#politicaleconomy Feed

Hoisted from the Archives: David Glasner Says That I Am More of a Hayekian than I Think I Am...

stacks and stacks of books

David Glasner: Wherein Hayek Agrees with DeLong that Just Because You’re Rich, It Doesn’t Mean You Deserve to Be | Uneasy Money: "Recently Brad DeLong expounded on the extent to which the earnings that accrue to individuals do not correspond to the contributions total output that can be ascribed to the personal efforts of those individuals or the contributions made by resources owned by thoe people. Here’s DeLong: 'Pascal Lamy: “When the wise man points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger…”

...Perhaps in the end the problem is that people want to pretend that they are filling a valuable role in the societal division of labor, and are receiving no more than they earn–than they contribute. But that is not the case. The value–the societal dividend–is in the accumulated knowledge of humanity and in the painfully constructed networks that make up our value chains. A “contribution” theory of what a proper distribution of income might be can only be made coherent if there are constant returns to scale in the scarce, priced, owned factors of production. Only then can you divide the pile of resources by giving to each the marginal societal product of their work and of the resources that they own. That, however, is not the world we live in.

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Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: Podcast

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

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

Il Quarto Stato

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

I. Grand Narrative

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

1.1: The Long 20th Century in Human History

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

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

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

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DevEng 215: Pre-Class Note: Welcome!

Il Quarto Stato

Let us set the scene with an introductory note:

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

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

Il Quarto Stato

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


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

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

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Note to Self: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: "Since the recession a decade ago, free-market economics (also known as neoliberalism) has been questioned on multiple fronts. As the dominant governing strategy for the past 40 years—including the Democratic administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—the Left today is increasingly challenging neoliberalism. Indeed, as the primaries approach, many former Clinton and Obama officials are even openly challenging the 'power of markets' belief. In his new book, A Crisis Wasted, Reed Hundt, chair of the Federal Communications Commission under Clinton and a member of Obama’s transition team, makes the argument that Obama missed an opportunity to push for a new progressive era of governance, a miscalculation that ultimately hobbled his administration. Hundt is not alone on this score. In a viral Vox article earlier this year, former Clinton administration economist Brad DeLong said that the Democratic Party has and should move past market friendly neoliberals like himself. Please join us for a very special conversation between Hundt and DeLong about the limits of, and challenges to, free-market economics with Joshua Cohen, co-editor of Boston Review. WHERE: Outdoor Art Club, One West Blithedale, Mill Valley, CA 94941. WHEN: Monday, September 9, 2019, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm (PST)...

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Introducing Partha Dasgupta: Economics: A Very Short Introduction

479 Social Capital and Natural Resources Sir Partha Dasgupta YouTube

Introducing Partha Dasgupta: Economics: A Very Short Introduction

http://amzn.to/2gR2jH3

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

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Reflections 11 Years After the Crash

Idle factories in 2010 Google Search

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

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

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Dwight D. Eisenhower (1954): Letter to Edgar Newton Eisenhower: Weekend Reading

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1954): Letter to Edgar Newton Eisenhower: "Dear Ed: I think that such answer as I can give to your letter of November first will be arranged in reverse order–at least I shall comment first on your final paragraph. You keep harping on the Constitution; I should like to point out that the meaning of the Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is. Consequently no powers are exercised by the Federal government except where such exercise is approved by the Supreme Court (lawyers) of the land. I admit that the Supreme Court has in the past made certain decisions in this general field that have been astonishing to me. A recent case in point was the decision in the Phillips case. Others, and older ones, involved 'interstate commerce.' But until some future Supreme Court decision denies the right and responsibility of the Federal government to do certain things, you cannot possibly remove them from the political activities of the Federal government...

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Is Plutocracy Really the Problem?: Fresh at Project Syndicate

Is Plutocracy Really the Problem by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

Fresh at Project Syndicate: Is Plutocracy Really the Problem?: After the 2008 financial crisis, economic policymakers in the United States did enough to avert another Great Depression, but fell far short of what was needed to ensure a strong recovery. Attributing that failure to the malign influence of the plutocracy is tempting, but it misses the root of the problem.... In fact, big money does not always find a way, nor does its influence necessarily increase as the top 0.01% captures a larger share of total income.... The larger issue...is an absence of alternative voices. If the 2010s had been anything like the 1930s, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Conference Board would have been aggressively calling for more investment in America, and these arguments would have commanded the attention of the press. Labor unions would have had a prominent voice as advocates for a high-pressure economy. Both would have had very powerful voices inside the political process through their support of candidates. Did the top 0.01% put something in the water to make the media freeze out such voices after 2008?... Read MOAR at Project Syndicate

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Making it real that we live in the "second gilded age"...

I am hearing from a number of people that columns like this one and its ilk by Paul Krugman and our other compadres are bloodless, and ineffective. They do not convey any sense of what is happening.

So let me make it more concrete:

The top 0.01% of American workers—now some 15000—this year have incomes, including capital gains, of about 500 times the average. Typical incomes in America today, including capital gains and benefits, are perhaps 300 a working day. The gulf between them and average income is large: average income is about 800. Thus 15000 workers in the top 0.01% of income this year receive an average of 400,000 dollars a day.

How could one go about spending that? Suppose you decided this morning that you wanted to rent the 2000 square-foot Ritz-Carlton suite at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco hotel for the week of next Memorial Day, and did so. That would set you back 6000 for seven nights. You would still have to spend 394,000 more today to avoid getting richer: to avoid getting richer you would have to spend 16,667 an hour, awake and asleep, day in and day out.

One way to think about the spending of these 15000 superrich is that they are, collectively, through their spending employing 7,500,000 who are dedicated to making them happier and advancing their purposes, whatever they may be. And a large proportion of them are bosses, partially constrained by their obligation to advance the purposes of the organizations they work for, but free to shape and interpret those purposes as they wish. Guess average is effectively the unconstrained boss of only 3 more: that makes 20,000,000 of us who are paid to directly and indirectly and who are thus are focused on advancing the top 0.01%'s particular and idiosyncratic purposes. Is that likely to be a healthy society?

And then there are the rest of the top 0.1%—not 15,000 but 135,000 each on average one-ninth as well-off—who must spend and reinvest not 400,000 but 45,000 a day, but who are collectively of the same economic weight as the top 0.01%, and thus have another 20,000,000 of us working for them: paid to directly and indirectly and thus focused on advancing the top 0.1%'s particular and idiosyncratic purposes as well:

Paul Krugman: Notes on Excessive Wealth Disorder: "How not to repeat the mistakes of 2011.... What’s really at issue here is the role of the 0.1 percent, or maybe the 0.01 percent—the truly wealthy, not the '400,000 a year working Wall Street stiff' memorably ridiculed in the movie Wall Street. This is a really tiny group of people, but one that exerts huge influence over policy.... Raw corruption.... Soft corruption.... Campaign contributions.... Defining the agenda... [which] I want to focus on... a particular example that for me and others was a kind of radicalizing moment, a demonstration that extreme wealth really has degraded the ability of our political system to deal with real problems... the extraordinary shift in conventional wisdom and policy priorities that took place in 2010-2011, away from placing priority on reducing the huge suffering still taking place in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, and toward action to avert the supposed risk of a debt crisis...

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Interview: "NAFTA Is Just Not a Big Deal for the U.S.": Hoisted from the Archives from 2017

Shenzhen skyline 2015 Google Search

Joseph Ford Cotto: J. Bradford DeLong says "NAFTA is just not a big deal for the U.S.", explains why: "Support for Bernie Sanders and the Donald did not rise out of nowhere, after all. In such turbulent waters as these, it is important to seek the guidance of a wise, seasoned captain. Insofar as the sea of dollars and cents is concerned, J. Bradford DeLong is just that fellow. He is "a professor of economics at UC Berkeley, a weblogger for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth http://equitablegrowth.org/blog, a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury in the Clinton administration .... He also writes the weblog Grasping Reality: http://bradford-delong.com," as DeLong's U.C.B. biography explains. Dr. DeLong recently spoke with me about many topics relative to our nation's economy. Some of our conversation is included below....

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John Maynard Keynes (1926): From "The End of Laissez-Faire": Weekend Reading

School of Athens

John Maynard Keynes (1926): from The end of Laissez-Faire: "The early nineteenth century... harmonised the conservative individualism of Locke, Hume, Johnson, and Burke with the socialism and democratic egalitarianism of Rousseau, Paley, Bentham, and Godwin.... The idea of a divine harmony between private advantage and the public good is already apparent in Paley. But it was the economists who gave the notion a good scientific basis.... To the philosophical doctrine that the government has no right to interfere, and the divine that it has no need to interfere, there is added a scientific proof that its interference is inexpedient.... The principle of laissez-faire had arrived to harmonise individualism and socialism.... The political philosopher could retire in favour of the business man.... Thus the ground was fertile for a doctrine that, whether on divine, natural, or scientific grounds, state action should be narrowly confined and economic life left, unregulated so far as may be, to the skill and good sense of individual citizens actuated by the admirable motive of trying to get on in the world.... By the time that the influence of Paley and his like was waning, the innovations of Darwin were shaking the foundations of belief..... Survival of the fittest could be regarded as a vast generalisation of the Ricardian economics. Socialist interferences became, in the light of this grander synthesis, not merely inexpedient, but impious, as calculated to retard the onward movement of the mighty process by which we ourselves had risen like Aphrodite out of the primeval slime of ocean...

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"Neoliberalisms", Left and Right: Hoisted from the Archives

stacks and stacks of books

Hoisted from the Archives: From 2015: _"Neoliberalisms", Left and Right: Today's best piece I have read on the internet is by the extremely sharp John Quiggin: The Last Gasp of (US) [Left-]Neoliberalism: "US neoliberalism is... closer to Blair’s Third Way than to Thatcher....

...[US] neoliberalism maintained and even extended ‘social liberalism’, in the US sense of support for equal marriage, reproductive choice and so on. In economic terms, its central claim was that the goals of the New Deal... could best be pursued through market-friendly policies that would earn the support of the financial sector.... [The] signature issues for US neoliberals were free trade, cuts in ‘entitlement’ spending, and school reform... a ‘grand bargain’, in which Republicans would accept minimal increases in taxation in return for the abandonment of most of the Democratic program. The Clinton administration was explicitly neoliberal.... And, while Obama’s 2008 election campaign was masterfully ambiguous, his first Administration neoliberal through and through.... But developments since then, including the global financial crisis, the failure of school reform and increasing awareness of entrenched inequality have destroyed the appeal of neoliberalism...

I think that John Quiggin is largely correct—if you correct "abandonment" to "reconfiguration".

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The ε-Stigler and the Other Components of Stigler: On George Stigler's 1962 Denunciation of the "Insolence" of Demonstrating Negroes, and Other Topics

School of Athens

Twitter Thread: Daniel Kuehn wrote: "We say something intelligent and on-point about Buchanan or Friedman or Tullock or Stigler and then we try to extrapolate a history of conservatism from it. Generally we're not equipped to do that (I'm certainly not), and should be wary of it. Wary doesn’t mean don’t cross-pollinate. I think the interaction between the two communities is great. Just something to be aware of..."

Let's take the George Stigler vector and project it onto a complete intellectual basis made up of the unit vectors ε, σ, π, β, γ:

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Adam Tooze: Democracy and Its Discontents: Weekend Reading

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Weekend Reading: Adam Tooze is correct when he writes that "across the American political spectrum, if there is agreement on anything, it is on the need for a firmer line against China". The bombs-and-bullets people, the geopolitics people, and the blame-somebody-else people are all agreed. The U.S. needs to do something to strengthen its relative position, and that means it needs to start doing something to China.

But that would be going about it the wrong way. Thinking that the right way to do something is to do something to China is a very bad way to think. The U.S. could still forge a 21st century condominium with China. But all those necessary and needed pieces of action require that the U.S. look and act inwardly, not outwardly:

Adam Tooze: Democracy and Its Discontents: Runciman: "Rather than raging against the dying of the light, Runciman['s How Democracy Ends], like Spengler and Kojève, invites us to adopt a stance of disillusioned realism. If we can see the decline of democratic polities all around us and can diagnose the multiple causes of their eventual demise, that does not excuse us from the responsibility to make them work until the bitter end...

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Adam Tooze: Democracy and Its Discontents: Weekend Reading

Il Quarto Stato

Weekend Reading: Adam Tooze: Democracy and Its Discontent: Levitsky and Ziblatt: "Levitsky and Ziblatt['s How Democracies Die has]... a sobering message: 'American democracy is not as exceptional as we sometimes believe. There’s nothing in our Constitution or our culture to immunize us against democratic breakdown'.... The restoration of democratic norms requires building a new consensus. Levitsky and Ziblatt cite the example of Chile.... Augusto Pinochet... was overcome by a new culture of bipartisan cooperation in the so-called Democratic Concertation. In the US today, the problem lies first and foremost with the GOP. It has repeatedly behaved like an anti-systemic party that does not consider itself bound by common democratic norms... Levitsky and Ziblatt point to... Konrad Adenauer’s CDU.... But what relevance does it have to American politics? Can one seriously imagine anyone in the GOP taking lessons from Angela Merkel and her counterparts?... Levitsky and Ziblatt are strikingly naive when it comes to power...

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Raymond Aron (1955): Nations and Ideologies: Weekend Reading

This is the best expression of the end-of-ideology "managerialism" theses of the Great Post-WWII Keynesian Boom—Les Trente Glorieuses. It is remarkably early: 1955. And it is 100% correct that those who tried to apply a pre-WWI socialist or a Leninist frame to the state of the world after World War II were hopelessly wrong, and would up naked on the moon. And that is if they were lucky. Aron, of course, took the defeat of fascism as the Red Army turned Hitler's Berlin into rubble in 1945 as permanent. And Aron mistook the Eisenhower wing of the Republican Party for the beast. And maybe he would have been right if not for Goldwater:

Il Quarto Stato

Raymond Aron (1955): Nations and Ideologies: "WE are becoming ever more aware that the political categories of the last century—Left and Right, liberal and socialist, traditionalist and revolutionary-have lost their relevance. They imply the existence of conflicts which experience has since reconciled, and they lump together ideas and men whom the course of history has drawn into opposing camps. How can one describe as "extreme Left" the Soviet regime which identifies society with the state? Is it possible to see it as a continuation of the struggle against arbitrary rule, or as favouring individual freedom and the control of government by the governed? Or again, when a parliament of "Pashas" is dissolved by a group of army officers sincerely concerned for national independence and economic progress, who then establish a military dictatorship, what is the correct word to describe their regime?...

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Samuel Brittan (1980): Hayek, the New Right, and the Crisis of Social Democracy: Weekend Reading

This—written forty years ago—is still the best short summary of left-neoliberalism I have every seen. Indeed, I think meditating on it, while walking up Drury Lane between the LSE and Bloomsbury in the summer of 1982, was how I became a card-carrying left-neoliberal in the first place:

School of Athens

Samuel Brittan (1980): Hayek, the New Right, and the Crisis of Social Democracy: "SINCE THE PUBLICATION of his Road to Serfdom in 1944, Friedrich Hayek has been cursed by sneerers, who dismiss everything he has to say without giving it a hearing, and even more by admirers, who agree with it before they have studied it, and regard it mainly as a highbrow stick with which to beat the Left. Yet there are many reasons for trying to come to terms with what he has been saying. The completion of The Political Order of a Free People, the third and last volume of his Law, Legislation and Liberty, provides a suitable opportunity for an interim assessment...

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Where Frank Fukuyama Went Wrong; or, Zombie Fascism!!

Economics Identity and the Democratic Recession YouTube

Brad DeLong: Council on Foreign Relations: The Future of Democracy Symposium: Session Two: Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: this political moment—Louis Napoleon mobilized these kinds of sentiments to overthrow the French Second Republic and establish himself as emperor. Francis Fukuyama wrote an excellent article about how really-existing-socialism—public ownership of the means of production, hopefully leading someday to the free society of associated producers—had crashed and burned, and that the only big idea left about how to organize society was that of liberal market democracy. But Fukuyama made a key mistake: there had been a third challenge. That is the basally-Roman idea thateach of us is individually a stick, very weak, but if we can unite ourselves in a big bundle of sticks and if we can tie ourselves together in leather thongs, we then become a powerful force that, in the hands of our strong leaders, could bruise our enemies.

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It Was Political Decisions, Not Trade or even Technology, That Done It...

Economics Identity and the Democratic Recession YouTube

Note to Self: From Council on Foreign Relations: The Future of Democracy Symposium: Session Two: Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: Over 2001—2008 the furniture workers who had lost their jobs because of NAFTA and the China shock were getting new and better jobs in construction, building up Raleigh and Durham. Few unhappy about the economic transformation of the Carolinas until late 2008. Then, all of a sudden, it turned out that a great many securities rated AAA by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s in fact had no business being sold to anyone at any price at all; the Democrats did not prioritize a return to full employment; and the Republicans prioritized a non-return to full employment in the hope of weakening a Democratic president. Economic anxiety producing racial cleavage, yes. But it was political decisions, not trade or even technology that done it.

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If You Were Right, John, Then Massachusetts Politics Would Have Turned This Strange Weird Trumpist Flavor Back in the 1950S

Economics Identity and the Democratic Recession YouTube

Note to Self: From Council on Foreign Relations: The Future of Democracy Symposium: Session Two: Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: Look at me: Harvard Ph.D., Harvard B.A., Harvard B.A ancestors back to 1686 or whenever, Sidwell Friends School, and before that Cal Tech nursery school. But my wife grew up—first generation in her family to go to college—in a Portuguese neighborhood of Fall River, where everyone’s parents and grandparents worked in the textile mills. The textile mills of Fall River were stripped by Greensboro, North Carolina. They took the jobs away from the Portuguese millworker immigrants of Fall River. They stole that identity.

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What Are Our Plans?

Signing of the Constitution by Louis S Glanzman Teaching American History

The Council on Foreign Relations asked me to come be on a panel on a small conference they were running on the "democratic recession". They were even willing to spring for a JetBlue mint-class lie-flat bed-seat on a nonstop. So I went Video here. Transcript here.

But is there—or, rather, in what sense is there—a "democratic recession"?

I think you need to separate out three different meanings of democracy:

  1. Alexis de Tocqueville’s democracy: social democracy—where everybody can stand on their own two feet and look everyone else in the eye, rather than lowering their gaze and tugging their forelock.

  2. John Judis’s thing: public-square democracy—where everybody can stand up, pick up a megaphone, speak, and actually be heard.

  3. Real, political democracy—where the material and ideal interests of the people are properly represented and aggregated in the formation of the decisions that we collectively make as we govern our own destinies.

The first two—social inclusion, and the ability to speak and feel that you have been heard—are important and are valid. But they are not the Big Enchilada.

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CFR Future of Democracy Symposium: Session Two: Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: Transcript and Link to Video

Council on Foreign Relations: The Future of Democracy Symposium: Session Two: Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession


Transcript

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Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: Talking Points

Event: Tu 2019-04-09 10-11am CFR: 58 E. 68th St., New York, NY:

Untitled 7 pages

The Data

  • 1970s a bad decade for real incomes—oil shocks, environmental cleanup, baby boom entry into the labor market
  • End of 1970s sees shift to "neoliberalism" to fix the "excesses of social democracy"
  • Since 1980: males and those with low education have seen their expectations of what their lives would be like bitterly disappointed
    • Male high school graduates down by 17%
    • Males with advanced degrees up by 25%
    • Whites have not been disappointed more economically—what William Juilius Wilson called the "declining significance of race"
      • Save, perhaps, for Black women with BAs...
    • Sociological disappointment in addition?
    • Within-household economic disappointment?
    • Other aspects of the economic besides income?
      • Occupation and occupational stability
      • Employment stability

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Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: Tuesday April 9, 2019, 9:45-11:00 AM

Il Quarto Stato

John Judis and Catherine Rampell are the best people:

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)... symposium on 'The Future of Democracy' on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 at CFR’s headquarters at 58 East 68th Street in New York. You will be speaking on panel two, 'Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession', from 9:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. We have confirmed John Judis and Catherine Rampell to join you on this panel. We are still working to confirm a presider.

A session on the state of democratic government in different regions of the world will take place from 8:00 to 9:45 a.m., followed by your session at 10:00 a.m. A few minutes before the session begins, you will be seated onstage with your fellow panelists.

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Carville-Hunt "Two Old White Guys" Podcast

Carville-Hunt "Two Old White Guys" Podcast:

Albert Hunt

Edited for Coherence and Clarity

https://www.pscp.tv/w/1OwxWOzBQgkxQ?q=alhuntdc

Al Hunt: Brad Delong, a Rubin Democrat, a mainstream, a Clinton-Obama Democrat, if you will, has said in the [intra-]democratic wars: My side has lost. We can't form any coalitions with [even] a handful of moderate Republicans. Cap-and-trade was a Republican idea. Every single Republican basically turned their back.

Uh, Brad, are you there?...

As soon as you're with us, let us know.

Brad, you hit the smiley face.

We are going to ask Brad what this means for the Democratic Party’s [position] on major economic issues.

I think we have Brad, right?

Brad DeLong: [The Machine] says I am here.

Al Hunt: Terrific. I'm talking about your vox[.com] interview. I also note that you are one of the 750 most influential economists. James and I hope to be one of the 70,000 most influential podcasters at some point. We once again have been elevated by our guests.

James [Carville], let me turn it over to you to ask the first couple of questions to Brad about his new thesis.

Brad DeLong: May I first compliment the two of you?

Continue reading "Carville-Hunt "Two Old White Guys" Podcast" »


"Passing the Baton": The Interview

Bernie Sanders news a Clinton era Democrat makes the case for the left Vox

I would say that Zack has it slightly wrong here. There is not one core reason for passing the baton. There are three reasons: a political reason, a policy-implementation reason, and a we've-learned-about-the-world reason:

Here's Zack Beauchamp: Zack Beauchamp: A Clinton-era Centrist Democrat Explains Why It’s Time to Give Democratic Socialists a Chance: “The Baton Rightly Passes To Our Colleagues On Our Left”: "DeLong believes that the time of people like him running the Democratic Party has passed.... It’s not often that someone in this policy debate — or, frankly, any policy debate — suggests that their side should lose. So I reached out to DeLong to dig into the reasons for his position: Why does he believe that neoliberals’ time in the sun has come to an end?...

...The core reason, DeLong argues, is political. The policies he supports depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They’re premised on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were.... The result, he argues, is the nature of the Democratic Party needs to shift. Rather than being a center-left coalition dominated by market-friendly ideas designed to attract conservative support, the energy of the coalition should come from the left and its broad, sweeping ideas. Market-friendly neoliberals, rather than pushing their own ideology, should work to improve ideas on the left. This, he believes, is the most effective and sustainable basis for Democratic politics and policy for the foreseeable future....

Here's me: We are still here, but it is not our time to lead.... Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy. And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they f---ing did not.... While I would like to be part of a political coalition in the cat seat, able to call for bids from the left and the right about who wants to be part of the governing coalition to actually get things done, that’s simply not possible...

And: Our current bunch of leftists are wonderful people.... They’re social democrats, they’re very strong believers in democracy. They’re very strong believers in fair distribution of wealth. They could use a little more education about what is likely to work and what is not. But they’re people who we’re very, very lucky to have on our side. That’s especially opposed to the people on the other side, who are very, very strange indeed. You listen to [Never Trump conservatives]... about all the people they had been with in meetings, biting their tongues over the past 25 years, and your reaction can only be, “Why didn’t you run away screaming into the night long ago?”...

And: We learned more about the world. I could be confident in 2005 that [recession] stabilization should be the responsibility of the Federal Reserve. That you look at something like laser-eye surgery or rapid technological progress in hearing aids, you can kind of think that keeping a market in the most innovative parts of health care would be a good thing. So something like an insurance-plus-exchange system would be a good thing to have in America as a whole. It’s much harder to believe in those things now. That’s one part of it. The world appears to be more like what lefties thought it was than what I thought it was for the last 10 or 15 years. ..

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#politics #politicaleconomy #moralresponsibility #highlighted #orangehairedbaboons

Debt-Derangement Syndrome: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate—Long Version

Debt Derangement Syndrome by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

Debt-Derangement Syndrome: Standard policy economics dictates that the public sector needs to fill the gap in aggregate demand when the private sector is not spending enough. After a decade of denial, the Global North may finally be returning to economic basics.


For the past decade the public sphere of the Global North has been in a fit of high madness with respect to its excessive fear of government debts and deficits. But this affliction may be breaking. In the past two weeks I have noted two straws in the wind.

Continue reading "Debt-Derangement Syndrome: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate—Long Version" »


Noah Smith: Unions Did Great Things for the American Working Class: "Politically and economically, unions are sort of an odd duck. They aren’t part of the apparatus of the state, yet they depend crucially on state protections in order to wield their power. They’re stakeholders in corporations, but often have adversarial relationships with management. Historically, unions are a big reason that the working class won many of the protections and rights it now enjoys...

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Barry Eichengreen: The Euro at 20: An Enduring Success but a Fundamental Failure: "The belief of... Francois Mitterrand and... Helmut Kohl that a single European currency would apply irresistible pressure for political integration. It would lead eventually to their ultimate goal.... To function smoothly, monetary union requires banking union... an integrated fiscal system.... Banking union and fiscal union will only be regarded as legitimate if those responsible for their operation can be held accountable for their decisions by citizens.... Monetary integration creates a logic and therefore irresistible pressure for political integration. Or so the euro’s architects believed...

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Development and Security

Battle of crecy froissart 58bf04d43df78c353c2c2e0f jpg 768×650 pixels

Not what I said at the Blum Center Development Lunch today: more what I wish I had said—albeit it is still incoherent and disorganized:

Let me begin with three direct responses to points Michael Nacht made. Let me then try to—briefly—propose a framework, perhaps a framework for analysis, perhaps merely a framework for convincing people in the national security community that they should take issues of economic development seriously, and so give large grants so that the Berkeley development community can do more things—things closely related to what we would be doing anyway.

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Blum Hall B100: Plaza Level: 2 PM: Bill Janeway: The Digital Revolution and the State: The Great Reversal

http://delong.typepad.com/the-digital-revolution-and-the-state--book-talk.pdf

Bill Janeway: Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy 2.0 https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1108471277: "The innovation economy begins with discovery and culminates in speculation. Over some 250 years, economic growth has been driven by successive processes of trial and error: upstream exercises in research and invention and downstream experiments in exploiting the new economic space opened by innovation...

...Drawing on his professional experiences, William H. Janeway provides an accessible pathway for readers to appreciate the dynamics of the innovation economy. He combines personal reflections from a career spanning forty years in venture capital, with the development of an original theory of the role of asset bubbles in financing technological innovation and of the role of the state in playing an enabling role in the innovation process. Today, with the state frozen as an economic actor and access to the public equity markets only open to a minority, the innovation economy is stalled; learning the lessons from this book will contribute to its renewal...

Continue reading "Blum Hall B100: Plaza Level: 2 PM: Bill Janeway: The Digital Revolution and the State: The Great Reversal" »


If those of us on the left and center are ever going to restart a technocratic debate with those on the right, it will be because thinking on the right becomes dominated by people link Brink Lindsey and his posse, rather then the current crew who are haplessly triangulating between their funders and their political masters: Brink Lindsey: [Welcome to capturedeconomy.com(https://capturedeconomy.com/welcome-to-capturedeconomy-com/): "WA new website dedicated to the problems of 'regulatory capture' and 'rent-seeking'—economist-speak for the pursuit of profits through politics...

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

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

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

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Big Questions for Left Opposition Social Scientists: Cedarbrook Notes

2018-03-12_Brad_DeLong_Party_Card_pages

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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MOAR Problems with Twitter...

San Francisco Bay

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

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

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

Suresh Naidu: @CoreyRobin clarifies the s-word:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad DeLong: Now that is genuinely funny...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steven Klein: Give me my political theory idealizations :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad DeLong: Yep. And indeed...

Brad DeLong: Yes. Immense barricades...

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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