January 2, 2008: Did Bob Reich Assassinate Tony Judt's Cat?: I was surprised to read:
'Supercapitalism': An Exchange: Tony Judt: I am surprised that Robert Reich resents my "use" of his book for the expression of some general thoughts on its topic. Taken for itself, after all, Supercapitalism would have merited at best a short notice. However, Reich's letter is welcome all the same. It helpfully reasserts the book's argument; and by its resort to invective—"jeremiad," "screeds," "emotionally gratifying," "capitalist hobgoblins," etc.—-his letter offers an instructive insight into Reich's own thought processes... his critics (me, on this occasion) are dismissed as "denigrators" of economic growth, enemies of capitalist globalization who pave the way for nativism: in short, prole-worshipping nostalgics.... If the Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley really thinks that we can improve upon the "cacophony" that passes for public debate with talk of "citizen values" and "leaders who inspire us" and that anything else is "brainless neo-Ludditism," then he is himself a depressing illustration of the problem he purports to address.
This visual evidence of derangement surprised me, because I remembered Tony Judt's Postwar as being rather good--and his books on the post-WWII French intellectuals, Sartre and his circle, as being excellent. And I, at least, quite liked Supercapitalism. Clearly I am going to have to go back and read Judt's review of Reich...
Hendrik Hertzberg: Jan Brewer’s Speech on Arizona’s Anti-Gay Bill : The New Yorker: "It was obvious almost from the evening of Friday, February 21st... that Governor Jan Brewer would veto it whether she wanted to or not.
Mitt Romney told her to; more important, so did locally influential fellow-Republicans like the state’s two U.S. senators, McCain and Flake. The “business community,” from groovy GoDaddy to Mormon Marriott, recoiled in such horror that you’d think the bill would also have raised the top marginal tax rate. When the N.F.L. strongly suggested that a new venue would have to be found for Super Bowl XLIX, the bill, already in the I.C.U., flatlined. And yesterday, just hours before Brewer stepped to the podium, Major League Baseball, invoking the memory of Jackie Robinson, did a solemn dance on the corpse.
This has always struck me as a very bad translation of what Marx is trying to say--that in the German it is infinitely more powerful and effective than what we have here.
Does anybody know of--has anybody made--a better translation?
This sphere that we are deserting, within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. There alone rule Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, say of labour-power, are constrained only by their own free will. They contract as free agents, and the agreement they come to, is but the form in which they give legal expression to their common will. Equality, because each enters into relation with the other, as with a simple owner of commodities, and they exchange equivalent for equivalent. Property, because each disposes only of what is his own. And Bentham, because each looks only to himself. The only force that brings them together and puts them in relation with each other, is the selfishness, the gain and the private interests of each. Each looks to himself only, and no one troubles himself about the rest, and just because they do so, do they all, in accordance with the pre-established harmony of things, or under the auspices of an all-shrewd providence, work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal and in the interest of all.
On leaving this sphere of simple circulation or of exchange of commodities, which furnishes the “Free-trader Vulgaris” with his views and ideas, and with the standard by which he judges a society based on capital and wages, we think we can perceive a change in the physiognomy of our dramatis personae. He, who before was the money-owner, now strides in front as capitalist; the possessor of labour-power follows as his labourer. The one with an air of importance, smirking, intent on business; the other, timid and holding back, like one who is bringing his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but--a hiding.
I had forgotten about this. It made me laugh at the time. It makes me laugh now:
Well, again I think the problem is a very simplistic and monocultural perspective on communication and meaning. I would think that editors would want articles with a communicational genre that relates to their purpose and audience. The style and organization would vary accordingly. Anything on the forefront of a particular area, particularly social theory would confront what Michael Shapiro calls the "dilemma of intelligibility". That is, at stake in the writing process is the confrontation of creativity with intelligibility. To communicate "effectively" is to sacrifice creative distance in order to produce understandable frames of reference. Communication operates within cultural bounds working constantly to restrict meaning in order to increase circulation.
Robert Farley on Richard Overy's *The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945:
Overy is not shy about pointing out that the two most democratic major participants in the Second World War also undertook the most murderous strategic bombing campaigns. It is hardly unreasonable to point out that the Axis powers, nevertheless, accounted for the vast majority of civilians deaths in the war, although the extent to which this justified the CBO should be in some dispute.... With respect to the overall impact of the Bombing War, Overy’s answer can best be summarized as follows: the Bombing War destroyed Europe and the Luftwaffe, but not German industry or warmaking capacity. This is a complicated answer, of course, but Overy supports it with strong data....
With the partial exception of Italy, strategic bombing never ruptured the relationship between civilians and politico-military elites sufficiently to bring about a surrender, or even a significant disruption in the warmaking effort.... Overy also discusses the impact of the CBO on the Luftwaffe at some length. The CBO undermined German airpower both directly and indirectly, destroying German fighter strength while also denuding the tactical theaters of air support. It shifted significant German resources to air defense, reconstruction, and damage response. For Overy, this is the key contribution that the CBO made to Allied victory in World War II. The Wehrmacht, deprived of air support and even of air defense in the latter stages of war, was much easier to bring to the edge of defeat that it would have been without the CBO....
Overy does not, however, dwell at any length on how alternative airpower approaches might have produced the same effects at considerably lower cost. The offensive counter-air campaigns on the Eastern Front and in the Mediterranean also devastated German airpower, despite concentrating mostly on operational and tactical effect. Consequently, I struggle to believe that the most efficient way to defeat the Luftwaffe was to send extraordinarily expensive four-engine behemoths over Germany, with the purpose of incinerating German cities....
RAF Bomber Command lost nearly 55000 dead during the war, constituting a death rate of nearly 41 % of all Bomber Command aircrew. The USAAF lost about 30000 dead....
It’s hard for me to dissent from A.C. Grayling’s evaluation of the strategic bombing campaign:
Was area bombing necessary? No.
Was it proportionate? No.
Was it against the humanitarian principles that people have been striving to enunciate as a way of controlling and limiting war? Yes.
Was it against general moral standards of the kind recognized and agreed in Western civilization in the last five centuries, or even 2000 years? Yes.
Was it against what mature national laws provide in the way of outlawing murder, bodily harm, and destruction of property? Yes.
In short and in sum: Was area bombing wrong? Yes.
Very wrong? Yes...
And yet, and yet.... I find myself thinking that under the counterforce counter-Luftwaffe planes tactical air war Farley wishes had been fought all of the artillery barrels that were in the Reich pointing skyward would have been on the Russian front pointing east. And it seems to me that in the terror of World War II any American-British policies that set out to save even as many as ten German civilians at the cost of one Russian soldier were not moral policies.
Dugald Stewart: Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith:
Adam Smith, author of the Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, was the son of Adam Smith, comptroller of the customs at Kirkaldy, and of Margaret Douglas, daughter of Mr Douglas of Strathenry. He was the only child of the marriage, and was born at Kirkaldy on the 5th of June 1723, a few months after the death of his father. His constitution during infancy was infirm and sickly... but it produced no unfavourable effects on his temper or his dispositions.... Among these companions of his earliest years, Mr Smith soon attracted notice, by his passion for books, and by the extraordinary powers of his memory. The weakness of his bodily constitution prevented him from partaking in their more active amusements; but he was much beloved by them on account of his temper, which, though warm, was to an uncommon degree friendly and generous. Even then he was remarkable for those habits which remained with him through life, of speaking to himself when alone, and of absence in company. From the grammar–school of Kirkaldy, he was sent, in 1737, to the university of Glasgow, where he remained till 1740, when he went to Baliol college, Oxford, as an exhibitioner on Snell’s foundation.
Dr Maclaine of the Hague, who was a fellow–student of Mr Smith’s at Glasgow, told me some years ago, that his favourite pursuits while at that university were mathematics and natural philosophy....
John Maynard Keynes: Letter to Roy Harrod, July 4, 1938:
Tilton, Firle, Lewes.
4 July 1938
My dear Roy,
There is no doubt that your Presidential Address [to the British Economic Associaton] which I have sent to the printer [for the next issue of the Economic Journal], is very interesting; and it will provoke plenty of thought. Indeed it is much the best Presidential Address for many years. I am very glad to print it in full; but I would remind you that it will take considerably over an hour to read at a reasonable pace.
Denverite: Roe Anniversary Day: "Scott, if I recall correctly, you’ve done a (very good) post in the past defending Roe on its merits. You might link to it?"
Scott Lemieux (2005): Why Roe Was Right: Foreword: "I promise that the name of this blog will not be changed to 'Scott replies to Matthew Yglesias posts about judicial policy-making', but since I promised (threatened?) a legal defense of Roe v. Wade a couple of months ago before being derailed by grading and the flu, I thought I would use this set of questions as incentive to finally get the thing written.
Before I start my defense of the outcome of Roe as constitutional law, let me deal with the last two points first:
Last night pieces by the thoughtful and knowledgeable Uwe Reinhardt, the smart and hard-working Marty Lederman, and that brilliant man of unsound methods Richard Epstein collided on my computer screen, and then held an all-night insomniac hoedown.
This is the result:
In which we learn that that Ross Douthat has never understood Plato's Euthyphro:
Ross Douthat writes that there are three spiritual worldviews in America today... hard-core biblical, soft-core spiritual, and secular. Unsurprisingly, he's bearish on the secular worldview:
The secular picture, meanwhile, seems to have the rigor of the scientific method.... But it actually suffers from a deeper intellectual incoherence... its cosmology does not harmonize at all with its moral picture... a purely physical and purposeless universe, inhabited by evolutionary accidents whose sense of self is probably illusory. And yet it then continues to insist on moral and political absolutes with all the vigor of a 17th-century New England preacher.... So there are two interesting religious questions... the intelligentsia’s fusion of scientific materialism and liberal egalitarianism--the crèche without the star, the shepherds’ importance without the angels’ blessing — will eventually crack up and give way to something new. The cracks are visible, in philosophy and science alike. But the alternative is not...
And Kevin Drum notes:
Here's what I've never understood about the kind of argument Douthat is making: it's not as if secular ethics is a modern invention. Aristotle's ethics were fundamentally secular.... Secular ethics isn't some newfangled 20th-century experiment that's falling apart at the seams and must inevitably be replaced with a deist revival or the return of Pol Pot. It's millennia old, and doing just fine.... Sex and gender roles have changed dramatically over the past century, and that's certainly produced plenty of tension and discomfort.... For all too many devout Christians, that seems to be the real wellspring... not secularism... but changes in sexual mores.... Christian apologists would do well to keep the two subjects separate.
Indeed. The beliefs (i) that the universe has a Creator, (ii) that one sect of priests claim to know the Mind of the Creator actually does, and (iii) that they say that the Creator has Commands for us; get you precisely nowhere in terms of a foundation for moral and political absolutes without the further assumptions that this rather than that sect of priests knows what they are talking about, that it is moral to engage in reciprocal gift-exchange relationships, and that we are engaged in such a reciprocal gift-exchange relationship with the Creator.
Basically, it's turtles all the way down. And at some level the fundamentalists know that, for so many of their injunctions end "...so that thou mayst have eternal life" rather than "...because it is the right thing to do".
As Socrates would say, when "storing up treasure in heaven" is advocated because it is the best-performing long-run asset class to invest in, we are very far indeed from the Good...
And we learn that David Brooks has never understood Plato's Apology:
Angus Deaton: US inequality and the Pareto Criterion:
There is much to be said for equality of opportunity, and for not penalizing people for the success that comes from their own hard work. Yet, compared with other rich countries, and in spite of the popular belief in the American dream that anyone can succeed, the United States is in fact not particularly good at actually delivering equal opportunities.
The hawk-eyed Cardiff Garcia writes:
Piketty previews Piketty: A hat tip to reader @zapatique for sending us to Thomas Picketty’s recent lecture, which previews the forthcoming English-language edition of his new book (click here to open pdf)...
And the esteemed and eminent Kevin Drum writes:
New French Book Will Become Important When It's In English: Tyler Cowen says today that "The forthcoming Thomas Piketty book will be very important." That "will be" is sort of interesting. You see, the name of the book is Le capital au xxie siècle, and it was published three months ago. But no one is talking about it. Presumably, it will become very important—and very talked about—only next March, when Capital in the 21st Century hits the shelves.
I don't have any grand point to make. It's just interesting that fluent French is now so rarely spoken among American academics that an important French book can't even get the time of day until its English translation comes out. It makes sense that widespread conversation would have to wait, since you can't very well have that until lots of people have read the book, but you'd think there would be at least a few reviews out there along with a bit of discussion. But if there has been, I've missed it.
Well, you would need somebody who is:
Why is everybody all of a sudden looking at me?
And, boy! is Yuhanon not a happy camper:
Matthew 3:1-12 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying:
Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them:
O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves" "We have Abraham to our father!" For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire...
I will note that the sins of the Pharisees and the Saducees--those who claim the high places in the Synagogue, and have others blow upon trumpets when they ostentatiously give alms from their surplus--condemned by Yuhanon are not:
Rather, the sins condemned are of a different order entirely...
Attention Conservation Notice: Harley Shaiken at the Berkeley Center for Latin American Studies asked me if I could write a short comment on a piece he was running by Javier Couso about Chilean politics, "neoliberalismo", once-and-future President Michelle Bachelet, and the electoral victory of her New Majority Coalition--Couso being one of the co-authors of the currently highly influential El Otro Modelo: Del Orden Neoliberal al Regimen de lo Publico. The piece got out of control, and is not a success...
But if you are interested in my not-very-well-connected thoughts on Chilean politics, "neoliberalismo", once-and-future President Michelle Bachelet, Seeing Like a *State the really-existing socialist and neoliberal projects of the twentieth century, and the electoral victory of her New Majority Coalition, they are below the fold...
Jacopo Jacobo Timmerman writes about Gabriel Garcia Marquez writing about Fidel Castro. Marquez is amazed and transfixed as he worshipfully writes about how Castro works so late into the night, telling how many people what they should do in so many different disciplines of life--orthopedics, the baking of bread, and the distribution of beer. Timmerman n writes about how only an insane social system would require a single dictator to be the omniscient expert and authority on everything. And Timmerman n wonders why it is that Marquez responds to this situation with awe rather than with horror.
Where did I read this? When did I read this? Why can't I find it again? Why is my Google-Fu failing me?
OUR MISSION: The California Budget Project engages in independent fiscal and policy analysis and public education with the goal of improving public policies affecting the economic and social well-being of low- and middle-income Californians.
The CBP believes that information can help give voice to those who often go unheard in budget and policy debates. “Knowledge,” as the saying goes, “is power.” Since 1995, the CBP has worked to make the budget more understandable and to shed light on how budget and related policy decisions can affect the lives of low- and middle-income Californians.
Through its published analyses, educational activities, and technical assistance, the CBP is a resource for advocates, community leaders, policymakers, and members of the media. The CBP’s work is widely regarded as timely, reliable, and accessible. CBP staff are frequent speakers at meetings and conferences throughout the state. The CBP also offers an active training program on the state budget, budget process, and fiscal policy issues.
The CBP is a nonprofit organization. Support for the CBP comes from donations from individuals and organizations, subscriptions to our publications, and grants from private foundations.
The CBP is a nonpartisan organization. We neither support nor oppose any political party nor any candidate running for elected office. We focus solely on evaluating public policies and their impact on low- and middle-income Californians.
Core Principles: Four core principles guide the work of the CBP:
INDEPENDENCE: The CBP provides fact-based, nonpartisan analyses of state fiscal and tax policies and their implications for all Californians, especially low- and middle-income residents.
FAIRNESS AND EQUITY: The CBP’s work is grounded in the fundamental belief that government should work to improve the lives of the people it serves. The CBP maintains a deep commitment to ensuring that public policies and programs respond effectively to the needs and interests of lower-income individuals, families, and communities throughout California.
INTEGRITY: The CBP conducts its work with the highest level of intellectual honesty, accuracy, and objectivity in order to effectively inform state fiscal, tax, and other public policies.
EMPOWERMENT: The CBP provides accessible, useable, and timely information on state fiscal, tax, and related public policies in order to expand civic engagement in policy debates.
As I like to say, we are moving into a twenty-first century in which we are highly likely to spend a greater share of our collective income on:
Historical experience teaches us that whenever we try to supply any of these four needs via an un- or a lightly-regulated market, it does not go so well. This suggests that we are likely to be happy in the twenty-first century only if we shift our collective economic cognition and organization to place somewhat less emphasis on the market and more on... something.
The problem is that we have--or, at least, from where I sit I think we have--very good ideas about the success and failure modes of markets (i.e., Friedrich Hayek (1947), Individualism and Economic Order; Kenneth Arrow (1969), "The Organization of Economic Activity: Issues Pertinent to the Choice of Market versus Non-market Allocation"). We know rather less about the success and failure modes of politics (i.e., James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent; Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action; Josiah Ober, Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens).
And, IMHO at least, we know very little about the success and failure modes of bureaucracy.
So I would like to call for people to think, and think hard, so that a generation hence we know as much about the success and failure modes of bureaucracy and politics as we do about markets--and, I hope at least, have evolved some more tweaks to make all three modes of social organization and cognition less subject to failure.
Alas, I have no special insight into how to start thinking about these matters. But Cosma Shalizi has the best diving board I have found:
Review of Edwin Hutchins, Cognition in the Wild: Human beings coordinate their actions to do things which would be hard or impossible for them individually. This is not a particularly recondite fact, and the recognition of it is ancient; it is in the fifth book of Lucretius's De Rerum Natura, for instance.... The nineteenth century, and to a lesser degree this one, have witnessed a dramatic expansion in the numbers of us engaged in administration, bureaucracy, management, oversight--that is to say, in formally-organized tasks of collective cognition and control. We did not invent bureaucracy, the mainstay of the ancient empires, but we're much, much better at it... corrupt, inefficient institutions which work poorly; every election, Piffleburg [WI]'s citizens mutter something like "what do we pay taxes for anyway?" Yet to run any one of these institutions at the level of honesty, efficiency and efficacy which makes Piffleburg grumble would have demanded the full powers and attention of even the ablest Roman propraetor or Tang magistrate. That all of those institutions, plus the ones not restricted to a single city, could be run at once, and while governed by a very ordinary slice of common humanity, would have seemed to such officials flatly impossible.
The immediate question this raises, of why we are so much better at collective endeavors than the ancients, can be answered fairly simply. To a first approximation, the answer is: brute force and massive literacy. We teach nearly everyone to read and write, and to do it, by historical standards, at a high level. This lets us staff large bureaucracies (by some estimates, over 40% of the US workforce does data-handling), which lets us run an industrial economy (the trains run on time), which makes us rich enough to afford to educate everyone and keep them in bureaucratic employment, with some surplus left over to expand the system.
This would do us no good if our ideas of administration were as shabby as those of our ancestors in the dark ages, but they're not: we inherited those of the ancient empires, and have had quite a while to improve upon them (and improvements are made easier and faster by the large number of administrators and the high standard of literacy). Among the improvements are many techniques (standardized procedures, standardized parts, standardized credentials and jobs, explicit qualifications for jobs and goods, files, standardized categories) and devices (forms, punch cards, punch card tabulators, adding machines, card catalogs, and, recently, computers) for making the administration of people and things easier. (We've been over parts of this before, looking at James Beniger's book on The Control Revolution and Ernest Gellner's Nations and Nationalism.)
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.
Now, in a sense, this problem has been approached by many of the social sciences.... Much of the most interesting research on these problems has been done by economists. The great Friedrich Hayek (that is, Friedrich Hayek the profound social scientist, not to be confused with his evil twin, Friedrich Hayek the right-wing ideologue) was apparently the first to point out that markets perform a kind of collective cognition or calculation which would be beyond the scope of the individual actors in the markets. Since his time, the economists have devoted considerable thought to how the way a group is put together--its procedures, the distribution of power, resources, beliefs and preferences within it--effects the decisions it arrives at, the courses of action open to it. Some of this work, like Arrow's Social Choice and Individual Values and Olson's Logic of Collective Action--is now classical, and, under various names, it's an active, thriving area of inquiry....
[But still] we know next to nothing about how collective cognition works, or when it works, or how to make it work better; we have some ideas about it, but at best they've the status of artisanal rules of thumb...
The United States economy has undergone dramatic changes in the last three decades. Arguably, none of these changes has been so well documented as the rise in income inequality.
From 1979 to 2007, the top 1 percent of households saw their incomes skyrocket by 275 percent, while incomes for the bottom fifth of earners increased by less than 20 percent. Last year, the top 10 percent of earners took home more than 50 percent of national income, a higher share than in the 1920s. And today, the wealthiest one percent of households possess more than a third of U.S. total net wealth; the average CEO makes $14 million a year, while the average worker makes $51,200.
We should begin by translating the Communist Manifesto's phrase:
Das stehende und das ständische verdampft...
Society's order and the orders of society are steamed away...
with "orders of society" referring to the legal and cultural distinctions that make one noble, peasant, bourgeois, guild member, et cetera. We should not translate it as: >All that is solid melts into air...
So you ended up XY instead of XX. Get over yourself. Even conservatives generally stipulate that insurance should protect people from the financial consequences of random events. But they seem not to recognize that being born a woman is a random event. Sorry, dudes, you had no control over that. Allowing insurers to discriminate based on gender means penalizing half the population, just because those folks ended up with one type of chromosome instead of another.
Of course, if you acknowledge [this point] it has some implications for the rest of the health care debate. If we’re not going to make people pay higher premiums because of genes that determined their gender, then what about people born with genetic abnormalities? Or predisposition to diabetes, heart attack, or cancer? Pretty soon you end up arguing that it’s wrong to charge higher premiums to people who, through no fault of their own, happen to need more medical care—-thereby conceding one of Obamacare’s core principles.
Prairie Weather: Signs that Obamacare is working:
Kevin Drum has the cheerful news that small business is adding health insurance "for the first time in a decade, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. Nothing spectacular, just steady growth.
Of those who currently offer insurance, 7 percent plan to drop it. Of those who don't currently offer insurance, 13 percent plan to add it. That's good news, and the report notes that "If small employers follow those plans, the net proportion of them offering would rise, breaking a decade-old trend." ...Drum,MoJo
That news--confirmation that the "debacle" is Fox lingo for "chugging along nicely, thank you"--seems to add color to the numbers. Sarah Kliff writes at WaPo:
Despite a very rocky first month for the health insurance exchanges, public opinion on the health-care law did what it has done for the past three years: stayed exactly the same. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest tracking survey, "the October poll finds that the public’s overall views of the ACA have held relatively steady since last month, with 44 percent saying they have an unfavorable view of the law, 38 percent a favorable view, and 18 percent saying they don’t know enough to say."...
Obamacare gets the least attention in a list of four recent media blitzes. The media -- all of 'em -- got that all wrong.
Growing health disadvantages have disproportionately impacted women over the past three decades, especially those without a high-school diploma or who live in the South or West. In March, a study published by the University of Wisconsin researchers David Kindig and Erika Cheng found that in nearly half of U.S. counties, female mortality rates actually increased between 1992 and 2006, compared to just 3 percent of counties that saw male mortality increase over the same period. “I was shocked, actually,” Kindig said. “So we went back and did the numbers again, and it came back the same. It’s overwhelming.”
Paul Krugman: Award-winning Paragraphs:
John Taylor has accomplished something sort of amazing: he has managed to write the two worst paragraphs I’ve read this week. Here they are:
Joshua Bloom: Wealth and Labor in the Cognitive Automation Era:
Disruptive technologies have always been greeted with a concern—and many times a back reaction—by the institutions that they are, or are meant to, disrupt. In the startup world, we think about disruption as replacing established technologies and ways of doing things with compelling (and better) alternatives, challenging incumbent market dominants. But disruption also means changing how people work, and therefore also means upheaval in labor markets. [October 25], in the Uncharted Forum here in Berkeley, I discussed artificial intelligence on stage with former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Brad DeLong (also a professor with me at Berkeley). Uncharted is a new ideas-exchange event modeled in part after SXSW, Ted and Davos.
Daniel Little: Understanding Society: Why a war on poor people?:
American conservatives for the past several decades have shown a remarkable hostility to poor people in our country. The recent effort to slash the SNAP food stamp program in the House (link); the astounding refusal of 26 Republican governors to expand Medicaid coverage in their states--depriving millions of poor people from access to Medicaid health coverage (link); and the general legislative indifference to a rising poverty rate in the United States--all this suggests something beyond ideology or neglect.... How is it possible to explain this part of contemporary politics on the right? What can account for this persistent and unblinking hostility towards poor people?
One piece of the puzzle seems to come down to ideology and a passionate and unquestioning faith in "the market". If you are poor in a market system, this ideology implies you've done something wrong.... Another element here seems to have something to do with social distance.... A crucial thread here seems to be a familiar American narrative around race...
Ashok Rao: Feed the Beast:
Since 1988 education (purple) has increased almost seven fold. Healthcare (red) five fold. Food and beverage prices have only doubled, apparel costs have flatlined, while technology and entertainment prices have plummeted. Basically prices for everything the government is good for have a positive slope and everything it’s bad for have a negative slope. I don’t think any other graph could more clearly explode hopes for a smaller, or even flatlined, government.
Paul Krugman: Why Is Obamacare Complicated?:
Obamacare isn’t complicated because government social insurance programs have to be complicated: neither Social Security nor Medicare are complex in structure. It’s complicated because political constraints made a straightforward single-payer system unachievable. It’s been clear all along that the Affordable Care Act sets up a sort of Rube Goldberg device, a complicated system that in the end is supposed to more or less simulate the results of single-payer, but keeping private insurance companies in the mix and holding down the headline amount of government outlays through means-testing. This doesn’t make it unworkable: state exchanges are working, and healthcare.gov will probably get fixed before the whole thing kicks in. But it did make a botched rollout much more likely.
So [Mike] Konczal is right to say that the implementation problems aren’t revealing problems with the idea of social insurance; they’re revealing the price we pay for insisting on keeping insurance companies in the mix, when they serve little useful purpose. So does this mean that liberals should have insisted on single-payer or nothing? No.... Yes, Obamacare is a somewhat awkward kludge, but if that’s what it took to cover the uninsured, so be it.... The odds remain high that this will work, and make America a much better place.
Pro-Growth Liberal: EconoSpeak: A Fuzzchart on Federal Spending Courtesy of John Taylor:
Mark Thoma used to crack me up when he would refer to those Jerry Bowyer National Review graphs as Fuzz Charts, since Bowyer usually tried to deceive his readers. Now if you miss those good old days--John Taylor has kindly decided to take over....
A starting point is to lay out in simple big picture terms what the House and Senate budget resolutions passed earlier this year look like.... The chart shows the recent history of federal outlays along with the path of outlays as a percentage of GDP under the Senate proposal and under the House proposal. There is a big difference in these two paths. Spending gradually comes down to pre-crisis levels as a share of GDP under the House plan and remains high under the Senate plan. I have been arguing since 2009 that undoing the recent spending binge is a reasonable goal, and prefer the House version on that count.
My problem with his chart is its historical starting point is 2000 when Federal spending as a share of GDP was only 18.5%.... A naïve reader might think the historical norm was the 18.5% observed in 2000, but my graph takes us back to 1961. And it turns out that Federal spending as a share of GDP was not always as low it was at the end of the Clinton years. The peace dividend years are over and future health care spending isn’t going to what it was in 2000--but John Taylor wants us to think there is something magical and normal about the Ryan budget.
For two decades, from the same home office, Sullivan has been exposing the tax-dodging schemes of multinational corporations in the columns of Tax Notes... an early light on how companies had finagled 'transfer prices'... called out the big drug and tech companies for transferring ownership of their patents and trademarks... to subsidiaries in Ireland and other low-tax jurisdictions.... in 2010 pieced together from public filings that Apple had understated its reported profits to hide the fact that it was paying a tax rate of less than 2 percent on its overseas profits, shining the spotlight on Apple’s tax avoidance schemes. “We’ve been banging the drum on this stuff for years,” Sullivan said with just the slightest hint of satisfaction as the morning sun filtered into the garage he shares with bicycles, garden tools, an American flag and an old coffee maker. 'But it’s finally gone prime time'
Why wine matters: Randall Grahm in conversation with Felix Salmon.
The crystal ball: What will happen in the 2014 midterms Markos Moulitsas in conversation with Josh Barro.
Are we born racist? Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton in conversation with Phil Bronstein.
Start: October 25, 2013 1:40 pm
End: October 25, 2013 2:50 pm
Event Category: Conversation
Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty: Why the 1% should pay tax at 80%:
In the United States, the share of total pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% has more than doubled, from less than 10% in the 1970s to over 20% today (pdf). A similar pattern is true of other English-speaking countries.... Other OECD countries... have seen far less concentration of income among the mega rich. At the same time, top income tax rates on upper income earners have declined significantly since the 1970s in many OECD countries--gain, particularly in English-speaking ones.... At a time when most OECD countries face large deficits and debt burdens, a crucial public policy question is whether governments should tax high earners more. The potential tax revenue at stake is now very large....
Corey Robin: Burke in Debt:
Some day someone should write an essay on the struggles of Edmund Burke in his final years to overcome his considerable debts—some £30,000—by securing a peerage and a pension from the Crown.... So terrified was he of dying in a debtor’s prison that he struggled in his retirement to learn Italian. His hope, claimed one of the many visitors at his estate, was to flee England and “end his days with tollerable Ease in Italy.” (He also floated, apparently, the possibility of fleeing to Portugal or America.) “I cannot quite reconcile my mind to a prison,” he told a friend. Thanks to the interventions of his well connected friends, Burke secured from Pitt in August 1795 two annuities that would wipe out his debts and a pension that, along with an additional pension and the income from his estate, would enable him and his wife to live in comfort into their old age.
Three months later, when Burke took up his pen against a proposal for the government to subsidize the wages of farm laborers during bad harvest years (so that they could sustain themselves and their families), he wrote, “To provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of government.”
The greatest hesitation I have about the market economy is the wedge between demand and the willingness to pay that is the ability to pay. This is, after all, why full employment is so important. This is why opportunity and equality are so important.... This wedge... presents] insurmountable problems... [to]any kind of welfare claims about the market economy.... We can't say anything about the quality of the system as a whole that isn't contingent on implausible assumption about the quality of the distribution of the ability to pay. The trouble is the ability to pay is tied up with productivity, and this doesn't seem to be a justifiable basis for distributing well-being. At the same time allocating productivity efficiently is the only chance of getting a surplus in the first place to distribute.
If we have robots, robot socialism is probably an answer. Until then I just don't know.
Per Jim Henley's request:
India, a long-time bastion of Fabian socialism, instituted significant reform in 1991...
Capitalism and socialism are specific about the conditions they deem necessary for the creation of wealth and rising standards of living. Populism is not. It is a shout of pain...
Fortunately, modern societies have finally abandoned as unworkable the various economic models of socialism that were so popular a century or more ago. But we need to recognize that welfare states, unless contained, have proven similarly trouble prone. Even the long-vaunted welfare model of Sweden has felt the need for a significant overhaul...
Economists--my own tribe--hink that people are better off if they have more money--which is fine as far as it goes. So if a few people get a lot more money and most people get little or nothing, but do not lose out, economists will usually argue that the world is a better place. And indeed there is enormous appeal to the idea that, as long as no one gets hurt, better off is better; it is called the Pareto criterion. Yet this idea is completely undermined if wellbeing is defined too narrowly; people have to be better off, or no worse off, in wellbeing, not just in material living standards. If those who get rich get favorable political treatment, or undermine the public health or education systems, so that those who do less well lose out in politics, health, or education, then those who have done less well may have gained money but they are not better off. One cannot assess society, or justice, using living standards alone. Yet economists routinely and incorrectly apply the Pareto argument to income, ignoring other aspects of wellbeing...
Economic Policy Institute: The Price of Rights: Regulating International Labor Migration:
Whether Congress should open the U.S. labor market to more foreign workers is one of the most challenging questions it faces in the debate over how to reform federal immigration laws…. Dr. Martin Ruhs of Oxford University explores the tensions between human, labor, and citizenship rights and the determinants and ethics of labor immigration policies…. The Price of Rights examines labor immigration policies from over 50 countries, analyzes how high-income countries restrict the rights of migrant workers as part of their labor immigration policies, and discusses the implications for global debates about regulating labor migration and protecting migrants. Please join the Economic Policy Institute on Monday, October 21st from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. for a discussion about The Price of Rights with the author and a discussant.
Alan Greenspan's publisher did not send me a copy of his new The Map and the Territory. So at the moment I am running on the two different books read by Larry Summers and Steve Pearlstein:
Larry Summers: The Map and the Territory:
It was my privilege to work closely with Alan Greenspan for the eight years I served at the Treasury during the Clinton administration. His new book, The Map and the Territory, brings me back to fond memories of our conversations over the years. I haven’t always agreed with my friend but he has always left me wiser and with something to ponder. I have been struck… by the way… his approach… draws both on commitments to an individualist, libertarian philosophy and on extensive and deep immersion in economic statistics…. The range of topics and arguments makes this book a very important statement, whether one ultimately agrees or disagrees with the author. I found myself doing plenty of both. Greenspan’s range, vision and boldness is especially important at a time like the present, when Washington is preoccupied with the political and petty….
From his An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations:
The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause as the effect of the division of labour.
From Amazon's page on the book:
‘The extent of the market’ is limited not just by transport but by trust: [T]here is also a feeling that some of the [recent] best-sellers have trivialised economics, titillating the reader with sex and drugs while neglecting the more important insights of the discipline. Nobody could accuse Partha Dasgupta of deepening this rut. In this Very Short Introduction, he has taken as his theme the original mystery of economics: the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. And he motivates the study not with unadorned GDP statistics but by comparing the lives of two young girls: Becky, who lives in an affluent American suburb, and Desta, the daughter of Ethiopian farmers. Why do two children, born so much alike, live such different lives?
From: Brad DeLong firstname.lastname@example.org
To: UCB Econ 2 Spring 2014 students
Subject: The Prologue to Partha Dasgupta's "Economics: A Very Short Introduction"
Becky, who is 10 years old, lives with her parents and an older brother Sam in a suburban town in America's Midwest. Becky's father works in a firm specializing in property law. Depending on the firm's profits, his annual income varies somewhat, but is rarely below 145,000 US dollars ($145,000). Becky's parents met at college. For a few years her mother worked in publishing, but when Sam was born she decided to concentrate on raising a family. Now that both Becky and Sam attend school, she does voluntary work in local education. The family live in a two-storey house. It has four bedrooms, two bathrooms upstairs and a toilet downstairs, a large drawing-cum-dining room, a modern kitchen, and a family room in the basement. There is a plot of land at the rear - the backyard - which the family use for leisure activities.
The sixth thing economists have to say is about “macro”: about how sometimes the entire market system appears to go awry in some puzzling way. Sometimes when you go the market, you find the money prices that you have to pay higher than you expected—perhaps 10% higher than you expected last year when you made your plans. It seems that, somehow, there is too much spending money chasing too few goods. How is this that this happens? And what should the government do to make sure that it does not happen?
From James Fieser's (email@example.com) Hume Archives:
LETTER FROM ADAM SMITH, LL.D.
TO WILLIAM STRAHAN, ESQ.
Kirkaldy, Fifeshire, Nov. 9. 1776
It is with a real, though a very melancholy, pleasure that l sit down to give you some account of the behaviour of our late excellent friend, Mr. Hume, during his last illness.
Will Wilkinson: Is a Non-Ideological Political Philosophy Possible?:
It's mostly personal epistemic virtue, but the content of belief helps too. I think a moderate general Pyrrhonism plus conceptually savvy empiricism plus pluralism plus a socially deliberative/procedural bent (not just democratic but also scientific) adds up to something close to non-ideological--as close one is likely to get, at any rate.
I stopped calling myself a libertarian in part because I thought my many marginal disagreements added up to something really substantive and categorical. Mostly, though, because ideological self-definition inwardly encourages a spirit of community and camaraderie and partisanship that is one of the blessings of life, but which also makes true philosophy next to impossible. I struggle daily with the possibility that I have made the wrong decision, and that belonging, even on the basis of shared error, is more important than truth. Where my label was, there is a scar.
UCB Public Affairs: Festival of ‘uncharted’ ideas coming to downtown Berkeley:
Robots, technology, race, food justice and climate change are just some of the diverse and pressing topics up for discussion at “Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas” Oct. 25 and 26. The downtown-Berkeley happening will feature a who’s who of speakers and lots of opportunity for participating “infovores” to interact, converse and imagine new futures.
Truman Medal Lecture: Her bottom line:
What is different this time is the Tea Party, which has broken the norms of American governance.
I do not believe we can run the federal government effectively with this low a level of discretionary appropriations to GDP.
We will implement the ACA, and it will go reasonably well.
I'm disappointed the president has not been willing to put forward something very close to what's in his budget and say: "Come on , John! Let's do it!"
Alas! The curse of Green Lanternism has struck again...