Some of my thoughts, now two decades old, on Piketty and other issues. Surprisingly, I still think much the same as I did then: Brad DeLong: Bequests: An Historical Perspective https://www.bradford-delong.com/2014/04/bequests-an-historical-perspective-hoisted-from-the-archives-for-april-2-2014.html: 'Practically every major aspect of our system of inheritance today is less than two hundred and fifty years old. Two hundred and fifty years ago, inheritance proceeded through primogeniture--as if those leaving bequests cared not for the well-being of their descendants but only for the wealth and power of the lineage head. Before the industrial revolution, inheritance played an overwhelming and crucial role in wealth accumulation and wealth distribution that it does not play today. Migration to the New World was accompanied by a rapid shift in the perception of the purpose of inheritance as the old patterns failed to flourish in a land-rich, rapidly-growing frontier-settler economy. By the start of the twentieth century inherited wealth was regarded with suspicion in America, with even some of the richest calling for estate taxes to keep the rich from diverting the public trust of their fortunes into the pockets of their descendants. Thus the coming of social democracy to America brought with it high statutory rates of tax on large estates, which nevertheless did not raise a great deal of revenue...

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Kate Bahn and Austin Clemens: Equitable Growth’s Jobs Graphs: January 2020 Report Edition https://equitablegrowth.org/equitable-growths-jobs-day-graphs-january-2020-report-edition/: 'On February 7th, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on the U.S. labor market during the month of January. Below are five graphs compiled by Equitable Growth staff highlighting important trends in the data. Prime-age employment-to-population ratio increased to 80.6% in January, reflecting a healthy labor market 10 years into the expansion...

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Once again, playing my position requires not playing my position, and stating that Bill Barr does not speak like an official of the American government should. He is a civil servant, not an uncivil master: Scott Lemieux: Those Who Want Equal Protection of the Laws Give Unquestioned Deference to the Authoritiesy http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2019/12/those-who-want-equal-protection-of-the-laws-give-unquestioned-deference-to-the-authorities: 'Trump Family Capo Bill Barr expresses his view of the appropriate relationship between law enforcement and the citizenry.... "Today, American people have to focus on... the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement officers.... They have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves.... If communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.” I dunno, I’m beginning to think that making a mobbed-up authoritarian President of the United States was bad...

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Equitable Growth's great new hire Claudia Sahm on diversity in innovation: Claudia Sahm: The U.S. House Committee on Small Business https://twitter.com/Claudia_Sahm/status/1217559995597971462 had an important meeting on Enhancing Patent Diversity for America’s Innovators https://docs.house.gov/Committee/Calendar/ByEvent.aspx?EventID=110372. They heard from Andrea Ippolito… from W.E. Cornell.... “Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation".... Why it is important for the government to collect demographic information on who receives patents.... Chaleampong Kongcharoen.... Rick Wade shared facts about the need for more diversity among our innovators...

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Milton Friedman on Trump Fed nominee Judy Shelton. Uncle Milton would be really, really unhappy to see this nomination approved: Milton Friedman (1994): Free-Floating Anxiety https://miltonfriedman.hoover.org/friedman_images/Collections/2016c21/NR_09_12_1994.pdf: 'In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece (July 15) recommending a return to gold, Judy Shelton started her concluding paragraph: “Until the U.S. begins standing up once more for stable exchange rates as the starting point for free trade...” It would be hard to pack more error into so few words. A true gold standard—a unified currency—is indeed consistent with free trade. But a system of pegged exchange rates, such as the original IMF system or the European Monetary System, is an enemy to free trade. It is no accident that the 1992 collapse of the EMS coincided with the agreement to remove controls on the movement of capital...

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Study Questions: Pre-Commercial Revolution Economies

Study Questions for the History of Economic Growth: For Midterm 1: Econ 135

  1. Explain in words what the steady-state balanced-growth path Solow-Malthus equilibrium equation for real living standards https://delong.typepad.com/.a/6a00e551f0800388340240a50c1a9a200b-pi tells us about what the level of income will be in a Malthusian society.
  2. Explain in words what the steady-state balanced-growth path Solow-Malthus equilibrium equation for the level of population https://delong.typepad.com/.a/6a00e551f0800388340240a50c1aa8200b-pi tells us about what the level of population will be in a Malthusian society.
  3. What do you think are the three most reasons not to take the Solow-Malthus model as gospel in understanding pre-Industrial Revolution economic growth—and its absence?
  4. What are three data sources that economic historians rely on to try to get a handle on the pace of economic growth in pre-modern times?
  5. Why did average incomes and prosperity levels remain so low back before the year 1500?
  6. What were the most important changes that made the Industrial Revolution possible?
  7. Where and when did the Industrial Revolution take place?
  8. What theory about why the Industrial Revolution happened when and where it did do you find most attractive?
  9. What are the limitations of and problems with the theory that you find most attractive about why the Industrial Revolution happened when and where it did?
  10. Were income and standards of living under the Roman Empire subject to Malthusian constraints?
  11. How, so far in this course, has the concept of economic class been important in shedding light on understanding processes of economic growth?
  12. Based on what we have covered in this course so far, what do you expect to see in economic growth in the world economy over the next 50, 100, and 1000 years?
  13. In the Solow growth model, what are the important determinants of prosperity in the sense of income per worker, and how do those determinants interact?
  14. Why is Michael Kremer's (and Paul Romer's, and Jared Diamond's) theory of growth—that much of economic growth can be explained by the facts that ideas are non-rival and that two heads are better than one—attractive?
  15. Why is Michael Kremer's (and Paul Romer's, and Jared Diamond's) theory of growth—that much of economic growth can be explained by the facts that ideas are non-rival and that two heads are better than one—inadequate?
  16. Why is it probably wrong to suppose that humanity's effective effort at innovation and technology development at any point in time is proportional to the human population then?
  17. What kinds of innovative effort are positive-sum? What kinds of innovative effort are negative-sum?
  18. Why do extensive empires often appear to have higher standards of living than other, more divided societies that possess the same level of useful ideas about technology and organization?
  19. Why do extensive empires often appear to have greater population densities than other, more divided societies that possess the same level of useful ideas about technology and organization and the same quality of natural resources?
  20. What was the "Columbian Exchange" and why was it important for economic growth?
  21. What was the impact of the Spanish Conquest on the population levels and the living standards of the Amerindian population living in the Americas when the conquistadores arrived?
  22. Explain why you are annoyed by Jared Diamond's claim that the invention of agriculture was a big mistake.
  23. On what evidence does Greg Clark base his conclusion that English working-class standards of living were roughly $2.50 a day in the eight centuries before 1800?
  24. Was the standard of living of the English working class highest in 1310, 1450, or 1800; and why was it highest when it was highest?
  25. Why does Lant Pritchett believe the world today is much more unequal than it was back in 1800? Do you buy his argument?
  26. Why, in Partha Dasgupta's view, is money an extremely useful societal invention?
  27. Why, in Partha Dasgupta's view, does "Becky" have so much more social power and opportunities than does "Desta"?
  28. At what rate does income per worker grow in the Solow growth model when an economy is on its equilibrium balanced-growth path? Why does it grow at that rate?
  29. At what rate does society's total income grow in the Solow growth model when an economy is on its equilibrium balanced-growth path? Why does it grow at that rate?
  30. What changes would tend to make an economy following the Solow growth model and on its equilibrium balanced-growth path richer?
  31. What changes would tend to make an economy following the Solow growth model and on its equilibrium balanced-growth path poorer?
  32. What is meant by saying that an economy is a "Malthusian economy"?
  33. What is meant by the "demographic transition"?
  34. Why doesn't technological progress raise standards of living in a Malthusian economy on its steady-state balanced-growth path?
  35. What do economic theorists think is the reason that the much larger global STEM workforce today than in 1870-1900 has not led to a faster proportional rate of technological progress now than back then?
  36. What does Aristotle claim are the four branches of household resource management, and which of the four does he think is most important?
  37. How much does Aristotle think a philosopher—or any aristocratic Greek male—should know about economic matters: market prices of commodities and production technologies?
  38. Why does Aristotle believe that markets and merchants are useful for a city-state, and for a Greek aristocratic male?
  39. Why does Aristotle believe that markets and merchants and too much knowledge about them are dangerous and destructive for a city-state, and for a Greek aristocratic male?
  40. Why does Gilgamesh deserve to be King of Uruk? And what should his people do when they recognize that he has turned into an overbearing tyrant?
  41. Why does Willem Jongman believe that the classical Mediterranean became so rich and prosperous, so much so that, in the words of the historian Edward Gibbon: "If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of [the Emperor] Domitian [in 96] to the accession of [the Emperor] Commodus [in 180]..."?
  42. Why, in Willem Jongman's view, was the prosperity of the Antonine-Age Roman Empire between the assassination of the Emperor Domitian in 96 and the accession of the Emperor Commodus in 180 not followed by a further expansion of or even the maintenance of equal prosperity?
  43. What happened to the living standards of peasants and craftsmen in western Europe in the two centuries after the 1346-1348 Bubonic Plague, and why do economic historians (led by Robert Brenner) think what happened happened?
  44. What happened to the living standards of peasants and craftsmen in eastern Europe in the two centuries after the 1346-1348 Bubonic Plague, and why do economic historians (led by Robert Brenner) think what happened happened?
  45. Consider the course of history in western Europe after the Bubonic Plague of 1346-8, the course of history in eastern Europe after the Bubonic Plague of 1346-8, and the course of history in the Roman Empire after the Antonine Plague of 165-180. Which two do Willem Jongman and Melissa Dell think are more closely analogous? Why and how?
  46. Why, in Peter Temin's view, was the prosperity of the Antonine-Age Roman Empire between the assassination of the Emperor Domitian in 96 and the accession of the Emperor Commodus in 180 not followed by a further expansion of prosperity and a 1500 years-earlier Industrial Revolution?
  47. Why, in Peter Temin's view, was the prosperity of the Antonine-Age Roman Empire between the assassination of the Emperor Domitian in 96 and the accession of the Emperor Commodus in 180 not followed by a further expansion of prosperity that carried the proportional growth rate of the value of the stock of useful human ideas about technology and organization up from the 0.06%/year of the year -1000 to year 1 Axial Age to something like the 0.15%/year of the year 1500 to year 1700 Commercial Revolution Era?
  48. Why, in Moses Finley's view, was the prosperity of the Antonine-Age Roman Empire between the assassination of the Emperor Domitian in 96 and the accession of the Emperor Commodus in 180 not followed by a further expansion of or even the maintenance of equal prosperity?
  49. What factors made it so that the year 1 was much more likely to have seen the Mediterranean dominated by a Rome-based formal empire of conquest and legions first and trade and cultural influence second than an Athens-based informal empire of trade and cultural influence first and conquest and fleets second?
  50. What, in Josh Ober's view, was the likelihood that classical Mediterranean civilization might have attained something like the pace of commercial activity and productivity growth of the 1500-1700 Commercial Revolution Era?
  51. What is Brad DeLong's guess of the average proportional rate of growth of the real value of the stock of useful human ideas about technology and organization in the long Agrarian Age between the invention of agriculture in the year -8000 and the year 1500? Why was this rate of growth so low?
  52. What is Brad DeLong's guess of the average proportional rate of growth of the real value of the stock of useful human ideas about technology and organization in the Commercial Revolution Era of 1500-1770? Why was this rate of growth so much higher than in the previous Agrarian Age? Why was this rate of growth so much lower than in the subsequent Industrial Revolution Era?
  53. What is Brad DeLong's guess of the average proportional rate of growth of the real value of the stock of useful human ideas about technology and organization in the Industrial Revolution Era of 1770-1870? Why was this rate of growth so much higher than in the previous Commercial Revolution Era? Why was this rate of growth so much lower than in the subsequent Modern Economic Growth Era?
  54. What is Brad DeLong's guess of the average proportional rate of growth of the real value of the stock of useful human ideas about technology and organization in the Modern Economic Growth Era of 1870-today? Why was this rate of growth so much higher than in the previous Industrial Revolution Era?
  55. What is Brad DeLong's guess of what the average proportional rate of growth of the real value of the stock of useful human ideas about technology and organization will be in the next five centuries? Why doesn't he think it will be higher? Why doesn't he think it will be lower?
  56. What is Brad DeLong's guess of what the average proportional rate of growth of human living standards was between the year -6000 and 1500. What factors made it so low?
  57. What is Brad DeLong's guess of what the average proportional rate of growth of human living standards was between the year -6000 and 1500. What factors made it so much lower than the rate of growth of the useful ideas stock?
  58. Suppose that the rate of growth of the real value of the stock of useful human ideas about technology and organization in the world had stuck at its Commercial Revolution Era 1500-1770 pace. What would you guess the world economy would look like today in terms of total human population and average living standards and productivity levels?
  59. Suppose that the rate of growth of the real value of the stock of useful human ideas about technology and organization in the world had stuck at its Industrial Revolution Era 1770-1870 pace. What would you guess the world economy would look like today in terms of total human population and average living standards and productivity levels?
  60. Suppose population growth in the "advanced west"—the European North Atlantic coast countries that were the most technologically advanced and became militarily powerful in the Commercial Revolution Era 1500 to 1770—had been at its historic level of 0.4%/year over 1500 to 1770, that invention and innovation had proceeded as in actual world history, but that the rest of the world had managed to fight off European colonialism and retain control of the Americas and of Indian Ocean trade in non-European hands. Would living standards in the European North Atlantic coast countries have then been likely to increase between 1500 and 1770? (In our history they increased by some 40% over that period.)

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Worthy Reads from February 13, 2019

Worth Reads at Equitable Growth:

  1. Excellent testimony from Heather Boushey. But am I allowed to whimper that focusing too much on the EITC and the CTC may distract attention from the fact that SSI and SSDI are broken, and that the interface between the safety net for the employed and the safety net for the non-employed is very broken?: Heather Boushey: Testimony Before the Ways and Means Committee: "At the bottom end, one easy step is to preserve and expand evidence-backed refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which lifted 8.9 million American out of poverty in 2017. In the middle, it is important to make sure the fruits of growth are widely shared and to make the economy work for workers and families. Some proven ways to do this include making sure every family can afford to send their children to high quality, affordable childcare and offering a national paid family and medical leave. It can also mean investing in infrastructure. And we need to know much more about the top. Many of the statistics we rely on to inform us about the state of our economy are measures of the average...

  2. And it is time for Equitable Growth's monthly charticle about the most useful monthly employment report—not the (usually) first-Friday report, but rather the JOLTS report: Kate Bahn and Raksha Kopparam: JOLTS Day Graphs: December 2018 Report Edition: "Every month the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases data on hiring, firing, and other labor market flows from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, better known as JOLTS. Today, the BLS released the latest data for December 2018. This report doesn’t get as much attention as the monthly Employment Situation Report, but it contains useful information about the state of the U.S. labor market. Below are a few key graphs using data from the report...

  3. An excellent catch from Equitable Growth's Michael Kades here. The debate over hospital mergers was mostly about whether scale-driven improvements in quality and reductions in cost would or would not be outweighed by the harm done by greater monopoly-power margins in charges to insurance companies and to patients. But it is looking increasingly likely that there are no scale driven improvements in quality or reductions in costs. He sends us to the extremely sharp Austin Frakt: Michael Kades: "The hospital industry, perhaps more than any other, had argued that consolidation will improve quality. Data increasingly says no: Austin Frakt: Hospital Mergers Improve Health? Evidence Shows the Opposite: "The claim was that larger organizations would be able to harness economies of scale and offer better care...

  4. Kate Bahn sends us to Equitable Growth alumnus Nick Bunker. Nick continues his campaign to get people to look not at inflation but at wage growth—which has been slowly inching up since 2014—to gauge how close we are to that mysterious "full employment". Bottom line: we are not there yet: Nick Bunker: "Inflation-adjusted average hourly earnings up 1.7% over the past year. A friendly-reminder that real wage growth isn’t a good metric for assessing short-term health/slack of labor market. (Unless, of course, you think swings in energy prices are telling you something very important about the US labor market.) Far less volatility when you look at core inflation, but at this point why not just look at nominal wage growth?...

  5. I must confess that my knee-jerk reaction given my socialization into the neoliberal cult when young to paid leave programs is to worry that loading responsibility for providing social insurance onto employers is a hazardous activity—it is not the 1920s, and we are not the tarry-eyed Edward Filene certain that paternalistic companies engaged in welfare capitalism can do more to enhance societal well-being than the ardent socialists and social democrats. But evidence is piling up from the laboratories of social insurance that are the states that my knee-jerk reaction is wrong: Heather Boushey: Increasing Evidence of the Benefits of Paid Leave Means Congress Needs to Consider a Federal Program like the FAMILY Act: "The existing state programs—the oldest, in California, dates back to 2004—have provided a laboratory for researchers to study labor and health outcomes for individuals, performance and productivity outcomes for firms, and broader macroeconomic outcomes of paid family and medical leave. This work builds on a considerable body of research from long-established programs in some European countries. The answers to many questions are already coming into focus.... In states with paid leave insurance programs, mothers who use paid leave are more likely to remain in the workforce in the year following a birth. The women experiencing the benefits of these new programs are more likely to be less educated, which makes sense given that they are less likely to have had access to paid leave in the absence of a state program.... In instances where paid leave is provided there is less reliance on public assistance to contend with family medical emergencies. Moreover, there has been no evidence of higher employee turnover or rising wage costs for businesses. Research on parental leave programs abroad also suggests that paid leave of the length contemplated by the FAMILY Act, up to 12 weeks, has a positive effect on women’s income and likelihood of remaining in the workforce...

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Alix Gould-Worth: A Valentine’s Day love letter to the Unemployment Insurance program - Equitable Growth: "UI’s social insurance structure is part of its allure. Both means-tested and social insurance programs are vital to the health and well-being of the U.S. population. But research shows that claimants feel less stigma when applying for and receiving benefits from social insurance programs than means-tested programs. And typically, social insurance programs enjoy support that protects them from being dismantled by overeager budget cutters. But what makes UI different from all other social insurance programs? Why does it hold a special place in my heart? Let me count the reasons...

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Weekend Reading: Peter Temin: Land Tenure and Exploitation from the Roman Empire to Lord Peter Wimsey

Chalons

Peter Temin: The Roman Market Economy https://delong.typepad.com/files/temin-roman.pdf: Land Ownership: 'For at least four centuries... the Roman Empire preserved peace around the Mediterranean basin and allowed the system of land ownership and taxation to continue. Starting in the fifth century, the ability of the western Empire to preserve peace began to erode. Rome was sacked early in the fifth century, a traumatic event that led Augustine to write the City of God distinguishing belief in the Catholic Church from the defense of any earthly city. More important if less visible to most people living through it was the capture of Africa by the Vandals in 439. This loss deprived the central government of an important component of its tax base and made it impossible for the government to mount effective counterattacks against the various invaders of the Roman Empire. This clearly set up a cumulative process that led in a few decades to the demise of the western Empire (Heather 2005; Wickham 2009). What was the effect of this cataclysmic change on Roman property own- ers? I suggest that many landowners were unaffected as the decline of central authority began. Most of their activities were local, and local authorities continued to guide local economies. Invasions were sporadic and affected only swaths through the vast empire. Landowners in the path of the invaders must have experienced problems with their land ownership, but landowners in other areas probably carried on as they and their fathers had done before. Imported goods to any area became more rare and expensive as travel became more dangerous. “Across the sixth and seventh centuries African goods are less and less visible in the northern Mediterranean; they vanish first from inland sites, and then from minor coastal centres” (Wickham 2009, 218). The process of Roman decline was not one of uniform decline that affected everyone alike. Instead it was a selective process that involved more and more people over time...

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Read this very nice piece by Equitable Growth young whippersnapper Raksha Kopparam summarizing the strong evidence that societal well-being is badly damanged by yet another pharmaceutical industry market failure: "killer acquisitions": Raksha Kopparam: Killer Acquisitions Lead to Decreased Innovation and Competition in the U.S. Prescription Drug Market https://equitablegrowth.org/killer-acquisitions-lead-to-decreased-innovation-and-competition-in-the-u-s-prescription-drug-market/: "Colleen Cunningham... Florian Ederer and Song Ma... consolidation in the pharmaceutical industry is probably stifling rather than promoting innovation. Approximately 6 percent of pharmaceutical acquisitions are what the authors refer to as 'killer acquisitions', in which an incumbent firm acquires a product in development that could compete with the incumbent’s own product and then subsequently terminates development of the target firm’s product, thus killing competition and innovation.... Questor Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s acquisition of the drug Synacthen from Novartis International AG of Switzerland. United States-based Questor in 2000 held a monopoly over an adrenocorticotropic hormone drug called Acthar, the then-dominant treatment for rare epileptic diseases such as infantile spasms. In 2000, Acthar was priced at roughly $40 a vial. In the mid-2000s, however, Novartis began developing Synacthen, a synthetic version of Acthar. In 2013, Questor acquired the production rights for Synacthen and shut down development of the drug shortly thereafter...

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Note to Self: Polanyi: Aristotle Discovers the Economy: Hoisted from the Archives: A whole bunch of this article is simply wrong: the claims that "in the fourth century... Greeks initiated the gainful business practices that in much later days developed into the dynamo of market comnpetition" are false. This means that Polanyi is wrong when he says that Aristotle is examining a new phenomenon when he looks at the economy. Aristotle is examining an old phenomenon from the point of view of an Athenian aristocrat. But there is much of value in Polanyi's exposition of what Aristotle says...

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Dan Ziblatt argues that right-of-center parties, historically, have sought electoral success in broad-franchise political systems by attempting to focus attention on issues other than plutocracy: on clashes either between economic sectors; or over cultural, ethnic, and nationalist issues. In America, there has been another approach: to argue that conservative pro-plutocracy economic policies are what they are they claiming they will not do what they will do. I join Duncan black in believing that this has had a corrosive impact on the discourse ethics of the American right and of many of the journalists who cover American politics: Duncan Black: No One Will Believe You https://www.eschatonblog.com/2019/11/no-one-will-believe-you.html: 'I think about this a lot: "For example, when Priorities informed a focus group that Romney supported the Ryan budget plan—and thus championed 'ending Medicare as we know it'—while also advocating tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the respondents simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing." It is a problem when you can completely accurately describe what Republicans very explicitly say they want and people will refuse to believe you and perhaps get mad at you for "lying" to them...

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This feature, started by Equitable Growth now-alumnus Nick Bunker, is always one of my monthly must-reads. The JOLTS data set is a uniquely valuable source of information: Raksha Kopparam and Kate Bahn: JOLTS Day Graphs: November 2019 Report Edition https://equitablegrowth.org/jolts-day-graphs-november-2019-report-edition/: 'Every month the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases data on hiring, firing, and other labor market flows from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, better known as JOLTS.... This report doesn’t get as much attention as the monthly Employment Situation Report.... Below are a few key graphs using data from the report...

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I tried my cut on these issues in Project Syndicate a little while ago: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/trolls-win-control-of-the-public-square-by-j-bradford-delong-2019-12. I think Annalee Newitz is doing a better job: Annalee Newitz: A Better Internet Is Waiting for Us https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/30/opinion/social-media-future.html: 'Social media is broken. It has poisoned the way we communicate with each other and undermined the democratic process.... Erika Hall’s design firm Mule.... “I absolutely believe that you can design interfaces that create more safe spaces to interact, in the same way we know how to design streets that are safer,” she said. But today, she told me, the issue isn’t technical. It has to do with the way business is being done in Silicon Valley.... Companies like Facebook and Twitter lack an incentive to promote better relationships and a better understanding of the news “because they make money through outrage and deception,” Ms. Hall said. Outrage and deception capture our attention, and attention sells ads. “At a business model level, they are ad networks parasitic on human connection.”.... Scalzi... digital media companies that will serve the generations of people who have grown up online (soon, that will be most people) and already know that digital information can’t be trusted. They will care about who is giving them the news, where it comes from, and why it’s believable.... After the social media age is over, we’ll have the opportunity to rebuild our damaged public sphere by creating digital public places that imitate actual town halls, concert venues and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.... As we’ve already learned from social media, anonymous communication can degenerate quickly. What’s to stop future public spaces from becoming unregulated free-for-alls, with abuse and misinformation that are far worse than anything today?... We need to stop handing off responsibility for maintaining public space to corporations and algorithms—and give it back to human beings. We may need to slow down, but we’ve created democracies out of chaos before. We can do it again...

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Wikipedia: Scillus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scillus: 'Scillus or Skillous (Ancient Greek: Σκιλλοῦς) was a town of Triphylia, a district of ancient Elis, situated 20 stadia south of Olympia. In 572 BCE the Scilluntians assisted Pyrrhus, king of Pisa, in making war upon the Eleians; but they were completely conquered by the latter, and both Pisa and Scillus were razed to the ground. Scillus remained desolate till about 392 BCE, when the Lacedaemonians, who had a few years previously compelled the Eleians to renounce their supremacy over their dependent cities, colonised Scillus and gave it to Xenophon, then an exile from Athens. Xenophon resided here more than twenty years, and probably composed the Anabasis here, but was expelled from it by the Eleians soon after the Battle of Leuctra, in 371 BCE. He has left us a description of the place, which he says was situated 20 stadia from the Sacred Grove of Zeus, on the road to Olympia from Sparta, It stood upon the river Selinus, which was also the name of the river flowing by the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and like the latter it abounded in fish and shell-fish. Here Xenophon, from a tenth of the spoils acquired in the Asiatic campaign, dedicated a temple to Artemis, in imitation of the celebrated temple at Ephesus, and instituted a festival to the goddess. Scillus stood amidst woods and meadows, and afforded abundant pasture for cattle; while the neighbouring mountains supplied wild hogs, roebucks, and stags. When Pausanias visited Scillus five centuries afterwards the temple of Artemis still remained, and a statue of Xenophon, made of Pentelic marble. Scillus's site is near the modern village of Makrisia...

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Sparta as Theme Park: Cicero: Tusculan Disputations https://www.gutenberg.org/files/14988/14988-h/14988-h.htm: 'Do you not see how much harm is done by poets? They introduce the bravest men lamenting over their misfortunes: they soften our minds; and they are, besides, so entertaining, that we do not only read them, but get them by heart. Thus the influence of the poets is added to our want of discipline at home, and our tender and delicate manner of living, so that between them they have deprived virtue of all its vigor and energy. Plato, therefore, was right in banishing them from his commonwealth, where he required the best morals, and the best form of government. But we, who have all our learning from Greece, read and learn these works of theirs from our childhood; and look on this as a liberal and learned education. But why are we angry with the poets? We may find some philosophers, those masters of virtue, who have taught that pain was the greatest of evils. But you, young man, when you said but just now that it appeared so to you, upon being asked by me what appeared greater than infamy, gave up that opinion at a word. Suppose I ask Epicurus the same question. He will answer that a trifling degree of pain is a greater evil than the greatest infamy; for that there is no evil in infamy itself, unless attended with pain. What pain, then, attends Epicurus, when he says that very thing, that pain is the greatest evil! And yet nothing can be a greater disgrace to a philosopher than to talk thus. Therefore, you allowed enough when you admitted that infamy appeared to you to be a greater evil than pain. And if you abide by this admission, you will see how far pain should be resisted; and that our inquiry should be not so much whether pain be an evil, as how the mind may be fortified for resisting it.... I do not deny pain to be pain—for were that the case, in what would courage consist?—but I say it should be assuaged by patience, if there be such a thing as patience: if there be no such thing, why do we speak so in praise of philosophy? or why do we glory in its name?.... By the laws of Lycurgus, and by those which were given to the Cretans by Jupiter, or which Minos established under the direction of Jupiter, as the poets say, the youths of the State are trained by the practice of hunting, running, enduring hunger and thirst, cold and heat. The boys at Sparta are scourged so at the altars that blood follows the lash in abundance; nay, sometimes, as I used to hear when I was there, they are whipped even to death; and yet not one of them was ever heard to cry out, or so much as groan. What, then? Shall men not be able to bear what boys do? And shall custom have such great force, and reason none at all?...

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Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, Diana Beltekian and Max Roser: Trade and Globalization https://ourworldindata.org/trade-and-globalization: 'Over the last two centuries trade has grown remarkably, completely transforming the global economy. Today about one fourth of total global production is exported. Understanding this transformative process is important because trade has generated gains, but it has also had important distributional consequences. From a historical perspective, there have been two waves of globalization. The first wave started in the 19th century, and came to an end with the beginning of the First World War. The second wave started after the Second World War, and is still continuing...

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Weekend Reading: Rereading: William Boyd: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

William Boyd: Rereading: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/jul/24/carre-spy-came-cold-boyd: 'One of the aspects of the novel that always bothered me was the end. Leamas... finally realises how he has been used by his own side, how he has been fooled, manipulated and misinformed to bring about a conclusion that was the opposite of the one he thought he was colluding in. He is offered the chance to flee, to escape and climb over the Wall with the young girl he sort-of loves back to West Berlin. He and the girl are driven to a "safe" area of the Wall in a car provided for him by a double agent. Operationally and procedurally this seemed to me a huge error. My feeling was that an agent of Leamas's vast experience and worldliness would surely be aware that such a means of escape was riven with jeopardy. Yet he goes along with it and pays the price. What had I missed? Reading the book again I now think I understand—but it does require close attention (new readers look away now)...

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Bret Devereaux: The Fremen Mirage, Part II: Water Spilled on the Sand—A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry https://acoup.blog/2020/01/30/collections-the-fremen-mirage-part-ii-water-spilled-on-the-sand/: 'Sallust’s complaints about Roman decadence—which date to the first century B.C. nearly five centuries before its ‘fall‘—are often quoted as somehow explaining Rome’s eventual demise, but Rome wasn’t even done expanding at that point. This isn’t the place to get into a complete periodization of the Roman state, but we’ll break it down into four broad periods based on Rome’s military expansion, and then address each one in turn: 1. Roman Expansion in Italy (509-265 B.C.), during which the Roman Republic consolidated control of the Italian Peninsula. 2. Rapid Roman Overseas Expansion (265 B.C.—14 A.D.), during which the Roman Republic (along with Augustus, the first emperor) defeated the other major powers of the Mediterranean and also rapidly subjugated large numbers of minor states and pre-state peoples. This period also sees political stresses within the Roman Republic eventually tear it apart, leading to a new monarchy under Augustus. 3. Consolidation, Stabilization and Frontier Defense (15—378 A.D.), during which expansion does not stop, but it does slow, and the greater military focus is on protecting what Rome has (which is, to be fair, nearly all of the territory worth having). This period is disrupted by a period of fragmentation and civil war called the 3a. Third Century Crisis (235-284), but Rome stabilizes and regains control of its older borders afterwards and holds them successfully for another century. 4. The Long, Slow Collapse of the West (378-476), during which the Western Roman Empire slowly collapses, while the Eastern Roman Empire remains prosperous, militarily successful and almost entirely intact. That is, you will forgive me on language for a moment, a long ass time...

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Worthy Reads from February 6, 2019

stacks and stacks of books

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth and Friends:

  1. Louis Brandeis believed that bigness is bad per se—thus failing to see that since, well, at least 1870 value chains and the division of the labor had become sufficiently complicated that efficient production required a great deal of central planning on the level of the large firm. Toyota sells 250 billion dollars worth of cars each year—that is 0.2 percent of glow GDP—and roughly 2/3 of that value flow is under the centrally-planned direction of the Toyota design and production management teams, not the result of arms-length market-price deals between truly independent producers. Bork believed that any bigness was good if could be colorably or uncolorably claimed to be the result of some clever economy of scale that a lawyer who was part of the judge's social circle could think up was never credible as anything other than an excuse for rent-seeking corruption. To find the true path, look, and Jonathan Baker says, to FDR antitrust guru Thurman Arnold: Jonathan Baker: Revitalizing U.S. Antitrust Enforcement Is Not Simply a Contest Between Brandeis and Bork—Look First to Thurman Arnold: "Growing market power in the United States today puts a spotlight on our nation’s antitrust laws—the critical policy tool for restoring competition where it is lacking—from airlines and brewing to hospitals and dominant online platforms. But how can these laws be made more effective in this environment? The best guide from the past is Thurman Arnold, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s longest-serving antitrust enforcer. Arnold helped shape a political consensus for effective antitrust enforcement. Yet his singular contribution is often overlooked in the present-day debate over antitrust’s future. That achievement—the embrace of an antitrust enforcement playbook for supervising large firms that is competition-promoting and economic growth-enhancing—is endangered today...

  2. Now you can watch our Fearless Leader Heather Boushey on the video: Peterson Institute: Confronting Inequality: How Societies can Choose Inclusive Growth: "The Peterson Institute for International Economics holds an event to present the book, Confronting Inequality: How Societies can Choose Inclusive Growth, on January 31, 2019. The book’s authors, Jonathan Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Andrew Berg of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), along with PIIE Nonresident Senior Fellow Jason Furman and Heather Boushey...

  3. The social safety net alleviates rural poverty. It does not cause it by creating indolence. The then-Whig and now-Republican idea that the rural poor were idle buggers looking for a handout was overwhelmingly false in early nineteenth-century Britain, and is false in early twenty-first century America today James P. Ziliak: Economic Change and the Social Safety Net: Are Rural Americans Still Behind?: "The U.S. economy has been rocked by major business cycle and secular shocks that differentially affected the fortunes of urban and rural areas... coinciding with... the dramatic growth and transformation of the social safety net.... How the... changes have interacted to at times exacerbate, and other times attenuate, well being across regions and over time is little studied.... The analysis here is descriptive...

  4. This puzzles me: at least semi-stable schedules are relatively easy to provide for employers, and are worth a lot to workers. I do kinda wonder if these trends are the result of now two decades of slack labor markets in which workers are and employers want to remind workers that they ought to be grateful for any jobs at all: Daniel Schneider and Kristen Harknett: For Job Quality, Time Is More than Money: "What we found is striking: Working in the service sector doesn’t only mean low pay and few fringe benefits, it also means turning over the reins to your employer when it comes to when and how much you will work. This so-called 'just-in-time' scheduling approach has consequences for millions of American workers. People with unstable work schedules are markedly less happy. They sleep less well and are more likely to report feeling distressed. This pattern plays out consistently whether we look at short notice, last-minute changes or routine ups and downs in work hours. For instance, employees who worked “on-call” shifts were less likely by half to report good sleep quality than their co-workers who didn’t work on-call...

  5. Bespoke subsidies to individual firms plus lack of transparency equals kleptocracy: Nathan M. Jensen and Calvin Thrall: Who’s Afraid of Sunlight? Explaining Opposition to Transparency in Economic Development: "Why do some firms oppose transparency of government programs? In this paper we explore legal challenges to public records requests for deal-specific, company-specific participation in a state economic development incentive program. By examining applications for participation in a major state economic program, the Texas Enterprise Fund, we find that a company is more likely to challenge a formal public records request if it has renegotiated the terms of the award to reduce its job-creation obligations. We interpret this as companies challenging transparency when they have avoided being penalized for non-compliance by engaging in non-public renegotiations. These results provide evidence regarding those conditions that prompt firms to challenge transparency and illustrate some of the limitations of safeguards such as clawbacks (or incentive-recapture provisions) when such reforms aren’t coupled with robust transparency mechanisms...

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This is truly great from Equitable Growth new hire Claudia Sahm. She writes: "hey it’s Friday morning 🎉 ... what better what to spend an hour than learning about how we can fight the next recession, and why we MUST do better": Vox.com: The Weeds Podcast https://www.vox.com/the-weeds: 'ix recessions by giving people money. Claudia Sahm from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth joins Matt to explain a surprisingly simple strategy to stabilize the economy...

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Susanna Ives: Is Your Victorian Gentleman Sponge-Worthy? Contraception in the Years 1826 – 1891 – : 'Amazon describes the book as “What is Love? provides a timely appreciation of Richard Carlile’s neglected shocker, Every Woman’s Book. Originally published in 1826, it scored a double first: as a progressive sex manual and as the first book in English to specify methods of contraception”: Richard Carlile: "To prevent impregnation, pass to the end of the vagina a piece of fine sponge, which should be dipped in water before being used, and which need not be removed until the morning.... There is a preventive check attempted by many poor women which is most detrimental to health, and should therefore never be employed, namely, the too-long persistence in nursing one baby, in the hope of thereby preventing the conception of another. Nursing does not prevent conception. A child should not be nursed, according to Dr. Chavasse, for longer than nine months; and he quotes Dr. Farr, as follows:—'It is generally recognized that the healthiest children are those weaned at nine months complete. Prolonged nursing hurts both child and mother: in the child, causing a tendency to brain disease, probably through disordered digestion and nutrition; in the mother, causing a strong tendency to deafness and blindness.' Dr. Chavasse adds: 'If he be suckled after he be twelve months old, he is generally pale, flabby, unhealthy, and rickety; and the mother is usually nervous, emaciated, and hysterical.… A child nursed beyond twelve months is very apt, if he should live, to be knock-kneed, and bowlegged, and weak-ankled, to be narrow-chested, and chickenbreasted.' If pregnancy occur, and the mother be nursing, the consequences affect alike the mother, the babe, and the unborn child. To nurse under these circumstances, says Dr. Chavasse, 'is highly improper, as it not only injures her own health, and may bring on a miscarriage, but it is also prejudicial to her babe, and may produce a delicacy of constitution from which he might never recover'...

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