David Frum: Don't Knock the Reform Conservatives: "Sam Tanenhaus profiled a group of self-described "reform conservatives"...
...in respectful praise. The art director went even further: The magazine photographed 11 of the profiled people in an 18th-century hall, crumpled papers at their feet, an homage to J.L.G. Ferris’s well-known painting of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence...
But... but... but... of the 11 people only six--Levin (mentioned in 19 paragraphs), R. Ponnuru (10), A. Ponnuru (4), Strain (2), Wehner (2), and O'Beirne (1)--are mentioned by Tanenhaus at all in the article. It's not a profile of a group, of an intellectual movement. Frum wishes it were--I wish it were. But it isn't.
...eighty miles south of Rome... founded in 529 by St. Benedict of Nursia.... Generations of scribes labored in the abbey’s library to copy texts and preserve artifacts.... From November, 1943, to May, 1944, the hill on which the abbey stood was at the center of one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the Second World War. Monte Cassino was a crucial part of the Gustav Line... ‘fortress strength.’... The Allied command, believing that the Germans were using the abbey as a garrison and ammunition dump, made the controversial decision to bomb Monte Cassino. On February 15, 1944, American B-17s, B-25s, and B-26s dropped more than four hundred tons of explosives on the monastery....
Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in. This Monday internet space is supposed to be for:
Self-improvement, correcting errors that I have made and raising to the front of consciousness smart alternatives to my views that my previous visualization of the Cosmic All had not given proper weight; and
In the process, maybe giving the spotlight to smart people who are not widely enough read.
But things keep happening.
Today we have Dianne Furchgott-Roth and James Pethokoukis, Dianne Furchgott-Roth, and Michael Strain. They really do have to decide to what degree they are going to try to maintain a toehold in the reality-based community, or simply give themselves over to total 100% hackdom:
Dear Mr. President:
I have received your letter of October 25.(1) From your letter, I got the feeling that you have some understanding of the situation which has developed and a sense of responsibility. I value this.
Now we have already publicly exchanged our evaluations of the events around Cuba and each of us has set forth his explanation and his understanding of these events. Consequently, I would think that, apparently, a continuation of an exchange of opinions at such a distance, even in the form of secret letters, will hardly add anything to that which one side has already said to the other.
...with Hillary Clinton as the presumptive nominee. An article that explained why and how a candidate could be preferable would be useful. Alas, Doug Henwood’s Harper‘s cover story is not that article. Some of the problems are conveyed even in the intro that isn’t behind the paywall:
As a follow up to Politico's embrace of BP, a correspondent reminds me of Politico from two years ago. Scott Lemieux does the garbage cleanup:
I’ve Had Enough Of You Water-Drinking, Air-Breathing Urban Elitists: [M]y favorite part of the Politico’s war on Nate Silver. As others have pointed out, [Dylan Byers's] botched hack cliche is comedy gold:
For this reason and others--and this may shock the coffee-drinking NPR types of Seattle, San Francisco and Madison, Wis.--more than a few political pundits and reporters, including some of his own colleagues, believe Silver is highly overrated.
Look, I knew those snooty elitists in Seattle and San Francisco looked down on me and my kind, but now you tell me that they drink coffee? No real American would ever be caught dead consuming this obscure product. I tell you, every election cycle it becomes harder to be a regular American. White wine, Lipton Green Tea, orange juice, Grey Poupon, coffee--every day you discover some product that my relatives in rural Saskatchewan would always have in their pantry that marks you as an out-of-touch urban elitist in the eyes of D.C.-based Ivy Leaguers.
Hoisted from the Archives from Four Years Ago:
Nevertheless, Jeremy Siegel and Jeremy Schwartz think that we are in a bond bubble:
Thursday, October 23, 2014
1:00 - 2: 30 p.m. ET
Economic Policy Institute
1333 H St., NW
Washington, DC 20005
A correspondent reminds me of this from a couple of years ago, that I now hoist from the archives:
Hoisted from the Archives:
Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?
This is really embarrassing, New York Times: really, really embarrassing:
The first joke comes in Casey Mulligan's first paragraph: the Fed does not lend money to banks on an overnight basis at the Federal Funds Rate. The Fed lends money to banks at an interest rate called the Discount Rate. The Federal Funds rate is the rate at which banks lend their Federal Funds--the deposits they have at the Federal Reserve--to each other. That's why it is called the Federal Funds rate.
The second joke comes in the second paragraph. Hansen and Singleton (1983) is 'new research'?
The third joke is the entire third paragraph: since the long government bond rate is made up of the sum of (a) an average of present and future short-term rates and (b) term and risk premia, if Federal Reserve policy affects short rates then--unless you want to throw every single vestige of efficient markets overboard and argue that there are huge profit opportunities left on the table by financiers in the bond market--Federal Reserve policy affects long rates as well. Note the use of the weasel word 'largely'.
The New York Times badly needs to clean house here.
There are lots of economists who would love to write for the New York Times for free, and who know the difference between the Federal Funds Rate and the Discount Rate:
Yes, I am happy that I am able to postpone reading further in chapter 11 of David Graeber's Debt: My First 5000 Mistakes for another week...
Amity Shlaes: What triggered Krugman’s pulling some kind of imagined rank on Asness was that Asness, along with me and others, signed a letter a few years ago suggesting that Fed policy might be off, and that inflation might result. Well, inflation hasn’t come on a big scale, apparently. Or not yet. Still, a lot of us remain comfortable with that letter, since we figure someone in the world ought always to warn about the possibility of inflation. Even if what the Fed is doing is not inflationary, the arbitrary fashion in which our central bank responds to markets betrays a lack of concern about inflation. And that behavior by monetary authorities is enough to make markets expect inflation in future...
I will react by asking, to the air, one and only one four-part question:
Consider whether one should line up with Amity Shlaes--along with William Kristol, Niall Ferguson, James Grant, David Malpass, Dan Señor, and the rest of that motley company--against Ben Bernanke. Suppose that one has no special expertise on the issue. Suppose that Ben Bernanke has studied that issue for his entire adult life.
Wouldn't anybody with a functioning neural network greater than that of a moderately-intelligent cephalopod recognize that such a lining-up was an intellectual strategy with a large negative prospective α?
Wouldn't--after the intellectual strategy's large negative-α returns have been realized--anybody with a functioning neural network equal to that of a moderately-intelligent cephalopod recognize that it was time to perform a Bayesian updating on one's beliefs, rather than doubling down and claiming that: it's not over--the inflationary pressures are building minute-by-minute?
Wouldn't--when thinking about how to double-down on one's negative-α intellectual strategy, and placing even more of one's mental and reputational chips on the claim that expanding and keeping the Federal Reserve's balance sheet beyond $1.5T generates excessive and dangerous risks of inflation, and that any such expansion ought to be stopped and reversed--anybody with a functioning neural network even less than that of a moderately-intelligent cephalopod recognize that phrasing one's doubling-down in the voice of John Belushi on a very bad day would be unwise, would be likely to call forth mockery and scorn on the same rhetorical level that one had chosen, and would make one a figure of fun and merriment?
And, when the readily-predictable tit-for-tat responses at the rhetorical level one chose do in predictable and due course manage to arrive, that to respond by whinging and sniveling and feeling offense would be unwarranted--would demonstrate only that whatever functioning neural network one does have was not fully connected to reality?
Responding to Krugman is as productive as smacking a skunk with a tennis racket.... Let's not be fooled by chicanery (silly Paul, you are no Rabbit).... An honest Paul Krugman (we will use this term again below but this is something called a "counter-factual").... Also remember, much like when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, nothing is over yet. The Fed has not undone its extraordinary loose monetary policy and is just now stopping its direct QE purchases.... Paul, and others, should by now know the folly of declaring victory too early....
This isn't a screed where I claim to have invented my own consumption basket showing inflation is rising at 25% per annum - though some of those screeds are interesting.... We have indeed observed tremendous inflation in asset prices.... If one counts asset inflation it seems we've indeed had tremendous inflation.... Where effects did show up, it actually caused rather a lot of inflation....
Mostly Paul is wrong, and twisting the facts, and doing so as rudely and crassly as possible, yet again. The rest of the JV team of Keynesians who have also jumped on board are doing the same thing, just with more class and less entertainment value than the master.... Paul will continue to be mostly wrong, mostly dishonest about it, incredibly rude, and in a crass class by himself (admittedly I attempt these heights sometimes but sadly fall far short). That is a prediction I'm willing to make over any horizon, offering considerable odds, and with no sneaky forecasts of merely 'heightened risks'. Any takers?
....For sixty years, he was one of my closest friends. My debt to him, both personal and professional, is beyond measure. Despite deep sadness at his death, I cannot recall him without a smile rising to my lips. He was as quick of wit as of mind. His wit always had a point, and was never mean or nasty — though some of the objects of his wit no doubt felt its sting. His occasional humorous articles — such as “The History of Truth in Teaching” — have become classics and demonstrate that had he chosen to become a professional humorist rather than a professional economist, he would have achieved no less fame in the one field than he did in the other. His death has left the world a far less joyful place for Rose and me, as for so many others.
...and thank you all for joining us here today. This is a special day for us at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, especially at the Helena Branch. Dave Solberg, a member of the Branch’s board of directors, will complete his service at the end of this year. I would like to extend my personal thanks to Dave for his service to the Helena Branch and, more broadly, to the Federal Reserve. The time that our directors, and members of our advisory councils, devote to their work is truly valuable. Dave and his colleagues bring important insights about the economy from people on Main Street and on farms and ranches across the region. As I have said many times, we have no end of data at the Federal Reserve, but data are backward-looking, and we need all the information we can get to make judgments about the future course of the economy. So thanks again to Dave and to his colleagues on the board, as well as anyone else in the room who has served on a Federal Reserve board or council. We appreciate your service.
...is compatible with values rooted in our nation's history, among them the high value Americans have traditionally placed on equality of opportunity.... To the extent that opportunity itself is enhanced by access to economic resources, inequality of outcomes can exacerbate inequality of opportunity, thereby perpetuating a trend of increasing inequality.... Society faces difficult questions of how best to fairly and justly promote equal opportunity. My purpose today is not to provide answers to these contentious questions, but rather to provide a factual basis for further discussion.... I will review trends... then identify and discuss four sources of economic opportunity in America.... The first two are widely recognized as important sources of opportunity: resources available for children and affordable higher education. The second two may come as more of a surprise: business ownership and inheritances.... In focusing on these four building blocks, I do not mean to suggest that they account for all economic opportunity, but I do believe they are all significant sources of opportunity for individuals and their families to improve their economic circumstances...
Over at Equitable Growth: I am very happy to be here this morning to introduce the Oregon Economic Forum's Keynote Speaker, Doug Elliott of the Brookings Institution, and to set the stage for his talk.
To do that, let me ask all of you to cast yourselves back to 2006, to the end of Alan Greenspan's long tenure as Chair of the Federal Reserve, and to the days of what was then called the "Great Moderation". During Greenspan's term starting in 1987 the unemployment rate had never gone above 7.8% and it had gotten as low as 3.8%. The attainment of low unemployment under Greenspan did not signal any forthcoming inflationary spiral: The peak 12-mo PCE price index core inflation rate during Greenspan's tenure was 4.7%. The peak inflation rate that followed that 3.8% unemployment rate was 2.4%. Inflation had not been above 2.5% since December 1993. READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth: God! We were (and are) so smart!
J. Bradford DeLong and Lawrence H. Summers (1992): Macroeconomic Policy and Long-Run Growth:
On almost any theory of why inflation is costly, reducing inflation from 10%/year to 5%/year is likely to be much more beneficial than reducing it from 5%/year to 0%/year. So austerity encounters diminishing returns. And there are potentially important benefits of a policy of low positive inflation. It makes room for real interest rates to be negative at times, and for relative wages to adjust without the need for nominal wage declines....
These arguments gain further weight when one considers the recent context of monetary policy in the United States. A large easing of monetary policy, as measured by interest rates, moderated but did not fully counteract the forces generating the recession that began in 1990. The relaxation of monetary policy seen over the past three years in the United States would have been arithmetically impossible had inflation and nominal interest rates both been 3%-points lower in 1989. Thus a more vigorous policy of reducing inflation to 0%/year in the mid-1980s might have led to a recent recession much more severe than we have in fact seen...
If the past 24 hours... the past six months... the past six years... are not convincing evidence that a 2%/year inflation target is too low, what would be convincing evidence to that effect?
Plus Bonus Hoisted from the Archives:
A 2%/Year Inflation Target Is too Low: First, the live question is not whether the Federal Reserve should raise its target inflation rate above 2% per year.
The live question is whether the Federal Reserve should raise its target inflation rate to 2% per year.
On Wednesday afternoon, Federal Reserve Chair Bernanke stated that he was unwilling to undertake more stimulative policies because "it is not clear we can get substantial improvements in payrolls without some additional inflation risks." But the PCE deflator ex-food and energy has not seen a 2% per year growth rate since late 2008: over the past four quarters it has only grown at 0.9%. At a 3.5% real GDP growth rate, unemployment is still likely to be at 8.4% at the end of 2011 and 8.0% at the end of 2012--neither of them levels of unemployment that would put any upward pressure at all on wage inflation. It thus looks like 1% is the new 2%: on current Federal Reserve policy, we are looking forward to a likely 1% core inflation rate for at least another year, and more likely three. A Federal Reserve that was now targeting a 2% per year inflation rate would be aggressively upping the ante on its stimulative policies right now. That is not what the Federal Reserve is doing. Would that we had a 2% per year inflation target.
But if we were targeting a 2% inflation rate--which we are not--should we be targeting a higher rate? I believe that the answer is yes.
To explain why, let me take a detour back to the early nineteenth century and to the first generations of economists--people like John Stuart Mill who were the very first to study in the industrial business cycle in the context of the 1825 crash of the British canal boom and the subsequent recession. John Stuart Mill noted the cause of slack capacity, excess inventories, and high unemployment: in the aftermath of the crash, households and businesses wished to materially increase their holdings of safe and liquid financial assets. The flip side of their plans to do so--their excess demand for safe and liquid financial assets--was a shortage of demand for currently-produced goods and services. And the consequence was high unemployment, excess capacity, and recession,.
Once the root problem is pointed out, the cure is easy. The market is short of safe and liquid financial assets? A lack of confidence and trust means that private sector entities cannot themselves create safe and liquid financial assets for businesses and households to hold? Then the government ought to stabilize the economy by supplying the financial assets the market wants and that the private sector cannot create. A properly-neutral monetary policy thus requires that the government buy bonds to inject safe and liquid financial assets--what we call "money"--into the economy.
All this is Monetarism 101. Or perhaps it is just Monetarism 1. We reach Advanced Macroeconomics when the short-term nominal interest rate hits zero. When it does, the government cannot inject extra safe and liquid money into the economy through standard open-market operations: a three-month Treasury bond and cash are both zero-yield government liabilities, and buying one for the other has no effect on the economy-wide stock of safety and liquidity. When the short-term nominal interest rate hits zero, the government has done all it can through conventional monetary policy to fix the cause of the recession. The economy is then in a "liquidity trap."
Now this is not to say that the government is powerless. It can buy risky and long-term loans for cash, it can guarantee private-sector liabilities. But doing so takes risk onto the government's books that does not properly belong there. Fiscal policy, too, has possibilities but also dangers.
My great uncle Phil from Marblehead Massachusetts used to talk about a question on a sailing safety examination he once took: "What should you do if you are caught on a lee shore in a hurricane?" The correct answer was: "You never get caught on a lee shore in a hurricane!" The answer to the question of what you should do when conventional monetary policy is tapped out and you are at the zero interest rate nominal bound is that you should never get in such a situation in the first place.
How can you minimize the chances that an economy gets caught at the zero nominal bound where short-term Treasury bonds and cash are perfect substitutes and conventional open-market operations have no effects? The obvious answer is to have a little bit of inflation in the system: not enough to derange the price mechanism, but enough to elevate nominal interest rates in normal times, so that monetary policy has plenty of elbow room to take the steps it needs to take to create macroeconomic stability when recession threatens. We want "creeping inflation."
How much creeping inflation do we want? We used to think that about 2% per year was enough. But in the past generation major economies have twice gotten themselves stranded on the rocks of the zero nominal bound while pursuing 2% per year inflation targets. First Japan in the 1990s, and now the United States today, have found themselves on the lee shore in the hurricane.
That strongly suggests to me that a 2% per year inflation target is too low. Two macroeconomic disasters in two decades is too many.
Jo Walton: After Paris: Meta, Irony, Narrative, Frames, and The Princess Bride: [Steven] Brust is definitely writing genre fantasy...
...and he knows what it is, and he is writing it with me as his imagined reader, so that’s great. And he’s always playing with narrative conventions and with ways of telling stories, within the heart of genre fantasy--Teckla is structured as a laundry list, and he constantly plays with narrators, to the point where the Paarfi books have a narrator who addresses the gentle reader directly, and he does all this within the frame of the secondary world fantasy and makes it work admirably.
Conor Dougherty: Two Cities With Blazing Internet Speed Search for a Killer App: "Google Fiber in Kansas City Residents in the Missouri city are finding out that Google’s super high-speed Internet is so fast...
...it’s sometimes hard to know what to do with it. A team of computer programmers here set out to learn how many cute kitten photos can be downloaded in one second on their Internet network, one of the fastest in the country. The answer: 612.... When your city has Internet capacity to spare and is not exactly a hotbed for tech start-ups, figuring out what you are supposed to do with all that speed is a challenge.... fter a few million in waived permit fees and granting Google free access to public land, the area is finding out that Google Fiber is so fast, it’s hard to know what to do with it. There aren’t really any applications that fully take advantage of Fiber’s speed, at least not for ordinary people....
Ideas have ranged from installing Fiber-connected cameras in high-crime areas to building a model home where entrepreneurs could test new kinds of Internet-connected appliances. The Kansas City Public Library is experimenting with a software-lending service that will let residents use high-speed Internet to “check out” expensive and data-heavy programs like video editing software. One company tinkered with a service that would allow families to lease data storage in their homes.... The average connection speed in the United States is about 10 megabits per second, good for 14th in the world....
Economically speaking, the biggest benefit may end up being the way fiber has energized the local start-ups.... Programmers have made a sport out of trying to slow Google Fiber down by using online video games and other data-heavy applications to perform the digital equivalent of turning on every faucet in the house at once: Hence, the “Too Many Kittens for Broadband” experiment, part of a hack-a-thon sponsored last year by the KC Digital Drive...
Robert Waldmann saves me from having to read further in David Graeber's Debt: The First Five-Thousand Mistakes this Monday morning:
On unemployment-rate mean-reversion:
...Your analysis is notably different from Paul Krugman's analysis of private sector employment.
This is not odd--notoriousl,y unemployment has returned to normal partly through a decline in labor force participation. But wait, he says this recovery is a lot like the last recovery.
The difference is that you impose the assumption that everything before 2008 was the same. In contrast, Krugman argues (and argued in 2008) that financial crisis recessions are different from inflation fighting recessions. Spring 91 through (at least) Spring 93 saw the "jobless recovery". In 1993 you were attempting to understand why things were different pre- and post-1991. The 2001 mini-recession was followed by recovery with declining employment--the "job-loss recovery". At the time, you wrote something was going very wrong with the US labor market. Now there is a desperate need for jobs and you don't see a pattern in jobless, job loss, and job lust.
Daniel Davies: The World Is Squared--Episode 3: The Greek Calends--A Disquisition on the Nature of Debt: "What is debt?...
...It’s a promise to pay back a specific amount of money at a specific time. Why is it so popular--why do people always seem to end up getting into it? Why, for example, don’t people make more equity investments, buying a share of someone else’s profits and sharing their risks in the way in which Islamic banking is meant to operate?
Daniel Davies again:
Daniel Davies: D-squared Digest -- FOR bigger pies and shorter hours and AGAINST more or less everything else: The D-Squared Digest One Minute MBA - Avoiding Projects Pursued By Morons 101: "Literally people have been asking me...
..."How is it that you were so amazingly prescient about Iraq? Why is it that you were right about everything at precisely the same moment when we were wrong?" No honestly, they have. I'd love to show you the emails I've received, there were dozens of them, honest. Honest. Anyway, I note that "errors of prewar planning" is now pretty much a mainstream stylised fact, so I suspect that it might make some small contribution to the commonweal if I were to explain how it was that I was able to spot so early that this dog wasn't going to hunt. I will struggle manfully with the savage burden of boasting, self-aggrandisement and ego-stroking that this will necessarily involve. It's been done before, although admittedly by a madman in the process of dying of syphilis of the brain.
Sorry, where was I?
Jo Walton: After Paris: Meta, Irony, Narrative, Frames, and The Princess Bride: "I am not the intended audience for William Goldman’s The Princess Bride....
I think Goldman wanted to write something like a children’s book with the thrills of a children’s book, but for adults. Many writers have an imaginary reader, and I think Goldman’s imaginary reader for The Princess Bride was a cynic who normally reads John Updike, and a lot of what Goldman is doing in the way he wrote the book is trying to woo that reader. So, with that reader in mind, he wrote it with a very interesting frame. And when he came to make it into a movie, he wrote it with a different and also interesting frame. I might be a long way from Goldman’s imagined reader, but I am the real reader. I love it....
Now that's more like it, internet!
You all are going to have to wait at least a week more for my to continue my death-march close reading of chapter 11 of David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Mistakes--a chapter which I think whose bankruptcy goes well beyond chapter 11 into chapter 7.
For today we have Paul Krugman:
Paul Krugman: Bill Grosses, Idealized and Actually Existing: "Brad DeLong tries at some length to rationalize Bill Gross’s insistence in 2011 that interest rates were about to spike...
...But while it’s nice to be charitable, to attempt to put the best face on someone else’s arguments, it’s also important to look at the argument someone was actually making. And the reasoning of Gross and others was much cruder and a lot more foolish than Brad acknowledges.... Gross wasn’t arguing that rates would rise sharply once people understood that the economy would normalize.... He was arguing that rates were being suppressed right now by the Fed’s purchases of Treasuries, and would spike as soon as those purchases ended.... Not only did it ignore the fundamental reasons rates tended to stay low in a deleveraging world, not only did it overestimate the impact of QE, but it also assumed that the rate of Fed purchases--the flow of QE--was what mattered, when sensible people argued that the stock of assets the Fed held mattered. I wrote all about this at the time. If you find it hard to believe that such a smart guy could make such a poor argument, well, that’s the world we’re living in.
YHWH: Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
...late, just ending a dream about how you run into Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger at the Pilot Travel Center truckstop on I-29 in Council Bluffs. They then buy you beer for two hours and tell you everything they know about how asset pricing works in the real world. When you wake up, you hasten to write it all down. But because you woke up late you have to rush to the gym, and by the time gym finishes it's all gone...
Hopefully not an omen for the weekend...
The University of California Press has put out a new edition of Charles Kindleberger's World in Depression early next year.
J Bradford DeLong and Barry J. Eichengreen: New preface to Charles Kindleberger,* The World in Depression 1929-1939*:
The parallels between Europe in the 1930s and Europe today are stark, striking, and increasingly frightening. We see unemployment, youth unemployment especially, soaring to unprecedented heights. Financial instability and distress are widespread. There is growing political support for extremist parties of the far left and right.
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.
From earlier this month: the incomparable Doktor Zoom:
Doktor Zoom: Mitch McConnell’s Campaign Manager Quits To Spend More Time With His (Alleged) Bribe Money: "Looks like Senate Minority Leader and Supreme Chelonian Overlord Mitch McConnell...
...is going to have to find himself a new campaign manager after the sudden resignation of Jesse Benton, who will now have more time to hold his nose and wait for Rand Paul to snap him up for 2016.
It might be a long wait, what with the guilty plea last week by Ken Sorenson, a former Iowa state senator who admitted taking bribes to switch his endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul shortly before the Iowa caucuses in 2012. What the what? How is bribery in the Iowa caucuses two years ago connected to Yertle’s Senate hopes? Let us connect ye olde dots for you!...
During the past two weeks the drought of high-quality DeLong smackdowns on the internet has resumed. So it is time to turn back to the promise I made myself on April Fools Day 2013, and see whether the rest of the chapters of David Graeber's Debt: The First Five Thousand Mistakes are of as low quality as the utterly bolixed up chapter 12.
As you will recall, David Graeber is infamous for:
Apple Computers is a famous example: it was founded by (mostly Republican) computer engineers who broke from IBM in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, forming little democratic circles of twenty to forty people with their laptops in each other's garages...
and for having, concurrently and subsequently, offered three different explanations of how this howler came to be written and published:
He has claimed that it it all perfectly true, just not of Apple but of other companies (none of which he has ever named).
He has claimed that he had been misled by Richard Wolff, who taught him about Silicon Valley's communal garage laptop circles of the 1980s.
He has claimed that what he had written was coherent and accurate, but that (for some unexplained reason) his editor and publisher had bolixed it all up.
This passage is, in the words of the very sharp LizardBreath:
The Thirteenth Chime... that make[s] me wonder whether any fact in the book I don't know for certain to be true can be trusted...
And things have gone downhill from there...
Nieman Storyboard: "In what might be the only performance of Texas stand-up comedy about narrative writing...
...Vanity Fair writer Bryan Burrough recently offered practical tips for long-form storytelling to a Mayborn Conference audience. Prior to his magazine career, Burrough spent several years reporting for The Wall Street Journal; he has also written five books, including Public Enemies and Barbarians at the Gate. In these excerpts from his talk, Burrough addresses the best transition word ever, presents his strategy for avoiding writer’s block, and reminds you that “your words are not nearly as great as you think they are.”
Charles Evans: Patience Is a Virtue When Normalizing Monetary Policy: "I would like to thank the Peterson Institute and Adam Posen...
...for organizing this conference focusing on labor market issues. The functioning of the labor market is always of great interest to both academics and policymakers. But today, with the collapse of labor demand during the Great Recession and ongoing structural changes, judging the health and future of labor markets is both especially challenging and important. The work presented at this conference and others like it offers an opportunity to integrate the most recent research with the thinking of policymakers. In keeping with this theme, I will first offer my views on the labor market and how the issues raised here influence my thinking on monetary policy, and I will then discuss my more general strategy for considering when and how we should begin to normalize monetary policy.
Paul Krugman: 'Seven Bad Ideas,' by Jeff Madrick: "The economics profession has not, to say the least...
...covered itself in glory these past six years. Hardly any economists predicted the 2008 crisis — and the handful who did tended to be people who also predicted crises that didn’t happen. More significant, many and arguably most economists were claiming, right up to the moment of collapse, that nothing like this could even happen.
Furthermore, once crisis struck economists seemed unable to agree on a response. They’d had 75 years since the Great Depression to figure out what to do if something similar happened again, but the profession was utterly divided when the moment of truth arrived.
Weekend Reading: Michael Berube (1996): Review of Dinesh D'Souza, "The End of Racism", Transition http://www.jstor.org/stable/2935241?
Strolling through the Detroit International Airport on my way to my parents' home in Virginia Beach, I came upon a newsstand-bookstore that was devoting eight or ten shelves of space-roughly one-quarter, I believe, of its "new bestsellers" wall-to Dinesh D'Souza's The End of Racism. I had heard a great deal about the book before it was published, and had just recently been asked (twice, actually) by the Chicago Tribune to re- view the thing. I declined, partly on the grounds that I've already read more D'Souza than any human should, having perused both Illiberal Education (1991) and his rarely mentioned first (and best) effort, Falwell: Before the Millennium (1984). That's the book where D'Souza writes:
listening to Falwell speak, one gets a sense that something is right about America, after all.
Kevin Drum: Bill Clinton Is Right: Storyline Reporting Has Poisoned the Political Press | Mother Jones: "The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza....
Put simply: Neither Hillary nor Bill Clinton likes the media or, increasingly, sees any positive use for them:
If a policymaker is a political leader and is covered primarily by the political press, there is a craving that borders on addictive to have a storyline
Bill Clinton said in a speech at Georgetown University back in April:
And then once people settle on the storyline, there is a craving that borders on blindness to shoehorn every fact, every development, every thing that happens into the story line, even if it’s not the story....
That's an interesting comment from Bill Clinton. Is it true? Well, check this out from the start of Cillizza's column:
I really hope that there is nothing here. Zalmay Khalilzad was the only member of the Bush Administration who struck me as likable, competent, realistic, and not-evil...
Associated Press: Khalilzad, ex-top US diplomat, in laundering probe: "Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations...
...under President George W. Bush, is being investigated by American authorities for suspected money laundering, Austrian officials said Monday. State prosecutor Thomas Vecsey confirmed a report in the Austrian weekly Profil about the investigation of Khalilzad, who played a key role in the political transition in Afghanistan after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion and the fall of the Taliban.
We are interrupting our DeLong Smackdown Watches (and other things to bring you news that International Economy is now in the running for the Washington Post for the title of publication that exercises the very least quality control--that takes the least care to make sure that the articles it publishes inform rather than mislead their readers.
Let's turn the mike over to Menzie Chinn:
Menzie Chinn: The Stupidest Paragraph in Perhaps the Stupidest Article Ever Published: Bruce Bartlett brought my attention to this article...
...which Mark Thoma mused was “The Stupidest Article Ever Published”. From "The Inflation Debt Scam", by Paul Craig Roberts, Dave Kranzler and John Williams[, in International Economy]:
Dean Baker: Influencing the Debate from Outside the Mainstream: Keep it Simple: "If people working outside of the mainstream of the profession are going to have any impact...
...on economic policy debates in the United States it is essential that they understand the forum in which the debate is taking place. This is not a contest of ideas where the best arguments and evidence win out. If we are talking about a debate within the economics profession, think of debating the morality of abortion with the pope in front of the College of Cardinals. That is pretty much what it is like to try to challenge any of the main precepts of economics within the economics profession.
New Economist writes:
New Economist: Has Barro solved the equity premium puzzle? : A new paper by Robert Barro to this year's Minnesota Workshop in Macroeconomic Theory attempts to answer the puzzle: Rare Events and the Equity Premium (PDF). Barro's paper builds upon a 1988 JME article by Thomas Rietz entitled "The equity premium: A solution" (sorry, no PDF available), which argued that the premium could be explained by infrequent but very large falls in consumption (i.e. wars, depressions or disasters), if the intertemporal elasticity of substitution of consumption is low.
**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?
Over at Equitable Growth: As best as I have been able to determine, the thinking among the executives and editors of the Washington Post who commissioned and published this piece back in September 2008 was roughly: "We need to publish an economy-is-actually-in-good-shape piece so that the McCain campaign and the Republicans won't be made at us". Whether the piece was true, whether the numbers quoted in it were accurate or representative, or even whether the author had a conceptually and analytically interesting perspective did not enter their thinking at all. For none of those conditions were satisfied.
I have been waiting ever since for somebody in the Washington Post to decide that they need to commission somebody to do a deep dive about how and why this piece got commissioned and published, and how they drifted so very very far away from the idea that a newspaper exists to inform its readers about the world.
I suppose I am going to have to keep waiting, and when the last piece of newsprint spins through the Washington Post presses and the last update is posted to the Washington Post servers, it will still not have dared to come clean with its readers about what went so wrong.
For your pleasure:
Donald Luskin (2008): Quit Doling Out That Bad-Economy Line | The Washington Post: "'It was the worst of times, and it was the worst of times'... READ MOAR
Daniel Kuehn administers the smackdown:
Daniel Kuehn: Facts & Other Stubborn Things: Kuehn Smackdown Watch: Bastiat Edition" "Brad DeLong thinks that Bastiat would be a modern liberal...
...(I had said the other day that he likely would be a libertarian but that Smith, Jefferson, Locke, Paine, etc. were classical liberals that would very plausibly be left-liberals today). I think he makes a good case. I've discussed many of the passages he presents to make the claim here, and I think they are important for libertarian fans of Bastiat especially to be aware of. And anyone that's followed the blog for a few years know that I think most modern invocations of the broken window are God-awful and that Bastiat's understanding of general equilibrium is far more sophisticated and closer to people like me or Krugman who make important distinctions between stocks and flows (wealth and income) in arbitrating the effects of, for example, a disaster.
I would only say this in my defense (because I still think he would be more of a libertarian, simply due to the center of gravity of his commentary): he would certainly be more of a libertarian in the vein of Hayek of the Constitution of Liberty or Law, Legislation, and Liberty than a libertarian like Bob Murphy (for example).
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 (???).