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Saturday, October 26, 2019

To Be Sure Jennifer Senior

I just read an op-ed by Jennifer Senior. I am not 100% satisfied. To be sure, she denounces the Republican Party in no uncertain terms. The op-ed is not completely Ballanced. However, old habits die hard. The op-ed contains a good bit of nonsense. Some of it is there to give the essay a beginning a middle and an end. More of it is a bit of reflexive bothsidesing.

First it begins "It’s that time of the campaign season when some Democrats are starting to feel — as President Jimmy Carter might have put it — malaise." This is a reference to anectdotal evidence. It is not supported by polls of voter interest and enthusiasm or data on the number of campaign contributions. Basically, it is Senior arguing that Democrats need her advice (the pundit's fallacy). Mainly it is a link to another op-ed by Jonathan Martin which begins " When a half-dozen Democratic donors gathered at the Whitby Hotel in Manhattan last week, " so the sample size is 6. Also the "Democrats" in question are rich Democrats. Senior does not mention the possibility that rich people are out of touch with the forgotten man.

Is it the New York Times' official postion that 6 rich people in Manhatten deserve more attention than say the 940,000 people who donated to Warren or the 1.4 million people who donated to Sanders in the third quarter (of the year *before* election year). If that is malaise, I don't think I could handle enthusiasm. I guess the idea is that 6 rich people in New York are more sophisticated than the small donors, because the 6 rich people are pragmatists who consider the pulse of the nation not their enthusiasm and so are more in touch with ordinary voters than regular people are.

Then "They’re staring at their 2020 lineup and wondering whether it’s a guaranteed recipe for buyer’s remorse. Joe Biden is too old, Pete Buttigieg is too young, Kamala Harris is too uncertain, Bernie Sanders too unpalatable, Elizabeth Warren too unelectable." Warren unelectable as shown by the polls all of which show her leading Trump. Or the rising enthusiasm for her campaign (she does better with people who have paid more attention -- that's hard data -- a lot of people won't pay much atttention over the next year and a month but they will pay more than they have -- people who put their money where their mouth is bet that she is electable). This is nonsense. The New York Times is in touch with rich Democrats who are ambivalent about Sanders and Warren, because they don't want to pay higher taxes. I don't like writing like a vulgar Marxist, but sometimes you people make it hard not to.

Then some concessions that both sides have their faults and conservatives are not wrong about everything. Quickly on Republicans vs Democrats, their is a definite assertion of wrong doing followed by a statement that Senior doesn't have any evidence "Of course Democratic politicians — all politicians — distort, gerrymander evidence, even lie and apply their greasy thumbs to the scales. (What was Bill Clinton doing on that plane with Loretta Lynch in 2016?)" or to summarize "Of course ... ?" I trust any reader can see the problem, when one is stating the obvious, one does not need to end one's sentence with a question mark. Also Clinton derangement syndrome.

Then some real Ballance. Senior argues that Fox news is different in kind from the New York Times (correct). Then to be sures. She demonstrates an amazing lack of critical facility when discussing her employer

And you have partisan news outlets with zero interest in reporting the basic facts of Trump’s corruption or the catastrophic consequences of his impulses. We’ve gone from Pax Americana to Fox Americana in the blink of an eye.

Whereas the more traditional news media, whatever their unconscious biases, do try to hold Democrats to account. Sure, let’s stipulate that there are more liberals than conservatives at these organizations. Maybe even a lot more. But it was mainstream newspapers that broke the Whitewater story, which led to an independent investigation of Bill Clinton. It was mainstream newspapers that kept Hillary Clinton’s emails on the front page in the run-up to the 2016 election. This newspaper covered Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine too — in May. These pages also ran an editorial about it. That was in 2015.

The lady dost protest too little. Even when asserting imbalance, she assumes that there must be some weight in each pan. She argues that the New York Times isn't as far biased left as Fox is biased right. She doesn't even consider the possibility that, afraid of "unconcious bias" they over compensate. Let's go down her list.

"Whitewater" including omission of the critical fact that the Whitewater Development Corporatino is older than the Morgan Guarantee S&L (something I learned in the 21st century). Deliberate deception of readers by omission of a critical fact used to create the appearance of a scandal. Yes the tried to hold Clinton to some sort of "account". They also cooked the books. The episode was disgraceful. But not as damaging as keeping "Hillary Clinton’s emails on the front page in the run-up to the 2016 election." and reporting the final conclusion of no wrong doing on the 16th. A catastrophic failure of editorial judgment based on the terror of conservatives accusing them of liberal bias and the problem that the facts had an overwhelming liberal bias. Then Hunter Biden's business dealings, because private citizen Hunter Biden is so important. Joe Biden's exemplary devotion to the public interest even when it conflicted with his son's interests was not mentioned in the appalling article in which the focus was not on Trump's impeachable conduct but on the hint of a possibility of alleged wrongdoing by Biden.

If Senior's aim was to show how the New York Times has sacrificed its journalistic standards in a hopeless effort to please conservatives, the paragraph would make sense. But the repeated disgraceul betrayals of journalism are presented as exculpatory evidence.

Sunday, September 22, 2019


I am typing on my mom's computer. She introduced me to personal computers (some time ago). She was fairly fluent in DOS (explanatory not for kids these days -- never mind you wouldn't believe what people used to put up with). She basically stopped using her computer for anything but e-mail due to the Windows 8 catastrophe. I personally kept using Windows 7 as long as I could. Windows 10 is OK, because it can be set to act like Windows 95- Windows 7 (also known as pretty much the Mac user interface with just enough differences to win the look and feel lawsuit). There must have been a Windows 9, but I don't want to know about it.

Mom has ceased to use e-mail. The problem is that her AOL inbox is always full of spam. There oughta be a law, actually two.


update 2:4

1) By law, if there is an e-mail list, there must be a prominently displayed one-click unsubscribe button. It must appear before the body of the e-mail. It must be in the largest font used anywhere in the e-mail. I am here blogging because I am sick and tired of scrolling down to fine "unsubscribe" at the end of a long unsolicited e-mail. More importantly, it must be one click and your done. I have found that clicking unsubscribe often takes me to a page where I am invited to subscribe and if I just click through I am not unsubscribed. To unsubscribe I have to scroll down again. Also it not allowed to ask people why they unsubscribed.

The penalty should be $10 per violation. This will bankrupt all non compliant spammers. Justice Department or any user with a valid complaint can bring suit. If the suit is started by a harmed person, that person gets 10% of the fine for the public service. I mean don't members of Congress get spam ? I guess they also send a lot of spam, but they can exempt themselves from the law. 2) no more than 1000 unsolicited e-mails a year allowed. This is a limit on any entity which sends e-mails which is defined as the beneficial owner of the sending e-mail account. Spam does not have to be legal. Spam doesn't even have to be. We are bombarded with ads on the web all the time. Most are not spam e-mail and most don't create trouble. This is law 2, because I fear my mom accidentally subscribed to the spam mailing lists.

3) "no reply" e-mails are not allowed. The Postal Service will not deliver a letter without a return address. E-mail always includes the address of the sender. Many senders write "do not reply to this e-mail". That should be a civil offence and also a tort costing $1000 for every e-mail which contains that text or text to that effect. If someone sends an e-mail, that person should be required to consider replies. For example "don't e-mail me again" should be an order which must be obeyed, also if it is sent as a reply e--mail. Failure to obey such an instruction should cost $10,000 per infraction. If the e-mailers says it would be an extremely burdensome expense to hire people just to read replies to our e-mail, it should be politely explained to them that this is exactly the point. They should not be able to burden others with e-mail without being burdened by the replies. This one was almost too obvious to include (it is an update). I think it is perfectly reasonable for me to be able to reply to an e-mail which says "do not reply". I also think the reply should be "you now owe me $1000.00 credit my account number N at bank with routing number M (N and M not for blogger, because even though my bank has security which makes online banking impractical for me, kidz theze dayz probably know how to use those numbers to take my money). Sending an e-mail which includes the order "do not reply to this e-mail" is unacceptably rude and should be illegal. Why is it allowed

4) Unsubscription must be instant. If an e-mail is sent more than 137 milliseconds after the unsubscribe message was received, the sender must pay a fine of $1,000,000,000. It is perfectly possible to manage this these days. It is also possible to enforce this regulation. Be it so.

This post isn't supposed to be an anti Microsoft rant, but just one little paragraph. Their problem is that they make profits too easily. With Windows and Office, it's as if they patented the alphabet or Arabic numbers or something. They could just coast forever. But they won't. So they attempted to engulf the whole software industry, got nailed by the Justice Department and saved by the Supreme Court in the Microsoft relevant case of Bush V Gore. They aren't doing that any more (Bill Gates decided to fight viruses, bacteria and protazoans not people and so long as he focuses his ruthless determination on single celled organisms I support him). But they won't admit that they are just an intellectual property scam, so they keep "improving" their software making it worse and worse. This forces customers to learn how to use the new software which can't be as familiar as the old software, and so must be less user friendly (especially the "user friendly" aspects like remember that damn paper clip with eyes ?). Also it is slow. There is a race as the hardware gets better and better and the software gets worse and worse. I am quite sure this is deliberate (and logical). The latest software makes the latest hardware run so slowly that it is barely tolerable. So you can steal it and install it on your old computer, but you don't want to, because then your old computer is intolerably slow. The ancestor to the computer on which I am typing, which lived on this very desk, was killed by a (legal) upgrade from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. There is a law, call it More's law, that no matter how powerful the hardware gets, it always takes the same amount of time for personal computers to start up. Notice that it takes no time for smart phones to start up. Why ? OK also the format of say *.doc files is changed (unless people know about save as which most don't) so you need the latest applications to edit documents, so you need the latest operating system so Windows is rich. OK fine, make sure software runs only on new computers bought with Windows pre-installed. But please slow it down by using it to mine BitCoin for Microsoft or something and leave the user interface alone.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Has 21st century conservatism contributed anything useful at all ?

This is a question I haven't asked myself. I have long looked for reasonable and reasonably honest conservatives. It is frustrating, because I have found many, but few are still conservative. I don't want to get distracted from my distraction, but there is a pattern of me finding a conservative whom I consider reasonable, then that guy breaking with the conservative movement within a year.

The new topic is conservative ideas. The question is is there any conservative thought which is worth consideration and which they hadn't already written and said by 1900. I suppose this might be considered an unfair question, since I demand something new from a school centered on suspicion of the new. However, they have embraced many new and worthless ideas and proposals (see below) so I don't think I am being unfair.

This is a long very self indulgent post. It is twitter overload. I am going to

1) bring a twitter discussion over here

2) try to think of worthwhile 21st century conservative ideas.

3) try to think of worthwhile 21st century non conservative ideas (to be fair -- it might just be that my effort under 2 fails because of my ignorance or my interpretation of "worthwhile" and "2st century").

OK the twitter thread (which will make it painfully clear why I surfed over to blogger I mean "4.1/3" really ???).

It starts with this very interesting post on challenges to liberalism and liberals' responses.

Ross Douthat asked a constructive and interesting (implied) question

Ross Douthat @DouthatNYT


The question I'm left with at the end of this interesting @zackbeauchamp crisis-of-liberalism survey is whether he thinks there's anything that liberalism can learn or drawn on from the *right* in order to survive and flourish anew:

I replied @robertwaldmann

obviously the reason you are left with that question is that neither he nor you can think of anything useful that anyone can learn from conservatives. The reason is that all alleged conservative insights have been disproven by massive evidence

In fact I challenge you. I suspect the answer will be to claim for conservatism universal values and widespread beliefs or to pretend that the only alternative to conservatism is something like Marxism. I say conservatism has the same epistemic standing as astrology.

Dilan Esper contributed reasonable thoughts aiming for constructive discussion. I want to thank Dilan Esper for being helpful and constructive. I fear my tone on twitter and here does not communicate my sincere appreciation of a good faith effort. Also MuchTL:DR , his effort confirms my prediction.



When you get away from electoral politics and into more abstract areas, I can think of some conservative ideas that have quite a lot of epistemic value.

E.g., the law of unintended consequences; foreign policy realism; the importance of developers in cities; etc.

I overflowed

Robert Waldmann @robertwaldmann

1/3)The law of unintended consequences has, I think, always been universally recognized (in theory often by people who ignore it). This is one of many examples of conservatives claiming as their own ideas which belong to everyone.

2/3) I have never understood what "foreign policy realism" means. I note that neoconservatives are conservatives too. I think realism vs whatever else is possible is a division among conservatives and non conservatives.

2.1/3) If there is a yes or no question, both conservatives and non conservatives are divided, and the correct answer is yes, that answer is not a contribution of conservatism to thought.

3/3) I agree you can't have decent housing without developers. Just look what a hell hole Singapore is. I think your point is that there are NIMBYs who argue against development because developers seek profit. Not all people who accept profit as non/theft are conservative.

4/3) I think we can agree that FDR was not a conservative. In foreign policy, he worked with Stalin and the Mafia. Realists have nothing to teach him. He also worked with profit seeking developers. He was a human being so he knew of the risk of unintended consequences.

4.1/3). Give me an explanation of what useful thought conservatives have contributed which does not imply that F Roosevelt was a conservative.

Also, My question here was about the 21st century conservative thought. "I guess this isn’t the place to ask for an indication of any useful contribution of 21st century conservatism, but I ask here too."

What has conservatism done for anyone in the past 19 years ?

Ooops I asked it only there and not on twitter. Anyway it's the question I address here.

To go on even longer on the twitter thread, I really think conservatives regularly claim that ideas, principles, and values which are widely to universally shared belong to conservatism. This is a form of the straw man argument. I think of Tom Lehrer on the folk song army "join the folk song army ... We're against poverty war and injustice/ unlike the rest of you squares". I note in passing that, for a penetrating critique of a fault of conservatives, I quote a liberal mocking other liberals and (above all) himself.

There can be unintended consequences is both totally obvious and also (if related at all) the definition of conservatism. Esper's first polite constructive effort to answer my question amounts to saying "you ask if conservatism has anything to offer which isn't obvious to non conservatives, well conservatism by definition, has something useful to offer to all those squares who think actions can only have their intended consequences"

That's better than "foreign policy realism" which is, as far as I can tell, a meaningless slogan roughly equally likely to be uttered by conservatives and non conservatives.

Finally the other defense of conservatism -- the claim that every non Leninist is conservative. The claim is that the quest for profits is not always harmful, that profit seeking entities can sometimes do something useful, that we should make peace with at least some traces of capitalism. Hell really any non Stalinist as even Lenin accepted the New Economic Policy (NEP).

Here I think the issue is also a bit of motivated reasoning (OK interested error) where people who own homes and want to get a high price declare it is virtuous for them to attempt to block competitors and also people act as if they have a right not only to their own property but to everything else they want like nice views and plenty of parking and other people can just go live in tents (or suburbs). The point is that one doesn't have to be conservative to be YIMBY and it isn't true that only conservatives accept the quest for profit as sometimes tolerable.

I'd say the sincere effort consists of 3 thoughts which fall into 3 categories

1) "to claim for conservatism universal values and widespread beliefs"

2) two words (which together mean roughly nothing) the use of which has almost zero correlation with conservatism.

3) "to pretend that the only alternative to conservatism is something like Marxism."

OK useful conservative contributions to thought in the 21st century. I draw a blank.

Harmful conservative ideas. I will leave Trump out of it. The response of some conservatives to Trump has been dismal while others have bravely stated the obvious. In any case, I don't blame conservatism for Trump.

1. Social security partial privatization. This was a way to allow people to bear more risk and send lots of money to financial service providers. As widely perceived, it had no redeeming social value.

2. Medicare privatization. This builds on the 20th century conservative failure Medicare Advantage which served to privatize public money. It was based on contradictory promises that it was guaranteed to cost less and to provide at least as good insurance. This was a case of Paul Ryan ordering the tides to stop.

3. Privatizing the Veterans administration the VA. Here there was a VA scandal because the VA did not keep a promise that no other health care provider even makes. It was a scandal, because it was a matter of public and congressional interest because the VA is public. The VA ranks at the very top in patient satisfaction and estimates of outcomes. These are published facts which conservatives sincerely perceive as absurdities.

4. The deficit will eat your children. We are turning into Greece.

5. Deficits don't matter and/or tax cuts lead to higher revenues.

6. The Fed is degrading the currency. There will be high inflation maybe hyper inflation.

7. The limits on presidential power should be completely ignored 2001-2009, strictly enforced 2009-2016, and ignored 2017 - now.

8 Federalism and the Supreme Court should design Seattle school districts and well come on anyone who says "federalism" is bullshitting.

9 reform the tax code to introduce a distinction between business income (taxed at a low rate) and labot income disguised as business income (taxed at a high rate). I have to give them credit. It is very hard to make the US Tax code more messy than it was.

10 2001 is time for a "kinder gentler" SEC

11 Invade Iraq

12 Repeal Obamacare and figure out a replacement written in secret in McConnell's office but this isn't our plan it's just a placeholder to get to the conference committee which will write an excellent bill.

OH hell I am ignoring all space limits, but I just can't list all the horrible 21st century conservative ideas. Many were opposed by some conservatives. Many were supported by many non conservatives. Most have nothing to do with caution, respect for tradition or awareness of the risk of unintended consequences.

Good 21st century ideas

1) Hawaii hope. The idea is swift sure punishment works better than rare severe punishment. This is not a new idea, Cesare Beccaria made the argument in the 18th century. It is a new idea to test parolees with drug problems once a week and lock them up for a night if they fail (or skip) a test. It worked.

2 Also 24/7 sobriety.

3 Also grow your own marijuana laws.

That's 3 and I learned all of them from one non-conservative Mark Kleiman.

4) Moving to opportunity works. A 2oth century experiment but the proof only was collected in the 21st century.

5) access to birth control pills at ages 18-20 without parental permission makes a huge difference.

6) high rise public housing causes crime.

that's 3 more I learned from one non conservative Larry Katz.

7) higher minimum wages cause tiny to surprisingly signed effects on employment (started 20th century I guess)

8) low skilled immigration has small effects on the wages of the few domestic workers who aren't helped.

9) there sure isn't a labor demand curve see 7 and 8.

Those are all from Card and Krueger.

OK so I am getting to economists, but there are super genius conservative economists. Why do they waste their brains defending the indefensible.

Look I really really can't list good ideas of the 21st century. But there are many of them. I can't think of any which are in any way a fruit of conservatism. Really not one. I draw a blank.

Monday, September 09, 2019

I get Ruthless With David Leonard

David Leonard picks cherries in a generally good op-ed. I agree entirely with his general conclusion that Democrats should run a populist campaign (no triangulation -- he should have noted that Clinton ran on raising taxes on the rich and cutting taxes on the middle class in 1992 -- he was a populist before he was a triangulator). He also says don't talk about decriminalizing border crossing or eliminating private health insurance. I agree entirely. He relies on a Pew poll on issues. It is an interesting poll by a good pollster.

However, I think there should be a rule that any commentary on polls should consider all available still relevant polls. The norm of non data journalists writing about data is still to comment on one poll. This is nonsense. It is like election night coverage based on an interview with one voter. There is, I think, no excuse for looking at data other than averages of polls. I think can improve on the simple average, but that's not my current assertion. I am asserting that any commentatory must justify (to an editor not the readers) every decision to not consider every poll which is not considered.

I was triggered by this passage justified by three picked cherries.

Yet Democrats are frittering away their advantage — and damaging their image. Last fall, most Americans had a favorable view of the Democratic Party, according to the Pew Research Center. That makes sense, because Democrats ran a populist campaign in the 2018 midterms, focused on pocketbook issues that dominate many people’s lives, like wages and medical costs.

This year, the polling has flipped. Most Americans now have an unfavorable view of the party, no better than their view of the Republican Party. Likewise, slightly more voters say the “ideas being offered by the Democratic candidates” would hurt the country than say would help, according to the NPR poll.

I was surprised to learn how hard it was to find averages of party favorable ratings from 2019 (hard enough that I gave up anyway). The generic ballot shows a Democratic lead about the same as in 2018. The graph is based on dozens of polls. That't the way to do it. That's the only way which editors should allow. In fact, the highly anomalous party favorables in the Pew poll used by Leonard should have caused him to reconsider the issues polling. A crude but not pointless calculation would be to add 6.5% to medicare for all pro - M4a contra. Saying an anomalous number on party favorability adds to the evidence from issue polling is to say that all polls but the latest Pew poll (and a briefly mentioned NPR poll) are irrelevant.

I stress again that I agree 100% exactly with Leonard's conclusions and advice.

my comment cut and pasted 10:20 (I didn't guess it would take as long as 20 minutes to refute his claim

I agree with your conclusion. I'd add (as your colleague does today) that it is unwise to propose providing insurance to undocumented aliens (combining Medicare for really all and more than just a path to something good years from now for undocumented aliens). I happen to find myself in the minority which supports all three proposals. I also now that they are not going to happen -- fuhggedaboudit, and admitted one supports them helps Trump.

However, I consider the method of your argument to be unacceptable. You discuss one (1) recent poll [correction he discusses two (2) briefly mentioning the second] contrasting it with one (1) poll from 2018. This will not do, even though Pew is an excellent pollster. It passed as legitimate commentary way back in the 20th century, but people should not stick to the Silver standard.

I start the clock at 10:00 AM Rome time (4:00 AM in New york).

Pollingreport latest tweet is a link to this op-ed. Congratuationsl.

OK this is hard. I can't find an average of polls of Democratic party favorability past 2018 (what is wrong with the web). I was wrong. What I find is generic ballot polls going back to January 2019 with a graphed average going back to April. I see a stable Democratic lead of around 6% if anything growing slightly with latest 6.5%. In 2018 the Democrats won the popular vote by 8.6% (not strictly comparable)

Your cherry picked number is highly misleading

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Sharp Wits

Twitter Overflow on Economics 101ism, The leader Massimo, and two cities.

This is a twitter overflow. It is the landing page of a link I put in a tweet, because I didn't feel like making a long twitter thread.

In case anyone just surfs here, I will try to explain the context below.

The Tweet

I haven't read the book, just a column. I think the elite embrace of economics 101 occurred throughout the rich world. Certainly including Massimo D'Alema (Italian Prime Minister raised as a communist). In any case,I recognise the type over here in Rome (not just in my home town)

A bit of really necessary context

The tweet is a reply to this tweet by Scott Winship @swinshi

Any explanation for slower US growth has to explain slowed growth THROUGHOUT THE RICH WORLD. But sure, economists and elites are THAT powerful and influential and homogeneous. The merging of progressives & national conservatives continues apace.

The book is "The Economists' Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society" by Binyamin Appelbaum

OK the overflow.

I think Winship claims that Applebaum just assumed that the whole rich world is similar to his circle of aquaintances. It seems to be the common claim that members of the coastal liberal establishment elite are out of touch.

I defend Applebaum. The ideology, movement, policy shifts and consequences he discusses are certainly all strong in continental Europe. I think there is extremely strong evidence that an elite which includes economists but mostly consists of non economists who respect economists and have a particular opinion of what economists say is exceedingly powerful influential and homogenous. It is definitely not just a US phenomenon.

I realize my thoughts are definitely too long for a tweet, I think too long for a tweet thread, and almost certainly much better expressed in the actual book. But I will now get to this blog post.

Explaining the tweet. First I was born in Washington DC. The ideology is often called neoliberalism or The Washington Consensus. I like Noah Smith's term Economics 101. Smith's point is that many non-economists think economics consists of the very simplest economic models which are now mainly used to introduce the subject to undergraduates (and now high school students including 2 of my nieces). He has a lot to say. I just googled Noah Smith Economics 101

Massimo D'Alema was Prime minister of Italy 1998-2000. He is the first ex-Communist Italian Prime Minister. I am showing my age by still thinking of him. He is an example which comes to my mind of a powerful, influential, and homogeneous elite. In particular, he hosted a summit of center left politicians including Clinton, Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder, Tony Blair, and (reluctantly attending) Lionel Jospin. This was a declaration of victory by the victors after the end of history (narrator: History didn't agree that it had ended). D'Alema is the son of a prominent Italian Communist. He was raised in the Communist Party as some of his contemporaries were raised in the Catholic Church. He remained loyal to the party when he was an undergraduate at the super elite Scuola Normale Superiore, where almost everyone else was way to the left of the party (think a Lyndon Johnson fan at Harvard in 1968 if you are even older than me).

A source tells me that, at another meeting this one of the post communist democratic party of the left, D'Alema said roughly (and in Italian -- he is very elite but not mutlilingual) that [Tony Blair is lucky, because Thatcher did what had to be done and then he could come in and take care of the wounded. We are going to have to do what has to be done ourselves.] (I use [] for paraphrases and in this case translations of vague memories).

So the first Italian Prime Minister coming from the Italian Communist Party explicitly presented Margaret Thatcher as a model to emulate. I wasn't there, I heard this second ha But I promise you, it wasn't surprising at the time. When a longtime loyal party member finally became prime minister, he was dedicated to privatization and deregulation.

"Neoliberalism" has two meanings on different sides of the Atlantic. In the USA it means "like Bill Clinton" or "typical of the Clinton administration and say the guys who wrote for "The New Republic" when Clinton was in office. In the rest of the world it refers to the extreme pro-market small government ideology. I am very very sad to say that the two meanings aren't all that different, because Clinton administration policies were far right by the standards of the rest of the world.

The Washington Consensus is a consensus of staffers (prominently including economists) at the IMF, the World Bank and the Clinton Treasury. A central figure is Larry Summers who went from chief economist at the world bank to first chairman of the National Economic Council under Bill Clinton.

I think the perfect expression of the ideology was found in "The Economist" He is one of many people who can confirm that there was an international elite which prominently included economists and which was convinced in the 1990s that it had found the answers, alll the answers. They were interested in, among other things, globalization, by which they meant economic globalization and especially the massive increase in trade in intermediate goods due to offshoring and the globalization of value added chains. I am pretty sure that they are willing to call themselves globalists (I sure am).

I'm sure Applebaum can defend himself, and does make a case in the book (which I haven't read).

I have a critique of the article which I have read. It is unfair to economists and to economics. Applebaum describes the economic theory which was extremely influential in the 1990s. It is economics 100, or rather really the first semester or so of economics 101. This tiny subset of economic theory (which has little to do with current academic research) the economy is described as a market where demand equals supply. Without regulation, markets in these models clear with demand equal to supply. This outcome is not so horrible that a policy maker can help everyone without one exception by intervening. The economics 101ism is an ideology which says that the answer to all policy questions can be found by assuming that these models describe the world and that an government intervention which helps all but one person and hurts that person a little is unacceptable.

So it has two components. First exceedingly strong positive assumptions about how the world works. These are testable (and overwhelmingly overwhelmingly rejected by the data). They include complete markets (if you want to bet that the temperature at a given address in Deluth will be between 73.2 and 73.3 degrees at 11:14 AM on March 14th 2023 you can) perfect competition (so if a store owner raised the unit price of a good by 1 cent then no one would buy it and if she cut it by one cent she would sell out instantly) and no externalities (so you don't care if I decide to end it all by releasing a ton of nerve gas) and symmetric information (so you know exactly how much I prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla ice cream, that is exactly how much more I would be willing to pay for a pint of chocolate than for a pint of Vanilla).

With all these absurd assumptions, one can reach an absurdly weak conclusion -- there is no intervention which helps everyone. The full 100% 200 proof economics 101 ideology concludes that this means that laissez faire (no government intervention except for protecting people and their property rights from violence) is the best policy.

This is insane. The actual ideology is that the models are useful approximations, and we will separately consider equity and Pareto efficiency and hem and haw, so in this case moving towards laissez faire is an improvement.

This is also a very weak argument, but it was strong enough to change the world.

However, even introductory economics courses go on to teach about imperfect competition, externalities, something about welfare economics other than the Pareto principle and maybe asymmetric informtion. They sure don't discuss what can happen if markets are incomplete (as they are). That involves hard math. I will try to explain it in plain English in another post. Also economic research is now mostly based on assessing the effects of policy by finding natural experiments (or even conducting actual experiments). It no longer relies on assuming that hypotheses which have been rejected by the data must therefore be useful approximations. Also members of the American Economic Association tend to favor more rather than less government intervention. Also there are no anti-Keynesians in foxholes.

So Applebaum is wrong wrong wrong about everything except about the power of a homogeneous international elite and its recent (now weakening) pro-market ideology.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

30 to 50 Feral Begbugs at the New York Times

This is here because it is totally not worth anyone's time. The actual topic is Bret Stephens (who is not, in fact, a bedbug -- rettore take notice).

Bedbugs are in the news.

Partly they are related to the 2019 G-7 in Biarritz and the US constitution. The connection is that Donald Trump suggested that the 2020 G-7 might be held at his Doral resort. This was a gross violation of Us constitution article I section 9 paragraph 8 "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State." I think it is clear that Trump's statement is an impeachable offense. But, on topic, bedbugs are involved, because bedbugs have bitten people at Doral (allegedly in Today's Washington Post ). The final word is "The Trump Organization denied the allegation, without going into detail. It settled the case in 2017, shortly after Trump’s inauguration. Neal Hirschfeld, a Florida attorney who represented Linder in the bedbug lawsuit, said he could not comment Tuesday because the settlement included a confidentiality clause." Frankly, I actually think a Congressional investigation would be nice (officially on emoluments but also looking into the beds, because a President lying to the American People is a matter of public interest).

Also it is reported that there are bedbugs in the New York Times news room. That's the topic. David Karpf, A professor at George Washington University (GWU) tweeted that Bret Stephens is bedbug.

Stephens found the tweet (8 likes 0 retweets) and e-mailed a complaint CCing the Provost of GWU. I consider myself involved, because that's where I come from (I was delivered at GWU medical center some time ago). From this we learn a few things.

1) Bret Stephens is a rotten person. He tried to get someone in trouble over a silly joke.

2) Bret Stephens is an idiot. He has gotten himself in significant trouble and become a figure of extremely widespread mockery (my tweet is that he stepped in some Santorum there). He will not live this down. So far his Wikipedia article has been edited to identify him as a bedbug (no link probably edited back) also let me google.

3) Bret Stephens is an absurd hypocrite. He has a record of arguing that free speech means freedom to offend or it means nothing.

4) Stephens appeared on MSNBC and claimed that Bret Stephens was asked about the Bedbug controversy on MSNBC by @ChrisJansing

Bret says he wasn’t trying to get @davekarpf in any professional trouble when he copied his provost on the email he sent him.

This shows that Bret Stephens is an absolutely shameless liar. Obviously the only reason to cc someone's boss is to try to get him in professional trouble (note Karpf isn't the one in professional trouble now)

5) Bret Stephens is an idiot. He could have said he lost his temper and made a mistake. Instead he lied in a manner which insults not only the intelligence of NY Times readers, but also National Enquirer readers not to mention "Hop on Pop" readers who haven't moved up to the more advanced Dr Seuss books yet (npt subtitle "The Simplest Seuss for youngest use").

I think there is only one reasonable response to the recent events. I think 'Stephens should be fired. ccing a provost over a tweet is quite bad for someone who claims to defend free speech. The blatant lie means his claims of fact are not reliable enough to publish him on the Op-ed pagesm where people can exoress their own opinions but not their own facts.

But why the hell was he ever hired in the first place ?

I think I know the answer. New opinion editor James Bennet decided that the pages needed more balance and that 2 token conservatives aren't enough. So he decided to hire two more. He wasn't willing to publish someone who makes absurd arguments, such as claiming that Trump is qualified to be President. So he had to find 2 anti Trump conservatives who can write in complete paragraphs. Since no more than 5% of the population is anti Trump and conservative, this is a bit of a challenge (actually not really says Rick Wilson). Now the idea that balanced representation of the range of opinions means that 5% of the population are under represented by only 2 columnists at the New York Times is idiotic, but I still haven't explained why Stephens was hired, given the substantial set of never Trump conservatives who can write complete paragraphs and aren't lying idiots.

Stephens was hired from the Wall Street Journal opinion pages. Now that's it. IT makes sense for the Times to poach from the Journal (and the Washington Post). One might be irritated at the importance of an elite club of journalists at top papers, but that is part of a general pattern of elites in all fields in all places at all times. The problem is that, by association with the news pages,the Wall Street Journal opinion section is respectable and even elite.

They are also a gang of extremist lunatics. It ranks somewhere on the range from National Review to Quillette. People are hired because they are absolutely reliable ideologues (who can write in complete paragraphs). Gwyneth Paltrow is also elite, but no one trusts her equally respectable thoughts on Medicine as much as the absurd nonsense written about economics on the Journal's opinion pages.

Seeking Stephens views on free speech is as sensible as seeking Dinesh D'Sousa's views on US history and academic historiography. Only an idiot would do that.

OK back to the broader topic. Must opinion editors hire conservatives. It is absolutely 100% clear that they think they should in order to achieve balance. They do not claim to hire the best columnist available. Nor do they claim to hire only excellent columnists which will add a new perspective (it's 4 rather than 2 never Trump conservatives not 1 rather than zero). There is some idea that the opinions should reflect some distribution of opinions.

To show that I can't write in complete paragraphs, I explain. One hypothetical criterion might be choosing based on originality, judgment, reliability and thought provocation. That's not the stated policy. Another might be to seek a variety of views so that, even if not everyone can be satisfied, at least everyone can be dissatisfied. That isn't the policy either. Astrologers aren't welcome. Nor are anti-vaxxers. Global warming deniers are welcome. Creation scientists aren't. The body of evidence is similar in all four cases. It isn't enough that a view be different from the others. It can't be completely crazy.

But the criterion isn't also correspondence to public opinion revealed by polls. The opinion pages are dominated by people who support "entitlement reform" who belong to a tiny minority of the population.

I am ruling things out. It isn't we need more conservatives, because our readers have never been exposed to conservative thought (4 not 1). It's not we need a broad variety of opinions (Leninists and Islamic fundamentalists are not welcome). It isn't the distribution of views on this page should be similar to the distribution in the population (US world, New York whatever).

I think the aim is balance not variety and not simply excellence. I think the definition of balance is corresponding roughly to votes in Congress. Both sides means both major parties. I think on many issues this means balancing on the one hand the evidence and public opinion and, on the other, the preferences of a few extremely rich men. On many big issues, the Democratic party is on the right wing of public opinion and the Republican party is off the scale. On many scientific issues, the Republican position is a fringe view among the experts.

I think the decision is to speak power to truth. The GOP is powerful, so GOP arguments must be presented and taken seriously even if they fly in the face of massive evidence and are generally rejected by ordinary people.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Comment on Drum commenting on Warren

Drum has a good skeptical post on Warren

Elizabeth Warren and the Slow Boring of Hard Boards

which includes "The story provides a pretty good look at Warren’s distinctive combination of tenaciousness, policy chops, and grassroots support, but it’s not clear to me how well her style would translate into being a good president."

"That leaves tenaciousness, which I have no argument about."


"For the time being, the best theory of change is the good old slow boring of hard boards."

It seems to me very clear to Drum how well her style would translate into being a good President.

My comment

Yes "theory of change" is a buzz phrase. Also just after writing that you aren't taken with obsessing over a candidate's theory of change, you show you are, in fact, so taken. The candidate isn't Warren, it is Sanders. You reject Sanders's theory of change, advocating for the alternative (previously known as Clinton's theory of change).

One very key issue. Drum theory of change

You want a real theory of change? Here it is: build up enough public support for your cause that you can win the presidency along with a 300+ majority in the House and a comfortable filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That’s pretty much it. Tedious outrage about “incipient fascism” aside, the United States is still a democracy.

Which two words don't fit well together ? Democracy does not imply filibuster. The USA is the only Democracy in which filibusters are important. Another theory of change is presidency, 235+ in the house and 51 votes in the Senate to eliminate the filibuster. That is Warren's theory of change. It's a lot more plausible than 60 votes in the Senate. Also the 300+ in the House is just nonsense. The House made no trouble for Obama, Clinton or, even Jimmy Carter himself. The current majority is plenty. The problems are getting 1 more President, 4 more senators and convincing Democratic Senators to eliminate the filibuster. That requires a candidate determined to fight to eliminate the filibuster. We have one such candidate. One is enough.

Eliminating the filibuster is a necessary part of any change, theory of change, and practice of change. Anyone who says otherwise (see Sanders & Biden) is bullshitting.

Oddly you phrase your post as Warren skepticism (contrarian much ? I suppose there has to be at least one Warren skeptical liberal wonk -- a dirty rotten job but no one else seems willing to do it). But your point is that tenacity is required, and, lo and behold, you agree she's got it.

OK so the other two topics. I'd agree that Presidents should rely on experts. The real menaces are those who think they know more than the experts, or that knowledge doesn't matter (see Trump, Donald; Bush George W; & Reagan, Ronald). However, note that all Presidents who have actually been able to make use of experts are almost incredibly knowledgeable. At least that's the way things have been since I turned 18 (in 1978).

The problem is that one has to know a lot, and be very smart, in order to tell which of the people who claim to be experts really are useful experts. Note I snuck in "useful". Linus Pauling was very expert on physics, chemistry, and biology, but he wasn't a useful expert, because he was crazy. You want rock solid proof that HIV causes AIDS then you want to use PCR, but Casey Mullin, who developed PCS, declared that HIV didn't cause AIDS because he hadn't kept up with the literature and didn't know what he didn't know. I think one needs extraordinary knowledge and brain power in order to follow and judge debates between experts.

Let me try to name a President who did a good job without being absurdly knowledgeable and smart.

Trump: Total disaster

Obama: absurdly knowledgeable and smart

Bush Jr: totaler disaster

Clinton: Absolutely amazingly absurdly knowledgeable and smart. Has fallen for fake experts (Ira Magaziner, Dick Morris, Mark Penn)

Bush Sr: Not super smart, had huge foreign policy experience. Candidate exception. not re-elected

Reagan; I guess he is commonly presented as an example of a great President who know almost nothing, but he not, I trust, here. Laffer is the number one case of a fake expert and Laffer, Reagan, Kemp, Roth is the number one example of how dumb ignorant policymakers can make a mess of things.

Carter: very smart ultra nerd. Fell for a fake expert (Patrick Caldwell). Not reelected

Ford: Fine if you want to ally with South Africa (Kissinger policy on Angola)

Nixon: very smart, knowledgeable and evil (an extremely un-useful expert)

Johnson: Ver smart knowledgeable and overdosed on testosterone. An extremely violent expert.

Kennedy: trusted the best and the brightest. How did that work out ?

Eisenhower: Candidate for not super smart (top honors at West Point but so ?) and good at the job. Need to overlook repeated severe recessions and assault on Democracy in Iran and Guatemala but it's not as if anything has gone wrong in either country since then

Truman another candidate excellent non expert president

FDR BINGO 2nd rate intellect 1st class character and confirms your theory of change.

I'd say the lesson of the past decades is that only wonks can protect themselves against fake experts and they only have a 50 50 chance.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

The optics are as bad as they look

Dean "The Optics aren't as bad as they look" Baquet just confirmed that he actually doesn't do his job any more. He doesn't decide what is on the front page of the New York Times. He doesn't explain what he does (except force reporters to tone down their story on the Trump campaigns connections to Russia until it falsely asserted that the FBI had found no clear links *after* the FBI had obtained 2 FISC warrants based on probable cause to believe two Trump campaign employees (one of them campaign chairman) were foreign agents).

Look if he isn't willing to edit, maybe his job should be eliminated as he eliminated the public editor breaking a solemn promise to readers and destroying the paper's credibility which can only be restored if he is fired.

Also he presents a false dichotomy (an error of thought more common than any other error of thought or any valid method of thought). He asserts (without any evidence or logic) that the only choice of for the Times to continue to do what it has been doing or to act as the opposition to Trump.

He doesn't even consider the possiblity that it could act like a serious newspaper and not quote unreliable sources without fact checking (even if the demonstrably unreliable source happens to be President). He assumes that the most recent claims must be reported without noting the proof that they are lies. Basically his position is that the facts don't matter, or maybe that they must not be reported, because they have a liberal bias.

I think it is very important that Baquet be fired immediately.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Custody battles

I never expected that after the national divorce liberals would get custody of The CIA The FBI The NFL and the most profitable megacorporations. But at least the GOP has the assault rifles and the 30 to 50 feral hogs I don't even know who I should credit for the national divorce meme, but it's not original

Our purpose here is done

I think I have just found the ultimate abyss of idiocy Patrick Ruffini @PatrickRuffini · 4h How many times have I gone into a bar hoping for a dependable selection of beers I can trust and instead being forced to choose this locally brewed artisanal nonsense (80% of which are IPAs which I detest) like it were Stalin’s Russia or Bernie’s America? So small profit seeking businesses stocking products which sell well and which don't fit my tastes or desire for all to consume what I like are Stalinist ? If anyone can find anything stupider ever written (in any language using any alphabet or hieroglyphs) please paste it in comments.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

nomoremisterniceblog almost states the bitter truth, but he's too nice to tell us what fools we are.

he wrote

I don't want to relitigate the McGovern and Mondale campaigns, but Dukakis? "Free everything and impossible promises" weren't what defeated him.

my comment

I want to relitigate events of 1984, which Delaney has sent down the memory hole. Mondale was not hammered because he made promises he couldn't keep. He said he was going to talk to us like grownups. He said he was going to increase taxes (but not increase taxes on families with income under $ 30000 which would be about 60000 now with inflation).

So the people of the USA had to choose between a serious guy who told us the truth and the guy who promised that lower taxes meant higher revenues. It is obvious that most voted for Reagan who made absurd promises which he obviously couldn't keep.

Now there have been Democratic candidates who promised to reduce the deficit and reduce taxes on most families -- Clinton and Obama '-- exactly the two non incumbent Democrats who won when the Income tax was constitutional and the top rate was under 55%. Obama also actually delivered (not that many people noticed) while Clinton was suddenly (not permanently) unpopular when Rubin convinced him we couldn't afford a middle class tax cut.

Unlike her husband, Hillary Clinton was honest about budgetary and political limits. Unlike his wife, Bill Clinton was elected President.

The lesson is simple. Don't treat the US public like adults. Do make promises, including some you can't keep. The data are clear. Anyone who lives in the real world knows this. Only dreamers like Delaney, Dukakis, Mondale, Gore think you can win as the speaker of inconvenient truths.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Belle Waring on Autistic Perverts

Comments are closed on this post. I think it is an average Belle Waring post. I am going to comment here. But first I want to discuss the secret (perhaps harmless) invasion of privacy. When I see a young,good looking, energetic, dynamic, positive happy young couple, I often think of what a great time they must have in bed. Is that mental peeping ? Doesn't matter can't help it. But reading Crooked Timber I experience another case of possible undetectable invasion of privacy. Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Waring/Holbo residence. Just think of the conversations they have. And a pony. Anyway, the post includes a description of being stalked. The point is someone argued that an autistic man with a PhD in psychology couldn't have the mens rea to be guilty of possessing child pornography. I want to go off on mens rea (criminal intent -- I can't spell in English and my Latin spelling is correct only by pure chance). It makes a lot of sense if one things the purpose of the justice system is retribution. Some if you think of deterrence. Very little if you think of incapacitation as I do. I believe in locking people up mostly if it is the only way to prevent them from committing crimes (then staffing prisons adequately so they don't commit and be victims of crime while in prison). I consider prison to be collective self defense, not as extreme as war but justified only by need. I also think the idea of retribution is very important to most other people and shapes the justice system. "Justice was done" is a statement about proper retribution. This is highly relevant to the principle that defendents can be not guilty for reason of insanity. An violent insane person is very dangerous (and very rare -- most psychotics are not violent, quite likely to be victims of crimes and not at all likely to commit them). But not really to blame and not a proper subject for retribution. I would prefer a third verdict, guilty and insane (that is insanity as a extenuating factor implying that the proper sentence does not include prison time). I think this is important, because if insane people can't be incarcerated when they do unacceptably violent things which would be crimes with the usual mens rea, then there must be some way to incarcerate them in a residential care facility if they are a danger to themselves or others. Criminal liability makes us free. It means we can do anything which isn't clearly banned by a published law (our responsibility to do due diligence on what is legal -- ignorance of the law is no excuse). If people are protected from criminal liability, they are protected from having the right to do anything which is not specifically forbidden. It's wrong. It is different in non-anglophone countries. It should be changed. People who harm others with no ill intent are dangerous. Collective self defense may require incarceration (in a mental hospital). However, they should have the right to a trial by jury as they are human beings and have human rights. The identification of justice and retribution has made a mess of things, as usual.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Some Atheist Theology

I hope and trust that this won't convince any religious people. I wouldn't want to do that. But I do trust it won't.

This is from a comment thread. I am responding to Dale Coberly who wrote

God may or may not exist. I have no way of knowing. But the existence of evil in the world is not evidence either way. The whole story of Jesus, I think, is meant to illustrate the point that God permits evil to happen to good people but that is not the end of the story. If nothing else, it helps people to not despair when evil happens to them. I would not take that away from them. A good deal more important to them than a rise in GDP.

I don’t want to argue with you either, but I did not mention the existence of evil. I discussed natural disasters. Augustine can argue that only agents with free will can have souls, so God must accept a world with evil. Omnipotence does not mean ability to overrule a logical contradiction. I disagree in many ways (explained below* no character limit in comment threads (or personal blogs))

But that wasn’t my argument. I was discussing natural disasters. The evil, if any, is committed by the tectonic plates which shift. Now I don’t claim this proves there is no God. I can’t help claiming that this proves there is no benevolent God.

Or take the story of Jesus (Jesus’s version). In that story, Jesus isn’t an aspect of God but a son of God (notably so is everyone else, in the gospels Jesus never hinted that he was God or a god of a new pagan faith). He must suffer horribly as a scapegoat.

If true, this story would prove that there is not a benevolent omnipotent God. Either God can’t let people into heaven unless Jesus suffers on the Cross (so He is not omnipotent) or he chooses not to (so he is not benevolent and demands suffering of the innocent). If true, the gospels would prove that there is not a benevolent omnipotent God.

Now this is all very simple. Obvious even. The fact that Christian doctrine is full of logical contradictions (I haven’t mentioned that 3>1) has been declared by extremely smart people to be proof that it is a higher more glorious truth than we mere mortals can understand. Faith can trump logic and evidence. It clearly has in this case.

Contra Augustine. I don’t believe we have souls in the sense he used the word (immortal souls) so I disagree fundamentally. But I also don’t agree that we have free will. I think our actions are determined by the laws of physics or truly random as asserted by the laws of physics. The causation can’t start with us. In any case, I don’t believe in human free will. But finally, he is talking about evil not un-necessary suffering. That wasn’t my topic at all.

Now you say that religious belief is a very good thing (even if the beliefs do not correspond to reality). I agree entirely. Not being a Christian I disagree with his claim that the truth will set us free. It’s just the truth and sometimes it’s better to believe other things. Fine. Agreed. Religion can be a very good thing and often is. Something to be cherished. But it is also false.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Milton Friedman and the Keynesians Not an Old English Folk Tale

I wrote a post with this title which is poor, solitary, nasty, and long.

the bottom line is I say Friedman was always a Keynesian except for his insistence that the effect of the nominal interest rate on money demand is more or less pretty much negligible. This means that I argue that he differed from Keynes because he was a monetarist. In the 80s the difference between monetarists and Keynesians (which always was a matter of a paremeter estimate and not any fundamental disagreement) was dwarfed by the difference between them and the fresh water new classical ratexians. But the point, if any of the rant is that Friedman is determined not to be trapped among the Keynesians and that he bases his efforts fundamentally on the importance of i.

The failed aim was to introduce the following modified children's story in which an innocent red hen which happens to be red is rejected by red haters who can't admit that they agree with non conservatives. This post is very pointless too (Especially to people not told the story when they were children).

“Who will prime the pump?”

But Friedman said, “Not i,”

she ran about calling briskly: “Who will cut the tax?”

Friedman said, “Not i,”

“Who will press demand?”

But Freidman, with a grunt, said, “Not i,”

“Who will demand the Wheat on the market to be sold?”

Turning his back with snippy glee, Friedman said, “Not i,”

“Who will make some bread?”

Milt said "Not i"

Milton Friedman and the Keynesians

Brad DeLong noted that new Keynesians are actually Friedmanites. On all points where 1960s Keynesians disagreed with Friedman, they concede. The fusion of Keynesians and Monetarists would seem odd to anyone who can't conceive of real business cycle theory (really anyone who can't conceive of a human being taking real busines cycle theory seriously, that is, all normal human beings and most economists). Paul Krugman notes a return of Paleo Keynesians. Then discuses it more.

By the way, Krugman's link to DeLong doesn't work any more The Washington Center for Equitable Growth returns a 404 error. I went to Krugman to get the link to Brad, noted Krugman said brilliant things (no surprise) *and* that his link is rotten (that's news).

I'm going to get to the point soon but I have to discuss Krugman now.

Oh boy this introduction ran away from me. I am going to put the whole rant after the jump. the bottom line is I say Friedman was always a Keynesian except for his insistence that the effect of the nominal interest rate on money demand is more or less pretty much negligible. This means that I argue that he differed from Keynes because he was a monetarist. In the 80s the difference between monetarists and Keynesians (which always was a matter of a paremeter estimate and not any fundamental disagreement) was dwarfed by the difference between them and the fresh water new classical ratexians. But the point, if any of the rant is that Friedman is determined not to be trapped among the Keynesians and that he bases his efforts fundamentally on the importance of i.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Kevin Drum Talking 'bout my generation

Kevin Drum has a funny but also genuinely interesting post on how boomers are not really to blame for messing up America (he half tongue in cheek blames the silent generation). I don't think the defensiveness is entirely an act. He does concede

Now, if you want to blame boomers for welfare reform, sure. Bill Clinton was (barely) a boomer. If you want to blame boomers for the Iraq War, I guess so. George Bush was (barely) a boomer—though the real force behind it was Dick Cheney (b. 1941). If you want to blame us for screwing up Obamacare, that seems sort of churlish, but whatever. Barack Obama was (barely) a boomer—though the real roadblock to a public option was Joe Lieberman (b. 1942) and his centrist pals.

I comment

One interesting thing, you list welfare reform with invading Iraq (and also the ACA but call that churlish) and admit that it was a boomer misdeed (blaming Cheney for Iraq and Lieberman for weaknesses of the ACA which was still a great step forward). This interests me, because our one point of regular disagreement was over how horrible welfare reform is (it is current policy so the present tense is necessary).

Oddly, I learned of the association with a sharp increase in deep poverty here (I think your second post of the series in which you briefly conceded that welfare reform was severely damaging). I never understood your motivation . Now I see how important 2 years can be (also this post makes me feel young -- thanks). I was born in 1960 so late boom (or between boomer and gen X). I definitely do not consider Bill Clinton to be from my generation. Welfare reform is something old guys did to my country.

I wonder if there is actually something non-humorous and ironic on the square here. I do really find your discussion of the topic unreasonable. Here I comment that you depend on arguing that a 50% increase is negligible

I think you actually depend on our eyes perceiving 0.1*f(x) as more nearly horizontal than f(x) so they are deceived by scale. You discuss the murder rate often. Try adding percentage of Americans murdered to the graph with different definitions of "percentage of households with childred in extreme poverty" and see how invisible the changes are.

OK "churlish" triggered me (you once mentioned that you think I don't mind being churlish -- don't expect you to remember). I will try to unchurl. I think there is a very basic problem with US welfare policy. Hatred of welfare means there are some people in the USA much poorer than anyone should be. As you noted, the dollar cost of eliminating severe poverty is tiny. I am sure you believe, as I do, that the long run poverty trap culture of poverty effects are an advantage of bringing back more generous cash welfare. But we agree that "bring back old welfare" is political poison.

I think we can agree that welfare hatred is based on racism (racists being more open than they were 10 years ago). I think there is a political problem for how to get policy around the barrier of welfare hatred. I note that the left more candidates talk about giving to college graduates (forgiving student debt) more than about giving to children in severe poverty. I think even Sanders is afraid of welfare (and of course gun control). Finally I think all the tech bro talk of UBI and how everyone will be put out of work by the robot apocalypse so you, white man, will need welfare too is all an effort to get around welfare hatred.

It is a topic you clearly understand very well (I assume growing up in Orange county is relevant) and it is very important. I now ask for a post on welfare and welfare hatred.

Sorry to comment almost off topic and at length.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Whole Trinity

Not the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost. There are other trinities in our religious tradition. One is faith hope and caring. They sure are three separate things. I care a lot but I have very little hope. Another is that God is omnipotent, benevolent and omniscient. I realize that I believe in two Gods. There are the laws of nature which are all powerful but have no mind, no understanding, no clue. There is the moral law which is benevolent but absolutely powerless. It can't make things happen. It can't even speak to us. However, there isn't pure knowledge nor could there be. The point is that I see no deep connection between what is and what should be. Hence caring with little hope.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Comment on DeLong on Buchanan

Read Brad's post.

my comment on "Milton Friedman's redefinition of "neutral monetary policy" to mean "whatever monetary policy keeps nominal GDP on its trend growth path" led people prone to motivated reasoning in a laissez-faire direction completely and horribly astray... astonishing failure to mark one's beliefs to market"

Someone should write a book "Economic Theory: What Went Wrong". You had a draft in your mind some years ago. PseudoDeLong wrote that economics had been healthy, although inevitably influenced by ideology. In the good old days, there were fruitful debates between libertarians like Friedman, Stalinists like Sweezy and everyone in between.

Then Lucas and Prescott made a mess of things, abandoning evidence for pure theory. Or rather, they made a non mess of things, focusing on their favored models and ignoring non messy reality.

This is an attractive story, but it does not correspond to the actual history of what was actually written and said. It is, roughly, salt water good, fresh water bad. Fresh water means both back engineering theory from free market policy preferences and favoring rigorous analysis of the implications of absurd assumptions both to common sense and to empirical rigor "progress don't regress" "Theory ahead of business cycle measurement".

The problems are (at least) two. First the fresh/salt division isn't identical to left/right. The terms were introduced by Hall a salty conservative. Sargent and Hansen are distilled water center-lefties.

But second, many salty lefties manage to be almost as receptive to actual evidence as Prescott. You present an example. I think Friedman is another. Actually Lucas himself is a brilliant rhetorician -- he can do it with words as well as with equations.

Notice, I classify Friedman as a salt water economist. I do insist that Friedman and Lucas are methodological opposites (it isn't merely that their statements contradict, so they can't both be right, one is the negation of the other so they can't both be wrong)

They are on the same team with teammates named Laffer, Kudlow and Moore. They are (or sadly were) geniuses, but they work back from the conclusion and are more loyal to small government ideology than to their stated methodologies. This must be true, because they consider themselves part of the same school even though they have opposite methodologies.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

G and GDP update

I think it might be time for an update on the crudest of tiny sample reduced form analysis of fiscal policy and the current recovery.

One reason for my continued interest is that there was a rather large tax cut enacted in 2017. Trump critics tend to argue that it failed to encourage investment, but did affect aggregate demand. I wonder if the noticeable increase in GDP growth is due to the tax cut or the spending increase from the 2017 omnibus spending bill.

So I look at GDP and G (government consumption plus investment) again. Both are annual changes in billions of 2012 dollars (Not logs). I subtracted 400 billion from the change in quarterly GDP (multiplied by 4 to give an annual rate). Also I multiplied G by 1.5 which is a common estimate of the multiplier (say by Blanchard and Leigh Nakamura and Steinsson). Here an effect of the tax cut would appear as an anomaly -- an increase in GDP not fit by the change in G times the multiplier (or the $ 400 Billion and year trend).

I do not see an anomaly either when the tax bill passed in 2017 or in 2018 when tax witholding changed. As I mentioned back in 2014 I don't see an anomaly in either growth or government consumption plus investment when sequestration started in 2013 q1. The anomalies are high growth from 2014 q 1 to 2015 q 1 then low growth from 2015 q1 and q2 to 2016 q1 and q2, that is a level anomaly at a time when there weren't policy shifts.

I notice again that theory and data both suggest that changes in G are more important than changes in taxes. Nonetheless the practice is to measure the fiscal stance with the full employment budget deficit, that is, to assume that the balanced budget multiplier is zero.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Barry Barry Ritholtz asks how the New York Times got 2 very different figures from the same data

Barry Ritholtz has doubts about data presentation at the New York Times

His commentary is very brief "What is this about? Is it guilty conscience, or something else?"

The graphs are strikingly different


Alberto Cairo explains

I have a guess about what happened. I guess the second figure is a regression with counties weighted by population and the first is unweighted. I consider both semi reasonable things to do, but weighting to be better (it is also the second to be produced if I understand correctly)

First the fact that the size of the circles depends on total votes in the second figure suggests that the regression was weighted by total votes. Second it is clear that the big blue counties pull the line more in the second figure. I note that the estimated effect of government assistance on the Trump vote is greater in the second figure.

Others have another guess -- that the first line was hand drawn after eyeballing and isn't a regression line. That seems unlikely to me. Someone tweeted that it is clearly not an OLS regression. I suspect that the eye is even more influenced by outliers than OLS is. The dense cloud of many fairly similar observations does not impress us as much as it impresses a computer running OLS

I think I'm going to give a hostage to fortune and guess that, if someone sends me the raw data, I can run an unweighted OLS regression and get figure 1. I feel pretty safe, because I am pretty sure few people will read this and none will download and e-mail the data to

Reply to PGL comment on Brad DeLong Post on Stealing Candy From Fish in a Barrel

This is a comment on a comment and is here only because I can't insert a figure in a comment section. Click the link. Good point. Also the GOP supply side story is about non residential fixed investment. They have been promising for 39 years that their tax cuts will cause a huge increase in business investment and that Democrats' tax increases will cause it to collapse.

Also there has been a very clear pattern, which happens to be the exact opposite. The ratio of non residential fixed investment to GDP is high when a Democrat is in the White House (especially if he is a peanut farmer from Georgia) and collapses when a supply-sider is in the White House.

The pattern is so clear that it is hard to avoid seeing it. The incentives to claim to have managed not to see it are clearly very strong.

Also Brad why real/real. Two famous economists have stressed that the causes of high investment cause high nominal/nominal while effects are due to real/real so one can test causation using relative prices. One of them is named DeLong. The tax bill doesn't affect the relative price of capital goods, I think it is best to look at dollars/dollars and leave price indices out of it.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Houston Houston can you read me giving a hostage to fortune

Who told Kay Steiger that I don't read Raccoona Sheldon AKA James J Tiptree Jr I-m not actually sure that's who she accused her readers (including me) of overlooking. I just have this
OK so now I click Bingo "Sheldon primarily wrote under a male pseudonym — James Tiptree Jr."

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

St Leo the Great in Chalcedon

Pope Leo I had an interesting career involving some difficult negotiations. He reasond with Attila about the wisdom of invading Italy and convinced Attila that he should settle for marrying Honoria (sister of the emperor who appears from her correspondence with Attila to have preferred the prospect of marriage with Attila to forced celibacy). He also negotiated with Genseric who had an army while Leo did not. They reached agreement on ground rules for the second sack of Rome.

But then he ran into real trouble. He was named chairman of the council of Chalcedon to preside over the debate between Nestorius and Eutycheus over whether the divine and human aspects of Christ were separate or united. He did try to convince his fellow bishops that problems with Huns and Vandals and such might be considered almost as important as theological disputes.

The Council did decide that Jesus Christ is one being with two natures (current Catholic and Orthodox doctrine) rejecting the Nestorian doctrine (accepted by the Assyrian Church) and the Eutychian doctrine (accepted by the Armenian Church).

The furious theological dispute was especially frustrating for Leo I because he did not speak Greek. He only spoke Latin. He had to ask for translations of the furious disputes about whether this or that Greek word described Jesus. This was challenging especially when the furious dispute was over two Greek words which had the same Latin translation.

All in all, the months of arguing about words while Rome burned must have been frustrating.

But at least he never had to discuss Modern Monetary Theory.

Thoughts and Priors : on the limits of Bayesian Reasoning

Don't you hate it when you have a good title and no post to go after it ?

Monday, March 04, 2019

Scott Fullwiler

I have to write this. It isn't worth tweeting or posting at Angrybear. It's about me and no one should care.

I am having a problem with Scott Fullwiler @stf18

Actually many problems.

1) I tweeted a lot of silly stuff yesterday. I want to explain it. I know no one is interested so I will explain it here.

2) I have been trying to find a tweet of his with a useful quote from 2002 from the person who actually handled open market operations in New York. For one thing, I forget her name. But I can't find it because looking through his tweets enrages me.

I will start with

2)The tweet includes a very intersting quote by the woman who actually did it. The point is that even back in 2002 an announcement of a new target was, on average, roughly enough to achieve the new target FF rate. There was not a clear correlation between changes in the target rate and the sign of open market operations. That's interesting. Now one problem is that Fullwiler summarized the quote leaving out "roughl" and "correlation" and wrote something which, if taken literally, implies that there were no open market operations at all. I mean that is exactly what he typed. My extensive efforts to explain that the quoted passage was a statement about the expected sign and the magnitude but not the existence of open market operations were not successful. Also he said he would bet me $$ that I couldnàt tell him what he claimed. I agreed to a $100 bet, because all I have to do to win it is cut and paste what he wrote. I mean he is willing to bet me that I don't know and can't find out what he tweeted. He placed no limit on the $$, so I believe he owes me $100 because "Fed hasn't actively changed the monetary base when it changes the interest rate target since maybe pre-1994,". I don't expect to collect, because I'm sure he is a welcher.

But the problem is that I can't find the valuable quote, because I can not stand his twitter thread.

OK the embarrassing (to me) twitter flame war explained

1) It began with someone who tweets as @fiat_money . I don't know this person's name in real life. I would tend to guess that he or she might be a Ron Paul type gold bug. I have no reason to think this person has any interest in MMT. Also he or she was blocked by Brad DeLong.

After I tweeted many silly things, I wrote a thread explaining what I should have said

I cut and paste

Robert Waldmann

‏ @robertwaldmann 24h24 hours ago

I am discussing this claim "Fed makes sure T-bonds are instantly convertible to USD, so printing treasuries is equivalent to printing dollars." do you agree that printing treasuries is equivalent to printing dollars ?"

The Fed does no such thing. There is a very thick secondary market for t-bills, so they can be converted to USD instantly (at a market price which varies).

The Fed does buy and sell t-bills for reserves with open market operations but it doesn't make the market. It doesn't make sure t-bills are liquid. The private secture sure does, but that's not the Fed's job.

Since the Fed absolutely does not act as a t-bill/USD market maker, issuing them is not at all like printing money. It is very possible that the Fed's reaction to increased deficits is to sell t-bills contracting the supply of reserves. The FOMC does what it chooses to do.

It is absolutely not true at all that increased deficits automatically cause increased reserves. If the FOMC just sits there (no open market operations) then there is no change in reserves. The MMT position is nonsense.

The fact that MMTers contested my criticism of "printing treasuries is equivalent to printing dollars" lowers my opinion of them (which before today was vague as I had not thought about them much).

Embarrassingly, before tweeting the thread copied and pasted above, I replied to replies to my ciriticsm of the quoted claim. In the resulting twitter flame war, I asked Scott Fullwiler who is very expert on how monetary policy is actually implemented whether he knew what an open market operation is. He does. He knows quite a lot about open market operations and how they are currently almost irrelevant (a claim I started making in 2010

I feel the need to explain what happened. I criticized the claim "Fed makes sure T-bonds are instantly convertible to USD, so printing treasuries is equivalent to printing dollars." saying that T-bonds and USD are not perfect substitutes (note unlike T-bills and notes T-bonds mature after 30 years, they are quite different from dollars). Someone replied to me arguing that t-bills are used by financial firms as a means of payment (true as I have noted from time to time). I proved that t-bills and USD are not perfect substitutes by graphing the t-bill interest rate. I think this proves @fiat_money was wrong. Scott Fullwiler jumped in laughing at me.

Now I knew that MMTers assert that deficit spending automatically causes an increase in reserves. I didn't know why they say that (it absolutely isn't true if the standard definitions of "deficit spending" and "reserves" are used). Foolishly I guessed they were using an eccentric definition of reserves and claiming that t-bills and dollars are perfect substitutes (always and not just now (approximatel) in the liquidity trap). If this were true, then open market operations would have no effect, hence my question.

But now I know that they use an eccentric definition of deficit spending. They define it as spending financed by money creation. Then the actual process of spending financed by the auctioning of Treasury securities, they describe as 2 events -- deficit spending and bond sales. This *should* be a harmless eccentricity. The disagrement is purely 100% semantic. There is no disagreemnt if NMTers vs other economists about the policy options open to the US Federal Government. It is very bad to insist on using terms with definitions other than the standard definition. Typically the only result is confusion. But in this case it is much worse because MMTers insist that the purely semantic distinction is substantive and very important. I think this demonstrates that they have nothing useful to contribute to any discussion. But it sure doesn't mean they don't know what open market operations are.

The claim that deficitm spending implies an increase in reserves is based on the definition of "deficit spending" as meaning what 99% of economists mean by "deficit spending and open market operations so that the balance of bonds outstanding does not change and the supply of high powered money increases by an amount equal to the deficit". On the other hand, they use the word "reserves" with its standard definition.

There was a twitter flame war during which I did not manage to communicate that my objection was with the claim that bonds and USD are perfect substitutes (I did type that this was my point (if any) many times).

I have sincere advice for MMTers. If they want others to consider them anything other than a cult of flakes, they should use standard definitions of words. If,for some deep psychological reason, they must use there own eccentric definitions, they should say so in every document they write using the eccentric definitions (which means ever tweet). Jargon is useful for excluding people, but a tiny bunch of people do not gain by excluding everyone else.

I fear that the problem with this is that, aside from the eccentric terminology and ignorance about residential investment and open economies, they have nothing original to contribute. They certainly haven't presented any argument that they have something useful to add to the discussion that has convinced more than a tiny number of outsiders.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Empty Quarter, Greenwich and the Mason Dixon Line

I recall being surprised to learn that I was born, bred and then living South of the Mason Dixon line. I considered the border between North and South to be the Patomac river (honestly felt I was entering enemy territory when I entered Northern Virginia -- this was very long ago). My dad explained it was the border between Pennsylvania (North) and Maryland (South). My 91 year old mother recently confessed that she had some doubts about moving South of the Mason Dixon line to live with my Dad. The border is now roughly where 270 shrinks into a normal sized highway. The line is arbitrary.

I thought of it when I saw the very common figure showing the empty quadrant of US public opinion. A solid majority is more egalitarian than the center and more socially conservative than the center.

What the hell is this center ? The question is made more difficult by the fact that the two dimensions are indices constructed combining answers to many questions. I am fairly sure that historically the "economic dimension" is the first principle component of the cloud of answers and the "social/identity dimension" is the second. But I am talking about the placement of the axes. It is that arbitrary, unmotivated and unexplained choice which causes the South East quadrant to be empty. One natural placement is that the division between left and right on the economic dimension is the median level of the economic index and the division between socially conservative and socially liberal is the median level of social/identity index. This is clearly not the choice made by *all* political scientists, sociologist and survey researchers. It is clear that the median US adult has left of center views on economic issues and more conservative than centrist views on social/identity issues.

I assert that there is some elitist nonsense going on here. I haven't looked very hard, but I also haven't found any definition of what makes some point (0,0). So I speculate.

Everything is relative, so to the standard statement that public opinion is skewed conservative populist, I assert thatelite opinion is skewed libertarian -- it's that the axes are oddly placed given the data points, not that the datapoints are oddly placed given the axes.

Of course it isn't simply a matter of eliminating a central claim of US political science by adding a constant to the economic index scores and subtracting one from the social/identity index scores. The cloud would look strange because it would end abruptly at the values which are now econmic ultraleft -1 and ultra social conservative +1. The issue isn't just the processing of the answers to questions which are the raw data -- it is also the questions. A large number of people (including some Trump voters) give the left more answer to every economic question and a smaller but still large number give the most conservative answer to every social/identity question. This shows the elite libertarianish skew of the people who chose the questions.

If the economic question is "should the rich be lined up and shot after all their wealth is confiscated or is making them poor punishment enough" then almost all US adults would agree on something with a libertarian. If the social/identity question is "was Moses right that gay sex should be punished with death" again a substantial majority would side with libertarians. But those questions are considered absurd, because they are outside of the range of elite opinion. (indeed as a child of the elite I absolutely oppose killing rich people, killing gay people and oppose killing rich gay people). The point is just that the questions matter. Most of the 10% most egalitarian Americans are to the right of Mao Tse Tung. The most socially conservative are to the left of Cotton Mather (haven't heard much agitation for witch trials lately).

So what is this elite ? My guess is that it would be political scientists, sociologists, and survey researchers. But it could be members of congress. I haven't read the questions, but they might be issues on the Federal Government agenda -- nothing so far left as a top income tax rate of 70% until roughly last week. Or it could be pundits, columnists, "sophisters, economists, and calculators". In any case, the figure tells us as much about the people who chose the questions as about those who chose the answers. !"