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Jim Harrison
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One explanation of why the Industrial Revolution began in England is that labor was more expensive there than elsewhere so replacing it with capital was an attractive or imperative option. Where wages can be kept low, the owners of businesses don't have to innovate.
Toggle Commented Aug 6, 2018 on The robot paradox at Stumbling and Mumbling
Furman and Orzag ask if slower productivity growth and higher inequality are related. As a non economist that sounds like a rather easy question to answer. Inequality has increased because that's what's the politically dominant people wanted. Productive has declined because economic growth was never a priority. What we have here is a case of the non-irony of intended consequences. How can you have lived through the last couple of decades and not noticed that? Whatever else it is, conservatism is all about the defense and expansion of privilge. What gets marketed as a principled defense of economic freedom is really just a taste for oligarchy. A rising tide is supposed to lift all ships but that's at best a side effect since the whole point of the exercise is to enrich the right people. Indeed, since relative wealth is even more gratifying than absolute wealth, general prosperity is about as exciting as kissing your aunt. Actual business folks may fall into the error of wanting to build things, but that sentiment is anti-capitalist since the fundamental imperative of the system is to accumulate capital. Providing useful goods and services is only occasionally the best way to do that, especially under modern conditions where more profits are often available from destroying industries than creating them—the Bain model. The common error is to think that promoting technological innovation is automatically good for you. but to think that is to fall into the alchemist's fallacy. There's no money in making lead into gold if everybody can do it. Productivity doesn't increase as fast as it could because it isn't usually in the interest of the owners of capital to let the engineers run wild.
Toggle Commented Jun 8, 2018 on Links at Economist's View
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Does taking economics serious simply amount to putting economic growth first? Even if you imagine economics as a type of engineering, wouldn't it be a discipline that tells you If you want x, do y, if you want z, do w? Maybe you get better results if you improve distribution rather than mindlessly increase production. As a matter of fact, economists do seem to fetishize aggregate production, but do they have to?
Toggle Commented May 29, 2018 on Does economics matter? at Stumbling and Mumbling
When I started monitoring the issue—roughly '78 or so—the question was whether the judgment of clinicians outperformed medicine by statistics. Even then, it couldn't. The vanity of doctors could and did get you killed. That obviously doesn't mean that circumstances don't alter cases, just that on average you're better off if your doctor prescribes the treatment with the best known outcomes instead of following instinct. In the year since then, doctors have become more evidence based, especially ni fields like oncology. You hear less talk about the magic of the clinical gaze. I expect it will be the same with AI. I note, however, that the combination of machine and doctor is probably better than either alone. In the case of chess playing machines, a human grandmaster plus a program routinely beats wither a machine by itself or a a grandmaster by himself, even when the grandmaster has a higher rating than the partner of the machine.
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Krugman is too optimistic. The Republicans aren't just relying on normal corrupt practices and routine voter suppression. The party's support for the NRA also reflects its need for a paramilitary arm. The NRA isn't there yet, but it is the one institution in the U.S. that has the potential to serve as our version of the Brown Shirts It's commonly believed that the economic conservatives put up with the white nationalist elements of the party because they'll do pretty much anything to get tax breaks on the wealthy and suppress the unions, but the establishment types are quite racist themselves and their distaste for Trump and the MAGA types is largely stylistic. For well over a hundred years, the conservatives have always thrown in with the fascists. It seems to be happening again in these parts,
Toggle Commented Mar 27, 2018 on Links for 03-26-18 at Economist's View
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Thing is, you reach the limit of human sexual depravity real quick because of the limits of biological stamina if not steric hindrance. Anyhow, as I suggested in an earlier post, the standard Roman decadence story was crafted by Cicero a couple of hundred years before the biginning of Roman decline.
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Joel Tarr used to run an applied history program at Carnegie-Mellon. He taught that one of the most important practical things that historians could do was to counter the illegitimate use of history in political debates. I think my old history prof was right about that. Ferguson's canned version of Roman history is a prime example of the misuse of history. If nothing else, it is extraordinarily banal. The scolding moralistic rhetoric he resurrects—hypocritical, over sophsticated liberals—was invented by the Romans themselves. It's the latest version of Cicero's so-calld Philippics against Marc Anthony. I'm surprised he doesn't accuse Hollywood sybarites of resorting to vomitoria.
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I don't chalk up Jefferson's inconsistency to simple hypocrisy, though his later effective support for slavery hardly burnishes his reputation. What happened between 1781, when these remarks were set down, and the early 19th Century was a huge increase in the economic value of slavery brought about by the Industrial Revolution and the cotton gene. Virginia land owners didn't grow cotton, but their slaves could be traded to the deeper South for ready money, an irresistible motive for cash-strapped aristocrats to rethink their idealism.
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There's a big irony here. Religion blocked the spread of printing in Music countries but subsidized it in the Christian West. It was legal to print technical and secular books in the Ottoman empire, but there wasn't enough of a market to support the kind of explosive growth of printing. If the German and Dutch and English printers had had to rely to profits from editions of Copernicus, they wouldn't have flourished as they did. Not for nothing was the iconic book a Bible. Religious books, especially prayer books and collections of sermons, were the meat and potatoes of the business for centuries.
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It's not that causality is missing, just that it is damned hard to pin down because the effects of general causes like climate change or a new mentality are diffuse. Hence the methodological issues I alluded to. I got to thinking about this problem after reading Geoffrey Parker's tome on the political effects of the Little Ice age (Global Crisis). You can always claim that the coincidence of state failures and genocidal wars across Eurasia were just a coincidence, but Parker makes a pretty good case that institutions buckled under the stress put on 'em by a worsening climate. There had always been floods, droughts, freezes, and famines;, of course; but a degree or two of cooling made them all slightly worse. Parker proposes nothing mysterious, but trying to nail things down creates, as I suggested, methodological challenges for historians, sociologists, and economists. Same problems arise in attempting to understand how mutations in the Zeitgeist work out in the details.
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I note that arguments about the cumulative effects of a climate of opinion should not be dismissed just because it is difficult to connect the scientific Enlightenment with the spinning jenny by a casual chain. The consequences of general causes are very hard to pin down, which is why climate skeptics constantly point out that no single catastrophic storm, flood, or drought can be blamed on a small increase in global temperatures. The idealists squabble with the materialists; but quite apart from that rather metaphysical dispute, there are methodological issues involved.
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If you aren't playing with tin soldiers on your bedroom floor, the goal of strategy is the safety and prosperity of your nation. Relative to that, victory is just a means to an end.
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Yep, the economic value of immigrants is understated. People are likely to think that the nation-of-immigrants rhetoric is simply political piety, not a way of supporting policies that have made the country successful in material ways. On the other hand, particular groups of people have been or at least believe themselves to have been hurt by immigration and that group isn't just made up of rust belt working class folks. I've met a fair number of IT people here in California who supported Trump because they believe that the influx of Asian tech personnel hurts them personally. They might even agree that relatively open borders is a net benefit for the nation, but then all politics is local and nothing is more local than me. Ignorance isn't the only factor. Perceived self interest also matters.
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It's not a criticism of this study, which is about battlefield performance only; but the whole question of "who's the best general" is based on a fundamental and often tragic error, the notion that the goal of strategy is victory.
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Because their politics has such a heavy component of spite, many Trump supporters would trade off some of their own prosperity in order to hurt hated elites; but a lot of 'em apparently aren't aware of the proposition in question. They don't understand the huge economic value of our system of higher education and apparently think that the Universities are full of Comp Lit majors.
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Neoliberalism is such an elastic term of abuse the its use covers up important difference. A lot of the people tarred with that brush, for example, are very much interested in non-external goods. In fact, many of 'em remind me of the Senatorial Romans of the early empire who recognized that an imperial order was inevitable and endeavored, with mixed success, to maintain an ethic of public service in an era of general corruption. That's an unhappy but not unintelligent stance for them and perhaps for us since a decent oligarchy may be the best outcome on offer.Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, she didn't work all those hours to get her butt on a golden toilet.
Toggle Commented Jan 16, 2018 on Democracy in question at Stumbling and Mumbling
Nixon was the first president who resigned. Trump is first president who retired, albeit without leaving office
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Tulips in the garden. Tulips in the park, But my favorite tulips Are bitcoins in the dark.
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Jeffrey Winters is my go-to guy on oligarchies. In his taxonomy, the warring dinosaur variety of oligarchs often results in what he calls a sultanic oligarchy where the biggest and meanest oligarch establishes order and gets protection money from the lesser plutocrats. Winters also talks about democratic oligarchy, a situation where the plutocrats accede to legal forms and elections to settle the succession problem because the cost of disorder are too high. If you follow this line of thought, what's been happening in many parts of the world is a reversion from democratic to sultanic oligarchy.
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Frank Levy and Richard Murnane have been researching what skills are needed in the modern workplace since the middle of the nineties. Their findings parallel Atalay et.al, but they go beyond statistics to make a set of policy recommendations about how the educational system should respond to the identified needs. When they suggested that beefing up secondary education to match vocational needs instead of trying to get everybody a college degree, I was resistant; but that was twenty years ago before a generation of students were subjected to the indentured servitude o student loans.
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At present, the only effective check on the current crop of plutocrats is other plutocrats who haven't been cut in on the gravy. if Trump and the Congressional Republicans don't find ways of appeasing them, they may really be in trouble. Rebellion from below seems unlikely to work because too many of the proles are willing to suffer economically so long as they believe that's the only way to maintain an America dominated by white male Christians. And the technocrats? Well, there like Dr. Zarkov in the old Flash Gordon serials. They may grouse about it, but it turns out they're perfectly willing to work in Ming's lab.
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The VoxEU piece, Does gentrification reduce crime? sets a new standard for the cluelessness of economists. Will crime go down if you remove rent control and drive out poorer residents? Yep. Will it benefit those who are driven out? Nope. This brilliancy is right up there with the famous article in the Scientific Afghan, Now Science is Getting Honey from the Bees.
Toggle Commented Nov 17, 2017 on Links for 11-17-17 at Economist's View
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Oligarchs have to figure out some way of preventing their own avarice and lust for power from destroying the system that makes them possible. In lieu of simply duking it out with private armies and bloodshed, the situation in the late Roman Republic, for example, the biggest and strongest of the oligarchs establishes a more or less stable dominance based on allowing the other plutocrats to continue to extract rents from the populace in exchange for loyalty to the Big Man, a state of affairs that the political scientist Jeffrey Winters calls sultanic oligarchy. The vagaries of heredity power—revolts, civil wars, idiot princes—may eventually lead to the development of an even more stable system that settles the succession problem through legal forms such as elections. Winters calls this arrangement democratic oligarchy if I remember correctly. It's worth it to the plutocrats to trade some of their power and wealth for stability even if it means that they have to forgo some rents in order to win elections by paying off the electorate. Thing is, though, even democratic oligarchy is subject to systematic instability if circumstances make it too tempting to re-establish a sultanate by hollowing out the legal forms that provide cover/legitimacy for personal rule. In effect, I think that's exactly what's happening around the world right now. Control of the means of persuasion and the exploitation of popular prejudices makes it possible to rule via a cult of personality. In this context, anti-corruption campaigns are not what they seem to be. They are, in effect, the way that the largest of the monsters hands out corruption licenses to smaller monsters in exchange for their support. This seems to be going on in a great many countries: Russia, the Philippines, Hungary, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and China. America remains exceptional only to the extent that our would be Sultan is far less competent than the others.
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Which is why Conservatives fervently hope that the people never figure out the difference between the mean and the median. Have the economists ever devised a measure of growth in GDP that adjusts for growth in economic inequality as well as for inflation?
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In the U.S, at least, it is pretty clear that any report about dirty politicians benefits the Republicans even if it is about the bad behavior of a Republican because such scandals reinforce the belief that "they're all crooks!" Universal cynicism benefits the genuinely corrupt, and low turnouts are always good for the right.