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Fidel Castro: Expert on Baking Bread, Orthopedic Surgery, and Beer Distribution

Castro-khrushchev

Jacobo Timmerman (1990): A Summer in the Revolution https://www.bradford-delong.com/2013/11/i-cannot-find-jacopo-timmermann-on-gabriel-garcia-marquez-on-fidel-castro.html: ': 'When I read one of Gabriel Carcia Marquez's essays on the [Cuban] Commandante [Fidel Castro], I was remind of paeans to Stalin—of the whole state of mind described by Arthur Koestler in Darkness at Noon. Garcia Marquez praises Fidel Castro for needing only six hours of sleep after a day's hard work—the same six hours that were often presented as proof of Josef Stalin's vitality, extolled in writings that also described his Kremlin window lit until the small hours of the night—and praises the wisdom of the Commandante in stating that "learning to rest is as important as learning to work". If the cumulative tasks in Fidel Castro's workday as it is describe by Garcia Marquez are counted up, the Castro who emerges is a prodigy—someone who triumphs by supernatural intelligence:

His rarest virtue is the ability to foresee the evolution of an event to its farthest-reaching consequence...

and:

He has breakfast with no less than two hundred pages of news from the entire world...

(a long breakfast, surely), and:

He has to read fifty-odd documents [daily]...

And the list goes on:

No one can explain how he has the time or what method he employs to read so much and so fast.... A physician friend of his, out of courtesy, sent him his newly-published orthopedic treatise, without expecting him, of course, to read it, but one week later he received a letter from Castro with a long list of observations.... There is a vast bureaucratic incompetence affection almost every realm of daily life, especially domestic happiness, which has forced Fidel Castro himself, almost thirty years after victory, to involve himself personally in such extraordinary matters as how bread is made and the distribution of beer.... He has created a foreign policy of world-power dimensions.

Fidel Castro, then, has a secret method, unknown to the rest of mankind, for reading quickly, and he knows a lot about orthopedics, and yet thirty years after the Revolution he has not managed to organize a system for baking bread and distributing beer...

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Eric Hobsbawm (1998): The Communist Manifesto in Perspective https://www.transform-network.net/en/publications/yearbook/overview/article/journal-112012/the-communist-manifesto-in-perspective/: 'It is, of course, a document written for a particular moment in history. Some of it became obsolete almost immediately.... More of it became obsolete as the time separating the readers from the date of writing lengthened. Guizot and Metternich have long retired.... The Tsar (though not the Pope) no longer exists. As for the discussion of “Socialist and Communist Literature”, Marx and Engels themselves admitted in 1872 that even then it was out of date.... Though Marx and Engels reminded readers that the Manifesto was a historical document, out of date in many respects, they promoted and assisted the publication of the 1848 text.... Unlike Marxian economics, the “materialist conception of history” which underlay this analysis had already found its mature formulation in the mid-1840s. and remained substantially unchanged in later years. In this respect the Manifesto was already a defining document of Marxism. It embodied the historical vision, though its general outline remained to be filled in by fuller analysis...

...How will the Manifesto strike the reader who comes to it for the first time in 1998? The new reader can hardly fail to be swept away by the passionate conviction, the concentrated brevity, the intellectual and stylistic force, of this astonishing pamphlet. It is written, as though in a single creative burst, in lapidary sentences almost naturally transforming themselves into the memorable aphorisms which have become known far beyond the world of political debate: from the opening “A spectre is haunting Europe–the spectre of Communism” to the final “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win”. Equally uncommon in nineteenth-century German writing: it is written in short, apodictic paragraphs, mainly of one to five lines—in only five cases, out of more than two hundred, of fifteen or more lines. Whatever else it is, The Communist Manifesto as political rhetoric has an almost biblical force. In short, it is impossible to deny its compelling power as literature....

What will undoubtedly also strike the contemporary reader is the Manifesto’s remarkable diagnosis of the revolutionary character and impact of “bourgeois society”. The point is not simply that Marx recognised and proclaimed the extraordinary achievements and dynamism of a society he detested, to the surprise of more than one later defender of capitalism against the red menace. It is that the world transformed by capitalism which he described in 1848, in passages of dark, laconic eloquence, is recognisably the world in which we live 150 years later....

Two things give the Manifesto its force. The first is its vision, even at the outset of the triumphal march of capitalism, that this mode of production was not permanent, stable, “the end of history”, but a temporary phase.... The second is its recognition of the... bourgeoisie... [and its] miracles ascribed to it in the Manifesto.... In 1850 the world produced no more than 71,000 tons of steel (almost 70 per cent of it in Britain) and had built less than 24,000 miles of railroads (two-thirds of these in Britain and the USA). Historians have had no difficulty in showing that even in Britain the Industrial Revolution (a term specifically used by Engels from 1844 on) had hardly created an industrial or even a predominantly urban country before the 1850s. Marx and Engels did not describe the world as it had already been transformed by capitalism in 1848; they predicted how it was logically destined to be transformed by it.

We now live in a world in which this transformation has largely taken place, even though readers of the Manifesto in the third millennium of the Western calendar will no doubt observe that it has advanced even further since 1998...

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Civil Liberties: I have always tended to be an advocate of "playing your position". But there are times when one's position involves looking far afield. These days, on what surveillance and information-collection mechanism are doing to our society. Here we have Marcy Wheeler saying "I told you so" about how the FBI's use of FISA for searches has long been unreasonable, and hence—if the fourth amendment has any meaning—unconstitutional:

Marcy Wheeler: How Twelve Years of Warning and Six Years of Plodding Reform Finally Forced FBI to Do Minimal FISA Oversight https://www.emptywheel.net/2019/10/12/how-twelve-years-of-warning-and-six-years-of-plodding-reform-finally-forced-fbi-to-do-minimal-fisa-oversight/: "A condemnation of how the government has been using 702 (and its predecessor PAA) for 12 years. A (partial—but thus far by far the most significant one) success of the new oversight mechanisms put in place post-Snowden. An opportunity to reform FISA—and FBI—more systematically.... 12 years after this system was first moved under FISA... we’re only now going to start getting real information.... We will learn (even more than we already learned from the two reported queries that this pertained to vetting informants) the degree to which back door searches serve not to find people who are implicated in national security crimes, but instead, people who might be coerced to help the FBI find people who are involved in national security crimes. We will learn that the oversight has been inadequate. We will finally be able to measure disproportionate impact on Chinese-American, Arab, Iranian, South Asian, and Muslim communities. DOJ will be forced to give far more defendants 702 notice. Irrespective of whether back door searches are themselves a Fourth Amendment violation (which we will only now obtain the data to discuss), the other thing this opinion shows is that for twelve years, FISA boosters have been dismissing the concerns those of us who follow closely have raised (and there are multiple other topics not addressed here). And now, after more than a decade, after a big fight from FBI, we’re finally beginning to put the measures in place to show that those concerns were merited all along...

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A bunch of Obama's governing not as a left-populist but as "Third Way" was, IMHO, bait-and-switch. And a bunch was his own incoherence: he alternated between presenting himself as a left-populist who would get things deon and as a purple-America unifier. But a bunch was the realities for power and process. This is very smart from; Henry Kraemer: "Obama ran as a populist https://twitter.com/HenryKraemer/status/1195012774633648128, & governed as something closer to Third Way. At least one big reason is that the realities of governing in a republic tend to moderate policy. Running as Third Way more or less guarantees governing as a conservative: Adam Jentleson: 'This. The Deval/Pete recasting of candidate Obama as a Third Way, unity candidate is revisionist history. He ran as an outsider attacking a broken and corrupt system...

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The point of the Senate majority's and of the current political appointees at HHS's actions here is not to create flexibility, but to make it legal to provide not-insurance: Sarah Gantz: A Philly Woman’s Broken Back and 36,000 Bill Shows How Some Health Insurance Brokers Trick Consumers into Skimpy Plans https://www.inquirer.com/health/consumer/limited-benefit-skimpy-health-plans-sales-pitch-20191114.html?__vfz=medium%3Dsharebar: 'She was left with 36,000 in hospital bills that she’s still paying off. “What the hell did I do? How did I get into this mess?” said Martin, 54, of Horsham, recalling the panic she felt after the December 2017 fall. “I have a broken wrist, a broken back, and I don’t have real health insurance.”... Access to these plans was limited under the Affordable Care Act, but the websites selling such plans have gotten bolder in their marketing as President Trump and free-market Republicans chip away at ACA rules, saying people need more affordable alternatives. But shopping savvy isn’t necessarily enough to protect consumers. The insurance brokers who rely on such websites for leads use scripts carefully worded to instill trust and push consumers to act quickly...

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Walter Womacka's Socialist "Realist" Stained Glass...

Walter Womacka Stained-Glass Restoration https://www.moz.de/kultur/artikelansicht/dg/0/1/1043774/ in the former State Council building on Berlin's Schlossplatz, now the home of the European School of Management and Technology: How the East German Government wanted to pretend it had been, was, and would be:

Womacka-top

Womacka-bottom

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Very Briefly Noted 2019-12-11:

  1. Wikipedia: Gendarmenmarkt https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendarmenmarkt...

  2. Nir Jaimovich &al.: A Tale of Two Workers: The Macroeconomics of Automation http://events.berkeley.edu/documents/user_uploads/Paper01122019.pdf...

  3. Groningen Growth and Development Center: PWT 9.1 https://www.rug.nl/ggdc/productivity/pwt/...

  4. Nick Rowe: Increased Price Flexibility is Destabilising in New Keynesian Models. (And a Price-Level Path Target is Stabilising) https://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2019/12/increased-price-flexibility-is-destabilising-in-new-keynesian-models-and-a-price-level-path-target-i.html: 'It's more complicated than this, of course. Because I have over-simplified the model by assuming that the central bank has a lag of "one period", and that the only real interest rate that matters is that same "one period" real interest rate. But you get the gist...

  5. Chartwell: Carl Benedikt Frey https://www.chartwellspeakers.com/speaker/carl-benedikt-frey/...

  6. Wikipedia: Ahmose I https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmose_I...

  7. Financial Times: Business School Rankings 2019 http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/european-business-school-rankings-2019...

  8. Clickspring: Reconstructing The Antikythera Mechanism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRXI9KLImC4...

  9. David Teece &al.: New Enlightenment Conference https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIg3ObdikHUdFtLCqMBfNLQ/playlists: ', Edinburgh, 2019...

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Great-grandfather Roland: Roland G. Usher (1913): Pan Germanism https://net.lib.byu.edu/~rdh7/wwi/comment/PanGer/PanGerTC.htm: 'BY: ROLAND G. USHER, PH.D. Associate Professor of History, Washington University, St. Louis.... BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge.... TO THAT ENERGETIC, CAPABLE ADMINISTRATOR, THAT ENTHUSIASTIC STUDENT OF CONDITIONS, THAT BEST OF COMRADES, THAT DEAREST OF FRIENDS, MY WIFE.... I. THE CAUSES OF GERMAN AGGRESSION.... The logic of facts, proving the necessity of expansion, is, to such Germans as General Bernhardi, unanswerable. The population has increased so rapidly that it is already difficult for efficient, well-trained men to secure any employment. Not only is the superficial area of the country suitable for cultivation practically exhausted, but intensive scientific agriculture is speedily limiting the possibilities of the employment of more hands on the same acres or the further increase of the produce. Industry has grown at a stupendous rate, and the output from German factories is enormously in excess of the needs of even the growing population. Her exports per capita are 24 dollars a year, as against England's 40, and France's 25, and she has not their exclusive colonial markets. Unless some outlet can be found for the surplus population, and a new and extensive market discovered for this enormous surplus production, prosperity will be inevitably succeeded by bankruptcy. There will be more hands than there is work for, more mouths than there is food, and Germany must either get rid of the surplus mouths and hands or swell the surplus product by employing them at home, which cannot be done without entailing national ruin. Expansion is, therefore, the only alternative, for the German considers equivalent to ruin the reduction of the pressure of population by emigration,(2) and the avoidance of overproduction by the proportionate reduction of output. Merely to retain what she now has, Germany is condemned to increase her navy at any pace the English see fit to set. Something more will be absolutely essential if the dire consequences of an economic crisis are not to impoverish her and pave the way for her ultimate destruction at the hands of her hereditary enemies, France and Russia...

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Self-Portrait of Otto von Bismarck as an Atheistic Young Hegelian

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Otto von Bismarck's self-portrait of himself as—like Karl Marx—an Atheistic Young Hegelian. How much Bismarck believed what he wrote, and how much Bismarck's beliefs were accurate, are things that I must leave to the judgment of those more expert than I. From The German Classics: Masterpieces of German Literature Translated Into English: Volume X: Prince Otto Von Bismarck, Count Helmuth Von Moltke, Ferdinand Lassalle:

Otto von Bismarck: "Hotel de Prusse, Stettin. (Not dated: written about the end of December, 1846.) "TO Herr von Puttkamer:

Most Honored Sir:

I begin this communication by indicating its content in the first sentence—it is a request for the highest thing you can dispose of in this world, the hand of your daughter. I do not conceal from myself the fact that I appear presumptuous when I, whom you have come to know only recently and through a few meetings, claim the strongest proof of confidence which you can give to any man. I know, however, that even irrespective of all obstacles in space and time which can increase your difficulty in forming an opinion of me, through my own efforts I can never be in a position to give you such guaranties for the future that they would, from your point of view, justify intrusting me with an object so precious, unless you supplement by trust in God that which trust in human beings can not supply. All that I can do is to give you information about myself with absolute candor, so far as I have come to understand myself. It will be easy for you to get reports from others in regard to my public conduct; I content myself, therefore, with an account of what underlay that—my inner life, and especially my relations to Christianity. To do that I must take a start far back...

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Peter J. Klenow, Huiyu Li, and Theodore Naff: Is Rising Concentration Hampering Productivity Growth? https://www.frbsf.org/economic-research/publications/economic-letter/2019/november/is-rising-concentration-hampering-productivity-growth/: 'The initial rise in concentration was accompanied by a burst of productivity growth and that concentration in local markets may actually have declined.... Rising concentration was a byproduct of the information technology (IT) revolution, with effects on productivity growth that vary over time.... Large firms expanded by adding establishments in new locales. To the extent that the number of establishments is connected to the number of products or markets, this evidence suggests that large firms increased their national sales share by adding new markets rather than increasing their sales share within existing markets. This is consistent with the rise in concentration coming from lower costs for managing many establishments as a result of the IT revolution.... IT improvements may have enabled efficient firms to expand into new markets and set the stage for the burst of productivity growth in the decade leading up to 2005. The expansion of large firms also may have intensified competition and cut into profits, discouraging them from innovating within markets. This, in turn, could have contributed to the eventual slowdown of productivity growth in recent years.... Policymakers need to gain a fuller understanding of the tradeoffs to formulate appropriate policy and avoid potential unintended consequences...

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Wendong Zhang et al.: 3 Reasons Midwest Farmers Hurt by the U.S.-China Trade War Still Support Trump https://theconversation.com/3-reasons-midwest-farmers-hurt-by-the-u-s-china-trade-war-still-support-trump-126303: 'Although farmers have lost billions of dollars in exports, China’s strategy hasn’t created the intended effect, with surveys of farmers continuing to show strong support for the president. We conducted our own survey of corn and soybean farmers. Published in October, it suggests three reasons farmers support Trump’s trade policies despite the costs.... Tthe Trump administration’s efforts to ease their pain have paid off. The administration gave soybean, sorghum and other farmers 12 billion in assistance in 2018, which the vast majority of our survey participants found useful. The survey was conducted before an additional 16 billion in payments went to farmers this year.... We also found that farmers largely view the trade disruption as short-term pain for long-term gain. While only 14% think their farm operations will be better off financially a year from now, more than half said they expected something good to ultimately come out of the trade war.... Finally, we found a growing frustration with China’s erratic buying behavior. For example, China shut out U.S. beef for 14 years over a mad cow scare in 2003, keeping the ban more than a decade after other countries like Japan and South Korea lifted theirs. Chinese purchase of products such as distillers grains or corn sometimes just disappear. These may have been offshoots of adjustments China made to its corn support policy, but, from the perspective of U.S. farmers, Chinese demand for certain U.S. agricultural commodities has been annoyingly inconsistent.... “The Chinese do not play by the rules,” one Illinois farmer said. “They cancel shipment orders that are not in their favor. They continue to steal our patents. Only President Trump has tried to stop these unfair trade practices”.... Most farmers recognize that they will continue to be the biggest victims of the U.S.-China trade war.... Yet 56% still said they supported imposing tariffs on Chinese products, while only 30% oppose them...

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António Henriques and Nuno Palma: Comparative European Institutions and the Little Divergence, 1385-1800 http://cgeh.nl/sites/default/files/WorkingPapers/cgehwp84HenriquesPalma.pdf: "Why did the countries which first benefited from access to the New World–Castile and Portugal–decline relative to their followers, especially England and the Netherlands? The dominant narrative is that worse initial institutions at the time of the opening of Atlantic trade explain Iberian divergence. In this paper, we build new quantitative measures which allow for a comparison of institutional quality over time. We consider the frequency and nature of parliamentary meetings, the frequency and intensity of extraordinary taxation and coin debasement, and real interest spreads for public debt. We find no evidence that the political institutions of Iberia were worse at least until the English Civil War...

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Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (December 9, 2019)

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MUST OF THE MUSTS:

  1. Weekend Reading: Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn Wrestles with the American Christian Church for His Soul, and Wins and Saves It https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/weekend-reading-mark-twains-huckleberry-finn-wrestles-with-the-american-christian-church-for-his-soul-and-wins-and-saves-i.html: '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...

  2. I have been quite surprised to discovery that the 2019 Economics Nobel Laureates have not received enough praise since the announcement. So go read this: Oriana Bandiera: Alleviating Poverty with Experimental Research: The 2019 Nobel Laureates https://voxeu.org/article/alleviating-poverty-experimental-research-2019-nobel-laureates: 'Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”.... Development economics had no PhD courses, no group at the NBER or CEPR, and hardly any publications in top journals until the early 2000s. What this year’s Nobel laureates did was to build the infrastructure to make fieldwork widely accessible and the methods to make the analysis credible. What they did, and what they were awarded for, is to put development economics back on centre stage.... What is unusual and relevant is that the nomination explicitly mentions that the winners lead a group effort: “The Laureates’ research findings–and those of the researchers following in their footsteps” (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2019). What is even more unusual and extremely relevant is that the nomination emphasises the practical applications of their methods, which “have dramatically improved our ability to fight poverty in practice”. This is a monumental change, and one that the profession should welcome for the obvious reason that making the world a better place is a desirable goal.  To be clear, each of them could have easily won the prize the ‘usual’ way – that is, by doing research of the highest quality, which has had lasting influence both in theoretical and applied economics. The economist (still) on the street might notice that of the top three cited papers for each of the three laureates, only two are randomised controlled trials (RCTs).... The need for policy to fix market failures generates the need for tools to evaluate policy. RCTs were developed to achieve this in a systematic way. They and other experimental methods had been widely used in the natural sciences and to a lesser extent in economics well before Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer began their work. Their contribution was to make them accessible to a large number of researchers, creating a research ‘firm’ which, like those in Banerjee and Newman (1993) and Kremer (1993), combines the talent of many to produce more than the sum of its individual components...

  3. Which Political Party's Policies Boost Investment in America, Again? https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/which-political-partys-policies-boost-investment-in-america-again.html: 'Suppose you were a stranger to humanity, and looked at this graph of trends in the investment share of output under various administrations. Would you then credit the claim that the red-presidents political party was dedicated to boosting investment in America, and that the blue-presidents political party was dedicated to sacrificing investment and growth to achieve egalitarian redistributional social goals? No...

  4. Marx's Capital: Part VII: The Accumulation of Capital https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/marxs-capital-part-vii-the-accumulation-of-capital.html: 4.3) Part VII: The Accumulation of Capital: 4.3.1. The Bourgeoisie Is the Ruling Class: This is where the book starts to sing (to me, at least). The first important thing I get out of Part VII is that, to quote from the Communist Manifesto, “the executive of the modern state is a committee for managing the affairs of the _business class”. Wealth speaks loudly, and influences the government to arrange things for the convenience of wealth—to keep wages low, and workers available... https://www.icloud.com/pages/0howtV7CndvjkSCCLmtjmq_SA...

  5. Lecture Notes: Smith, Marx, Keynes: Thanksgiving 2019 DRAFT https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/12/lecture-notes-smith-marx-keynes-thanksgiving-2019-draft.html: 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 And the course slides: https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0osOOsPvSrTaiK4__D5MghPVA...

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Worth highlighting from last January, as even America's businesses begin to worry that our system gives too much a share of good things to shareholders: Greg Leiserson: Wealth taxation: An Introduction to Net Worth Taxes and How One Might Work in the United States: "Probably the most significant challenge in implementing a net worth tax is that determining tax liabilities requires a valuation for all of the assets subject to the tax.... Such a tax would impose burden primarily on the wealthiest families—reducing wealth inequality—and could raise substantial revenues. As noted above, the United States taxes wealth in several forms already. Thus, the policy debate is less about whether to tax wealth and more about the best ways to tax wealth and how much it should be taxed. A net worth tax could be a useful complement to—or substitute for—other means of taxing wealth, as well as a tool for increasing overall taxation of wealth...

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It is now very, very clear that whatever Facebook says about how it strives to keep your data private is unreliable. Organizations are what they do: Facebook is an organization that makes money out of offering people data they can use to try to hack your brain: Kate Conger, Gabriel J.X. Dance and Mike Isaac: Facebook’s Suspension of ‘Tens of Thousands’ of Apps Reveals Wider Privacy Issues https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/technology/facebook-data-privacy-suspension.html: "Facebook said on Friday that it had suspended tens of thousands of apps for improperly sucking up users’ personal information and other transgressions, a tacit admission that the scale of its data privacy issues was far larger than it had previously acknowledged. The social network said in a blog post that an investigation it began in March 2018—following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British consultancy, had retrieved and used people’s Facebook information without their permission—had resulted in the suspension of 'tens of thousands' of apps that were associated with about 400 developers. That was far bigger than the last number that Facebook had disclosed of 400 app suspensions in August 2018.... Facebook... suspended 69,000 apps. Of those, the majority were terminated because the developers did not cooperate with Facebook’s investigation; 10,000 were flagged for potentially misappropriating personal data from Facebook users. The disclosures about app suspensions renew questions about whether people’s personal information on Facebook is secure, even after the company has been under fire for more than a year for its privacy practices...

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Joan Robinson: Open letter from a Keynesian to a Marxist: Tuesday Sixty Years Ago on the Non-Internet Weblogging https://www.bradford-delong.com/2013/07/joan-robinson-open-letter-from-a-keynesian-to-a-marxist-tuesday-sixty-years-ago-on-the-non-internet-weblogging.html?asset_id=6a00e551f08003883401901dbd9795970b: "Again, suppose we each want to recall some tricky point in Capital, for instance the schema at the end of Volume II. What do you do? You take down the volume and look it up. What do I do? I take the back of an envelope and work it out. Now I am going to say something still worse. Suppose that, just as a matter of interest, I do look it up, and I find that the answer on my old envelope is not the one that is actually in the book. What do I do? I check my working, and if I cannot find any error in it, I look for an error in the book. Now I suppose I might as well stop writing, because you think I am stark staring mad. But if you can read on a moment longer I will try to explain...

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Matthew Ball: 'Star Wars' Fatigue Is a Myth (but Disney’s Mistakes Were Real, Costly and Avoidable): "What we’re seeing is what I’d term 'accrued disappointment', a trend obfuscated by unprecedented short-term success but that almost always surfaces later down the line.... After only two films had been released, four of the directors originally announced for the first six films had been fired or replaced. Two of the firings happened so late into filming that upwards of 80% of the two films had to be reshot, to the tune of more than 100MM each. Until Solo, this chaos didn’t seem to affect the franchise’s box office.... In The Force Awakens... J.J. Abrams set up three major antagonists: Supreme Leader Snoke, Captain Phasma and The Knights of Ren. However, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) quickly killed the first two and ignored the third.... With Abrams returning to close out the trilogy, more whipsaw seems likely...

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Wikipedia: Antikythera Mechanism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antikythera_mechanism: 'An ancient Greek analogue computer.... Retrieved from the sea in 1901, and identified on 17 May 1902 as containing a gear by archaeologist Valerios Stais.... The instrument is believed to have been designed and constructed by Greek scientists... within a generation before the shipwreck, which has been dated to approximately 70–60 BC. The device, housed in the remains of a 34 cm × 18 cm × 9 cm (13.4 in × 7.1 in × 3.5 in) wooden box, was found as one lump, later separated into three main fragments which are now divided into 82 separate fragments after conservation works. Four of these fragments contain gears, while inscriptions are found on many others. The largest gear is approximately 14 centimetres (5.5 in) in diameter and originally had 223 teeth.... Detailed imaging of the mechanism suggests that it had 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the Moon and the Sun through the zodiac, to predict eclipses and even to model the irregular orbit of the Moon, where the Moon's velocity is higher in its perigee than in its apogee. This motion was studied in the 2nd century BC by astronomer Hipparchus of Rhodes, and it is speculated that he may have been consulted in the machine's construction. The knowledge of this technology was lost at some point in antiquity. Similar technological works later appeared in the medieval Byzantine and Islamic worlds, but works with similar complexity did not appear again until the development of mechanical astronomical clocks in Europe in the fourteenth century. All known fragments of the Antikythera mechanism are now kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, along with a number of artistic reconstructions and replicas of the mechanism to demonstrate how it may have looked and worked...

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James Kwak: Further Reading: Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality https://economism.net/further-reading-6be8c611cd46: 'One of the central themes of Economism is the idea that the competitive market model taught early in Economics 101 (the one that says markets produce optimal outcomes) has become disproportionately influential in our contemporary political and intellectual culture. That raises the question of what would constitute a richer and more realistic understanding of economics and the economy. I wrote a short article for Signature discussing five easily accessible books that provide a more accurate portrait of what economics can say about the world. They are probably all well-known to online economics junkies, but perhaps less so to a general audience: Partha Dasgupta, Economics: A Very Short Introduction...

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Tim Duy: Fed Holding Steady For Now https://blogs.uoregon.edu/timduyfedwatch/2019/12/02/fed-holding-steady-for-now-2/: 'The Federal Reserve will hold rates steady at the upcoming December FOMC meeting.... Until the outlook shifts meaningfully one way or the other, the Fed is content to sit on the sidelines.... Inflation continues to track below the Fed’s target: With neither the economy on fire nor inflation rising, the Fed has little reason to turn their attention to reversing this year’s rate cuts anytime soon.... The Fed in general, and it seems Powell in particular, has clearly had an epiphany regarding the benefits of persistently low unemployment. In prior cycles central bankers would be looking upon sub-4% unemployment rates with much more suspicion as a warning sign that inflation will soon be on the rise. The shift has substantial implications for policy; the Fed views the costs of high unemployment as sufficiently high relative to those of the risk of inflation at these levels that they very much err against the possibility of recession. This in turn lessens the possibility that Fed action or inaction helps trip the economy into recession and brightens the near- to medium-term outlooks...

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John Cassidy: Trump Is Poison for Suburban Republicans—So Why Won’t They Turn on Him? | The New Yorker https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/trump-is-poison-for-suburban-republicansso-why-wont-they-turn-on-him: 'when will endangered Republicans summon up some courage and challenge their rogue President? For at least two reasons, the answer is: not until the voters repudiate him first. Most elected Republicans live in mortal fear of Trump’s Twitter feed, which he turns on anyone from his own party who dares to criticize him...

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Daniel Kuehn: “We Can Get a Coup”: Warren Nutter and the Overthrow of Salvador Allende https://delong.typepad.com/files/nutter.pdf: 'In 1969, Warren Nutter left the University of Virginia Department of Economics to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Nixon administration. During his time in the Defense Department, Nutter was deeply involved in laying the groundwork for a military coup against the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende. Although Nutter left the Pentagon several months before the successful 1973 coup, his role in the ascendance of the Pinochet regime was far more direct than the better-known cases of Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, James Buchanan, and Arnold Harberger. This paper describes Nutter’s role in Chile policy planning and generating a “coup climate.” It shows how Nutter’s criticisms of Henry Kissinger are grounded in his economics, and compares and contrasts Nutter with other economists who have been connected to Pinochet’s dictatorship...

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Mitchell Carroll: Greek Women https://www.gutenberg.org/files/32318/32318-h/32318-h.htm: 'Phryne, with a modesty one would not expect in a woman of her class, was very careful to keep her beautiful figure concealed, avoiding the public baths and having her body always enveloped in a long and graceful tunic. But on two occasions the beauty-loving Greeks had displayed to them the charms of her person. The first was at the solemn assembly at Eleusis, on the feast of the Poseidonia. Having loosened her beautiful hair and let fall her drapery, Phryne plunged into the sea in the sight of all the assembled Greeks. Apelles, the painter, transported with admiration at the sight, retired at once to his studio and transferred to canvas the mental image which was indelibly impressed upon his fancy; and the resulting picture was the Aphrodite Anadyomene, the most celebrated of his paintings...

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The Economist quotes our Kate Bahn from here at Equitable Growth: Economist: Belligerent unions are a sign of economic health - Free exchange https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2019/11/07/belligerent-unions-are-a-sign-of-economic-health: 'When economists argue that unions impose economic costs, they typically assume that markets are competitive. Across much of the American economy that is not always the case. Sometimes one or a few big employers dominate local labour markets, and can thus impose below-market wages on vulnerable workers, a condition economists call “monopsony”. In recent testimony in a congressional hearing on antitrust issues, Kate Bahn of the Washington Centre for Equitable Growth, a think-tank, noted that though wages in manufacturing industries are close to the level one would expect in competitive markets, those in some others, like health care, are not. For workers frustrated by stagnant pay, a work stoppage may be the only way to determine if an employer is constrained by competitive markets or abusing its market power. In the latter case, interventions by unions could prove economically useful. In a paper published last year, Mark Stelzner of Connecticut College and Mark Paul of the New College of Florida, argued that in the presence of monopsony power, collective bargaining can reduce the rents collected by dominant firms and increase economic efficiency. In practice, America’s diminished labour movement cannot on its own fix the problem of uncompetitive markets, or strike much fear into the hearts of employers. Nonetheless, workers are daring to try...

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Be sure to apply by January 26!: Equitable Growth: 2020 Request for Proposals https://equitablegrowth.org/research-paper/2020-request-for-proposals/: 'Equitable Growth considers proposals that investigate the link between economic inequality and individuals’ economic outcomes and well-being, poverty and mobility from poverty, the macroeconomy, and sustainability. We are particularly interested in dimensions of inequality, including race, ethnicity, gender, and place, as well as the ways in which public polices affect the relationship between inequality and growth...

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An excellent piece from across the Pond that is the Atlantic Ocean: Britain is not at all ready for the next recession, or the next financial crisis. And the U.S. is in no better shape: Jack Leslie, James Smith, Cara Pacitti, and Fahmida Rahman: Recession Ready?: "This report... provides the most comprehensive assessment of the UK’s macroeconomic policy framework since the financial crisis, focusing on the ability of the framework to provide effective support to the economy in the face of the next recession. This work is important, given the crucial role macroeconomic policy plays in mitigating the negative impacts of downturns, and urgent given that the UK faces its highest recession risk since the financial crisis. We find that the UK’s macroeconomic policy framework has not kept pace with significant changes to our economic environment and is therefore at risk of leaving the country underprepared for the next recession. That is not a risk policy makers should take lightly... https://www.youtube.com/ZJCeBKFJ9lM

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We now have a manufacturing recession. Paul Krugman correctly explains why: Paul Krugman: Manufacturing Ain’t Great Again. Why? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/opinion/manufacturing-trump.html?emc=rss&partner=rss: 'Many of Trump’s economic promises were obvious nonsense. The hollowing out of coal country reflected new technologies, like mountaintop removal, which require few workers, plus competition from other energy sources, especially natural gas but increasingly wind and solar power. Coal jobs aren’t coming back, no matter how dirty Trump lets the air get. And farmers, who export a large fraction of what they grow, should have realized that Trump’s protectionism and the inevitable retaliation from other countries would have a devastating effect on their incomes.... Trumponomics has effectively turned rural Americans, who are far more conservative than the nation at large, into wards of the state: This year almost 40 percent of farm income will come from trade assistance, disaster assistance, the farm bill and insurance indemnities.... Over the past year, manufacturing employment has fallen significantly in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.... Trump’s... domestic economic agenda has been pure, orthodox Republican voodoo.... But business investment, which the tax cut was supposed to promote—and which is a key source of demand for U.S. manufacturers—is actually falling.... Analysts blame Trump’s trade war. His tariffs have the direct effect of disrupting global supply chains.... Destructive uncertainty... [from] crony capitalism across the board.... Things might look very different if he had actually followed through on his campaign promises to make big investments in infrastructure, which would have created a lot of sales for U.S. manufacturing.... Trump is presiding over an economy that, despite low unemployment, doesn’t feel like a boom to most Americans. And he has utterly failed in his politically crucial promise to make manufacturing in key swing states great again...

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The psychological makeup of the American conservative media pundit is very strange indeed: Paul Krugman (2014): Phosphate Memories https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/phosphate-memories/: "Does anyone remember this, from Erick Erickson of Red State? 'Washington State has turned its residents into a group of drug runners—crossing state lines to buy dish washer detergent with phosphate. At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot? At some point soon, it will happen.' Yes, because there’s no possible reason meddling politicians should interfere with Americans’ God-given right to use phosphates however they like. Oh, wait. 'It took a serendipitous slug of toxins and the loss of drinking water for a half-million residents to bring home what scientists and government officials in this part of the country have been saying for years: Lake Erie is in trouble, and getting worse by the year. Flooded by tides of phosphorus washed from fertilized farms, cattle feedlots and leaky septic systems, the most intensely developed of the Great Lakes is increasingly being choked each summer by thick mats of algae, much of it poisonous. What plagues Toledo and, experts say, potentially all 11 million lakeside residents, is increasingly a serious problem across the United States.' It’s true that farms are the biggest problem, but every little bit hurts...

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It's a waterfall: at each stage of the process by which the innovation workforce is built, being Black and being female is a powerful disadvantage at making it through the filter and proceeding to the next stage: Lisa Cook and Jan Gerso: The Implications of U.S. Gender and Racial Disparities in Income and Wealth Inequality at Each Stage of the Innovation Process: "Gender and racial disparities exist at each stage of the innovation process, from education to training, and from the practice of invention to the commercialization of invention, and can be costly to the U.S. economy. These disparities can also lead to increased income and wealth inequalities at each stage for those who would otherwise participate in the innovation economy. Let’s look at each stage to assess this problem in further detail...

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Beth Gutelius and Nik Theodore: The Future of Warehouse Work: Technological Change in the U.S. Logistics Industry http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/future-of-warehouse-work/: 'Are “dark” warehouses, humming along without humans, just around the corner? Predictions of dramatic job loss due to technology adoption and automation often highlight warehousing as an industry on the brink of transformation.... We project that the industry likely won’t experience dramatic job loss over the next decade, though many workers may see the content and quality of their jobs shift as technologies are adopted for particular tasks. Employers may use technology in ways that decrease the skill requirements of jobs in order to reduce training times and turnover costs. This could create adverse effects on workers, such as wage stagnation and job insecurity. New technologies potentially can curtail monotonous or physically strenuous activities, but depending on how they are implemented, may present new challenges for worker health and safety, employee morale, and turnover. Additionally, electronically mediated forms of monitoring and micro-management threaten to constrain workers’ autonomy and introduce new rigidities into the workplace...

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Income and wealth inequality corrupt politics in the interest of maintaining and expanding income and wealth inequality: Back in 1867, Karl Marx notes The Times of London protesting against manufacturing's cotton lords' pressure on British governance and legislation: Karl Marx (1867): Capital https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch23.htm: 'The Times answered the cotton lord as follows: "Edmund Potter is so impressed with the exceptional and supreme importance of the cotton masters.... ‘Is it worth while keeping the machinery in order?’ again asks Mr. Potter.... By the ‘machinery’ Mr. Potter means the human machinery.... We must confess that we do not think it ‘worth while,’ or even possible, to keep the human machinery... shut... up and... oiled till it is wanted. Human machinery will rust under inaction, oil and rub it as you may. Moreover, the human machinery will, as we have just seen, get the steam up of its own accord, and burst or run amuck.... He says that it is very natural the workers should wish to emigrate; but he thinks that in spite of their desire, the nation ought to keep this half million of workers with their 700,000 dependents, shut up in the cotton districts; and as a necessary consequence, he must of course think that the nation ought to keep down their discontent by force.... The time is come when the great public opinion of these islands must operate to save this ‘working power’ from those who would deal with it as they would deal with iron, and coal, and cotton...

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A better-run IRS would devote much more in the way of resources to investigating "independent contractor" fraud and abuse: Corey Husak: How U.S. Companies Harm Workers By Making Them Pretending That They Are Independent Contractors: "Being classified as either an employee or an independent contractor can determine whether workers in the United States have access to reliable pay, benefits, and protection from discrimination. Intense fights are cropping up across the country as companies try to argue that their workers are just “independent contractors” and do not qualify for many protections under U.S. labor law, while workers and some courts say the opposite, that some workers are actually employees. Many “gig economy” companies, such as Uber Technologies Inc., base their business models around misclassifying their workers as self-employed. Billions of dollars in worker pay is at stake...

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Interesting that Henry Fielding uses the phrase "King of Prussia" in 1749 in Tom Jones: the Kings in Prussia were not to claim the title King of Prussia until 1772. Indeed, the point of the Crown Treaty of 1700 was that the Prince-Elector of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia Friedrich III Hohenzollern sought recognition that he was by the Treaty of Bromberg sovereign—i.e., not a vassal of the King of Poland—over those parts of Prussia he controlled, and definitely not freed from vassalage for his German-Imperial to the Emperor Leopold I Habsburg. "King of Prussia" introduces some ambiguity there. And in 1749 either Henry Fielding or Aunt Western is unaware of this distinction between "in" and "of", which was important enough for Leopold I Habsburg to have made it a red line in his negotiations with Friedrich III Hohenzollern to get the Margravate of Brandenburg's troops on his side in the War of the Spanish Succession:

Henry Fielding: The History of Tom Jones https://www.gutenberg.org/files/6593/6593-h/6593-h.htm#link2H_4_0003: '“Indeed, Miss Western,” cries the lady, “I shall not bear this usage; you have learnt of your father this manner of treating me; he hath taught you to give me the lie. He hath totally ruined you by this false system of education; and, please heaven, he shall have the comfort of its fruits; for once more I declare to you, that to-morrow morning I will carry you back. I will withdraw all my forces from the field, and remain henceforth, like the wise king of Prussia, in a state of perfect neutrality. You are both too wise to be regulated by my measures; so prepare yourself, for to-morrow morning you shall evacuate this house”...

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Benoît de Courson and Nicolas Baumard: Quantifying the Scientitic Revolution https://drive.google.com/file/d/14XXlDjyru9i05_SN3ybp-FGmbsZDhm5U/view: 'We leverage large datasets of individual biographies to build national estimates of scientific production during the early modern period.... Per capita estimates reveal striking differences across countries, with the two richest countries of the time (England and the United Provinces)... much more scientifically productive than the rest of Europe.... Scientific creativity is associated with other kinds of creative activities in philosophy, literature, music and the arts, suggesting a common underlying factor. Our results also challenge long-held hypotheses regarding the role of religion, universities, demography, and the printing press, and support the idea that economic development and rising living standards are key to explaining the rise of modern science...

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Very Briefly Noted 2019-12-06:

  1. Patrick Stewart: Galaxy Quest https://web.archive.org/web/20140113105956/http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/st/interviews/stewart/page13.shtml: 'I had originally not wanted to see [Galaxy Quest] because I heard that it was making fun of Star Trek and then Jonathan Frakes rang me up and said "You must not miss this movie! See it on a Saturday night in a full theatre". And I did and of course I found it was brilliant. Brilliant. No one laughed louder or longer in the cinema than I did, but the idea that the ship was saved and all of our heroes in that movie were saved simply by the fact that there were fans who did understand the scientific principles on which the ship worked was absolutely wonderful. And it was both funny and also touching in that it paid tribute to the dedication of these fans...

  2. David Romer (2018): Economics 134: Macroeconomic Policy from the Great Depression to Today https://www.econ.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/course-homepage/2018-01-14/syllabus/Economics%20134%20Syllabus.pdf...

  3. Wikipedia: The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Return_of_Depression_Economics_and_the_Crisis_of_2008: 'Krugman suggests that policymakers "relearn the lessons our grandfathers were taught by the Great Depression" and prop up spending and enable broader access to credit...

  4. Youtube: Disney's Zorro https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0icu-DbZr28&list=PL150C101BDB5788AE...

  5. George A. Akerlof (2019): What They Were Thinking Then: The Consequences for Macroeconomics during the Past 60 Years https://pubs.aeaweb.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1257/jep.33.4.171...

  6. Paul Krugman (2011): Mr. Keynes and the Moderns https://www.princeton.edu/~pkrugman/keynes_and_the_moderns.pdf...

  7. D. E. Moggridge and Susan Howso: Keynes on Monetary Policy, 1910-1946 https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/2662224.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A388ccc8f3ac7d38d097622a88e770b85...

  8. Moses Finley: The World of Odysseus https://delong.typepad.com/finleyodysseus.pdf...

  9. FRED: Four Components of Aggregate Demand https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?graph_id=524363&rn=499...

  10. Timothy B. Lee: How Neural Networks Work—And Why They’ve Become A Big Business https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/12/how-neural-networks-work-and-why-theyve-become-a-big-business/: 'This is the first in a multi-part series on machine learning—in future weeks we'll take a closer look at the hardware powering machine learning, examine how neural networks have enabled the rise of deep fakes, and much more.... Making neural networks deeper didn't do much to improve performance if the training data set wasn't big. Conversely, expanding the size of the training set didn't improve performance very much for small neural networks. You needed both deep networks and large data sets—plus the vast computing power required to complete the training process in a reasonable amount of time—to see big performance gains. The AlexNet team was the first one to put all three elements together in one piece of software...

  11. FRED: Real Gross Private Domestic Investment/Real Potential Gross Domestic Product https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?graph_id=516169&rn=403...

  12. Barry Naughton (2017): Is China Socialist? https://delong.typepad.com/files/naughton.pdf...

  13. Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett Dunsany: Fifty-one Tales https://archive.org/details/fiftyonetales00dunsgoog/page/n4...

  14. King James Version: Ecclesiastes 9:11 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+9%3A11&version=KJV: 'I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all...

  15. Diego Velázquez: The Surrender of Breda https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Surrender_of_Breda...

  16. Wikipedia: Spanish Road https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Road...

  17. Christopher Marlowe: The Jew of Malta https://www.gutenberg.org/files/901/901-h/901-h.htm...

  18. Friedrich Engels (1877) Anti-Duhring https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/ch11.htm: 'Up to this point we have proceeded from the assumption that Herr Dühring's persistent habit of misquoting is done at least in good faith, and arises either from his total incapacity to understand things or from a habit of quoting from memory — a habit which seems to be peculiar to historical depiction in the grand style, but is usually described as slovenly. But we seem to have reached the point at which, even with Herr Dühring, quantity is transformed into quality...

  19. Michael Boskin &al. (2010): An Open Letter to Ben Bernanke https://economics21.org/html/open-letter-ben-bernanke-287.html: 'The planned asset purchases risk currency debasement and inflation, and we do not think they will achieve the Fed's objective of promoting employment...

  20. *Tsinghua University *: School of Economics and Management http://www.sem.tsinghua.edu.cn/en/qianyy: 'Qian, Yingyi: Professor, Department of Economics; Distinguished Professor of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Tsinghua University; The Fourth Dean (2006-18), School of Economics and Management, Tsinghua University...

  21. Robert Waldmann: Critique of the Golgotha Program https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/07/robert-waldmann-has-an-interpretation-of-karl-marx-that-is-new-to-me.html...

  22. Barack Obama (January 27, 2010): Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address | whitehouse.gov https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-state-union-address: 'Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address...

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John Holbo: Ersatz Better Angels? http://crookedtimber.org/2019/12/04/ersatz-better-angels/: 'We tend to think of the relationship between ideal and non-ideal theory as aspirational and/or clarificatory. Ideal theory represents either 1) a distant point towards which you ought to move; 2) a pristine expression of your real values, unblemished by extraneous, pragmatic considerations. You could sort of roll 1) and 2) up together and say: ideal theory should be a polestar. A clear, fixed point by which you can steer somewhere better than where you are. But, in these Vavilovian/Steelwool cases... the point of dragging in ideal theory is, in effect, to footdrag, extenuate and obfuscate.... You are bad (see above), so pretending to be GOOD-good is hard. But you might be able to pull off semi-not-bad, from a middle-distance. So you invent a semi-not-bad aspirational self. Angel of my less-bad nature! But, really, this aspirational self is just there to provide plausible deniability. This ersatz angel lets you stay bad, rather than making you have to be even a little better...

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John Holbo: Vavilovian Philosophical Mimicry http://crookedtimber.org/2019/12/03/vavilovian-philosophical-mimicry/: 'Today I propose a new term in political theory. Vavilovian philosophical mimicry! It denotes a type of relation between ideal and non-ideal theories. It posits that the former evolves as protective concealment for the latter.... Weeds evolve, under selective pressure, to resemble crops.... Let’s take the white supremacy-libertarianism case.... You are proposing doing something that would keep African-Americans down. Why are you doing that? Because that’s what you want. But you can’t say that. But: you can plausibly pretend it’s a (merely temporarily uncomfortable) stage on the way to some sort of ideal libertarian night watchman end-state. The advantage of ideal theory is that it’s–well, not real. Yet. So it’s low commitment, in practical terms. Nominal commitment to some distant, ideally liberal end-state covers a variety of present, anti-liberal sins. So philosophical conservatism should be theorized in terms of the following four factors: 1) an element of aristocratic anti-liberalism (animus against the agency of the subordinate classes.) Cf. Robin. 2) an element of Vavilovian, pseudo-liberal mimicry. Anti-liberalisms that survive in a liberal environment will tend to look like each other because they are all, as it were, trying to look enough like liberalism to not get weeded out as too anti-liberal. But these resemblances, because they are protective mimicry, are actually misleading. At least superficial. 3) considerable liberal democratic DNA. It’s rare to run into a real, dyed-in-the-wool Joseph de Maistre-type. 4) 2 may result in 3, over time, via ‘fake it until you make it’, if you see what I mean...

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John Holbo: The Steelwool Scrub–A Fallacy http://crookedtimber.org/2019/05/07/the-steelwool-scrub-a-fallacy/: 'There’s a common "religious liberty" trope... an invalid variant on a Steelman-style argument.... The Steelwool Scrub is quite bad.... Take same-sex marriage (more recently, trans issues): you can always rustle up some Ryan T. Anderson-type to spin up some Thomistic-ish natural law (Christian anthropology etc.) argument. Even if this is weak ‘steel’ (I would judge), belated scholasticism, wandering the modern world, looks ornamental–harmless, innocent, unassuming. At worst, a curious mooncalf; at best, considerably more academically polished than old-school fag-bashing. Now comes the bait-and-switch (indulgence-by-proxy, steelman-to-absolve-all-sins.) If anyone now says ‘opposition to LGBTQ rights is bigotry and irrational animus’–the response comes quick. ‘Unfair! Will no one think of poor Ryan T. Anderson! Of his elaborate, perhaps failed yet earnestly-exposited, to-all-appearances sincere arguments! Is the world so unable to tolerate a little [insert squirrel gaze GIF] DIFFERENCE? Can all this be dismissed as mere, base homophobia! Mindless bigotry! Surely not! Surely, then, it is those who call it ‘bigotry’ who must be [squirrel GIF again] the REAL BIGOTS!’... Descriptively–sociologically–it’s absurd to steelman a socio-cultural order-or-group by conflating its practices and norms with unrepresentative, intellectual outliers. If you think the reason trans people struggle for respect, recognition, rights is that they are surrounded by well-meaning, rationally-convicted neo-Thomists, you’re nuts. Trans people struggle and suffer because they are members of a despised, oppressed minority group. SSM was a fight because gays face irrational animus, not a thicket of para-Aristotelian arguments. Spinning actually-existing bigotry as, ideally, the better angel of some natural law argument, is just a weird way to excuse what’s right there in front of you...

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Robert Barro appears unhappy that the economy possesses multiple expectational equilibria, and seeks for a model of inflation that does have this property. This is, frankly, a weird thing to do: models are supposed to represent the salient features of the world, not ignore them. And that economies often have multiple expectational equilibria and sometimes shift rapidly from one to another has been a live position now for... nearly two centuries, since John Stuart Mill and Jean-Baptiste Say analyzed the British financial crisis of 1825. And it was made hegemonic by... John Maynard Keynes more than 80 years ago in his General Theory. But unhappiness with a theory is not a reason to reject it: Robert J. Barro: Mysteries of Monetary Policy: "The puzzle is how the Fed can keep inflation steady at 1.5‑2% per year by relying on a policy tool that seems to have only weak and delayed effects.... [Perhaps] the credible threat of extreme responses from the Fed has meant that it does not actually have to repeat the Volcker-era policy.... Frankly, I am unhappy with this explanation. It is like saying that the inflation rate is subdued because it just is.... This suggests that the monetary policy behind today’s low and stable actual and expected inflation will keep working until, suddenly, it doesn’t. This makes me wish that I had a better understanding of monetary policy and inflation. It also makes me wish that the people responsible for monetary policy had a better understanding than I have. Many readers, no doubt, would say that my second wish has already been granted....

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This is absolutely fascinating. The rich in the American South are much poorer a generation after the Civil War then they had been before: sharecropping and Jim Crow are less effective at extracting wealth from African-Americans. But Phil Ager and company find no signs that those fractions of the elite who were direct slaveholders lost more than those members of the elite who were indirect slaveholders. I am going to have to think very hard about this: Philipp Ager, Leah Platt Boustan, and Katherine Eriksson: The Intergenerational Effects of a Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners After the Civil War: "The nullification of slave-based wealth after the US Civil War (1861-65) was one of the largest episodes of wealth compression in history. We document that white southern households with more slave assets lost substantially more wealth by 1870 relative to households with otherwise similar pre-War wealth levels. Yet, the sons of these slaveholders recovered in income and wealth proxies by 1880, in part by shifting into white collar positions and marrying into higher status families. Their pattern of recovery is most consistent with the importance of social networks in facilitating employment opportunities and access to credit...

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Plutarch: Life of Lysander http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Lysander*.html: 'So then, after the Athenians had yielded in all points, Lysander sent for many flute-girls from the city, and assembled all those who were already in the camp, and then tore down the walls, and burned up the triremes, to the sound of the flute, while the allies crowned themselves with garlands and made merry together, counting that day as the beginning of their freedom. Then, without delay, he also made changes in the form of government, establishing thirty rulers in the city and ten in Piraeus. Further, he put a garrison into the acropolis, and made Callibius, a Spartan, its harmost. He it was who once lifted his staff to smite Autolycus, the athlete, whom Xenophon makes the chief character in his "Symposium"; and when Autolycus seized him by the legs and threw him down, Lysander did not side with Callibius in his vexation, but actually joined in censuring him, saying that he did not understand how to govern freemen. But the Thirty, to gratify Callibius, soon afterwards put Autolycus to death...

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I have not yet gotten to Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez's The Triumph of Injustice, but Equitable Growth's Kate Bahn has: Kate Bahn: "'The Triumph of Injustice'... shows that the average tax rate is 28%, but for the very very rich, the tax rate is effectively 23%. https://twitter.com/LipstickEcon/status/1184477242765774848 This is due to the incomes of the richest not being subject to individual income taxes...

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Worthy Reads from December 6, 2018

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth:

  1. "Laboratories of Democracy". Heather Boushey attempts to make sense of the relative economic disaster that has been Kansas under governor Sam Brownback. It is turning out to be rather hard to find convincing channels through which Brownback's policies could plausibly and easily have had such disastrous relative effects on employment that we see suffered by the Kansas economy over the past eight years. I find myself wondering about whether it might have been the effect of Brownback's waging an aggressive rhetorical culture war against many in and many who might have moved to Kansas: telling lots of people in and out of Kansas that the governor and the power structure does not want people who think well of places like California and New York—would rather that they stayed in or moved to Colorado or Iowa or Missouri—is not something that is in our standard economic models. But perhaps it shoul be: Heather Boushey: Failed Tax-Cut Experiment in Kansas Should Guide National Leaders: “Sam Brownback’s failed “red state experiment” has truly come to an end.... In 2012 and 2013, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law the largest tax cuts in Kansas history. The top state income tax rate fell by nearly one-third and passthrough taxes that affected mainly relatively wealthy individuals were eliminated. With the decline in revenues came significant spending cuts...

  2. Another in what is now a large series of papers finding long-run impacts from state-run pre-kindergarten programs. Once again, it is difficult to attribute such large effects to the the standard channels. Yet effects of this size are likely to turn out to be robust, rather than due to chance variation or minor details of econometric specification. Thus we are likely to have to reach for more sociological explanations. They may, perhaps, involve huge peer and cultural effects—that policies did not just change the lives of those directly affected, but also changed hearts and minds in the broader community: Mariana Zerpa: Short and Medium Run Impacts of Preschool Education: Evidence from State Pre-K Programs: “I also provide a discussion of two local average treatment effects under different counterfactual child care arrangements. I find implied effects that are very large, although not very different from the estimates found in the literature on Head Start. This finding highlights the relevance of estimating intention- to-treat effects on the full affected cohorts of children, which do not rely on any assumptions regarding who are the affected children, and particularly on whether there are any externalities on children that do not attend the programs. The relevance of externalities and peer effects in early childhood experience is an open question that is part of a promising research agenda...

  3. As David Card once said to me when we were both standing side-by-side looking at the wall, there really is no empirical reason to justify economists' strong belief in the competitive model—in the law of one wage–for the labor market. Suresh Naidu appears to be reading every single paper by the about-to-be-newly-minted labor-economists-to-be. He is picking up those that challenge that assumption: Suresh Naidu: Imperfect Labor Markets Are a Hot Topic: “We are a long way from “concentration affects wages” and onto the much more precise “outside options affect wages” and it is awesome. Sydnee [Caldwell]... looks at variation in outside options given by hiring at firms that employ your ex-coworkers...

  4. In what sense is the Federal Reserve's decision-making currently “data dependent“? Equitable Growth exile Nick Bunker provides an excellent thumbnail assessment: The Federal Reserve is uncertain not about the state of the economy, but about what level of interest rates is most likely to keep economy near the sweet spot over the next five years: Nick Bunker: On the Federal Reserve: “Twitter: “To use the language of Clarida’s speech yesterday, Powell seems to be signaling they being data dependent by updating estimate of r-star, not the current health of economy...

  5. An excellent paper from Fukui, Nakamura, and Steinsso: How the American feminist revolution supported rapid business-cycle recoveries in rather 1970s and 1980s. Back then there was a huge reservoir of women who would take jobs but had not preciously held jobs only because of the lagging of social structure behind economic and cultural change. Thus increases in demand in recovery that were focused on this industrial reserve army could very easily and rapidly find good matches between unfilled jobs and unemployed workers: Masao Fukui, Emi Nakamura, and Jon Steinsson: Women, Wealth Effects, and Slow Recoveries: "A female-biased shock generating a 1% increase in female employment leads to only a 0.15% decline in male employment (and this estimate is statistically insignificant). In other words, our estimates imply very little crowding out of men by women in the labor market.... 70% of the slowdown in recent business cycle recoveries can be explained by female convergence...

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Five years ago our steering committee member here at Equitable Growth Janet Yellen gave a very good talk on building blocks of opportunity in America: Janet Yellen: Perspectives on Inequality and Opportunity from the Survey of Consumer Finances https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/yellen20141017a.htm: "[I] identify and discuss four sources of economic opportunity in America--think of them as "building blocks" for the gains in income and wealth that most Americans hope are within reach of those who strive for them. The first two are widely recognized as important sources of opportunity: resources available for children and affordable higher education. The second two may come as more of a surprise: business ownership and inheritances. Like most sources of wealth, family ownership of businesses and inheritances are concentrated among households at the top of the distribution. But both of these are less concentrated and more broadly distributed than other forms of wealth, and there is some basis for thinking that they may also play a role in providing economic opportunities to a considerable number of families below the top...

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There are many proposals to revamp education in economics, and to get economists to their right place in the public sphere—whatever that "right place" might turn out to be. The highly estimable Martin Wolf is here on the side of those who think that economics ought to focus on basic principles, arresting stories, and big data as a way of figuring out which store are in fact representative of broader trends. He is critic of over-mathematization and, more so, of over-theorization—I, at least, am reminded of Larry Meyer's take on Robert Lucas's brand of economics: "In our firm, we always thanked Robert Lucas for giving us a virtual monopoly. Because of Lucas and others, for two decades no graduate students are trained who were capable of competing with us by building econometric models that had a hope of explaining short-run output and price dynamics. [Academic economics Ph.D. programs] educated a lot of macroeconomists who were trained to do only two things--teach macroeconomics to graduate students, and publish in the journals...":

Martin Wolf: Expertise: "Michael Gove was wrong, in my view, about expertise applied in the Brexit debate. But he was not altogether wrong about the expertise of economists. If we were more humble and more honest, we might be better recognized as experts able to contribute to public debate.... At bottom, economics is a field of inquiry and a way of thinking. Among its valuable core concepts are: opportunity cost, marginal cost, rent, sunk costs, externalities, and effective demand. Economics also allows people to make at least some sense of debates on growth, taxation, monetary policy, economic development, inequality, and so forth. It is unnecessary to possess a vast technical apparatus to understand these ideas. Indeed the technical apparatus can get in the way.... The teaching of economics to undergraduates must focus on core ideas, essential questions, and actual realities. Such a curriculum might not be the best way to produce candidates for PhD programs. So be it. The study of economics at university must not be seen through so narrow a lens. Its purpose is to produce people with a broad economic enlightenment. That is what the public debate needs. It is what education has to provide...

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Joseph Stiglitz, Martine Durand, and Jean-Paul Fitoussi: Who Are You Going to Believe, Me or the Evidence of Your Own Eyes?: "We need to develop datasets and tools to examine the factors that determine what matters for people and the places in which they live. Having the right set of indicators, and anchoring them in policy, will help close the gap between experts and ordinary people that are at the root of today’s political crisis.... The Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission... final report was published in 2009.... The production of goods and services in the market economy–something which GDP does try to capture–is of course a major influence, but even in the limited domain of the market, GDP doesn’t reflect much that is important.  The most used economic indicators concentrate on averages, and give little or no information on well-being at a more detailed level, for instance how income is distributed.... Economic insecurity today is only one of the risks individuals face.... The Group considered how to better measure the resources needed to ensure economic, environmental and social sustainability...

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Liz Hipple: Public Policy Implications of the Millennial Wealth Gap https://equitablegrowth.org/public-policy-implications-of-the-millennial-wealth-gap/: 'Wealth may shape the behavioral choices of the next generation, thereby shaping opportunity by providing some with a soft cushion for a slip down the economic ladder and others with no cushion at all.... The ability to live with one’s parents allows young people to search longer for jobs that have better prospects for future earnings growth, increasing their chances of upward mobility and of successfully beginning to build wealth of their own. Another roadblock to Millennials’ ability to fully deploy their human potential is the structural changes in the labor market over the past 30 years, which have depressed wages and thereby delayed wealth building. For example, young adults who replicate their parents’ educational and occupational backgrounds and end up in the same type of work and in the same relative place in the economic distribution earn less in inflation-adjusted terms than their parents did a generation ago...

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Worthy Reads from November 29, 2018

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth:

  1. An excellent paper: On the key role of the minimum-wage extensions of the 1960s in reducing inequality, and doing so along a pronounced racial as well as class dimension, as a result of the racial skew of employment categories. It was not just that African-Americans were in predominately low-wage jobs, but that the categories of jobs they were in had previously been exempt from the minimum-wage. From two of our Equitable Growth grant recipients: Claire Montialoux and Ellora Derenoncourt: Minimum Wages and Racial Inequality: “The earnings difference between black and white workers fell dramatically in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s... the extension of the minimum wage played a critical role...

  2. American do want inheritances to be taxed. They are much more ambivalent about taxing savings—perhaps because savings are seen as uniquely virtuous sources of income. A working paper that Equitable Growth issued last year, but that did not get the attention and resonance that I think it deserves: Raymond Fisma, Keith Gladstone, Ilyana Kuziemko, and Suresh Naidu (2017): Do Americans Want to Tax Capital? Evidence from Online Surveys: "Via a survey on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk... provide subjects with a set of hypothetical individuals’ incomes and wealth and elicit subjects’ preferred (absolute) tax billl... unobtrusively map[ping] both income earned and accumulated wealth into desired tax levels. Our regression results yield roughly linear desired tax rates on income of about 14 percent... positive desired wealth taxation... three percent when the source of wealth is inheritance, far higher than the 0.8 percent rate when wealth is from savings...

  3. Another of our Equitable Growth working papers from last year that, I think, did not get the exposure in notice it deserved. Even though the unemployment rate is gratifyingly low and even the employment the population ratio is not that distressingly port right now, it is still the case that the Great Recession of 2008 2010 cast a huge shadow, reducing the economy ' potential output. We can still see its affects today, and they are powerful. And we cannot confidently look forward to a time when does affect will have dissipated. The failure to make rapid employment recovery job one in 2009-2010 was a catastrophe. Danny Yagan (2017): Employment Hysteresis from The Great Recession: “This paper uses U.S. local areas as a laboratory to test whether the Great Recession depressed 2015 employment... exposure to a 1-percentage-point-larger 2007-2009 local unemployment shock caused working-age individuals to be 0.4 percentage points less likely to be employed at all in 2015, likely via labor force exit. These shocks also increased 2015 income inequality...

  4. Another piece from the past that, I think, did not get the notice and exposure it deserved. Equitable Growth's Jesse Rothstein with a different interpretation than Chetty et al. of the great American sociological deserts out of which upward mobility is nearly unthinkable. Chetty et al. focus on school—perhaps because pouring at resources into schools is something we can do and would in all likelihood be somewhat effective. But how effective? Our schools the key link, or just one of many factors? Jesse Rothstein believes the second, and I think he is right: Jesse Rothstein (2017): Inequality of Educational Ppportunity? Schools as Mediators of the Intergenerational Transmission of Income: “I use data from several national surveys to investigate whether children’s educational outcomes (educational attainment, test scores, and non-cognitive skills) mediate the relationship between parental and child income.... There is... little evidence that differences in the quality of K-12 schooling are a key mechanism driving variation in intergenerational mobility...

  5. And another piece from grant recipient Ellora Derenoncourt. This is, I think, the best piece I have read in the past week. It is also the most horrifyingly depressing case I have read in the past week. Derenoncourt'a thesis is that the Great Migration of African-Americans from the south to the urban north set in motion political-economic and sociological changes in local power structures that made those migration destinations poor places, and dangerous places, to raise young black men: Ellora Derenoncourt: Can You Move to Opportunity? Evidence from the Great Migration: “The northern United States long served as a land of opportunity for black Americans, but today the region’s racial gap in intergenerational mobility rivals that of the South. I show that racial composition changes during the peak of the Great Migration (1940-1970) reduced upward mobility in northern cities in the long run, with the largest effects on black men...

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Why invite people onto the TV just so that they can tell lies? I do not understand American journalism today: Zachary Basu: Trump Trade Adviser Peter Navarro: Tariffs Aren't Hurting Anyone in the U.S.: "White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on CNN's 'State of the Union' Sunday that tariffs on Chinese goods are not hurting consumers in the United States, despite reports to the contrary from researchers at Harvard, the University of Chicago, the International Monetary Fund, the Federal Reserve of Boston and more...

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I confess that I have never understood why Bayesian statisticians would ever report just a single set of "results". One of the key insights of the Reverend Thomas Bayes was that the data gives you a map between what you thought before and what you should think now. Thus I would think that the Bayesian tradition would be to report this map—not just what the posterior mean is for one set of prior beliefs, but other things as well, like how different your prior beliefs would have to have been in order to support a posterior mean that hits some target for economic significance, and so forth. But they do not:

Andrew Gelman: Here’s an Idea for Not Getting Tripped Up with Default Priors: "Here’s an idea for not getting tripped up with default priors: For each parameter (or other qoi), compare the posterior sd to the prior sd. If the posterior sd for any parameter (or qoi) is more than 0.1 times the prior sd, then print out a note: “The prior distribution for this parameter is informative.” Then the user can go back and check that the default prior makes sense for this particular example...

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