Over at Equitable Growth: Kenneth Rogoff: Inequality, Immigration, and Hypocrisy: "Europe’s migration crisis exposes a fundamental flaw, if not towering hypocrisy, in the ongoing debate about economic inequality...
And Kenneth Rogoff fakes right:
Wouldn’t a true progressive support equal opportunity for all people on the planet, rather than just for those of us lucky enough to have been born and raised in rich countries? READ MOAR
J. Bradford DeLong on May 20, 2015 at 03:00 PM in Economics: Growth, Economics: Inequality, Economics: Macro, Moral Responsibility, Philosophy: Moral, Political Economy, Politics, Streams: Economics, Streams: Equitable Growth, Streams: Highlighted, Twentieth Century Economic History | Permalink | Comments (16)
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Over at Equitable Growth Paul Romer inquired why I did not endorse his following Krusell and Smith (2014) in characterizing Piketty and Piketty and Zucman as a canonical example of what Romer calls "mathiness". Indeed, I think that, instead, it is Krusell and Smith (2014) that suffers from "mathiness"--people not in control of their models deploying algebra untethered to the real world in a manner that approaches gibberish.
I wrote about this last summer, several times: READ MOAR
Across the Wide Missouri: Ceasefire Oregon: "Congratulations and thank you!!...
...SB 941, Expanded Background Checks, was just signed into law! The Oregon House of Representatives passed SB 941 on May 4. The Oregon Senate passed it last month. And Governor Kate Brown just signed the bill into law!
Over at Equitable Growth: I see that over on the Twitter machine Noah Smith is engaging Paul Romer, in an attempt to get Paul to elucidate his "Mathiness" paper. I think Noah Smith misunderstands Paul Romer.
As I see it, Paul Romer believes that George Stigler laid down the methodological principal that one should always assume perfect competition in one's microfoundations, and in so doing Stigler was acting as an ideologue rather than a technocrat, and that this is harmful.
It seems to me that Paul is more right than wrong.
Over at Equitable Growth]1 Today's best piece I have read on the internet is by the extremely sharp John Quiggin:
John Quiggin: The Last Gasp of (US) [Left-]Neoliberalism: "US neoliberalism is... closer to Blair’s Third Way than to Thatcher....
...[US] neoliberalism maintained and even extended ‘social liberalism’, in the US sense of support for equal marriage, reproductive choice and so on. In economic terms, its central claim was that the goals of the New Deal... could best be pursued through market-friendly policies that would earn the support of the financial sector.... [The] signature issues for US neoliberals were free trade, cuts in ‘entitlement’ spending, and school reform... a ‘grand bargain’, in which Republicans would accept minimal increases in taxation in return for the abandonment of most of the Democratic program. The Clinton administration was explicitly neoliberal.... And, while Obama’s 2008 election campaign was masterfully ambiguous, his first Administration neoliberal through and through.... But developments since then, including the global financial crisis, the failure of school reform and increasing awareness of entrenched inequality have destroyed the appeal of neoliberalism...
I think that John Quiggin is largely correct--if you correct "abandonment" to "reconfiguration". READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth: Paul Krugman digs in in defense of old economic thinking: behavioral finance to explain bubbles, money illusion plus anchoring to explain wage and price inertia, and then the three-commodity--outside money, bonds, and currently-produced goods and services--temporary-equilibrium model of Hicks and Metzler to provide the backbone of a useful macroeconomics:
...here when he says:
There are still a number of self-professed Keynesian bloggers out there who see the world through the lens of 1950s theory...
And it’s true!... Farmer wants us to think in terms of models with: READ MOAR*
Over at Equitable Growth: The trouble that is the King v. Burwell case arises because of one sub-sub-section of the law which says "established by the state" rather than "established in the state" or "established for the state". The purpose of "established by the state" in its context:
...the monthly premiums for such month for 1 or more qualified health plans offered in the individual market within a State which cover the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, or any dependent (as defined in section 152) of the taxpayer and which were enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State under 1311... READ MOAR
UPDATE: Oh, excellent! Here is the transcript.
Heather Boushey and Larry Summers posted their prepared thoughts for last week's Brookings-Okumn event. They are very good, and are well worth reading. The others--Wessel, Mankiw, Kearney, Wolfers--alas, did not. I am told that they were very good in the panel discussion. But where am I going to find the hour and a half to listen to it? And there appears to be no transcript. Serious bummer.
Over at Equitable Growth: Mark Thoma directs us to Paul Romer. And Paul Romer gets remarkably exercised about George Stigler's long and successful war against the use of the theory of monopolistic competition in economics, with its consequence that even today we have "scientifically unacceptable" people who say:
We will never, as a matter of principle, consider a model in which there are ever any monopolies. We will dogmatically stick only to models of price-taking competition...
From my perspective it is not the contemporary implications of this train of thought for growth theory that are important--for as best I can tell there are people who write growth models where every market has price-taking competition but there is nobody outside who reads them--but rather the historical implications of this train of thought for industrial organization, antitrust, and the rise of the rent seeking sector in the American economy.
I eagerly want to read and hope to see more work in this area. READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth: I find myself perseverating over the awful macroeconomic policy record of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government of the past five years in Britain, and the unconvincing excuses of those who claim that the austerity policies it implemented were not a disaster--and that the austerity policies it ran on would not have come close to or actually broken the back of the economy.
Leaving to one side the fact that it is ludicrous that a depression that originates in overbuilding in the desert between Los Angeles and Albuquerque and overleverage in New York has a larger impact shock on the UK than on the US: READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth: A good review by Jonathan Knee of the exteremely-sharp Richard Thaler's truly excellent new book, Misbehaving. The intellectual evolution of the Chicago School is very interesting indeed. Back in 1950 Milton Friedman would argue that economists should reason as if people were rational optimizers as long as such reasoning produce predictions about economic variables--prices and quantities--that fit the the data. He left to one side the consideration even if the prices and quantities were right the assessments of societal well-being would be wrong. READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth: From last week:
The "free trade because Adam Smith comparative advantage BAM" stuff has got to stop! http://t.co/c5q1Oxkvf7— Noah Smith (@Noahpinion) April 25, 2015
Alma Mater Blogging: Greg Mankiw's desire to move Harvard to someplace better adapted to human life than Massachusetts was triggered by:
Greg Mankiw's Blog: Time for Harvard to Move?: The Wall Street Journal reports one of the most pernicious ideas I have heard of late:
Massachusetts legislators, demonstrating a growing resentment against the wealth of elite universities in tight economic times, are studying a plan to levy a 2.5% annual tax on the portion of college endowments that exceed $1 billion. The effort takes aim at one of the primary economic engines of the state...
Over at Equitable Growth: Back in 1959 Arthur Burns, lifelong senior Republican policymaker, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Eisenhower, good friend of and White House Counselor to President Nixon, and Chair of the Federal Reserve from 1970 to 1978 gave the presidential address to the American Economic Association. In it, he concluded that the United States and a lot of choices to make as far as its future economic institutions and economic policies were concerned. And, he said:
These... choices will have to be made by the people of the United States; and economists--far more than any other group--will in the end help to make them...
That's you. "Economists", that is. And I am glad to be here, because I am glad that you are joining us. For we--all of us in America--need you. Arthur Burns was right: you are better-positioned than any other group to help us make the right choices, at the level of the world and of the country as a whole, but also at the level of the state, the city, the business, the school district, the NGO seeking to figure out how to spend its limited resources--whatever. READ MOAR
J. Bradford DeLong on May 04, 2015 at 04:46 PM in Economics: History, Economics: Macro, Political Economy, Streams: Economics, Streams: Equitable Growth, Streams: Highlighted, Streams: The Honest Broker, Streams: Today's Economic History, Twentieth Century Economic History | Permalink | Comments (2)
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Over at Equitable Growth: I have never gotten it straight whether Vladimir Lenin actually did say: "The worse, the better." But Eduardo Porter does!:
The bloated incarceration rates and rock-bottom life expectancy, the unraveling families and the stagnant college graduation rates amount to an existential threat to the nation’s future. That is, perhaps, the best reason for hope. The silver lining in these dismal, if abstract, statistics, is that they portend such a dysfunctional future that our broken political system might finally be forced to come together to prevent it.
Talk about grasping at straws... READ MOAR
There is no point in including entire John Holbo posts in Weekend Reading--Crooked Timber (unlike most of the rest of the online world) is highly unlikely to suffer from linkrot, and those who want to read his posts at their Holbonian length can do so over there. But there is a need for a Shorter John Holbo.
Me? I see five political dimensions as one tries to maneuver through the weeds:
(with none of any of the poles being entirely bad--or entirely good, for that matter). The Nazis thus tended to be: militarist nationalist hierarchical authoritarian communicatarian, except for the Strasser-Roehm bunch who tended to be militarist nationalist egalitarian authoritarian communitarian. (And someone like Jonah Goldberg would tend to be militarist nationalist hierarchical authoritarian individualistic.)
Shorter John Holbo:
J. Bradford DeLong on May 03, 2015 at 11:34 AM in History, Moral Responsibility, Philosophy: Moral, Political Economy, Politics, Sorting: DeLong: Academic CV, Streams: Cycle, Streams: Highlighted, Streams: Today's Economic History, Twentieth Century Economic History | Permalink | Comments (3)
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Sokrates: Internet Media and the Fall of GigaOm
Adeimantos: What? Are you now intellectually flirting with both Hinduism and techno-transhumanism?
Felix Salmon: I told you so. If I may quote myself:
Over at Project Syndicate: For the past twenty-five years those of my elders whom I regard as the barons of policy-relevant academic macroeconomics--at least the reality-based and sane barons--have been asking themselves fundamental questions. The first question was whether the business-cycle pattern of the post-World War II generation of full employment, a bias toward moderate inflation, and rapid growth had in fact come to an end. The second question was how best to think about the business cycle after the end of the post-WWII era's "Thirty Glorious Years." READ MOAR
...[They say that because] the FOMC's projections of economic growth have been too high... monetary policy is not working and efforts to use it to support the recovery should be discontinued. It's generous of the WSJ writers to note... that 'economic forecasting isn't easy.' They should know, since the Journal has been forecasting a breakout in inflation and a collapse in the dollar at least since 2006, when the FOMC decided not to raise the federal funds rate above 5-1/4 percent.... READ MOAR
...It's generous of the WSJ writers to note... that 'economic forecasting isn't easy.' They should know, since the Journal has been forecasting a breakout in inflation and a collapse in the dollar at least since 2006, when the FOMC decided not to raise the federal funds rate above 5-1/4 percent.... They fail to note... unemployment, which has fallen more quickly than anticipated.... The relatively rapid decline in unemployment in recent years shows that the critical objective of putting people back to work is being met...
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. NO! NO!!!! READ MOAR
Francis Fukuyama (2006): After Neoconservatism: "How did the neoconservatives end up overreaching to such an extent that they risk undermining their own goals?...
He gets himself tangled up in knots because he bends over not just backward but completely upside down to provide a sympathetic view of the Neoconservatist impulse.
I have always had a much more jaundiced view:
Over at Equitable Growth: The extremely-sharp Dean Baker writes:
E.J. Dionne and Harold Meyerson... interesting columns... suffer from the same major error.... The loss of manufacturing jobs and downward pressure on the wages of non-college educated workers... as... the result of a natural process of globalization. This is wrong. The downward pressure on wages was the deliberate outcome of government policies designed to put U.S. manufacturing workers in direct competition with low-paid workers in the developing world. This was a conscious choice. Our trade deals could have been designed to put our doctors and lawyers in direct competition with much lower paid professionals in the developing world. READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth: Nick Bunker is out of the gate with his take on the surprisingly low 0.2%/year first-quarter US real GDP growth rate:
...during the recovery, we should be standing by the alarms but not quite sounding them yet. Personal consumption expenditures... contributed 1.31 percentage points... a deceleration.... Net exports were the biggest drag... 1.25 percentage points... a dramatic decrease in the level of exports.... Gross fixed investment was also a drag... shaving off 0.4 percentage points.... READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth The advocates for the TPP and TATIP should be making the following points:
Those are the arguments that should be made--if they can--to command general support for the TPP and the TATIP.
But, as Dean Baker points out, those are not the arguments that are being made: READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth: As I say, repeatedly: everything that Ken Rogoff writes is very interesting, nd almost everything is correct.
This part of Ken Rogoff's piece appears to me to be very much on the wrong track:
small changes in the market perception of tail risks can lead both to significantly lower real risk-free interest rates and a higher equity premium.... Martin Weitzman has espoused a different variant of the same idea.... Those who would argue that even a very mediocre project is worth doing when interest rates are low.... It is highly superficial and dangerous to argue that debt is basically free. READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth: Ken Rogoff--of whom my standard line is: everything he says is very interesting, and almost everything he says is completely correct--is weighing in: on secular stagnation, the global savings glut, the safe-asset shortage, the balance-sheet recession, whatever you want to call it. His view is that excessive debt issue and overleverage are at the roots of most of our problems. He thus believes that our difficulties will end when deleverage has reduced the overhang of risky and underwater debt to a sustainable level: READ MOAR
Across the Wide Missouri: Does George Packer really think the purpose of American politics is to thrill him?
...The author, Nate Cohn, concluded, ‘It will be fun to watch.’ That was when he lost me.... The 2016 campaign doesn’t seem like fun to me.... If this is any kind of fun, it’s the kind of fun I associate with reading about seventeenth-century French execution methods, or watching a YouTube video of a fight between a python and an alligator. Fun in small doses, as long as you’re not too close....
Over at Equitable Growth: Before fees, the performance of Ken Griffin's Citadel is almost surely above the market's risk/return line. After fees and since 2007, I doubt it. After fees, investors in Ken Griffin's Citadel hedge fund appear have lagged the S&P500's 6%/year nominal return since its peak in 2007. And it is not as though Griffin is selling a greater degree of safety than the S&P500 offers: Citadel came very, very close to blowing up in 2008, and the most I can say is that I do not know what its true beta is. READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth: Trying to get the issues straight in my mind here...
>firstname.lastname@example.org: Dear Mr. Delong: I hope this note finds you well. In light of recent activity in Congress related to the Trade Promotion Authority legislation, I write to invite you to join an off-the-record conference call with XXXXXX senior staff for an update on the current state of play. The call is scheduled for today, Tuesday, April 21 at 3:45 p.m. ET
Dear Mr. White:
Thank you very much for your invitation. I will try. I will have to move a couple of things--and I am not the most important person involved in them...
But if you want to know where my concerns are, let me start by quoting something that I wrote before http://www.bradford-delong.com/2015/03/the-debate-over-the-trans-pacific-partnership.html: READ MOAR
Over at Equitable Growth:: How is it that people can think that an excess supply of money can show up as an excess demand for financial assets--and thus produce large losses on leveraged portfolios and thus a financial crisis when it unwinds--without also showing up as an excess demand for currently-produced goods and services--and thus as inflation? That is the question that perplexes Paul Krugman as he tries to decode the thought of John Taylor and the BIS financial-stabilistas. It perplexes me too:
Over at Equitable Growth: This is what Ben Friedman wrote about in the late 1970s:
...Chapter 4, on business investment... weak... [because of] a special problem of lack of business confidence, driven by fiscal worries, failure to make needed structural reforms, and maybe even careless rhetoric... [or] weak because the economy is weak[?]... The IMF comes down strongly for the second view....
But wait, there’s more.... To deal with... reverse causation... it looks for episodes of weak growth... clearly caused by... fiscal consolidation... [and] manages in passing both to refute a very widely held but false belief... that government deficits necessarily ‘crowd out’ investment, so that reducing deficits should free up funds that lead to higher investment. Not so, says the IMF: when governments introduce deficit-reduction measures, investment falls instead of rising. This says that the deficits were crowding investment in, not out... empirical confirmation of the existence of the paradox of thrift! Remarkable stuff. Someone tell Wolfgang Schäuble. READ MOAR
On Robert A. Heinlein (1964):
So the banker is the son of a bitch in the deal--Or is he, now? Bankers never handle their own money to any important extent; they are custodians of other people’s money. If the banker thinks that it is a bad deal in the long run [because of discrimination], is it not his solemn duty to his stockholders and his depositors to refuse it? No matter how it offends the “human rights” of purple people eaters? Is he morally justified in hypothecating other people’s money in a deal which he considers risky--whether the risk be on that one piece of paper, or long-term risk for his whole crazy structure of loans and futures and so forth? I say he is not; he is a steward and must behave as one--not as a social reformer. Are you and I entitled to a backseat veto over his judgment? No, it ain’t our money. So far, I think, no argument--You, the banker, and the subdivider are each morally entitled to turn down the purple people eater...
And me on Twitter via Storify:
Over at Equitable Growth: In the Oil Patch, probably yes--lost demand from the failure to expand Medicaid is likely to push them over the edge and into recession. Elsewhere it will be close, but probably not:
...is leaving red states poorer and sicker.... King v. Burwell.... If the Supreme Court rules for the plaintiffs, those states, including Arizona, will lose their subsidies. That would be a disaster for those states. As Sarah Kliff writes: READ MOAR
Thank you for a wonderful talk. A comment, and a question:
The comment: I have long had a bone to pick with Amy Finkelstein and company and their Oregon Medicaid study. They use “significant” in two different ways in their paper. Improvements in blood pressure and in blood sugar levels in their study were not statistically significant. Not a lot of people in the sample had high blood pressure or high blood sugar, and so the drops seen were not big enough to be confident in a statistical sense that they were not just the luck fo the draw. But the drops in blood pressure and in blood sugar levels were in line with what we expect to follow from prescribing first line lisinopril and metphormin to those who need them, and those drops are clinically significant. I’ve been trying to get them to say that the improvements in the physical health indicators they found were clinically but not statistically significant — but without conspicuous success. READ MOAR
It could have turned out very differently.
It could have been that the money-center universal banks did understand their derivatives books. It could have been that, after the financial crisis, trust in financial intermediaries would rebuild itself quickly. It could have been that the North Atlantic's central banks would have been able to nail market expectations to a rapid return to normalcy, thus providing cash holders with powerful incentives to spend. It could even have been the case that fiscal expansion would have proven ineffective. It was Karl Smith who pointed out to me that in the guts of even the IS-LM model, fiscal policy expands
I+G private spending [satisfied, RJW?] by reducing the perceived average riskiness of and thus getting households to hold more. In the model it is guaranteed that a sovereign that issues more debt thereby necessarily reduces the perceived riskiness of average debt. In the world not. READ MOAR
Take the mechanics of demand stabilization and management off the table. Move, in our imagination at least, into a world in which short-term safe nominal interest rates rarely if ever hit the zero nominal bound. In that world, as a result, the full employment and price stability stabilization-policy mission could be left to central banks and monetary policy. Furthermore, confine our thinking to the North Atlantic, possibly plus Japan.
It seems to me then that there are four big remaining questions:
Can, in a political-economy sense, central banks be trusted with this mission? Are they not captured, to too great an extent, by the commercial-banking sector that, myopically, favors higher nominal interest rates to directly improve bank cash flows and indirectly dampen inflation and so redistribute wealth to nominal creditors--like banks?
What is the proper size of the twenty-first century public sector?
What is the proper size of the public debt for (a) countries that do possess exorbitant privilege because they do issue reserve currencies, and (b) countries that do not?
What are the real risks associated with the public debt in the context of historically-low present and anticipated future interest rates?
It could have turned out very differently.
It could have been--as those of us who more-or-less hooted Raghu Rajan down at Jackson Hole in August 2005 wrongly thought—-that the money-center universal banks did understand their derivatives books; that asset-price innovation variances did drift up or down with time relatively slowly; that the weak point in the global economy in the mid 2000s was the global imbalance of the US trade deficit, and the possibility that some large bad actor had been selling unhedged dollar puts on a very large scale--not the subprime mortgages on houses built in the desert between Los Angeles and Albuquerque, and the use of securities based on those subprime mortgages as core banking reserves. READ MOAR
Paul Krugman endorses Hillary Rodham Clinton--or, rather, endorses the Democratic Party and her as its overwhelmingly-likely standard bearer:
...read significance into what she says or doesn’t say about President Obama, endless thumb-sucking.... Please pay no attention. Personality-based political analysis is always a dubious venture.... Pundits are terrible judges.... We were assured that George W. Bush was a nice, affable fellow who would pursue moderate, bipartisan policies.... There has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less.... Each party is quite unified on major policy issues--and these unified positions are very far from each other....
...which none of us can deny is the outstanding conundrum of today. We all agreed that, whatever the best remedy may be, we must reject all those alleged remedies that consist, in effect, in getting rid of the plenty. It may be true, for various reasons, that as the potential plenty increases, the problem of getting the fruits of it distributed to the great body of consumers will present increasing difficulties. But it is to the analysis and solution of these difficulties that we must direct our minds.