#hoistedfromthearchives Feed

On the Negative Information Revealed by Marvin Goodfriend's "I Don't Teach IS-LM": Smackdown/Hoisted


So Rich Clarida's (who should be a good Fed Vice Chair) and Michelle Bowman's Federal Reserve nominations (whom I do not know) made it out of the Senate Banking Committee 20-5 and 18-7. Marvin Goodfriend—who made it out 13-12—is still hanging fire on the Senate calendar. There is no reason I see to think that Fed Governor is a job he should have: there are much more sensible and reality-based conservative and inflation-hawkish monetary economists out there. One of them would dominate Marvin along every dimension. So it is time to highlight this again:

Hoisted from the Archives: I think it is time to move Marvin Goodfriend over to the "unprofessional" and "should not have a role making monetary policy" side of the ledger. There are much better inflation hawks as far as policy judgment is concerned. And someone with a demonstrated desire to pander to the yahoos—which is the only way I can make this coherent—is not a good candidate for the Board of Governors: On the Negative Information Revealed by Marvin Goodfriend's "I Don't Teach IS-LM": The smart and snarky Sam Bell wants to taunt me into rising to his bait by twittering https://twitter.com/sam_a_bell/status/872116967070732288 a quote from likely Fed nominee Marvin Goodfriend: "I don't teach IS-LM". He succeeds. Here is the quote:

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Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality: July 9, 2008

Real Fiscal Responsibility: And we are underway: Henry Aaron, Nancy Altman, Kenneth Apfel, James Blum, J. Bradford DeLong, Peter Diamond, Robert Greenstein, James Horney, Richard Kogan, Jack Lew, Marilyn Moon, Van Doorn Ooms, Uwe Reinhardt, Charles Schultze, Robert Solow, and Paul Van de Water: (1) agree that the nation faces large persistent budget deficits that ultimately risk significant damage to the economy, (2) concur that policymakers should begin now to make the tough choices needed to avert such deficits, (3) But the methods set forth in the Brookings/Heritage/Concord "Taking Back Our Fiscal Future" proposal strike us as misguided. Specifically: TBOFF subjects Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to the threat of automatic cuts while giving a free pass to regressive open-ended tax-loophole and tax-break entitlements... thus departs from the "shared sacrifice" approach... does not focus adequate attention on... rising health care... attempts to restrain public health care spending growth without taking measures to alter the dynamics of the private health care markets... places a large share of the burden of adjustment on the poorer members of American society... relies on automatic cuts... [that] congress has never in the past been willing to actually let... take effect...

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Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality: July 8, 2008

Preview of Some Fairly Recent Must and Should Reads About Economic Inequality

Perry Bacon, Jr., is a bad human being: Marcus Brauchli Has, I Think, Made a Big Mistake (Washington Post Death Spiral Watch): Former WSJ executive Marcus Brauchli has agreed to take over the Washington Post.... This is, I think, a huge mistake for him and his reputation.... All you have to look at is page A1 of this morning's paper--at the article by Perry Bacon, Jr., who has already written what the Columbia Journalism Review judged the worst article of the 2008 campaign. The headline of the article is: "Candidates Diverge on How to Save Social Security". The echo of Paul Krugman's 2000 joke: "If Bush said that the world was flat, the headline on the news analysis [the next day] would read 'Shape of Earth: Views Differ'" is clear. But nobody at the Washington Post gets the joke. And the substance of the article is as bad as the headline...

Wise: Ben Bernanke Is Right: If we were back in the late nineteenth century, there would be no question--back then, banks were banks. Anything that promised liquidity, borrowed short, and invested long was a bank. And central banks existed to watch over them. It's only in our more legalistic age that we have non-banks that aren't shepherded by the central bank...

Rare among veterans, John McCain is a big fan of 'preemptive war': Jed Lewison on Why America Cannot Afford to Elect John McCain: My line used to be that John McCain was the best possible Republican candidate--he was, after all, the only one not enthusiastically in favor of torture. But Jed Lewison has now convinced me that McCain is worse than I could previously have imagined. How has he done this. By firing up the Wayback Machine and taking us back to 2002 to listen to John McCain on the virtues of preemptive wars...

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Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality: July 1-7, 2008

  • My belief that DHE had any goals other than to suck up to Republican donors and politicians was wrong: Douglas Holtz-Eakin Burns His Credibility: "Holtz-Eakin said, “Sen. Obama can say what he wants this week… but this is about his record. It reveals what his true values are”—that he voted for something that would raise taxes on low-income voters, Holtz-Eakin claimed.... This is, I think, a bad mistake for Doug Holtz-Eakin. If McCain wins in November, Holtz-Eakin will need credibility with Democratic as well as Republican senators. And if McCain doesn't win in November, Holtz-Eakin will need credibility with Democratic as well as Republican economists...

  • Lehman's Off Balance Sheet Entities News: They disturb Jonathan Weil quite a bit...

  • Jim Hamilton Assumes the Role of Dr. Doom: Time to start sending out more stimulus checks--advances on next April's refund checks...

  • The Singularity Is in Our Past...: Will McLean writes: "A Commonplace Book: Buying Power of 14th Century Money: In the second half of the 14th century, a pound sterling would: Support the lifestyle of a single peasant laborer for half a year, or that of a knight for a week. Or buy: Three changes of clothing for a teenage page (underclothes not included) or Twelve pounds of sugar or A carthorse or Two cows or An inexpensive bible or ten ordinary books or Rent a craftsman’s townhouse for a year or Hire a servant for six months... "Think of a world in which a pound of sugar costs two weeks' wages...

  • Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (John F. Harris Edition): "John F. Harris of the Politico, formerly of the Washington Post, confesses that he doesn't even try to do his job of informing Americans about which politicians would make good presidents and legislators--furthest thing from his mind.... I do wonder how he can look at himself in the mirror in the morning. It is a mystery...

  • Atlantic Monthly Death Spiral Watch: Tim Burke reminds us of what may have been the worst article published by the Atlantic Monthly, ever: "Easily Distracted: Political Notes: I keep flashing back to Mark Bowden’s willingness to be a front man for security functionaries eager to normalize torture. Bowden’s article assured readers that 'harsh interrogation' had reached a point of trust-worthy technocratic professionalism in Israel and now potentially the United States. Don’t worry, he said: professionals only use it when they need to, only against those individuals who have knowledge that our trusted leaders must have. It’s won’t be as if some sweaty thug in a filthy gulag is ripping off fingernails just to intimidate a political dissident, that’s only a danger with unprofessional regimes that torture unnecessarily. I mean, it’s not as if we’d be doing something that an infamous authoritarian regime used extensively against dissidents. Besides, who needs moral capital when you’ve got stealth bombers, right?..."

  • Peter Beinart is weighed down under an enormous karmic burden for acts of intellectual evil in the past: Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Peter Beinart Strikes Again Edition): "It is safe to say that Peter Beinart makes a very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care: "Balancing Act: The Other Wilsonianism The contrast with the development of modern conservative foreign policy is instructive. When William F. Buckley, James Burnham, and the other founding editors of _National Review+ set out in the 1950s to devise a conservative approach to the Cold War, they did so in the full knowledge that their views were wildly outside the political mainstream. (In fact, Buckley and Burnham did not even live in Washington.) Yet they continued to elaborate and refine them, making few concessions to political necessity, until in 1976 and 1980, when Ronald Reagan brought first the Republican Party, and then the entire country, around to their worldview..." Burnham's and Buckley's foreign policy was "Rollback": a titanic Manichean struggle of total Cold War against a totalitarian adversary that could not be softened or negotiated with or contained—that was Buckley's and Burnham's critique of Harry S Truman, Dean Acheson, George F. Kennan, George Marshall, and the other graduates of what Nixon called "Acheson's Cowardly College of Communist Containment." What was Ronald Reagan's foreign policy?... Once George Shultz, Nancy Reagan, and Nancy Reagan's astrologer had wrested control of the Reagan administration foreign policy apparat from Alexander Haig and Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Reagan (and even more so George H.W. Bush) was squarely in the "Containment"—not the "Rollback"—tradition. To Peter Beinart's claim that Reagan's foreign policy was "Buckley['s and] Burnham['s]... conservative approach to the Cold War," all I can do is laugh and say: "Klaatu Barada Nikto!!" Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

  • Ulysses Simpson "Sam" Grant Blogging: "I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse..."

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IIRC, back when I first read Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia, I thought it was a joke: He spent all this space ranting about how nobody is allowed to make consequentialist arguments, and then makes the consequentialist argument that Lockeian appropriation of pieces of the global commons as private property is fine because it has the consequence of making the world richer? And then there was this: using the Cambridge Rent Control Board to break his contract—his self-actualization as a promise-making autonomous moral being—to extort 30,000 dollars from Eric Segal: Anarchy, State, and Rent Control.

I now think that Anarchy, State, and Utopia was a joke that turned into a grift. Cf.: Robert Bork, who after a lifetime of calling for "tort reform" files a slip-and-fall lawsuit against the Yale Club of Manhattan...

Tim Noah (2007): Has Jonah Goldberg gone soft on Hillary?: Hoisted from the Internet from Eleven Years Ago/Weekend Reading

Timothy Noah (2007): Has Jonah Goldberg gone soft on Hillary?: "Her name's been removed from his forthcoming book's subtitle...

Three months ago, I speculated that Jonah Goldberg's forthcoming book, then titled Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton, was the victim of a swift and violent paradigm shift. The 2006 elections and the right's critical drubbing of Dinesh D'Souza's The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11--which proposed a strategic alliance between Muslim theocrats and the American right against the degenerate American left—had rendered conservatism's lunatic fringe suddenly unfashionable. This couldn't, I thought, be good news for a book that portrayed Hillary Clinton as a goose-stepping brownshirt.

One hint that Doubleday might be feeling nervous was that the book's publication date, originally planned for 2005, had been delayed repeatedly, and had just been delayed once more, to Dec. 26, 2007. Goldberg's publisher, Adam Bellow, insisted that the book's delays were attributable entirely to the extreme care being taken to get the history just right, and Goldberg himself, after stating on National Review's online chat-fest "The Corner" that he found me to be "a bore and a fairly nasty and humorless fellow," said the book was delayed only because "it's not done yet." My "assertion that the book's delayed for marketing reasons would be a flat-out lie if it weren't flat-out conjecture," Goldberg thundered.

What Bellow and Goldberg said didn't strike me as necessarily inconsistent with what I'd written. I could well envision that the extreme care to which Bellow referred might include frantic tweaking of tone to make Goldberg sound less like Ann Coulter and more like David Brooks. But whatever the reason for the delay, the marketing plan for Goldberg's book has been altered since I last wrote, and the direction has been away from Coulterism. A book's subtitle is part of a book's marketing, is it not? Ladies and gentlemen, the subtitle has been changed. Gone is The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton. Now the subtitle is The Totalitarian Temptation From Hegel to Whole Foods. This is undeniably kinder, gentler, and less political. But it isn't necessarily more truthful.

As liberal blogger Ezra Klein points out, John Mackey, founder and chief executive of Whole Foods, is a libertarian. In a recent speech, Mackey said, "The Left's goal remains either to cripple or to destroy capitalism." That doesn't sound very liberal to me. Perhaps Goldberg has found a way to write around Mackey's inconvenient politics. Or perhaps he'll have to go back to the drawing board. One option might be for Goldberg to change the title to The Road to Serfdom, which is what F.A. Hayek called this book when he published it 50-odd years ago. Goldberg should know, though, that a cartoon version of Hayek's most famous work is already in circulation.

Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality: June 27-30, 2008

Preview of Procrastinating on November 29 2016

Robin Givhan may well have provided the worst Hillary coverage ever: Heathers...: Robin Givhan.... "Hillary Clinton spoke... smiling that talk-show smile—the one that never wavers. She was dressed all in cobalt blue.... The only people who dress from head to toe in bright blue are more than likely telling you to put your seat tray in the upright and locked position. What would possess a woman seeking the highest office to dress in a manner that only Veruca Salt could love?..."

True then; true now: Capital and Its Complements: The hope was that... net capital outflows from the industrial core would finance much late twentieth and twenty-first century industrialization. But we all know the outcome.... The core–especially the United States–offers a form of protection for capital against unanticipated political disturbances.... Net international capital flows are going the wrong way. [But] there are still substantial gross capital flows outward from the world economy’s core to its periphery. And we can hope that these capital flows will carry with them the institutions and managerial expertise that have made the core so wealthy. Nevertheless, a dispassionate observer might point out that for someone with limited resources and opportunities for policy reform to keep betting double-or-nothing on neo-liberalism is a strategy that has a well-deserved name: “Gambler’s Ruin”.

Greg Ransom was the poster child for how training a knee-jerk right-winger in economics could produce someone whose only fit habitation was Beldlam: Attempted DeLong Smackdown Watch: Origins of Central Banking Edition: Greg's argument that attempts to avoid depression through government financial manipulation must necessarily fail was, to my knowledge, first made comprehensively by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels...

Surprisingly few people seem to remember that Reagan had ideological majorities in both houses of congress always—there were back then a bunch of people who voted with the Democrats to organize their house because they remembered that the Republicans had freed the slaves, but that was all they would vote with the Democrats for: Paul Krugman Misreads the Political Situation, I Think: Reagan had ideological majorities in both houses of congress throughout his presidency--remember the "boll weevils"? Clinton did not even have ideological majorities in his first two years. Yet Reagan's conservative achievements were remarkably limited: (1) A tilting of the tax code to redistribute income to the rich. And it was more than offset, IMHO at least, by his major liberal achievements: (1) To end the Cold War by trusting Gorbachev's good faith--in spite of everything the Republican foreign-policy establishment and the wingnut ideologues could throw in his path to try to stop them. (2) To cement the government's entitlement-spending role as provider of a mind-bobbling amount of primarily middle-class social insurance: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as we know them. And then there were Reagan's "achievements" that were simply stupidities...

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Carbon Blogging: Robert J. Samuelson Is Incompetent/The Washington Post Is a Bad Paper: Monday Smackdown/Hoisted

Preview of Carbon Blogging Robert J Samuelson Is Incompetent The Washington Post Is a Bad Paper Monday Smackdown Hoisted

That the Washington Post still gives Robert J. Samuelson a platform is a shameful thing. That it ever gave Robert J. Samuelson a platform is a bad thing: Monday Smackdown/Hoisted: In That Case... Plant the Trees This Afternoon!: Mark Thoma does an evil deed by telling me that somebody should take note of Robert Samuelson. And he's right: somebody should. But why does it have to be me?

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June 26, 2018: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

Hoisted from Comments: J. Thomas on the Ethics of William Greider: "If Greider had told his reporters 'The headline for today's article is "Supplyside Scandal Exposed"' and they were supposed to point out known administration lies as lies and use the word 'scandal' at least 4 times per article... But he didn't. The articles he edited encouraged fools to continue acting like fools. He got the truth straight from Stockman's mouth and he reported the lies instead. Is there something about these events that you don't believe? Is there something about my interpretation that you disagree with? If you agree the events happened, what interpretation leaves Greider a nonhack?"

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June 25, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

New York Times Death Spiral Watch (Maureen Dowd Edition): Is there any way for somebody writing in good faith to write both these columns in three months?...

Oil and Speculation: Since we don't see either large inventories of tanker cars filled with oil on the sidings or futures prices for oil above spot prices to make storing marginally profitable, he concludes that speculation is not driving oil prices today...

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June 24, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

*If you think the Washington Post is an embarrassment in the Age of Trump, it was no better a decade ago: *: Washington Post Death Spiral Watch (Lori Montgomery Edition): Lori Montgomery is giving her bosses up through Len Downie and Katherine Weymouth and Donald Graham what they want, clearly—and what they want is not to inform their readers about the budget.... If Len Downie and company truly want to entertain rather than inform, why not have Lori Montgomery write about Hollywood or professional sports? The people in Hollywood are much more aesthetic than politicians or budget experts. Professional sports not only has prettier and much more athletic people but also superbly structured narrative story lines without the awkward ambiguities and loose ends of government and policy. It is a mystery...

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Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality: June 22, 2008

Higher-Level Languages and Genetic Programming: The Quintessence writes....

Wait...did you say "eldritch?": Comparison of the various chordate genomes reveals that there are very few chordate-specific genes. Specifically, the authors described 239 "chordate gene novelties" out of 22,000 genes in the lancelet. The nature and function of these genes is intensely interesting, and indeed the authors devote a separate report to issues related to this. But think about it: only 1% of the genes in chordates (vertebrates and all their relatives) are "novel" among genes from all other organisms. So if the toolbox isn't all that different between lancelets and lions, despite divergence at least 550 million years ago, then what is different?... The likelihood that changes in regulation of a (mostly) common genetic toolkit is a major factor in evolution of form....

Now that is scary. The DNA genome is best conceptualized not just as machine language for the cell and the organism, not just machine plus assembly language, not just machine plus assembly language plus Fortran, but all of those and overlaid over the whole, controlling everything, the highest-level genetic code for our humanity written in the molecular equivalent of Java.

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Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality: June 20, 2008

Sam Boyd Is a National Treasure: He reads Slate, so we don't have to poison our minds. And comments on William Saletan:

This is the same logic that people used to justify homeowners who didn't want to rent to minorities. That's just terrible, they clucked, but I wouldn't want to live in a world where the government told people who they could rent to. Well, as it turns out, that world is a lot better than the one it replaced...

It is a good point. Consider: William Saletan on contraception:

William Saletan, 2008: You bring your scrip to the pharmacy, and the guy at the counter says, "Sorry, we don't stock contraceptives." That's annoying and, in my view, stupid. But nobody's walling you in. Your burden consists of finding another pharmacy...

William Saletan on fair housing:

William Saletan, 1958: You go to the open house, and the real estate broker says, "Sorry, we don't sell to Negroes." That's annoying and, in my view, stupid. But nobody's walling you in. Your burden consists of finding another house to buy...

Is there a difference between these two? Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

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Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality: June 19, 2008

Reported Deaths and Injuries from Meteorite Impact: "As of March 2008, the Near-Earth Asteroid with the highest probability of impact within the next 100 years is 2007 VK184, with a Torino scale of 1..."

Another Absolutely Beautiful Free Place in America...: There are few things finer than sitting outside the garth of Lora the Highly-Eccentric--Vikingsholm on Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe--reading Guy Gavriel Kay's The Last Light of the Sun...

June 18, 2008: Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality

Atlantic Monthly Death Spiral Watch (Outsourced to the Poor Man Edition): If the Atlantic Monthly survives the new media hurricane in any form whatsoever, it will be because it maintains and strengthens its reputation as a good filter of information.... The Poor Man explains, slowly and patiently and politely, why publishing Gregg Easterbrook is the road to destruction....

Easterbrook cilps 5 words from page 2 of this report as evidence that the NAS was cautioning against making any policy decisions. Seventy pages later, in a chapter titled “Recommendations”, you find this:

Despite the great uncertainties, greenhouse warming is a potential threat sufficient to justify action now.

Ten pages of immediate policy recommendations follow. Again, this report came out 15 years ago...

Does anybody think Howell Raines ever had any business being a journalist?: Perhaps the Strangest Article I Have Read, Ever (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?): Howell Raines on Jim Romanesko.... There are, I think, only three "facts" I did not already know--and I don't know much about Jim Romanesko or Poynter:

  1. Poynter pays Jim Romanesko $170K a year.
  2. Jim Romanesko turned down an offer to jump to Brill's Content five years ago.
  3. awker's "readers tend to speak of Romenesko more as a historical figure than a must-read. 'I don’t feel obligated to check it daily since a lot of the news doesn’t directly relate to me,' says a young New York-based reporter at a major newspaper.... 'Romenesko... provides a great top-line summary for a dying industry--an invaluable tool for that master’s thesis 20 years from now on the fall of paper'..."

And, of course, this third is not a "fact." Howell Raines has no magic surveillance machine with which he takes the pulse of what Gawker's readers say. And we all know how worthless is Howell Raines's ability to find one reporter who--anonymously--will serve as a sock puppet and do Howell Raines's bidding by saying that Jim Romanesko is a has-been about to be consumed by the monster he created. It would be something--but not much--if the "young New York-based reporter at a major newspaper" were willing to be named. It would be considerably more if Howell Raines had made some effort to demonstrate that the views of his sock puppet were in any sense representative or influential....

June 17, 2008: Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality

  • Smackdown Watch: Beauty, Accessibility, Crowding, Expense: Barbara Ehrenreich's basic problem, I think, is that she doesn't like beautiful places that are crowded, especially crowded with the wrong people—recall her dismissal of Maine's beautiful (and accessible! and affordable!) Old Orchard Beach as a "rinky-dink blue-collar resort." But here is Robert Waldmann to perform the smackdown...

  • Journalistic institutions that have less than zero quality control: we are looking at you, Atlantic: The Atlantic Monthly Death Spiral Watch (Gregg Easterbrook Asteroid Devastation Edition)_: Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? The Atlantic Monthly features Gregg Easterbook, who writes: "The Sky Is Falling: The odds that a potentially devastating space rock will hit Earth this century may be as high as one in 10. So why isn’t NASA trying harder to prevent catastrophe?..." If the odds that a devastating space rock will hit the earth in a century are one in ten, then the chances that we have gone... one millennium without a DSR hitting the earth are 0.35... two millennia without a DSR hitting the earth are 0.12... four millennia without a DSR hitting the earth are 0.014... It's possible a devastating space rock hit the earth between eight and four millennia ago and we know nothing about it—but it's not terribly likely. It's very hard for me to believe that a devastating space rock has hit the earth since 3000 BC. We have Tunguska.... If you started out with a 50-50 prior probability that Gregg Easterbrook knows what he is talking about, your posterior probability that the lead of his Atlantic article is better than birdcage liner given no rock since 2000 BC is 0.0138. But we start with a lower probability than that, don't we? Gregg Easterbrook has a history.... If the Atlantic published an article by Gregg Easterbrook every month, we would have to wait 41 years before there was a 50-50 chance that even one of the Easterbrook articles was right...

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June 15, 2008: Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality

  • Why do people do this? Why clickbait: Jack Balkin Is Wrong: Jack Balkin says that the Bush legal revolution has failed. He is wrong: it has just not yet succeeded. A McCain victory in November and another statist Supreme Court appointee, and that's it for the rights of any whom the president classifies as an outlaw. Balkin acknowledges this at the end. Better he had done so at the beginning...

  • Why do people do this?: Ummm... No!: "Barbara Ehrenreich's Fear of Falling, Blood Rites, and The Hearts of Men are among the finest works of sociology I have every read or ever expect to read. Which is why it is so very hard for me to read things like this—to which the only reaction is "that's simply not true!".... "This Land Is Their Land.... The general rule, which has been in effect since sometime in the 1990s: if a place is truly beautiful, you can't afford to be there..." And the essay has gone totally off the rails. The places she talks about: Sun Valley, Idaho; Drigg dollars for a season; The Hamptons; Cape Cod; Telluride. Yes, Sun Valley, Driggs, Jackson Hole, Key West, The Hamptons, Cape Cod, and Telluride are beautiful. Yes, they are expensive‚ as are Vail, Aspen, Back Bay, the Upper East Side, Santa Monica, Pacific Heights, and La Jolla. But it is a truly impoverished person who thinks that those rich yuppie watering holes are the only truly beautiful places in North America. The place I really want to go back to right now is the spine of the Canadian Rockies from the corner of Moose and Squirrel Streets in Banff to Malign Lake outside of Jasper. But Yosemite is always tugging at my heart. What's your favorite truly beautiful place to go that's cheap? The essay continues. But what's the point?...

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The Last Financial Crisis of the Nineteenth Century: Hoisted from the Grasping Reality Archives from Ten Years Ago

Il Quarto Stato

The slides from my “Macroeconomic Situation and Outlook” talk as it stood ten years ago, in June 2008. The subtitle and the conceit of the talk was that what we were then going through was an eruption into the twenty-first century of the kind of financial crisis that was typical of the pre-Great Depression period.

What did I get right and what did I miss? The main thing I missed was that I misunderstood what Bernanke, Paulson, and Geithner were doing. I thought that they were following the now century and a half-old Bagehot rule from Lombard Street for how to handle a financial crisis:

  1. Lend freely
  2. On collateral that is good in normal tomes
  3. At a penalty rate

Most of the talk is therefore devoted to explaining what the Bagehot Rule is, why it is a good thing, and how it is all likely to work out.

But when Lehman hit the wall in the fall they refused to follow (2) in evaluating its collateral, and so they did not do (1). And they never showed any interest in doing (3). And so here we are...


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Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality: June 10-14, 2008

Topkapi Palace

Neither Louis Uchitelle or Tom Hamburger would ever tell me whose bidding they were doing in writing hit pieces on Jason Furman, or why they thought this was the way they should be doing their jobs:

  • Louis Uchitelle on Jason Furman: The odd thing is that Jason Furman has a very strong and very wide reputation as an honest broker and as a consensus builder, which is exactly the kind of thing that you want in the job--as long as you think that truth is on your side, and thus that you are more likely than not to win honest, substantive, evidence-based debates. It's not right to say that Jason Furman was closely associated with Robert Rubin without also saying that he was closely associated with Joe Stiglitz...

  • Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Tom Hamburger of the Los Angeles Times Edition): "On June 11, 2008, you wrote: "Obama's selection of Jason Furman as economic advisor is criticized: [Jason Furman] was also quoted in a transcript from a CNBC interview in 2006 as suggesting openness to changes in Social Security that might include private accounts and benefit cuts. The approach he described sounded similar in some ways to that proposed at the time by President Bush."... Jason Furman was not a friend, advocate, or supporter of President Bush's Social Security privatization plan back in 2005, but instead one of its most strident and effective opponents...

  • We Get an Email from Tom Hamburger...: Apropos of the astonishing and false claim in this morning's LA Times that Jason Furman is some sort of a crypto-Bushie with views on Social Security matters "similar" to those Bush proposed in 2005, I write to the reporter involved, Tom Hamburger... He writes back. Mr. Hamburger's bottom line appears to be that his leaving a lot of readers with a false view of Jason Furman's position on Social Security is OK because that was "not the point of this story..."

  • Greg Anrig on Tom Hamburger on Jason Furman: Apropos of LA Times reporter Tom Hamburger's gross mispresentation of Jason Furman, Greg Anrig comments: "It wasn't a matter of 'space'—Hamburger simply got the facts totally wrong. If he had left out his errors about Social Security, he would have had more space. Jason may have been the single most effective wonk in the victory against SS privatization..."

Other things:

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After the Next Nuclear Fire...: Hoisted from 2007

Nuclear explosion Google Search

Hoisted from the Archives: Rather more urgent than I thought it would be 27 months ago: After the Next Nuclear Fire...: In the early 1980s the U.S. NSA—or perhaps it was the Defense Department—loved to play games with Russian air defense. They would send probe planes in from the Pacific to fly over Siberia. And they would watch and listen: Where were the gaps in Russian sensor coverage? How far could U.S. planes penetrate before being spotted? What were Russian command-and-control procedures to intercept intruders? And so on, and so forth.

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June 9, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • Washington Post Death Spiral Watch (Fred Hiatt Edition): Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Fred Hiatt tells a lot of lies himself as he cherrypicks the Rockefeller report. Duncan Black notes:: "the headline given... is 'Blaming Bush for Iraq Is Too Easy.' And that's true! I also blame Fred Hiatt!" Fred Hiatt would prefer it if we didn't say that Bush and Cheney lied. He says that there is "no question" that Bush and Cheney "spoke with too much certainty" at times—but, he says, that's not lying...

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June 8, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • Making the Case for Globalization: I suspect that we are, right now, seeing the peak of anti-globalization economic agitation in the United States. The fall in the real value of the dollar against European currencies and its coming real value fall against Asian currencies mean that export and import-competing sectors are likely to be expanding their employment rapidly over the next several years. It would be a pity if a look back deranged our policy going forward, especially if it is because trade is perceived to be a problem by politicians even though it has ceased to be perceived as a problem by voters...

  • What Does John McCain Think?: Digby writes: "A reader sent me this link to the Cunningrealist from May 5 and I was surprised by what it contained. Were you aware that John McCain wrote the forward to an edition of The Best And the Brightest? And were you aware that it said this?: 'It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through god-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the dehumanizing experiences that are unavoidable in combat, for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay. No other national endeavor requires as much unshakable resolve as war. If the nation and the government lack that resolve, it is criminal to expect men in the field to carry it alone.' Will anyone ask him about this?..."

  • Shut Up and Calculate!: Eliezer Yudkowsky wonders aloud just what the Born probabilities in quantum mechanics are. It is, I think, an object lesson that nobody should try to understand quantum mechanics: it simply cannot be done...

June 5, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • Biomedical Literary Criticism Ask the Internet "Age of Innocence" Blogging: "Edith Wharton's 1920 The Age of Innocence: My brother wonders if perhaps Edith Wharton meant us to understand that Count Olenski had tertiary syphilis a la Friedrich Neitzsche and Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill—hat he was not just your standard garden-variety European aristocrat libertine unfaithful cold penniless mentally-unbalanced domineering husband who married you for your money alone and from whom you fled back to New York—and that for Madame Ellen Olenska to return to him in Europe is to consign herself to marital rape, likely infection, and ultimate deep insanity herself. Is this a reading that Edith Wharton intended? A part of the book that literary critics lost with the discovery of penicillin? Or is it a reading that I am tempted to impose on the book simply because I have lived in the age of AIDS? And, in either case, does this reading deepen or trivialize the book?...

  • Delong Smackdown Watch: Why Cap-and-Trade Beats a Carbon Tax: Felix Salmon: "Brad DeLong reckons that the relative merits of carbon taxes and cap-and-trade 'roughly offset'.... 'Cap-and-trade runs the risk that the cap will be set at the wrong place and so the price will go damagingly above its social optimum value. Carbon taxes run the risk that the tax will be set too low and so the quantity emitted will go damagingly above its social optimum value.' These two considerations do not offset each other. The second risk is high and real; the first risk is low and politically much more unrealistic..."

  • The Meaning of Box 722: Rick Perlstein is a national treasure. Buy his Nixonland. Buy it now...

  • Answers to Easy Questions (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps New York Times Pitiful Embarrassment Department): Marty Lederman asks:" Today's New York Times story about the arraignment of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed concludes with this sentence: 'C.I.A. officials have said that Mr. Mohammed was one of three detainees who were subjected to the simulated-drowning technique known as waterboarding during interrogation, which is described by some as torture.' If the Attorney General insisted that the sun rises in the west, would the New York Times treat it as a contested question?" Answer: Yes. The New York Times death spiral continue...

June 4, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • Record Prius Parade!: Five--count them, five in a row, red, green, silver, silver, red--proceeding north on Oxford Street...

  • Sunny Wednesday June Afternoon People in Their Forties Drinking Iced Coffee at Starbucks Midlife Crisis "Wilma!!" Blogging: Khelona: "Huh. Is that better or worse than dreaming when you were a teenager that you would grow up to marry Stilgar, and finding in your forties that your husband more closely resembles..." Glaukon: "Fred Flintstone?" Khelona: "Exactly..."

  • The Ascent of Central Bankers: "Paul Krugman writes: "BB sticks to his guns: I have no idea where that picture came from, but I had it on file and couldn’t resist using it..."

  • Ryan Avent on Tyler Cowen on Ryan Avent on Robert Samuelson on Obama's Cap-and-Trade: Ryan: "As Mark Thoma says, it’s Samuelson who’s being misleading. Either that, or utterly confused." It doesn't have to be either/or, Ryan. It can be both/and. Probably is. Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?...

  • Background for Berkeley Political Economy Group Major Advisory Committee and Stakeholders' Meeting

  • Megan McArdle Moves the Ball Downfield on the Cap-and-Trade vs. Carbon-Tax Discussion: To first order cap-and-trade and carbon taxes are the same.... There are five second-order differences.... I don't have a dog in this fight: I think second- and third-order pluses and minuses roughly offset each other. But the substantive case for action seems very clear...

  • Tyler Cowen Misreads Robert Samuelson:: The Weitzman (1974)-based discussion is worth having, and is important. But that's not what Samuelson is doing, is it? I don't see a single word of argument in there about how the risk that the price will go too high is more worth guarding against than the risk that the quantity of emissions will go too high. Do you? All I see are rants about how environmental controls are big government and big government is bad and we never should have passed the Clean Air Act or established the EPA in the first place. Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?...

  • Paul Krugman Pulls Me Back in...: "Each time I think of climbing out of the swamp of shrillness and putting the Economist back on my must-read list, Paul Krugman pulls me back in: "How will the campaign be covered?... 8 years ago the press managed to portray an election in which there were large policy differences as one in which nothing much was at stake.... Part of this came from a remarkable willingness of pundits to dismiss the obviously irresponsible parts of Bush’s plan as stuff that he wouldn’t really do. Thus the Economist, in endorsing Bush , said this: 'Mr Bush’s proposal of a huge tax cut might look reckless (which it is), but either voters are happy with recklessness that gives them their money back, or they don’t take seriously a plan that could be changed as quickly as the White House curtains...'"

A Few Notes on Higher Education in the Age of Trump: Hoisted from June 10, 2017

Hoisted: A Few Notes on Higher Education in the Age of Trump... (June 10, 2017):

I wrote http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/06/must-read-two-points-diversity-and-finding-truth-in-the-sense-of-rough-consensus-and-running-code-where-i-think-larry.html: Two points (diversity and finding truth in the sense of rough consensus and running code) where I think Larry Summers is 100% correct. One point (Charles Murray) where I think Larry is broadly right but that things are more complicated. And one point (sensitivity training) where I think Larry Summers is more wrong than right. But more on that anon. Definitely worth reading.

This is the "anon":

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Three Conservatives on Why Charles Murray's Ideas Are Bankupt in the Academic Intellectual Marketplace

Inferno Dante and Virgil among the evil counsellors and Flickr

I have never understood why "conservatives" like Niall Ferguson think that cross-burner Charles Murray is a good standard bearer for their ideas in a university setting. Is it their explicit and deliberate aim to generate counterdemonstrations and further reinforce the link between conservative ideas and white ethnicism in America today? Do they really think that yoking appeals to racial animosity, immutable "racial" differences in intelligence, and white ethnicism to their cause is a winner?

Niall Ferguson won't claim that the immutable-racial-differences arguments in Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve get it right. He will only claim that: "the sheer scale of the discussion that Murray’s work has generated would seem to argue for its importance, regardless of whether one ends up agreeing with him..." In academic speech ideas are not merely presented but evaluated. Cross-burner Murray's ideas have been evaluated by, among others, the impeccably conservative Thomas Sowell, James Heckman, and Glenn Loury. Wouldn't a proper Cardinal Conversation aimed at elevating the debate have featured one of these non-cross-burning conservatives? They would have said something like:

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June 3, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Him Now: Outsourced to Matthew Yglesias: "Though unusually juvenile in its phrasing, the underlying sentiment is typical of what I've called the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics—the conservative conceit that willpower is the crucial variable in making our national security policy work..."

  • Felix Salmon Says Bear Stearns—Except for Its CEO—Was Smarter than Lehman Brothers: Felix Salmon: "During a credit crunch, when you're stuck with illiquid assets, you can't hedge them.... Just as short positions in CDO equity tranches turned out to be a really bad hedge for long positions in super-senior tranches, short positions in broad credit indices are not a great hedge for specific loans which have turned sour. Ironically, it was Bear Stearns who had at least some people, led by mortgage head Tom Marano, who understood this. They knew that the big risk to the firm was chaos in the financial markets, so they put on a 'chaos trade' which would make lots of money in such an event, and very broadly hedge the risks the bank faced. But CEO Alan Schwartz, in a fateful decision, reversed that trade..."

  • Hoisted from Archives: David Stockman and William Greider: Brett Ellingson asks for background on William Greider and David Stockman.... William Greider.... "Stockman's... greatest sin, however, was telling the truth, albeit belatedly...." But there was no truth-telling exercise.... Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush knew that Reagan's fiscal policies didn't add up: he and his people coined the phrase "voodoo economics." Republican Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker knew that Reagan's plan made no sense: he called it a "riverboat gamble," meaning an imprudent and unwise throw of the dice...

  • Barack Obama: Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Final Primary Night: Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008: St. Paul, Minnesota: As Prepared for Delivery

  • New York Times Death Spiral Watch: David Brooks Edition: DAVID BROOKS: "Obama‘s problem is he doesn‘t seem like a guy who can go into an Applebee‘s salad bar... "C&Ler Mitzi.... "I called my Applebee’s today to make sure I was correct and they do not have a salad bar.... None of their restaurants have a salad bar. David, sometimes the jokes write themselves. What an idiot..."

June 2, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • DeLong Smackdown Watch (Edward Luttwak/Clark Hoyt/David Shipley/Greg Mankiw)_: It tells us—both the handling of Luttwak's and the handling of Mankiw's piece tell us—that the New York Times editors don't think that they have a responsibility to try as hard as they can to carry out their trusted-intermediary function.... I can't think of a reason to keep the organization around...

  • The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear of Inflation Fear, or Something Like That: Paul Krugman: "This time around there’s no wage-price spiral in sight.... And since there isn’t a wage-price spiral, we don’t need higher interest rates.... When the surge in commodity prices levels off... inflation will subside on its own..."

  • The Magic Asterisk: Lessons from the Master, David Stockman, on Fiscal Policy Republican Style: William Greider's ethics suck. They always have. In 1981 he allowed his people to write and his bosses to print stories on the front page of the Washington Post that he knew were false. But he writes well...

  • Robert Samuelson Edition): Mark Thoma on Robert Samuelson: Economist's View: "His Readers are Now Dumber for His Efforts". Matthew Yglesias makes the same catch: "Knowledge Not Required: One might think one would have to know what one was talking about to write an op-ed for The Washington Post but of course if that were the case then Robert Samuelson would be unemployed..."

June 1, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • Greg Mankiw's Marginal Educational Product Is Negative: No. An UNFUNDED tax cut is not the best simple recipe for promoting long-run growth in American living standards. It is the best simple recipe for promoting long-term decline in American living standards.... Unknown, uncertain future taxes in the long run plus the medium-run costs of carrying the debt until those taxes are levied—they are almost surely a significant net drag on the economy. McCain has no plan to fund the corporate tax cut.... Some editor should have held this up. Some editor should have called Mankiw and said: "Greg, you have written a piece that analyzes McCain's corporate tax cut as if its revenue loss is offset by an equal contemporaraneous revenue gain elsewhere in the system--as if McCain is proposing a funded tax cut. But he isn't. He is proposing an unfunded tax cut. What gives?"...

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May 30, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

May 29, 2008: Ten Years Ago on Grasping Reality

  • The Harvard Crimson Writes...: "Would you be free either tomorrow or Friday for an interview? If so, what time would work best for you?" I reply: Don't know what I can say that I haven't already said.... I had a very good time as a Harvard undergraduate because I found a niche in it—Social Studies—that functioned like a small liberal arts college and because I very quickly found my way as a sophomore into the graduate economics classes (which I had the math to handle). But many others I know did not,... There is an enormous disproportion between resource inputs and educational outputs. This is a place where the ethos of the senior Arts and Sciences faculty—well, I remember one dinner at one New England college, where a political science professor just back from a semester visiting Harvard said that his first week there Harvey Mansfield had stopped by, looked into his office, and said: "You should close your door. If you don't, undergraduates may wander in"...

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New York Times "Suck on This!" Day: Hoisted from the Archives

Suck on This! Day: Duncan Black has commanded us to spend tomorrow celebrating our great good fortune in having geniuses like Thomas Friedman shaping our foreign policy thinking, and wonderful newspapers like the New York Times to publish them. Here's Duncan:

The... anniversary of Tom Friedman going on Charlie Rose and telling the world that the Iraq war was fought to tell Iraqis to "Suck On This"... because we could! I hope some of you will find your own creative ways to celebrate this most special of days.

Friedman: I think it [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie.... We needed to go over there, basically, um, and um, uh, take out a very big state right in the heart of that world and burst that [terrorism] bubble, and there was only one way to do it.... What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?" You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This. Okay. That Charlie was what this war was about. We could've hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could...


Will Someone Please Tell Me Why William Saletan Gets Paid to Not Do His Homework?: Monday Smackdown


Ah. Someone who wishes me ill informs me that William Saletan has surfaced, but cannot tell his own story straight: William Saletan (2018): Stop talking about race and IQ. Take it from someone who did: "A person with a taste for puncturing taboos learns about racial gaps in IQ scores and the idea that they might be genetic...

...He writes or speaks about it, credulously or unreflectively. Every part of his argument is attacked: the validity of IQ, the claim that it’s substantially heritable, and the idea that races can be biologically distinguished. The offender is denounced as racist when he thinks he’s just defending science against political correctness. I know what it’s like to be this person because, 11 years ago, I was that person.... Here’s my advice: You can talk about the genetics of race. You can talk about the genetics of intelligence. But stop implying they’re the same thing. Connecting intelligence to race adds nothing useful. It overextends the science you’re defending, and it engulfs the whole debate in moral flames...

What William Saletan does not say is: "Not only did I write credulously and unreflectively about claimed genetic racial gaps in IQ scores, but I did an incompetent and zero-assed job of doing my research. Why? Because I have insufficient work ethic, I am not very good at my job, I wanted to believe, I wanted to 'puncture taboos', and I thought trying to make African-Americans feel smaller was kinda fun."

Am I wrong? Anybody want to push back on whether Saletan does his homework? Anybody have anything from William Saletan worth reading to bring forward?

Let's turn the mike over to the not unintelligent Cosma Shalizi:

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Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality: May 22, 2008

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CFP Panel on the Transparent Society: David Brin's Book Ten Years Later: Hoisted Ten Years Later

Panopticon Google Search

It is now 20 years since David Brin wrote The Transparent Society. Book holds up very well, all things considering: CFP Panel on the Transparent Society: David Brin's Book Ten Years Later: Michael Froomkin:

The Transparent Society Ten Years Later : This year marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of David Brin's controversial book, "The Transparent Society". The book argues that in the face of the explosion of sensors, cheap storage, and cheap data processing we should adopt strategies of vision over concealment. A world in which not just transactional information, but essentially all information about us will be collected, stored, and sorted is, Brin says, inevitable. The only issue left to be decided is who will have access to this information; he argues that freedom, and even some privacy, are more likely to flourish if everybody - not just elites - has access to this flood of data. The book remains controversial and much-talked-about. The panel will explore how Brin's claims hold up ten years later and whether (or how far) we're on the road to a Transparent Society.

Here is my presentation:

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Alma Mater Blogging...: Hoisted from the Archives from Ten Years Ago...


"How is Harvard like socialist Yugoslavia, comrade?" "I do not know: how is Harvard like socialist Yugoslavia, comrade?" "Like socialist Yugoslavia, the value of the outputs is less than the value of the input, comrade."

: Alma Mater Blogging...: Greg Mankiw's desire to move Harvard to someplace better adapted to human life than Massachusetts was triggered by:

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Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality: May 21, 2008

  • Jared Diamond on Easter Island's Collapse: Needless to say, most societies—or at least most societies that we are aware of because they hang around for long enough to leave stone, pottery, or papyrus trails—do not behave this way. They evolve a social institution called private property to give individuals both control over scarce and exhaustible resources and an incentive to ensure wise and balanced extraction and careful and efficient use. It appears that the Easter Island people somehow failed to do so...

  • Warranted Stock Market Valuations and the Price-Earnings Equation Once Again: It can be shown http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2007/05/a_teaching_note.html that the "right" way to value the stock market is with the price-earnings equation: P = E/[r - (1/θ - 1)ρ]. Here: (1) E are the earnings—the sustainable permanent cyclically-adjusted and correctly accounted for Haig-Simons earnings—paid on the index, (2) r is the appropriate real rate at which to discount cash flows of the riskiness of the stock market, (3) θ is the payout ratio of dividends to earnings, and (4) ρ is the wedge (which may be positive or negative) between the appropriate external real interest rate r and the internal rate of return the firm can earn on its reinvested earnings. If we are willing to assume that ρ is close to zero, than this equation is approximately: P/E = 1/r. The price-to-permanent earnings ratio is one divided by the market's expected discount rate. It's just worth pointing out that whenever the stock market is at valuation ratios that Gongloff and company consider "normal" then equities are an absolutely amazing deal relative to all kinds of bonds...

"We Always Thanked Robert Lucas for Giving Us a... Monopoly" Over Valuable Macroeconomics: Smackdown/Hoisted

Clowns (ICP)

Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from the Archives (August 2015): "We Always Thanked Robert Lucas for Giving Us a... Monopoly" Over Valuable Macroeconomics: The extremely sharp Paul Romer gets something, I think, very very wrong...

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Ten Years Ago at Grasping Reality: May 20, 2008

  • Bloomberg San Francisco Bureau at Pier 3: It is amazing what you can do with an old cargo terminal/wearhouse built out over San Francisco Bay... with a few coats of paint... and some hardwood flooring... and more miles of gigabit ethernet cabling than I have ever seen in my life... and teh scuba divers to lay the foundations for the elevators...