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Preview: Grasping Reality with Opposable Thumbs

Grasping Reality with Both Hands: bradford-delong.com:



If you would rather just see Highlighted Posts...



Updated: 2018-02-19T16:14:40-08:00

 



This Is Your Reminder...

2017-12-15T07:34:53-08:00

**Note to Self**: This is your reminder: * 178.4 **180.8** million people are represented by the 48 **49** senators who caucus with the Democrats. * 144.1 **141.7** million people are represented by the 52 **51** senators who caucus with the Republicans. * 65.9 million people voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton and Tim Kaine to be their president and vice president * 63.0 million people voted for Donald Trump and Mike Pence to be their president and vice president.



Some Fairly-Recent Must- and Should-Reads...

2018-02-05T13:33:36-08:00

1. **Martin Wolf**: [Brexit has replaced the UK’s stiff upper lip with quivering rage](https://www.ft.com/content/ddb1ab46-0b57-11e8-8eb7-42f857ea9f09): "In part, the UK is victim of its past successes... 2. **Ezra Klein**: [@ezraklein on Twitter](https://twitter.com/ezraklein/status/943618464744443904): "I don’t know what the _[New York] Times_ should’ve done with Thrush. But I watched the efforts to plant oppo and smear @lkmcgann in the aftermath of her reporting. Anyone who thinks coming forward with these experiences is easy, even now, is wrong. I am beyond proud to be her colleague..." 3. **Marta Lachowska, Alexandre Mas, Stephen Woodbury**: [Sources of displaced workers’ long-term earnings losses](http://equitablegrowth.org/working-papers/workers-earnings-losses/): "We estimate the earnings losses of a cohort of workers displaced during the Great Recession... 4. **Heather Boushey**: [Gaps in the Market](https://newrepublic.com/article/146937/sexual-harassment-shapes-politics-washington): "it’s not about the math. Women account for more than 40 percent of undergraduate math majors... 5. **Susan Houseman**: [Understanding the [Post-2000] Decline in Manufacturing Employment](http://www.upjohn.org/research-highlights/understanding-decline-manufacturing-employment): "How did so many people erroneously point to automation as the culprit? It was, Houseman said... 6. **Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, and Mauricio Ulate**: [Real-Time Estimates of Potential GDP: Should the Fed Really Be Hitting the Brakes?](https://www.cbpp.org/research/full-employment/real-time-estimates-of-potential-gdp-should-the-fed-really-be-hitting-the): "CBO’s and other similar estimates of potential output are too pessimistic... 7. **Jacob Levy**: [The Weight of the Words](https://niskanencenter.org/blog/the-weight-of-the-words/): "The... Martin Wolf: Brexit has replaced the UK’s stiff upper lip with quivering rage: "In part, the UK is victim of its past successes... Ezra Klein: @ezraklein on Twitter: "I don’t know what the [New York] Times should’ve done with Thrush. But I watched the efforts to plant oppo and smear @lkmcgann in the aftermath of her reporting. Anyone who thinks coming forward with these experiences is easy, even now, is wrong. I am beyond proud to be her colleague..." Marta Lachowska, Alexandre Mas, Stephen Woodbury: Sources of displaced workers’ long-term earnings losses: "We estimate the earnings losses of a cohort of workers displaced during the Great Recession... Heather Boushey: Gaps in the Market: "it’s not about the math. Women account for more than 40 percent of undergraduate math majors... Susan Houseman: Understanding the [Post-2000] Decline in Manufacturing Employment: "How did so many people erroneously point to automation as the culprit? It was, Houseman said... Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, and Mauricio Ulate: Real-Time Estimates of Potential GDP: Should the Fed Really Be Hitting the Brakes?: "CBO’s and other similar estimates of potential output are too pessimistic... Jacob Levy: The Weight of the Words: "The business of prioritizing procedural norms, the rule of law, alternation in power, and electoral fairness is psychologically difficult... Oleg Itskhoki and Dmitry Mukhin: Exchange Rate Disconnect in General Eqilibrium: "We propose a dynamic general equilibrium model of exchange rate determination... Some Fairly-Recent Links: Ogged: Time To Dust Off Your McCardle-Hating Shoes: "A world of chummy incompetence... develop[ing] in real time, with people you've known, or known of, from back in the day..." Joel E. Cohen (1995): How Many People Can the Earth Support? Tim Duy: Stick To The Forecast: "For now, though the Fed doesn’t care about your pain.... The bigger picture... is the economic forecast–which continues to point to gradual rate hikes... Alexandra Scaggs: B.R.E.A.M. (Bonds Rule Everything Around Me): "But the final effect of the US tax bill on corporate credit remains unclear, mostly because it depends on what companies do with the c[...]




2018-02-17T06:47:16-08:00

**Should-Read**: "Switzerland yoked to Spain" was what one Eurocrat said about England and Wales. Me? I think the City of London should expand its boundaries beyond the Roman walls, and reactivate its Hanseatic agreements with Hamburg and company: **Daniel Thomas**: [London life proves hard to give up for Brexit relocations](https://www.ft.com/content/cc77c366-1317-11e8-8cb6-b9ccc4c4dbbb): "Brexit.... Some of the most important conversations were... but in the kitchens and living rooms of those learning their fates in the first wave of company relocations... >...My Valentine’s Day supper was peppered with too much talk about cutting ties—with my partner’s firm looking to shift staff to Amsterdam. And I’m not the only one..... This is a crunch month for many, especially among the US financial groups that have less capacity in Europe and so have to make plans earlier. The debate has moved out of the boardrooms to the HR departments.... This week, a French financial services lobbyist said up to 4,000 jobs were expected to move to Paris—lured by Emmanuel Macron’s charm offensive and tax exemptions—while Frankfurt now expects up to 1,000 this year. European school intakes are a good gauge. International schools in Frankfurt and Paris are among those expanding while Goldman Sachs has reserved 80...




2018-02-17T04:00:00-08:00

**Should-Read**: Another good paper on the costs of a strong dollar policy. It is one thing if (as in the 1990s) the strong dollar and the consequent downward pressure on (some) tradable manufacturing is a result of high investment spending in the United States. In those cases the bad effects are cushioned by higher productivity in nontradeables and in sectors of emerging comparative advantage. It is quite another if the decline in investment and manufacturing spring from increased deficits. No, this is not the fiscal expansion we were waiting for: **Doug Campbell**: [Relative Prices, Hysteresis, and the Decline of American Manufacturing](https://editorialexpress.com/cgi-bin/conference/download.cgi?db_name=EEAESEM2017&paper_id=387): "This study uses new measures of real exchange rates to study the collapse of US manufacturing employment in the early 2000s in historical and international perspective... >...To identify a causal impact of RER movements on manufacturing, I compare the US experience in the early 2000s to the 1980s, when large fiscal deficits led to a sharp appreciation of the dollar, and to Canada’s experience in the mid-2000s, when high oil prices and a falling US dollar led to an equally sharp appreciation of the Canadian dollar. Using disaggregated sectoral data and a difference-in-difference methodology, I find that a temporary...




2018-02-16T10:31:20-08:00

**Live from the Grove of Cognitive Philosophy Academe**: Horsing around by reading the very wise and clever **Scott Aaronson**: [The Ghost in the Quantum Turing Machine](https://www.scottaaronson.com/papers/giqtm3.pdf), instead of doing work this morning, has led me to be thunderstruck by an excellent insight of his: [Newcomb's Problem](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newcomb%27s_paradox) is, in its essentials, the same as the problem of Self-Locating Belief, and the solution by **Adam Elga**: [Defeating Dr. Evil with Self-Locating Belief](https://www.princeton.edu/~adame/papers/drevil/drevil.pdf) makes as much sense as a solution of one as the other. (I think it makes enormous sense as a solution to both, but YMMV.) As Scott puts it: >In _Newcomb’s paradox_, a superintelligent “Predictor” presents you with two closed boxes, and offers you a choice between opening the first box only or opening both boxes. Either way, you get to keep whatever you find in the box or boxes that you open. The contents of the first box can vary—sometimes it contains $1,000,000, sometimes nothing—but the second box always contains $1,000.... Whatever you would get by opening the first box only, you can get $1,000 more by opening the second box as well. But here’s the catch: using a detailed brain model, the Predictor has already foreseen your choice....




2018-02-16T07:53:22-08:00

**Live from Spooky Action at a Distance**: Question: Don't decoherent branches of an Everettian wave function recohere every time somebody runs a [quantum eraser](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_choice_quantum_eraser)? In what sense is testing the existence of decohered states "hopelessly impractical"? **Sean Carroll**: [Beyond Falsifiability: Normal Science in a Multiverse](https://arxiv.org/pdf/1801.05016.pdf): "(3) There exist tests that are possible to do within the laws of physics, but are hopelessly impractical... >...We can contemplate building a particle accelerator the size of our galaxy, but it’s not something that will happen no matter how far technology progresses; like- wise, we can imagine decoherent branches of an Everettian wave function recohering, but the timescales over which that becomes likely are much longer than the age of the universe... ---- **Yoon-Ho Kim, R. Yu, S.P. Kulik, Y.H. Shih, Marlan .O. Scully** (1999): [A Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser](https://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9903047): "This paper reports a 'delayed choice quantum eraser' experiment... >...The experimental results demonstrated the possibility of simultaneously observing both particle-like and wave-like behavior of a quantum via quantum entanglement. The which-path or both-path information of a quantum can be erased or marked by its entangled twin even after the registration of the quantum... ---- **John A. Wheeler** (1978): [The “Past” and the “Delayed-Choice” Double-Slit...




2018-02-15T12:31:04-08:00

**Should-Read**: **Martin Wolf**: [Brexit has replaced the UK’s stiff upper lip with quivering rage](https://www.ft.com/content/ddb1ab46-0b57-11e8-8eb7-42f857ea9f09): "In part, the UK is victim of its past successes... >...A small offshore island became, temporarily, a superpower... defined... against Europe and... any power wishing to dominate Europe.... Now, Europe is uniting while the UK is very much not a superpower. So what does it choose? Is it to be an irrelevant offshore island or a part of a united Europe? The choice has to be divisive. When divisions are so deep, nobody is considered neutral.... >How will this end? The answer is that anything is possible. Could there still be a “no-deal Brexit”? Yes. Could there be another referendum? Yes. But the likelihood is that the UK will exit on terms laid down, in detail, by the EU. When a country is this divided and its political processes are in such disarray, someone else has to sort things out. The EU will do so, because that is in its interests. The EU will not let the UK have its cake and eat it. It is led by people who also have a historical goal: not to return to the past. Their history was not British...




2018-02-15T12:28:18-08:00

**Should-Read**: An entertaining rant from Doug Campbell. I wonder what triggered this? It is certainly true that the abstract of Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson (2001), ["Reversal of Fortune: Geography and the Making of the Modern Income Distribution"](http://www.nber.org/papers/w8460.pdf) is simply wrong where it says "countries... that were relatively rich in 1500 are now relatively poor": they should have written "countries... that were densely populated and relatively urbanized in 1500—and thus had done well either because of geographic advantages or because of successful matching of technology to environment—are now relatively poor". "Rich" is the wrong word for, as Doug correctly points out, Malthusian model reasons. It is marriage patterns (and, to some degree, vulnerability to epidemics and violence) that determines whether those people still alive to consume in the old days were relatively rich or poor: **Doug Campbell**: [On the Uses (and Abuses) of Economath: The Malthusian Models](http://douglaslcampbell.blogspot.com/2018/02/on-uses-and-abuses-of-economath.html): "The first year of an Econ Ph.D. feels much more like entering a Ph.D. in solving mathematical models by hand than it does with learning economics... >...very little reading or writing... loads and loads of fast algebra.... Why?... The first reason is that mathematical models are useful! Take the Malthusian Model... the birth rate......




2018-02-15T12:24:21-08:00

**Should-Read**: **Facundo Alvaredo, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman**: [Inequality is not inevitable–but the US 'experiment' is a recipe for divergence](https://amp.theguardian.com/inequality/2017/dec/14/inequality-is-not-inevitable-but-the-us-experiment-is-a-recipe-for-divergence): "Income inequality has increased in nearly every country around the world since 1980–but at very different speeds... >...It is possible for institutions and policymakers to tame the unequalising forces of globalisation and technological change. And it is also possible to unleash those forces with renewed vigour, as in the case of the latest US tax plan. In 1980, both sides of the Atlantic showed similar levels of inequality. Since then, however, the gap between the richest and the rest has surged in the US, while in western Europe it has increased only moderately. In both regions, the top 1% of adults earned about 10% of national income in 1980. Today that cohort’s share has risen modestly to 12% in western Europe, but dramatically to 20% of all income in the US.... This boomtime at the very top has not benefited the rest of the American population in any measurable way.... What explains this dramatic divergence? The US has experienced a perfect storm of radical policy changes which have all contributed to this surge in inequality.... Many...




2018-02-14T06:37:00-08:00

**Should-Read**: If the Federal Reserve's 2%/year PCE (2.5%/year CPI) inflation target were appropriate, there would no be only a weak case for the proposition that the Federal Reserve is following an inappropriately tight monetary policy. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve's current inflation target is not appropriate: the zero lower bound, and the Federal Reserve's limited power and willingness to do "what it takes" at the zero lower bound, means that a 2%/year PCE inflation target is almost surely inappropriately low. It runs enormous risks of prolonged, deep recession for no countervailing gain. Hence even with today's inflation number, I still say that there is a strong case for the proposition that the Federal Reserve is following an inappropriately tight monetary policy: **Katia Dmitrieva**: [U.S. Consumer Prices Top Forecasts, Sending Markets Tumbling](https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-14/u-s-consumer-prices-rise-more-than-forecast-on-apparel-costs): "Core gauge advances 0.3% from prior month, above projections. Apparel index rises 1.7%, most in almost three decades... >...U.S. consumer prices rose by more than projected in January as apparel costs jumped the most in nearly three decades. The report sent Treasuries and stocks tumbling, as it added to concerns about an inflation pickup that have roiled financial markets this month. The consumer price index rose 0.5 percent from the...




2018-02-14T05:00:13-08:00

**Should-Read**: **Ian Morris** (2013): [The Measure of Civilization: How Social Development Decides the Fate of Nations](http://amzn.to/2EFmant) [(0691155682)](https://www.amazon.com//dp/0691155682/): "In the last thirty years, there have been fierce debates over how civilizations develop and why the West became so powerful... >..._The Measure of Civilization_ presents a brand-new way of investigating these questions and provides new tools for assessing the long-term growth of societies. Using a groundbreaking numerical index of social development that compares societies in different times and places, award-winning author Ian Morris sets forth a sweeping examination of Eastern and Western development across 15,000 years since the end of the last ice age. He offers surprising conclusions about when and why the West came to dominate the world and fresh perspectives for thinking about the twenty-first century. >Adapting the United Nations' approach for measuring human development, Morris's index breaks social development into four traits--energy capture per capita, organization, information technology, and war-making capacity--and he uses archaeological, historical, and current government data to quantify patterns. Morris reveals that for 90 percent of the time since the last ice age, the world's most advanced region has been at the western end of Eurasia, but contrary to what many historians once believed, there were...




2018-02-10T09:37:10-08:00

**Live from the Bronze Age**: The Hittite view of Minoan/Mykenaean civilization: **Martin West** (2001): [Atreus and Attarissiyas](http://www.jstor.org/stable/40267129?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents): "There are many Homeric names in -eus... >...including some of the most prominent... Achilleus, Odysseus... Peleus, Nereus.... Names with this suffix do not occur in the historical period but are well-attested in... Linear B.... Atreus.... On this hypothesis the father's name would have been forgotten at an early stage by the tradition, which maintained only the patronymics Atreides and Atreion.. Later... these came to be understood as 'son of Atreus'.... We can now consider from a new vantage-point the formerly much discussed question of the relationship, if any, between Atreus' name and that of At-ta-ri-is-si-ia-as or At-ta-ar-si-ia-as, recorded in a Hittite document as that of a 'man of Ahhiya' who in the reign of Tudhaliyas II (ca. 1390-70?) had invaded Hittite territory in western Anatolia with infantry and a hundred chariots and subsequently assisted the rebel vassal Madduwattas in an assault on Cyprus.... >Forrer, in a notorious article... provoked a strongly negative reaction from Hittitologists.... It is now generally agreed... the Orientalists went too far.... Everyone today admits, on historical and geographical rather than on liguistic grounds, that Ahhiya/Ahhiyawa was a Mycenaean kingdom...




2018-02-10T09:11:53-08:00

**Should-Read**: There are many jobs the disabled could do. But they are almost always not their old pre-disability jobs. Anyone who wants to "fix" SSDI needs to think very long and hard about how to match newly disabled people who can no longer do their old jobs with new types of jobs they could do. And, no, Rand Paul's back does not really hurt. Nor is he anxious: **Dylan Matthews**: [In defense of Social Security Disability Insurance](https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/6/16735966/social-security-disability-insurance): "When Americans get too sick or injured to work, this program helps them survive... >...“Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said in 2015. “Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts?” It’s a common line from conservative politicians: that the Social Security Disability Insurance program is just welfare for people too lazy to work. Many of those politicians haven’t spent much time at all actually talking to the people they’re denouncing—people like Randy Pitts. >Before his body started to fail him, Pitts, a 43-year-old in Lake County, Tennessee, was a public servant. He loved his job as a 911 dispatcher for the...




2018-02-10T09:06:35-08:00

**Should-Read**: I think the estimable Jared Bernstein is just wrong here, for reasons he knows—and in fact sets out in the "caveat" section of his post: **Jared Bernstein**: [The new asymmetric risk](http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/the-new-asymmetric-risk/): "Given that we cannot confidently assert that we are at full employment or full capacity... this hyper-Keynesian experiment is worth undertaking... >...Caveat time, and there are good ones which I take seriously.... This particular fiscal stimulus has lousy multipliers. Some of the spending in the budget deal may end up supporting useful infrastructure projects and providing much needed disaster relief—worthy expenditures that could help tighten the job market in places where it’s still slack. But the regressive tax cut is terribly targeted, and any fiscal stimulus is less potent when the Fed is pushing in the other direction, albeit slowly.... The bang-for-the-buck here is sure to be weak... Fiscal space should be used, but it should be used and used up only for good policies that do the job, not for pointless regressive tax cuts.




2018-02-10T09:03:31-08:00

**Should-Read**: Suppression of Black votes is an old American tradition. Suspicion of the wrong kind of non-Black votes is not. Yet that seems to be where the increasing numbers of Trumpublicans are going: it seems to be a central European or Latin American idea, not an American one: **Jonathan Chait**: [Conservatives and the Cult of Trump](https://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/02/conservatives-and-the-cult-of-trump.html): "Senator Orrin Hatch declared in December, 'We’re going to make this the greatest presidency that we’ve seen, not only in generations, but maybe ever'... >...At a meeting of the Republican National Committee earlier this month, at least one member went so far as to suggest Trump has surpassed their most sacred icon: “Reagan was my all-time favorite in my lifetime,” said Iowa Republican National Committeeman Steve Scheffler. “At least until now.”... Republican elites... opposed Trump during the primary... [for] different reasons.... But a central rationale for conservative opposition was the belief that Trump would deviate from conservative policy... "a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.... Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism." The key phrase here is the last one, “menace to American conservatism.” It...




2018-02-03T08:44:12-08:00

**Should-Read**: I think T.S. Eliot hit upon the reasons for the success of Deng Xiaping and Xi Jinping's "socialism with Chinese characteristics" back in the late 1940s: **T.S. Eliot** (1944): [Rejection of _Animal Farm_](https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/may/26/ts-eliot-rejection-george-orwell-animal-farm-british-library-online):




2018-02-05T13:18:36-08:00

**Should-Read**: We more-or-less understand how to teach people to perform a single analytical task just beyond their current competence, or demonstrate basic background familiarity with a situation—hence the disruptive success of [Kahn Academy](https://www.khanacademy.org) in the tutoring disruption business. But otherwise? How should we "disrupt" higher education as a whole? We need to understand why what we do here works, to the extent that it does. And we really do not: **Kenneth Rogoff**: [When Will Tech Disrupt Higher Education?](https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/tech-disruption-of-higher-education-by-kenneth-rogoff-2018-02): "Universities and colleges are pivotal to the future of our societies... >...But, given impressive and ongoing advances in technology and artificial intelligence, it is hard to see how they can continue playing this role without reinventing themselves over the next two decades. Education innovation will disrupt academic employment, but the benefits to jobs everywhere else could be enormous. If there were more disruption within the ivory tower, economies just might become more resilient to disruption outside it...




2018-02-05T13:12:30-08:00

**Should-Read**: **Stan Collender**: [This Is The Real Reason The GOP Doesn't Want To Do A Budget This Year](https://www.forbes.com/sites/stancollender/2018/02/05/this-is-the-real-reason-the-gop-doesnt-want-to-do-a-budget-this-year/#739705375e08): "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was the first high-level Republican to say Congress might not even consider let alone adopt a budget resolution this year... >...Then, at the GOP retreat last week, in what was close to his first official act as the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), let it be known that he and his committee had much better things to do than a 2019 budget resolution. >Not doing a budget resolution means there can't be reconciliation, and without reconciliation the biggest parts of the GOP's legislative agenda will be virtually impossible to enact.... The GOP can't be making the decision not to do a budget—basically the equivalent of admitting that Congress and the White House aren't going to accomplish much of anything significant this year—without a great deal of thought. So why isn't the GOP going to do a budget? Because the vote on the 2019 budget -- the last one Congress will consider before the 2018 midterm elections -- will reveal that all the Republican promises on the deficit and debt, including...




2018-02-05T13:08:30-08:00

**Should-Read**: John Holbo was surely not the first or the only but is undoubtedly the wittiest person to point out that, from a certain point of view, feudalism _is_ libertarianism: no over mighty states, only voluntary contracts everywhere. The late-Roman peasant voluntarily ensuring himself, his family, and his descendants to the local big man in the hope of getting protection from the marauding Huns is perfectly free, in a sense. They have entered into contracts that both sides find mutually advantageous. They are not oppressed by any over-mighty state: **John Holbo** (2010): [Libertarianism, Property Rights and Self-Ownership](http://crookedtimber.org/2010/04/15/libertarianism-property-rights-and-self-ownership/): "Jacob Levy has earnestly maintained in comments that it is unfair to judge libertarianism by the standard of Bryan Caplan’s attempts to turn the Gilded Age into a Golden Age of ladyfreedom... >...What is Caplan really? I dunno.... Tthe thick/thin libertarian distinction, even though it can be fuzzy, in practice, marks out two fundamentally distinct kinds of political philosophy, based on totally different principles. This gets disguised because there is considerable overlapping consensus at higher levels; and the thin side, in particular, tends to be systematically confused about where it is coming from.... >Just as the question of who owns which house or...