#moralresponsibility Feed

Yes Samuel P. Huntington & His Disciples Are Loons—Note to Self

This has surfaced again in my feed. Please, people stop ending it to me! It leads me down rabbit-holes—what a loon Samuel P. Huntington was, and how favorably citing him is a powerful sign that you are a loon unmoored from reality yourself—that I don't have time for today!

Anyone who thinks—as Gregory Mitrovich apparently does—that Great Britain in 1920 had intrinsic strengths then that enabled it to thereafter retain its global dominance is truly a total idiot. When did Britain dominate anything after 1920? Gregory Mitrovich: Beware Declinism: America Remains Poised for Greatness https://nationalinterest.org/feature/beware-declinism-america-remains-poised-greatness-163810: ‘There can be no doubting that America’s international standing has been undermined by ill-considered wars and the deadly failures of Trump’s pandemic response. However, the intrinsic strength of the United States will, like that of Britain a century ago, enable America to retain its dominance...

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The Ethics of a University | Optional Lecture

https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/lecture-optional-ethics-university.pptx

Never thought this was necessary before... It probably still isn’t necessary today... But this past decade has been a very weird, very norm-breaking decade in a lot of ways So it is best to be clear on what we are doing here... This is a university... A safe space for its members, and a safe space for their ideas...

.#berkeley #cognition #education #lecture #optional #moralresponsibility #2020-08-27

Brief Procrastinatory Thoughts on American Slavery, Power & Economists' Rhetoric—Highlighted

When the very sharp Eric Hilt writes of "Fogel and Engerman’s analysis of slavery as...brutal but efficient", I wince. "Efficiency" is an engineering term, meaning: achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. A steam boiler powering the lifting of ore out of a mine that converts only 55% of the stored chemical energy in the coal burned into the extra gravitational potential energy of the ore is 55% efficient. The other 45% of the energy is waste heat. An efficient process is one that produced little waste. In striking contrast with an efficient engine that produces little in the way of waste products, slavery produced enormous amounts of waste: death, family separation, pain, overwork, imprisonment, unfreedom. You can call slavery "brutal, but effective in producing profits for the slavelords", and I will not quarrel: that is very true. But please don't call slavery "efficient". To do so makes a normal person think that you are an empathyless moron, or neo-Confederate-adjacent.

OK. So why does Eric Hilt, who is neither an empathyless moron nor Neo-Confederate-adjacent approvingly cite Fogel and Engerman for their "analysis of slavery as... brutal but efficient"? Because economists redefined "efficient" in a particular way. Economists called a situation "efficient" in which there were no uncompleted win-win market exchanges of commodities for money. And, indeed in slavery, there were no uncompleted win-win market exchanges of commodities for money. American slaves (in contrast to at least some Roman slaves) had no chance or opportunity to buy their freedom. So it was efficient. American slavery would only have been inefficient if masters could have (a) freed their slaves, (b) charged them a market rent for their farms, and (c) collected more in rent than they had previously extracted at the point of the lash.

Now Adam Smith thought that that was in fact the case:

The pride of man makes him love to domineer, and nothing mortifies him so much as to be obliged to condescend to persuade his inferiors. Wherever the law allows it, and the nature of the work can afford it, therefore, he will generally prefer the service of slaves to that of freemen.... The profits of a sugar plantation... are generally much greater than those of any other... and the profits of a tobacco plantation, though inferior to those of sugar, are superior to those of corn.... Both can afford the expense of slave cultivation but sugar can afford it still better than tobacco...

I always thought that Fogel and Engerman, in arguing that American slavery was "efficient", were in fact arguing against neo-Confederate-adjacents who lamented the "tragedy" of the Civil War. Their adversaries had thought that what the South needed was not Sherman commanding Thomas and his Army of the Cumberland, Schofield and his Army of the Ohio, and McPherson and his Army of the Tennessee, but rather forebearance and persuasion. That would, in the minds of these adversaries, lead to the diffusion of commercial values into the south, and then the slavelords would realize that they could make more money by going full-throttle toward the market economy, freeing their slaves, and becoming normal landlords than by the continuation of their neo-feudal fantasies.

Adam Smith (and those who followed him in seeing slavery as an expensive luxury chosen only by a ruling class in love with its image of itself as made up of dominating masters) were, I think, wrong—and the work done in Time on the Cross is a good part of what, I think, demonstrates that they were wrong.

But there is still this problem with the word "efficiency". It would be innocuous if you were talking only to economists. It would be innocuous if you wrote, instead "efficiency-in-economese". But writing that slavery is "efficient" when your audience includes any people who are in any way not full-fledged economists expecting you to speak in economese conveys the false message that American slavery was not very wasteful. And yet what is the destruction of humans' autonomous lives that is the core of slavery as an institution and practice but immense waste?

Eric Hilt: Slavery, Power and Cliometrics: A Brief Comment on Rosenthal https://economic-historian.com/2020/08/slavery-power-and-cliometrics/: ‘Rather than attempt to comment on all of Rosenthal’s paper, here I would like discuss some insights from the literature on Time on the Cross that relate to some parts of it.... Fogel and Engerman’s analysis of slavery as a brutal but efficient labor system clearly has echoes in some of the new books by historians on slavery...

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Loomis: American Fascism: þis Is þe Real Thing—Noted

I agree with Erik here. The Trump administration isn't "creeping fascism" any more. This is the real thing. Their plan is to have Breitbart, Fox, Sinclair, & QAnon come out hard Wednesday after the election saying "nobody can really tell who won", and then see what happens on the streets: Erik Loomis: American Fascism https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2020/08/american-fascism-3: ‘Anyone who sees this as bluster and doesn’t take it seriously are equivalent to those who didn’t really take Hitler or Mussolini seriously early on: Reporter: "Is the President saying if he doesn't win this election that he will not accept the results unless he wins?" Kayleigh McEnany: "The President has always said he'll see what happens and make a determination in the aftermath"… .#fascism #highlighted #moral responsibility #noted #orangehairedbaboons #moralresponsibility #2020-08-19


What Does Hanging wiþ þhe New York Times Staff Do to People, Anyway?—Highlighted

Why this is hell bosch

Still mulling this over...

The insightful and usually highly reliable Michelle Goldberg makes, I think, a big mistake here.

& something bad does seem to happen often to many people when they start hanging around the New York Times newsroom. They lose their moral compass, and some (not Goldberg) forget that they are supposed to work for their readers and not for their insider sources and their bosses...

Ok, that ends the throad-clearing:

Here Goldberg half-defends Bennet and Sulzburger's decision to publish Senator Cotton's call for massive violence against demonstrating American citizens by the security services—even William F. Buckley would not go quite so far half a century ago, when all he was willing to say was that white supremacists in the south had the right to defend white supremacy against protesters "by any means necessary"—on the grounds that New York Times readers are ignorant of what people like Cotton think, "readers should grasp what people like Cotton are arguing... because it is being taken seriously" and "the very qualities that make Cotton's Op-Ed revolting...make him an important figure in Trump's Republican Party".

But to publish the thing without surrounding context—that's just to give Cotton a megaphone.

Yes, you can argue that the cure for speech is more speech. But you are wrong. The "more speech" has to appear in the appropriate time, place, and manner.

At some level, I think, Michelle Goldberg knows this. Near the end of her piece is one sentence: "The paper could convey his views by reporting on them, but for the Opinion section, letting him express them himself is more direct." Not "more effective" or "more informative" or "more useful". Why did she choose "direct"?

I think because she knew she could not use any of those other words:

Michelle Goldberg: Tom Cotton's Fascist Op-Ed https://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2020/06/michelle-goldberg-gives-her-employers.html: 'I figured he'd helpfully revealed himself as a dangerous authoritarian.... I can sort of appreciate my bosses' decision.... The Times Opinion section wants to include the views of people who support Trump... the very qualities that make Cotton's Op-Ed revolting—his strongman pretensions, his sneering apocalypticism—make him... important...

...Trump's Republican Party. (He might someday come to lead it.) Readers should grasp what people like Cotton are arguing, not because it's worth taking seriously but because it is being taken seriously, particularly by our mad and decomposing president.... The paper could convey his views by reporting on them, but for the Opinion section, letting him express them himself is more direct...

And Goldberg's conclusion? "Opinions of shape of earth differ". She won't say that Bennet's decision to publish was wrong. But she won't say that is right either. It is just as "crisis for our understandings of... marketplace[s] of ideas..."

It’s important to understand what the people around the president are thinking. But if they’re honest about what they’re thinking, it’s usually too disgusting to engage with. This creates a crisis for traditional understandings of how the so-called marketplace of ideas functions. It’s a subsidiary of the crisis that has the country on fire.

#highighted #journamalism #orangehairedbaboons #pubicsphere #moralresponsibility #2020-08-16
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Moral Fault Attaches to the Enablers of the New York Times—Note to Self

Note to Self: Moral fault attaches to all the enablers of the New York Times: just saying:

Duncan Black: Maybe It Matters Who Rules The World https://www.eschatonblog.com/2020/08/maybe-it-matters-who-rules-world.html: ‘Maybe the actions of the King matter more than the palace intrigue and court gossip. Last night I was reminded of when Maggie Haberman went to bat for Sarah Sanders. Everyone should've known the deal at the WHCA dinner by then, when a Republican is president, anyway. Comedian makes jokes. The Right finds a joke that is OUT OF BOUNDS, throws a hissy fit, declares this proves HOW BIASED AND MEAN THE PRESS ARE TO THEM because a random comedian did a mean joke. Snowflakes melting on the fainting couch, always. And there was Maggie, going for the assist, convinced that Michelle Wolf had INSULTED THE LOOKS OF SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, when Wolf had done no such thing. As is usually the case when someone at the Times fucks up, 8000 people explained it to her, but Maggie wouldn't back down. In 2 sets of tweets, basically:

Maggie Haberman @maggieNYT: That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.

Michelle Wolf @michelleisawolf: Hey mags! All these jokes were about her despicable behavior. Sounds like you have some thoughts about her looks though? 😘

Maggie Haberman @maggieNYT: The jokes I watched/heard about her eye makeup weren’t making fun of her appearance? What were they?

Scott 'antisocial distancing' Slater @slaterama: Do better, @maggieNYT. Even dictionary example calls smokey 👀 "a makeup classic that never goes out of style." @michelleisawolf said Sanders "burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye." Pls pinpoint the "intense criticism of her physical appearance."

https://twitter.com/slaterama/status/990615211907469312

.#journamalism #moralresponsibility #newyorktimes #notetoself #2020-08-07

Smith: Coronavirus Relief: Republicans in Disarray—Noted

The House Republicans caucus could not govern when they were in the majority. The House was then run by a caucus composed of non-Tea Party Republicans negotiating with Nancy Pelosi, so that she would give permission for enough Democrats to vote for a bill to make up a majority.

Now it looks like Mitch McConnell has decided that his Senate caucus has the same degree of dysfunction: it looks as though he will sign on to whatever economy-rescue bill Pelosi agrees on with Mnuchin.

Here Karl Smith gives his take on how that happened:

Karl W. Smith: Coronavirus Relief Bill Has Republicans in Disarray https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-07-22/coronavirus-relief-bill-has-republicans-in-disarray: ‘The pandemic has left GOP lawmakers deeply splintered, not just over tactics or strategy but on basic principles. There are roughly four factions...

...If they don’t find a way to heal their fractures, U.S. workers and the overall economy will suffer even more.... Republicans... have traditionally supported government-led action and unrestrained spending only to battle foreign foes; with some notable exceptions, they have preferred to leave domestic issues to the private sector or the states....

The pandemic has pushed [one] group over the edge. Congress has spent almost half as much fighting Covid-19 over the last four months as it spent in nearly 20 years fighting the war on terror.... They are not prepared to spend another dime....

There is another group... that sees the main issue as the reckless promiscuity of the original Cares Act... that... gave potentially hundreds of billions of dollars to people who didn’t need it and created an unemployment insurance system that paid people not to work....

A third faction continues to believe that Covid-19 should be treated as external threat and that the full force of the U.S. government should be enlisted against it. That means more money for public health, schools and biomedical research, as well as continuing aid for struggling workers and businesses....

Lastly, there are a few senators who are not enthusiastic about more spending, but could tolerate it if it were accompanied by longer-term measures to help the economy....

Bringing them all together will require what the party is most lacking right now: a clear vision of how get out of this crisis with as little death and devastation as possible.... What that vision might consist of is anyone’s guess…

.#coronavirus #moralresponsibility #noted #orangehairedbaboons #2020-08-05

Shelton's Confirmation to the Fed Would Be Very Ill-Advised II—on Twitter

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On Twitter: Shelton's Confirmation to the Fed Would Be Very Ill-Advised II https://twitter.com/delong/status/1285609064706248706: The only person out there saying "confirm Judy Shelton" this morning is John Tamny... who says: confirm her because she's a goldbug and the gold standard is a good thing:

John Tamny: Let's Bring Rationality to the Monetary Discussion: Confirm Judy Shelton https://realclearmarkets.com/articles/2020/07/21/lets_bring_rationality_to_the_monetary_discussion_confirm_judy_shelton_499540.html: As always with money, it should be stressed up front how much better the monetary discussion would be if those who insert themselves into it actually understood money. Most don’t. Strange about this is that money is simple. It’s simple when it’s properly understood...

Filippos Petroulakis: 'This is remarkable stuff. I’m fine with him being a goldbug, but he’s original in that he doesn’t even believe the Fed can lower rates. Or that lowering rates is ineffective, it’s not exactly clear, but my impression of goldbugs was they were afraid of runaway inflation; he’s not.

Brad DeLong: A good way to view it is that both Judy Shelton and John Tamny are GPT-3: they are not economists, but rather expert systems trained on a text corpus. Thus you should not try to use their words to build a model of the Turing-class mind behind them, for there is no such mind. In fact, there is not even a sub-Turing class mind behind their words: just predictive text generation at the level of current AI technology, just like GPT-3 http://lacker.io/ai/2020/07/06/giving-gpt-3-a-turing-test.html.

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No Senator Doing His or Her Job Would Vote for Judy Shelton For Fed Governor—Hoisted from the Archives

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That any Republican senators at all are thinking of voting for Judy Shelton—a woman views whom Milton Friedman dismissed by saying "it would be hard to pack more error into so few words"—for a Fed Governor position reveals an astonishing lack of spine. Yet the Senate Banking Committee chair appears to be attempting to advance her nomination on Tuesday:

Hoisted from the Archives: Shelton the Charlatan https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/03/shelton-the-charlatan-project-syndicate.html: In 1994 Milton Friedman wrote about Judy Shelton: "In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece (July 15)... Judy Shelton started her concluding paragraph: “Until the U.S. begins standing up once more for stable exchange rates as the starting point for free trade...” It would be hard to pack more error into so few words.... A system of pegged exchange rates, such as the original IMF system or the European Monetary System, is an enemy to free trade. It is no accident that the 1992 collapse of the EMS coincided with the agreement to remove controls on the movement of capital..." https://miltonfriedman.hoover.org/friedman_images/Collections/2016c21/NR_09_12_1994.pdf. To turn monetary policy away from internal balance toward preventing exchange rate movements that market fundamentals wanted to see occur was, in Friedman's view, the road toward disaster. It was simply wrong. And it could be held together only if economies moved from free trade back toward managed trade—and so beggared not just their neighbors but themselves.

Two and a half decades later, today's Judy Shelton seems no freer from error, but to it has added an enormous amount of incoherence. There is no consistent thread of argument in what she says. She is, rather, a weathervane pointing in the direction of whatever political wind she thinks likely to get her her next job. Last year she said that the Federal Reserve should be careful not to do anything to curb stock prices: "More than half of American households are invested through mutual funds or pension funds in this market. I don’t want the Fed to pull the rug out from under them..." https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-05/trump-fed-pick-shelton-says-central-bank-should-support-markets. But in 2016—when unemployment was higher and the case for easy money stronger—it was the Fed's "appeasing financial markets" that was the thing to be avoided https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/yes-trumps-latest-fed-pick-is-that-bad-heres-why/2020/02/10/a13fa1ec-4c44-11ea-9b5c-eac5b16dafaa_story.html. Back then under the Obama administration when there were lots of unemployed workers who could be put to work producing exports, policies to produce a weaker dollar to boost exports were to be shunned: "The obvious quick route to export success for any nation is to depreciate its currency. Dollar depreciation is already being pushed by the Obama administration.... Let's not compromise our currency in a misguided attempt to boost U.S. job growth. America's best future is forged through sound finances and sound money..." https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704698004576104260981772424. These days "compromising the currency" is a plus from the interest-rate cuts she wants to see https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trumps-fed-choice-judy-shelton-says-interest-rate-cut-needed-because-europe-is-set-to-devalue-euro-2019-07-05. Today monetary policy should be made looser "as expeditiously as possible" https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/06/19/fed-meets-trumps-potential-next-pick-wants-see-lower-rates-fast-possible. Back then "loose monetary policy... leads to internal bankruptcy... whole nations have foundered on this path..." https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB123742149749078635.

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LawProfBlog: I Was Brave, Once—Noted

LawProfBlog: _I Was Brave, Once https://abovethelaw.com/2020/07/i-was-brave-once/: ‘There was an outpouring of conservative support, the likes I haven’t seen since I and others tweeted that it was a terrible idea for a law student to clean his gun on screen during a zoom class.... The original outrage was about a subtweet...

...This post isn’t about the Arizona case or either of those two professors: It is the notion of academic bravery....

I’ll be defending Godzilla. Godzilla entered the United States, and immediately started wreaking havoc in San Francisco. The military sought to bomb Godzilla and kill him. I thought to myself: What a perfect time to bring an action via the Endangered Species Act! Who could be more oppressed that Godzilla? He suffers from being unique, way beyond the “discreet and insular” minority contemplated in Carolene Products. And he doesn’t have a voice (okay, literally, he roars and that’s it).  And like Anakin Skywalker, he brings balance to the Force (if you have seen the most recent movies)....

My legal practice as an academic clearly does not demonstrate my core values. Sometimes you just got to take the hard cases for higher principles. Don’t judge me! There are bigger issues at stake!... It’s weak tea to complain about my moral core. If I had a dime for every time someone cried about their baby getting stomped by Godzilla! They just don’t understand that I’m the underdog fighting against a big bad oppressor who is trampling (pun intended) upon (my interpretation of) the Constitution. Many of my friends have been crushed by Godzilla! My mother, too! That’s just how much I love (selected parts) of the Constitution. I’m willing to have others sacrifice for me. I’m very brave, and my scholarly impact score soars!

And, I’m brave because I don’t see anyone else in the cowardly academy defending Godzilla....

Yes, the law DOES require lawyers and law professors to take controversial and adversarial positions. And no one is saying Our Hero shouldn’t be able to defend bar owners or that he should be punished for it.... However, what we are defending should transcend political football teams. It says something about the principles of a law professor who defends the right to peacefully assemble, both when the neo-Nazis seek to march and when antifa seeks to do the same. It says something about the lawyer’s principles, too, if their practice is based only on defending neo-Nazis. We might call the former principle consistency, and it often is missing when law professors choose political football teams.

Silence says something, too. For example, one might be silent when a law professor is being bullied for advocating gender equality, yet outraged when someone questions whether it is a good idea to open bars given all the evidence of bar patrons and COVID-19 being perfect companions. And it might say something if we are silent when students are forced to take a bar exam during a pandemic all the while applauding someone who seeks to open bars for alcohol. It might say something when we vigorously defend the gun-cleaning student and stay silent as students seek desperately not to have to risk their health to take the bar exam...

 .#moralresponsibility #orangehairedbaboons #2020-07-14

This Is What a President Looks Like—For the Weekend

If you won't vote for this guy over the incompetent buffoon that is Donald Trump, do me a favor and please never vote again. You are too much of an easily-grifted moron for your voting to be a good idea for anybody: Joe Biden & Ady Barkan: In Conversation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4CLoiA3vfQ:

.#fortheweekend #moralresponsibility #politics #2020-07-10

Black: Bedbug Stephens, the New York Times, & the Anti-Mask Brigade—Noted

Bedbug stephens

Duncan Black: Eschaton: The Anti-Mask Brigade https://www.eschatonblog.com/2020/07/the-anti-mask-brigade.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+blogspot/bRuz+(Eschaton): ‘I got the play a couple of months ago. Sure it was gross and cynical—these are, charitably, gross and cynical people—but it made sense. The evil libs had a problem in big cities like New York and were trying to impose their Stalinist precautions on the rest of the country, mostly to make Dear Leader look bad. Even New York Times columnist Bedbug Stephens agreed! But now cases are booming elsewhere and they're in their own bases trying to murder their base…

.#coronavirus #moralresponsibility #noted #orangehairedbaboons #publichealth #2020-07-09

Scalzi: Back Into Quarantine—Noted

John Scalzi: Back Into Quarantine https://whatever.scalzi.com/2020/07/05/back-into-quarantine/: ‘We could have managed this thing—like nearly every other country has—if we had political leadership that wasn’t inept and happy to use the greatest public health crisis in decades as political leverage for… well, who knows? Most of the areas being hit hardest now—places like Florida, Arizona, and Texas—are deep red states; there is no political advantage to be had by having them hit by infection and death and economic uncertainty four months before a national election...

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Zeballos-Roig (2020-05-05): White House Adviser Devised Model Showing Covid-19 Deaths Hitting 0 in 10 Days—Noted

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing I have seen this week came from Trump economist Tomas Philipson, with his claim that Trump’s economic analysis instincts are “on par with many Nobel economists I have worked with at Chicago” https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-economist-tested-positive-for-covid-19-11593212011>. It is certainly the case that I do not have much of a regard for Phillipson's economic intuition: he seems to me to have made a career of advocating for a “freedom to try alternative therapies“ on the part of the sick that is overwhelmingly, in practice, a freedom for bad actors to steal from the sick by lying to them in order to hold out false hopes. (I must, however, admit that even I did not anticipate seeing Philipson waving to us from a prominent place on the hydroxychloroquine train.) But Philipson and his praise of Trump’s economic instincts is not the least competent thing Trump administration economists have done this spring. That prize goes to Kevin Hassett:

Joseph Zeballos-Roig (2020-05-05): White House Adviser Devised Model Showing Covid-19 Deaths Hitting 0 in 10 Days https://www.businessinsider.com/white-house-economic-adviser-hassett-model-coronavirus-deaths-zero-10-days-2020-5: ‘The White House is relying on a model prepared by a controversial White House economic advisor that shows coronavirus deaths dropping to zero by May 15 to help guide their decision-making.... The White House is reportedly relying on a "cubic model" prepared by controversial White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett that shows coronavirus deaths plunging to zero by May 15 to help guide their economic decision-making during the pandemic.... The "cubic model" from Hassett clashes with the assessment of public health experts who say the virus will continue infecting people and swell the US death toll for the foreseeable future.... Other critics argued that an economist with an unreliable track record on issues within his own realm of expertise shouldn't wade into public health matters... #coronavirus #economicsgonewrong #moralresponsibility #noted #orangehairedbaboons #publichealth #2020-07-03


Why Were University of Chicago Professional Economists Republicans So Stupid About Coronavirus?

I look at the Trump professional economists Republicans—Kevin Hassett, Tomas Philipson, Casey Mulligan, & co.—and I really do wonder: Why were they so incompetent? Why did they get so strongly behind the "epidemiologists have it wrong", the "reopen the economy"—originally by Easter—and the "this will burn itself out quickly"—deaths down near zero by mid-May—pushes? At least now Philipson and Hassett appear to be silent—although Mulligan is still out there, claiming that the depression is the result of government lockdowns alone, which he values at "15,000 dollars per household per quarter" not counting "intrinsic costs of forgone civil liberties".

By the end of January we knew that this coronavirus was (a) highly infectious, (b) transmitted by the presymptomatic, (c) something against which no human had immunity, (d) a disease with a normal-behavior herd-immunity point likely to be more than 50% of the population, and (e) a disease that killed—with treatment—about 1% of the infected. Those facts made it obvious that keeping it from killing 30 million people worldwide would bet a very difficult task, and that adding up mortality and morbidity costs valued at three million or so per death meant that the stakes we were playing for to avoid a worst-case three million dead epidemic amounted to ten trillion dollars, compared to which the 350 billion cost of a one-month complete non-essential business lockdown that reduced national income by 20% was relatively small change.

And, indeed, the rest of the global north—even Britain—with the exception of Sweden has bit the bullet, taken the lockdown hit, now has the virus (temporarily) on the run, and can move to test-and-trace and social distancing to stomp the virus. We and Sweden have not. We have thus become pariah nations, as far as coronavirus is concerned.

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Tomas Philipson: Such a Maroon—Note to Self

Dunning-Krueger to the max: Shorter Tomas Philipson: It's great that Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine, & encouraging others to suck up the supply away from lupus patients for whom it works. It's great that Trump refuses to wear a mask!: Tomas Philipson (2020-05-20): 'There's nothing new about https://twitter.com/TomPhilipson45/status/1263228191457583105 @POTUS using healthcare, in consultation with a physician, that hasn't undergone government approved randomized trials. Most healthcare spending is on services/procedures lacking such evidence. And the majority of cancer drugs are prescribed without it. Patients and doctors, based on trade-offs between effectiveness, side-effects, and prices, often correctly disagree with one-size-fits-all blind randomized trials, which have many problems. This is one reason why @POTUS signed Right to Try to let patients—not bureaucrats—decide. Indeed, the same people who argue POTUS should wear a mask to guard against COVID, for which there is no randomized evidence yet and blinding would be difficult, are the same people who argue that such evidence is crucial for COVID Rx use… .#economicsgonewrong #moralresponsibility #noted #notetoself #orangehairedbaboons #2020-06-30


John Bell Hood Blames Everybody Else for His Failure to Win the Battle of Spring Hill—Weekend Reading

The anti-Patton. Maybe he was a good regimental or brigade commander. Maybe. But no appreciation for the frictions of war in attempting complicated simultaneous actions, and no appreciation for the power of the defense and the rifle: John Bell Hood: Advance & Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/book-hood-advances-%26-retreat.pdf: 'I dispatched a messenger to General Cheatham to lose no time in gaining possession of the pike at Spring Hill. It was reported back that he was about to do so.... I became somewhat uneasy, and again ordered an officer to go to General Cheatham.... I entrusted another officer with the same message... finally requested the Governor of Tennessee, Isham G. Harris, to hasten forward and impress upon Cheatham the importance of action without delay...

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Capos—Remember When Bret Stephens Said COVID Was Just a NYC Problem?—Noted

Paul Campos: Remember when Bret Stephens Told Us That Covid Was Just a NYC Problem? https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2020/06/remember-when-bret-stephens-told-us-that-covid-was-just-a-nyc-problem: ‘[Bret Stephens (2020-04-24):] "Much of America has dwindling sympathy with the idea of prolonging lockdown conditions.... The curves are flattening; hospital systems haven’t come close to being overwhelmed; Americans have adapted to new etiquettes of social distancing. Many of the worst Covid outbreaks outside New York... have specific causes that can be addressed without population-wide lockdowns. Yet Americans are being told they must still play by New York rules—with all the hardships they entail—despite having neither New York’s living conditions nor New York’s health outcomes. This is bad medicine, misguided public policy, and horrible politics." Remember when firing James Bennet was the worst persecution of free speech since that thing that happened at a college somewhere? The claim was that the New York Times wasn’t willing to publish conservative voices on its op-ed page, and that just proved that Political Correctness Has Gone Too Far. James Bennet hired this guy, and he’s still there… .#noted #moralresponsibility #orangehairedbaboons #2020-06-26


Who Can Tell What Harald Uhlig Said Six Years Ago in Front of 60-Plus Witnesses?

Yes, it is John Cochrane blogging once again. Once again, some of the plain people of the internet who wish me ill tell me I need to go and read John Cochrane—presumably to make me ill. And I do. And it does: John Cochrane: "This account of events does not hold water. Ba, now a professor at U.C. Irvine, was sitting in—not taking for credit—a class in 2014, six years ago. At the University of Chicago, there was always the issue for classes that meet on Mondays, how do you reschedule the class that would normally take place on Martin Luther King day? It was always a mess. In that discussion, Harald said something that Ba found offensive—that much is undeniable. What "fun" did Harald make of Dr. King? Precise words would help. Clearly in this interaction the tone fo voice—whether Harald's inquiry as to offense was "sarcastic" or well-intended—mattered as much as what was actually said. Yes, this merits investigation, to the extent that one can investigate comments made in classes six years ago reported via tweet..."


.#economicsgonewrong #highlighted #moralresponsibility #racism #2020-06-16

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The Problem of George Stigler—Noted

George Stigler (1962): The Problem of the Negro https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/05/weekend-reading-george-stigler-in-1962-on-the-problem-of-the-negro.html: ‘The great disservice of the leaders of Negro opinion was to direct the discontent at the white population.... It was a terrible disservice to identify the white man as the main obstacle to the rise of the negro. It was a disservice because it must lead to hatred, and hatred to violence, and violence to the retardation of the mounting compassion and assistance of the white mean. Could the stream of demonstrations, growing in size and in insolence, approved or at least tolerated by the political, intellectual, and religious leaders of the nation, have any other message for a semi-literate Negro teenager in a slum, than that evil prejudice of the white man was the fundamental cause of his low estate?… Consider employment. The Negro boy is excluded from many occupations by... prejudice.... But he is excluded from more occupations by his own inferiority as a worker.... Lacking education, lacking a tenacity of purpose, lacking a willingness to work hard, he will not be an object of employers' competition. What leader of Negro thought is fostering the ancient virtues of diligence and honesty and loyalty? It is so much easier to seek quotas.... It is not easy or popular to place the Negro's discontent upon himself. People will insist upon speaking of the previous or present faults of the white community, which numerous and deplorable—and now unimportant.... People will denounce any talk of the Negro's cultural and economic inferiority as racism... https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/article-stigler-negro-1962.pdf .#economicsgonewrong moralresponsibility #racism #2020-06-11

George stigler milton friedman Google Search


Twitter: On Michelle Goldberg: Publishing Cotton's Op-Ed without Context Is a "More Direct" Way of Informing New York Times Readers

https://delong.typepad.com/files/twitter-delong-goldberg-2020-06-08.pdf

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Note to Self #tickler: The works & relevance of A.C. Pigou

Note to Self #tickler: The works & relevance of A.C. Pigou:

Ian Kumekawa (2017): The First Serious Optimist: A. C. Pigou and the Birth of Welfare Economics https://www.amazon.com/Ian-Kumekawa-ebook/dp/B071R54415/...
Ian Kumekawa (2020): We Need to Revisit the Idea of Pigou Wealth Tax https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/article-kumekuwa-pigou-wealth-tax.pdf...

Arthur Cecil Pigou (1916): The Economy & Finance of the War: Being a Discussion of the Real Costs 0f the War & the Way in Which They Should Be Met https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/book-pigou-war-finance.pdf...
Arthur Cecil Pigou (1919): The Burden of War & Future Generations https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/article-pigou-burden-of-war.pdf...
Arthur Cecil Pigou (1920): A Capital Levy & a Levy on War Wealth https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/book-pigou-wealth-tax.pdf...
Arthur Cecil Pigou (1920): The Economics of Welfare https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/book-pigou-economics-of-welfare.pdf... Arthur Cecil Pigou (1940): The Political Economy of War https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/book-pigou-war.pdf...
Arthur Cecil Pigou (1946): Income: An Introduction to Economics https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/book-pigou-income.pdf...
Arthur Cecil Pigou (1947): A Study In Public Finance https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/book-pigou-public-finance.pdf...

  #economics #equitablegrowth #inequality #politicaleconomy #notetoself #moralphilosophy #tickler #2020-06-07

Pigou


Herbert Hoover: As Bad to Ally with Stalin and Churchill Against Hitler as to Ally with Hitler Against Stalin and Churchill: Hoisted from the Archives from 2018

Insane Clown Posse

Herbert Hoover: As Bad to Ally with Stalin and Churchill Against Hitler as to Ally with Hitler Against Stalin and Churchill https://www.bradford-delong.com/2018/08/herbert-hoover-as-bad-to-ally-with-stalin-and-churchill-against-hitler-as-to-ally-with-hitler-against-stalin-and-churchill.html: I was reading Herbert Hoover (1964): Freedom Betrayed https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0817912363 on the plane, and it is really clear to me why nobody wanted Hoover to publish it during his lifetime and why his heirs buried it for half a century. I will tell you what I think. I think Hoover does not quite dare say:

When Hitler attacked Stalin in June 1941, the U.S. should have told Britain to cool it—embargoed Britain until, and then offered it security guarantees when, it made peace with Germany. And then the U.S. should have supported Hitler in his war on Communism, by far the worst of the three totalitarianism of Communism, Naziism, and New Dealism. Afterwards, Hitler and his successors would have had their hands full ruling their Eurasian empire, and Naziism would have normalized itself, and Communism would be gone. Too bad about Nazi rule over the French, Belgians, Dutch, Danes, and Norwegians, but that would have been a price well worth paying...

He does not quite dare say it, but he is thinking it. It is Jeanne Kirkpatrick's: "we should always and everywhere support authoritarian regimes and movements against communist regimes and movements" turned up to 11.

And he tiptoes way way way up to it and almost gets there...

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Not Aged Well

Things that have not aged well. Hassett was not an excellent choice for Chairman of the CEA: Mark M. Zandi, Justin Wolfers, & al. (2017): Letter in Support of the Nomination of Kevin Hassett to be Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers https://medium.com/@hassett.economists.letter/letter-in-support-of-the-nomination-of-kevin-hassett-to-be-chairman-of-the-council-of-economic-78c483f9821b: ‘Dr. Hassett has a record of serious scholarship on a wide range of topics, including tax policy, business investment, and energy. He has engaged on an even wider range of topics in the public policy debate and in his work at the Federal Reserve and as a consultant to the Department of the Treasury during the Administrations of President George H.W. Bush and President William J. Clinton. In addition, we appreciate that Dr. Hassett has consistently made an effort to reach out to a wide range of people from across the ideological spectrum both to promote economic dialogue and to collaborate on research and public policy proposals. For all of these reasons we believe that Dr. Hassett would be an excellent choice for Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and urge the Committee to move as expeditiously as possible… #economicsgonewrong #incompetence #moralresponsibility #noted #orangehairedbaboons #2020-05-29


A Very Strange White House Indeed...

Some very, very, very strange things went on inside this White House. Perhaps the strangest was how American Enterprise Institute “economist” Kevin Hassett persuaded Donald Trump and his coterie that COVID-19 deaths would be less than 100 a week starting May 15—or so Hassett’s enemies and ill-wishers inside the White House and their tame journalists are now claiming it went down:

David Anderson: Cubic Fits & Department of D'OH https://www.balloon-juice.com/2020/05/05/cubic-fits-and-department-of-doh/: ‘The first thing a data analyst trainee should learn is that playing with Excel’s functions and tools is a great way to get into trouble when you don’t have an underlying understanding of the fundamental data’s behaviors AND don’t understand the functions and tools core assumptions.  This is important.  The second or third lesson a data analyst trainee will learn is to not use Excel but that is advanced training. Why does this matter? It seems like the White House is using Excel and not understanding the phenonomenon they are trying to model. Eyeballing the data, there sure as hell seems to be a day of the week seasonality. But let’s go beyond that. If we were to assume that a cubit fit is an appropriate choice to model the data, and that we can project out of the current data to the near future so that there are almost no deaths on May 15th, that requires a ‘What the Hell’ response… #coronavirus #incompetence #moralresponsibility #orangehairedbaboons #publichealth #2020-05-29


North Dakota Has a Culture Problem

Cristina Cabrera: GOP Guv. Doug Burgum Tearfully Pleads Anti-Maskers To ‘Dial Up Your Empathy’ and End ‘Political’ Divide https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/gop-guv-tearfully-pleads-anti-maskers-to-dial-up-your-empathy-and-end-political-divide: ‘North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) despairs.... “If someone is wearing a mask, they’re not doing it to represent what political party they’re in or what candidates they support,” the Republican governor said during an emotional press briefing on Friday. “They might be doing it because they’ve got a 5-year-old child who’s been going through cancer treatments,” he continued, voice breaking. Burgum took a moment to collect himself before continuing: “They might have vulnerable adults in their life who currently have COVID, and they’re fighting.” The governor begged North Dakotans to avoid “creating a divide” either “ideological or political” over the importance of wearing a mask with so many lives at stake. “This is a, I would say, senseless dividing line,” he said. “And I would ask people to try to dial up your empathy and your understanding.” Burgum’s plea comes as some of his fellow Republicans, including President Donald Trump, publicly refuse to wear masks that prevent the spread of COVID-19, disregarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation… #fascism #noted #moralresponsibility #orangehairedbaboons #2020-05-29


Trump: The Cruelty Is the Point...

IMHO, It is long past time for advertising-supported social media to die. The incentives facing Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, and company are extremely poisonous. And—unlike Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, even Elon Musk—Jack and Mark regard themselves as in the business of piling up as much money as they can, rather than as enabling and guiding human progress. It needs to stop. They are, as somebody-or-other said, our modern tobacco companies—only profiting from human addiction to controversy and polarization and susceptibility to misinformation rather than human addiction to nicotine: Brian Klaas: 'Trump took the tragic death of a young woman, Lori Klausutis https://twitter.com/brianklaas/status/1265239671140909058, and has tried to exploit it for political gain in the most disgusting way imaginable. This letter from her husband to [Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey] asking him to delete Trump’s sick tweets is a heart-wrenching must read.…

#fascism #journamalism #moralresponsibility #noted #orangehairedbaboons #publicsphere #2020-05-27

Things that have not aged well at al. From 2017: Letter in Support of the Nomination of Kevin Hassett to be Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers https://medium.com/@hassett.economists.letter/letter-in-support-of-the-nomination-of-kevin-hassett-to-be-chairman-of-the-council-of-economic-78c483f9821b: ‘Dr. Hassett has a record of serious scholarship on a wide range of topics, including tax policy, business investment, and energy. He has engaged on an even wider range of topics in the public policy debate and in his work at the Federal Reserve and as a consultant to the Department of the Treasury during the Administrations of President George H.W. Bush and President William J. Clinton. In addition, we appreciate that Dr. Hassett has consistently made an effort to reach out to a wide range of people from across the ideological spectrum both to promote economic dialogue and to collaborate on research and public policy proposals. For all of these reasons we believe that Dr. Hassett would be an excellent choice for Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and urge the Committee to move as expeditiously as possible to ensure that the Administration has the benefit of his economic advice...

Continue reading "" »


Lecture Notes: Inequality

14487 words https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/lecture-inequality-text.pdf

Philosophers, of course, if there are any in the audience here, will have winced by now. Perhaps they will have done more than winced—although I did not see any philosophers rise and run, screaming, from the room.

I have drawn strong conclusions about how high and important a priority reducing inequality should be for making a good society by being a bad philosopher. Philosophers would presumably say that I should first be a good philosopher. They would say that only after having reached good philosophical conclusions should I then use those conclusions as a springboard to derive “oughts” for political economy.

The problem, of course, is that there is no agreement on what the good philosophical conclusions are.

I maintain that my bad philosophy is a very useful middle ground. I draw conclusions for society from it. As you decide on what your view of good philosophy is, you move from my bad philosophy to yours, and that movement will carry with it a move of your political economy conclusions from the baseline I have established to those that you will think best. You will start with my conclusions, and adjust them in light of the difference between my bad and your good moral philosophy. My bad philosophy thus provides you with a convenient basecamp from which you—with your good philosophy—can begin your climb of the mountain of truth...

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Convincing Biden Victory in South Carolina: Warren's My Guy, But I Will Happily Work Very, Very Hard for Biden...

Note to Self: For the record, of those above, my rank ordering of who is likely to make the best president goes: Warren, Bennet, Klobuchar, Patrick, Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Steyer, Delaney, Yang, Sanders, Gabbard...

Impressively done by Joe Biden and his team: kudos:

Biden-winning-sc

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Time to Bang My Head Against the Wall Some More (Pre-Elementary Monetary Economics Department): Hoisted from the Archives from 2009

Hoisted from the Archives: Time to Bang My Head Against the Wall Some More (Pre-Elementary Monetary Economics Department) https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/01/time-to-bang-my-head-against-the-wall-some-more-pre-elementary-monetary-economics-department.html: Oh boy. John Cochrane does not know something that David Hume did--that the velocity of monetary circulation is an economic variable rather than a technological constant. Cochrane:

Fiscal Fallacies: First, if money is not going to be printed, it has to come from somewhere. If the government borrows a dollar from you, that is a dollar that you do not spend, or that you do not lend to a company to spend on new investment. Every dollar of increased government spending must correspond to one less dollar of private spending.  Jobs created by stimulus spending are offset by jobs lost from the decline in private spending. We can build roads instead of factories, but fiscal stimulus can’t help us to build more of both. This is just accounting, and does not need a complex argument about “crowding out”...

Let us take this slowly.

  1. Suppose that we have four agents: Alice, Beverly, Carol, and Deborah.

  2. Suppose that Beverly has $500 in cash that she owes Carol, due in two months. Suppose that Alice and Carol are both unemployed and idle.

  3. In one scenario in two months Beverly goes to Carol and pays her the $500. End of story.

  4. In a second scenario Beverly says to Alice: "I have a house. Why don't you build a deck--I will pay you $500 after the work is done. Here is the contract." Alice takes the contract and goes to Carol. She shows the contract to Carol and says: "See. I will be good for the debt. Cook me meals so I will have the strength to build the deck--here's another contract in which I promise to pay you $500 within 90 days if you cook for me." Carol agrees.

  5. Two months pass. Carol cooks and feeds Alice. Alice goes and builds the deck.

  6. Alice then asks Beverly for payment. Beverly says: "Wait a minute." She goes to Carol and says: "Here is the the $500 cash I owe you." Beverly pays the money to Carol. Beverly then says: "But now could I borrow the cash back by offering you a long-term mortgage at an attractive interest rate secured with an interest in my newly more-valuable house?" Carol says: "Sure." Beverly files an amended deed showing Carol's mortgage lien with the town office. Carol gives Beverly back the $500. Beverly then goes to Alice and pays her the $500. Alice then goes to Carol and pays her the $500.

  7. The net result? (a) Alice who would otherwise have been idle has been employed--has traded her labor for meals. (b) Carol who would otherwise have been idle has been employed--has traded her labor for a secured lien on Beverly's house. (c) Beverly has taken out a mortgage on her house and in exchange has gotten a deck built. (d) Carol has the $500 cash that Beverly owed her in the first place.

  8. Alice has more income and consumption expenditure than if she hadn't taken Beverly's job offer. Carol has more income and saving than if she hadn't cooked for Alice and then invested her earnings with Beverly. Beverly has an extra capital asset (the deck) and an extra financial liability (the mortgage) than if she had never offered to hire Alice.

  9. A deck has gotten built. Meals have been cooked and eaten. Two women have been employed. And all this has happened without printing any extra money.

John Cochrane would say that this is impossible.

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Oh Noes!!: Hoisted from Eleven Years Ago: The New York Times Has Been... Unprofessional for a Long, Long, Time Across a Wide Range of Areas

Hoisted from 2008: Oh Noes!!: "Oh Noes!! The New York Times crash-and-burn watch continues. To Ben Stein the Times has added...

CATHERINE RAMPELL: 'I’m pleased to introduce Casey B. Mulligan, an economist at the University of Chicago, as the newest addition to our “Daily Economist” panel...

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Casey Mulligan says—wait for it—that the reason that unemployment is the 7% it is right now rather than the 4.4% it was two years ago because workers today face "financial incentives that encourage them not to work":

Are Employers Unwilling to Hire, or Are Some Workers Unwilling to Work?: 'Employment has been falling over the past year... if total hours worked had continued the upward trend they had been on in the years before the recession, they would be 4.7 percent higher than they are now.... [Today s]ome employees face financial incentives that encourage them not to work.... [T]he decreased employment is explained more by reductions in the supply of labor (the willingness of people to work) and less by the demand for labor (the number of workers that employers need to hire)...

If the New York Times has a future, it is as a trusted intermediary. This does not help...

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Executive Summary of Obama Transition Economic Policy Work: Hoisted from the Archives

Obama-plans

Hoisted from the Archives: Note that if 600 billion in fiscal stimulus would have reduced the expected unemployment rate as of the end of 2010 from 9.5% to 8%, 900 billion would still have left the economy with an expected end-of-2010 unemployment rate of 7.25%. And, of course, the memo ought to have highlighted that things had a 50% chance of being worse than expected—even considerably worse, which they were: the end of 2010 unemployment rate was 9.3%. To seek as your economic policy goal a set of policies that would might well have—and did—leave the unemployment rate two years hence above 9% seemed like malpractice on the part of the Obama-Emmanuel-Biden team then. It still seems like it was malpractice now: Obama National Economic Council Presumptive (December 2008): EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF ECONOMIC POLICY WORK https://delong.typepad.com/20091215-obama-economic-policy-memo.pdf: 'In the absence of fiscal stimulus the economy is projected to lose 3 to 4 million jobs in 2009. Together with the jobs we have already lost and population growth, we will be 7 million jobs short of full employment. The unemployment rate is projected to rise above 9 percent and not projected to start falling until 2011. We believe that $600 billion in stimulus over two years would create 2.5 million jobs relative to what would happen in the absence of stimulus. However, this falls well short of filling the job shortfall and would leave the unemployment rate at 8 percent two years from now. This has convinced the economic team that a considerably larger package is justified.... The memo outlines four alternative plan ranging from $550 billion to $890 billion...

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Eternal September: How Trolls Overran the Public Square: Project Syndicate

How_Trolls_Overran_the_Public_Square_by_J__Bradford_DeLong_-_Project_Syndicate

Project Syndicate: How Trolls Overran the Public Square https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/trolls-win-control-of-the-public-square-by-j-bradford-delong-2019-12: Since the invention of writing, human innovation has transformed how we formulate new ideas, organize our societies, and communicate with one another. But in an age of rapid-fire social media and nonstop algorithm-generated outrage, technology is no longer helping to expand or enrich the public sphere: Every year since 1900 we have had change in human technology and organization at a blistering pace: human productivity, organization, and technological capabilities now change at a rate that packs into one year what would have been 50 years of change back before 1500. It used to be that culture, war, the rise and fall of individuals' statuses, and politics were the meat of human history, with technology and organization much of an unchanging background, and productivity growing only very slowly on average. But that is not the world we live in today.

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The Vexing Question of Prussia

For a bit over the first half of the 1860s-2010s Long 20th Century, global history was profoundly shaped by the peculiarity of Prussia. The standard account of this peculiarity—this sonderweg, sundered way, separate Prussian path—has traditionally seen it has having four aspects. Prussia—and the “small German” national state of which it was the nucleus—managed to simultaneously, over 1865-1945: (1) wage individual military campaigns with extraordinary success; (2) wage wars no sane statesman would have entered; (3) via the role, authority and interests of the military-service nobility societal caste, divert the currents of political development from the expected channel into a sonderweg; (4) engage in continent-spanning systematic patterns and campaigns of terror, destruction, murder, and genocide that went far beyond anything other European powers engaged in within Europe, and even went far beyond the brutalities of colonial conquest and rule. Did Prussia—and the “small German” national state of which it became the core—in fact follow a separate and unusual path, with respect to economic, political, cultural, social development, relative to other western European national states in the arc from France to Sweden? Do these four aspects as components rightly summarize the sonderweg? What is their origin, and what is the relation between them?...

https://www.icloud.com/pages/0sJdHr8FwY3J2-1k5BlH6SYVw

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Marx's Capital: Part VIII: Primitive Accumulation Proper

4.4) Part VIII: Primitive Accumulation: At the end of Part VII, Marx had completed his analysis of how the purpose of capitalism-as-a-system was simply capital accumulation, which produced ever more productivity, wealth, and misery, all three growing together, and all three growing together at an ever-increasing pace. The natural next step in Marx’s argument would be for him to lay out what he forecasts will bring this mad sorcerers-apprentice process to an end.

That, however is not what we get. We turn to the next page, and its title of “Part VIII: Primitive Accumulation” tells us that Marx is now jumping back to the historical beginnings of the process of capitalist capital accumulation.

He needed an editor.

Fortunately, this part is misnamed. “Primitive” accumulation is supposed to be about how the juggernaut of capitalism initially gets rolling. This part starts out being about that. But it then moves on, and is in its later stages also about much, much more.

4.4.1) “Primitive Accumulation” Proper: Part VIII does start out with its expressed topic. It hammers home the difference between the myth that the capitalist tell themselves and others, and the reality with which the system came into being. The myth is as follows, as Marx brings the snark:

Its origin is supposed to be.… In times long gone by there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals…. Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us in the defence of property…

The reality is very very different:

The process which creates the capital-relation can be nothing other than the process which divorces the worker from the ownership of the conditions of his own labour; it is a process which operates two transformations, whereby the social means of subsistence and production are turned into capital, and the immediate producers are turned into wage-labourers. So-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as ‘primitive’ because it forms the pre-history of capital, and of the mode of production corresponding to capital…

And it is not just that history happened this way in some ethically neutral way. Great crimes were committed. And great was the role played by political corruption. Marx reviews British history starting in 1500, running from Henry VIII Tudor to William III Orange, and beyond:

The spoliation of the Church’s property, the fraudulent alienation of the state domains, the theft of the common lands, the usurpation of feudal and clan property and its transformation into modern private property under circumstances of ruthless terrorism, all these things were just so many idyllic methods of primitive accumulation. They conquered the field for capitalist agriculture, incorporated the soil into capital [a very interesting phrase], and created for the urban industries the necessary supplies of free and rightless proletarians…

The Glorious Revolution... brought into power, along with William of Orange, the landed and capitalist profit-grubbers. They inaugurated the new era by practising on a colossal scale the thefts of state lands which had hitherto been managed more modestly. These estates were given away, sold at ridiculous prices, or even annexed to private estates by direct seizure … The Crown lands thus fraudulently appropriated, together with the stolen Church estates, … form the basis of the present princely domains of the English oligarchy…

Employ the power of the state, the concentrated and organized force of society, to hasten, as in a hothouse, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode, and to shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society which is pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power…

Not just market buying-and-selling bring capitalism into being. Brutality and force are the “midwife” of every transformation from one kind of society to another—here the origins of society based on the capitalist mode of production born from the womb of the previous pattern of society based on the feudal mode of production:

Unleash[ing] the ‘eternal natural laws’ of the capitalist mode of production, to complete the process of separation between the workers and the conditions of their labour, to transform, at one pole, the social means of production and subsistence into capital, and at the opposite pole, the mass of the population into wage-labourers, into the free ‘labouring poor’, that artificial product of modern history.... [Feudalism] has to be annihilated; it is annihilated. Its annihilation, the transformation of the individualized and scattered means of production into socially concentrated means of production, the transformation, therefore, of the dwarf-like property of the many into the giant property of the few, and the expropriation of the great mass of the people from the soil, from the means of subsistence and from the instruments of labour, this terrible and arduously accomplished expropriation of the mass of the people forms the pre-history of capital…

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Lecture Notes: Smith, Marx, Keynes: Thanksgiving 2019 DRAFT

I have finished (a draft of) my "Smith, Marx, Keynes" lecture notes—well, I have not written 7.6 and 8.2. For 7.6, I have simply dumped in (much of) Paul Krugman's Mr. Keynes and the Moderns. 8.2 I have not written anything on. But what it is, it is...

https://www.icloud.com/pages/0howtV7CndvjkSCCLmtjmq_SA

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Weekend Reading: Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn Wrestles with the American Christian Church for His Soul, and Wins and Saves It

Huckleberry-finn

Mark Twain: From Huckleberry Finn https://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2019/11/30/all-right-then-go-the-whole-hog/: 'I about made up my mind to pray; and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was, and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that n—r’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie—and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out. So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn’t know what to do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I’ll go and write the letter—and then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather, right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote: "Miss Watson your runaway n—r Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. HUCK FINN". I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking—thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell...

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Karl Marx’s Intuitions: Marx’s Enthusiasm for the Market

3) Karl Marx’s Intuitions: Marx’s Enthusiasm for the Market: But back up. First, note that Karl Marx was much more enthusiastic about the market economy and the prospects for the societal division of labor than Smith had been. This enthusiasm had multiple causes:

  • Marx lived 75 years later, in a time of much more rapid economic growth.
  • Marx saw, much more clearly, technology as the magic force that it was going to be.
  • Smith wanted to make his way in the world as an upwardly mobile outsider intellectual taking a measured view of things and entertaining his potential audience; Marx wanted to leave his mark upon the world—hence all his enthusiasms, and all his hates, were outsized.
  • Marx was, in a very strange way, a Fundamentalist Christian—albeit a massively heretical one: a firm believer in the redemption and total transformation not of an individual soul bur of humanity at the hands of a benevolent power. As American literary critic Edmund Wilson was to write in 1940: a lot of Marx’s and Marxist writing makes no sense unless you replace phrases like “progress of history” and “dialectic of history” with “Providence” and “God”.

We see this enthusiasm show through in the passages of Capital in which Marx talks about the transformative work that is being done by the capitalist market economy. But it shines through much more clearly in Marx and Engels’s 1848 Communist Manifesto, in an extended passage that outstrips pretty much anything ever written by capitalism’s friends:

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part…. The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.

The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.

The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.

The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.

The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one customs-tariff.

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?…

“What earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?”

The bourgeoisie —the market economic system in which the capitalists, the business class, hold the reins and have the wealth—has, is, and will create the material abundance needed for humanity to pass through the gates of history and enter its proper destiny of utopia.

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The Premature Kingdom: Hoisted from the Archives

The Premature Kingdom

The Premature Kingdom: On Twitter: Perhaps the question "should Christians be Christians?" is like the question "should Communists be Communists?".

For in its essence, the problem—the poisoned chalice—that Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus handed the Christian bishops of his day in the fourth century C.E. was closely analogous to the problem that Lenin's successful coup 100 years less two days ago handed him and his comrades.

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Adam Smith & Poverty

2.4) Adam Smith & Poverty: Adam Smith loathes poverty.

Adam Smith is eager to create a society in which there is no poverty.

Adam Smith spends a substantial amount of time investigating the course of poverty over time. For example, he takes time and care to write:

During the course of the last century, taking one year with another, grain was dearer in both parts of the united kingdom than during that of the present…. It is equally certain that labour was much cheaper. If the labouring poor, therefore, could bring up their families then, they must be much more at their ease now. In the last century, the most usual day-wages of common labour through the greater part of Scotland were sixpence in summer, and fivepence in winter.… Through the greater part of the Low country, the most usual wages of common labour are now eight pence a-day; tenpence, sometimes a shilling, about Edinburgh…. In England, the improvements of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, began much earlier than in Scotland. The demand for labour, and consequently its price, must necessarily have increased with those improvements. In the last century, accordingly, as well as in the present, the wages of labour were higher in England than in Scotland. They have risen, too, considerably since that time, though, on account of the greater variety of wages paid there in different places, it is more difficult to ascertain how much…. Not only grain has become somewhat cheaper, but many other things from which the industrious poor derive an agreeable and wholesome variety of food have become a great deal cheaper. Potatoes… cost half the price which they used to do thirty or forty years ago. The same thing may be said of turnips, carrots, cabbages; things which were formerly never raised but by the spade, but which are now commonly raised by the plough. All sort of garden stuff, too, has become cheaper…. The great improvements in the coarser manufactories of both linen and woollen cloth furnish the labourers with cheaper and better clothing; and those in the manufactories of the coarser metals, with cheaper and better instruments of trade, as well as with many agreeable and convenient pieces of household furniture…

Which he then cross-checks with elite gossip:

The common complaint that luxury extends itself even to the lowest ranks of the people, and that the labouring poor will not now be contented with the same food, clothing, and lodging which satisfied them in former times, may convince us that it is not the money price of labour only, but its real recompense, which has augmented…

Having established that poverty has diminished, he next launches a full-bore attack on all those who claim this is a bad thing:

Is this… to be regarded as an advantage or as an inconveniency?… Servants, labourers, and workmen… make up the far greater part…. What improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable…

And then he makes a strong appeal to human solidarity, and to the reciprocal obligations humans undertake by entering into the gift-exchange relationships that knit society together:

It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe, and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged…

“It is but equity, besides…” This is a very strong appeal to human solidarity. It is coming from someone often seen as and sometimes dismissed as an apostle of human self-interest.

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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.

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Benjamin Wittes: The Collapse of the President’s Defense: Weekend Reading

Benjamin Wittes: The Collapse of the President’s Defense https://www.lawfareblog.com/collapse-presidents-defense: 'President Trump’s substantive defense against the ongoing impeachment inquiry has crumbled entirely—not just eroded or weakened, but been flattened like a sandcastle hit with a large wave. It was never a strong defense. After all, Trump himself released the smoking gun early in L’Affaire Ukrainienne when the White House published its memo of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That document erased any question as to whether Trump had asked a foreign head of state to “investigate”—a euphemism for digging up dirt on—his political opponents. There was no longer any doubt that he had asked a foreign country to violate the civil liberties of American citizens by way of interfering in the coming presidential campaign. That much we have known for certain for weeks. The clarity of the evidence did not stop the president’s allies from trying to fashion some semblance of defense. But the past few days of damaging testimony have stripped away the remaining fig leaves. There was no quid pro quo, we were told—except that it’s now clear that there was one. If there was a quid pro quo, we were told, it was the good kind of quid pro quo that happens all the time in foreign relations—except that, we now learn, it wasn’t that kind at all but the very corrupt kind instead. The Ukrainians didn’t even know that the president was holding up their military aid, we were told—except that, it turns out, they did know. And, the president said, it was all about anti-corruption. This was the most Orwellian inversion; describing such a corrupt demand as a request for an investigation of corruption is a bit like describing a speakeasy as an alcoholism treatment facility. As this tawdy fact pattern has become increasingly exposed, the only defense that remains to the president is that it does not amount to an impeachment-worthy offense—an argument difficult to square with either the history of impeachment or its purpose in our constitutional system...

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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...

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Weekend Reading: Lin Zexu (1839): To Queen Victoria

A busy stacking room in the opium factory at Patna India L Wellcome V0019154 First Opium War Wikipedia

Weekend Reading: Lin Zexu (1839): To Queen Victoria: "We find that your country is sixty or seventy thousand li from China. The purpose of your ships in coming to China is to realize a large profit. Since this profit is realized in China and is in fact taken away from the Chinese people, how can foreigners return injury for the benefit they have received by sending this poison to harm their benefactors? They may not intend to harm others on purpose, but the fact remains that they are so obsessed with material gain that they have no concern whatever for the harm they can cause to others. Have they no conscience? I have heard that you strictly prohibit opium in your own country, indicating unmistakably that you know how harmful opium is. You do not wish opium to harm your own country, but you choose to bring that harm to other countries such as China. Why?...

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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...

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Hoisted from the Archives: John Holbo (2010): If Those Women Were Really Oppressed, Someone Would Have Tended to Have Freed Them by Then

stacks and stacks of books

John Holbo (2010): If Those Women Were Really Oppressed, Someone Would Have Tended to Have Freed Them by Then http://crookedtimber.org/2010/04/13/if-those-women/: "Having made one non-libertarian-related post, I can now say, with a good conscience, that Bryan Caplan has responded to his critics. It is a wonder to behold.... A lot of the trouble here obviously rotates around the issue of systematic social oppression. Caplan barrels straight through like so: 'there’s a fundamental human right to non-violently pressure and refuse to associate with others'.... Caplan doesn’t notice that, even if he’s right about this fundamental human right, he’s no longer even defending the proposition that women were more free in the 1880’s, never mind successfully defending it. He’s defending the proposition that there is a fundamental right, which can be exercised, systematically, to make women much less free, that was better protected in the 1880’s. So if women value this libertarian right more than freedom, they might rationally prefer that sort of society. But even so, they should hardly regard themselves as more free, for enjoying this right. Rather, they should regard themselves as (rationally) sacrificing liberty, a lesser value, for love of libertarianism, a higher value and separate jar of pickles altogether...

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For the Weekend: Fred Clark: The Duty of Speaking Ill of the Dead

Death of scrooge Google Search

Weekend Reading: Very wise from the very wise Fred Clark: The Duty of Speaking Ill of the Dead: "From Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, 'The Last of the Spirits': 'The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men. Observing that the hand was pointed to them, Scrooge advanced to listen to their talk. “No,” said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, “I don’t know much about it, either way. I only know he’s dead.” “When did he die?” inquired another. “Last night, I believe.” “Why, what was the matter with him?” asked a third, taking a vast quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff-box. “I thought he’d never die.” “God knows,” said the first, with a yawn. “What has he done with his money?” asked a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock. “I haven’t heard,” said the man with the large chin, yawning again. “Left it to his company, perhaps. He hasn’t left it to me. That’s all I know.” This pleasantry was received with a general laugh. “It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,” said the same speaker; “for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer?”...

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