Alex Tabarrok: BS Jobs and BS Economics:
David Graeber’s peculiar article on bullshit jobs (noted earlier by Tyler) does have one redeeming feature, a great example of poor economic reasoning:
Alex Tabarrok: BS Jobs and BS Economics:
David Graeber’s peculiar article on bullshit jobs (noted earlier by Tyler) does have one redeeming feature, a great example of poor economic reasoning:
A subsidiary argument, which has… been used to justify some military interventions, notably the Vietnamese intervention in Kampuchea… is the argument that, whatever may be said against military intervention in most cases, it is defensible… in the case of particularly tyrannical and murderous regimes, for instance the regime of Idi Amin in Uganda and of Pol Pot in Kampuchea…. But attractive though the argument is, it is also dangerous. For who is to decide…?
UC Berkeley Labor Center: 50th Anniversary Celebration:
6:00 to 9:00 pm :: Berkeley Art Museum :: 2626 Bancroft Way
Moving a Proud History Forward
Barbara Lee, Joe Hansen, Marty Morgenstern, Julie Su, Ai-jen Poo, Lou Paulson, Anthony Thigpenn
In 542 AD the late Roman (early Byzantine?) Emperor Justinian I wrote to his Praetorian Prefect concerning the army. The army had been trained and equipped and paid for by the Roman State Justinian headed. It was intended to control the barbarians and to "increase the state." But Justinian was, Peter Sarris reports in his Economy and Society in the Age of Justinian, upset that:
certain individuals had been daring to draw away soldiers and foederati from their duties, occupying such troops entirely with their own private business.... The emperor... prohibit[ed] such individuals from drawing to themselves or diverting troops... having them in their household... on their property or estates.... [A]ny individual who, after thirty days, continues to employ soldiers to meet his private needs and does not return them to their units will face conﬁscation of property... "and those soldiers and oederati who remain in paramonar attendance upon them... will not only be deprived of their rank, but also undergo punishments up to and including capital punishment."
470 years ago, in 1543, King Henry VIII Tudor of England married his sixth and last wife, Katherine Parr. He also allied with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V Habsburg "of Ghent"; declared war on France; imposed the English administrative grid of counties, shires, boroughs, and House of Commons representatives on Wales; made yet another short-lived treaty with Scotland; burned the three Protestant Windsor Martyrs; and named the composer Thomas Tallis a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. A busy king, for one so sick and mad.
Heidegger and the Nazis: Two years earlier, on January 20, 1948, [Martin] Heidegger answered the letter of his former student, Herbert Marcuse, who had inquired why he had not yet spoken out about the Nazi terror and the murder of six million Jews. Heidegger responded by comparing the Holocaust to the Soviet Union's treatment of Germans in Eastern Europe:
Comments on Brad DeLong: Eugen Weber: The ups and downs of honor:
"It shows no sense of sportsmanship, no fair play, no chivalrous treatment of opponents" Been awhile since I read The Iliad -- and I know the prime target of this sentence was Roland, but the author levels the same claim at Homer -- but this is, well, not true. IIRC Books 7 and 8 both have instances of all of the above; the Big Name Heros perhaps not so much (they are mostly dicks anyway) but the sides agree to, e.g., declare a temporary truce to bury the dead, etc. Just sayin'.
No Libertarians in the Seventeenth-Century Highlands: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal: March 06, 2004: John and Belle Waring have been driven insane by reading a debate in Reason where Richard A. Epstein takes the role of the voice of practical reason and experience:
Peter Temin: Tribute to David S. Landes:
David Landes was… the author of masterful narratives written throughout the latter half of the twentieth century… the growth of technology, given a primary place in economic history by the importance of the Industrial Revolution and in economics by the pioneering work of Robert Solow… the role of entrepreneurs… the role of culture in economic affairs….
The lead book in the first area is The Unbound Prometheus… describes how the world economy was freed from the Malthusian constraint of static resources…. Landes supplied the evidence behind these broad generalizations in a riveting narrative of discoveries. He added a detailed case study to this general narrative in Revolution in Time, the history of innovation in the clock and watch industries….
Monday, September 16, 5:00pm CDT
University of Missouri
"Well, as Odysseos says to Kalypso, I must be going…"
"But you don't need Hermes to force us to release you…"
"And I haven't been weeping bitter tears for years, staring across the wine-dark sea at my homeland either…"
"I will not pretend that you will be sorry, and I will not say: 'Good luck go with you, but if you could only know how much suffering is in store for you before you get back to your own place, you would stay where you are…'"
"Nevertheless, I must be going."
…is in the Hotel Ukraina, on Kutuzovsky Prospekt on the bank of the Moscow River, across the river from Gazprom HQ and the Russian Federation's White House:
Francis Spufford (2010): Red Plenty (London: Faber and Faber).
In 1630 Ezekiel Richardson arrived in Massachusetts Bay from the West Country, one of John Winthrop's Puritans--this who crossed the Atlantic to worship God as they chose and to make others do the same. And Ezekiel begat, et cetera, and seven generations later in Pittsburg James C. Richardson espoused Laura Clifford, and in 1849 they came down the Phio and up the Mississippi to the banks of the wide Missouri River, and settled in St. Louis.
Cosma Shalizi: Cognition in the Wild:
All this is in the realm of technique; when it comes to theory, we are quite at a loss. We can see, in a rough, common-sensical way, what makes us better at running things than the Romans were, but we don't understand how either they or us pull off the trick at all. That is to say, we don't really have a good theory about how collective action and cognition work, when and why they do, how they can be made to work better, why they fail, what they can and cannot accomplish, and so forth. Intellectually, these are large, tempting problems; technologically, they have obvious relevance to the design of parallel and distributed computers; economically, they could mean real money, not just billions; and, in general, it'd be nice to know what it is we've gotten ourselves into.
The most important economic historian ever to teach at U.C. Berkeley died last month: my old teacher David S. Landes taught at Berkeley starting in 1958 until Harvard lured him away until 1964. From a student's perspective, he was ideal: he knew more than you did, was eager to share, could and did make everything interesting and entertaining, and--best of all--knew that his job was to help you learn how to think rather than to tell you what to write. Those of us who got to sit at his feet were lucky.
Those of you who did not can still be lucky. There are four books very much worth reading--in order, I would rank them as Dynasties, Bankers and Pashas, Revolution in Time, and The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. And there is a fifth book which is absolutely mind-blowing: The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present.
Florence Wyman Richardson Usher helped found the Equal Suffrage League of St. Louis in 1910. She chaired the League's lecture committee for six years and was a member of the board of governors in 1912. The scrapbooks document suffrage activities both nationally and in St. Louis. They include newsclippings, correspondence, public notices, programs, leaflets, and Usher's annotations.
Viscount Takahashi Korekiyo (高橋 是清?, 27 July 1854 – 26 February 1936) was a Japanese politician and the 20th Prime Minister of Japan from 13 November 1921 to 12 June 1922. He was known as an expert on finance during his political career, as he served as the Japanese Minister of Finance on five separate occasions before his assassination….
One of the wonderful things about the internet is how it plays the Glass Bead Game with one, bringing together disparate trains of thought in unexpected ways. In this case, it was my running across a piece about the church in Texas that discourages vaccinations--and the resulting disease outbreak--immediately before finding, once again, Henry David Thoreau's rant about the uselessness of the telegraph.
But, this time, "whooping cough" had a very different valence. And so I reacted much differently than when I first studied the passage in English class at the Sidwell Friends High School in the late 1970s…
From “Requiem” by Anna Akhmatova:
No, not under the vault of another sky, not under the shelter of other wings. I was with my people then, there where my people were doomed to be.
Instead of a Forward
During the years of the Yezhovschina, I spent seventeen months standing outside the prison in Leningrad, waiting for news. One day someone recognized me. Then a woman with lips blue from the cold, who was standing behind me, and of course had never heard of my name, came out of the numbness which affected us all. She whispered in my ear (for we all spoke in whispers there): “Can you describe this?”
I said, “I can.”
Then something resembling a smile slipped over what had once been her face…
I, Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia, am here today to claim that justice which is due to my people, and the assistance promised to it eight months ago, when fifty nations asserted that aggression had been committed in violation of international treaties.
There is no precedent for a Head of State himself speaking in this assembly. But there is also no precedent for a people being victim of such injustice and being at present threatened by abandonment to its aggressor. Also, there has never before been an example of any Government proceeding to the systematic extermination of a nation by barbarous means, in violation of the most solemn promises made by the nations of the earth that there should not be used against innocent human beings the terrible poison of harmful gases. It is to defend a people struggling for its age-old independence that the head of the Ethiopian Empire has come to Geneva to fulfil this supreme duty, after having himself fought at the head of his armies.
The first half of the nineteenth century prefigured what was going to come over the 1870-1914 period with the creation of the first true global economy.
The first half of the nineteenth century saw the creation of a much more limited form of trans-oceanic economic integration--the growth to maturity of the trans-Atlantic trade in the first industrial staple: cotton. The ménage a trois between the United States’s African-American slaves, the rich river valley cotton-growing soils of the American south, and Eli Whitney’s cotton gin together produced a cheap material input to an important manufacturing industry. This time the industry was dynamic enough and the raw material important and cheap enough that the presence of the Americas did change the shape of the leading European economy, that of Britain.
John Ball (1381):
When Adam delved and Eve span/Who was then the gentleman?
From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty…
You need to understand three things to grasp the state of the world economy outside the North Atlantic in 1870:
that the drive to make love is one of the very strongest of all human drives,
that living standards were what we would regard as very low for the bulk of humanity in the long trek between the invention of agriculture in 1870, and
that the rate of global and even leading-nation technological progress up to 1870—even in the heat of the Industrial Revolution itself—was, by our standards, glacial.
Kong Shangren, as quoted by Jonathan Spence:
White glass from across the Western Seas
Is imported through Macao:
Fashioned into lenses big as coins,
They encompass the eyes in a double frame.
I put them on—-it suddenly becomes clear;
I can see the very tips of things!
And read fine print by the dim-lit window
Just like in my youth!
In 1870 a part of the world was starting to become not-poor, yet not the obvious part. The technological and organizational edge of human civilization in 1870 was the North Atlantic. That was, in historical perspective, distinctly odd.
Homer, Iliad, 18:398, Lombardo translation:
Thetis' silver feet took her to Hephaestus' house,
A mansion the lame god had built himself…
She found him at his bellows, glazed with sweat
As he hurried to complete his latest project,
Twenty cauldrons on tripods to line his hall
With golden wheels at the base of each tripod.
…He was getting these ready,
Forging the rivets with inspired artistry…
Ta-Nehisi Coates: On the Death of Dreams:
If we are honest with ourselves we will see a president who believes in particular black morality, but eschews particular black policy.
Watching Barack Obama's speech yesterday, I thought of a young W.E.B. Du Bois who in 1897 authored the original Poundcake Speech:
We believe that the first and greatest step toward the settlement of the present friction between the races-commonly called the Negro Problem-lies in the correction of the immorality, crime and laziness among the Negroes themselves, which still remains as a heritage from slavery. We believe that only earnest and long continued efforts on our own part can cure these social ills.
Once again I find myself reading John Holbo, and immediately thinking: "Hey! This is really good. It will be easy to just excerpt two sentences, and point people to this excellent thing!"
5000 words later…
Read the whole thing:
John Holbo: How Moral Revolutions Happen (They Had A Nightmare):
Exception to the moral complacency point: these [pro-slavery] writers stand very firm when they seize the Biblical high ground… even a George F. Will-type needs moments of rhetorical firmness. (You can’t be effectively complacent, without sometimes seeming the very opposite of that.) But this produces very strange turns. Slavery is a horror, yes, but God says it’s ok… so if you say slavery needs to be abolished… you are holding yourself to a higher moral standard than God, which is surely some kind of Satanic pride on top of all the utopian dangers:
And when men, professing to be holy men, and who are by numbers so regarded, declare those things to be sinful which our Creator has expressly authorized and instituted, they do more to destroy his authority among mankind than the most wicked can effect, by proclaiming that to be innocent which he has forbidden.
(I’m using this one next time I teach "Euthyphro". Divine Command Theory buffs, this is one for the record books!)…
Steampunk!: Via Making Light: Sydney Padua: 2D Goggles » Lovelace: The Origin: Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace:
Richard Landes: David S. Landes, May his memory be a blessing:
This last Saturday afternoon, August 17, 2013, my father, David Landes died in Haverford PA. The following is a brief obit to which I will add when I have more time. He was the beloved husband of Sonia T. Landes, who died on April 12, 2013, after 69 years of marriage. He was the father of Jane Landes Foster, Richard Allen Landes and Alison Landes Fiekowsky, grandfather of eight and great-grandfather of nine.
Mark Thoma: The Great Lesson from the Great Recession:
Is there a similarly important policy lesson to be drawn from the Great Recession we’ve just experienced?… The Fed did avoid the big error of allowing massive bank failures and declines in banking reserves that were so problematic during the Great Depression, and many people give the Fed credit for avoiding a Great Depression type collapse…. I would not have wanted to experience a repeat of the Fed’s failures during the Great Depression…. When the recession hit this time around, we had a much, much higher level of societal wealth, and hence a much larger cushion to absorb the shocks than we had during the Great Recession. Second, and importantly, the presence of automatic stabilizers, particularly those that come in the form of social insurance programs, made a big difference…. Third, it’s not as though the Fed created a miracle recovery…. The improved response of monetary authorities and the existence of automatic stabilizers certainly made the downturn far less severe than it might have been, but a big lesson from our recent experience is that these policies alone are not enough to turn the economy around. Help from fiscal policy is needed…. Congress failed to implement a fiscal stabilization package that was large enough to address the big problems the economy was facing, and due to Republican opposition it refused to implement additional measures when it became clear the initial package was too small in both size and duration…. That failure was bad enough. But even worse is that fiscal policymakers actually began moving in the wrong direction--toward austerity--at a time when just the opposite policy was needed. The result has been a much slower recovery than we might have seen otherwise. After the Great Depression, the Fed learned from its mistakes…. But what about fiscal policy? Will fiscal policymakers in the US and Europe learn from the big mistakes they made recently--mistakes that have prolonged the recession and imposed permanent harm on some members of society? As much as I’d like to hope that somehow economists will speak with a strong, unified voice on the usefulness of fiscal policy in deep recessions, a position I believe is firmly supported by the empirical evidence, and that politicians--Republican politicians in particular--would follow their advice, it’s hard to imagine either of those things happening. That means, discouragingly, that the next time a severe recession hits fiscal policymakers will likely fail us once again and leave us with yet another unnecessarily slow, agonizing recovery.
Jon Schwartz (2011): A Tiny Revolution: "Without Fear or Favor. NOT!":
I'd never heard of [this] until right now. And considering how much media criticism I've plowed through in my life, that suggests almost no one else has heard of it either. It really goes to show how all the most important history just evaporates…. As you know if you're the right class in the U.S., the glorious reign of the New York Times began in 1896 when Adolph Ochs bought it and published a manifesto about the standards the Times would henceforth uphold: they would now:
give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.
Here's the whole paragraph:
It will be my earnest aim that The New-York Times give the news, all the news, in concise and attractive form, in language that is parliamentary in good society, and give it as early, if not earlier, than it can be learned through any other reliable medium; to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved; to make of the columns of The New-York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.
Here's the next paragraph:
There will be no radical changes in the personnel of the present efficient staff. Mr. Charles R. Miller, who has so ably for many years presided over the editorial pages, will continue to be the editor; nor will there be a departure from the general tone and character and policies pursued with relation to public questions that have distinguished The New-York Times as a non-partisan newspaper — unless it be, if possible, to intensify its devotion to the cause of sound money and tariff reform, opposition to wastefulness and peculation in administering public affairs, and in its advocacy of the lowest tax consistent with good government, and no more government than is absolutely necessary to protect society, maintain individual and vested rights, and assure the free exercise of a sound conscience.
So… Ochs stated… bluntly that "We will be completely impartial, except for our intense devotion to this long list of issues"… all right-wing economic obsessions—-in 1896 and today.
Larry Summers (1983):
The first way to find a topic is to open Keynes's General Theory at random, read what's on that page, and math it up…
John Maynard Keynes (1936):
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money: Clearly we do not mean by ‘involuntary’ unemployment the mere existence of an unexhausted capacity to work. An eight-hour day does not constitute unemployment because it is not beyond human capacity to work ten hours. Nor should we regard as ‘involuntary’ unemployment the withdrawal of their labour by a body of workers because they do not choose to work for less than a certain real reward. Furthermore, it will be convenient to exclude ‘frictional’ unemployment from our definition of ‘involuntary’ unemployment. My definition is, therefore, as follows: Men are involuntarily unemployed if, in the event of a small rise in the price of wage-goods relatively to the money-wage, both the aggregate supply of labour willing to work for the current money-wage and the aggregate demand for it at that wage would be greater than the existing volume of employment.
Robert Hall(2013): The Routes into and out of the Zero Lower Bound:
To the extent that high unemployment is an equilibrium, the stability of inflation in the presence of persistent high unemployment is less of a mystery. The tradition of regarding high unemployment as a disequilibrium that gradually rectifies itself by price-wage adjustment may rest on a misunderstanding of the mechanism of high unemployment….
Not, mind you, that I am complaining about the very-smart but never-conventional Hall: the paper worries about the right things, says a lot of things that are true, says a lot of things that might be true and that provoke insight, and says nothing that is known to be false.
But it is striking that useful and important frontier work in economics can still be done in 2013 by mathing-up pieces of the General Theory…
Belle Waring: A Woman Rice Planter — Crooked Timber:
After my grandmother died and before my dad sold the house (with much gnashing of teeth and wailing on my part) I nabbed some excellent books, in particular A Woman Rice Planter, by Patience Pennington, published in 1903. An unmarried woman living just to the north of my family home, she relates her trials as she attempts to keep her family plantation running after the end of the Civil War. This is just a taste of how much her former slaves, who now either work for her or are sharecroppers, hate her, and how much she completely doesn’t understand that they do, or why:
Paul Krugman: The (Lack of) Utility of Close Reading: :
In general, what people thought Keynes or Friedman meant ends up being more important than what they turn out, on close reading, to (maybe, possibly) actually have meant. For what it’s worth, I think Glasner makes a good case that Friedman was indeed more or less a Keynesian, or maybe Hicksian--certainly that was the message everyone took from his Monetary Framework, which was disappointingly conventional. And Friedman’s attempts to claim that Keynes added little that wasn’t already in a Chicago oral tradition don’t hold up well either.
By "very correct" you mean [that Friedman-Phelps's prediction that loose monetary policy was about to de-anchor inflation expectations] "corresponds to post WWII US data because all the other evidence is long ago or far away and irrelevant". The virtical long run Phillips Curve of Friedman (and Phelps) was a terrible approximation to European data from 70 something through now. Europe has not been in a liquidity trap all those decades.
Yes: the title is stolen from Paul Krugman, and from Styx--it is too good not to steal…
Cardiff Garcia writes:
The history of the robot future’s future history: The graph represents three decades of US middle class employment shrinking…. Frank Levy… and Richard Murnane….
The hollowing-out is… consistent with the idea… [of]computer substitution…. Low wage work--Personal Care, Personal Services, Food Preparation, and Building and Grounds Cleaning--have all grown… involve non-routine physical work that is hard to computerize. Technicians and Professional and Managerial Occupations also have grown… involve abstract, unstructured cognitive work that is hard to computerize…. Machine Operators, Production, Craft and Repair Occupations, Office and Administrative… have declined… [as] routine work… [following] deductive or inductive rules and so were candidates for computer substitution….
And the BLS expects these trends to roughly continue….
Rick Nevin: Race, Lead, and Juvenile Crime:
African-American boys disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system were also disproportionately exposed to lead contaminated dust as young children, because black children were disproportionately concentrated in large cities and older housing. In 1976-1980, 15.3% of black children under the age of three had blood lead above 30 mcg/dl (micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood), when just 2.5% of white children had blood lead that high. In 1988-1991, after the elimination of leaded gasoline, 1.4% of black children and 0.4% of white children under the age of three had blood lead above 25 mcg/dl.
When you got a certain class of Republicans of a generation ago--Meldrim Thomson comes immediately to mind--together in an arena where they feel comfortable--feel willing to let their hair down--and, I found, pretty soon they began to muse: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was certainly a Communist--look at how he gave eastern Europe to Josef Stalin. U.S. Army Chief of Staff, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense George Marshall likewise--look at how he gave China to Mao Zedong. And Eisenhower--Marshall was Eisenhower's patron, did you know that? Typical of this class was science-fiction author Robert Heinlein. First, the setup--what Heinlein wrote in 1958 during the nuclear test-ban debate:
Freeman Dyson: J. Robert Oppenheimer::
I often wondered how it happened that Oppenheimer changed his character so suddenly, from the left-wing bohemian intellectual at Berkeley to the good soldier at Los Alamos. I believe that an important clue to this change is the story of Joe Dallet. In his autobiographical statement at the security hearings, Oppenheimer said:
It was in the summer of 1939 in Pasadena that I first met my wife…. I learned of her earlier marriage to Joe Dallet, and of his death fighting in Spain…. When I met her I found in her a deep loyalty to her former husband…
Elizabeth Anderson of U. Mich. makes me aware that the Social Security Administration has a copy of Tom Paine's "Agrarian Justice" social-insurance plan:
Author's Inscription- French Edition
To the Legislature and the Executive Directory of the French Republic:
THE plan contained in this work is not adapted for any particular country alone: the principle on which it is based is general. But as the rights of man are a new study in this world, and one needing protection from priestly imposture, and the insolence of oppressions too long established, I have thought it right to place this little work under your safeguard.
When we reflect on the long and dense night in which France and all Europe have remained plunged by their governments and their priests, we must feel less surprise than grief at the bewilderment caused by the first burst of light that dispels the darkness. The eye accustomed to darkness can hardly bear at first the broad daylight. It is by usage the eye learns to see, and it is the same in passing from any situation to its opposite.
Synthesis Lost: Mark… linked to Friedman’s 1998 comments on Austrian economics:
I think the Austrian business-cycle theory has done the world a great deal of harm. If you go back to the 1930s, which is a key point, here you had the Austrians sitting in London, Hayek and Lionel Robbins, and saying you just have to let the bottom drop out of the world. You’ve just got to let it cure itself. You can’t do anything about it. You will only make it worse. I know the Austrians accuse Friedman of crudely caricaturing their views — but I don’t see how you can read the extended quote from Hayek I presented yesterday and not read it as saying exactly what Friedman claimed the Austrians were saying….
In today’s column I described Friedman as a man trying to save free-market ideology from itself. What I think one has to say, in fairness, is that he wasn’t alone in that project. Paul Samuelson’s “neoclassical synthesis”, as described in a nice survey by Olivier Blanchard (pdf), was the notion that monetary and fiscal policy could be used to solve the problem of recessions and depressions, and that once you did that, conventional microeconomics — with its favorable view of free markets — could go back to its old self. Samuelson:
Solving the vital problems of monetary and ﬁscal policy by the tools of income analysis will validate and bring back into relevance the classical verities.
Friedman’s contribution, if you like, was to take out the words “and fiscal”,and furthermore to suggest that monetary policy could be reduced to simple, mechanical rules. During the era of the Great Moderation, it seemed as if Friedman had won much though not all of this war…. But the experience of the past 6 years, since the financial crisis began, has blown apart not just Friedman’s position but much of Samuelson’s as well…. The liquidity trap is real; conventional monetary policy, it turns out, can’t deal with really large negative shocks to demand…. While… fiscal policy does in fact work, with multipliers well above one, the political economy of policy turns out to make an effective fiscal response to depression very difficult. So the neoclassical synthesis--the idea that we can use monetary and fiscal policy to make the world safe for laissez-faire everywhere else--has failed the test. What does this mean?
At the very least it means that we need “macroprudential” policies….
What’s more, you have to ask why, if markets are imperfect enough to generate the massive waste we’ve seen since 2008, we should believe that they get everything else right. I’ve always considered myself a free-market Keynesian--basically, a believer in Samuelson’s synthesis. But I’m far less sure of that position than I used to be.
Josh Blackman is the latest scholar to sort of try to defend the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act. It shares something in common with every defense I’ve seen, including John Roberts’s — that is, it cannot identify any constitutional provision that the law violates, a rather serious problem given that the power being exercised by Congress was expressly delegated to it by the 15 Amendment. The defense, then, comes down to a vague structuralism and some highly contestable paeans to the glories of federalism…. So Blackman, at least, all but concedes that the 10th Amendment is irrelevant to this case, a good thing since it clearly is. The 10th Amendment just says that any powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved by the states; the 15th Amendment delegates powers to the federal government, so the 10th Amendment is beside the point…. What is it about the structure of the Reconstruction Amendments that implies a “congruence and proportionality” requirement? The preservation of “freedom”? Well, the freedom the states are seeking in this case is the “freedom” to discriminate in the allocation of the franchise. Not only is this “freedom” not structurally implicit in the 15th Amendment, it’s specifically the “freedom” the amendment sought to defeat. The framers of the 15th Amendment anticipated that leaving states the “freedom” to enforce voting rights without federal supervision would be a disaster, and the subsequent near-century of states being allowed the freedom and dignitude to enforce voting rights in the majesty of their sovereign powers proved the framers highly prescient. So, really, the argument is that we need extracosnstitutional standards to limit the reach the 15th Amendment, an argument that is both ahistorical and normatively unattractive. What value is there, exactly, in preserving the “freedom” of the states to discriminate in the allocation of the franchise? None that I can see, and certainly none that are reflected in the 15th Amendment.
Alexander Hamilton (1790): From Report on the Public Credit:
To these more direct expedients for the support of public credit, the institution of a national bank presents itself, as a necessary auxiliary. This the Secretary regards as an indispensable engine in the administration of the finances. To present this important object in a more distinct and more comprehensive light, he has concluded to make it the subject of a separate report.
In my rare coffees and phone calls with Milton Friedman, I found I could distract him whenever I was losing an argument by saying: "Why is it that the government needs to intervene and keep the flow of liquidity services provided to the economy growing along a smooth path? Why must there be a quantitative target achieved by government for the path of the liquidity services industry--commercial banking--when there must not be a quantitative target for kilowatt hours or freight-car loadings?"
Alexander Hamilton: From First Report on the Public Credit:
The Secretary has too much deference for the opinions of every part of the community not to have observed one which has, more than once, made its appearance in the public prints, and which is occasionally to be met with in conversation. It involves this question, whether a discrimination ought not to be made between original holders of the public securities and present possessors by purchase. Those who advocate a discrimination are for making a full provision for the securities of the former, at their nominal value, but contend that the latter ought to receive no more than the cost to them and the interest: And the idea is sometimes suggested of making good the difference to the primitive possessor.
John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, June 30, 1813
You never felt the terrorism of Shays’s Rebellion in Massachusetts. I believe you never felt the terrorism of Gallatin’s Insurrection in Pennsylvania.… You certainly never felt the terrorism excited by Genet in 1793, when ten thousand people in the streets of Philadelphia, day after day, threatened to drag Washington out of his house and effect a revolution in the government, or compel it to declare war in favor of the French Revolution and against England. The coolest and the firmest minds, even among the Quakers in Philadelphia, have given their opinions to me that nothing but the yellow fever… could have saved the United States from a total revolution of government.
I have no doubt you was fast asleep in philosophical tranquility when ten thousand people, and perhaps many more, were parading the streets of Philadelphia on the evening of my Fast Day [25 April 1799]; when Governor Mifflin himself thought it his duty to order a patrol of horse and foot to preserve the peace; when Market Street was as full as men could stand by one another, and even before my door; when some of my domestics, in frenzy, determined to sacrifice their lives in my defense; when all were ready to make a desperate sally among the multitude and others were with difficulty and danger dragged back by the others; when I myself judged it prudent and necessary to order chests of arms from the War Office to be brought through bylanes and back doors, determined to defend my house at the expense of my life and the lives of the few, very few, domestics and friends within it. What think you of terrorism, Mr. Jefferson?