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

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

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

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

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

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

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Worthy Reads from February 6, 2019

stacks and stacks of books

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth and Friends:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The very sharp David Glasner on how Arthur Burns did a really lousy job as Fed Chair, and left his successors with a horrible mess: David Glasner: Cleaning Up After Burns’s Mess: "After prolonging monetary stimulus unnecessarily for a year, Burn erred grievously by applying monetary restraint in response to the rise in oil prices. The largely exogenous rise in oil prices would most likely have caused a recession even with no change in monetary policy. By subjecting the economy to the added shock of reducing aggregate demand, Burns turned a mild recession into the worst recession since 1937-38 recession at the end of the Great Depression, with unemployment peaking at 8.8% in Q2 1975. Nor did the reduction in aggregate demand have much anti-inflationary effect, because the incremental reduction in total spending occasioned by the monetary tightening was reflected mainly in reduced output and employment rather than in reduced inflation.... When President Carter took office in 1977, Burns, hoping to be reappointed to another term, provided Carter with a monetary expansion to hasten the reduction in unemployment that Carter has promised in his Presidential campaign. However, Burns’s accommodative policy did not sufficiently endear him to Carter to secure the coveted reappointment.... A year after leaving the Fed, Burns gave the annual Per Jacobson Lecture to the International Monetary Fund. Calling his lecture “The Anguish of Central Banking,” Burns offered a defense of his tenure, by arguing, in effect, that he should not be blamed for his poor performance, because the job of central banking is so very hard. Central bankers could control inflation, but only by inflicting unacceptably high unemployment. The political authorities and the public to whom central bankers are ultimately accountable would simply not tolerate the high unemployment that would be necessary for inflation to be controlled: "Viewed in the abstract, the Federal Reserve System had the power to abort the inflation at its incipient stage fifteen years ago or at any later point, and it has the power to end it today. At any time within that period, it could have restricted money supply and created sufficient strains in the financial and industrial markets to terminate inflation with little delay. It did not do so because the Federal Reserve was itself caught up in the philosophic and political currents that were transforming American life and culture..."

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This is a must must read. This is a great paper by Alberto and Stefanie. Coming to grips with what generates this may be the most important question in political economy today: Alberto Alesina and Stefanie Stantcheva: Americans Regard Their Economic Prospects More Optimistically than Europeans 'Americans, by and large, view the market economy as fair: if one works hard, poverty can be left behind; and wealth is generally deserved by those who have accumulated it.... Europeans, by contrast, believe that the poor will remain stuck in poverty, no matter how hard they try, and that many of the rich don’t deserve their wealth, which originated mostly from birth and connections in an “unfair” economy, based upon privileges. They believe that social mobility is low and that something like an American dream in their country is an illusion.... A key difference in the responses of Europeans and Americans is... European respondents are more pessimistic than Americans, though their statistical chances now look better.... Individuals more pessimistic about social mobility favored government spending on programs designed to equalize opportunities and favored a progressive tax system. Interestingly, the respondents who believed that social mobility is low seem to favor equal-opportunity policies more than ex-post-redistribution of income. American respondents showed a distinctive—and counterintuitive—geographical pattern. In areas such as the South and the Southeast, where upward mobility is relatively low, Americans were overly optimistic about prospects of upward mobility. The opposite was the case in areas where mobility is higher, as in the North and Northwest. This is an intriguing pattern that will require more study to understand...

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The repeated waves of automation in manufacturing eliminate—or at least severely reduce the salience of—tasks. Whether those waves amount to "deskilling" on the level of occupations is a subtle and empirical question, for what tasks make up on occupation and how those tasks can shift about without destroying the occupation is a complicated and subtle thing. We do not have a good handle on this, theoretically or conceptually. But here we have the smart and hard-working David Kunst doing useful work: David Kunst: Deskilling Among Manufacturing Production Workers "Has technological progress in manufacturing been skill-biased or deskilling? This column argues that the conventional distinction between white-collar and production workers has concealed substantial deskilling among manufacturing production workers since the 1950s. Automation has reduced the demand for skilled craftsmen around the world, thereby reducing the number of jobs in which workers with little formal education could acquire significant marketable skills...

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Malthusian Agricultural Economies

Th Feb 6: 2.1. Malthusian Agricultural Economies

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Freddie from Barmen is a greatly undervalued thinker. I wonder what would have happened it he had not met Marx—or if he had not decided that Marx was smarter than he was: Friedrich Engels (1843): Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy 'The productive power at mankind’s disposal is immeasurable. The productivity of the soil can be increased ad infinitum by the application of capital, labour and science.... Capital increases daily; labour power grows with population; and day by day science increasingly makes the forces of nature subject to man.... Here a new contradiction in economics comes to light. The economist’s “demand” is not the real demand; his “consumption” is an artificial consumption. For the economist, only that person really demands, only that person is a real consumer, who has an equivalent to offer for what he receives...

...Every adult produces more than he himself can consume... children are like trees which give superabundant returns.... Each worker ought to be able to produce far more than he needs and that the community, therefore, ought to be very glad to provide him with everything he needs; one must consider a large family to be a very welcome gift for the community. But the economist, with his crude outlook, knows no other equivalent than that which is paid to him in tangible ready cash. He is so firmly set in his antitheses that the most striking facts are of as little concern to him as the most scientific principles.

We destroy the contradiction simply by transcending it. With the fusion of the interests now opposed to each other there disappears the contradiction between excess population here and excess wealth there; there disappears the miraculous fact (more miraculous than all the miracles of all the religions put together) that a nation has to starve from sheer wealth and plenty; and there disappears the crazy assertion that the earth lacks the power to feed men...

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Note to Self: I see no way that live-action Mulan can match animated: animated's delicious subversion of the "Basic Training" tropes seems to me to make it unbeatable?

Actually, where do all the "basic training" tropes come from? They seem well-established by the post-WWI movie "Tell It to the Marines" Captains Courageous The Red Badge of Courage But those aren't basic training. Sergeant le Juane and Corporal Himmelstoss aren't this trope. Does it come from Xenophon? Where, when, and how did the "basic training" tropes enter our culture?

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Once again, this ought to be the focus one your attention this year: Ed Luce: The Guilty Verdict on the Republican Party 'Washington is staging the opposite of a Moscow show trial. In the Soviet version, Joseph Stalin would coerce innocent comrades into false professions of guilt. In Donald Trump’s Senate trial, the US president’s party is proclaiming the innocence of an allegedly guilty man. The overlap is that each trial was pre-cooked before it began. Republicans would face no firing squads or Siberian exile for defying their leader. The worst Mr Trump could do is to incite primary challenges, or banish them from his clubs. Some might even call that an incentive. How did America’s Grand Old Party turn into a rigged jury for Mr Trump? It is not love of the US constitution, though Republicans ritually profess faith in America’s founding documents. They have been taking their cue from Pat Cipollone, Mr Trump’s White House counsel, part of whose case is that the US president’s impeachment was “rigged”. That is to confuse impeachment with trial. The former is an indictment. The Senate is refusing to conduct a good faith trial, since it will not permit new witnesses or documents to be introduced...

...Trump... used the threat of withheld aid to pressure a foreign leader to interfere in the US presidential election. The only question is whether this amounted to “high crime or misdemeanour”, which America’s founders characterised as abuse of public trust. Having deprived the House of Representatives of critical witnesses and records, Mr Trump is now bragging that his accusers lack proof. “We have the material,” Mr Trump said this week. This is the equivalent of the accused pronouncing from the dock that he is withholding critical evidence because the court has no standing. Stalin might have chuckled at that approach. Mr Trump’s Senate allies are dutifully repeating it.

Mr Cipollone’s second defence is that presidents routinely investigate corruption in foreign countries. The fact that Mr Trump has never shown interest in pursuing corruption anywhere other than Ukraine—and in only one instance—is surely relevant.... Constraining executive power is a basic tenet of US conservatism.... It has become fashionable to dismiss Mr Trump’s impeachment as a dull charade. Republicans may even benefit from the US public’s boredom with the proceedings. That may turn out to be true. Mr Trump could be re-elected in November. Yet it could be worse. Only one of America’s parties has surrendered to a Caesar. Whatever its faults, the Democratic party still shows some faith in the system. If that goes, the founding virtues that Republicans once held dear will vanish with the party...

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Kaleberg: 'I remember the panic about fake geek girls. Since I knew plenty of real geek girls, I never had such worries. Still, my favorite take is in:

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Friedrich Engels (1843): Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy 'According to the economists, the production costs of a commodity consist of three elements: the rent for the piece of land required to produce the raw material; the capital with its profit, and the wages for the labour required for production and manufacture.... [Since] capital is “stored-up labour”... two sides–the natural, objective side, land; and the human, subjective side, labour, which includes capital and, besides capital, a third factor which the economist does not think about–I mean the mental element of invention, of thought, alongside the physical element of sheer labour...

...What has the economist to do with inventiveness? Have not all inventions fallen into his lap without any effort on his part? Has one of them cost him anything? Why then should he bother about them in the calculation of production costs? Land, capital and labour are for him the conditions of wealth, and he requires nothing else. Science is no concern of his.

What does it matter to him that he has received its gifts through Berthollet, Davy, Liebig, Watt, Cartwright, etc.–gifts which have benefited him and his production immeasurably? He does not know how to calculate such things; the advances of science go beyond his figures. But in a rational order which has gone beyond the division of interests as it is found with the economist, the mental element certainly belongs among the elements of production and will find its place, too, in economics among the costs of production.

And here it is certainly gratifying to know that the promotion of science also brings its material reward; to know that a single achievement of science like James Watt’s steam-engine has brought in more for the world in the first fifty years of its existence than the world has spent on the promotion of science since the beginning of time...

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David Laibson: Seminar 218, Psychology and Economics (Joint with Macro): Eliminating Equilibrium Pathologies in Models with Present-Biased Discounting: the β-δ-Δ Sweet Spot 'When agents have present-biased discount functions and are partially or fully sophisticated, intra-personal strategic motives induce equilibria with pathological properties, including non-uniqueness, policy function discontinuities and policy-function non-monotonicities. Harris and Laibson (2013) propose a continuous-time model with an instantaneously short 'present', which eliminates such pathologies. The current paper provides a bridge between this continuous-time approach and traditional discrete-time models. Calibrated buffer-stock consumption models with discrete time periods that are no longer than one month are pathology-free and feature policy functions that are nearly identical to the policy functions associated with the continuous-time model. Researchers working on consumption models with present bias should use discrete time models with time periods that are no longer than one month (and calibrated levels of background noise), or the continuous-time model, whichever framework is computationally more tractable. Within this family of discrete- and continuous-time buffer-stock models, the predictions are indistinguishable and pathology-free....

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Melissa Dell, Nathan Lane, and Pablo Querubin: The Historical State, Local Collective Action, & Economic Development in Vietnam "This study examines how the historical state conditions long-run development, using Vietnam as a laboratory. Northern Vietnam (Dai Viet) was ruled by a strong, centralized state in which the village was the fundamental administrative unit. Southern Vietnam was a peripheral tributary of the Khmer (Cambodian) Empire, which followed a patron-client model with more informal, personalized power relations and no village intermediation. Using a regression discontinuity design, the study shows that areas exposed to Dai Viet administrative institutions for a longer period prior to French colonization have experienced better economic outcomes over the past 150 years. Rich historical data document that in Dai Viet villages, citizens have been better able to organize for public goods and redistribution through civil society and local government. We argue that institutionalized village governance crowded in local cooperation and that these norms persisted long after the original institutions disappeared...

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Scott Lemieux: Great Moments in Subtweeting 'I like the shade the Des Moines Register editorial board throws on the Times here: "Each of the remaining candidates campaigning across Iowa ahead of the caucuses could make a fine president. Each would be more inclusive and thoughtful than the current occupant of the White House. Each would treat truth as something that matters. Each would conduct foreign policy by coalition building rather than by whim and tweet. The outstanding caliber of Democratic candidates makes it difficult to choose just one. But ultimately Iowa caucusgoers need to do that. Who would make the best president at this point in the country’s history?... The Des Moines Register editorial board endorses Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses as the best leader for these times...

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Jason Kottke: The Story of Two Monks and a Woman 'Two monks were traveling together, a senior and a junior. They came to a river with a strong current where a young woman was waiting, unable to cross alone. She asks the monks if they would help her across the river. Without a word and in spite of the sacred vow he’d taken not to touch women, the older monk picks her up, crosses, and sets her down on the other side. The younger monk joins them across the river and is aghast that the older monk has broken his vow but doesn’t say anything. An hour passes as they travel on. Then two hours. Then three. Finally, the now quite agitated younger monk can stand it no longer: “Why did you carry that women when we took a vow as monks not to touch women?” The older monk replies, “I set her down hours ago by the side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”...

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Worthy Reads from January 29, 2019

stacks and stacks of books

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth:

  1. Equitable Growth's Heather Boushey is engaging with Jonathan Ostry, Prakash Loungani, Andrew Berg, and Jason Furman at the Peterson Instute on Thursday January 31: Peterson Institute: Book discussion: Confronting Inequality: How Societies Can Choose Inclusive Growth: "Book discussion with Jonathan Ostry, @LounganiPrakash, and Andrew Berg of @IMFNews on Confronting Inequality: How Societies Can Choose Inclusive Growth with additional comments with @jasonfurman of PIIE & Heather Boushey of @equitablegrowth. January 31, 12:15 pm...

  2. Greg Leiserson has an excellent piece over at MarketWatch for everybody who wants to rapidly get up to speed on what a net-worth wealth tax might be and how it could work: Greg Leiserson: How a wealth tax would work in the United States: "Policy makers looking for a highly progressive tax instrument that raises substantial revenue would find a net-worth tax appealing. Such a tax would impose burden primarily on the wealthiest families—reducing wealth inequality—and could raise substantial revenues. As noted above, the United States taxes wealth in several forms already. Thus, the policy debate is less about whether to tax wealth and more about the best ways to tax wealth and how much it should be taxed. A net-worth tax could be a useful complement to—or substitute for—other means of taxing wealth, as well as a tool for increasing overall taxation of wealth...

  3. I have been waiting for this from Piketty-Saez-Zucman to show up for a while, and here it is now in our WCEG working paper series. This is the simplified and streamlined version on their take on how we should do national income statistics for the twenty-first century—how we can and should take advantage of our data to go beyond averages and seriously track issues of distribution. READ IT! Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman: Simplified Distributional National Accounts: "This paper develops a simplified methodology that starts from the fiscal income top income share series and makes very basic assumptions on how each income component from national income that is not included in fiscal income is distributed.... It can be used to create distributional national income statistics in countries where fiscal income inequality statistics are available but where there is limited information to impute other income.... This simplified methodology can also be used to assess the plausibility of the Piketty, Saez, and Zucman (2018) assumptions. In particular, we will show that the simplified methodology can be used to show that the alternative assumptions proposed by Auten and Splinter (2018) imply a drastic equalization of income components not in fiscal income which does not seem realistic...

  4. Equitable Growth's Will McGrew has a pinned tweet pushing back against the meme that there are "really" no worrisome ethnicity or gender wage gaps because researchers can make such gaps disappear by adding sufficient variables to the right-hand side of a regression analysis. But when you add additional explanatory variables—when you "control"—you need to be very careful that you are only controllin for things that confound the relationship you are trying to study. When you control for things that mediate that relationship, you land up in garbage-in-garbage-out territory: Will McGrew: Wage Gaps: "Some claim that the wage gap disappears if you control for all relevant variables. This is 100% false. According to the evidence, workplace segregation and discrimination are the largest causes of the wage gap faced by Black women...

  5. Equitable Growth's Heather Boushey schools our friend, smart young whippersnapper Noah Smith formerly of Stoneybrook and now of Bloomberg: There is a lot of evidence from political scientists as to how loudlyt money talks in political democracies, and it is very well laid out in Elisabeth Jacobs's contrivbut9ion to our After Piketty: Elisabeth Jacobs (1017): Everywhere and Nowhere: Politics in _Capital in the Twenty-First Century...

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At a deep level, the argument over technology, employment, the workforce, and robots requires that we understand how our tools for thought—for augmenting human intellect—have worked, do work, and will work. And this requires that we have good answers to que44stions like this one. And we do not: Michael Nielsen: On Engelbart: "Augmenting Human Intellect" 'Augmenting intellect with paper and pencil: What is 427 x 784? Hard for an unaided human. Even harder: what is 721,269,127 x 422,599,421? Both problems become easy with paper and pencil. This is strange, a priori: wood pulp + wood + graphite = more intellectual capability! We're used to this, but that doesn't mean we understand it. What's actually going on? For what class of problems does paper and pencil help? For what class of problems does it not help (or hinder)? How much can it help?...

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Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, William Kimball, and Thomas Kochan: How U.S. Workers Think About Workplace Democracy: The Structure of Individual Worker Preferences for Labor Representation: "Although never as powerful as in other advanced democracies, unions remain incredibly important economic and political organizations in the United States. Yet we know little about the structure of workers’ preferences for labor unions or other alternative labor organizations. We report the results of a conjoint experiment fielded on a nationally representative sample of over 4,000 employees. We explore how workers’ willingness to join and financially support labor organizations varies depending on the specific benefits and services offered by those organizations. While workers value some aspects of traditional American unions very highly, especially collective bargaining, they would be even more willing to join and support organizations currently unavailable under U.S. law and practice. We also identify important cleavages in worker support for labor organizations engaged in politics and strikes. Our results shed light on the politics of labor organization, as well as civic association and membership more broadly...

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There is a world of difference between "the market giveth, the market taketh away, blessed be the name of the market" and "properly-structured systems of property rights and market exchange are the best form of social organisation we have yet discovered for solving several important classes of societal organization optimisation problems". Much discussion of "neoliberalism" blurs these two positions into one—and thus elides the difference between Friedrich von Hayek and Barack Obama: Alexander Zevin: Review of ‘Globalists’ by Quinn Slobodian "Every Penny a Vote: Neoliberalism is often conceived as a system of self-regulating markets, shrunken states and crudely rational individuals. Early neoliberals, however, didn’t believe in markets’ self-correcting properties. Instead, as Quinn Slobodian argues in Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, they were concerned above all with establishing governments, laws and institutions in which markets could be embedded in order to make them work as they should–not only at a national but at a global level. This approach was a response to the fragmentation of empires that began after the First World War, and the popular demands for redistribution and self-determination that surged through the nation-states that took their place. When these demands impinged on the free trade order, neoliberals opposed them as a form of juridical trespass: imperium, the authority of territorial states, must not breach the rule of dominium, the boundless sway of private property. In tracing this dynamic, Slobodian draws an intellectual genealogy of the ‘neoliberal world economic imaginary’ from interwar Vienna to 1990s Geneva, and from the furious debates over economic planning that followed the fall of the Habsburg Empire to those that generated the EEC, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the WTO...

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Weekend Reading: Plutarch: Norm-Breaking and the Collapse of the Roman Republic


After this episode of political norm-breaking, thereafter every Roman politico on the make (except for Cicero) drew the obvious conclusion: if you wanted to have a successful career, you needed to have a loyal mob in Rome and a loyal army outside—or be closely allied with somebody who did. And the road to Marius-Sulla-Pompey-Caesar-Brutus-Antony-Octavian was well-paved: Plutarch: Life of Tiberius Gracchus*.html: 'This is said to have been the first sedition at Rome, since the abolition of royal power, to end in bloodshed and the death of citizens; the rest though neither trifling nor raised for trifling objects, were settled by mutual concessions, the nobles yielding from fear of the multitude, and the people out of respect for the senate...

...And it was thought that even on this occasion Tiberius would have given way without difficulty had persuasion been brought to bear upon him, and would have yielded still more easily if his assailants had not resorted to wounds and bloodshed; for his adherents numbered not more than three thousand. But the combination against him would seem to have arisen from the hatred and anger of the rich rather than from the pretexts which they alleged; and there is strong proof of this in their lawless and savage treatment of his dead body. For they would not listen to his brother's request that he might take up the body and bury it by night, but threw it into the river along with the other dead.

Nor was this all; they banished some of his friends without a trial and others they arrested and put to death. Among these Diophanes the rhetorician also perished. A certain Caius Villius they shut up in a cage, and then put in vipers and serpents, and in this way killed him.

Blossius of Cumae was brought before the consuls, and when he was asked about what had passed, he admitted that he had done everything at the bidding of Tiberius. Then Nasica said to him,

What, then, if Tiberius had ordered thee to set fire to the Capitol?

Blossius at first replied that Tiberius would not have given such an order; but when the same question was put to him often and by many persons, he said:

If such a man as Tiberius had ordered such a thing, it would also have been right for me to do it; for Tiberius would not have given such an order if it had not been for the interest of the people. Well, then, Blossius was acquitted, and afterwards went to Aristonicus in Asia, and when the cause of Aristonicus was lost, slew himself.

But the senate, trying to conciliate the people now that matters had gone too far, no longer opposed the distribution of the public land, and proposed that the people should elect a commissioner in place of Tiberius. So they took a ballot and elected Publius Crassus, who was a relative of Gracchus; for his daughter Licinia was the wife of Caius Gracchus. And yet Cornelius Nepos says that it was not the daughter of Crassus, but of the Brutus who triumphed over the Lusitanians, whom Caius married; the majority of writers, however, state the matter as I have done.

Moreover, since the people felt bitterly over the death of Tiberius and were clearly awaiting an opportunity for revenge, and since Nasica was already threatened with prosecutions, the senate, fearing for his safety, voted to send him to Asia, although it had no need of him there. For when people met Nasica, they did not try to hide their hatred of him, but grew savage and cried out upon him wherever he chanced to be, calling him an accursed man and a tyrant, who had defiled with the murder of an inviolable and sacred person the holiest and most awe-inspiring of the city's sanctuaries.

And so Nasica stealthily left Italy, although he was bound there by the most important and sacred functions; for he was pontifex maximus. He roamed and wandered about in foreign lands ignominiously, and after a short time ended his life at Pergamum...

I do wonder how exactly I am supposed to read those last sentences: is Nasica's agency here in that he ended his life or that he went to Pergamum. but I have little Latin and less Greek: "οὕτω μὲν ὑπεξῆλθε τῆς Ἰταλίας ὁ Νασικᾶς, καίπερ ἐνδεδεμένος ταῖς μεγίσταις ἱερουργίαις: ἦν γὰρ ὁ μέγιστος καὶ πρῶτος τῶν ἱερέων, ἔξω δὲ ἀλύων καὶ πλανώμενος ἀδόξως οὐ μετὰ πολὺν χρόνον κατέστρεψε περὶ Πέργαμον..."

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Weekend Reading: John Maynard Keynes: On Speculation, from The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money


Weekend Reading: John Maynard Keynes: On Speculation, from The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money 'The professional investor is forced to concern himself with the anticipation of impending changes, in the news or in the atmosphere, of the kind by which experience shows that the mass psychology of the market is most influenced. This is the inevitable result of investment markets organised with a view to so-called ‘liquidity’. Of the maxims of orthodox finance none, surely, is more anti-social than the fetish of liquidity, the doctrine that it is a positive virtue on the part of investment institutions to concentrate their resources upon the holding of ‘liquid’ securities. It forgets that there is no such thing as liquidity of investment for the community as a whole. The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelop our future. The actual, private object of the most skilled investment to-day is ‘to beat the gun’, as the Americans so well express it, to outwit the crowd, and to pass the bad, or depreciating, half-crown to the other fellow...

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A Brief Cheat-Sheet Note: On the Solow-Malthus Model for Understanding Pre-Industrial Economies

What you need to know:

  1. The Malthusian equilibrium level of productivity and income is (a) the zpg subsistence level of necessities consumption (b) times the taste for luxuries (including urbanization and an upper class, as well as middle-class conveniences) (c) bumped up to make the economy prosperous enough to support population growth at the rate (d) warranted by progress in technology and organization.

  2. The Malthusian equilibrium level of population is (a) the quotient of useful ideas divided by the zpg subsistence level of necessities consumption, (b) times the ratio of the savings rate (boosted by law-and-order and by any imperial peace) to the depreciation rate raised to the elasticity of production with respect to capital intensity, (c) divided by the taste for luxuries, (d) all raised to the salience γ of ideas as opposed to resources in productivity, with (e) two nuisance terms tagging along.


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What Is "The West"?: Sam Beer's "Western Thought and Institutions", Courtesy of Irwin Collier and Friends...

The title of Soc Sci 2 is: "Western Thought and Institutions": Irwin Collier: Harvard. Syllabus and assigned readings for interdisciplinary course, Social Sciences 2, 1970-71 'I am a firm believer in the virtues of building a broad interdisciplinary foundation before allowing (compelling?) economics majors and graduate students to turn their attention to the technical methods of the discipline. The former promotes the capacity to pose interesting questions and the latter creates a capacity to seek solutions to those questions.... Economics in the Rear-View Mirror is delighted to provide the course syllabus with its reading assignments from the academic year 1970-71. Students had to write three papers each term and according to the source for this syllabus (see below), he spend “as much work for SocSci 2 as [he] did for the other three courses combined”:


The work of the Fall Term consists of three essays, one for each topic, and the mid-year examination. Section men will make specific assignments and suggest additional reading for these essays.

Books for Purchase: Students should own the following books, available at the Harvard Coop, or elsewhere as announced:

Bunyan, John, THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS Paperback: New American Library: Signet Classics
DOCUMENTS FOR CLASS USE (Assize of Clarendon, Writs from the treatis called “Glanville” Magna Carta, and the Constitutions of Clarendon). Pamphlet: University Printing Office. On sale in General Education office, 1737 Cambridge St., Rm. 602.
Hill, Christopher, THE CENTURY OF REVOLUTION 1603-1714 Paperback: W. W. Norton
Marx and Engels, BASIC WRITINGS ON POLITICS AND PHILOSOPHY Edited by Lewis S. Feuer. Paperback: Doubleday (Anchor)
Marx and Engels, COMMUNIST MANIFESTO Edited by Samuel H. Beer. Paperback: Appleton-Century-Crofts (Crofts Classics)
SOCIAL CONTRACT: ESSAYS BY LOCKE, HUME, AND ROUSSEAU Introduction by Ernest Barker. Paperback: Oxford (Galaxy Books)
Tierney, Brian, THE CRISIS OF CHURCH AND STATE 1050-1300 Paperback: Prentice-Hall (Spectrum) Weber, Max, THEORY OF SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC ORGANIZATION, translated by A. Herderson and T. Parsons. Paperback: MacMillan Free Press.
Walzer, Michael, THE REVOLUTION OF THE SAINTS Paperback: Atheneum

Assigned Reading: Everything on the following list is on “closed reserve” in Lamont and Hilles Libraries. The date suggested here will vary during the semester; lectures and section discussions should be your guides.



Weeks of October 5, 12, and 19: FEUDAL MONARCHY IN ENGLAND:
Bloch, Marc, FEUDAL SOCIETY, pp. 59-92, 103-120, 270-274.
Poole, Austin Lane, FROM DOMESDAY BOOK TO MAGNA CARTA 1087-1216, chaps, I, II, V, X-XIV.
John of Salisbury, THE STATEMAN’ S BOOK (from the POLICRATICUS), translated by John Dickinson, Introduction, Text: IV:1, 2, 3, (pp. 9-10), 4, 11; V:1, 2, 5; VI:18, 20, 21, 24; VII:17-19; VIII:17 (pp. 335-9), 18, 20, 23, (pp. 398-9; 405-10)
DOCUMENTS FOR CLASS USE: Assize of Clarendon, Writs from the Treatis called “Glanvill,” Magna Carta.
Optional: ENGLISH HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS 1042-1189 (Vol. II of series) edited by David C. Douglas and George W. Greenaway. Nos. 1 (years 1135-154), 10, 12, (pp. 322-4, 331-3, 335-8), 16, 19, 58-9, 268.


Weber, Max, THE SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION, edited by Talcott Parsons, chaps. VIII, XI, XIII.

Tierney, Brian, THE CRISIS OF CHURCH AND STATE 1050-1300, pp. 1-95, 127-138.
Brooke, Z. N., LAY INVESTITURE AND ITS RELATION TO THE CONFLICT OF EMPIRE AND PAPACY (article listed separately in the libraries)
Tellenbach, Gerd, CHURCH, STATE, AND CHRISTIAN SOCIETY IN THE TIME OF THE INVESTITURE CONTEST, Introduction, chap. 1 (sections 1 and 3), chap. 2, chap. 5 (section 3) and Epilogue.

Duggan, Charles, “From the Conquest to the Death of John,” THE ENGLISH CHURCH AND THE PAPACY IN THE MIDDLE AGEs, edited by C. H. Lawrence, pp. 65-115.
DOCUMENTS FOR CLASS USE: Assize of Clarendon.


Weeks of November 16 and 23: Analytical Perspectives:
Marx and Engels, Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, edited by Louis S. Feuer, pp. 1-67, 82-111.
Marx, Karl, CAPITAL, Modern Library edition, pp. 784-837 (chaps. 26-32). In some editions this is chap. 24, entitled, “Primary Accumulation.”
Beer, Samuel H., Introduction to Marx and Engels, COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, pp. VII-XXIX,.
Weber, Max, THE PROTESTANT ETHIC AND THE SPIRIT OF CAPITALISM, translated by Talcott Parsons, pp. 35-c. 62, 79-128, 144-183.

Weeks of November 30, and December 7, 14: THE PURITAN REVOLUTION:
Hill, Christopher, THE CENTURY OF REVOLUTION 1603-1714, chaps. 1-11. Bunyan, John, THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, portions of the First Part: in Signet edition, pp. 17-30, 66-110, 131-148. Hexter, J.H., “Storm Over the Gentry,” in Hexter’s REAPPRAISALS IN HISTORY.
Walzer, Michael, THE REVOLUTION OF THE SAINTS, chaps. I, II, IV, V (pp. 148-171), and IX.
Walzer, Michael, “The revolutionary uses of repression,” in Richter (Ed.), ESSAYS IN THEORY AND HISTORY.
Locke, John, AN ESSAY CONCERNING…… CIVIL GOVERNMENT, chaps. 1-9, 19. Available in SOCIAL CONTRACT: ESSAYS BY LOCKE, HUME AND ROUSSEAU.   SPRING TERM 1971: Students are asked to buy the following books, which are available at the Harvard Coop, or, in the one case, at the General Education Office.

BRIGGS, Asa, The Making of Modern England Paperback: Harper Torch books. Hardcover title: The Age of Improvement.
BURKE, Edmund, Reflections on the Revolution in France Paperback: Bobbs-Merrill: The Library of Liberal Arts
HOBBES, Thomas, Leviathan Paperback: Penguin
MILL, John Stuart, On Liberty Paperback: Appleton-Century-Crofts: Crofts Classic
NIETZSCHE, Friedrich, The Genealogy of Morals Paperback: Vintage
RUDÉ, George, Revolutionary Europe, 1783-1815 Paperback: Harper Torchbook
de TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis, The Old Regime and the French Revolution Paperback: Anchor Books

Everything on the following list is on “closed reserve” in Lamont and Hilles Libraries. The date suggested here will vary during the semester; lectures and sections should be your guides.


Weeks of February 8 & 15:
HOBBES, Thomas, Leviathan, esp. Intro., Chaps. 11, 13-15, 17-21, 26, 29-30, and Review and Conclusion.
ROUSSEAU, Jean-Jacques, The Social Contract, especially Book I; Book II; Book III, chaps. 1-4, 12-18; and Book IV, chaps. 1-2, 7-8 (in the Galaxy paperback edition used for Locke’s SECOND TREATISE in the Fall Term).
BEER, Samuel, “The Development of the Modern Polity,” chap. 3 (Typescript on reserve).

Weeks of February 22 & March 1:
RUDÉ, George, Revolutionary Europe, pp. 65-241
de TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis, The Old Regime and the French Revolution, Forward, pp. 1-211.
RICHTER, Melvin, “The uses of theory: Tocqueville’s adaptation of Montesquieu” in Richter, Essays in Theory and History, pp. 94-102.
TILLY, Charles, The Vendee, chaps. 1, 2, 4, 9, 13.


Week of March 8:
BURKE, Edmund, Reflections on the Revolution in France, especially 3-4, 18-129, 138-144, 169-200, 233-266, and 286-291 (Page citations to the Library of Liberal Arts paperback edition).

Weeks of March 15, 22, & 29:
BRIGGS, Asa, The Making of Modern England (Hardcover title, The Age of Improvement), chaps. I, II (sections, 2-3), III (section 5), IV-VI, VIII (sections 1-3, through p. 416), and IX (section 3).
DICEY, A. The Lectures on the Relations Between Law and Opinion in England During the 19th century, Lectures 4, 6, 9, 12 (pt. 1).
BEER, Samuel H., British Politics in the Collectivist Age, Introduction, Chaps. I-II, Epilogue (391-409).
MILL, John Stuart, On Liberty, chaps. 1-2, 4


Week of April 12:
NIETZSCHE, Friedrich, The Genealogy of Morals (trans. W. Kaufmann; Vintage paperback).

Weeks of April 19, 26, & May 3:
PINSON, Koppel S., Modern Germany: Its History and Civilization, chaps. 15-21 (First or Second Edition).
EPSTEIN, Klaus, “Three Types of Conservatism” in Richter, Essays in Theory and History, pp. 103-121.
BULLOCK, Alan, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, chaps. 1-4, 7.
REICHSTAG, Election Statistics, 1919-1933, Mimeographed. To be distributed.
PARSONS, Talcott, “Certain Primary Sources and Patterns of Aggression in the Social Structure of the Western World”, Mimeographed. (This essay also appears in Parsons, Essays in Sociological Theory).
VIERECK, Peter, Metapolitics: From the Romantics to Hitler (Capricorn paperback subtitle: The Roots of the Nazi Mind), Prefatory Note (or, in paperback, “New Survey,” sections 3-4, & chaps. 1-2, 5-7, 11-13).
ERIKSON, Erik H., “The Legend of Hitler’s Childhood” in Childhood and Society, chap. 9.
ECKSTEIN, Harry, A Theory of Stable Democracy.

Reading Period Extra: Nazi Films: Wednesday, May 12, at 7 p.m., Lowell Lecture Hall


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Andrew Gelman: China Air Pollution Regression Discontinuity Update 'If fourth-degree polynomials had never been invented, researchers could look at the above graph with just the scatterplot and draw their own conclusions, with no p-values to mislead them. The trouble is that, for many purposes, we do need advanced methods—looking at scatterplots and time series is not always enough—hence we need to get into the details and explain why certain methods such as regression discontinuity with high-degree polynomials don’t work as advertised...

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Simulating the Solow Growth Model

How does an economy well-approximated by the Solow growth model—one that has a constant labor-force growth rate n and labor-efficiency growth rate g; a constant savings-investment share of production s and capital deprecation rate δ; and a constant elasticity θ of production Y with respect to the economy's capital intensity κ, where capital intensity is defined as κ = K/Y, the quotient of the economy's capital stock K and its production level Y—behave? What does it do? How are you—if you are a student—to understand it? And to use it?

Standard explanations often focus on graphs like:


which are often unhelpful.

With this class I would like—if I can get it working—to take another tack. If you have a Berkeley CalNet account, click on this link: If you have access to another Jupyter notebook server, go to In either case, then open the file: lecture-support-solow-2020-01-23.ipynb. You should then have, open, my Solow Growth Model Simulator. Click in the second code cell—the one whose first line is—"# SET PARAMETERS, INITIAL CONDITIONS, AND SCENARIO LENGTH IN THIS CELL". You can now edit the text in this code cell. Do so in order to either accept defaults or change the variable assignment statements (those with no "#" in the first column and an "=" sign in them to set values for the model parameter in the lines:

  • n = 0.01 # the labor-force L proportional growth rate
  • g = 0.02 # the labor-efficiency E proportional growth rate
  • s = 0.12 # the share of production Y that is saved and invested
  • δ = 0.03 # the capital depreciation rate
  • θ = 1.09 # the elasticity of production Y with respect to capital intensity κ

Then click lower down and edit in order to accept default or choose alternative starting values L_0, E_0, and κ_0 for the initial values as of time 0 for the labor force, labor efficiency, and capital intensity in the lines:

  • L_0 = 1
  • E_0 = 1
  • κ_0 = 8

Then click lower down again and either accept the default or choose the length of time for which the simulation will run in the lines:

  • T = 100

Then go up to the top of your environment. In the "Kernel" drop down menu click on "Restart Kernel and Run All Cells"

Then scroll down the webpage. If all has gone well you should see, interspersed among the code, ten graphs showing how each of and some combinations of the model variables behave over time.

Note what looks interesting. Then go back to the top, and change something in the second code cell. Once again, go up to the top of your environment, and in the "Kernel" drop down menu click on "Restart Kernel and Run All Cells". What has changed? What strikes you as interesting? Take notes.

Repeat until you think you have an understanding of how an economy that happened to be well-modeled by the Solow growth model would behave.

The assignment? Write 200-300 words on the simulations you carried out, why you chose the parameter values and starting conditions you did, what (if anything) you learned from this exercise, and how useful you think models and exercises like this are in understanding economic growth out there in the real world.

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Yes, Matthew Arnold was a Tory who did not believe hoi polloi should be allowed to engage in "monster processions in the streets". Next question?: Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy 'I remember my father... after strongly insisting on the badness and foolishness of the government, and on the harm and dangerousness of our feudal and aristocratical constitution of society, and ends thus: ‘As for rioting, the old Roman way of dealing with that is always the right one: flog the rank and file, and fling the ringleaders from the Tarpeian Rock!’ And this opinion we can never forsake, however our Liberal friends may think a little rioting, and what they call popular demonstrations, useful sometimes to their own interests and to the interests of the valuable practical operations they have in hand, and however they may preach the right of an Englishman to be left to do as far as possible what he likes, and the duty of his government to indulge him and connive as much as possible and abstain from all harshness of repression.... Monster processions in the streets and forcible irruptions into the parks... ought to be unflinchingly forbidden and repressed; and that far more is lost than is gained by permitting them. Because a State in which law is authoritative and sovereign, a firm and settled course of public order, is requisite if man is to bring to maturity anything precious and lasting now, or to found anything precious and lasting for the future...

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From 2016: RCTs are a truly excellent tool for determining the internal validity of a study—does it accurately model the data it has. But external validity—is the data at hand representative of the broader world in any reasonable sense?—is as important. There needs to be a balance here: Angus Deaton and Nancy Cartwright (2016): The Limitations of Randomised Controlled Trials "The use of randomised controlled trials has spread... perhaps most prominently in development and health economics.... Some of the popularity of such trials rests on misunderstandings about what they are capable of accomplishing, and cautions against simple extrapolations.... Well-conducted RCTs... provide unbiased estimates of the average treatment effect (ATE) in the study population, provided no relevant differences between treatment and control are introduced post randomisation, which blinding of subjects, investigators, data collectors, and analysts serves to diminish.... Randomisation, while doing nothing to guarantee balance on omitted factors, gives us a method for assessing their importance. Yet even here there are pitfalls. The t-statistics for estimated ATEs from RCTs do not in general follow the t-distribution.... In healthcare experiments, where one or two individuals can account for a large share of spending (this was true in the Rand Health Experiment); or in microfinance, where a few subjects make money and most do not (where the t-distribution again breaks down). Once again, inferences are likely to be wrong, but here there is no clear fix.... The ‘credibility’ of RCTs comes from their ability to get answers without the use of potentially contentious prior information about structure.... Cumulative science happens when new results are built on top of old ones–or undermine them–and RCTs, with their refusal to use prior science, make this very difficult.... Demonstrating that a treatment works in one situation is exceedingly weak evidence that it will work in the same way elsewhere; this is the ‘transportation’ problem: what does it take to allow us to use the results in new contexts, whether policy contexts or in the development of theory? It can only be addressed by using previous knowledge and understanding, i.e. by interpreting the RCT within some structure, the structure that, somewhat paradoxically, the RCT gets its credibility from refusing to use...

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Reminder: we know depressingly little about what really works to accelerate economic growth: Ricardo Hausmann, Lant Pritchett, and Dani Rodrik: Growth Accelerations 'We focus on turning points in growth performance. We look for instances of rapid acceleration in economic growth that are sustained for at least eight years and identify more than 80 such episodes since the 1950s. Growth accelerations tend to be correlated with increases in investment and trade, and with real exchange rate depreciations. Political-regime changes are statistically significant predictors of growth accelerations. External shocks tend to produce growth accelerations that eventually fizzle out, while economic reform is a statistically significant predictor of growth accelerations that are sustained. However, growth accelerations tend to be highly unpredictable: the vast majority of growth accelerations are unrelated to standard determinants and most instances of economic reform do not produce growth accelerations...

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Equitable Growth leader Heather Boushey is going to the Aspen Institute to talk on January 30. If you haven't managed to read her book Unbound yet and are in DC, this would be a relatively painless way to absorb it: Aspen Institute: Measure What Matters: Realigning Measures of Economic Success with Societal Well-Being 'In a new book Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do About It, Heather Boushey, President and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, considers how inequality is restricting growth and imagines how a more equitable economy would function. The book also raises two key questions: How can we better measure our economy to understand how it can improve the lives of individuals and how do we better support working families so we can set them and their children up for success? Join the Economic Opportunities Program, Ascend, Financial Security Program, and Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation for a book talk with Heather and a panel discussion including other experts to explore these questions about defining and measuring economic success and how we can work more broadly to create growth with purpose...

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Worthy Reads from January 24, 2019

Worthy Reads at Equitable Growth:

  1. I should long ago have told people to read this pinned tweetstorm from Equitable Growth's Will McGrew. A great many people who should know better—especially people on the ideological right—do not understand that when one assesses factors, one wants to control only for those complications that confound the effects you are trying to study, and that you have no business controlling for those complications that mediate the effects you are trying to study: Will McGrew: "Some claim that the wage gap disappears if you control for all relevant variables. This is 100% false. According to the evidence, workplace segregation and discrimination are the largest causes of the wage gap faced by Black women....

  2. Will McGrew sends us to new EPI employee and friend of Equitable Growth Pedro Nicolaci da Costa: The U.S. Job Market Doesn’t Feel so Hot Despite the Low Unemployment Rate: "Workers need the economy to stay hot so they can begin to see the dividends of high growth.... There are several reasons a purportedly booming U.S. economy doesn’t feel like much of a boon to millions of American workers, chief among them the startling lack of wage growth many have experienced over the past four decades.... A business- and bank-friendly mindset at the Federal Reserve, whose top officials spend a lot more time with their high-flying Wall Street and industry contacts than with workers and community leaders, deepens this imbalance.... Because of the Fed’s proximity to its business contacts, it tends to think of workers as labor costs (not investments in human capital) and wages as inflation (not improvements in standards of living). This colors the Fed’s definition of 'full employment', making policy makers easily swayed by dubious claims from business executives about chronic labor shortages—made without any contention about why wages are not rising on a sustained basis...

  3. In response to a query from Nancy M. Birdsall on what are the most important contributions to feminist economics, Equitable Growth's Kate Bahn provides a shoutout to, among others, my college classmate Joyce Jacobsen of Wesleyan—who got me my first economics RA job: Kate Bahn: "Some good resources are Beyond Economic Man and Toward a Feminist Philosophy of Economics. I particularly like Joyce Jacobsen's essay on "Some implications of the feminist project in economics for empirical methodology" in the latter...

  4. A new book coming this fall: Heather Boushey: "On the inaugural weekend of the #womensmarch, I decided to write a book for the new economic era and made a plan. Feels really good to have sent the final manuscript in yesterday! 'Unbound' will be out in early fall...

  5. And another from Will McGrew, who is watching California begin trying to implement policies we at Equitable Growth had hoped to see implemented nationwide starting in 2017: Will McGrew: "Congrats to @AnnOLeary & Team Newsom_ on their bold plan for 6 months of paid leave in CA. Research by @HBoushey, @jacobselisabeth & others confirms paid leave can boost labor supply, family earnings & output, driving gov't savings from more tax revenue + less social spending...

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Anonymous: The Man Who Saw the Deep (Gilgamesh) 'Surpassing all kings, powerful and tall beyond all others, violent, splendid, a wild bull of a man, unvanquished leader, hero in the front lines, beloved by his soldiers...

...Who is like Gilgamesh? What other king has inspired such awe? Who else can say, “I alone rule, supreme among mankind”?

The goddess Aruru, mother of creation, had designed his body, had made him the strongest of men—huge, handsome, radiant, perfect.

The city is his possession, he struts through it, arrogant, his head raised high, trampling its citizens like a wild bull. He is king, he does whatever he wants, takes the son from his father and crushes him, takes the girl from her mother and uses her, the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride, he uses her, no one dares to oppose him.

But the people of Uruk cried out to heaven, and their lamentation was heard, the gods are not unfeeling, their hearts were touched, they went to Anu, father of them all, protector of the realm of sacred Uruk, and spoke to him on the people’s behalf:

Heavenly Father, Gilgamesh—noble as he is, splendid as he is—has exceeded all bounds. The people suffer from his tyranny, the people cry out that he takes the son from his father and crushes him, takes the girl from her mother and uses her, the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride, he uses her, no one dares to oppose him. Is this how you want your king to rule? Should a shepherd savage his own flock? Father, do something, quickly, before the people overwhelm heaven with their heartrending cries...

Anu heard them, he nodded his head, then to the goddess, mother of creation, he called...

Stephen Mitchell, trans.: Gilgamesh

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Terence Bell: The Ancient History of Copper 'Although various copper tools and decorative items dating back as early as 9000 BC have been discovered, archaeological evidence suggests that it was the early Mesopotamians who, around 5000 to 6000 years ago, were the first to fully harness the ability to extract and work with copper. Lacking modern knowledge of metallurgy, early societies, including the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Native Americans, prized the metal mostly for its aesthetic qualities, using it like gold and silver for producing decorative items and ornaments. The earliest organized production and use of copper in different societies have been roughly dated as: Mesopotamia, circa 4500 BC; Egypt, circa 3500 BC; China, circa 2800 BC.... Researchers now believe that copper came of regular use for a period—referred to as the Copper Age—prior to its substitution by bronze. The substitution of copper for bronze occurred between 3500 to 2500 BC in West Asia and Europe, ushering in the Bronze Age...

Continue reading "" » Bronze Age 'Sumer: By the fourth millennium BCE, Sumerians had established roughly a dozen city-states throughout ancient Mesopotamia, including Eridu and Uruk in what is now southern Iraq. Sumerians called themselves the Sag-giga, the “black-headed ones.” They were among the first to use bronze. They also pioneered the use of levees and canals for irrigation. Sumerians invented cuneiform script, one of the earliest forms of writing, and built large stepped pyramid temples called ziggurats. Sumerians celebrated art and literature. The 3,000-line poem “Epic of Gilgamesh” follows the adventures of a Sumerian king as he battles a forest monster and quests after the secrets of eternal life...

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Julka Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic: Neolithic Vinca was a Metallurgical Culture 'The unnamed tribe who lived between 5400 and 4700 BCE in the 120-hectare site at what is now Plocnik knew about trade, handcrafts, art and metallurgy. Near the settlement, a thermal well might be evidence of Europe’s oldest spa. "They pursued beauty and produced 60 different forms of wonderful pottery and figurines, not only to represent deities, but also out of pure enjoyment," said Kuzmanovic. The findings suggest an advanced division of labor and organization. Houses had stoves, there were special holes for trash, and the dead were buried in a tidy necropolis. People slept on woollen mats and fur, made clothes of wool, flax and leather, and kept animals. The community was especially fond of children. Artefacts include toys such as animals and rattles of clay, and small, clumsily crafted pots apparently made by children at playtime. One of the most exciting finds for archaeologists was the discovery of a sophisticated metal workshop with a furnace and tools including a copper chisel and a two-headed hammer and axe. "This might prove that the Copper Age started in Europe at least 500 years earlier than we thought," Kuzmanovic said...

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Model Economic History Papers

Note: Gross and Moser have been heavily, heavily revised since submission: you are not expected to write something that gets into the AER as-is.

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Weekly Economic History Memo Questions Bank

Memo 1: Malthusian Economies

Was the invention of agriculture the worst mistake in the history of the human race?


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For the Weekend: Matthew Arnold: Dover Beach


Matthew Arnold: Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;–on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago heard it on the AEgean,
And it brought into his mind
The turbid ebb and flow of human misery;
We find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

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1.1. Theory: Robert Solow's Growth Model: The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135

Th Jan 23: Robert Solow's Growth Model

Notes & Further Readings:

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Lecture Notes: The Solow Growth Model: The History of Economic Growth: Econ 135

Jupyter (formerly iPython) notebook:

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