History of Economic Growth: Intro to Jupyter Notebooks, & Resources & Global Inequality

Still Experimenting with Interactive Notebooks

Source: <https://github.com/braddelong/econ-135-s-2021-assignments/blob/main/ps-0.1.5.ipynb>
nbViewer: <https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/econ-135-s-2021-assignments/blob/main/ps-0.1.5-answers.ipynb>
Interactive: <https://mybinder.org/v2/gh/braddelong/econ-135-s-2021-assignments/main?filepath=ps-0.1.5.ipynb>


Source: <https://github.com/braddelong/econ-135-s-2021-assignments/blob/main/ps-4.1.5.ipynb>
nbViewer: <https://nbviewer.jupyter.org/github/braddelong/econ-135-s-2021-assignments/blob/main/ps-4.1.5.ipynb>
Interactive: <https://mybinder.org/v2/gh/braddelong/econ-135-s-2021-assignments/main?filepath=ps-4.1.5.ipynb>

BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-25 Th

Things that went whizzing by, that I want to remember...


Very Briefly Noted:

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

Tony FreethThe Antikythera Mechanism

A marvelous device, that if we could only understood why and how and why not a flood of such instruments following, we would understand a great deal of the world?

Six Paragraphs:

This, I think, gets it very right: even two weeks after your second vaccination dose, do not get together with all of your friends in a damp, hot basement and have a singing party—wait until the virus is genuinely scotched for that:

Emily OsterVaccines & Transmission Redux Redux: ‘What you shouldn’t do—and I think this is really the key to the continued caution in messaging—is get together with all your vaccinated friends in a damp, hot basement and have a singing party. If you have close contact with 1000 people even if they are all vaccinated there is a reasonable chance someone’s carrying some virus around, and they could then carry it out to the rest of us who are waiting on vaccines. In another few months, when cases are lower, this will not be true anymore and we’ll be able to do our hot basement singing…

LINK: <https://emilyoster.substack.com/p/vaccines-and-transmission-redux-redux>

Gertjan VliegheAn Update on the Economic Outlook: ‘The effect of the pandemic on the economy has been unusually uneven. We are really not all in this together…. Should we consider… unspent income as “additional income” or “additional wealth”, or something else altogether? A comparison between UK and US income dynamics is instructive…. In the US, on the other hand, the pandemic stimulus cheques and the increase in unemployment benefits have led to a significant rise in household income relative to its pre-pandemic trajectory. That can more reasonably be interpreted as “additional income” for many. Moreover, it has, by design, been spread more evenly across the income distribution….

The degree to which health risks dissipate later this year will be a key factor in determining to what extent savings are retained or spent. The more there are lingering health risks and associated economic uncertainty, the more it is likely that a larger share of the accumulated savings stock will be retained, and that the desired on-going flow of savings will remain somewhat elevated relative to pre-pandemic flows. Given that we have never experienced an economic situation quite like the one we are now in, a wide range of outcomes are possible. I am genuinely uncertain about this, and it is something that reasonable people can disagree on…

LINK: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/speech/2021/february/an-update-on-the-economic-outlook-speech-by-gertjan-vlieghe.pdf?la=en&hash=4D50354F53FDA4D035082B9B1A844A6B134212D1

Charles DickensLittle Dorrit: ‘The conference was held at four or five o’clock in the afternoon, when all the region of Harley Street, Cavendish Square, was resonant of carriage-wheels and double-knocks. It had reached this point when Mr Merdle came home from his daily occupation of causing the British name to be more and more respected in all parts of the civilised globe capable of the appreciation of world-wide commercial enterprise and gigantic combinations of skill and capital. For, though nobody knew with the least precision what Mr Merdle’s business was, except that it was to coin money, these were the terms in which everybody defined it on all ceremonious occasions, and which it was the last new polite reading of the parable of the camel and the needle’s eye to accept without inquiry…

LINK: <https://www.gutenberg.org/files/963/963-h/963-h.htm>

Kirsten DevineRomance Before Bros: ‘A few months further back I wrote a 5 part Valentine’s Day series on romance novels, a feat of insanity that I am going to repeat this year, only I learned my lesson and am starting it at the beginning of January instead ⅔ of the way through. So hopefully unlike last year I’ll make it through mentally unscathed. This time I’m actually reading GOOD romances instead of trashy ones. It’s a lot of work, and do you know why I’m doing this? It’s because romance MATTERS…

LINK: <https://ordinary-times.com/2020/01/05/romance-before-bros/>

Ben ThompsonCreation, Consumption, & Clubhouse: ‘That “something” was a combination of factors: First, it’s much easier to get a group of people together for an informal conversation that requires nothing more than the tap of a button than a formal podcast recording. Convenience matters! It matters more than anything. Second, the rhythm and “feel” of a conversation is just fundamentally different than a produced podcast. Zeynep Tufecki wrote about this difference on her Substack, and it was tangible in this conversation. Third, this room wasn’t simply about those who were invited, but multiple others that raised their hands and joined in, sometimes to riff on stories that came before…

LINK: <https://stratechery.com/2021/more-from-daniel-ek-creation-consumption-and-clubhouse-facebook-and-australia-continued/>

Daniel EkOn Clubhouse: ‘My fundamental view is that Clubhouse is really two things. It’s a creative format and it’s super-engaging for creators. It’s very interesting with the interactivity, so we obviously pay a lot of attention to all social and interactive features. The second part is the listening part as well. Long term I believe the major trend on the Internet isn’t linear and live programming, but it’s still time-shifted and on-demand, and to that extent I feel very good about where we’re placed, but obviously, to the extent that creators find interesting ways to interact with their audience that’s definitely something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and looking at and experimenting with as well…

LINK: <https://stratechery.com/2021/more-from-daniel-ek-creation-consumption-and-clubhouse-facebook-and-australia-continued/>

Hoisted from the Archives

2010Is This an April Fool’s Joke?: Charles Lane of the Washington Post:

Some in the antislavery movement were as extreme, in their way, as the Southern “fire-eaters.”… In 1851, a Boston crowd broke into a federal courthouse to free “Shadrach,” a black man being held there by U.S. marshals enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law…. I am not suggesting a moral equivalency between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces. But I am suggesting an attitudinal equivalency…

First of all, Shadrach Minkins has a name–which does not deserve to be put into scare quotes. He was a human being. Charles—excuse me, ’Charles’—sees an ‘attitudinal equivalency’ between abolitionists who ‘arrested Minkins from his court officers, carried him off and temporarily hid him in a Beacon Hill attic… Boston black leaders Lewis Hayden, John J. Smith and others helped Minkins escape from Massachusetts, and he eventually found his way to Canada on the Underground Railroad…’ and Jefferson Davis and his ilk who raised armies that killed 400,000 Americans.

I am sorry: those who kill tens of thousands have a different ‘attitude’ than those who set people free without killing anybody. Worst Washington Post writer alive.

LINK: https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/03/is-this-an-april-fools-joke----the-tea-party-and-a-history-of-going-to-extremes.html

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READING: The Beginning of: John Q. Marquand (1937): Think Fast, Mr. Moto

Imperialism & the capital-M capital-E Mysterious East...

John P. Marquand (1937): Think Fast, Mr. Moto: 'It had not taken Wilson Hitchings long to realize that the firm of Hitchings Brothers had its definite place in the commercial aristocracy of the East, and that China had retained a respect for mercantile tradition which had disappeared from the Occidental world. There were still traditions of sailing days and of the pre-treaty days in the transactions of the Shanghai branch of Hitchings Brothers. The position of its office upon the Bund was enough to show it. The brass plate of HITCHINGS BROTHERS was polished each morning by the office coolies so that it glittered golden against the gray stone façade. Near by were the venerable plates of JARDINE MATHESON and of the HONG KONG AND SHANGHAI BANK. The plate of HITCHINGS BROTHERS had the same remote dignity, the same integrity, the same imperviousness to time—which was not unnatural.

That plate had been made when a branch of Hitchings Brothers, under the control of Wilson’s great-grandfather from Salem, had moved up to Shanghai from the factories of Canton during the epoch when the place was little more than a swampy China-coast fishing town. Reluctantly, but accurately, Wilson Hitchings could feel the venerable weight of that tradition. The involuntary respect which the tradition had engendered in the narrow European world that maintained its precarious foothold in the Orient was accorded to Wilson Hitchings himself, in spite of youth and inexperience, simply because he bore the name.

Old white-suited gentlemen whom he never recalled meeting previously would suddenly slap him on the back as though he were an Old China Hand. Leather-faced matrons from British compounds would smile at him archly. Sometimes even an unknown, fat Chinese gentleman calling in the outer office would look at him and smile. “Mr. Hitchings,” the old gentleman would say, “so nice you have come here.”

“Gentlemen,” someone would say, toward evening at the bar, “this is young Hitchings, just out from America. He doesn’t know me but I know him. He looks the way old Will did when he came out.… Boy, give Mr. Hitchings a drink.… We have to stick together these days. Anything I can tell you, Mr. Hitchings, simply let me know.”

It had not taken Wilson Hitchings long to realize that he was a public character by right of birth. He grew to understand that the small shopkeeper and the lowest inhabitants of the International Settlement all knew him and that there is no such thing as privacy in the East. Sometimes late at night strange, ragged rickshaw boys would speak to him, in the limpid pidgin English of the place. “Marster Hitchings,” a strange boy would shout. “Please, I take you home. I know where Marster Hitchings lives.”

And sometimes at the street intersections where the pedestrians and the carts and the motors went by in an unending ribbon, the bearded Sikh policeman would bare his white teeth in an unexpected smile. “All right,” the man would say. “All right now, Hitchings Sahib.”

He had begun to realize that a part of Shanghai belonged to him, a part of that rich, monstrous, restive, sinful city where so many races dwelt noisily. It belonged to him because a Hitchings had been there ever since foreigners had come. A Hitchings had seen the city grow out of the East, where China, with that adaptability peculiar alone to itself, had absorbed the conveniences of the West and had made them into something genial and mystic and peculiar. The firm of Hitchings Brothers, on the spot it occupied along the Bund, had become a part of the life. The windows of the firm, never entirely clean in spite of diligent washing, looked out like the eyes of cynical old men upon one of the strangest sights in the world.

Beside the Bund flowed the yellow treacherous currents of the Whangpoo River; warships and huge liners were moored in the river, the last word of Occidental ingenuity, and past them always drifted brown-sailed junks, almost unchanged since the oldest Chinese paintings. Sampans, propelled by a single sculling oar, plied their ways across the river. Scavengers, in the sampans, fought raucously over ships’ garbage; and down on the street beneath, men stripped to the waist struggled like beasts, pulling burdens while limousines passed by. Out of the firm windows one could see all the comedy and tragedy of China struggling in a world of change, all the unbelievable inequality of wealth, ranging from the affluence of fortunate war-lords to a poverty reduced to a limit of existence which no stranger could envisage. It was all beneath the windows, restive and fascinating, something much better accepted than studied.

Wilson Hitchings reluctantly admired his uncle for his cold acceptance of the enigmas which moved about them. Uncle Will Hitchings had grown to accept street riots and homicide as easily as he accepted his whisky-and-soda at the Club, provided dinner was properly and efficiently served as soon as he shouted “Boy!” “My boy,” Uncle Will used to say, “there’s one thing for you to get in your mind—the firm of Hitchings Brothers is an honest firm. It has an excellent reputation upriver. Every Chinese merchant knows us. We seldom lose our customers; you must learn who these customers are; but don’t worry much about the rest. Treat our customers politely, but don’t mix with the natives. It’s confusing to you now. It used to be confusing to me at first, but you’ll get used to it. Don’t try to speak their language. You can’t learn it and it will only make you queer to try. I’ve seen a lot of nice young fellows who have got queer trying to learn Chinese. Just remember our family has got along on pidgin English.

"The main thing is to be seen with the right people. I don’t care how much you drink if you do it with the right people and in the right place; and don’t worry too much about wars and revolutions. Everything is always upset here. All we need is to be sure we get our money, and there’s just one thing more—about women. Be sure you don’t marry a Russian girl. And get as much exercise as you can, and remember I am broad-minded. Come to me when you’re in trouble, remember that nothing will shock me—nothing; and don’t forget you have the firm name. I’ll see you before dinner at the Club.”

It was a strange life, an easy life, and altogether pleasant. In spite of the size of the city, the city was like a country club where everyone of the right sort knew everyone else, where everyone moved in a small busy orbit, surrounded by the unknown, and where everyone was friendly. It did not take him long to realize that it was a responsibility to bear the family name. “You see,” his uncle told him, “we are one of the oldest firms in China and age and name mean a great deal here. I want you to come to dinner to-night. My new cook is very good. I want you to change your cook, he is squeezing you too much. I want you to be sure to be at the Club every afternoon, and I want you to use my tailor. His father and his grandfather have always dressed the Hitchingses.”

“Do you think there is going to be trouble up North, sir?” Wilson Hitchings asked.

His Uncle Will looked at him urbanely. His broad, red face reminded Wilson of the setting sun. “There is always trouble up North,” Uncle William said. “I want you to get yourself a new mess-jacket. The one you wore last night didn’t fit, and that’s more important than political speculation. You had better go to your desk now. I shall have to read the mail. Well, what is it?”

The man who sat in front of the door of William Hitchings’ private office—a gray-haired Chinese in a gray cotton gown—entered. “Please, sir,” he said, “a Japanese gentleman to see you—the one who came yesterday.”

Uncle William’s face grew redder. “My boy,” he said to Wilson, “these Japanese are always making trouble lately. They’re underselling us all along the line. You may as well sit and listen. How long have you been here now?”

“Six months, sir,” Wilson Hitchings said.

“Well,” his uncle said, “we have important interests in Japan. You had better begin to get used to the Japanese. Yes, sit here and listen.” He waved a heavy hand to the office attendant. “Show the man in,” he said.

Red-faced, white-haired, and growing heavy, William Hitchings sat behind his mahogany table with the propeller-like blades of the electric fan on the ceiling turning lazily above his head. Short as the time had been since he had been sent to China, Wilson could understand that much of his uncle’s attitude was a façade behind which he concealed a shrewd and accurate knowledge. He sat there looking about his room with a heavy placid stupidity which Wilson could suspect was part of his uncle’s stock in trade. Even his bland assumption of ignorance of Chinese was valuable.

His uncle had once admitted, perhaps rightly, that it all gave a sense of confidence, a sense of old-fashioned stability. It had been a long while since the firm had started dealing in cargoes of assorted merchandise; and now its business, largely banking, was varied and extensive. The firm was prepared to sell anything up-country through native merchants who had been connected with it for generations, and the firm was the private banker for many important individuals. Wilson could guess that his uncle knew a great deal about the finances and the intrigues of the Nanking Government, although his conversation was mostly of bridge and dinner.

While they waited Uncle William began opening the pile of letters before him with a green jade paper-cutter. Once he glanced at the clock then at the door and then at his nephew. It was three in the afternoon. “My boy,” said Uncle William, “I want you to listen to this conversation carefully and I want you to tell me what you think of it afterwards. I want you to consider one thing which is very important. You must learn to cultivate a cheerful poker face. That is what you are here for, and it will take you years before you can do it.”

“You have one, sir,” said Wilson.

“Yes, my boy,” said Uncle William, “I rather think I have.” He laid down his paper-cutter and raised his voice a trifle. There were footsteps outside the office door. Uncle William looked at the wall opposite him, which was adorned with an oil painting of the first Hitchings factory at Canton, beside which was a Chinese portrait of a stout gentleman in a purple robe seated with a thin hand resting on either knee. It was the portrait of old Wei Qua, the first hong merchant with whom the Hitchingses had dealt. Wei Qua’s face was enigmatic, untroubled and serene.

“Now in the races to-morrow,” Uncle William said distinctly, “I like Resolution in the third. There are going to be long odds on him to-morrow and he is always good in mud. Yes, I think I shall play Resolution.” The office door was opening and Uncle William pushed back his chair. A Japanese was entering, walking across the room in front of the corpulent Chinese clerk with swift birdlike steps.

“Mr. Moto, if you please,” the Chinese clerk was saying.

Mr. Moto was a small man, delicate, almost fragile. His patent leather shoes squeaked slightly as he walked. He was dressed formally in a morning coat and striped trousers. His black hair was carefully brushed in the Prussian style. He was smiling, showing a row of shiny gold-filled teeth, and as he smiled he drew in his breath with a polite, soft sibilant sound. “It is so kind of you to receive me,” he said. “So very, very kind, since I sent my letter such a short time ago. Thank you very, very much.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” Uncle William said. “Thank you, Mr. Moto”...

PODCAST: Hexapodia III: þe Minimum Wage, wiþ Arin Dube, Noah Smith, & Brad DeLong: Should We Be Fighting for $15?

If moderate raises in the minimum wage do not cause unemployment, who can object to them—but why do they not cause higher unemployment, if they in fact do not?

HOISTED FROM ÞE ARCHIVES: Regional & Distributional Policy in a World Where People Want to Ignore þe Value & Contribution of Knowledge- & Network-Based Increasing Returns

From December 2016. Why we seek for but will never be able to find "fair contribution" theories of & justifications for þe distribution of wealth...


Pascal Lamy: “When the wise man points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger…”

Perhaps, in the end, the problem is that people want to pretend that they are filling a valuable role in the societal division of labor, and are receiving no more than they earn—than they contribute. But that is not the case. The value—the societal dividend—is in the accumulated knowledge of humanity and in the painfully constructed networks that make up our value chains.

A “contribution” theory of what a proper distribution of income might be can only be made coherent if there are constant returns to scale in the scarce, priced, owned factors of production. Only then can you divide the pile of resources by giving to each the marginal societal product of their work and of the resources that they own.

That, however, is not the world we live in.

In a world—like the one we live in—of mammoth increasing returns to unowned knowledge and to networks, no individual and no community is especially valuable. Those who receive good livings are those who are lucky—as Carrier’s workers in Indiana have been lucky in living near Carrier’s initial location. It’s not that their contribution to society is large or that their luck is replicable: if it were, they would not care (much) about the departure of Carrier because there would be another productive network that they could fit into a slot in.

All of this “what you deserve” language is tied up with some vague idea that you deserve what you contribute—that what your work adds to the pool of society’s resources is what you deserve.

This illusion is punctured by any recognition that there is a large societal dividend to be distributed, and that the government can distribute it by supplementing (inadequate) market wages determined by your (low) societal marginal product, or by explicitly providing income support or services unconnected with work via social insurance. Instead, the government is supposed to, somehow, via clever redistribution, rearrange the pattern of market power in the economy so that the increasing-returns knowledge- and network-based societal dividend is predistributed in a relatively egalitarian way so that everybody can pretend that their income is just “to each according to his work”, and that they are not heirs and heiresses coupon clipping off of the societal capital of our predecessors’ accumulated knowledge and networks.


On top of this we add: Polanyian disruption of patterns of life—local communities, income levels, industrial specialization—that you believed you had a right to obtain or maintain, and a right to believe that you deserve. But in a market capitalist society, nobody has a right to the preservation of their local communities, to their income levels, or to an occupation in their industrial specialization. In a market capitalist society, those survive only if they pass a market profitability test. And so the only rights that matter are those property rights that at the moment carry with them market power—the combination of the (almost inevitably low) marginal societal products of your skills and the resources you own, plus the (sometimes high) market power that those resources grant to you.

This wish to believe that you are not a moocher is what keeps people from seeing issues of distribution and allocation clearly—and generates hostility to social insurance and to wage supplement policies, for they rip the veil off of the idea that you deserve to be highly paid because you are worth it. You aren’t.

And this ties itself up with regional issues: regional decline can come very quickly whenever a region finds that its key industries have, for whatever reason, lost the market power that diverted its previously substantial share of the knowledge- and network-based societal dividend into the coffers of its firms. The resources cannot be simply redeployed in other industries unless those two have market power to control the direction of a share of the knowledge- and network-based societal dividend. And so communities decline and die. And the social contract—which was supposed to have given you a right to a healthy community—is broken.

As I have said before, humans are, at a very deep and basic level, gift-exchange animals. We create and reinforce our social bonds by establishing patterns of “owing” other people and by “being owed”. We want to enter into reciprocal gift-exchange relationships. We create and reinforce social bonds by giving each other presents. We like to give. We like to receive. We like neither to feel like cheaters nor to feel cheated. We like, instead, to feel embedded in networks of mutual reciprocal obligation. We don’t like being too much on the downside of the gift exchange: to have received much more than we have given in return makes us feel very small. We don’t like being too much on the upside of the gift exchange either: to give and give and give and never receive makes us feel like suckers.

We want to be neither cheaters nor saps.

It is, psychologically, very hard for most of us to feel like we are being takers: that we are consuming more than we are contributing, and are in some way dependent on and recipients of the charity of others. It is also, psychologically, very hard for most of us to feel like we are being saps: that others are laughing at us as they toil not yet consume what we have produced.

And it is on top of this evopsych propensity to be gift-exchange animals—what Adam Smith called our “natural propensity to truck, barter, and exchange”—we have built our complex economic division of labor. We construct property and market exchange—what Adam Smith called our natural propensity “to truck, barter, and exchange” to set and regulate expectations of what the fair, non-cheater non-sap terms of gift-exchange over time are.

We devise money as an institution as a substitute for the trust needed in a gift-exchange relationship, and we thus construct a largely-peaceful global 7.4B-strong highly-productive societal division of labor, built on:

assigning things to owners—who thus have both the responsibility for stewardship and the incentive to be good stewards… very large-scale webs of win-win exchange… mediated and regulated by market prices… There are enormous benefits to arranging things this way. As soon as we enter into a gift-exchange relationship with someone or something we will see again—perhaps often—it will automatically shade over into the friend zone. This is just who we are. And as soon as we think about entering into a gift-exchange relationship with someone, we think better of them. Thus a large and extended division of labor mediated by the market version of gift-exchange is a ver powerful creator of social harmony.

This is what the wise Albert Hirschman called the doux commerce thesis. People, as economists conceive them, are not “Hobbesians” focusing on their narrow personal self-interest, but rather “Lockeians”: believers in live-and-let live, respecting others and their spheres of autonomy, and eager to enter into reciprocal gift-exchange relationships—both one-offs mediated by cash alone and longer-run ones as well.

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

In an economist’s imagination, people do not enter a butcher’s shop only when armed cap-a-pie and only with armed guards. They do not fear that the butcher will knock him unconscious, take his money, slaughter him, smoke him, and sell him as long pig.

Rather, there is a presumed underlying order of property and ownership that is largely self-enforcing, that requires only a “night watchman” to keep it stable and secure.

Yet to keep the fiction that we are all fairly playing the reciprocal game of gift exchange in a 7.4 billion-strong social network—that we are neither cheaters nor saps—we need to ignore that we are coupon clippers living off of our societal inheritance.

And to do this, we need to do more than (a) set up a framework for the production of stuff, (b) set up a framework for the distribution of stuff, and so (c) create a very dense reciprocal network of interdependencies to create and reinforce our belief that we are all one society.

We need to do so in such a way that people do not see themselves, are not seen as saps—people who are systematically and persistently taken advantage of by others in their societal and market gift-exchange relationships. We need to do so in such a way that people do not see themselves, are not seen as, and are not moochers—people who systematically persistently take advantage of others in their societal and market gift-exchange relationships. We need to do this in the presence of a vast increasing-returns in the knowledge- and network-based societal dividend and in spite of the low societal marginal product of any one of us.

Thus we need to do this via clever redistribution rather than via explicit wage supplements or basic incomes or social insurance that robs people of the illusion that what they receive is what they have earned and what they are worth through their work.

Now I think it is an open question whether it is harder to do the job via predistribution, or to do the job via changing human perceptions to get everybody to understand that:

  • no, none of us is worth what we are paid.

  • we are all living, to various extents, off of the dividends from our societal capital

  • those of us who are doing especially well are those of us who have managed to luck into situations in which we have market power—in which the resources we control are (a) scarce, (b) hard to replicate quickly, and (c) help produce things that rich people have a serious jones for right now.

LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/12/is-the-problem-one-of-insufficient-market-wages-inadequate-social-insurance-polanyian-disruption-of-patterns-of-life-.html>

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BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-23 Tu

Things that went whizzing by, but that I really want to remember...



There comes a point at which the dishonesty—perhaps "dishonesty" is not the right word—there comes a point at which the gaming of the system with a sociopathic disregard for the rights and expectations of your principal counterparties becomes so great that the only rational response is to say: this structure needs to be burned to the ground and a new structure in which the architects of the old have no place needs to be directed to fulfill the functions. I think Uber has reached that point:

John BullSchrodinger’s Cab Firm: Uber’s Existential Crisis: ‘ULL, the lawyers argued, didn’t employ any drivers. It was simply a brand umbrella… drew the judges’ attention to the careful wording within them that confirmed this…. Operators were granted access to UBV’s app. Not ULL’s app. On this they were clear. UBV’s app. Through that app, passengers could contact those operators directly, negotiate a ride and agree a fare. Neither ULL or UBV were involved in the ride itself, Uber’s lawyers were keen to stress…. If there was a contractual arrangement, then it was solely made between passenger and operator…. Uber’s lawyers argued that Aslam and Farrar (and the other 30,000 Uber drivers they indirectly represented) had misunderstood the relationship they had with Uber…. The drivers weren’t like caddies at all…. They were like pole dancers….

When it came, the tribunal’s ruling was unanimous…. “This is,” the tribunal judges explained in their ruling, “we think, an excellent illustration of the phenomenon of which Elias J warned in the Kalwak case, of ‘armies of lawyers’ contriving documents in their clients’ interests which simply misrepresent the true rights and obligations on both sides”…

LINK: <https://www.londonreconnections.com/2019/schrodingers-cab-firm-ubers-existential-crisis/>


Very Briefly Noted:

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

Sofiane SmileFlashing Lights <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnUyNhF3jLA>:

Five Paragraphs:

1) I do not understand Renaissance’s Medallion Fund. I do not know anybody who understands Renaissance’s Medallion Fund. If anybody has figured out how to come close to replicating whatever renaissance is medallion fund has done, they are not talking and are not on my radar screen. The fact that I have no clue as to what is going on here leaves me massively dissatisfied. I do not think I understand Bridgewater. But I do think I have a vague idea as to how they do what they do and why it might work as well as it does. I have no such insight into Renaissance Medallion:

Bradford CornellMedallion Fund: The Ultimate Counterexample?: ’Over the period from the start of trading in 1988 to 2018, $100 invested in Medallion would have grown to $398.7 million, representing a compound return of 63.3%. Returns of this magnitude over such an extended period far outstrip anything reported in the academic literature. Furthermore, during the entire 31-year period, Medallion never had a negative return despite the dot.com crash and the financial crisis. Despite this remarkable performance, the fund’s market beta and factor loadings were all negative, so that Medallion’s performance cannot be interpreted as a premium for risk bearing. To date, there is no adequate rational market explanation for this performance…

LINK: <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3504766>

2) At its origin, civilization as we have known it seems to have been quite a cruel and a brutal thing. Our technologies were, for a long long time, much more effective as technologies of extraction and domination then as technologies to boost productivity. Actually, perhaps that is wrong: our technologies were fine at boosting productivity but Malthus’s Devil ensure that the benefits flowed to increasing human numbers rather than raising human prosperity. That's for a long, long time domination and extraction was nearly the only road to individual prosperity:

Patrick WymanUruk & the Emergence of Civilization: ‘The “Uruk Phenomenon.” This was a multifaceted expansion outward from southern Mesopotamia… some combination of colonization movement, proto-imperial takeover, ideological ferment, and mercantile enterprise…. The most ubiquitous item of Uruk culture is actually a humble, misshapen… beveled-rim bowl… mass-produced by the thousands… but in crude molds. The most likely explanation is that they were used to dole out grain rations… molds to bake that grain into daily bread… speaks powerfully to the nature of Uruk society… a deeply unequal and centralized way of organizing the world, with superiors and inferiors…. Those at the bottom were dependent on their betters, who controlled their labor and doled out their food supply, perhaps in those ugly little bowls…. In the early written texts, the most common non-numerical sign is the symbol for “female slave of foreign origin.” “Captive male” isn’t far behind… LINK: 


3) Liars gonna lie. But there may be a way to use their desire to retain a shred of their self-respect in order to uncover somewhat of the truth. Note, however, that this does not work with the Trumps and with their ilk at all:

Zeynep TufekciCritical Thinking isn’t Just a Process: ‘Friends who had grown up in authoritarian or poor countries had a much easier time adjusting…. When Trump got sick with COVID… one detail stood out: he had been given dexamethasone…. The doctors… “Q: Was Trump’s oxygen level ever below 90?” “CONLEY: We don’t have any recordings here of that” “Q: But was it ever below 90, here or at the White House?” CONLEY: No, it was below 94 percent. It wasn’t down in the low 80s or anything…. They don’t have recording below 90s “here” so via Kremlinology, a sadly appropriate method now, we can probably infer that it was probably mid-to-high 80s Friday night which sparked giving him oxygen and transport to Walter Reed….

Metaepistemology may be a fancy term, but it’s actually a mundane skill…. Most deliberate misinformation from authorities—especially in places that are mid-range in terms of institutional trust and strict licensing—comes from omission…. I concluded that the most likely explanation was… that, indeed, the President had faced severe illness. Yesterday, we finally got actual reporting… “Trump… was found to have lung infiltrates… a sign of an acute case of the disease…. Trump’s blood oxygen level alone was cause for extreme concern, dipping into the 80s…” There is often talk of teaching people “critical thinking”… not just formulas to be taught but knowledge and experience to be acquired and tested and re-examined…. It may be a privilege to live in a society that does not always need official statements to be interrogated as such. But if the past few years have shown anything, that privilege is not something to be taken for granted…

LINK: <https://zeynep.substack.com/p/critical-thinking-isnt-just-a-process>

4) At this point, I think you have to presume that Facebook is guilty when charged by insiders:

Hannah MurphyFacebook Reported Revenue It ‘Should Have Never Made’, Manager Claimed: ‘Lawsuit cites product executive’s qualms over figures provided to advertisers. Facebook says that the ‘allegations are without merit and we will vigorously defend ourselves’. A Facebook employee warned that the company reported revenues it “should have never made” by overstating how many users advertisers could reach, according to internal emails revealed in a newly unsealed court filing. The world’s largest social media company has since 2018 been fighting a class-action lawsuit claiming that its executives knew its “potential reach metric”, used to inform advertisers of their potential audience size, was inflated but failed to correct it. According to sections of a filing in the lawsuit that were unredacted on Wednesday, a Facebook product manager in charge of potential reach proposed changing the definition of the metric in mid–2018 to render it more accurate. However, internal emails show that his suggestion was rebuffed by Facebook executives overseeing metrics on the grounds that the “revenue impact” for the company would be “significant”, the filing said. The product manager responded by saying “it’s revenue we should have never made given the fact it’s based on wrong data”, the complaint said…

LINK: https://www.ft.com/content/c144b3e0-a502-440b-8565-53a4ce5470a5

5) Only 23,000 years? That does not seem to me very long—especially when you consider that co-movement implies only a form of weak symbiosis and perhaps semi-domestication, not full domestication:

Angela R. Perri & al.Dog Domestication & the Dual Dispersal of People & Dogs into the Americas: ‘Over the last 10,000 y, the genetic signatures of ancient dog remains have been linked with known human dispersals in regions such as the Arctic and the remote Pacific. It is suspected, however, that this relationship has a much deeper antiquity…. By comparing population genetic results of humans and dogs from Siberia, Beringia, and North America, we show that there is a close correlation in the movement and divergences of their respective lineages…. It suggests that dogs were domesticated in Siberia by ∼23,000 y ago, possibly while both people and wolves were isolated during the harsh climate of the Last Glacial Maximum. Dogs then accompanied the first people into the Americas and traveled with them as humans rapidly dispersed into the continent beginning ∼15,000 y ago…

LINK: <https://www.pnas.org/content/118/6/e2010083118>

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

Hoisted from the Archives

2010Is This an April Fool’s Joke?: Charles Lane of the Washington Post:

Some in the antislavery movement were as extreme, in their way, as the Southern “fire-eaters.”… In 1851, a Boston crowd broke into a federal courthouse to free “Shadrach,” a black man being held there by U.S. marshals enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law…. I am not suggesting a moral equivalency between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery forces. But I am suggesting an attitudinal equivalency…

First of all, Shadrach Minkins has a name—which does not deserve to be put into scare quotes. He was a human being. Charles—excuse me, ’Charles’—sees an ‘attitudinal equivalency’ between abolitionists who ‘arrested Minkins from his court officers, carried him off and temporarily hid him in a Beacon Hill attic… Boston black leaders Lewis Hayden, John J. Smith and others helped Minkins escape from Massachusetts, and he eventually found his way to Canada on the Underground Railroad…’ and Jefferson Davis and his ilk who raised armies that killed 400,000 Americans.

I am sorry: those who kill tens of thousands have a different ‘attitude’ than those who set people free without killing anybody.

Worst Washington Post writer alive.

LINK: https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/03/is-this-an-april-fools-joke----the-tea-party-and-a-history-of-going-to-extremes.html

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BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-02-22 Mo

Things that went whizzing by, but that I want to remember...



This is, I think, by far the most important thing today. It would be one thing if Facebook has not yet figured out how to create frameworks and algorithms in which people are their better selves as they decide what to engage with and what to look at next.

It is quite another thing that Facebook’s highest executives are in there actively cheering and creating space for people who deny that mass child murders ever actually happened. Zuckerberg needs to go. Or Facebook needs to go. And maybe, by this point, it needs to be not “or” but “and”:

Ryan Mac & Craig Silverman: “Mark [Zuckerberg] Changed The Rules”: How Facebook Went Easy On Alex Jones And Other Right-Wing Figures: ‘Joel Kaplan’s Policy Team Sways Big Facebook Decisions Like Alex Jones Ban: Facebook’s rules to combat misinformation and hate speech are subject to the whims and political considerations of its CEO and his policy team leader: In April 2019, Facebook was preparing to ban one of the internet’s most notorious spreaders of misinformation and hate, Infowars founder Alex Jones. Then CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally intervened. Jones had gained infamy for claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre was a “giant hoax,” and that the teenage survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting were “crisis actors.” But Facebook had found that he was also relentlessly spreading hate against various groups, including Muslims and trans people. That behavior qualified him for expulsion from the social network under the company’s policies for “dangerous individuals and organizations,” which required Facebook to also remove any content that expressed “praise or support” for them. But Zuckerberg didn’t consider the Infowars founder to be a hate figure… LINK: <https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanmac/mark-zuckerberg-joel-kaplan-facebook-alex-jones>


Very Briefly Noted:

One Chart:

What was the Trumpist goal, aim, and point in not following the New Zealand or the Australia or the Taiwan or the South Korea strategy—lock down, scotch the virus, vigilantly shut down again at signs of trouble, and then reopen so we can have a somewhat-normal 2020? What was the gain? What was the win? What did they think the win would be?

Youyang Gu’The strongest single variable I’ve seen in being able to explain the severity of this most recent wave in each state. Not past infections/existing immunity, population density, racial makeup, latitude/weather/humidity, etc. But political lean… LINK: <https://twitter.com/youyanggu/status/1362109363029225480>

Next: A Video Well Worth Your Watching:

New HistoriaWhat Did Ancient Rome Really Look Like? <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XxA4CX_Ip8>

Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong

Five Paragraphs:

1) Between 1425 and 1525, if you had to bet on which civilization would lead humanity’s progressive way forward over the next half-millennium, you might well have been strongly tempted to be on the Islamic ekumene. It was technologically on par with the others. When Mehmet II “the Conquerer” Osmanli—Sultan of what Europeans called the Ottoman Empire, or, more usually, “the Grand Turk”—besieged Constantinople in 1453, he did so with the most modern artillery park in the world. And Islamic civilization was much better organized. Mehmet’s military establishment—the galleys and the cannon and the janissaries and the sipahis—was unequalled anywhere in the world.

60 years later, at the other end of the Islamic ekumene, a prince, Babur, who has lost his wars to become Emir of Samarkand has to settle for becoming Emperor of India as a consolation prize. And he wins much as the British were to conquer India 300 years later: with massively inferior forces but massively superior discipline and coordination:

Kallie SzczepanskiOverview of the First Battle of Panipat: ‘Babur’s Mughal forces consisted of between 13,000 and 15,000 men, mostly horse cavalry. His secret weapon was 20 to 24 pieces of field artillery, a relatively recent innovation in warfare. Arrayed against the Mughals were Ibrahim Lodi’s 30,000 to 40,000 soldiers… war elephants… from 100 to 1,000 trained and battle-hardened pachyderms…. His army simply marched out in a disorganized block…. Babur… employed two tactics unfamiliar to Lodi… tulughma, dividing a smaller force into forward left, rear left, forward right, rear right, and center divisions. The highly mobile right and left divisions peeled out and surrounded the larger enemy force, driving them towards the center. At the center, Babur arrayed his cannons. The second tactical innovation was Babur’s use of carts, called araba. His artillery forces were shielded behind a row of carts which were tied together with leather ropes, to prevent the enemy from getting between them and attacking the artillerymen. This tactic was borrowed from the Ottoman Turks…

LINK: <https://www.thoughtco.com/the-first-battle-of-panipat-195785>

2) Would there have been a Rush Limbaugh—and the descent of the Republicans of America into neofascist idiocy—without Reagan’s repeal of the Fairness Doctrine? Perhaps yes. But perhaps not:

Erik LoomisThe Gasbag of Fascism: ‘This often drug-addled hypocrite dedicated his entire life to destroying American democracy, to promoting the power of the rich and the racist, to dividing Americans against each other, to ginning up hate and violence. Limbaugh is truly one of the worst Americans to ever pollute this nation…. What made Rush Limbaugh the era-changing blowhard he became was Ronald Reagan’s Federal Communications Commission repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987…. The country has never recovered from this horrible event since, as we’ve been flooded with ever more extreme right-wing propaganda that has moved us increasingly down the road toward fascism, culminating with the election on Donald Trump. Limbaugh was perhaps the first major beneficiary of the Fairness Doctrine’s repeal and he holds more responsibility than anyone else except perhaps Rupert Murdoch in what the hellscape this nation has become…

LINK: <https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/02/the-gasbag-of-fascism>

3) It would be nice to be able to believe this. But, alas!, I cannot:

David FrumImpeachment Did Not Prevail, But Trump Still Lost: ‘The 57–43 margin wasn’t enough to convict under the Constitution. It wasn’t enough to formally disqualify Trump from ever again seeking office in the United States. But practically? It will do as a solemn and eternal public repudiation of Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office…. The 57–43 margin in the Senate flashes a green light to federal and state prosecutors…. The Senate minority leader condemned Trump’s actions as a “disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty” and said he held Trump “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day”…. His own damning assessment did not suffice to persuade McConnell to convict Trump of impeachable offenses. That abdication will weigh on McConnell’s conscience and historical reputation…

4) Pretending that you speak for a movement while you look for a grift. Making your living out of steel manning racism and sexism. Et cetera. God! I am cranky this morning! But Conor Friedersdorf certainly gives us all cause:

Scott LemieuxHe Just Wasn’t a True Scotsman: ‘Conor is this close to getting it: “As a proponent of conservatism in America, Limbaugh was a failure… culminating in his alignment with the vulgar style and populist anti-leftism of Donald Trump. Character no longer mattered. Budget deficits no longer mattered. Free trade no longer mattered. Nepotism no longer mattered. Lavishing praise on foreign dictators no longer mattered. All that mattered was owning the libs in the culture war, in part to avenge a deeply felt sense of aggrievement…” When oh when did conservatism become about what 99% of conservatives want rather than the priorities of 20 libertarian journalists?…

LINK: <https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/02/he-just-wasnt-a-true-scotsman>

5) SAS knows more about how macroeconomics should think about the world than any economist from the so-called “freshwater” school I have ever heard or read:

Scott Alexander SimkinsComplicated Dynamical Systems: ‘Imagine some benevolent aliens surveilling Earth from orbit. They don’t understand our languages, and their own culture is so exotic that even basic ideas like “money” or “war” are hard for them to understand. Still, they have good telescopes, and they’re able to measure things like how much light our cities have, how much traffic is on our roads and sea-lanes, and how much smoke our industries emit…. There are some years (for example late 1929 and the early 1930s) when city lighting, smoke emissions, and traffic all stagnate. In other years (like the late 1990s), all these things grow even faster than usual. After analyzing word frequency in human communications, they hypothesize that the former type of period corresponds to English “recession” and the latter period to “boom”. By performing sentiment analysis of human faces in the media during these periods, they hypothesize that we dislike recessions.

These are benevolent aliens, and they want us to be happy, so they wonder how to prevent recessions. Sometime during the 1970s, they notice that during a recession, there are fewer oil tankers leaving the Middle East, and longer lines at First World gas stations. They know enough chemistry to realize that oil is a pretty useful fuel at our stage of technological development, so they deduce that the recession is caused by an oil shortage. This seems solveable! Using their Materialization Ray, they cause one billion barrels of crude oil to appear on the White House lawn. This actually helps a lot! Light, traffic, and industrial emissions all return to normal. Sentiment analysis of human faces reveal a brief period of extreme confusion, followed by happiness. The aliens have successfully solved the recession. In 2020, they notice another profound decrease in lighting, traffic, and factory smoke; looks like another recession. The aliens, still wanting to help and now confident they know how, materialize another billion barrels of crude oil on the White House lawn. The Earthlings continue sheltering in place from the coronavirus, but now they also have to deal with a billion random barrels of oil tumbling around Washington DC. The aliens have solved nothing….

The global economy behaves like a huge dynamical system. Everything affects everything else in so many different ways that it’s hard to keep track of. If aliens tried to model the economy the same way Borsboom et al are modeling the mind, they’d fail. They could pick ten important economic indicators—maybe employment rate, the S&P 500, inflation, and a few other things—and track how they co-evolved over time. This would probably be illuminating—for all I know some economist in our world is doing it already and learning a lot. But it wouldn’t be enough. They would never be able to predict a recession caused by conflict in the Middle East causing an oil embargo causing an energy shortage. Or a recession caused by deregulation of banks causing them to offer too many subprime loans causing all of them to go belly-up at once…. At best they… could understand that recessions (and booms) are attractor states in a massively complex dynamical system, and come up with vague principles about how that system responds to certain shocks (eg “large stimulus packages can sometimes shift the system from recession to normal growth”)…

LINK: <https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/ontology-of-psychiatric-conditions-34e>

Hoisted from the Archives

2016Regional Policy and Distributional Policy in a World Where People Want to Ignore the Value and Contribution of Knowledge—and Network-Based Increasing Returns: Pascal Lamy: “When the wise man points at the moon, the fool looks at the finger…” Perhaps in the end the problem is that people want more than anything else to pretend that they are filling a valuable role in the societal division of labor, and are receiving no more than they earn—than they contribute. But that is not the case.

The value—the societal dividend—is in the accumulated knowledge of humanity and in the painfully constructed networks that make up our value chains, not in any of our individual contributions. A “contribution” theory of what a proper distribution of income might be can only be made coherent if there are constant returns to scale in the scarce, priced, owned factors of production. Only then can you divide the pile of resources by giving to each the marginal societal product of their work and of the resources that they own.

That, however, is not the world we live in… 

LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/12/is-the-problem-one-of-insufficient-market-wages-inadequate-social-insurance-polanyian-disruption-of-patterns-of-life-.html>

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Briefly Noted for 2021-02-17


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


Mike Konczal’s Freedom from the Market<https://books.google.com/books?id=0aDLDwAAQBAJ> 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 <https://books.google.com/books?id=0aDLDwAAQBAJ>… 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: <https://crookedtimber.org/2021/01/26/freedom-from-the-market/>


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: <https://twitter.com/i/timeline>

  • 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 <https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2776557?guestAccessKey=b2690d5a-5e0b-4d0b-8bcb-e4ba5bc96218>. That almost all occur in women needs to be understood… LINK: <https://twitter.com/EricTopol/status/1360308061219430401>

  • 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: <https://twitter.com/RyanLizza/status/1361677723576500233>

  • Joe StudwellHow Asia Works: Success & Failure In the World’s Most Dynamic Region LINK: <https://books.google.com/books?id=dNs33Q1cAX0C>

  • WikipediaIbn Battuta LINK: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Battuta#Spain_and_North_Africa>

  • Chalmers JohnsonMITI & the Japanese Miracle: The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925–1975 LINK: <https://books.google.com/books?id=bbGlwsjW-ekC>

  • Michael Porter, Mick Takeuchi, Mariko SakakibaraCan Japan Compete? LINK: <https://books.google.com/books?id=QYSwwQEACAAJ>

  • 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: <https://crookedtimber.org/2020/07/24/in-praise-of-negativity/>

  • 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: <https://johnganz.substack.com/p/a-culture-in-despair>

  • 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: <https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-06-12/don-t-give-up-on-bringing-manufacturing-back-to-the-u-s?sref=R8NfLgwS>

  • 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: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trimalchio>

  • 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: <https://equitablegrowth.org/boosting-wages-for-u-s-workers-in-the-new-economy-book>

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: <https://twitter.com/zeynep/status/1361680717416177664>

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: <https://www.gopusa.com/?p=106550?omhide=tru>

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 Newsmax.com 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….

HumanEvents.com… 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: <https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-long-con>

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: <https://stratechery.com/2021/clubhouses-inevitability/>

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: <https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/statement-on-new-york-times-article>

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: <https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/silicon-valley-isnt-full-of-fascists>

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: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2018/12/reasoningindividual-social-and-societal.html>


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
<https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/econ-135-3.3.5-zoom.pptx> <https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0kwDC9Z9kYvID010bRNtRiWJQ#econ-135-3.3>

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: <https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/18/pg18.html>

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.