire poverty—what we today see as the dire poverty line of $1.90 a day, a level at which you are spending more than half your income on bare calories and essential nutrients, the minimum of heat and shelter, and the minimum of clothing. Below that line, certainly your health and perhaps your life is impacted: women become too skinny to reliably ovulate, and children become too malnourished to have healthy and effective immune systems. Back in 1800, there were only a few economies where the median household had a standard of living of more than $3 a day: Germany, France, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, the U.K., the U.S., and that was it.

Continue reading "Introducing Partha Dasgupta: Economics: A Very Short Introduction" »


Ancient Economies: A Malthusian Model: Markdown Notebook

DRAFT: Ancient Economies: A Malthusian Model : The math for complicating the standard Solow Growth Model with (a) a rate of population growth that depends positively on the excess of spending on necessities above "subsistence" and (b) a level of the efficiency-of-labor that depends inversely on population, as a higher population induces resource scarcity that makes labor less productive. For understanding both the long-term apparent stagnation of living standards between the Neolithic and the Industrial Revolutions, and for understanding the rise and fall of ancient civilizations. Question: How should we add on to the Python class for the Solow Growth Model to turn this into a tool for doing problem sets for Econ 101b (and perhaps 135):

https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/LS2019/blob/master/2019-08-17-Ancient_Economies.ipynb

Continue reading "Ancient Economies: A Malthusian Model: Markdown Notebook" »


A Competitive Market: Python Class/Notebook

DRAFT: A Competitive Market: A Python class for a competitive market equilibrium with linear supply and demand curves—equilibrium price, equilibrium quantity, producer surplus, consumer surplus, total surplus. Looks for input parameters giving the slopes of the demand and supply curves, plus the maximum willingness-to-pay of the most eager demander and the minimum opportunity cost of the most efficient supplier. Now ready to hand over to others for editing, tightening, and additions.

https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/LS2019/blob/master/2019-08-10_market.ipynb

Continue reading "A Competitive Market: Python Class/Notebook" »


Solow Growth Model: Python Class/Notebook

CANDIDATE: Solow Growth Model Derived and modified from Stachurski-Sargent http://quantecon.org. A Python class for simulations using the Solow Growth Model, with additional code for performing simulations with baseline- and alternative-scenario parameter values. Focuses on the capital-output ratio κ as the key state variable, as it is (a) observable, and (b) with constant growth-model parameter values converges exactly (in continuous time at least) as an exponential. Now ready to hand over to others for tightening and additions:

https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/LS2019/blob/master/2019-08-08-Sargent-Stachurski.ipynb

Continue reading "Solow Growth Model: Python Class/Notebook" »


August 16, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update

Industrial Production Manufacturing NAICS IPMAN FRED St Louis Fed

The market has now delivered 100 basis points of easing in the ten-year Treasury window since the end of last October. On the 30-year bond, you would have made a 20% profit if you both it last October and sold it today, compared to a 3.5% profit on the S&P Composite over the same period. That is a major, major sentiment shift. That means that a number of people short debt with riskier operations than the S&P Composite are about to face margin calls and rollover difficulties. We will shortly see how solvent the market judges them.

Meanwhile, There was essentially no news about real GDP last week: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York nowcast stands at 1.8% for 2019:Q3.

Continue reading "August 16, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update" »


Looking Backwards from This Week at 24, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 Years Ago (August 7-August 13, 2019)

stacks and stacks of books

MUST OF THE MUSTS: J. Bradford De Long and Lawrence H. Summers: Equipment Investment and Economic Growth: "We use disaggregated data from the United Nations International Comparison Project and the Penn World Table to examine the association between different components of investment and economic growth over 1960–85. We find that producers’ machinery and equipment has a very strong association with growth: in our cross section of nations each percent of GDP invested in equipment raises GDP growth rate by 1/3 of a percentage point per year. This is a much stronger association than can be found between any of the other components. We interpret this association as revealing that the marginal product of equipment is about 30 percent per year. The cross nation pattern of equipment prices, quantities, and growth is consistent with the belief that countries with rapid growth have favorable supply conditions for machinery and equipment. The pattern is not consistent with the belief that some third factor both pushes up the rate of growth and increases the demand for machinery and equipment...

 

Continue reading "Looking Backwards from This Week at 24, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 Years Ago (August 7-August 13, 2019)" »


Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (August 15, 2019)

6a00e551f080038834022ad3b05124200d


  1. Wikipedia: Charlie Dent

  2. Duncan Black: Healthy Country: "I really don't see a way forward which isn't 'no deal Brexit' though no deal Brexit isn't a real thing. It just means 'we didn't bother to solve all the problems we have to start solving piece by piece now'...

  3. Appian: The Macedonian Wars: "Flamininus came into conference with Philip a second time at the Malian gulf.... The Greeks asked the Roman Senate to require Philip to remove from their country the three garrisons which he called 'the fetters of Greece': the one at Chalcis, which threatened the Boeotians, the Euboeans, and the Locrians; the one at Corinth, which closed the door of the Peloponnese; and the third at Demetrias, which lay, as it were, in ambush for the Aetolians and the Magnesians. The Senate asked Philip's ambassadors what the king's views were respecting the garrisons. When they answered that they did not know, the Senate said that Flamininus should decide the question and do what he considered just. So the ambassadors took their departure from Rome. Flamininus and Philip, being unable to come to any agreement, resumed hostilities...

  4. Simon Wren-Lewis: There Is No Mandate for No Deal

  5. Wikipedia: Ferghana horse

  6. Visit Faroe Islands

  7. Wikipedia: War of the Heavenly Horses: "The War of the Heavenly Horses or the Han–Dayuan war was a military conflict fought in 104 BC and 102 BC between the Chinese Han dynasty and Dayuan (in Central Asia, around Uzbekistan, east of Persia). The result was Han victory...

  8. Paul Krugman (1987): Adjustment in the World Economy

  9. Fred Hoyle: Ossian's Ride

  10. Wikipedia: Li Bai: "Li Bai, Li Po, Li Bo, Ri Haku have been all used in the West, but are all written with the same characters. His given name, (白), is romanized by variants such as Po, Bo, Bai, Pai. In Hanyu Pinyin, reflecting modern Mandarin Chinese, the main, colloquial equivalent for this character is Bái; Bó is the literary variant and is commonly used...

  11. Squawk Box: Business, Politics, Investors and Traders: "'Squawk Box' is the ultimate 'pre-market' morning news and talk program, where the biggest names in business and politics tell their most important stories. Anchored by Joe Kernen, Becky Quick and Andrew Ross Sorkin, the show brings Wall Street to Main Street. It's a 'must see' for everyone from the professional trader to the casual investor...

  12. Sidewalk Street Food

  13. The Art of the Lingnan School, 嶺南畫派的繪畫藝術

  14. Steve Jobs *(2007): Introducing The iPhone At MacWorld 2007

  15. Michael Pettis: Real Growth in China is Less than Half of Reported Growth

Continue reading "Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (August 15, 2019)" »


America’s Superpower Panic: Project Syndicate

America s Superpower Panic by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate and America s Superpower Panic Project Syndicate

Project Syndicate: America’s Superpower Panic: History suggests that a global superpower in relative decline should aim for a soft landing, so that it still has a comfortable place in the world once its dominance fades. By contrast, US President Donald Trump's incoherent, confrontational approach toward China could seriously damage America’s long-term interests.

Continue reading "America’s Superpower Panic: Project Syndicate" »


Is Plutocracy Really the Biggest Problem?: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate

Is Plutocracy Really the Problem by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

Project Syndicate: Is Plutocracy Really the Biggest Problem?: After the 2008 financial crisis, economic policymakers in the United States did enough to avert another Great Depression, but fell far short of what was needed to ensure a strong recovery. Attributing that failure to the malign influence of the plutocracy is tempting, but it misses the root of the problem:

Continue reading "Is Plutocracy Really the Biggest Problem?: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate" »


Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (August 11, 2019)

6a00e551f080038834022ad3b05124200d

  • Reflections 11 Years After the Crash: As long as people were confident that the 500 billion of bad mortgage debt would ultimately land on somebody who could absorb it, the only thing that would make a bad recession was if people anticipated a bad recession. And with no Lehman panic—if Bernanke, Paulson, and Geithner had not caused everybody to say quote what the fuck is going on" by allowing Lehman's bankruptcy uncontrolled and then justifying their actions by claiming that they were forbidden by law to support a too-big-to-fail institution that was insolvent and not just illiquid... Without that, no reason to fear even as bad as the S&L crisis...

  • Weekly Forecasting Update: August 9, 2019: There was essentially no news about real GDP last week: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York nowcast continues to stand at 1.6% for 2019:Q3. We did see another fifteen basis points of market easing at the long end of the yield. Curve: the 10-Year TIPS yield is now 0.09%. And that, of course, makes equity stock market investments a deal. Patrick Chovanec is worth reading...

  • Hoisted from the Archives: A Now-Extended Non-Sokratic Dialogue on Website Design

  • DeLong Smackdown: Why I Was Wrong Over 2006-2010...: Let me say what things I was "expecting," in the sense of anticipating that it was they were both likely enough and serious enough that public policymakers should be paying significant attention to guarding the risks that it would create...

  • Note to Self: We know that big data can find correlations. We thus fear people will then use those correlations to hack our brains for their profit or advantage—and for our loss.... On the other hand... Big Ad Data is not smart enough to figure out: "although this internet identity is associated with this credit card number, the person surfing the web right now is not the person who buys the bras"...

  • Note to Self: et me say that I am 100% behind Roxane Gay here. When Jonathan Weisman was covering economics and monetary policy, he was a "Paul Krugman and Donald Luskin disagree about the shape of the earth: who can tell who is right?" guy. Those of us who talked to him took the incompetence for granted—and more than that: a willful desire to not understand the issues because then he might be unable to properly suck up to the sources he wished to suck up to...

  • Note to Self: Why was Jonathan Weisman's economic policy reporting for the Washington Post so execrable back in the mid-2000s? A person who was, as they say, very, very, very, very, very familiar with the matter: "Jonathan's big problem is that he's not that deep into the issues, and he has no backup. There's nobody that he can go to in that building to tell him 'this was how X was trying to mislead you' or 'this is Y's history' or 'be very careful here: if you get this detail Z wrong, they'll come down on you extremely hard'"...

  • Note to Self: For programming and Python Jupyter Notebook νBs, who are wondering what they are getting themselves into: Programming Dos and Don'ts: A Running List...

  • Looking Backward: From This Week at 24, 20, 16, 12, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 Years Ago (July 31-August 6, 2019): MUST OF THE MUSTS: James M. Buchanan: The "Social" Efficiency of Education: You have to be able to hold in your mind two things at once in order to understand economist James M. Buchanan: (1) He was a total loon: a strong believer in the de Maistrean trinity of Patriarchy, Orthodoxy, Autocracy as necessary for society—essential Noble Lies; a man who in 1970 wanted to shut down America's universities as teachers of evil, and regretted the failure of nerve that made that impossible; a man who saw Martin Luther King Jr. as a teacher of evil—whose response to the Civil Rights movement and its peaceful civil disobedience campaign was not Edmund Burke's "to make us love our country, our country must be lovely", but rather: how dare MLK claim that an African American should be "openly encouraged to use his own conscience"—rather than shutting up and accepting his subservient Jim Crow position in society! (2) A man who saw things that other economists did not and would not have without him...

  • A Year Ago on Equitable Growth: Fifteen Worthy Reads On and Off Equitable Growth for August 9, 2018:

  • Comment of the Day: Graydon: "You get what you reward, and the present mechanism of reward is advertising, fundamentally aligned with increasing people's insecurity so as to increase their likelihood of making a purchase to address that insecurity...

  • Comment of the Day: Cosma Shalizi: ":I have used Google as pretty much my only search engine since it became available.... Google should thus have a very complete idea of what I'm interested in.... I can, with charity, understand 'homemaking and interior decor' (because I'd been researching new window blinds), and 'pet food and supplies' (though my cat had died more than a year before). Everything else was just flat wrong, and often mystifyingly so...

  • Comment of the Day: Doctor Jay: "I'm very much not getting what I want out of social media. I very much AM getting what I want out of internet search...

  • For the Weekend: J.R.R. Tolkien (1925): Light as Leaf on Linden Tree:

  • Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Cynegils: "A.D. 635. This year King Cynegils was baptized by Bishop Birinus at Dorchester; and Oswald, king of the Northumbrians, was his sponsor. A.D. 636. This year King Cwichelm was baptized at Dorchester, and died the same year. Bishop Felix also preached to the East-Angles the belief of Christ...

  • Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Erkenbert: ""A.D. 639. This year Birinus baptized King Cuthred at Dorchester, and received him as his son...


  1. Brian Chappatta: Trump Risks Losing the Fed as a Recession Scapegoat: "The Federal Reserve cut interest rates to account for a 'simmering' trade war. Then the president turned up the heat and put a downturn in play himself. The market signal for a recession is blinking fast and Trump has only himself to blame. The markets have spoken. If they are to be believed, the potential for a U.S. recession has never been greater in the post-crisis era than it is right now. That’s a problem for President Donald Trump because after the events of the past few days, it should be clear that he has effectively forfeited the ability to use the Federal Reserve as a scapegoat for any economic slowdown, an angle he was clearly prepared to play...

  2. Jeremy R. Hammond: The Lies that Led to the Iraq War and the Myth of 'Intelligence Failure'

  3. Jonathan Stein and Tim Dickinson: Lie by Lie: A Timeline of How We Got Into Iraq: "Mushroom clouds, duct tape, Judy Miller, Curveball. Recalling how Americans were sold a bogus case for invasion...

  4. Hubert Horan: Uber’s Path of Destruction: "Uber has disrupted... the idea that competitive consumer and capital markets will maximize overall economic welfare by rewarding companies with superior efficiency.... Uber’s most important innovation has been to produce staggering levels of private wealth without creating any sustainable benefits for consumers, workers, the cities they serve, or anyone else...

  5. Yereth Rosen: Record-Low Sea Ice in July Sets Up Conditions For an Ultra-Low Minimum Extent This Fall: "Sea ice extent in September of 2019 is likely to be among the five lowest minimums recorded...

  6. Patrick Chovanec: U.S. Market and Economic Review—August 2019

  7. Kieran Healy: Frank Oz Muppets and the Big Five Personality Traits

Continue reading "Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (August 11, 2019)" »


August 9, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update

FRED Graph FRED St Louis Fed

There was essentially no news about real GDP last week: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York nowcast continues to stand at 1.6% for 2019:Q3. We did see another fifteen basis points of market easing at the long end of the yield. Curve: the 10-Year TIPS yield is now 0.09%. And that, of course, makes equity stock market investments a deal. Patrick Chovanec is worth reading:

Patrick Chovanec: Outlook: "Besides consumption and government spending... the rest was negative in Q2...

...Exports fell by −5.2% while imports were flat... business investment fell by −0.6%, its first quarterly decline in over three years.... Durable goods orders in Q2 were down −2.1% from a year ago.... (The slowdown in U.S. manufacturing matches similar purchasing manager surveys in Europe, Japan, and China, which are all in outright contraction).... Residential investment fell −1.5% in Q2.... New housing permits... were down −4.5% in Q2, from a year ago...

The new tariffs on China—10% on virtually all imports that aren’t already tariffed at 25%, scheduled to take effect in September—are exactly what U.S. companies across multiple sectors have worried and warned about for nearly a year now. Though their direct impact may be limited, the prospect of further escalation hangs like a cloud over business confidence....

Given these uncertainties, U.S. share prices may look daunting even at a 12-month trailing P/E ratio of 19.1x operating earnings, which is far from excessive by historical terms. But they look better compared to U.S. Treasuries at an implied P/E ratio of 60x, returning little more than inflation, or the nearly $15 trillion in bonds around the world selling at negative yields. Safe harbors are expensive, and likely to prove costly over the longer term, even if the economy could stumble in the meantime. With an equity risk premium at 5.6%—before the latest dip in share prices and bond yields—the prospective rewards to riding out the storm, as opposed to running for cover at any price, are too high for an investor who can endure a few bumps along the way to ignore...

Continue reading "August 9, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update" »


DeLong Smackdown: Why I Was Wrong Over 2006-2010...

Smackdown/Hoisted: Why I Was Wrong...: Calculated Risk issued an invitation:

Calculated Risk: Hoocoodanode?: Earlier today, I saw Greg "Bush economist" Mankiw was a little touchy about a Krugman blog comment. My reaction was that Mankiw has some explaining to do. A key embarrassment for the economics profession in general, and Bush economists Greg Mankiw and Eddie Lazear in particular, is how they missed the biggest economic story of our times.... This was a typical response from the right (this is from a post by Professor Arnold Kling) in August 2006:

Apparently, the echo chamber of left-wing macro pundits has pronounced a recession to be imminent. For example, Nouriel Roubini writes, "Given the recent flow of dismal economic indicators, I now believe that the odds of a U.S. recession by year end have increased from 50% to 70%." For these pundits, the most dismal indicator is that we have a Republican Administration. They have been gloomy for six years now...

Sure Roubini was early (I thought so at the time), but show me someone who has been more right! And this brings me to Krugman's column:

... Why did so many observers dismiss the obvious signs of a housing bubble, even though the 1990s dot-com bubble was fresh in our memories? Why did so many people insist that our financial system was “resilient,” as Alan Greenspan put it, when in 1998 the collapse of a single hedge fund, Long-Term Capital Management, temporarily paralyzed credit markets around the world? Why did almost everyone believe in the omnipotence of the Federal Reserve when its counterpart, the Bank of Japan, spent a decade trying and failing to jump-start a stalled economy?

Continue reading "DeLong Smackdown: Why I Was Wrong Over 2006-2010..." »


Looking Backwards from This Week at 24, 20, 16, 12, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 Years Ago (July 31-August 6, 2019)

stacks and stacks of books

MUST OF THE MUSTS: James M. Buchanan: The "Social" Efficiency of Education: You have to be able to hold in your mind two things at once in order to understand economist James M. Buchanan: (1) He was a total loon: a strong believer in the de Maistrean trinity of Patriarchy, Orthodoxy, Autocracy as necessary for society—essential Noble Lies; a man who in 1970 wanted to shut down America's universities as teachers of evil, and regretted the failure of nerve that made that impossible; a man who saw Martin Luther King Jr. as a teacher of evil—whose response to the Civil Rights movement and its peaceful civil disobedience campaign was not Edmund Burke's "to make us love our country, our country must be lovely", but rather: how dare MLK claim that an African American should be "openly encouraged to use his own conscience"—rather than shutting up and accepting his subservient Jim Crow position in society! (2) A man who saw things that other economists did not and would not have without him...

 

Continue reading "Looking Backwards from This Week at 24, 20, 16, 12, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 Years Ago (July 31-August 6, 2019)" »


Reflections 11 Years After the Crash

Idle factories in 2010 Google Search

1) If there hadn't been any of the kind of panic we got post-Lehman, how severe you think the U.S. recession would have been? Would it have been like a slightly worse S&L crisis, or is that underselling it?

I think the smart money in June 2008 was that the recession was or was about to be over. Housing investment had already rebalanced: the construction sector was back to a sustainable share of GDP. There were only about 500 billion of mortgage losses to be distributed around the world or to be bailed out by governments—really, trivial amounts in a world economy with 80 trillion of traded financial assets. And with Bear-Stearns the U.S. government had guaranteed the debt but not the equty of too big to fail institutions. Banks were still having trouble raising equity. But as long as people were confident that the 500 billion of bad mortgage debt would ultimately land on somebody who could absorb it, the only thing that would make a bad recession was if people anticipated a bad recession. And with no Lehman panic—if Bernanke, Paulson, and Geithner had not caused everybody to say quote what the fuck is going on" by allowing Lehman's bankruptcy uncontrolled and then justifying their actions by claiming that they were forbidden by law to support a too-big-to-fail institution that was insolvent and not just illiquid... Without that, no reason to fear even as bad as the S&L crisis.

Continue reading "Reflections 11 Years After the Crash" »


A Now-Extended Non-Sokratic Dialogue on Website Design: Hoisted from the Archives

1280px Sanzio 01 jpg 1 280×993 pixels

Hoisted from the Archives: A Now-Extended Non-Sokratic Dialogue on Website Design: What I, at least, regard as an interesting discussion in the comments to my A Very Brief Sokratic Dialogue on Website Redesign: From that post:

Platon: Five requirements?

Sokrates: Yes.... The stream... so... who want to either read what is new or to treat the site as a weblog--that is, have a sustained engagement and conversation with the website considered as a Turing-class hivemind--can do so.... The front-end... to give each piece of content a visually-engaging and subhead-teaser informative welcome mat.... The syndication... to propagate the front-end cards out to Twitter and Facebook.... The stock... a pathway... by which people can pull things written in the past... relevant... to their concerns today.... The grammar: The visually-interesting and subhead-teaser front-end... needs to lead the people who would want to and enjoy engaging with the content to actually do so.... [But,] as William Goldman says, nobody knows anything.

Platon: Is there anybody whose degree of not-knowingness is even slightly less than the degree of not-knowingness of the rest of us?...

Sokrates: My guess... http://www.vox.com--Ezra Klein and Melissa Bell and company--are most likely to be slightly less not-knowing than the rest of us....

Continue reading "A Now-Extended Non-Sokratic Dialogue on Website Design: Hoisted from the Archives" »


Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (August 5, 2019)

6a00e551f080038834022ad3b05124200d

  • Weekly Forecasting Update: August 2, 2019: "These past two weeks have seen three pieces of real news that have altered the outlook: it is not true to say that little has changed: (1) A large twenty basis-point reduction in ten-year Treasury interest rates. (2) Trump's relaunching and intensification of his trade war. (3) New data pushing down out our estimate of the level of manufacturing production in the third quarter of 2019 by almost a full percentage point. Nevertheless, the United States is not in or even likely to be on the verge of a recession. Germany, however, appears to be in recession... #macro #forecasting #highlighted #2019-08-02

  • A Smart Approach to China-U.S. Relations: "Compared to Holland and Britain when they were global hyperpowers pursuing soft landings, how are we doing? The answer has to be: since January 2017, not well at all... #aspen #globalization #highlighted #oranghairedbaboons #strategy #2019-08-02

  • The Blocked Southern and Midwestern Global Warming Conversation: "Yet in the U.S Midwest the factual conversation drawing of the links between climate change—screw it: global warming—global warming and weather disasters that farmers and workers and bosses and power-brokers in Malawi and Mozambique have, farmers and workers and bosses and power-brokers in Davenport, IO, are unwilling even to begin... #aspen #globalwarming #highlighted #orangehairedbaboons #publicsphere #2019-08-01

  • Immigration and American Politics: "I want to thank XXXXXX XXXXXX. I confess I had thought that if the President started putting migrant children in cage, the immediate reaction would not be that this might well be a clever political move. I do have a sense that for a lot of people who know better on the Republican side, they think there's mileage to be gained by characterizing bedrock American values as if they were foreign and "cosmopolitan" values. And it is very nice to hear XXXXXX pushing back... #aspen #globalization #immigration #orangehairedbaboons #politics #2019-07-31

  • Note to Self: Perhaps Britain's Supersession by America Was Not Inevitable...: A Britain more interested in turning into Britons or Canadians the migrating Jews, Poles, Italians, Romanians, and even Turks who do not happen to be named Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson—who bears Turkish Minister of the Interior Ali Kemal's Y and five other chromosomes, and hence is, by all the rules of conservative patriarchy, a Turk— would have been much stronger throughout the twentieth century. Perhaps it would not be in its current undignified position... #aspen #history #notetoself #strategy #2019-08-04

  • Note to Self: Enormous Possibilities in China...: Peng Dehuai... a poem he wrote in 1958 on an inspection tour of the Great Leap Forward famine: Grain scattered on the ground, potato leaves withered;/Strong young people have left to make steel;/Only children and old women reap the crops;/How can they survive the coming year?/Allow me to raise my voice for the people!... #aspen #bravery #economicgrowth #notetoself #orangehariedbaboons #politicaleconomy #2019-08-04

  • A Year Ago on Equitable Growth: Twenty Worthy Reads On and Off Equitable Growth for August 2, 2018 #noted #hoistedfromthearchives #equitablegrowth #weblogs #2019-08-01

  • Cat Handling: General Considerations: "The cat is faster and has sharper teeth and claws than you do. It has no 'code of ethics' or consideration for its own future. In a fair fight it will win: 1. DON'T FIGHT A CAT 2. USE YOUR BRAIN 3. USE DRUGS #notetoself #singularity #superintelligence #2019-08-04

  • Monday Smackdown: Fafblog: Condi Rice Complains to Customer Service!: Not even Fafblog can deal with the Bush administration at the appropriate level. However, it is trying. Here Fafnir interviews Condi Rice: RICE: "First of all, we don't send prisoners off to be tortured, Fafnir. We just transport prisoners to countries where torture happens to be legal and where they happen to end up getting tortured." FB: "Well that explains everything then! It's all just a wacky misunderstanding, like that episode a Three's Company where Jack sends Janet off to Uzbekistan to get boiled alive by the secret police." RICE: "I'd also like to point out that whenever we send a prisoner to a country that routinely tortures prisoners, that country promises us NOT to torture them." FB: "And then they get tortured anyway!" RICE: "Yes, they do! It's very strange." FB: "Over and over again, every time! That's gotta be so frustrating." RICE: "Oh it is, it is."... #hoistedfromthearchives #moralresponsibility #mondaysmackdown #neofascism #orangehairedbaboons #torture #strategy #2019-08-05

  • Comment of the Day: Erik Lund: "I especially like the argument from 1949 that Israel had to curtail immigration immediately because there wasn't enough work for the newcomers due to the... wait for it... Labour shortage... #commentoftheday #2019-08-04

  • Comment of the Day: Robert Waldmann: "By your logic the USA can be number one in 2119 if we defeat the terrible threat not from the PRC but from the GOP. You might have a point there. If you descendants of Mayflower passengers can assimilate Magyars, you can assimilate anyone... #commentoftheday #2019-08-04

  • Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: From Edwin to Osric #2019-08-01

  • Weekend Reading: Samuel Pepys: Diary: Friday 19 July 1667: "'By God,' says he, 'I think the Devil shits Dutchmen'... #history #strategy #weekendreading #2019-08-02

  • Weekend Reading: Maciej Cegloski (2005): A Rocket To Nowhere: "Meanwhile, while the Shuttle has been up on blocks, a wealth of unmanned probes has been doing exactly the kind of exploration NASA considers so important, except without the encumbrance of big hairless monkeys on board... #weekendreading #2019-08-04


  1. Scott Lemieux: When the Republican Party Was Respectable: "This is exactly right. There’s a direct line to be drawn from William Buckley’s defense of Jim Crow to Reagan’s comments to Shelby County to Trump’s comments about Baltimore. They’re all from influential Republican elites, and all reflect the view that black people are not fit for self-governance. Trump is working well within the Reaganite tradition...

  2. UC Berkeley Events Calendar: Yogendra Yadav: Politics after Modi: Hegemony and Counter-Hegemony: Lecture | August 13 | 12-2 p.m. | Stephens Hall, 10 (ISAS Conf. Room)...

  3. Evelyn Cheng and Shirley Tay: China Social Credit System Still in Testing Phase Amid Trials: "The Chinese government is running up against a self-imposed 2020 deadline to formulate a nationwide social credit plan. The proposed system tries to create a standard for tracking individual actions across Chinese society, and rewarding or punishing accordingly...

  4. Altitude Safety 101: Oxygen Levels at High Altitudes: "Altitude (feet): 0 ft.... Effective Oxygen: 20.9%.... 10,000 ft... 14.3%...

  5. Weijian Shan: Out of the Gobi: My Story of China and America

  6. Henry Farrell: "@ANewmanforward and my article_ on "weaponized interdependence" has just been published by @Journal_IS and is now available ungated-(link: https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/full/10.1162/isec_a_00351). We are really happy to see it officially published, citable etc...

  7. Maciej Ceglowski: Best Practices for Time Travelers

  8. Hunter Blair: It’s not trickling down: New data provides no evidence that the TCJA is working as its proponents claimed it would: "With the TCJA’s corporate rate cut exacerbating decades of rising income inequality, and little evidence to be working as promised, it’s time for its repeal...

  9. An Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century": Mass Politics and "Populism":

  10. Timothy L. O'Brien: Trump's Baltimore-Elijah Cummings Racism Is Fine With Republicans: "Trump’s Racism Infests the Republican Party: As his latest foray into bigotry shows, the president is feeling empowered by the lack of opposition from within the GOP...

Continue reading "Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (August 5, 2019)" »


August 2, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update

Nowcasting Report FEDERAL RESERVE BANK of NEW YORK

Federal Reserve Bank of New York: Nowcasting Report: "The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 1.6% for 2019:Q3. News from this week's data releases decreased the nowcast for 2019:Q3 by 0.6 percentage point. Negative surprises from ISM manufacturing data and lower than expected trade data drove most of the decrease...

These past two weeks have seen three pieces of real news that have altered the outlook: it is not true to say that little has changed:

  1. A large twenty basis-point reduction in ten-year Treasury interest rates.
  2. Trump's relaunching and intensification of his trade war.
  3. New data pushing down out our estimate of the level of manufacturing production in the third quarter of 2019 by almost a full percentage point.

Nevertheless, the United States is not in or even likely to be on the verge of a recession. Germany, however, appears to be in recession.

Daily Treasury Yield Curve Rates

Daily Treasury Yield Curve Rates

Continue reading "August 2, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update" »


A Smart Approach to China-U.S. Relations

6a00e551f0800388340240a49b5260200d

Consider a country that is the global superpower.

Its military is best-of-breed. Its reach extends from Japan to the West Indies to the Indian Ocean, and beyond. Its industries of the most productive in the world. It Is predominate in world trade. It dominates global finance.

But, when this global superpower looks to the west, across the sea, it sees a rising power—a confident nation with a larger population, hungry for wealth, hungry for preeminence, seeing itself as possessing a manifest destiny to supersede the old superpower. And, unless something goes horribly wrong with the rising power to the west, its rise is indeed all but inevitable.

Continue reading "A Smart Approach to China-U.S. Relations" »


The Blocked Southern and Midwestern Global Warming Conversation

Screenshot 8 1 19 6 24 AM

I find myself thinking about XXXXXX and her points about experiential, personal narrative hooks, and about XXXXXX today and XXXXXX yesterday on effects on the United States.

As I said yesterday, the U.S. climate is, on average, marching north by 4 miles a year. And it is becoming more variable: thermodynamics tells us that a system with more energy will over time occupy more configuration states, and in the U.S. midwest the extra configuration states are predominantly hotter, wetter configuration states: rather than hot dry air moving northeast from the deserts, hot wet air is moving northwest from the Gulf of Mexico. Witness this year's floods in the Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas watersheds. Yet in the U.S Midwest the factual conversation drawing of the links between climate change—screw it: global warming—global warming and weather disasters that farmers and workers and bosses and power-brokers in Malawi and Mozambique have, farmers and workers and bosses and power-brokers in Davenport, IO, are unwilling even to begin.

I made a pitch to the XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX about five years ago that the highest and best use of their money was to start documenting the links between global warming and four state-area agriculture. No traction at all: collecting facts was viewed as, in some way, dangerous. I keep thinking about how in a lot of America the public sphere of factual discussion and debate is profoundly broken. I can think of nothing to do other than keep trying to roll the boulder up the hill, and keep saying to myself: "we must imagine Sisyphus happy". And I look across the table at XXXXXX XXXXXX and I ask him for help.

Continue reading "The Blocked Southern and Midwestern Global Warming Conversation" »


Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (July 31, 2019)

6a00e551f080038834022ad3b05124200d

  • What Is the Federal Reserve Thinking Right Now?: We have no warrant for believing that our models are more knowledgeable right now than the market. And there is pronounced asymmetry here: we can always deal with too-high inflation via tighter money, but it is not obvious what we could do to fix the situation if a negative demand shock were to push the prime-age employment rate down two or four percentage-points. Hence we will validate market expectations and drop our policy rates by 25 basis points at our next meeting. What will follow that... will be data-dependent...

  • Annual Celebration of the John Bell Hood-Max von Gallwitz Society!: Dedicated to celebrating the memory of two field commanders who may well have been the worst in history. Drink a toast to John Bell Hood on the 7/28 anniversary of his defeat at Ezra Church.... And drink a toast as well to Max von Gallwitz—perhaps the only Imperial German commander who could have turned the Somme into a draw!...

  • Weekly Forecasting Update: July 26, 2019: Back in late 2017 the Trump Administration, the Republicans in the Congress, and their tame economists were all claiming that passing the Ryan-McConnell-Trump upper-income tax cut would permanently boost investment in America by as much as the Clinton economic program of the 1990s had done, and would do so much more quickly—Clinton program was phased-in over five years, while Ryan-McConnell-Trump was phased-in immediately and had been affecting investment behavior even before it was passed. It is simply not happening...

  • I Want My Country Back!: We really don’t know the consequences of this degree of income inequality: the distribution of income was never this bad before, and it continues to get worse. We did have, in the thirty years before the New Deal, a whipsaw...

  • Note to Self: Playing with Sargent-Stachurski QuantEcon http://quantecon.org: I have long been annoyed with the standard presentation of the Solow Growth Model because the state variable k—capital per effective worker—is not observable in the real world, while the capital-output ratio κ is. Moreover, the steady-state capital-output ratio has an easy to remember and intuitive description: it is the savings rate divided by the economy's steady-state investment requirements. Capital per effective worker has no such intuitive description. Plus the capital-output ratio exhibits exponential convergence to the steady-state. Capital per effective worker does not...

  • Note to Self: Consider Alasdair Macintyre: In the beginning: boring.... Today: boring.... But in the middle, along the trajectory... what a thinker! what a powerful awareness of the attractiveness of different positions! what deep insights generated by position and opposition...

  • Note to Self: Homer's Odyssey Blogging: "Like Little Birds... They Writhed with Their Feet... But for No Long While...": Is there somebody I should read who has thought deeply and powerfully about these issues?... How do we educate people to read—listen—watch—properly, so that they become their better rather than their worse selves?...

  • Note to Self: A historical question I want answered: What difference did it make for medieval economies—and for the relative prosperity of the Muslim world in the middle ages—that Muhammed was a merchant?...

  • Hoisted from the Archives: Karl Marx, First Real Business Cycle Theorist: Nine years ago: Karl Marx, First Real Business Cycle Theorist: We see the affinity between Karl Marx and the Pain Caucus in his notes on crises in Theories of Surplus Value. Negative supply shocks and missed collective guesses on what the extent of the market will be in the future create overaccumulation and overproduction. Marx is very clear that the monetary crisis theorists—like John Stuart Mill—must be wrong, and that the system cannot run itself without crises. In Marx this is one of the reasons why the system is abominable and must be overthrown. For the Pain Caucus the conclusion is opposite: because the system is good crises must be suffered...

  • Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from the Archives: Four Huge Mistakes in One Short Piece by John Taylor: None of those have panned out as intellectual bets. Yet John Taylor today exhibits no visible curiosity as to why they did not. This strongly suggests to me that none of them were meant seriously in the first place—that it was always disinformation, and never an analytical judgment, and thus subject to revision as knowledge advanced...

  • Monday Smackdown: Every Time I Try to Get Out, They Pull Me Back In... Clive Crook Edition: Duncan Black has been reading the once-thoughtful Clive Crook again: Duncan Black http://www.eschatonblog.com/2017/07/national-humiliation.html: "People is weird.... [Clive Crook:]... 'Suppose a second referendum was called and the result was Remain; suppose the EU said, "Great, glad to have you back."... This cringing submission would raise instinctive euro-skepticism to new extremes and divide the U.K. even more bitterly... a national humiliation... [that] would surpass the Suez Crisis in 1956 and the country's surrender to trade-union militancy in the 1970s—crushing setbacks with far-reaching political consequences. If there were ever a case of "be careful what you wish for," this is it...' This the thinking that leads to pointless catastrophic wars. Let's shoot ourselves in the face just to prove our gun works...

  • Hoisted from the Archives: Looking Backwards from This Week at 24, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 Years Ago (July 24-30, 2019: It is very common to attribute the collapse of Roman Republican institutions and the rise of Imperial dictatorship to a loss of moral virtue on behalf of the Roman electorate—who are supposed to have fallen prey to demagogues and voted for bread-and-circuses as the underlying foundations of liberty collapsed underneath them. That story is not true. Here Sean Elling sends us to Edward Watts on the real story—recently enriched plutocracy breaking political norm after political norm in an attempt to disrupt what had been the normal grievance-redressing operation of the system: Sean Illing: Mortal Republic: Edward Watts on what America can learn from Rome’s collapse...

  • Comment of the Day: Yes, the failure modes of making jam are pretty scary: Graydon on Homer's Odyssey and David Drake's Hammer's Slammers: "I think you're missing the central thing about Drake's writing... which is a vehicle crew...

  • Comment of the Day: Robert Waldmann: "I disagreed with that analysis in 1980. So did Solow...

  • A Year Ago on Equitable Growth: Fifteen Worthy Reads On and Off Equitable Growth for July 26, 2018: TOP MUST REMEMBER: What I call 'Bob Rubin's End-of-Meeting Questions'. Ask them! They really work!: Annie Duke: Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts: "In fact, questioning what you see or hear can get you eaten. For survival-essential skills, type I errors (false positives) were less costly than type II errors (false negatives). In other words, better to be safe than sorry, especially when considering whether to believe that the rustling in the grass is a lion. We didn’t develop a high degree of skepticism when our beliefs were about things we directly experienced, especially when our lives were at stake...

  • Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A.D. 617: Edwin the Son of Ella: "A daughter was born to Edwin, whose name was Eanfleda. Then promised the king to Paulinus, that he would devote his daughter to God, if he would procure at the hand of God, that he might destroy his enemy, who had sent the assassin to him. He then advanced against the West-Saxons with an army, felled on the spot five kings, and slew many of their men...

  • Liveblogging: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Penda and Edwin: "Archbishop Justus having departed this life on the tenth of November, Honorius was consecrated at Lincoln Archbishop of Canterbury by Paulinus; and Pope Honorius sent him the pall. And he sent an injunction to the Scots, that they should return to the right celebration of Easter...


  1. Charli Carpenter: Summer Vacation in an Age of Concentration Camps, Part 6: "Protest Matters"

  2. Duncan Black: Obummer: "I don't follow Trump's polls. They don't change much. But at best he's no more popular than Obama was, and the press always treated Obama like an unpopular president, not a POLITICAL GENIUS who CONTROLLED THE NARRATIVE...

  3. Scott Lemieux: The Republican War on Rural Voters: "Always remember that ANTI-ELITIST Josh Hawley’s goal is to ensure massive rural hospital closures nationwide by getting Republican hacks in the federal courts to strike down the Affordable Care Act entirely, and marvel that there are actually professional pundits who will swallow his bullshit. The Republican Party is quite literally indifferent to the lives of the white rural voters that are critical to maintaining control of the Senate, White House and Supreme Court...

  4. Andrew Kaczynski: Mike Pence Argued In An Op-Ed That Disney's "Mulan" Was Liberal Propaganda: "'Obviously, this is Walt Disney's attempt to add childhood expectation to the cultural debate over the role of women in the military', Pence wrote. Obviously...

  5. Jay Rosen: PressThink : "What do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes? Part of a call to action for an alternative direction in election coverage, originated by the newsroom improvement company, Hearken, and the research project that I direct, Membership Puzzle Project...

  6. Brett Terpstra: nvALT

  7. Robert Armstrong: True Patriots Aren’t Afraid to Tell the Truth: "The life of French historian Marc Bloch holds sobering lessons for us today...

  8. Lobsta Truck: Serving Lobster Rolls in California

  9. NBER: Solomon M. Hsiang

  10. Abbott Payson Usher: A History of Mechanical Inventions: Revised Edition: "Updated classic explores importance of technological innovation in cultural and economic history of the West. Water wheels, clocks, printing, machine tools, more. "Without peer." — American Scientist... #books

  11. Sam Lau, Joey Gonzalez, and Deb Nolan: Principles and Techniques of Data Science #books

  12. Martina Baras: Lawyer Larry Klayman Should Get License Suspended, Panel Says: "Committee finds rule violations in client representation.... Klayman should be required to prove his fitness to practice as a condition of reinstatement, the Board on Professional Responsibility’s ad hoc hearing committee recommended July 24.... The case is In re Klayman, D.C. Ct. App., Board Docket No. 17-BD-063, Board on Professional Responsibility recommendation 7/24/19...

Continue reading "Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (July 31, 2019)" »


I Want My Country Back!

Mussolini rally Google Search

Council on Foreign Relations: The Future of Democracy Symposium: Session Two: Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: We really don’t know the consequences of this degree of income inequality: the distribution of income was never this bad before, and it continues to get worse.

We did have, in the thirty years before the New Deal, a whipsaw.

First, we saw the rise of the progressive movement. Lots of people, even people for whom America was then doing very, very well, begin to say: "Wait a minute, this can’t go on. There’s something fundamentally wrong!"

Thus you had Teddy Roosevelt attacking the "malefactors of great wealth". You had Andrew Carnegie saying "he who dies rich, dies disgraced"—and that, in fact, if you leave anything at all to your children, you should be ashamed of yourself.

But then we had the whipsaw.

Continue reading "I Want My Country Back!" »


Annual Celebration of the John Bell Hood-Max von Gallwitz Society!

6a00e551f08003883401b8d2c56fe1970c

Hoisted from the Archives: The John Bell Hood-Max von Gallwitz Society!: Dedicated to celebrating the memory of two field commanders who may well have been the worst in history. Drink a toast to John Bell Hood on the 7/28 anniversary of his defeat at Ezra Church:

Hood... moved his troops out to oppose the Union army... planned to intercept them and catch them completely by surprise.... Unfortunately for Hood... Howard had predicted such a maneuver based on his knowledge of Hood from their time together.... His troops were already waiting in their trenches when Hood reached them. The Confederate army also had not done enough reconnaisance... and made an uncoordinated attack.... In all, about 3,642 men were casualties; 3,000 on the Confederate side and 642 on the Union side...

And drink a toast as well to Max von Gallwitz—perhaps the only Imperial German commander who could have turned the Somme into a draw!...

Continue reading "Annual Celebration of the John Bell Hood-Max von Gallwitz Society!" »


Looking Backwards from This Week at 24, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 Years Ago (July 24-30, 2019)

6a00e551f080038834022ad39f5903200b

Three Months Ago (April 24-30, 2019):

  • SEDAC: Population Estimation Tools:
     

  • It is very common to attribute the collapse of Roman Republican institutions and the rise of Imperial dictatorship to a loss of moral virtue on behalf of the Roman electorate—who are supposed to have fallen prey to demagogues and voted for bread-and-circuses as the underlying foundations of liberty collapsed underneath them. That story is not true. Here Sean Elling sends us to Edward Watts on the real story—recently enriched plutocracy breaking political norm after political norm in an attempt to disrupt what had been the normal grievance-redressing operation of the system: Sean Illing: Mortal Republic: Edward Watts on what America can learn from Rome’s collapse...

  • Rosa Luxemburg: "Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party... is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.... All that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege...

  • Edmund Wilson (1940): Trotsky, History, and Providence: Weekend Reading: "These statements make no sense whatever unless one substitutes for the words history and dialectic of history the words Providence and God.... There sometimes can turn out to be valuable objects cast away in the garbage-pile of history.... From the point of view of the Stalinist Soviet Union, that is where Trotsky himself is today; and he might well discard his earlier assumption that an isolated individual must needs be 'pitiful' for the conviction of Dr. Stockman in Ibsen's Enemy of the People that 'the strongest man is he who stands most alone'...

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

  • Henry Farrell and Bruce Schneier: Information Attacks on Democracies: "Democracies, in contrast, are vulnerable to information attacks that turn common political knowledge into contested political knowledge. If people disagree on the results of an election, or whether a census process is accurate, then democracy suffers. Similarly, if people lose any sense of what the other perspectives in society are, who is real and who is not real, then the debate and argument that democracy thrives on will be degraded. This is what seems to be Russia’s aims in their information campaigns against the U.S.: to weaken our collective trust in the institutions and systems that hold our country together. This is also the situation that writers like Adrien Chen and Peter Pomerantsev describe in today’s Russia, where no one knows which parties or voices are genuine, and which are puppets of the regime, creating general paranoia and despair...

 

Continue reading "Looking Backwards from This Week at 24, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, and 1/4 Years Ago (July 24-30, 2019)" »


What Is the Federal Reserve Thinking Right Now?

The Federal Reserve is not an intelligence: it does not think. Individual members of the Federal Open Market Committee, however, do think. And the center of gravity of their individual thoughts now runs something like this:

1980-1985 was a disaster: 3 x 6 x 0.5 = 9%-point-years of lost jobs for Americans, jobs that would not have been lost had the Federal Reserve done its proper job and kept inflation under control in the 1970s:

Employment Rate Aged 25 54 All Persons for the United States FRED St Louis Fed

Inflation exploded in the 1970s because of demand-pull: the Federal Reserve let employment get above full employment, and outgo workers and firms rapidly concluded that this was a permanent situation in which they had to act first to boost their incomes:

Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers All Items Less Food and Energy FRED St Louis Fed

We cannot let this happen again: hence three times since 2010—in 2013, 2016, and 2018—we have used our policy tools of rates, quantities, and jawboning to push interest rates higher because we thought we were rapidly closing in on the full employment point at which inflation would start to move up substantially:

Real Gross Domestic Product FRED St Louis Fed

All three times we were wrong: we were not rapidly closing in on the full employment point at which inflation would start to move up substantially.

Real Gross Domestic Product FRED St Louis Fed

Now the inverted yield curve tells us that the market thinks that we have overdone interest rate increases, and will be substantially cutting rates by 100 basis points over the next two years:

FRED Graph FRED St Louis Fed

The market could be right and it could be wrong. An inverted yield curve has been a reliable warning signal in the past, but the world is different now, and perhaps that matters. However, failing to begin to validate market expectations now would shake confidence and raise uncertainty. We have no warrant for believing that our models are more knowledgeable right now than the market. And there is pronounced asymmetry here: we can always deal with too-high inflation via tighter money, but it is not obvious what we could do to fix the situation if a negative demand shock were to push the prime-age employment rate down two or four percentage-points.

Hence we will validate market expectations and drop our policy rates by 25 basis points at our next meeting. What will follow that... will be data-dependent...

Continue reading "What Is the Federal Reserve Thinking Right Now?" »


July 26, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update

Back in late 2017 the Trump Administration, the Republicans in the Congress, and their tame economists were all claiming that passing the Ryan-McConnell-Trump upper-income tax cut would permanently boost investment in America by as much as the Clinton economic program of the 1990s had done, and would do so much more quickly—Clinton program was phased-in over five years, while Ryan-McConnell-Trump was phased-in immediately and had been affecting investment behavior even before it was passed.

It is simply not happening.

Gross Private Domestic Investment Nominal Potential Gross Domestic Product FRED St Louis Fed

Yet I have heard no explanations for why not. For example, a Tyler Cowen would write, in November 2017, that: Yes, a Corporate Tax Cut Would Increase Investment - Bloomberg: "Republicans have science on their side when it comes to this part of their tax plans.... The most likely result is that lower corporate tax rates will lead to more investment projects and thus more aggregate economic activity.... [The] worry... that companies will take their cash windfalls and simply return them to investors.... The evidence doesn’t support this fear.... When the critics allege that corporate tax rate cuts won’t boost investment, that’s going against basic economics..."

Has there been a peep from him since marking his beliefs to market? No.

The Ryan-McConnell-Trump tax cut did nothing other than make America even more unequal. Macroeconomically, we are where we were three years ago: Relatively stable growth at a trend a bit above 2% per year, with slowly rising employment, and no signs of rising inflation or a rising labor share.

The only significant difference that the Fed has now recognized that its hope of normalizing the Fed Funds rate in the foreseeable future is vain, and has now recognized that its confidence over the past six years that we were close to full employment was simply wrong.

Continue reading "July 26, 2019: Weekly Forecasting Update" »


Karl Marx, First Real Business Cycle Theorist: Hoisted from the Archives

J Bradford DeLong s Awesome Presentation On The History Of The Bank Bailout Business Insider

Hoisted from the Archives: Nine years ago: Karl Marx, First Real Business Cycle Theorist: We see the affinity between Karl Marx and the Pain Caucus in his notes on crises in Theories of Surplus Value. Negative supply shocks and missed collective guesses on what the extent of the market will be in the future create overaccumulation and overproduction. Marx is very clear that the monetary crisis theorists--like John Stuart Mill--must be wrong, and that the system cannot run itself without crises.

In Marx this is one of the reasons why the system is abominable and must be overthrown. For the Pain Caucus the conclusion is opposite: because the system is good crises must be suffered.

Karl Marx:

Theories of Surplus-Value, Chapter 17: "When speaking of the destruction of capital through crises, one must distinguish between two factors...

Continue reading "Karl Marx, First Real Business Cycle Theorist: Hoisted from the Archives" »