Live Multi Bit Rate Player (1:16 video from September 19, 2014)
Live Multi Bit Rate Player (1:16 video from September 19, 2014)
Over at the
Grauniad Guardian: Why is Thomas Piketty's 700-page book a bestseller? I like Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century a lot. It follows Larry Summers’s advice – which I have always thought wise--that the further ahead in time we want to forecast, the further back in time we should look. It deals with very big and important questions. It takes a broad moral-philosophical view, rather than a narrow technical-economist view. It combines history, quantitative estimation, social science theory, and a deep concern with societal welfare in a way that is too rare these days.
Andrew Flowers: Martin Wolf’s Grand Theory Of Global Financial Disorder: "As the saying goes (sort of)...
...They had a favorite hammer, so every problem looked like a nail. For Martin Wolf... his hammer is 'global imbalances'.... The Shifts and the Shocks: What We’ve Learned--and Have Still to Learn--from the Financial Crisis... is a great read... will be unsettling to anyone who thinks the financial system is any more stable.... Global imbalances are the patient zero of financial crises, according to Wolf. And Wolf has swung this hammer before.... Wolf does argue smartly for other reforms, but you get the feeling that global imbalances explain everything. Might financial regulation at the domestic level, or China’s investment-heavy mercantilist model, or the skewed incentives of corporate managers, or the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, or... any number of other factors also play a role? Perhaps.
Martin would say– correctly–the global imbalances have been an important part of every story in and by which things have gone badly wrong. Without global imbalances, either things would not have gone wrong or things would've gone wrong in a different, and probably less serious, Way.
That does not mean that there is any easy way to resolve global imbalances. Nevertheless, what Larry Summers said 15 years ago is still true: with global imbalances, they will be resolved, but they can be resolved in either of two ways--by balancing up, or bouncing down.
**Jo Walton: "In dialogue with his century":
I was getting a book off the shelf last night and I came eye to eye with the hardcover of Patterson's biography of Heinlein: Robert A Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century.
And I realised what a stupid title it is.
Especially for Heinlein, who seemed to write things that went straight from the nineteenth century to the future without pausing for the present:
Twentieth Century: Cars, planes, electricity!
Robert A. Heinlein: The nineteenth century is over! Soon we will be going to the stars!
Twentieth Century: The depression, WWII!
Robert A. Heinlein: To the stars! First we'll settle the solar system. Martians!
Twentieth Century: Cold War.
Robert A. Heinlein: Bomb shelters!
Twentieth Century: Boop, be doop, be doop, be doodle-ooo, boop, be boop, be boop, be doodle-ooo, boop, be doop, be doop, be doodle-eye-doo!
Robert A. Heinlein: The nineteenth century is over! Soon we can have sex with our mothers and our clones! Also, come on, hey, we haven't even got to the moon yet, and I want to have sex with Martians!
Twentieth Century: Apollo XI. Done with space now. Boop be doop be doop...
Robert A. Heinlein: The stars!
Twentieth Century: Computers!
Robert A Heinlein: The stars! Also, more hot competent red-heads, are you listening?
Twentieth Century: If one of us isn't listening, are you sure it's me?
Keith Humphreys: Weekend Film Recommendation: The Spy Who Came in From the Cold:
What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not! They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: little men, drunkards, queers, hen-pecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives.
So says disillusioned British secret agent Alec Leamas (Richard Burton) in perhaps the best effort to adapt a John le Carré novel to the big screen: 1965′s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. The serpentine plot concerns a burnt-out espionage agent who enters a downward spiral of booze, self-hatred and lost faith after a disastrous mission in Berlin. But then it turns out that Leamas’ decline and despair is a ruse (?) play-acted at the behest of his superiors. As planned, he is recruited by the other side and ends up trying to discredit East German intelligence head Hans-Dieter Mundt (A cold, effective Peter van Eyck). Leamas undermines the ex-Nazi by feeding false (??) information to Mundt’s ambitious, Jewish deputy (Oskar Werner, very strong here). It’s a difficult, high-risk mission, but Leamas knows that his boss back home is 100% behind him (???).
George Orwell: Confessions of a Book Reviewer: "In a cold but stuffy bed-sitting room...
...littered with cigarette ends and half-empty cups of tea, a man in a moth-eaten dressing-gown sits at a rickety table, trying to find room for his typewriter among the piles of dusty papers that surround it. He cannot throw the papers away because the wastepaper basket is already overflowing, and besides, somewhere among the unanswered letters and unpaid bills it is possible that there is a cheque for two guineas which he is nearly certain he forgot to pay into the bank. There are also letters with addresses which ought to be entered in his address book. He has lost his address book, and the thought of looking for it, or indeed of looking for anything, afflicts him with acute suicidal impulses.
At the start of summer I put a large pile of books on my desk. "I will write reviews of these this summer", I thought. "They all deserve to be reviewed, and it will be quick and easy to do".
Not going to happen.
I therefore declare book-review bankruptcy and formally and permanently disavow all intention of ever writing reviews of:
John Maynard Keynes (1926): The End of Laissez-Faire } "Panarchy - Panarchie - Panarchia - Panarquia - Παναρχία - 泛无政府主义: I The disposition towards public affairs...
...which we conveniently sum up as individualism and laissez-faire, drew its sustenance from many different rivulets of thought and springs of feeling. For more than a hundred years our philosophers ruled us because, by a miracle, they nearly all agreed or seem to agree on this one thing. We do not dance even yet to a new tune. But a change is in the air. We hear but indistinctly what were once the clearest and most distinguishable voices which have ever instructed political mankind. The orchestra of diverse instruments, the chorus of articulate sound, is receding at last into the distance.
Just as I finish writing up my office-hour thoughts on a framework for organizing one's thoughts on Friedrich A. von Hayek and twentieth century political economy, along comes the esteemed Lars P. Syll with a link to an excellent piece I had never read on the same thing by Equitable Growth's Fearless Leader:
Robert Solow (2012): Hayek, Friedman, and the Illusions of Conservative Economics "The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression By Angus Burgin (Harvard University Press, 303 pp., $29.95) JUST AS I WAS wondering how to start this review...
...along came the Sunday New York Times Magazine with a short article by Adam Davidson with the title “Made in Austria: Will Friedrich von Hayek be the Tea Party’s Karl Marx?” One Tea Party activist reported that his group’s goal is to fill Congress with Hayekians. This project is unlikely to go smoothly if the price of admission includes an extensive reading of Hayek’s writings. As Davidson remarks, some of Hayek’s ideas would not go down well at all with the American far right: among them is a willingness to entertain a national health care program, and even a state-provided basic income for the poor.
Graydon Saunders (2014): The March North
You will really, really, really like this thing if this is the kind of thing you like. I do...
"They're sending us a Rust, somebody who goes by Blossom, and Halt."
"Halt?" Twitch says the name again, emphasis different. Not supposed to be anything surprising in the monthly update. "What could we possibly have done to deserve Halt?" Twitch might be appalled.
"Five years in fifty means they've got to send Halt somewhere." Which is just true, not an explanation. Not when Independents don't serve with the Line--there's five centuries of custom back of that.
"West Wetcreek isn't somewhere. Even back in the day, Westcreek wasn't anywhere." Twitch was born here, says this like the laws of the universe are being changed. Twitch don't like it.
Buy it. Buy it now. Buy three and give two away...
Rick Perlstein: The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan
Very brief preview:
Rick Perlstein: "To me, Reagan’s brand of leadership was what I call 'a liturgy of absolution'....
...Who wouldn’t want that? But the consequences of that absolution are all around us today. The inability to contend with climate change. The inability to call elites to account who wrecked the economy in 2008. The inability to reckon with the times when we fall short.... When Samantha Power is chosen to be ambassador to the U.N.; she’d written a magazine article in 2003 in which she wrote American foreign policy needed a 'historical reckoning' for crimes 'committed or sponsored'. That’s the kind of reckoning we were having in the 1970s, with the Church committee. Marco Rubio brought this up in her confirmation hearing and asked her for examples of the crimes, and the response was that America is the greatest country in the world and has nothing to apologize for. So that’s where we’re at today.... He believed strongly that moderates had no place in the Republican Party.... Pundits then and now believed the problem for Republicans was an inability to broaden their base. Reagan always insisted on the opposite..."
Max Gladstone: Choice of the Deathless:
Battle demons and undead attorneys, and win souls to pay back your student loans! At the elite demonic-law firm of Varkath Nebuchadnezzar Stone, you'll depose a fallen god, find romance, and maybe even make partner, if you don't lose your own soul first.
"Choice of the Deathless" is a necromantic legal thriller by Max Gladstone, Campbell Award-nominated author of Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise. The game is entirely text-based--without graphics or sound effects--and powered by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination.
- Explore a fantasy realm with a rich and evolving backstory, based on the novels published by Tor Books.
- Play as male or female, gay or straight, dead or alive (or both).
- Build your career on carefully reasoned contracts, or party all night with the skeletal partners at your firm.
- Navigate intrigue and mystery in a world of scheming magicians and devious monsters.
- Look for love in at least some of the right places.
- Balance student loans, sleep, daily commute, rent payments, and demonic litigation—hey, nobody said being a wizard was always fun.
Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation is certainly the right place to start in thinking about "neoliberalism" and its global spread. But you are right to notice and do need to keep thinking that Polanyi is talking about pre-World War II classical liberalism, and that modern post-1980 neoliberalism is somewhat different.
First, as I, at least, see it, there are three strands of thought that together make up the current of ideas and policies that people call "neoliberalism":
Reading Francis Parkman's Montcalm and Wolfe and remembering one reason why I was so annoyed at Edward Said's Orientalism. The rhetorical moves that Said denounces as orientalist are made by Parkman, but they are not directed at Beijing or Delhi or Baghdad or Cairo: they are directed at Paris. Said never bothered to read deeply enough in the British literature on history and in the history of British political attitudes to realize that what he objected to was not specifically orientalist but rather British nationalist, with its core expression being: "No Popery or wooden shoes!"...
From John Maynard Keynes's 1926 pamphlet The End of Laissez-Faire13: "The economists... furnished the scientific doctrine...
by which the practical man could solve the contradiction between egoism and socialism which emerged out of the philosophising of the eighteenth century and the decay of revealed religion. But... I hasten to qualify it. This is what the economists are supposed to have said. No such doctrine is really to be found in the writings of the greatest authorities. It is what the popularisers and the vulgarisers said.... The language of the economists lent itself to the laissez-faire interpretation. But the popularity of the doctrine must be laid at the door of the political philosophers of the day, whom it happened to suit, rather than of the political economists.
Over at Equitable Growth: Chris Blattman: Links to Reviews of James Scott's "Seeing Like a State": "Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson...
World War I Reading List: Late Summer 2014:
As an emergency measure, given the continued shortage of high-quality DeLong smackdowns on the internet, on to the next Kindle screen of chapter 11 of David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Years:
This, too, is double-plus unhood, as Winston Smith might say...
Over at Equitable Growth: I confess that I do not understand the recent BIS Annual Report. I have tried--I have tried very hard--to wrap my mind around just what the BIS position is. But I have failed.
So let me try to lay out how I see it--where I think we are, and what I think the three live macroeconomic-policy positions are:
First, where we are:
We had in the late-1990s a high-pressure full-employment low-inflation tight-fiscal equilibrium. It was, however, unsustainable: based on exaggerated beliefs not about the utility but the profitability of companies based on the high-tech computer and communications technologies of the 1990s. When expectations adjusted to the reality of profitability, the high investment part of the 1990s boom went away, and the economy fell into the minor recession of the early 2000s. READ MOAR:
I have decided that "Thursday Idiocy" adds too much negativity to this blog. Besides: it depresses me. So I want to fold the negativity into the Monday Smackdowns, and use Thursday to blog from the future...
Here is something from 2114:
Consider twentieth-century American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein.
John L. Davidson sends us to Wikipedia: Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant - Wikipedia: "The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant is an autobiography...
...of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, focused mainly on his military career during the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War. Written as Grant was dying of cancer in 1885, the two-volume set was published by Mark Twain shortly after Grant's death. Twain created a unique marketing system designed to reach millions of veterans with a patriotic appeal just as Grant's death was being mourned. Ten thousand agents canvassed the North, following a script Twain had devised; many were themselves veterans who dressed in their old uniforms. They sold 350,000 two-volume sets at prices from $3.50 to $12 (depending on the binding). Each copy contained what looked like a handwritten note from Grant himself. In the end, Grant's widow Julia received about $450,000, suggesting a gross royalty before expenses of about 30%.
Adam Smith: Smith: Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter 8: "The liberal reward of labour...
...as it encourages the propagation, so it increases the industry of the common people.... A plentiful subsistence increases the bodily strength of the labourer, and the comfortable hope of bettering his condition, and of ending his days perhaps in ease and plenty, animates him to exert that strength to the utmost. Where wages are high, accordingly, we shall always find the workmen more active, diligent, and expeditious, than where they are low; in England, for example, than in Scotland; in the neighbourhood of great towns, than in remote country places. Some workmen, indeed, when they can earn in four days what will maintain them through the week, will be idle the other three. This, however, is by no means the case with the greater part.
Alfred Marshall (1885): Cambridge Inaugural Lecture: The Present Position of Economics "It is commonly said that those who set the tone of economic thought...
...in England in the earlier part of the century were theorists who neglected the study of fact, and that this was specially an English fault. Such a charge seems to be baseless. Most of them were practical man with a wide and direct personal knowledge of business affairs. They wrote economic histories that are in their way at least equal to anything that has been done since. They brought about the collection of statistics by public and private agencies and that admirable series of parliamentary inquiries, which have been a model for all other countries, and have inspired the modern German historic school with many of their best thoughts.
I remember that I found this, by Amartya Sen, totally convincing when I first read it 32 years ago. And I still find it totally convincing today:
Amartya Sen: Just Deserts: "This book... a collection of [P.T.] Bauer’s essays...
...gives an excellent account of his main theses on development policy and international relations. It also presents his approach to economic equality and inequality in general, and places his discussions of development against the background of some of the broadest issues of political economy.... I shall argue that Bauer’s approach—in spite of its power and appeal—is fundamentally flawed, and that his analysis cannot bear the weight of the conclusions that he rests on it.
The buzz from those who have read the Advance Readers' Copies of Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan is that it is truly superb--even better than his Goldwater book Before the Storm and his Richard Nixon book Nixonland...
The absence these days of what I regard as high-quality critiques of my writings on the internet poses me a substantial intellectual problem, since I have this space and this feature on my weblog: the DeLong Smackdown Watch.
So what should I do with it? Counter-smacking inadequate and erroneous smack downs is not terribly satisfying.
But there is one task from April Fool's Day 2013 left undone. Then I dealt with chapter 12 of David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Years in the manner that that chapter richly deserved to be dealt with. But nobody has taken an equivalent look at the earlier chapters.
So, henceforth, now, until and unless my critics step up their game, I'm going to devote the Monday DeLong Smackdown space to a close reading of chapter 11 of David Graeber's Debt: The First Five Thousand Years. Let's go!
Marisa Lingen has it 100% right on this.
I really do feel for the book's editor, David Hartwell, in trying to wrestle this thing. But he really should have changed his name to "Cordwainer Bird" for this project...
Marisa Lingen: Robert A. Heinlein In Dialogue With His Century: Vol. 2: The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988, by William H. Patterson, Jr.: "You would think that Robert Heinlein was a writer who could, if he chose...
...offend plenty of people all on his own without any help. But he has not been left to his own post mortem devices in this! Oh no! No, he has the assistance of William H. Patterson, Jr., to make sure that no stone is left unturned if it might have creeping, crawling things under it that represent stomach-turning levels of ignorance....
Oh, sorry, maybe I should start this review more straightforwardly: I did not like and do not recommend this book.
Let’s go with the paragraph that brought actual tears of rage to my eyes:
They [the Heinleins] had both fallen in love with the northern countries on their earlier trips, but Finland (which does not consider itself to be “Scandinavian”) was special even among them, with a national character of fierce resoluteness–sisu–that precisely suited their mood on this occasion. The Suomic “do what must be done” was the only attitude that a free people could possibly take, living next door to the Soviet Union. The Baltic states–Latvia, estonia, Lithuania–did not have it, and they had been eaten up by the USSR.
That last piece of toxically inaccurate drivel... is William Patterson slandering the people of the Baltic states–using Finland to do it, no less!–on his own hook. For fun. Because it suits his own political agenda.... William Patterson was an American of the Baby Boom generation who decided that what a biography of Robert Heinlein most needed–what people reading about Robert Heinlein most needed–was to have lies about these people just tossed into their reading material for giggles. Because, you know, most people who pick up biographies of mid-century science fiction writers read reams about the history of the Baltic region and can easily have this kind of blatant falsehood countered rather than lodged in the back of their brain as the truth about the people of this region. Most of my regular readers know that I am a serious Finnophile. I find it all the more offensive to have Finland used as a club on other countries that did not have the advantages of geography and political support. This is just wrong. I used up all my obscenities on this yesterday when I was reading, and believe me, I used many. Today I’m left drained. Today I can just say: this is so very wrong.
I wish that was only one thing. I wish that was the only time that the staggering arrogance of Patterson’s ignorance made itself known in this volume. But alas...
Jeet Heer has an excellent review of just why William Patterson's Heinlein biography is inadequate--with pointers as to how to do better:
Jeet Heer: William Patterson's Robert Heinlein Biography Is a Hagiography: "Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better...
...The science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein once described himself as “a preacher with no church.” More accurately, he was a preacher with too many churches.... a beacon for hippies and hawks, libertarians and authoritarians, and many other contending faiths—but rarely at the same time. While America became increasingly liberal, he became increasingly right wing, and it hobbled his once-formidable imagination. His career, as a new biography inadvertently proves, is a case study in the literary perils of political extremism.... Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)... a counter-culture Bible... equally beloved in military circles, especially for... Starship Troopers (1959), a gung-ho shout-out for organized belligerence... an ode to flogging (a practice the American Navy banned in 1861) and the execution of mentally disturbed criminals, yet Heinlein became a hero to libertarians... The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress....
I want my money back!
William Patterson: Robert A. Heinlein, Vol 2: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better: "Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964...
...had come to a vote just before the nominating conventions, and Goldwater had voted against it. Heinlein understood Goldwater was not voting against civil rights: He was voting against federal enforcement of civil rights... a matter for each state to do, individually, for itself... more importantly...a matter of the attitude of individuals, which could not be legislated....
Goldwater’s opinion was Constitutionally “correct.” The U.S. Constitution had not specifically delegated this kind of power to Congress or the Executive, and it did reserve to the states any powers not specifically delegated. Lyndon Johnson... used federal forces for the pragmatic reason that some states—George Wallace’s Alabama, for example—would not cede the rights of U.S. citizens unless coerced.... But it was an honorable disagreement over tactics, not over basic goals...
Erik Tarloff (1998), Face-Time (New York: Random House: 0609604635).
The most famous and talked about novel about the American White House in the 1990s was not Erik Tarloff's Face-Time: it was Joe Klein's Primary Colors. Klein's novel is about a presidential campaign--read 1992. It is about a young, naive, but competent and high-ranking aide--read George Stephanopolous. It is about the candidate's wife--read Hillary Rodham Clinton. And it is about a charismatic and intelligent presidential candidate with a past full of sexual and moral lapses--read Bill Clinton.
Robert Skidelsky: Book review: Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty: "The early 19th-century founders of the classical school of economics..
...reasoned that the distribution of a society’s income depended crucially on who owned its productive resources. David Ricardo identified three classes of producer, landlords, capitalists and workers. Each of these classes owned a factor of production—land, capital and labour. With land and capital scarce relative to labour, landlords and capitalists could claim a disproportionate share of the produce that they and the workers jointly produced. Workers’ pay would be forced to subsistence. Classical socialism, as Karl Marx conceived it, was a branch of this tree. Abolish private ownership of land and capital (and the power which this gave) and one would abolish the “rents” to their owners, enabling workers to receive their proper share of production.
Adam Smith: [An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations]: "In every thing except their foreign trade...
the liberty of the English colonists to manage their own affairs their own way, is complete. It is in every respect equal to that of their fellow-citizens at home, and is secured in the same manner, by an assembly of the representatives of the people, who claim the sole right of imposing taxes for the support of the colony government. The authority of this assembly overawes the executive power; and neither the meanest nor the most obnoxious colonist, as long as he obeys the law, has any thing to fear from the resentment, either of the governor, or of any other civil or military officer in the province.
The colony assemblies, though, like the house of commons in England, they are not always a very equal representation of the people, yet they approach more nearly to that character; and as the executive power either has not the means to corrupt them, or, on account of the support which it receives from the mother country, is not under the necessity of doing so, they are, perhaps, in general more influenced by the inclinations of their constituents. The councils, which, in the colony legislatures, correspond to the house of lords in Great Britain, are not composed of a hereditary nobility. In some of the colonies, as in three of the governments of New England, those councils are not appointed by the king, but chosen by the representatives of the people. In none of the English colonies is there any hereditary nobility. In all of them, indeed, as in all other free countries, the descendant of an old colony family is more respected than an upstart of equal merit and fortune; but he is only more respected, and he has no privileges by which he can be troublesome to his neighbours.
Before the commencement of the present disturbances, the colony assemblies had not only the legislative, but a part of the executive power. In Connecticut and Rhode Island, they elected the governor. In the other colonies, they appointed the revenue officers, who collected the taxes imposed by those respective assemblies, to whom those officers were immediately responsible. There is more equality, therefore, among the English colonists than among the inhabitants of the mother country. Their manners are more republican; and their governments, those of three of the provinces of New England in particular, have hitherto been more republican too...
Arthur Goldhammer: Translating Tocqueville: The Constraints of Classicism: "Nearly everyone will grant that Tocqueville’s Democracy in America...
... deserves to be called a “classic.” Does the work’s classic status constrain its translator? Should it? And if so how? These are the questions I want to address.
What is a “classic?” According to the Roman grammarian Aulus Gellius, the classical writer is one who is “not proletarian.” Classic thus has to do with class, with classification, with hierarchy, but the hierarchy in question is social, not literary or philosophical. The classic is a work by an author of rank. Le comte Alexis de Tocqueville certainly qualifies on that count. But this would be a rather literal reading.
I presume that the Piketty galleys have been lost in internal Berkeley mail hell for some months now...
Via Patrick Nielsen Hayden: Chip Delany: "Introduction" to Robert A. Heinlein: Glory Road: "What distresses one about the Heinlein argument in general...
when it is presented in narrative form, is that it so frequently takes the form of a gentlemanly assertion: 'Just suppose the situation around X (war, race; what-have-you) were P, Q, and R; now under those conditions, wouldn’t behavior Y be logical and justified?'--where behavior Y just happens to be an extreme version of the most conservative, if not fascistic, program. Our argument is never with the truth value of Heinlein’s syllogism: Yes, if P, Q, and R were the case, then behavior Y would be pragmatically justifiable. Our argument is rather with the premises: Since P, Q, and R are not the situation of the present world, why continually pick fictional situations, bolstered by science-fictional distortions, to justify behavior that is patently inappropriate for the real world?
Abigail Nussbaum goes someplace that I think her best possible self would not:
Abigail Nussbaum: Asking the Wrong Questions: The 2014 Hugo Awards: Thoughts on the Nominees: "I am nominated...
...in the Best Fan Writer category! I want to congratulate my fellow nominees, Liz Bourke, Kameron Hurley, Foz Meadows, and Mark Oshiro.... I also want to thank everyone who nominated me and encouraged others to.... It's terribly gratifying to receive this nomination, especially at the end of a nominating period in which so many wonderful, smart people said such lovely things about me and my writing....
Ryan Avent: Inequality: "Capital" and Its Discontents | The Economist: "Mr Piketty's magnum opus is certainly not without its weaknesses...
...but the quality of the criticism it has attracted provides a sense of the strength of the argument he makes. Consider Clive Crook....
There's a persistent tension between the limits of the data he presents and the grandiosity of the conclusions he draws.
The line doubles as a pleasingly apt description of Mr Crook's review. He is unhappy.... Why... doesn't Mr Piketty say that r must be significantly above g to generate the expected divergence, Mr Crook complains.... You don't even have to read hundreds of pages to get the qualification Mr Crook wants; you can start with the page on which r>g is first mentioned:
If, moreover, the rate of return on capital remains significantly above the growth rate for an extended period of time (which is more likely when the growth rate is low, though not automatic), then the risk of divergence in the distribution of wealth is very high....
If you only read the book's conclusion you could miss these details, but who would do that? Mr Crook then goes on to present his evidence:
The trouble is, he also shows that capital-to-output ratios in Britain and France in the 18th and 19th centuries, when r exceeded g by very wide margins, were stable, not rising inexorably....
Mr Piketty is not arguing that r>g means that rising inequality is inevitable. Indeed, that is close to the precise opposite of his argument, which is that r>g is a force for divergence.... If charts of stable capital-income ratios in the 19th century provided a devastating rebuttal to his story, Mr Piketty would not have included them so prominently.... I think he must have imagined that readers would look at the text around them as well....
Mr Crook rather uncharitably questions the motivations of those more taken with the book. He writes:
As I worked through the book, I became preoccupied with another gap: the one between the findings Piketty explains cautiously and statements such as, "The consequences for the long-term dynamics of the wealth distribution are potentially terrifying." Piketty's terror at rising inequality is an important data point for the reader. It has perhaps influenced his judgment and his tendentious reading of his own evidence. It could also explain why the book has been greeted with such erotic intensity....
It seems to me that Mr Crook has revealed more about his own priors than those of Mr Piketty's fans. "Terrifying" seems to me to be an accurate description of a society in which the top 10% of individuals own 90% of the wealth. Mr Crook scoffs.... That brings us to the most important of Mr Crook's criticisms: that it is living standards which actually matter.... Even if the book had nothing to say about growth, this would be an odd criticism.... What Mr Crook seems not to understand is that we also care about it because we care about living standards... high levels and concentrations of capital have not been a necessary or sufficient condition for rapid growth... have often sowed the seeds for political backlash... detrimental to long-run growth. His argument is that the living standards of many people around the rich world are now unnecessarily low, because of the nonchalance with which elites have approached distributional issues.... His argument is that economic growth that concentrates benefits on a small group of people will probably not be tolerated as fair, even if living standards among the masses are not completely stagnant.
It is an argument that is powerful and well-supported by the data—and extremely relevant today, whether or not one thinks inequality qualifies as the defining issue of the era. That, it seems to me, is why the book has been received as it has.
[Spoilers]. In Vernor Vinge (1999), A Deepness in the Sky (New York: Tor: 0812536355). On pp. 699-700, a brief paragraph completely reverses your understanding of the progress of the book's main plot:
Sherkaner Underhill didn't seem to notice. He moved his head back and forth under the [game] helmet's light show. 'There has to be reconnect. There has to be.' His hands twitched at the game controls. Seconds passed. 'It's all messed up now,' he sobbed."
When you finish that paragraph, your picture of what is going on in the story is turned upside down.
Please join the Economic Policy Institute and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth: "for a presentation by Thomas Piketty...
...economist from the Paris School of Economics and ground-breaking researcher on income inequality—of the findings in his new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
His presentation will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Heather Boushey, Executive Director and Chief Economist of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, with Josh Bivens, Research and Policy Director of the Economic Policy Institute, Robert M. Solow, Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Betsey Stevenson, Member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, serving as discussants.
When: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM (EDT)
Where: 1333 H St NW; Suite 300, East Tower; Washington, DC 20005...
Brad DeLong (2008) This Is Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality...: Do the Cossacks Work for the Czar?: There is an awful lot in this post by Timothy Burke: John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History. But let me, for now, focus on one issue and one issue only. Tim writes:
Easily Distracted » Blog Archive » One-A-Day: John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History: [I]n Zimbabwe... there is first a disconnect between what imperial leaders did and what actors on the colonial periphery did, and that the actions of the latter sometimes drove the former, and that decisions made at either (or both) levels often were internally contradictory, improvisational as well as pre-determined, based on fragmentary or patchwork kinds of knowledge, and frequently opaque to the actors themselves....
Economics 101 usually paints a highly stylized, unrealistic view of the world in which free markets always produce optimal outcomes.... Most people in the world who have taken any economics have only taken first-year economics, and so they never learned that, from a practical perspective, just about everything in Economics 101 is wrong. (Complete information? Rational actors? Perfectly competitive markets?) This produces a nation of people like Paul Ryan... journalists who repeat what Paul Ryan says, and ordinary people who nod their heads.... The problem is... the way it is taught to first-year students....
In Alfred Hitchcock's (1938) The Lady Vanishes], the moment when the train is stopped in the countryside by armed fascists is the moment of revelation and clarity: all becomes clear, the adversaries reveal themselves, and the proper action heroics can begin.
In Wes Anderson's (2014) The Grand Budapest Hotel, the first moment when the train is stopped in the countryside by armed authoritarians is one of suspense broken by comic-opera comedy. Just as the militia have determined that the young Zero Moustafa's papers are not in order are going to pull him off of the train and take him away to an unknown fate, it turns out that their leader--Captain Albert Henckels-Bergersdorfer--is the same Little Albert to whom Zero's patron M. Gustave was "very kind" when as a lonely little boy he stayed with his parents at the Grand Budapest Hotel in Nebelsbad, Zubrowka: READ MOAR
Dirk Hanson: Drowning in Light: "William D. Nordhaus calculated that the average citizen of Babylon would have had to work a total of 41 hours to buy enough lamp oil to equal a 75-watt light bulb burning for one hour.
At the time of the American Revolution, a colonial would have been able to purchase the same amount of light, in the form of candles, for about five hour’s worth of work. And by 1992, the average American, using compact fluorescents, could earn the same amount of light in less than one second. That sounds like a great deal.
who for the past few years has been working on a book about the origins of modern Russian corruption, focussing particularly on the links between the ex-KGB, business and organised crime in St Petersburg in the early 1990s. I’ve read the manuscript (provisionally sub-titled: "How, why and when did Putin decide to build a Kleptocratic and Authoritarian Regime in Russia and what is its Future?" Without giving away the specific sizzling scoops it contains, I can say I found it admirable: lucid, incisive and devastating. In the light of the news from Ukraine, and the resulting sanctions recently imposed on some of what America now officially calls Vladimir Putin's "cronies" (details here), it could hardly be more timely and important.
But Mrs Dawisha’s publisher has got cold feet. She has just received this letter (posted in full below) from Cambridge University Press, saying that the legal risk of publishing the book is too great:
: Letter from Niccolo Machiavelli to Francesco Vettori: "10 December 1513: Magnificent Ambassador: 'Never late were favors divine.'
I say this because I seemed to have lost--no, rather mislaid--your good will; you had not written to me for a long time, and I was wondering what the reason could be. And of all those that came into my mind I took little account, except of one only, when I feared that you had stopped writing because somebody had written to you that I was not a good guardian of your letters, and I knew that, except Filippo and Pagolo, nobody by my doing had seen them. I have found it again through your last letter of the twenty-third of the past month, from which I learn with pleasure how regularly and quietly you carry on this public office, and I encourage you to continue so, because he who gives up his own convenience for the convenience of others, only loses his own and from them gets no gratitude.