It's time to think about what the proper use and role of a weblog are going to be in the 2020s. Anybody with smart ideas and recommendations, please email me at with "delong-weblog-recommendations" as the subject...

This Is What a President Looks Like—For the Weekend

If you won't vote for this guy over the incompetent buffoon that is Donald Trump, do me a favor and please never vote again. You are too much of an easily-grifted moron for your voting to be a good idea for anybody: Joe Biden & Ady Barkan: In Conversation

.#fortheweekend #moralresponsibility #politics #2020-07-10

Black: Cracking—Noted

Duncan Black: Cracking ‘27% will support him no matter what, and another 13% will support him almost no matter what, but once you start losing at that latter group they don't come back. They're the ones who won't admit to voting for him in a few years (months). "Evaluation of Trump's oversight of the COVID-19 crisis reached a new low since ABC News/Ipsos began surveying on the coronavirus in March, with 67% disapproving of his efforts. One-third of the country approves of the president's oversight of the pandemic." They aren't reporting the overall approval rating, which I assume they asked, but… .#noted #2020-07-10

Campos: The Trump Delusion—Noted

Trump after rally

Paul Campos: The Trump Delusion ‘How is it that, despite everything, 40% of America continues to support Donald Trump? I’ve suggested that Trump’s supporters can be sorted into a few broad categories, with many of those supporters belonging to more than one of these groups: White nationalists.... Alienated burn it all down anti-establishment types.... Upper class Republicans who want big tax cut.... Religious conservatives, overwhelmingly white evangelicals.... Low information voters who always vote Republican out of tribal habit. These people have the most fantastical ideas about Trump, such as for example that he’s a “successful businessman,” rather than a “politician,” which is why he manages to “get things done.” This last group in particular includes a lot of overlap with the more cultish strain of religious conservatives.... Relatively few people are capable of maintaining a genuine lesser of two evils attitude toward the leader of an essentially charismatic—to use Weber’s typology—political movement. Almost everyone in the movement must eventually embrace the delusion that the leader is actually a good person, despite all evidence to the contrary. For example, the following message has gone viral on social media over the last few days. The text is headed by the photo at the top of this post:

Continue reading "Campos: The Trump Delusion—Noted" »

Higgins & Klitgaard: Japan’s Experience with Yield Curve Control—Noted

For reasons that have never been clear to me, central banks have hitherto always focused on influencing interest rates at the short end of the yield curve. I understand why you would do so in a financial crisis: in a financial crisis it is the stringency of short term money that is the key problem. But when central banking moves out from dealing with dire and immediate crises into the business of making Say’s Law generally true in practice even though it is false in theory—the business of matching the propensity to save with the animal spirits of enterprisers—the short run opportunity cost of immediate cash money is no longer a key or even an especially interesting financial economic quantity to manage. Yet central banks have consistently, historically, and traditionally focused on managing it. Now, finally, the Bank of Japan has been experimenting with alternatives. And they look very promising indeed:

Matthew Higgins & Thomas Klitgaard: Japan’s Experience with Yield Curve Control ‘Any central bank considering a move to implement its own version of YCC... has many questions to ponder.... For Japan... YCC has had one clear benefit. Under the new policy, the BoJ has been able to exert fairly close control over the term structure of interest rates without resorting to large-scale interventions in the JGB market. Investors accept that the Bank can buy whatever quantity of JGBs is needed to keep yields from rising and, as a result, it has not had to buy many at all... .#macro #monetarypolicy #2020-07-10

Time for Another Ethics Panel: Keyvan—Noted

Time for Another Ethics Panel!: Keyvan: 'LOL Turns out one of the signatories of the Harper’s letter, Cary Nelson, actually defended his university’s decision in 2014 to rescind Steven Salaita’s tenured appointment because of his comments about Israel. this letter is the biggest joke I’ve encountered in sometime!… .#noted #2020-07-10

Boushey: The Link Between Structural Racism, the Coronavirus Recession, & Economic Inequality—Noted

Very much worth reading: Heather Boushey: The Link Between Structural Racism, the Coronavirus Recession, & Economic Inequality ‘The evidence that inequality harms is all around us. The vulnerability of communities of low-income, as well as Black, Latinx, and Native American families to the effects of the coronavirus and the recession is stark. The same living and working conditions that obstruct people’s economic opportunities—the lack of access to affordable housing, inadequate healthcare, unsafe working conditions, the lack of paid sick leave—expose them in greater numbers to sickness and death from COVID-19. The failure to have effective institutions that protect all workers means our entire economy is less resilient—and more economically unstable as a result.... This brings us back to trust. Government must work on behalf of low-income, Black, Latinx, and Native American people and make sure their needs are truly reflected in the policy agenda. People must see that they can both develop and deploy their talents and skills in the economy and that those at the top are not encouraged to subvert outcomes to benefit themselves rather than our economy and society writ large. People must have both confidence and proof that they are protected from oppression and state-sanctioned violence. As we look to strengthening our democracy and recovering from this coronavirus recession in the years to come, core to any economic agenda must be to confront the role that effective institutions play in fostering growth that is strong, stable, and broadly shared. If large portions of our population can’t trust the government to act on their behalves, then we need to acknowledge our government isn’t working the way it needs to… .#equitablegrowth #noted #2020-07-10

Bergquist, Mildenberger, & Stokes: Americans Want Green Spending In Federal Coronavirus Recession Relief Packages—Noted

There is potential political support for, and there is certainly both technocratic justification and fiscal space for, hitting both the economic recovery and the global warming fighting birds with the stone that is coronavirus plague depression relief:

Parrish Bergquist, Matto Mildenberger, & Leah Stokes: Americans Want Green Spending In Federal Coronavirus Recession Relief Packages ‘We launched a nationally representative survey of slightly more than 1,000 people between May 15, 2020 and May 20, 2020.... The public supports green stimulus but not at the expense of broad economic relief. Our experimental results show that including green infrastructure spending increases support for a coronavirus relief package. Support for wind and solar investments and for clean transportation investments is particularly strong. Including these measures increases support by 8.5 percentage points and 6.1 percentage points, respectively. Notably, including electricity transmission investments does not cause a change in support for the package… .#equitablegrowth #noted #2020-07-10

Hipple & Fischer: Enhanced U.S. Social Insurance Will Be Necessary Until the Coronavirus Recession Recedes—Noted

Put me down as saying that we require, right now, not just additional social insurance payments but additional government purchases, additional government employment of test-&-tracers and barefoot nurses, plus powerful steps to boost all forms of investment spending while in-person consumption is depressed: Liz Hipple & Amanda Fischer: Enhanced U.S. Social Insurance Will Be Necessary Until the Coronavirus Recession Recedes ‘Raj Chetty and his Opportunity Insights colleagues... U.S. consumer spending fell dramatically over the past few months, driven by public health and safety concerns... [that] are keeping people, especially those in high-income households, away from purchasing in-person services, indicating that until people feel safe engaging again in in-person services such as dining out or getting haircuts, consumer spending on services—which accounts for 66 percent of all consumer spending—will not meaningfully rebound.... To fix the U.S. economy... [requires] first fix[ing] the U.S. public health crisis. Merely announcing that the economy is “reopened” will not make it so.... Investing in social insurance programs—such as the expanded unemployment benefits enacted by Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act—is the best way to mitigate economic suffering during the recession, rather than stimulus measures targeted toward businesses or the rich.... The fall-off in consumer spending is being driven by high-income households, particularly in areas with high rates of COVID-19.... As of May 31, two-thirds of the total reduction in credit card spending since January was from households in the top 25 percent of the income distribution, whereas spending by households in the bottom quartile had returned to normal levels… .#equitablegrowth #noted #2020-07-10

Equitable Growth: Unemployment Benefits—Noted

High-frequency business cycle data is rarely reliable, both because the data is unreliable and the official statistics measures that high frequency indicators are used to estimate is unreliable as well. But if I had to guess right now, I would say that the bounceback is over: that it is more likely than not that the US economy will worsen along the business cycle dimension than strengthen—at least over the next three months:

Equitable Growth: 'The week ending July 4, 1.4 million workers filed for regular unemployment benefits. The number of initial UI claims have declined every week since reaching a record high the first week of April, but claims have now plateaued. Another 1,038,905 workers filed for initial PUA, the program that extended eligibility to workers who do not have enough earnings history to be eligible for regular jobless benefits, such as caretakers and the self-employed. Regular continued claims, which represent the number of workers who are now insured, fell to 16.8 million the week of June 27. The share of the workforce that is receiving benefits decreased to 11.5 percent, a 0.5 percentage point increase from the week before. As @lizhipple and @amandalfischer write, policymakers should focus on "supporting the incomes of the tens of millions of workers who have lost their jobs...Most importantly, this includes extending the additional $600 in Unemployment Insurance benefits"... .#equitablegrowth #noted #2020-07-10

Lopez: Just 4 States Meet Criteria to Reopen & Stay Safe—Noted

No. The U.S. is not yet ready to “reopen the economy’—unless you want an ultimate 2019 coronavirus plague death total above one million. Why do you ask? And then there is hte danger that New York, New Jersey, and New England that would be able to handle the outbreak and reopen if they were a country that could control its borders will be taken down by infections coming from people fleeing Arizona, Texas, and Florida:

German Lopez: Just 4 States Meet Criteria to Reopen & Stay Safe ‘Experts told me states need three things to be ready to reopen. State leaders, from the governor to the legislature to health departments, need to ensure the SARS-CoV-2 virus is no longer spreading unabated. They need the testing capacity to track and isolate the sick and their contacts. And they need the hospital capacity to handle a potential surge in Covid-19 cases. More specifically, states should meet at least five basic criteria. They should see a two-week drop in coronavirus cases, indicating that the virus is actually abating. They should have fewer than four daily new cases per 100,000 people per day — to show that cases aren’t just dropping, but also below dangerous levels. They need at least 150 new tests per 100,000 people per day, letting them quickly track and contain outbreaks. They need an overall positive rate for tests below 5 percent — another critical indicator for testing capacity. And states should have at least 40 percent of their ICU beds free to actually treat an influx of people stricken with Covid-19 should it be necessary. So far, most states are not there. As of July 8, just... Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York… .#noted #2020-07-10

Klein: Donald Trump Is the Reason for America’s Disastrous Coronavirus Response—Noted

I see many people blaming America's catastrophic failure to cope with the 2019 coronavirus plague on "polarization”. But Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy have no more desire than Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to see the plague burn itself through the entire country over the remainder of this year, killing millions and impoverishing America.

Both sets would like to stomp the virus—as the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan appear to have done, and as Canada appears to be doing. Both sets would like to see a rapid return to full employment and a booming economy. The blame for the catastrophic failure lies with Trump and the combination of grifters and incompetents with whom he surrounds himself.

Mitch McConnell’s and Kevin McCarthy’s liability is second order: their conclusion that it would have been too risky to ease him out of office long ago, or to have eased him out of candidacy:

Ezra Klein: Donald Trump Is the Reason for America’s Disastrous Coronavirus Response ‘Eight percent of Democrats, but 31 percent of Republicans, would attend a crowded party.... Partisanship was the single biggest driver of attitudes toward the coronavirus.... Now America’s coronavirus rate is on the rise, racing into uncharted territory even as Europe, Canada, and Japan hold new case rates to about 100 per million residents, or under. This chart is a stark reminder that the outbreak we’re experiencing isn’t an inevitability of the disease, but a staggering failure of policy and public health compliance.... Structural polarization stems from the core incentives of American politics. Elections are zero-sum affairs, and voters reward the majority party for successful, popular governance. The minority party’s default tendency to oppose the majority party’s signature initiatives is an example of structural polarization..... Discretionary polarization reflects the idiosyncratic decisions leaders make. Take face masks, for example. In an alternative universe, where President Mitt Romney is in the final year of his second term, would there be a politicized culture war over face masks? I doubt it...

...President Romney would be wearing a mask and urging others to do the same, just as Sen. Romney, and many of his colleagues, are doing now....

There is nothing intrinsic to the structure of American politics, or the composition of the Republican Party, that made Trump turn against masks. If anything, Trump’s opposition is an act against self-interest. A successful Covid-19 response would improve Trump’s reelection prospects. Widespread mask-wearing is key to a successful Covid-19 response. That Trump refused to wear a mask while touring a factory that makes masks reflects Trumpism, not polarization. “I think we have to place this one pretty squarely on presidential leadership,” says political theorist Danielle Allen, head of Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics. “Polarization hasn’t helped, but polarization, in this instance, has been driven by presidential leadership”...

.#noted #2020-07-10

Kudlow (June 22, 2020): A Second Wave of Coronavirus Cases 'Isn't Coming'—Noted

Is this a conscious con and grift—a belief that the key audiences that the Trumpists want to satisfy has no memory at all—or is this the Dunning-Krueger “the greater the incompetence, the less the self-awareness** taken to the max? I do not know. But more and more my worry when Larry Kudlow was appointed has come true: It has been so long since he was a real economist that he has forgotten—if he ever knew—how to do anything other than play an economist on TV. Thus putting him in the administration is like putting William Shatner in command of a battlefleet, with results that are then predictable:

Thomas Franck (2020-06-22): Larry Kudlow Says a Second Wave of Coronavirus Cases 'Isn't Coming' ‘“There is no second wave coming. It’s just hot spots. They send in CDC teams, we’ve got the testing procedures, we’ve got the diagnostics, we’ve got the PPE. And so I really think it’s a pretty good situation,” said Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council and chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump. “Actually, I think nationwide the positivity rate is still quite low, well under 10%.” His comments came after the U.S. reported more than 30,000 new infections on Friday and Saturday...

Continue reading "Kudlow (June 22, 2020): A Second Wave of Coronavirus Cases 'Isn't Coming'—Noted" »

Simon: How a ‘Heat Dome’ Forms—& Why This One Is So Perilous

The failure of the United States to adopt any strategy for dealing with the 2019 coronavirus plague does not mean that the already existing strains on our systems from global warming have gone away. Far from it. This from the smart Matt Simon on their probable negative synergies is well worth reading:

Matt Simon: How a ‘Heat Dome’ Forms—& Why This One Is So Perilous ‘A massive, intense heat wave is settling over the continental US. The ravages of the Covid pandemic are going to make it all the more deadly.... A “heat dome” of high pressure could blast 80 percent of the continental US with temperatures over 90 degrees for the next few weeks. This coming in a summer when the Covid-19 lockdown has trapped people indoors, many without air-conditioning—and mass unemployment may mean that residents with AC units can’t afford to run them. Deeper still, the heat and the pandemic are exacerbating long-standing and deadly inequities that will only get deadlier.... Heat can accumulate over days or weeks, turning the heat dome into a kind of self-perpetuating atmospheric cap over the landscape. On a normal day, some of the sun’s energy evaporates water from the soil, meaning that solar energy isn’t put toward further warming the air. But as the heat dome persists, it blasts away the soil’s moisture, and that solar energy now goes full-tilt into heating the air. “So after a certain point, once it's been hot enough for long enough, it becomes even easier to get even hotter,” says Swain. “And so that's why these things can often be really persistent, because once they've been around for a little while, they start to feed off of themselves.” Unfortunately for the southwestern US, this is likely to unfold in the next week or two. Normally at this time of year, monsoons would be drenching the landscape, but no such storms are on the horizon. “And so those super dry land surfaces are going to amplify the heat and the persistence of this heat dome,” says Swain. The central US and mountain states will also be sweltering particularly badly over the next few weeks—heat domes tend to perpetuate inland, where they more easily dry out the surface than in wetter regions.... This won’t be the last heat dome, or the most severe one. On a warming planet, the conditions are ripe for these systems to perpetuate themselves... .#noted #2020-07-10

Lee & al.: 'We Need to Live with It': White House Message on Coronavirus—Noted

Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker & Monica Alba: 'We Need to Live with It': White House Message on Coronavirus ‘Administration officials are planning to intensify what they hope is a sharper, and less conflicting, message of the pandemic... At the crux of the message, officials said, is a recognition by the White House that the virus is not going away any time soon.... As a result, President Donald Trump's top advisers plan to argue, the country must figure out how to press forward despite it...

Continue reading "Lee & al.: 'We Need to Live with It': White House Message on Coronavirus—Noted" »

Drum: An Unprecedented National Catastrophe—Noted

I want to put Kevin Drum here in touch with Anne Applebaum here: Kevin is definitely asking the right questions here: Kevin Drum: How Did Republicans Become a Cult of Trump? 'Bret Stephens writes today: "We are in the midst of an unprecedented national catastrophe... not the pandemic, or an economic depression, or killer cops, or looted cities, or racial inequities.... What's unprecedented is that never before have we been led by a man who so completely inverts the spirit of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.... We have a president who wants to replace rule of law with rule by the gun. If Trump now faces a revolt by the Pentagon's civilian and military leadership (both current and former) against his desire to deploy active-duty troops in American cities, it's because his words continue to drain whatever is left of his credibility as commander in chief..." What kind of party, or ideological movement, ends up nominating a person like this? And not just nominating, but nominating by a landslide against a perfectly competent and ordinary set of conservative opponents. Trump won the nomination with a pure grassroots campaign, during which he lied, insulted people, made up juvenile nicknames, displayed epic ignorance, and just generally acted the buffoon. His supporters knew exactly what they were getting, and they got it. So what has the Republican Party---Bret's party---been doing that led it to this point? And what will it do to avoid a repeat in the future? This requires some introspection and some interrogation. It's not enough to say that Trump is a catastrophe. Anyone who can pour piss out of a boot knows that. But what brought Republicans to this awful point? That's the more important question... .#noted #2020-07-09

Stafford: Quentin’s Zoom Webinar Checklist—Noted

Quentin Stafford: Quentin’s Zoom Webinar Checklist

  • [Consider] Webinar mode... a paid add-on,... [with] an Eventbrite-style registration system, polls, Q&A chat windows, post-call surveys, the ability to livestream to YouTube, etc.
  • Make sure your camera is around eye-level or higher. Laptop users, I’m looking at you!...
  • Make sure there’s more light in front of you than there is behind you.
  • Use ethernet rather than wifi if you possibly can.
  • Use a decent microphone....
  • Avoid distracting (or boring) backgrounds.
  • Don’t use virtual backgrounds or automatic blurring.
  • Mute yourself when your microphone isn’t needed....
  • Have at least one trial session!... You, any speakers, and one or two other helpers. You want everyone to know what it’s like to be a panelist, and what it’s like to be an attendee. Things you’ll want to find out:
  • Can attendees take part in the chat?
  • If so, will that distract the speaker?
  • If, instead, you’re using the Q&A window, who sees what and when?
  • Have one of your test attendees submit questions and answer them privately, publicly, or reject them. What do they see?
  • Suppose you want to allow an attendee to say something using audio, how do you do it?
  • How much of this will the speaker be able to see when they’re sharing their Powerpoint presentation?
  • If they have a video embedded in their presentation, will everyone hear its audio?
  • You need more than just two of you to try this kind of thing out.
  • Don’t hold your trial session just before the event!
  • If your speakers are going to be sharing their screen, test that out in advance with every speaker.
  • Giving the talk, running the meeting, and collating questions are three jobs and ideally need three people.
  • You will get lots of last-minute requests for the meeting link, no matter how many times you’ve sent it out beforehand. Have it to hand at all times.
  • reate a TinyURL link to it in case you have to text it to someone at short notice.
  • Consider disaster scenarios.
  • Make yourself a checklist.
  • Are you recording this? Have you notified everyone? Will you make it available afterwards?
  • Do you want attendees to be able to use the chat? Turn it off if not.
  • Do you want attendees to be able to use/see the Q&A window? Set appropriately.
  • Have you enabled screen-sharing for participants? That’s an option on the host’s screen-sharing menu.
  • Tell the panel: turn off your phone, turn off notifications on your desktop and quit all other apps, make sure your family and dog know you’re not to be disturbed.
  • Make contingency plans so you aren’t distracted if your doorbell rings?
  • Tell the attendees: whether you’re recording the meeting, whether the video will be available, where the video will be available, whether you’re using Zoom’s ‘Raise Hand’ feature, and how you’re handling Q&A.
  • Have a backup plan for what to do if something suddenly goes badly wrong?
  • ‘Spotlight’ the current speaker’s video.
  • ‘Spotlighting’ the speaker’s video is a good safety measure to stop unexpected switches when somebody’s dog barks in the background after you forgot to mute them!
  • Think about how you are going to finish the meeting professionally. Consider the final words you want to be ringing in hundreds of people’s ears as they depart.
  • Beware the still-live microphones and cameras.
  • Stick around afterwards for a while
.#noted #2020-07-09

Scott: Coronavirus Cases Are Rising, But Covid-19 Deaths Are Falling. What’s Going On?—Noted

Dylan Scott: Coronavirus Cases Are Rising, But Covid-19 Deaths Are Falling. What’s Going On? ‘If deaths are not increasing along with cases, then why can’t we keep reopening?... I posed that very question to more than a dozen public health experts. All of them cautioned against complacency: This many cases mean many more deaths are probably in our future. And even if deaths don’t increase to the same levels seen in April and May, there are still some very serious possible health consequences if you contract Covid-19. The novel coronavirus, SARS-Cov-2, is a maddeningly slow-moving pathogen—until it’s not. The sinking death rates reflect the state of the pandemic a month or more ago, experts say, when the original hot spots had been contained and other states had only just begun to open up restaurants and other businesses… .#coronavirus #noted #publichealth #2020-07-09

Black: Bedbug Stephens, the New York Times, & the Anti-Mask Brigade—Noted

Bedbug stephens

Duncan Black: Eschaton: The Anti-Mask Brigade ‘I got the play a couple of months ago. Sure it was gross and cynical—these are, charitably, gross and cynical people—but it made sense. The evil libs had a problem in big cities like New York and were trying to impose their Stalinist precautions on the rest of the country, mostly to make Dear Leader look bad. Even New York Times columnist Bedbug Stephens agreed! But now cases are booming elsewhere and they're in their own bases trying to murder their base…

.#coronavirus #moralresponsibility #noted #orangehairedbaboons #publichealth #2020-07-09

A Grand Narrative Catechism: The Global Economic History of the Long 20th Century, 1870-2016


What does DeLong see as the proper temporal boundaries of the “Long 20th Century”?
The Long 20th Century began around 1870, when the triple emergence of globalization, the industrial research lab, and the modern corporation in the context of the market economy set the world on the path that pulled it out of the dire poverty that was humanity’s lot in all centuries before; and when America took the steps that made it the place where much of the action was—“the furnace where the future is forged”, to quote Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky. The Long Twentieth Century ended in 2016, with the sharp shock of the near-return of Great Depression-era macroeconomic conditions, with the failure of the anemic economic recovery from the Great Recession that started in 2008 to bring a restoration of the post-1870 normal pace of productivity growth; and with the election of Donald Trump, an American president hostile to global leadership, to global cooperation, and to the very ideas that America was open to immigrants.

.#berkeley #econ115 #economichistory #highlighted #slouchingtowardsutopia #tceh #teaching #teachingeconomics #teachinghistory #2020-07-08
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Holbo: 'This Maxim Is Patently, Grossly Inadequate for Governing a Blog Comment Box... Let Alone... Public Reason & a Public Sphere'—Noted

John Holbo: '[The Harpers letter says:] "The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other" Some thoughts on 2nd-best solutions: This maxim is patently, grossly inadequate for governing a blog comment box... let alone a social media platform, let alone Public Reason and a Public Sphere. Ideally, we would live in a world in which this would be an ideal rule to follow. Ideally, the world contains no trolls, bots, bad faith actors—or few enough they can be dealt with retail not wholesale in the Marketplace of Ideas. In a world in which everyone were exchanging more or less in open-faced good faith, this rule would be good. In our actual world, however, it is not good. No, not really, sadly. Hence a dilemma. Insisting on the rule might seem to pull us towards that better world. Be the ideal discourse change you want to see! On the other hand—here is 2nd best wisdom—there is no guarantee that things fit for the best of all possible worlds also best suit ours...

...If you set this high bar and then—predictably—fail to clear it (you block people on Twitter rather than debating them ad nauseum, even though they are obviously trolls) you open yourself up to criticism of hypocrisy. Maybe things go backwards as a result. But there isn't really an obvious, simple 2nd best rule for our 2nd best world. It's easy-and therefore very proper!-to point out cases in which people and things and ideas have been 'cancelled' when they clearly should have been tolerated/debated. Not easy to articulate a stable norm about this, even a rule-of-thumb. One of the main obstacles is the discourse ethics of partisanship. Partisanship is not bad faith, but partisanship is, to some degree, a thing that should be damped in debate. The whole point of arguing is to consider changing your mind, via trying to change others' minds. So, ideally, partisans should-not disarm, that isn't it-but observe exacting dueling protocols when entering the debate arena. But this is hard to articulate and enforce.

Here's another problem. Nazis are bad. In a politically liberal world in which there are only a few Nazis, you can argue with them. It's like a vaccine. You are inoculating the discourse by injecting it with small amounts of moribund evil, to build antibodies. Unfortunately, it is a fallacy that, if vaccines are good, virulent diseases must be good, too. R's whine that they get called 'evil', but they support a President who tweets out 'White Power' and they are, no kidding, working to dismantle or hobble democracy. Why are leftists 'cancelling' right-wing ideas? Because the center of gravity of conservative thinking in the Republican party has lurched rightward. The R party really is laying its bets on securing minority white rule by manipulation of anti-democratic levers of power.

This is within the 'rules of the game', because the game was to some degree designed to be anti-democratic. But it is not something they are arguing for openly and honestly. It's not clear it's a good idea arguing with them as-if they were good faith actors about this. Future historians will debate 'cancel culture in the 2020's'. I hope they will be sensible enough rightly to identify as its main, root cause: breaches of norms of commitment to liberalism and democracy by the American right. 'Unless and until conservatism crawls out of its deplorable basket there isn't much realistic prospect of normalizing its tenets as non-deplorable, in discourse terms.' It is not reasonable to ask the left to pretend things stand otherwise than they do.

Another nexus of dispute is things like trans rights. I don't want to get into the whole JK Rowling thing. On the one hand, people ought to be more open to more perspectives on these things. Life is mysterious and strange and needs many perspectives on it. On the other hand, it isn't really reasonable to ask people to open themselves up to—to render themselves incapable of having reasonable discussions in the face of—bad faith attacks. I believe Rowling is arguing in good faith, even if I don't agree with what she is saying. But the pressure to 'cancel' that sort of thing does not seem to me to be due, primarily, to intolerance on the left. Rather, the problem is that MOST arguments and arguers on Rowling's side (but not her) are in bad faith. So it's hard to debate Rowling in good faith without polluting the discourse, absolutely, by letting a lot of bad faith sewage seep in.

If you want a world in which a good faith argument is possible between Rowling and her critics (which I do!) work to bring about a world in which there is less bad-faith arguing from the right on trans rights. Let me be very specific about that. The bad faith arguments all have the same form. They are what I call 'downstream worries' arguments. If 'trans rights are human rights' we have pronoun trouble, or need new norms for bathrooms or women's sports or in womens' shelters. Or philosophical ideas about the metaphysics of gender will be problematized. All this is true and some of it may get bumpy. But there's really no point arguing about it without a high baseline of initial acceptance of trans rights. If trans rights are human rights, how are we going to run sports/use pronouns? But the bad faith arguers are not willing to debate the antecedent honestly. They have a sense they'll lose, and they are right. So they fuss about bathrooms to pollute discourse with issues that can only be reasonably discussed after we accept something they don't, but aren't willing to argue about honestly. There is no reason to put up with the debate being rendered nonsensical.

It's fine to 'cancel' those who monkey wrench liberal discourse, rather than engage in honest debate. Unfortunately, that means those who are adjacent to bad faith actors, but in good faith, get cancelled-by-association. That's unfortunate but hard to rule out, with a rule. So I can't agree with the letter of the letter, although I do wholeheartedly agree with the spirit of the letter. So, in spirit, I sign the letter. In the best of all possible worlds. But not, like, with the letters of my name in a 2nd best world. (Is that right?)...

.#cognition #noted #publicsphere #2020-07-07

Popehat: The Problem of the Preferred First Speaker—Noted

So now Jennifer Finney Boylan self-cancels for signing the Harpers letter, and Emily van Der Werff says that Matt Yglesias's signing it makes her feel "less she" at—thus triggering Vox Media's Human Resources Department by putting them on notice that other employees are creating an environment unsafe for her. My first reaction to the letter was "in the world of Trump, of COVID-19, of global warming, of the murder of George Floyd, of the clearing of Lafayette Park of peaceful protesters with tear gas so the President accompanied by the CJCS can walk through—this is the type of action in the public sphere you think you should take? What's wrong with you?" But my second reaction is turning into: "Well played, John R. MacArthur, well played!": Popehat: ‘I like and respect many of these people[who signed "A Letter on Justice and Open Debate"]. But I continue to struggle with the concept. The distinction between “silencing” and more/responsive/critical speech eludes me. I see instead the problem of the preferred first speaker. “The problem of the preferred first speaker” is the tendency to impose norms of civility, openness, productiveness, and dialogue-encouraging on a RESPONSE to expression that we do not impose on the expression itself. On the other hand, some of the reactions to this seem absolutely devoted to making its point. Ugh. No seriously, now I wonder if the letter was crafted to make its point not in its text but through the anticipated reactions. Good Lord above people. I mean if that was their intent—to illustrate their proposition through anticipated reactions—I have to compliment them on their craft, even if I don't agree with them entirely.

Jennifer Finney Boylan: I did not know who else had signed that letter. I thought I was endorsing a well meaning, if vague, message against internet shaming. I did know Chomsky, Steinem, and Atwood were in, and I thought, good company.

Also, "public shaming and ostracism" are free speech and association, and I guarantee you that you support them—you just disagree with me about when they should be used. Be suspicious of free speech philosophies that require you to refrain from speaking to promote speech…

.#noted #publicsphere #2020-07-07

De Tocqueville: "Property... a... badge of fraternity. The wealthy... elder... but all... members of one family..."—Noted

Alexis de Tocqueville: Recollections. ‘The steward of my estate, himself half a peasant, describing what was taking place in the country immediately after the 24th of February [1848], wrote: "People here say that if Louis-Philippe has been sent away, it is a good thing, and that he deserved it...." This was to them the whole moral of the play. But when they heard tell of the disorder reigning in Paris, of the new taxes to be imposed, and of the general state of war that was to be feared... and when, in particular, they learnt that the principle of property was being attacked, they did not fail to perceive that there was something more.... I was at once struck by a spectacle that both astonished and charmed me.... In the country all the landed proprietors, whatever their origin, antecedents, education or means, had come together, and seemed to form but one class: all former political hatred and rivalry of caste or fortune had disappeared from view. There was no more jealousy or pride displayed between the peasant and the squire, the nobleman and the commoner; instead, I found mutual confidence, reciprocal friendliness, and regard. Property had become, with all those who owned it, a sort of badge of fraternity. The wealthy were the elder, the less endowed the younger brothers; but all considered themselves members of one family, having the same interest in defending the common inheritance. As the French Revolution had infinitely increased the number of land-owners, the whole population seemed to belong to that vast[116] family. I had never seen anything like it, nor had anyone in France within the memory of man... .#equitablegrowth #history #noted #politicaleconomy #politics #2020-07-07

Scalzi: Five Things: July 7, 2020—Noted

John Scalzi: Five Things: July 7, 2020 ‘Donald Trump a father-damaged sociopath: Or so suggests niece Mary Trump in her new book.... My own very quick take.... Honestly at this point if you don’t know Donald Trump is a terrible person, it’s because you’ve decided you don’t want to know.... Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tests positive for coronavirus: Which, well, good, since he’s pretty much the only major world leader further into denial about the virus than our own president.... I wouldn’t feel entirely put out if the virus kicked his ass... a lot. Him coming out... with minimal effect... would probably be even worse... since he really does seem like the “see, it wasn’t so bad, f--- you for thinking otherwise” sort.... This wouldn’t have any upside for that country’s citizens. Lin-Manuel Miranda with a healthy response to Hamilton criticisms.... “I had a lot to cover and two and a half hours to cover it all, choices were made, criticize away,” which is a) a very sensible way of dealing with criticism, b) easy to say when the art in question has garnered one Tonys and Pulitzers and literally millions of dollars.... Also, bluntly, criticism means the work is still alive in culture. That’s not chopped liver for an artist… .#noted #2020-07-07

Citino: Death of the Wehrmacht—Noted

Robert Citino: Death of the Wehrmacht: 'Tobruk was just the latest example, but all the German campaigns of this [early 1942] period were essentially similar. In Kerch, Kharkov, Gazala, Tobruk, and Sevastopol, the Wehrmacht had won five of the most decisive victories in its entire history. It was an amazing run that represented a climax for the German way of war as it had developed since the 1600s. It had taken nearly 600,000 prisoners in that stretch, its own casualties had been low—almost nonexistent if we exclude Sevastopol. It had fought each of these battles from a position of numerical inferiority. If the highest military accomplishment is the ability to "fight outnumbered and win," the Wehrmacht seemed to have the market cornered by 1942...

...It achieved this enviable record of triumph by conducting its operations in the time-honored Prusso-German tradition. All were carefully prepared, highly aggressive, and centered around an operational-level maneuver designed to get onto the opponent's flank and rear with a significant portion of the available force. From that point on, the intent was always the same: to kessel most or all of the enemy's main body, subject it to concentric attack in the classic style, and destroy it. The breakthrough against the carefully chosen left wing of the Soviet line at Kerch; the maneuver at Kharkov, finding the deep left flank of the Soviet position and driving it in relentlessly; Rommel's drive into the British rear at Gazala, landing a first-round blow from which the enemy never recovered; the Afrika Korps's drive far to the east of Tobruk, followed by the sudden turnabout; Manstein's nighttime crossing of Severnaya Bay, bypassing the still unbroken Soviet defensive line in front of Sevastopol: again and again in this period, it was the surprising operational-level maneuver that delivered a shock to the adversary and brought victory even against unfavorable numerical odds.

None of this was new. Tanks and aircraft had given it a more modern sheen, but the essence was historical. It was an operational approach that had been burned into the German officer corps since Frederick the Great. As one German officer wrote in July 1942:

When we think of the decisive sources of strength that make up the concept of German soldiering, not the last among them is tradition. The military fabric of our day is not the result of a single deed. It has formed it- self organically by a difficult, centuries-long process.

Here is the authentic voice of the German officer corps, one that had emerged from an old and traditional historical matrix:

Tradition is bound up with memory of all the warlike events that have played themselves out on all the battlefields of the centuries. Leuthen and Kunersdorf, Jena and Auerstadt, Leipzig and Waterloo, Koniggratz and Sedan, Tannenberg and Gorlice-Tarnow: all the victories and battles that German soldiers have sealed with their blood arise before our eyes...

In other words, the great victories at Kerch and Kharkov, Gazala and Tobruk did not emerge from nowhere. They were instead part of a tradition, and they owed as much to the legacy of Frederick the Great and Moltke as they did to the genius of a Manstein, Kleist, or Rommel.

The decisive nature of these triumphs notwithstanding, they had been mere preliminaries to the upcoming main event. As spring yielded to the high summer of 1942, the Wehrmacht would return once again to the grand offensive. Operation Blue would take the army to many places that it had never dreamed of before: to the industrial city of Stalingrad on the Volga River, to the oil fields of Maikop in the Caucasus Mountain region, to forbiddingly remote places like the Kuban and the Taman and the Kalmuk—and, for the first time, to a place that was truly terra incognita to officers and men of the Wehrmacht alike: an annihilating defeat in a campaign of maneuver...

.#noted #2020-07-09

"The Market Was Made for Man, Not Man for the Market": Time to Ramp Up Direct Cash Payments

Lord of the sabbath

The need for large redirections of financial flows to avoid large increase in poverty during this coronavirus plague is large. The need for substantial top-ups to spending flows in view of the large jump in savings rates triggered by the arrival of coronavirus is large. The U.S. government continues to be able to borrow at unbelievable terms—terms so unbelievable that, when the accounting is done correctly, a larger national debt is not a drag on the funds the government has available for its other missions but rather a source of current cash flow.

(Why? Because in real population-adjusted terms, people are not charging the government interest on its debt but are instead paying the government to keep their money safe, but that is a discussion for another time.)

Moreover, a plan to have the government top off spending flows by whatever large amount is necessary to immediately return to full employment is moderately conservative, and the only effective way to give American businesses their proper chance to adjust and survive the coronavirus plague. It is, as John Maynard Keynes wrote back in 1936:

moderately conservative... [to] enlarge... the functions of government... [to include] the task of adjusting to one another the propensity to consume and the inducement to invest.... [It is] the condition of the successful functioning of individual [entrepreneurial] initiative. For if effective demand is deficient, not only is the public scandal of wasted resources intolerable, but the individual enterpriser who seeks to bring these resources into action is operating with the odds loaded against him. The game of hazard which he plays is furnished with many zeros, so that the players as a whole will lose if they have the energy and hope to deal all the cards.... [Success then requires] courage and initiative... supplemented by exceptional skill or unusual good fortune. But if effective demand is adequate, average skill and average good fortune will be enough... [thus] preserving [both] efficiency and freedom...

Our financial flows and property orders are a societal accounting system to guide and manage our collective societal division of labor. If dotting the i's and crossing the t's in this societal accounting system produces mass unemployment, the right response is to adjust it to produce full employment and then reconcile the accounting entries, not to watch employment fall and then sit around with our thumbs up our butts wondering what to do.

After all, the market was made for man, not man for the market—wasn't it?:


Olugbenga Ajilore,​ Mark Blyth,​ J. Bradford DeLong,​ Susan Dynarski,​ Jason Furman,​ Indivar Dutta-Gupta,​ Teresa Ghilarducci,​ Robert Gordon, ​Samuel Hammond, Darrick Hamilton,​ Damon Jones, ​Elaine Maag, Ioana Marinescu,​ Manuel Pastor,​ Robert Pollin,​ Claudia Sahm, & al.: Open Letter from economists on Automatic Triggers for Cash Stimulus Payments We urge policymakers to use all the tools at their disposal to avoid further preventable harm to people and the economy, including​ ​recurring direct stimulus payments, lasting until the economy recovers. The widespread uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic and recession calls for a multifaceted response​ ​that includes automatic, ongoing programs and policies including more direct cash payments to families; extended and enhanced unemployment benefits; substantial aid to state and local governments; stronger SNAP benefits; robust child care funding and more. These programs and policies will hasten the economic recovery far more effectively if they stay in place until economic conditions warrant their phaseout. ​Direct cash payments are an essential tool that will boost economic security, drive consumer spending, hasten the recovery, and promote certainty at all levels of government and the economy–for as long as necessary…

Continue reading ""The Market Was Made for Man, Not Man for the Market": Time to Ramp Up Direct Cash Payments" »

Carroll: Boltzmann's Anthropic Brain—Noted

Sean Carroll: Boltzmann's Anthropic Brain ‘The process of "remembering" involves establishing correlations that inevitably increase the entropy, so the direction of time that we remember [and therefore label "the past"] is always... lower-entropy.... The real puzzle is... why are conditions at one end of time so dramatically different from those at the other? If we do not assume temporal asymmetry a priori, it is impossible in principle to answer this question by suggesting why a certain initial condition is "natural"—without temporal asymmetry, the same condition would be equally natural at late times...

...On the one hand, Boltzmann's fluctuations of entropy around equilibrium allow for the existence of dynamical regions, where the entropy is (just by chance) in the midst of evolving to or from a low-entropy minimum. And we could certainly live in one of those regions.... oltzmann's goal is perfectly reasonable: to describe a history of the universe on ultra-large scales that is on the one hand perfectly natural and not finely-tuned, and on the other features patches that look just like what we see. But, having taken a bite of the apple, we have no choice but to swallow....

The most basic problem has been colorfully labeled "Boltzmann's Brain" by Albrecht and Sorbo. Remember that the low-entropy fluctuations we are talking about are incredibly rare, and the lower the entropy goes, the rarer they are.... If we are explaining our low-entropy universe by appealing to the anthropic criterion that it must be possible for intelligent life to exist, quite a strong prediction follows: we should find ourselves in the minimum possible entropy fluctuation consistent with life's existence. And that minimum fluctuation would be "Boltzmann's Brain."

Out of the background thermal equilibrium, a fluctuation randomly appears that collects some degrees of freedom into the form of a conscious brain, with just enough sensory apparatus to look around and say "Hey! I exist!", before dissolving back into the equilibrated ooze. You might object that such a fluctuation is very rare, and indeed it is. But... the momentary decrease in entropy required to produce such a brain is fantastically less than that required to make our whole universe....

This is the general thrust of argument with which many anthropic claims run into trouble. Our observed universe has something like a hundred billion galaxies with something like a hundred billion stars each. That's an extremely expansive and profligate universe, if its features are constrained solely by the demand that we exist.... Anthropic arguments would be more persuasive if our universe was minimally constructed to allow for our existence; e.g. if the vacuum energy were small enough to allow for a single galaxy to arise out of a really rare density fluctuation. Instead we have a hundred billion such galaxies, not to count all of those outside our Hubble radius....

But, returning to Boltzmann, it gets worse, in an interesting and profound way.... Assuming that we got to this macrostate via some fluctuation out of thermal equilibrium, what kind of trajectory is likely to have gotten us here?... If we ask "What kind of early universe tends to naturally evolve into what we see?", the answer is the ordinary smooth and low-entropy Big Bang. But here we are asking "What do most of the states that could possibly evolve into our current universe look like?", and the answer there is a chaotic high-entropy mess. Of course, nobody in their right minds believes that we really did pop out of a chaotic mess into a finely-tuned state with false memories about the Big Bang....

Price's conclusion from all this (pdf) is that we should take seriously the Gold universe, in which there is a low-entropy future collapsing state that mirrors our low-entropy Big Bang in the past. It's an uncomfortable answer, as nobody knows any reason why there should be low-entropy boundary conditions in both the past and the future, which would involve an absurd amount of fine-tuning of our particular microstate at every instant of time. (Not to mention that the universe shows no sign of wanting to recollapse)....

Explaining the difference in entropy between the past and future is at least as fundamental, if not more so, as explaining the horizon and flatness problems with which cosmologists are so enamored. If we're going to presume to talk sensibly and scientifically about the entire history of the universe, we have to take Boltzmann's legacy seriously…

.#noted #2020-07-06