Briefly Noted for 2021-02-17


Things that whizzed by today, & that I want to note & remember...


Mike Konczal’s Freedom from the Market<> is a book you should get and read right now:

Henry FarrellFreedom from the Market: ‘Mike Konczal has a new book, Freedom from the Market <>… Polanyian—the stresses of the market lead to social rupture, which may in turn create the conditions for political mobilization. But Konczal doesn’t depict this as necessary or inevitable—people’s choices have consequences. He is also more precise than Polanyi in his understanding of how change happens—through social movements and the state…. Konczal not only employs Polanyi’s ideas, but the ideas of Polanyi’s friendly critics like Quinn Slobodian, to describe how modern Hayekians have sought to “encase” the market order in institutions and practices that are hard to overturn.

Property rights aren’t the foundation of liberty, as both nineteenth century jurists and twentieth century economists would have it. They are a product of the choices of the state, and as such intensely political. This allows Konczal to turn pragmatism against the Hayekians. Hayek’s notion of spontaneous order is supposed to be evolutionary, to provide a more supple response to what people (thought of as individuals want). But if there is a need to provide collective goods for people that cannot be fulfilled through voluntarism, the Hayekian logic becomes a brutal constraint on adaptation.…

Konczal presses for… a very different notion of freedom…. In Konczal’s words, “markets are great at distributing things based on people’s willingness to pay. But there are some goods that should be distributed by need.”… Furthermore, people’s needs change over time, as societies and markets change. Konczal’s framework suggests the need for collective choice to figure out the best responses to these changes, and a vibrant democratic politics… as the best way to carry out these choices…. I want you to read the book itself, if you really to get the good stuff—the stories, the examples, and the overall narrative that Konczal weaves together…

LINK: <>


Very Briefly Noted:

  • Eric Kleefeld’Wall Street Journal news section: Texas is in a catastrophe because gas power plants went offline from the storm, while they’re trying to get wind power back up to cover it. WSJ Editorial Board: Texas is suffering because wind power has failed, while gas “ramped up” to cover it… LINK: <>

  • Eric Topol: ’Update of anaphylaxis from mRNA vaccines: 66 cases out of ~18 million vaccinations (=0.0003%). All but 1 within 11 minutes. No deaths <>. That almost all occur in women needs to be understood… LINK: <>

  • Ryan Lizza’"NEW: 2024 primary poll shows Trump dominating: Donald Trump 53% Mike Pence 12% Donald Trump Jr. 6% Nikki Haley 6% Mitt Romney 4% Ted Cruz 4% Marco Rubio 2% Mike Pompeo 2% Josh Hawley 1% Tom Cotton 1% Tim Scott 1% Kristi Noem 1% Larry Hogan 1% Rick Scott 0%… LINK: <>

  • Joe StudwellHow Asia Works: Success & Failure In the World’s Most Dynamic Region LINK: <>

  • WikipediaIbn Battuta LINK: <>

  • Chalmers JohnsonMITI & the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925–1975 LINK: <>

  • Michael Porter, Mick Takeuchi, Mariko SakakibaraCan Japan Compete? LINK: <>

  • Henry FarrellIn Praise of Negativity: ‘We need negative criticisms from others, since they lead us to understand weaknesses in our arguments that we are incapable of coming at ourselves… LINK: <>

  • Josh GansA Culture in Despair: ‘In the immediate aftermath of Zola’s “J’Accuse” in 1898, mobs took to the street throughout France. The cries of “Long Live the Army” and “Death to the Jews” intermingled…. But it was in France’s colonial possessions, specifically in Algeria, that “a veritable crisis of anti-Jewish hysteria occurred”…. The riots across of France… were the product of concerted organization and agitation. Antisemitic posters… antisemitic conferences… antisemitic press. The Catholic press, not to be outdone, was increasingly packed anti-Jewish articles… LINK: <>

  • Noah SmithDon’t Give Up on Bringing Manufacturing Back to the U.S.: ‘By offering Americans a concrete… instead of leaving it up to the… market, the… Reshoring Initiative may be able to gather broad support for a cohesive growth strategy, even if it isn’t a perfect one…. Leaving industrial policy to the whims of the market has hit the point of severely diminishing returns, so it’s time to brainstorm new approaches.…LINK: <>

  • WikipediaTrimalchio: ‘Trimalchio is a character in the 1st century AD Roman work of fiction Satyricon by Petronius. He plays a part only in the section titled “Cēna Trīmalchiōnis”…. Trimalchio is an arrogant former slave who has become quite wealthy by tactics that most would find distasteful. The name “Trimalchio” is formed from the Greek prefix τρις and the Semitic מלך (melech) in its occidental form… “Thrice King” or “greatest King”…. His full name is “Gaius Pompeius Trimalchio Maecenatianus”; the references to Pompey and Maecenas in his name serve to enhance his ostentatious character. His wife’s name is Fortunata, a former slave and chorus girl… LINK: <>

  • Equitable GrowthBoosting Wages for U.S. Workers in the New Economy: ‘The U.S. labor market is shackled by decades of wage stagnation… persistent wage disparities… sluggish economic growth…many families ill-prepared for the “stress test” of the coronavirus recession…. Boosting Wages for U.S. Workers in the New Economy, a joint effort of Equitable Growth and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley… LINK: <>

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

Ta-Nehisi Coates: When Every Word Does Not Belong to Everyone:

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

Six Paragraphs-Plus:

This I enthusiastically endorse: Figuring out that on Twitter you have a right—nay, stronger than a right: you have a duty—to not mute but block people even if all they do is just waste your time is essential to having a good life.

Either that, or drop Twitter entirely.

In an attention economy, grabbing your attention uselessly is a cognitive attack on your mind. Such cognitive attacks need to be stopped:

Zeynep Tufekci’I try not to block actual criticism but things I’ve started pretty much automatically blocking to make Twitter usable: Snitch-tagging; “Oh you’re surprised?” reply guys; People who respond to an article I wrote with a point made in the article as if I could have no idea. People who respond to an article I wrote with a point made in the article as if I could have no idea. I started blocking them! There are people who sit on their keyboards all day telling others—who never asked them—that what they just said is obvious. And then others reply to them. And then my mentions are unusable. I’ve never had a useful interaction with any of the above categories, and they are just cluttering up my mentions especially since others then respond to them, and it’s an endless, pointless series of pings that hide any signal that may hide in my mentions.

I didn’t tag someone already on Twitter myself? Yeah, I’m not an idiot, thank you. Immediate block if you tag them in my mentions. Go talk to them separately if you want. People wanting to start fights are not doing something healthy and life’s too short. You think my points are obvious? Happy to relieve you of them! Especially since “oh, you’re surprised” adds nothing whatsoever. Point out something obvious I missed? I’m grateful. Object to it substantively? Grateful. Just uselessly smug? On your own time and dime. Finally, I write a lengthy, detailed article about something. Someone comes with a “have you tried rebooting it” type comment as if I’m a novice, and an idiot, and clueless? I used to tolerate and then realized nothing good ever comes out of that because of the clutter they add…. These categories have a lot of repeat offenders so blocking just a few useless repeat offenders really improved my mentions.

Why not mute? I tried. Because people reply to them (which I see) and others see them and affects the quality of the discussion I do want to have, and also because snitch-taggers can work even when muted. I mute some non malicious people who just say the same thing a lot….

This is an attempt to be able to hear real criticism and feedback in my mentions. If I don’t do this, the roar of the people who make the most obvious points back to me or are just uselessly smug will drown others out. The smug and stupid minority are very repetitive…

LINK: <>

Most of you, gentle readers, do not realize what the right-wing fever swamp created by Rush Limbaugh and company is really like. Here is a sample. This is what they are hearing. But do note that even Frank Salvato is not with the program. He is supposed to say that there were more Trump voters than Biden voters—80 million plus. That he forgets this and says “75 million” is a tell of how little he himself believes what he writes, and how much it is a conscious grift:

Frank SalvatoIt’s Time for Mitch McConnell to Go: ‘I am taking square aim at one of our own, not to remove him from office—no I will not acquiesce to the “cancel culture” lunacy, but to demote him from leadership…. The words of the highest-ranking Republican in Washington, DC, currently, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). And more inaccurate and unproductive they could not be. First and foremost, I reject that there was no chicanery in the 2020 General Election. We had a cowardly US Supreme Court that refused to hear a seminal case in whether states whose executive branches formulated election law in fact violated the US Constitution, as the Constitution vests that power solely with the state legislatures. We had routine violations of election law in several key states—and within those states critical urban areas—that saw poll watchers and credentialed Republican election officials tantamount to being forcefully excluded from the ballot counting process….

McConnell should have been screaming about [these] in real time…. The man who should have been leading the charge for the Republican rank-and-file was sitting on his hands, too concerned with retaining his own seat and, in fact, riding on President Trump’s accomplishment coattails to do so…. McConnell single-handedly lost the two run-off races in Georgia with his blunder about not wanting to pass a $2,000 COVID relief package…. And how do Republicans in Washington, DC, punish McConnell for his failures, for his disloyalty, for his selfish exploitation of his elected position? They re-elect him to leadership, this time as Senate Minority Leader. How stupid are the Senate Republicans to do this? I have to say abundantly so.

McConnell wasn’t done with his caustic, unproductive screed—a screed that, mind you, offended 75 million voters (how stupid is McConnell?): “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he’s in office…He didn’t get away with anything yet.”… A person who holds these positions and who has presided over the litany of failures, such as McConnell has, who has effectively forced the Republican Party to be subservient to a group of people who actually hate the United States, well, that person—Mitch McConnell—should not be in a position of leadership, and most definitely not the Senate Minority Leader…

LINK: <>

A right wing made of of grifters and grifters has been a feature of American political life for a long long time now:

Steve PerlsteinThe Long Con: ‘Mitt Romney is a liar. Of course, in some sense, all politicians, even all human beings, are liars. Romney’s lying went so over-the-top extravagant by this summer, though, that the New York Times editorial board did something probably unprecedented in their polite gray precincts: they used the L-word….

There are lies, damned lies, statistics—like his assertion that his tax cut proposal won’t have any effect on the federal budget, which the Tax Policy Center called “not mathematically possible.” That frank dismissal vaulted the candidate into another category of lie, an attempt to bend time itself: Romney responded by calling that group “biased”; last year, he called them “objective.”… Ann Romney told the right-wing site that her husband had “always personally been prolife,” though Mitt had said in his 1994 Senate race, “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country.” And then Ann admitted a few sentence later, “They say he flip-flopped on abortion. Well, you know what? He did change his mind.”…

In 2007… I mainlined a right-wing id that was invisible to readers who encounter conservative opinion at face value…. Back in our great-grandparents’ day, the peddlers of such miracle cures and get-rich-quick schemes were known as snake-oil salesmen. You don’t see stuff like this much in mainstream culture any more; it hardly seems possible such déclassé effronteries could get anywhere in a society with a high school completion rate of 90 percent. But tenders of a 23-Cent Heart Miracle seem to work just fine on the readers of the magazine where Ann Coulter began her journalistic ascent in the late nineties by pimping the notion that liberals are all gullible rubes….… featured an article headlined “Ideas Will Drive Conservatives’ Revival.” Two inches beneath that bold pronouncement, a box headed “Health News” included the headlines “Reverse Crippling Arthritis in 2 Days,” “Clear Clogged Arteries Safely & Easily—without drugs, without surgery, and without a radical diet,” and “High Blood Pressure Cured in 3 Minutes… Drop Measurement 60 Points.”…

The history of that movement echoes with the sonorous names of long-dead Austrian economists, of indefatigable door-knocking cadres, of soaring perorations on a nation finally poised to realize its rendezvous with destiny… [not] the massive intersection between the culture of “network” or “multilevel” marketing—where ordinary folks try to get rich via pyramid schemes that leave their neighbors holding the bag….

And yet this stuff is as important to understanding the conservative ascendancy as are the internecine organizational and ideological struggles that make up its official history—if not, indeed, more so. The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began…

LINK: <>

Clubhouse as Tik-Tok for podcasts? Perhaps?

Ben ThompsonClubhouse’s Inevitability: ‘The fact that audio can be consumed while you are doing something else allows the immediacy and vibrancy of live conversation to shine…. Make no mistake, most of these conversations will be terrible. That, though, is the case for all user-generated content. The key for Clubhouse will be in honing its algorithms so that every time a listener opens the app they are presented with a conversation that is interesting to them. This is the other area where podcasts miss the mark…. Sometimes—a lot of times!—users just want to scroll their Twitter feed instead of reading a long blog post, or click through Stories or swipe TikToks, and Clubhouse is poised to provide the same mindless escapism for background audio….

Why now?… Hardware… how easy AirPods make it to drop into and out of audio-listening mode…. COVID… last April… despite its very rough state it provided a place for people to socialize when there were few other options…. Any suggestion that Clubhouse is limited to Silicon Valley is very much off the mark…

LINK: <>

Telling the truth and being fair appears way way down on the priorities of many—most?—NYT reporters these days. Scott Alexander Simkins has a receipt":

Scott Alexander Simkins: Response to NYT Article: “This is undoubtedly the version [Cade Metz] read, and he still chose to make this attack. I have 1,557 other posts worth of material he could have used, and the sentence he chose to go with was the one that was crossed out and included a plea for people to stop taking it out of context…

LINK: <>

More generally, in the case of Scott Alexander Simkins vs. Cade Metz before the bar of public opinion, I don’t think New York Times reporter Cade Mertz has it right, or did an honest or an honorable competent job here. If the New York Times had an ombudsman, it could defend him and try to change my mind. But it doesn’t. So I can. And I go with Noah Smith’s judgment here. Not as unprofessional as the semi-daily “Ivanka and Jared are working hard to save us all” that the New York Times printed over 2015–2019. But pretty unprofessional all the samel:

Noah SmithSilicon Valley Isn’t Full of Fascists: ‘Eight months later, that article is finally out, and it’s every bit as negative as [Scott Alexander Siskind] feared… draws conclusions… I don’t think are warranted… both draws on and feeds into the mistaken stereotype that Silicon Valley is full of right-wingers…. I don’t think sustaining this misconception is good for America…. Cade Metz… “[Slate Star Codex was] the epicenter of… the Rationalists… [which] included white supremacists and neo-fascists… a window into the Silicon Valley psyche…. The allure of the ideas within Silicon Valley is what made Mr. Alexander, who had also written under his given name, Scott Siskind, and his blog essential reading…”

I always get annoyed at the narrative that Silicon Valley is rife with fascists—a narrative that I feel that Metz’ Times story unfortunately furthers. In reality, the tech industry is almost entirely a bunch of liberals…. In 2020… the internet industry gave 92% of its donations to Democrats!…. “Online computer services”… was the third most liberal industry… more liberal than newspapers and print media!…. A safe space for fascists, this is not. Metz, being a technology correspondent, must know all this….

The narrative of a pipeline of fascist ideas from Rationalist blogs to the minds of the powerful people building the future is certainly a juicy one, but it just doesn’t have much evidence to back it up. Silicon Valley is a bastion of liberalism, tech founders are standard liberal nerds, and Rationalism is a niche subculture primarily concerned with navel-gazing about Bayes’ Rule, utilitarianism, and robots…

LINK: <>

Hoisted from the Archives

Reasoning and Cogitation—by Individuals, by Social Groups, & by Societies: I am all but certain to never teach a course on: Reasoning—Indivdual, Social, and Societal. But if I were to teach such a course, would this be the best reading list? And if not these readings, what would be better replacements: William PoundstoneLabyrinths of Reason… Hugo Mercier and Dan SperberThe Enigma of Reason… Daniel KahnemanThinking, Fast and Slow… T. M. ScanlonBeing Realistic about Reasons… Joshua D. Angrist and Jörn-Steffen PischkeMostly Harmless Econometrics… Judea Pearl & Dana Mackenzie): The Book of Why… William FleschComeuppance… Josiah OberDemocracy & Knowledge… Henry Farrell & Cosma Shalizi: "Cognitive Democracy"… Cosma Shalizi: "In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You"… Herbert SimonThe Sciences of the Artificial… Partha DasguptaEconomics: A Very Short Introduction… Milton Friedman & Rose Director Friedman: Free to Choose… Tom SleeNo One Makes You Shop At Walmart… Paul SeabrightThe Company of Strangers… Richard Thaler (2015): Misbehaving…

LINK: <>


Breaking Out of Agrarian-Age Malthusian Near-Stagnation, & Review: History of Economic Growth: 2021-02-16 Tu 09:30 PST: Econ 135




Breaking Out of Agrarian-Age Malthusian Near-Stagnation, & Review: History of Economic Growth: 2021-02-16 Tu 09:30 PST: Econ 135
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For President's Day: A Republic, If We Can Keep It

I do not know what today's Republicans want America to be, but it is certainly not a democratic republic. And it is certainly not any form of "populism" that I am aware of. Perhaps we should classify their goal as a minority ethnocentric demogocracy? "Neofascist" still seems the best word to me, but I am told that is much, much, much too impolite to use, even on the internet:

No, Alexander Hamilton was not a president. But he should have been:

Alexander Hamilton (1787): America as "Grand Experiment": Federalist #9: It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy…. From the disorders… advocates of despotism have drawn arguments… against the forms of republican government… [and] decried all free government as inconsistent with the order of society…. I trust America will be the broad and solid foundation of other edifices… which will be… permanent monuments of their errors.

But it is not to be denied that… if it had been found impracticable to have devised models of a more perfect structure [than the petty republics of Greece and Italy], the enlightened friends to liberty would have been obliged to abandon the cause of that species of government as indefensible. The science of politics, however… has received great improvement… distribution of power into distinct departments… balances and checks… judges holding their offices during good behavior… representation of the people… by deputies of their own election… are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided…

LINK: <>

Plus, as always:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure….

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Briefly Noted for 2021-02-11

Very Briefly Noted:

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

Alan Krueger, Richard Blundell, &Arindrajit Dube (2016): RES Plenary Session: Minimum Wages <>:

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

Seven Paragraphs:

Back in 1993, the expanded EITC for childless workers was one of the last things the Clinton Treasury threw out of the wolf-pursued troika as we dashed through the snow in the race to get the Clinton reconciliation bill across the finish line. “We will fix it next year”, we promised ourselves then. Nobody ever has:

Cynthia Miller & Lawrence F. KatzBiden Wants to Boost the EITC for Workers without Dependent Children—What Does the Research Say?: ‘Many commentators have expressed the hope that the inequalities exposed by the pandemic will lead to renewed efforts to address them by expanding the social safety net and by providing basic protections for workers. An expanded EITC can be an effective part of this effort, increasing workers’ incomes (without depressing work effort) and putting them in a better position to recover from this crisis and weather the next… LINK:

Really, really cool EDA by one of our graduate students here at Berkeley:

Emily Murphy EisnerDoes Telework Harm Older Workers? A First Look at Technological Change Spurred by COVID–19: ‘I categorized occupation groups by whether or not they had above median or below median take-up of teleworking technology during the pandemic…. Being able to work from home during the pandemic helped…. In high-teleworking occupations, there is a clear increase in the likelihood of facing unemployment as a worker ages. The positive relationship between age and unemployment is not seen in professions that don’t have a high take-up of teleworking technologies…. A good change (working from home to save lives during a pandemic) can find the cracks in our system and do harm (in this case, reducing job security for older workers). Studying this technological change will help us identify these issues, and bolster the gaps… LINK:

The media diet of Republican stalwarts: a sample:

Christopher G. AdamoCan a Phony Impeachment ‘Validate’ a Stolen Election?: ‘Honest Americans are aghast at the seeming obsession of leftist Democrats (with support from the usual cadre of RINO traitors) to continue pursuing a wholly unprecedented, unwarranted, and unconstitutional “impeachment” of President Trump after he is no longer in the White House. A little “Constitution 101” for those who are in doubt, the sole purpose of impeachment is to remove an unfit occupant from office. In the wake of the stolen 2020 election, President Trump is already out. So absolutely no legal premise can be claimed for this latest bout of leftist Democrat idiocy. As a result of the flagrant chicanery that occurred on Election Day and in its aftermath, Americans who believe in honesty and decency are outraged. And given the enormity of actual turnout for Trump in the 2020 election, that is a massive number of people who remain adamant that the election theft be dealt with. Allowing it to stand abominates and nullifies the Constitution and the rule of law in America.

In response, leftists are redoubling their efforts to suppress, and ultimately erase, any mention of the theft, vainly hoping that the current situation will at some point be regarded as “normal.”… But Americans aren’t buying any of it, so the left has to continually expand its efforts.Make no mistake. President Trump is not the actual target of this onslaught. The second sham impeachment is… an indictment and conviction of the eighty million (and likely more) Americans who voted for him last November. The goal of the leftist Democrats is to tell us that our President, and more importantly our votes, are “invalid.” But their success in convincing us to shut up and grant them this uncontested power is by no means guaranteed. The scheme will either succeed or fail based entirely on whether or not Americans allow themselves to be cowed into abandoning reality under threats and pressure from the left…

LINK: <>

I am thinking this is right—that the inflation of the 1970s was not due to “overheating”, but rather to (a) a high gearing of inflation expectations on recent past inflation taught the economy in the late Johnson and first Nixon administration, (b) the productivity shocks, (c) the oil shocks, and (d) the fact that markets coordinated on the signal provided by spot oil prices—never mind that not that much oil ever moved at the spot price. But Paul could be wrong. I could be wrong:

Paul KrugmanStagflation Revisited : In the 1970s… the economy never seemed to run hot enough to explain such a big rise in inflation…. So what happened? The natural explanation would emphasize supply shocks—oil and other commodity prices—amplified by the widespread existence of cost-of-living adjustments in wage contracts. Maybe these supply shocks led to a rise in headline inflation which caused expectations to become untethered. We don’t know… more work… is appropriate. But suppose something like this is true. In that case, the narrative that saw stagflation both as the cost of excessively ambitious macroeconomic policy and as a vindication of conservative economic ideas was mostly wrong. And that matters not just for history but for policy right now, which is still to some extent constrained by the fear of a 70s repeat…


In an age of neofascist threat and viral dysfunctional political debate, central banks appear to be one of the few still fully-functional far-sighted institutions still around. Hence the demand that they take on more missions. I share Barry’s belief that this demand should be accommodated": those who can do, should do:

Barry EichengreenNew-Model Central Bank: ‘Monetary authorities are increasingly expected to address issues such as climate change and inequality, over the objections of those who insist that central banks’ narrow mandate is what sustains their operational independence. But ignoring these issues, or saying they’re someone else’s problem, is no longer an option…. The US Federal Reserve’s Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility, under which the Fed provides liquidity to lenders who extend loans to small businesses in pandemic-related distress. This, clearly, is not your mother’s central bank. Now we hear calls to broaden this ambit still further…. Such calls horrify central-banking purists…. Central bankers cannot snooze quietly in their bunks in the face of an all-hands-on-deck emergency. Calls for central banks to address climate change and inequality reflect an awareness that these problems have risen to the level of existential crises. If central bankers ignored them, or said, “These urgent problems are best addressed by someone else,” their response would be seen as a haughty and perilous display of indifference. At that point, their independence would truly be at risk…


Oooh! This will be fun to watch:

William JanewayVenture Capital in the 21st Century: ‘In this eight-part lecture series, Bill Janeway investigates the relationship between venture capital and technological innovation, and the interdependent roles of entrepreneurial firms, the mission-driven State and financial speculation in the overall innovation system…


And for a preview of what Bill will be talking about at INET:

Nicolas ColinThe Digital Economy w/ Bill Janeway. Reinvention. Bezos. Musk. Communications: ‘a conversation with Bill Janeway, an economist, faculty member at Cambridge University, and author of the landmark book Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy. It’s a book that really has had a profound influence on me—basically containing everything you need to know about how venture capital came to be and why it’s so relevant today in the context of the transition to the digital economy. Bill’s long career in venture capital, primarily with Warburg Pincus, and his academic work let him comment on today’s economy from both a business and an institutional perspective….

I consider myself, and the world at large, really, to be quite lucky that he is also such an affable person and generous with his time and thinking. Our conversation spanned how he’s experienced the very strange year that was 2020, his thesis regarding the retreat from hyperglobalization, the consequences of Joe Biden’s election on America, the world at large, & the tech industry specifically, how he sees Europe’s future, and much more… LINK: 


Damned-Soul Republican Staffers


First, why do people do this?:

What Fresh Hell Do Republican Staffers Live in?:

Tweeting out that the COVID threat has been overhyped by Democrats while your boss lies dying in the hospital from COVID—this is a form of performance art that I never imagined would appear, even in this Fallen Sublunary Sphere. Yet first Republican presidential candidate Herman 9-9-9 Cain, and not Republican House member Ron White:

Patricia Kayden: ’Just before he died, Republican Rep [Ron White] sent out these tweets: "Democrats are choosing teachers unions and special interests over the well-being of our students. The CDC says schools can safely re-open if proper precautions are taken. What are we waiting for?…

Reporter Robinson: ’So this man was on his deathbed in a hospital and his staffers were pushing covid hoax bulls— while hiding his hospital admission. Now he’s dead. From covid. Republicans… LINK: <> 

MistermixHow Can People Be So Heartless?: ‘Rep Ron Wright (R-TX–6), a man who once said that women should be punished for having abortions, since they had committed murder, has died of COVID–19.  Wright was under treatment for lung cancer, apparently for quite a while, so he had an obvious, serious comorbidity…. Our family managed to keep mom from contracting COVID.  It was a hell of a lot of frustrating, difficult work. It involved great sacrifice, and, at every turn, our work was made harder by Republicans, who chose to make COVID a political issue rather than a medical one. There were a number of close calls caused by covidiots, and a huge amount of extra anxiety because of the unwillingness of Fox-addled small-town Republicans to take basic precautions.  Nevertheless, we persisted…. I’m guessing that Wright’s three children and his wife cared about him. And who knows? Maybe he was very careful, and was just unlucky.  But, given the behavior of most of the House Republican sedition caucus, of which he was a member, my guess is that he was careless. Now he’s dead, like ~450,000 other Americans, in part because his party refused to take COVID seriously…


You literally could not make this up. Or, rather, you could only make this up if you were a sick, psychotic creep…

Briefly Noted: for 2021-02-10 We


In which I survey things that whizzed by...

Very Briefly Noted:

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

The intellectual and technological capability of Classical Greek civilization, as shown in the (reconstructed) design of the Antikythera Mechanism:

M. Wright & M. VicentiniVirtual Reconstruction of the Antikythera Mechanism

Seven Paragraphs:

Erik LoomisThe Bankruptcy of Right Populism: ‘Daniel Luban has a good piece in Dissent about the total bankruptcy of so-called “right populism”…. ’To no great surprise… instead of an infrastructure bill, there was a massive corporate tax cut; instead of a family leave plan, there was a failed attempt to strip healthcare from tens of millions of people…. a familiar cast of industry shills set to work dismantling labor rights and environmental protections. Trump’s most durable accomplishment was the rubber-stamping of scores of Federalist Society judges, each one a devoted steward of the interests of capital… LINK: <>

Dani RodrikPoor Countries’ Technology Dilemma: ‘Africa’s manufacturing renaissance… [but] few good jobs have been created in the more modern, formal, and productive manufacturing branches…. The bulk of the increase in manufacturing employment coming from small, informal enterprises. This experience stands in stark contrast with that of the rapid industrializers of East Asia…. Large firms in the manufacturing sectors of Tanzania and Ethiopia to be significantly more capital-intensive than these countries’ income levels or factor endowments would suggest… as capital-intensive as firms in the Czech Republic…. African economies [are] in a bind. Their manufacturing firms can either become more productive and competitive, or they can generate more jobs. Doing both at the same time seems very difficult, if not impossible…. This is yet another reason for a public debate on the direction of technological change and the tools that governments have to reorient it… LINK: <>

Noah SmithLarry Summers’ Misplaced Stimulus Anxiety: ‘Moderates are worried for instinctive reasons—the debt just sorta seems Really Big…. Cutting Biden’s relief package in half wouldn’t… change that…. Republicans… are “worried” for political reasons… quick enough to support deficits when the President is a Republican. Then, like clockwork, they flip…. Cutting Biden’s relief package in half wouldn’t alter this…. Put lots more investment in the relief bill. There’s no reason we can’t do this—in fact, we already did it in the December COVID bill! Yes, pandemic relief comes first, but we can start scheduling investment projects for a year or two years from now…. It… seems unlikely that we can increase the chances of getting a big investment package passed later by slashing the size of COVID relief today. Instead, this seems like just another example of the kind of self-defeating preemptive concession-making that hobbled Obama’s first term.… LINK:

Patrick WymanMesopotamia and the Dawn of History: ‘Cities, writing, and states… didn’t actually appear in the Fertile Crescent proper, where the cultivated grasses grew under the steady and predictable rainfall and domesticated animals had plenty of forage. Instead, they showed up some way to the south of that pleasant zone… at the edges of the great marshes… the richest spot in the landscape… full of fish, waterfowl, and edible plants… reeds… for boats, houses, and a variety of other purposes…. Eridu… was soon joined by others. Uruk… had tens of thousands of inhabitants, trade routes that stretched as far as the Eurasian steppe, and enormous collections of temples and palaces. That was where writing and maybe the state were born… LINK: <>

Paul KrugmanFighting Covid Is Like Fighting a Wars: ‘The pandemic slump isn’t a conventional recession… more like a natural disaster… the appropriate policy… is… disaster relief…. Winning… means… a huge vaccination program… limiting the economic misery of families whose breadwinners can’t work… avoiding gratuitous cuts in public services…. And that’s what the American Rescue Plan mostly involves…. Medical spending, school aid, aid to the unemployed, and help for state and local governments dominate the plan. And there’s a good case for those checks, too; more about that later….

Emergency spending may not be intended as stimulus, but it nonetheless has a stimulative effect. And wartime surges in spending have often been accompanied by bursts of inflation.… So is that something that might happen this time? Yes, it might. But we don’t know for sure that it will. And to the extent that inflation is a risk, that’s an argument for seeking ways to limit that risk, not for skimping on Covid relief.

How big is the inflation risk?… There are… three reasons not to get too worked up about the package-gap comparison…. Nobody knows how big the output gap really is…. The Biden plan is… less stimulative than the topline number…. The Federal Reserve can tighten monetary policy…. There is a faint but disturbing echo here of the debate over austerity a decade ago, when advocates of fiscal tightening despite high unemployment kept inventing new theories on the fly to justify their position…

LINK: <>

Alvaro Calderon, Vasiliki Fouka, & Marco TabelliniRacial Diversity, Electoral Preferences, & the Supply of Policy: ‘The 1940–1970 Great Migration of African Americans…. How resulting changes in the racial composition of local constituencies affected voters’ preferences and politicians’ behaviour…. Democrats and union members supported blacks’ struggle for racial equality, but that backlash against civil rights erupted among Republicans and among whites who more exposed to racial mixing…. Politicians largely responded to demands of their constituencies…. Under certain conditions, cross-race coalitions…. Changes in the composition of the electorate can polarise both voters and politicians… LINK:

Peloton InfoSec Analyst (Incident Response)’The claim that the president’s words could not be reasonably seen as a call to violence is kind of refuted by the fact that, you know, it was. there was violence. he said the thing, and then they did the thing. It’s literally what happened… LINK: 

Hoisted from the Archives:

We Know Little About the Origins of High Patriarchy and the Extinction of Most Y-Chromosome Lineages ca. 5000 Years Ago, But…: ‘I do not see textiles as the problem. Yes, in the Odyssey Penelope, Kalypso, the 50 maidservants of Alkinous, Kirke, and the nymphs who are called Naiads are all spoken of as at their looms. Yes, the mother of Nausikaa, the 50 maidservants of Alkinous (again), Penelope (again), and the maidservants of Odysseus are all spoken of as at their spindles. Yes, in the Iliad Khryseis, Helen, Andromakhe, “a woman” are all spoken of as at their looms. yes, Andromakhe (again), “the fair spinster”, and Kryseis are all spoken of as at their spindles. Textile work is (or does not have to be) not drudgery—it is (or can be) a very social activity, for to an experienced seamstress or spinner of weaver the cognitive load of the task is not large enough to discourage conversation.

Instead, I blame the Yamnaya: the Aryans, the Indo-Europeans, the Masters of the sword, the wheel, and the bow, who spread fire and sword and the chariot and the steed from Gibraltar and Cape Finisterre to the Deccan and even to the upper reaches of the Yellow River…


SubStack Navel-Gazing


In which I turn my gaze inward...

why the weblogging Renaissance under the guise of SubStacking?:

What Does SubStack Say That Its Mission Is?:

Hamish McKenzieWelcome, Facebook and Twitter. Seriously: [When] we started Substack… we were concerned about… the attention economy…. Our addiction to social media is having negative effects on both individual and collective thought… doomscrolling… rage-monsters… conspiracy theory-addled mob[s]… poisoned information supply…. We have set out to show that platforms that put writers and readers in charge are just better. Substack… a calm space that encourages reflection… free of advertising or any other distraction… no addiction-maximizing feeds, autoplaying videos, or retweetable quote-retweets to suck you into a psychological space you never asked to be in…. Information… put into your brain based on… writers [who] reward your trust, not… a dopamine hit… performative posturing…. Calmness… is the real killer feature…

LINK: <>

SubStack is… classical weblogging—but. What is the “but”? The “but” is:

  1. A very aggressive push of the post to the email inbox of the recipient, rather than waiting for the recipient to come surfing by, with perhaps an rss-flag tickler to remind readers to come by. A subscription email with a website attached, rather than a website with a push RSS feed attached.

  2. A very, very aggressive focus on what used to be called the tip jar, which hath now fed upon that meat upon which Cæsar doth feed and grown great, and morphed into a paywall.

  3. A focus on longer-form—a newsletter rather than a log of readings and reactions. (That, however, may not turn out to be the stable form of whatever medium it turns into: Adrian Hon’s <> used to have three columns—links with a phrase or a sentence, paragraphs, and essays.)

SubStack is—like Medium <> before it—at one level an explicit reaction to the consumption and destruction of what appeared to be a growing weblog-based public sphere by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and company—each of which consumed part of the space, and each of which succeeded in generating superior dopamine-hit random-reinforcement engagement, which turned what I at least regarded as a functional and improving intellectual ecosystem into: the Net of a Million Lies.

I guess the game is to return Facebook to its role of posting updates for family and friends; to turn Twitter into SubStack’s comment section, and to, as Hamish writes up top, provide “a calm space that encourages reflection… free of advertising or any other distraction… no addiction-maximizing feeds, autoplaying videos, or retweetable quote-retweets to suck you into a psychological space you never asked to be in…”

Will it work? Probably not. Can it be worse than Zuckerberg’s or Dorsey’s firehoses of fear-generating misinformation? Almost surely not. Thus it is, I think, worth trying.

As Noah Smith said on the inaugural edition of our Hexapodia podcast <> <>, we have already tried everything else, with less persistent success than Sisyphus.


& more on what we hope to do with our Hexapodia podcast in the future…

SF Masterworks cover of Vernor Vinge: A Fire Upon the Deep <> <>. Boris Vallejo did the first cover—I do not know who did this one.



The Harvard Administration's 35-Year Tolerance & Shielding of Sexual Harasser Jorge Dominguez; & Briefly Noted: 2021-02-08

Why am I always so effing naïve? Plus things that whizzed past. & some others as well...


I confess that I am so effing naïve.

Jorge Dominguez’s harassment of Terry Karl came to light in 1983: he told her "come across or your tenure case is toast.

I assumed that things thereafter would be under control. It was true that the Crimson wrote that “some professors said they were unhappy Rosovsky did not tell the department members what actions he took against Dominguez and complained that the reported punishment was too light. ‘There’s some feeling that the fact that there was supposed to be no publicity and the fact that he is still here are an inadequate deterrent for the future and an inadequate punishment for this case’, one professor said…” Nevertheless, I assumed that Dean Rosovsky or President Bok or both had told Dominguez, over a martini or two, that if any woman ever complained about him again he would be bounced out of Harvard University, and if the Harvard administration had anything to say about it, out of his profession as well.

But no: Thirty-five years. Not a single person in Massachusetts or University Halls or in the Political Science administrative offices… caring to do the overwatch. And Provost Newell’s words here do not fill me with confidence, for she does not say “top administrators intolerant of sexual harassment” but “accelerating progress toward a culture that is intolerant.”

I had thought Harvard had top administrators in 1983—and since—who were as horrified as I was—people who knew that female assistant professors were getting feedback like “your lectures are awful; they would be much better if you lectured naked”, and were working hard to change things.

Silly me:

Harvard Gazette & Deputy Provost Peggy NewellHarvard Issues Report on Sexual Harassment: ‘GAZETTE: What were the main findings of their report? NEWELL:  The committee’s report is incredibly thorough, and I would encourage community members to read it in its entirety. It clearly outlines several cultural and organizational factors that allowed [Political Science Professor Jorge] Domínguez to escape accountability [and for his academic and administrative career to flourish] for so long, and suggests concrete, actionable steps that Harvard can take to create an environment free from harassment and discrimination. These recommendations include: fostering greater “psychological safety” across our Schools and units, better communicating processes for reporting misconduct, achieving greater faculty gender balance, establishing standardized processes for vetting candidates, improving transparency around investigations and sanctions, monitoring employees with past infractions, and accelerating progress toward a culture that is intolerant of sexual and gender-based harassment, broadly. Some of these things we have been working on already. Other recommendations will be the foundation for new initiatives… 


Very Briefly Noted:

  • Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan‘Culture Warlords’ by Talia Lavin: ‘Far-right chatroom… members discussing whether she is too ugly to rape…. misogyny, anti-Semitism and white supremacy… undercover work in extreme-right spaces to draw out the poison…. Efforts to explain the alt-right proliferated throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, Lavin’s work… has a raw and deeply understandable anger. That is not to its detriment. All too often, analyses of white nationalism and the far-right have devolved into anodyne stories of “Nazis buy milk too”, or else created false equivalence with counter-protesters. Culture Warlords is a compelling read… LINK: <>

  • This “divisive”: what is divisive is not convicting Donald Trump. That would be very, very, very divisive indeed: Financial Times Editorial BoardThe US Senate Must Convict Donald Trump: ‘His trial for inciting insurrection is divisive but necessary… LINK: <>

  • Charlie SykesThe Prodigal Republicans: ‘Liz Cheney may not have been Never Trump, but she is clearly Never Again Trump, and that’s a beginning…. What do we do with the late arrivals?… Cheney… a loyal Trump lieutenant…. Sasse… voted with the president on his emergency declaration for the border wall, and against conviction…. But right now, both of them are saying the right things…. Welcome back the prodigals? Even the original parable acknowledges that this is not an easy call… LINK: <>

  • John Burn-Murdoch & Mehul SrivastavaIsrael Provides First Signs of Mass Vaccination Driving Down Virus Cases: ‘Daily case[s]… 60 and above… fallen by 46%… a much smaller decline of 18 per cent among under–60s… LINK: <>

One Video:

Tony Freeth: The Anti-Kythera Device:

Seven Paragraphs:

Francis FukuyamaWhat Trump Showed Us About America: ‘The single most confounding thing about the Trump era is that we still do not really understand why more than 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump, and why there remains a smaller core of fanatical supporters who will believe anything he says—most recently, that he won the election but that it is being stolen through voter fraud. Over the past several years, a legion of explanations for the Trump phenomenon have been put forward—that it is a backlash against the inequalities created by globalization, that it represents the fear of white voters fearing a loss of power and prestige, that is has been generated by social media companies, that it reflects a huge social divide between people living in big cities and those in smaller communities, that it is based on level of education, and so on. All of these factors are probably true to some extent, but none of them adequately explains the fear and loathing evident on the right in America today. There is a qualitative change in the nature of partisanship that conventional explanations fail to capture, reflected in poll data showing that a majority of Republican voters believe some version of QAnon theories about Democrats drinking children’s blood. Nor have I seen a good explanation for why so many conservatives can see such an imperfect vessel as Trump as the object of cultlike worship, or fear the Democrats as the embodiment of Satan. At the end of Trump’s term, what I’ve learned is that I really don’t understand America well at all… LINK: <>

Friedrich A. von Hayek (1988): The Fatal Conceit: ‘I certainly reject every anthropomorphic, personal, or animistic interpretation of the term [god].… The conception of a man-like or mind-like acting being appears to me rather the product of an arrogant overestimation of the capacities of a man-like mind…. Perhaps what many people mean in speaking of God is just a personification of that tradition of morals or values that keeps their community alive. The source of order that religion ascribes to a human-like divinity—the map or guide that will show a part successfully how to move within a whole—as we now learn to see to be not outside the physical world but one of its characteristics, one far too complex for any of its parts possibly to form an ‘image’ or ‘picture’ of it…. Perhaps most people can conceive of abstract tradition only as a personal Will. If so, will they not be inclined to find this will in ‘society’ in an age in which more overt supernaturalisms are ruled out as superstitions? On that question may rest the survival of our civilization…

Karl MarxTheories of Surplus-Value, Chapter 17The Childish Babble of a Say: ‘Incidentally, those economists are no better, who (like John Stuart Mill) want to explain the crises by these simple possibilities of crisis contained in the metamorphosis of commodities—such as the separation between purchase and sale.  These factors which explain the possibility of crises, by no means explain their actual occurrence.  They do not explain why the phases of the process come into such conflict that their inner unity can only assert itself through a crisis, through a violent process.  This separation appears in the crisis; it is the elementary form of the crisis.  To explain the crisis on the basis of this, its elementary form, is to explain the existence of the crisis by describing its most abstract form, that is to say, to explain the crisis by the crisis. “Ricardo says: “No man produces, but with a view to consume or sell, and he never sells, but with an intention to purchase some other commodity, which may be immediately useful to him, or which may contribute to future production.  By producing, then, he necessarily becomes either the consumer of his own goods, or the purchaser and consumer of the goods of some person.  It is not to be supposed that be should, for any length of time, be ill-informed of the commodities which he can most advantageously produce, to attain the object which he has in view, namely, the possession of other goods; and, therefore, it is not probable that he will continually produce a commodity for which there is no demand” [l.c., pp. 339–40].” This is the childish babble of a Say, but it is not worthy of Ricardo… LINK: <>

Noah SmithWelcome to Noahpinion: The Substack!: ‘Feels Good to be Blogging Again: ‘I started when I was a graduate student, continued during my years as an assistant professor, and then kept the blog going intermittently after I started writing professionally for Bloomberg Opinion… refine my thoughts… develop a voice… connect with other[s]…. Over the past few years, though, my blogging dwindled, as I shifted more and more of my commentary to Twitter. It’s time to go back. I’m definitely not giving up my awesome job at Bloomberg…. But there’s lots of stuff I want to write that I can’t put in those op-ed columns, and that stuff will all go here…. Twitter has become a dumpster fire of contentiousness, performativity, negativity, stupidity, and misinformation, and one solution is to go back to blogging. Blogs give readers time to digest and think about ideas, without being interrupted by random shouters with little context and lots of agenda. And they allow writers to insert nuance and elaboration… LINK: <>

John GruberThe Rotting of the American Mind: ‘Kevin Dowd revealed himself to be well on his way to Kookville: “The Democrats remain mystified by the loyalty of Trump’s base. It is rock solid because half the country was tired of being patronized and lied to and worse, taken for granted…” Yes, yes, Trump’s base remains united behind him because they’re… tired of being lied to. That’s it. It’s certainly not that they’re tired of being told truths they do not want to hear: “A word of caution to Fox News: Your not-so-subtle shift leftward is a mistake. You are one of a kind. Watching the quick abdication of Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum following the election (joining an already hostile Chris Wallace) was like finding out my wife was cheating.” This treachery that Kevin Dowd equates to his wife cheating on him was acknowledging that Joe Biden soundly beat Donald Trump in the election. That’s not a leftward shift. It’s a statement of fact. A truth, inconvenient or not… LINK: <>

Bertrand Russell (1921): The Practice & Theory of Bolshevism: ‘The method by which Moscow aims at establishing Communism is a pioneer method…. I do not believe that by this method a stable or desirable form of Communism can be established…. I think these elements of failure are less attributable to faults of detail than to an impatient philosophy, which aims at creating a new world without sufficient preparation in the opinions and feelings of ordinary men and women…. A fundamental economic reconstruction, bringing with it very far-reaching changes in ways of thinking and feeling, in philosophy and art and private relations, seems absolutely necessary if industrialism is to become the servant of man instead of his master. In all this, I am at one with the Bolsheviks; politically, I criticize them only when their methods seem to involve a departure from their own ideals. There is, however, another aspect of Bolshevism from which I differ more fundamentally. Bolshevism is… a religion, with elaborate dogmas and inspired scriptures. When Lenin wishes to prove some proposition, he does so, if possible, by quoting texts from Marx and Engels. A full-fledged Communist is not merely a man who believes that land and… entertains… elaborate and dogmatic beliefs… militant certainty about objectively doubtful matters…. I believe the scientific outlook to be immeasurably important to the human race. If a more just economic system were only attainable by closing men’s minds against free inquiry, and plunging them back into the intellectual prison of the middle ages, I should consider the price too high… LINK: <>

WheatNOilmRNA Vaccines: ‘The mRNA vaccines… brilliant at a science level…. Scientists looked at the COVID virus and saw a protein on the outside of the virus that looked like a good candidate to launch an immune attack against… the virus… uses that protein to get into your cells… makes the virus… more of an asshole…. So scientists took the blueprint for the asshole protein on COVID and made an mRNA version of it. Literally just the instructions on how to make that protein. These instructions “are” the vaccine…. You can’t get infected with COVID from the vaccine. You just get these instructions. Your cells see these instructions and say “sure, I’ll make this”. So your cells make a bunch of the asshole protein. You immune system sees this new protein you’re producing and immediately says “what… the f—… is this?” And it starts attacking the protein…. Your memory cells ‘remember’ the asshole protein. They remember exactly how to destroy it. By the way, your body breaks down the mRNA instructions that you got with the vaccine pretty quickly too. That’s normal. You don’t need a bunch of instructions hanging around forever. Your body breaks those down and gets rid of them. So you’ve broken down the mRNA instructions. You’ve destroyed asshole proteins. Everything from the vaccine is gone. Except for those memory cells who remember that protein very well. So then, a COVID virus enters your body. Your body has never seen the virus before. BUT it’s seen that protein that’s on the outside of the virus. Your memory cells say “you’ve got to be kidding me, THIS asshole again? Get the f— out of here!” Your body’s own ‘natural immune system’ quickly and efficiently launches an all out war, using the template it has… LINK: <>

DeLongTODAY: Nudging Ourselves Toward Full Employment...

The rough transcript & slides for my latest DeLongTODAY briefing


I am Brad DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley and a sometime Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. This is the weekly DeLongToday briefing. Here I hold forth here on the Leigh Bureau’s vimeo platform on my guesses as to what I think you most need to know about what our economy is doing to us right now.

I promised Wes Neff when he agreed to provide the infrastructure for this that I and my briefings would be: lively, interesting, curious, thoughtful, and relatively brief. 


I promised I would provide briefings on a mix of: forecasting, politics, macroeconomic analysis, history, and political economy.

Today is an economic analysis & policy briefing: is Biden doing the right thing? 

But first…

Wednesday the Republican House of Representatives caucus voted 145-61 to endorse Liz Cheney as one of their leaders, and thus to approve of her for her conscience vote to impeach Donald Trump. On Wednesday half the Republican caucus also gave bigoted conspiracy theorist, Marjorie Taylor Greene—she who has called for the assassination of Democratic House leaders, denied that mass school shootings really happened, and blames Jewish Space lasers for forest fires—a standing ovation. The difference? The Cheney vote was a secret ballot. The Greene applause was public.

I harken back to 1993 and then-Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen from Texas describing to some of his senior staff—and to us junior spear-carriers standing in the back of the room against the wall—what his long-time friend Bob Dole, the Republican senate minority leader, from Kansas had said to him. Dole had said that the Republican senate caucus was going to go all-in against Clinton’s deficit-reducing reconciliation bill. It needed to be done for the country’s sake, Dole said, but we Democrats would do it. And he needed to position the Republicans to pick up seats, and the best way to do that was for none of the Republicans to be onboard voting for any of Clinton’s initiatives so that Democrats could be blamed for whatever went wrong, with no water-muddying possible.

It’s been this way for thirty years. And I am tired of it. I would call the Republicans cowardly quislings, except that a not-inconsiderable portion of them appear to be true fascists rather than just going along with the Trump- and Fox-addled base, and World War II-era Vidkun Quisling stood up and was counted when he decided that enthusiastically backing Hitler was best for his career and the only political strategy that promised some hope for Norway.

So whatever is to be done needs to be done by the 50 Democratic senators and Kamala Harris, by Pelosi’s narrow House majority, and by President Biden.

So what needs to be done to bring about full economic recovery?

First, scotch the virus.

The new-case counts are, as always, hopelessly flawed. We guess that Australia detects pretty much every coronavirus case, that Canada and Germany detect 3/4, that the United States detects about half of cases now and a much smaller fraction last spring and summer and even into the fall, that that the United Kingdom—well, a case count per 100,000 roughly equal to the United States since mid-December, but 50% more deaths suggests that Boris Johnson’s MBGA government is only detecting a third. An Australian result was not out of reach for the United States, except for Trump. A German or Canadian response and result was definitely something we should have been able to achieve. We didn’t. 1 in every 100,000 Americans is now dying of COVID-19 every day. That means that roughly 1 in every 500 Americans is catching COVID every day—that is 700,000 per day, and we are only vaccinating 1,000,000. So far we have vaccinated 10% of the population with at least one dose. American Samoa has vaccinated 20%. Israel has vaccinated 60%.

Until the virus is scotched, opening up the country to restore full employment is a fool’s errand: the government needs to be focused on relief—getting families the incomes they need to live, and avoiding permanent shutdowns of businesses that we will want to have when summer comes around and the virus is scotched. But after relief, when the virus is scotched, it will then be time for recovery.

Recovery is going to start from a bad place: 143 million people at work when we want to have 155 million. This 12 million job gap cannot be filled right now: it consists overwhelmingly of workers who do not want to be at work during the plague either for personal-safety or for caring-for-family reasons plus absent customers who do not want to buy during the plague for personal- and family-safety reasons. But it is not worthwhile trying to rejigger the economy to find those 12 million people other jobs in other sectors, because we are highly likely to want them back in their old sectors by late summer at the latest. So right now we stand pat. And as we approach herd immunity we reopen. At the moment we are at, perhaps, 85 million with at least temporary immunity from past infection, 35 million with at least temporary immunity from one-dose vaccination, with that today total of 120 million growing at 2 million per day. That would mean May 1 for being close enough to herd immunity.

Will the economy then pick up its mat and walk? Will people then return to the businesses that they worked for in February 2020, and will those businesses reopen? The experience of 2008 to 2010 strongly suggests that they will not. Back then there was not a biological plague, but there was a psychological and financial plague: a collapse of finance and credit that caused the absence of financing for business and of customers for products that produced an employment gap of about our current magnitude. This financial and credit plague however, was over by the start of 2010. Interest rate risk premium had normalized. And financial institutions were recapitalized.

There was by 2010 no reason why the businesses that were in operation in December 2007 and profitable could not have resumed operation. You may object: but we needed to move workers out of construction, for, as Chicago economist now hiding out at the Hoover institution John Cochrane claimed in late 2008, "workers pounding nails in Nevada need to find something else to do”. But Cochrane and company never did their arithmetic. Employment in construction was back below its long run average share of the economy by December 2007. The fundamental sectoral labor adjustment in response to the collapse of the housing boom had already been accomplished, and had been accomplished without mass unemployment.

And yet there was no rapid recovery. There were no green shoots. There was no "recovery summer". People did not return to the jobs in the businesses, or to the types of jobs and businesses, that they had been working in December 2007 overnight, or even in years. People needed to be pulled back into the labor market by stronger aggregate demand. And a Federal Reserve desperate to normalize interest rates and its asset portfolio and fearful of letting inflation even kiss 2% per year, let alone climb above it even for a short period of time did not help. And a Republican Party eager to hamstring Barack Obama by demanding massive deficit reduction immediately without tax increases did not help. And an Obama administration conflicted and divided between those who saw the situation clearly, those who really believed that deficit reduction was Job One, and those who thought they were being clever by pretending to prioritize deficit reduction—they really did not help the situation either.

But might things be different this time? They might. And there is one important way in which the situation is different which might matter.

The way in which things are different is that there are now $3 trillion of extra savings on household balance sheets. There was no analog to this back in 2010. Then the shortfall in spending was tied to a shortfall in income with no massive household asset accumulations. There were no extra piles of savings that raised people’s wealth to income ratios substantially above their previous targets. Now there are. Is this extra $3 trillion burning a hole in people’s pockets right now? If people spend 5% of it in the year after they feel safe from the plague,If people spend 5% of it in the year after they feel safe from the plague, that would boost economic growth over the year from mid-2021 to mid-2022 by 3/4%-point relative to mid-2020 to mid-2021. if they spend 10%, the boost would be 1.5%-points. If they spend 20%, the boost would be 3%-points. "We will", as my colleague Andres Rodriguez-Clare said earlier this week, “learn a lot about savings behavior in the American economy over the next year". I think that we are as likely to see 20% as 5% because I have been persuaded by Chris Carroll's theory that Americans savers are prudent but impatient: those with money are anxious to spend as long as they can convince themselves that they are unlikely to run out and find themselves even temporarily squeezed.

This time may well be different. I would not be surprised to find this time—because of the great savings accumulation, itself for the result of the wise relief and income support policies of 2020—we do get the semi-spontaneous market led recovery without extraordinary government support and action going forward that we did not get after 2010.

So does that mean that we should not enact extraordinary fiscal support for the economy right now? Does that mean that the Biden administration is barking up the wrong tree, as are Pelosi and Schumer, in moving their $1.9 trillion reconciliation relief, support, and stimulus bill right now?

No it does not. I might be very wrong about what the central tendency likely going forward is. And even if I am right, the balance of risks is extraordinarily asymmetric, and that calls for Biden $1.9 trillion reconciliation relief, support, and stimulus bill as insurance against a repeat of the anemic post-2010 recovery.

Louise Sheiner of Hutchins and Wendy Edelberg of Hamilton have just carried out a nice exercise. Let me enlarge it so that you have a chance of seeing it—I have clearly failed at the task of slide construction here. There.

Sheiner and Edelberg’s standard Keynesian counterfactual forecasting exercise is truly useful. It shows us that the Biden $1.9 trillion reconciliation bill is not well targeted as a fiscal stimulus. Indeed, it is not: it is aimed at relief and support, as well as stimulus. Doing it through reconciliation, and doing it in such a way as to hold all 50 Democratic senators in support—those impose considerable constraints on the form that it can take. As optimal policy, it fails. As politics as the art of the possible, it succeeds. And as boosting an economy that may well need boosting, it seems effective. By contrast, the Republican bill is… too small unless you accept CBO’s depressed view of what potential output is, and unless you in addition hold on to the belief that there should be no recoupment of output gaps: that potential output is a ceiling rather than an average that you should aim to fluctuate around.

But it is a mistake to conceptualize the problem of policy design here as one of producing a policy that is forecast, in the central case, either to get back to potential quickly or to overshoot potential and then return in such a way as to balance out the demand-side component of the coronavirus plague’s depression of economic activity below potential.

Instead, optimal policy design at this point in time needs to deal with uncertainties, asymmetry, and option value. It all discussion needs to start from the premise that this is quite likely going to be the only bite at the apple. It might be possible to provide a further substantial fiscal boost to the economy at sometime in the future if it is needed. But it might well not be politically possible. And it would be massively imprudent to plan on and expect that it will be politically possible to do so. 

What that means is that we need to make the chance that we will wish in the future that we had done more today very low.

How about the chance that we will wish in the future that we had done less today? Do not we need to worry about that? We do need to worry about that to the extent that we do not trust the Federal Reserve to take appropriate steps to control inflation should such steps become necessary. Let me postpone the question of whether we trust the Federal Reserve to the next slide.

In order to calculate what we should do in order to have a low probability of wishing in the future that we had done more, we need to push our judgments to the edge of significant probability in three respects:

  1. We need to act as though we are highly optimistic as to the pace of potential output growth: we do not want, after the fact, to look back and say: “gee, we really underestimated potential output growth”. 

  2. We need not to be optimistic about the multiplier in this case. We need to suppose that that portion of the reconciliation bill money that is going to those who normally have a low marginal propensity to consume will not materially boost the pile of savings that are burning a hole through their pockets and that they will spend quickly. It is thus prudent to suppose that only those income boosts that hit the truly liquidity constraint will be spent. And that is significantly less than half of the total spending bill.

    Shouldn't we then take steps to craft the bill more carefully? If we are giving money away to people who are not liquidity constraint for no good macroeconomic purpose, shouldn't be halt those expenditures and so avoid such a great increase in the national debt? If interest rates were positive, the answer to that question would be yes. But since interest rates are not positive and since we want to have this bill having its impact on the economy over the summer, it seems best to postpone issues of debt management and income distribution and so forth into the future, and right now focus on relief, support, and stimulus.

  3. We need to presume that Americans understand that the world is now a riskier place then we thought it was a year and a half ago. Thus we need to presume that increases in wealth to income ratios even among rich households reflect the changing definition of prudence rather than sums that are going to be rapidly spent-down as a result of impatience.

All of these, I think militate strongly in support of the Biden package—as long as we can trust the Federal Reserve to handle problems that emerge if the policy does what it is supposed to do, that is, boosts production and employment up above potential output and beyond full employment in the absence of monetary policy offset.

So can we trust the Federal Reserve? One thing seems certain about Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell: he will not make his "temper tantrum" mistake again. He and his open-market committee will not prematurely withdraw monetary stimulus before he sees the whites of rising inflation's eyes.

Does that mean that he will hesitate to withdraw monetary stimulus and impose monetary austerity if we do reach a situation in which inflation control is rightly the highest priority of the Federal Reserve? Will Jay Powell, if faced with a return of the 1970s, turn into the equivalent of an Arthur Burns or a G. William Miller and, either out of a sense of loyalty to his political patrons, or out of fear of losing the Federal Reserve’s independence through policies Congress judges as excessively austere, or by misjudging the situation?

Never say “never”. 

But the odds of that seem to be extremely low. First, the more we look at how industrial economies behave, the more it looks as though the inertial inflation of the 1970s was a one off produced by a unique confluence of a central bank that did not take its price-stability mission seriously and an economic structure in which major moves in the price of a single crucial commodity—oil—both of very powerful fundamental importance and served as a signal on which market participants could condition their own inflation expectations. No key fundamental role of oil, no conditioning of market expectations of inflation on the oil price, no absence of trust in central banks, then no inflation of the 1970s.

I am highly confident that Jerome Powell will neither make the Greenspan mistake of viewing unregulated bubble finance with benign neglect, the Bernanke mistake of premature normalization come hell or high water, nor the Burns-Miller mistakes. He will make his own mistakes. But we do not know what those will be. And we should not fear him making Burns-Miller mistakes in the future and have that fear lead us into avoiding appropriate fiscal stimulus out of fear of what is in the shadows.

So, yes, I do think that the Biden reconciliation bill for relief, support, stimulus is highly appropriate at this moment and deserves to pass. And I think it will do a lot of good in easing America's recovery. At this point it is traditional to say something about sausage and legislation. But I do not think we really need to say that: this looks to me like as much of a technocratic triumph as one can have in this fallen sublunary sphere, in this sewer of Romulus in which we live and work. 

I am impressed with the policy design and with the marshaling of the political coalition.

That is, I am impressed with the policy design and the marshaling of the political coalition among the Democrats.

I am not so impressed with the Republicans. These do not seem to me to be partisan issues here. I could understand if the right wing of the Republican Party, with its ideological blinders and its deficiencies and its inability to avoid thinking of an optimal policy is very different when a Democrat than when a Republican is president were to show up with a $600 billion proposal. I am rather embarrassed for the moderate, non-fantasy-based wing of the Republican Party when that is what it brings to the pot-luck

I’m Brad DeLong. This is the DeLongTODAY Briefing.

Briefly Noted: 2021-02-05

First, read & think about:

Schuman may well be right. But he also may well be wrong here:

Michael Schuman: The Undoing of China’s Economic Miracle: ‘Regulators squelched… [Jack] Ma’s fintech giant, Ant Group, a mere two days before its November debut on the Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock Exchanges… widespread concern that Chinese authorities were punishing Ma for criticizing their oversight of the finance industry….  Jerome Cohen… “a new central campaign to curb the political and economic power of major private entrepreneurs who refuse to follow the central Party line in every respect.”… Though Xi has occasionally implemented market reforms… [but] overall… has shown a preference for the very visible hand of the state… financial aid to a wide range of high-tech industries, including microchips and electric cars….“dual circulation”… self-sufficiency…especially [in] microchips and other critical technologies…. Xi is preparing for protracted conflict between the world’s two largest economies by attempting to fireproof China from measures President-elect Joe Biden might use against him… LINK: <>

I see Xi as seeking to protect himself and his régime against three threats:

  1. Pressure applied from “the west” via weaponized interdependence.

  2. Billionaires who become independent political actors as a bourgeoisie.

  3. The complete corruption of the party that would turn it into a parasitic class without a credible societal role—and, eventually, perhaps trigger a revolution.

Remember that Xi, at some level, believes Marxism. He does not believe in rule by the bourgeoisie. He does not believe in rule by—as so often has been the case in China’s history—a parasitic bureaucratic aristocracy. He wants to see China ruled by a Communist Party that carries the banner of utopia, whatever that turns out to be, into the future.

And he wants to be the boss. And once he is the boss, it is very hard to step down: emperors tend to turn into emperors for life, and—this will be China’s problem of Xi succeeds in his entrenchment—humans have little experience with the problems of imperials succession in an age of modern medicine extending life expectancy well past the age major cognitive decline begins.

And now:

Very Briefly Noted:


Seven Paragraphs:

Dan FroomkinWhat the next generation of editors need to tell their political reporters: ‘I’ve written a speech for the next boss to give to their political staffs. It goes like this…. Hi! It’s so nice to be here…. It’s impossible to look out on the current state of political discourse in this country and think that we are succeeding in our core mission of creating an informed electorate. It’s impossible to look out at the looming and in some cases existential challenges… and think that it’s OK for us to just keep doing what we’ve been doing. So let me tell you a bit about what we need to do differently… LINK:

Kiona SmithThis Is How Hominins Adapted to a Changing World 2 Million Years Ago ‘Jacks of all trades: And even if the earliest hunters and gatherers at Ewass Oldupa would have found later versions of the place totally alien, they would still have recognized the tools people used to survive it. For roughly 200,000 years, hominins relied on the same basic tools to tackle the bracken meadows beside the river, the patchwork of woods and grassland, the lush lakeshore, and the dry steppe. The chopping, scraping, and pounding tools of the Olduwan were relatively simple, but they were also incredibly versatile. According to Petraglia and his colleagues, Olduwan technology offered a basic, general toolkit that worked as well in a lakeside palm grove as it did on a dry steppe. Humans took over the world because we’re generalists, and generalists can adapt to nearly anything. Our early relatives clearly had the same advantage…

Jamie PowellThe EV Bubble Spreadsheet: Update Dos: ‘Just gawp at the aggregate figures in FT Alphaville’s proprietary EV bubble Google Sheet, which we launched a fortnight or so ago. Our favourite ridiculous metric at the moment? BMW’s research and development spend in 2019 is almost double what every electric vehicle stock is expected to spend in 2020. Which somewhat dampens the idea that this particular market bubble will have positive spillover effects in the real economy. So what’s new in the sheet this week? Well, in terms of stocks, we’ve added much hyped electric vehicle maker Faraday Future… LINK:

Steve M.How Republicans Think & How Democrats Think: ‘Democrats have learned… that it’s dangerous to let a crazy, angry extremist become the face of the GOP because there’s no reason to believe that the Republican electorate… will reject crazy, angry extremism. It’s just the opposite, in fact—Republicans love Trump and Greene, and while Trump-like figures might never win majority support nationwide, Republicans don’t need majorities to seize control. During the Obama years, Republicans accused the president and members of his administration (Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice) of malfeasance, but they never seriously tried to punish them. Democrats, by contrast, have (futilely) impeached Donald Trump twice. Democrats aren’t faking outrage, the way Republicans have against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden. Democrats genuinely believe that people like Trump and Greene are dangerous. Given the choice of making them examples or ridding the country of the threat they pose, Democrats will choose the latter… LINK:

Sam ArbesmanReinventing Book Publishing in the Tech World ‘attempts to constantly reexamine and reinvent the democratization, distribution, and furthering of knowledge should be watched closely (and please let me know of other examples you are aware of!). For ultimately, publishers are catalysts of world-changing ideas…

Gerard Baker (2020–11–16): Four Seasons Total Landscaping Isn’t Exactly the Reichstag ‘Trump’s shambolic vote challenges provoke cries of “coup” and the usual comparisons to Hitler…

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The Context of John Stuart Mill’s: “Hitherto It Is Questionable If All the Mechanical Inventions Yet Made Have Lightened the Day’s Toil of Any Human Being”

In the Ashley edition that has been standard since… 1909, I believe, the end of Book IV, Chapter 6, “Of the Stationary State” of John Stuart Mill’s Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy reads:

Of the Stationary State: Hitherto [1848] it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of manufacturers and others to make fortunes. They have increased the comforts of the middle classes. But they have not yet begun to effect those great changes in human destiny, which it is in their nature and in their futurity to accomplish. Only when, in addition to just institutions, the increase of mankind shall be under the deliberate guidance of judicious foresight, can the conquests made from the powers of nature by the intellect and energy of scientific discoverers, become the common property of the species, and the means of improving and elevating the universal lot.

The “[1848]” in square brackets was added by W.J. Ashley in 1909 to indicate that that that first sentence, with its “Hitherto,” had been in the book since its first 1848 edition. Mill’s time references, Ashley explained, were:

occasionally a little bewildering: a “now” in his text may mean any time between 1848 and 1871. In every case where it seemed necessary to ascertain and to remind the reader of the time when a particular sentence was written, I have inserted the date in the text in square brackets…

Political Economy came out in seven editions: 1848, 1849, 1852, 1857, 1862, 1865, and 1871. In none of them did Mill himself think that it was worth changing “hitherto” to “formerly.”