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Last Build Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:26:53 -0500

Copyright: Copyright 2017

The Bias of Modern Art, by Bryan Caplan

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 15:26:53 -0500

For as long as I can remember, the "My child could do that" critique of modern painting and sculpture has resonated with me.  Broadly defined, I hasten to add, modernity creates great new visual art all the time; just look at graphic novels over the last forty years.  But to my eyes, high-status painting and sculpture - the kind displayed in the "modern" section of museums - almost always looks like junk.  When my little boy loudly declared, "That's not art!" at the modern section of the National Art Gallery, I thought of the Emperor's New Clothes and proudly smiled.I know that most art aficionados will attribute my philistine position to ignorance.  But what's my theory about where they go wrong?  I can hardly call them ignorant; they plainly know vastly more about the art they prize than I do.  Instead, I blame their aesthetic errors on some well-known psychological biases.  Leading the list:1. Confirmation bias.  Human beings have a serious case of "believing is seeing."  If they expect some artworks to be good - say, because they're in a museum - they'll look around for the faintest sign of aesthetic merit.  They'll rationalize.  And before long, many viewers will convince themselves that almost anything they expected to be good is good.2. Hindsight bias.  Once people know what actually happened, they find it hard to believe that anything else was ever possible.  Even when "luck" and "coincidence" clearly drive the results, we prefer stories about "deep causes" and "inevitability."  Thus, when an artist achieves world-wide fame, our natural inclination is to attribute his success to aesthetic skill - and dismiss the possibility that he merely won a lottery.3. Conformity.  Psychologist Solomon Asch famously designed an experiment with one subject and seven confederates.  He gave them a simple task - comparing the lengths of lines - then repeatedly ordered all the confederates to give the false answer.  Result: When everyone else says something wrong, people do more than say the wrong thing.  When debriefed, many subjects seem to sincerely believe the wrong thing.  So if you're in a museum where everyone around you claims soup cans are great art, mere consensus can plausibly change your mind for no good reason.  4. Social Desirability Bias.  People prefer to say and believe whatever sounds good.  "The stuff in the museum is great" sounds a lot better than "My child could do that."While these biases elegantly explain how modern art continues, they admittedly do little to explain how modern art arose.  For that, you need a richer story, probably starting with artists' yearning for originality combined with the immense (and ever-rising) difficulty of actually coming up with anything that's both original and good.  You could respond, "If people enjoy modern art, who cares about its aesthetic merit?"  I'm tempted to protest, "And people call me a philistine!"  But the better answer is: because (a) in the short-run, bad art crowds out better art, and (b) in the long-run, the prevalence of bad art discourages people who justifiably dislike it from training to do something better.Last point: the "ignorance" and "bias" stories can both be true!  "People underrate modern art because they're ignorant" and "People overrate modern art because they're biased" are two independent mechanisms.  So even if art aficionados correctly diagnose the philistines that surround them, they're missing half the picture. (0 COMMENTS)[...]

The macroeconomic elite is definitely wrong about something, by Scott Sumner

Tue, 26 Sep 2017 12:55:33 -0500

Ben Southwood directed me to a paper by Lawrence Christiano, with the following executive summary: The Great Recession was particularly severe and has endured far longer than most recessions. Economists now believe it was caused by a perfect storm of declining home prices, a financial system heavily invested in house-related assets and a shadow banking system highly vulnerable to bank runs or rollover risk. It has lasted longer than most recessions because economically damaged households were unwilling or unable to increase spending, thus perpetuating the recession by a mechanism known as the paradox of thrift. Economists believe the Great Recession wasn't foreseen because the size and fragility of the shadow banking system had gone unnoticed. The recession has had an inordinate impact on macroeconomics as a discipline, leading economists to reconsider two largely discarded theories: IS-LM and the paradox of thrift. It has also forced theorists to better understand and incorporate the financial sector into their models, the most promising of which focus on mismatch between the maturity periods of assets and liabilities held by banks. I find this incredibly depressing, as I think it's almost entirely wrong. (And yet I don't doubt that Christiano is expressing something close to the consensus view.) In my view, the Great Recession was caused by a sharp decline in NGDP, which was triggered by a flawed monetary policy regime (mostly a lack of level targeting, but other problems as well.) In this post, however, I'd like to focus on another issue. It seems to me that even if Christiano is completely correct about the lessons of the Great Recession, his claim still represents a major indictment of the macroeconomic profession, particularly at its most elite levels. More specifically, these two views cannot both be correct: 1. The Great Recession requires a major rethink of macro theory, in the way outlined above by Christiano. 2. Elite grad programs in macro should require students to study lots of math and statistics, but should not require a course on macroeconomic history, or the history of macroeconomic thought. (I'd say both are incorrect.) The basic problem here is that we've been through this once before: 1. We had a very long depression. 2. The very long depression was associated with severe financial turmoil. 3. The financial turmoil was seen as the principle cause of the very long depression. 4. Interest rates fell to zero. 5. Monetary policy was viewed as largely ineffective. 6. There was renewed interest in fiscal stimulus. 7. There was renewed interest in financial regulation. 8. Theories of a paradox of thrift were developed. 9. Theories of secular stagnation were developed. 10. Classical (opportunity cost) approaches to economic were de-emphasized. Does this sound familiar? It's exactly what's happened over the past 10 years. It's hard to overstate just how embarrassing this state of affairs really is. We have the highest levels of the profession of macroeconomics doing a major rethink of their profession, based on "new information" that isn't new at all. This "new information" was readily available to anyone with a passing knowledge of macroeconomic history. We've been here before. It's OK for an art form to by cyclical, but not a science. But it's even worse---far worse. Consider the standard view of the Great Depression, soon after it had ended. Many of the world's top economists would have had views of the Great Depression that are quite similar to these revisionist views associated with the Great Recession. Most would not have blamed the Fed for causing the Great Depression with a tight money policy. Indeed most would not have seen monetary policy as being tight at all. Now fast forward to 1963. Friedman and Schwartz publish a landmark study showing that the Fed was largely to blame for the 50% fall in NGDP between 1929-33. Now fast forward to 2003. Fed governor Ben Bernanke admits that the Fed was to blame for the Great Contraction: [...]

Milgram's "Obedience to Authority" Replicates, by Bryan Caplan

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 15:34:08 -0500

Stanley's Milgram's "Obedience to Authority" experiments are doubly famous.  First, he supposedly showed that most Americans would shock a total stranger to death because an authority told them to do so.Second, his experiment was widely perceived as emotionally abusive - so widely, in fact, that Milgram inspired the strict rules that now govern human experimentation.  These rules are allegedly so onerous that Milgram's experiment can never be replicated.It's an odd situation: one of the most famous psychological experiments - an experiment that changed the way people think about human nature - effectively prevented itself from ever being doubly-checked.Recently, though, I was surprised to discover that Milgram's famous experiment was re-done in 2009!  How is this even possible given modern regulations?  Experimenter Jerry Berger explains his approach in American Psychologist:The author conducted a partial replication of Stanley Milgram's (1963, 1965, 1974) obedience studies that allowed for useful comparisons with the original investigations while protecting the well-being of participants. Seventy adults participated in a replication of Milgram's Experiment 5 up to the point at which they first heard the learner's verbal protest (150 volts). Because 79% of Milgram's participants who went past this point continued to the end of the shock generator's range, reasonable estimates could be made about what the present participants would have done if allowed to continue.In other words, since the vast majority of people willing to shock a protesting confederate are also willing to shock an unconscious confederate to death, there's no need to actually continue to the final, gruesome level.  You can run almost all of Milgram's original experiment without ever bringing the subjects face-to-face with their own extreme moral turpitude.*  Berger continues:I took several additional steps to ensure the welfare of participants. First, I used a two-step screening process for potential participants to exclude any individual who might have a negative reaction to the experience. Second, participants were told at least three times (twice in writing) that they could withdraw from the study at any time and still receive their $50 for participation. Third, like Milgram, I had the experimenter administer a sample shock to the participants (with their consent) so they could see that the generator was real and could obtain some idea of what the shock felt like. However, a very mild 15-volt shock was administered rather than the 45-volt shock Milgram gave his participants. Fourth, I allowed virtually no time to elapse between ending the session and informing participants that the learner had received no shocks. Within a few seconds of the study's end, the learner entered the room to reassure the participant that he was fine. Fifth, the experimenter who ran the study also was a clinical psychologist who was instructed to end the study immediately if he saw any signs of excessive stress. In short, I wanted to take every reasonable measure to ensure that the participants were treated in a humane and ethical manner.This meticulous design won Berger a green light from human subjects review.  So what did he discover?  Milgram replicates nicely:The percentage of participants who continued the procedure after pressing the 150-volt switch was examined. As shown in Table 2, 70% of the base condition participants continued with the next item on the test and had to be stopped by the experimenter. This rate is slightly lower than the percentage who continued beyond this point in Milgram's comparable condition (82.5%), although the difference fell short of statistical significance...How Berger and Milgram's results compare:Can we properly rely on the truncated version of the experiment?  Yes.I cannot say with absolute certainty that the present participants would have continued to the end of the shock generator's range at a rate similar to Milgram's participants. O[...]

Henderson on Rothstein's The Color of Law, by David Henderson

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 13:58:01 -0500


"We have created a caste system in this country, with African Americans kept exploited and geographically separate by racially explicit government policies." So writes Richard Rothstein in The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. That's a strong statement. But Rothstein, a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and a fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, provides much support for his claim. He shows how racist Federal Housing Administration (FHA) policies on mortgages, exclusionary zoning laws, state real estate regulations, geographic placement of government schools, urban renewal, and even federal and state highway policies all combined to relegate black Americans to segregated communities. He also blames restrictive covenants in house titles, making an argument so effective that he brought me, a strong believer in property rights, closer to his viewpoint than I would have expected.

Most of the book is a careful historical look at the policies noted above. He could have made an even stronger case by looking at government regulation of labor markets. Disappointingly, Rothstein does not challenge, but instead embraces, the minimum wage, a law that disproportionately hurts black Americans and was intended to do so. He seems not to be aware of this.

Toward the book's end, he proposes a series of policies, ranging from extreme to moderate, to remedy the damage done by over half a century of destructive government policies. On the more-extreme policies, such as large subsidies to black Americans, I find him unpersuasive. One of his more moderate policy proposals, on zoning, is attractive.

This is from David R. Henderson, "How Governments Enforced Segregation," Regulation, Fall 2017, the lead review in the book review section.


Friedman on Trump, by Alberto Mingardi

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 09:29:56 -0500

Jeffrey Friedman has published a series of posts, on the Niskanen Center's blog, on Donald Trump and "populism". Friedman's work (consider for example his excellent book on the financial crisis, co-written with Wladimir Kraus) is always thoughtful. In this series of posts, he goes beyond the mere expression of moral outrage at Trump (which is kind of a sport for all those who don't like him), in an attempt to understand where he--or, better, his voters--really comes from. He so sums up his posts: He [Trump] didn't come from Mars, and his success isn't inexplicable. To the extent that the explanation isn't that his supporters are crazy or evil, then we have to recognize that something else is at work: that he seems, to many people, to be a politician who finally does what politicians are supposed to do. Friedman speaks of "socio tropic nationalism" to describe Trumpism. In another post, he pointed out that: sociotropic voting originally meant economic voting that's guided by perceptions of the state of the economy as a whole, not by voters' own financial situation. As opposed to "pocketbook voters"--who vote their economic self-interest--sociotropic citizens vote for what they think will serve the economic interests of everyone, or the majority, or those who most need help, in their society. The sociotropic understanding of voting flies in the face of academic orthodoxy in economics, but this orthodoxy is a mere dogma. There's no reason to think that people are everywhere and always self-interested. The assumption of self-interest does make sense as a starting point in analyzing economic behavior, because in modern societies, people are taught that self-interest is acceptable in their employment, business, consumer, and financial affairs. But they're taught the opposite when it comes to government affairs. The standard, culturally accepted view is that public policy should advance the common good. So it's not surprising that when non-economists talk about politics, the common good is what they talk about. I find this straightforward. Self-interest is sometimes part of a voter's motivation. But, given the negligible impact of each single vote, sometimes the most truly self-interested strategy is simply to stay home and don't waste time casting a ballot. At least a part of the voting motive is "expressive": fans do not cheer at a football game with the aim of helping their team to win. In politics, you tend to cheer for the team that you also think better understands and will better protect your own interests: fair enough. A few groups have a very clear understanding of their own self-interest and may lobby, or indeed vote, accordingly and relentlessly: say, taxi drivers who want _not_ to be driven out of the market by Uber. But a good chunk of voters rely on a--sometimes delusional--view which conflates their alleged interest (always measured on a very short time-horizon, of course) with what they genuinely believe to be a collective interest: though the collective they think they belong to does not necessarily coincide with _all_ citizens living in a certain polity. In a way, Friedman's claim is, ultimately, that there is little truly "unconventional" about Trump. He thinks that his discourse, this "sociotropic nationalism", fits "the usual pattern of politics in modern nation-states, in which public policy is designed to ameliorate the social and economic problems of one's conationals". His rhetoric is focused on "getting the job done", which is nothing new as an electoral problem. We may argue if Trump's profile makes him more or less likely to actually "get things done", but his opposition to the "status quo" was by and large built on the reputation for lack of resolve that "traditional" politicians have. Friedman argues that Sociotropic nationalism explains, too, which particular rats Trump wanted to kill. Trump promised to fight against free trade and immigration on the grounds that they were hurting Ame[...]

Abraham Lincoln on the Theory of Public Choice, by David Henderson

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 17:04:05 -0500

We then, do not say, nor need we say, to maintain our proposition, that Bank officers are more honest than Government officers, selected by the same rule. What we do say is that the interest of the Sub-Treasurer is against his duty--while the interest of the Bank is on the side of its duty. Take instances--a Sub-Treasurer has in his hands one hundred thousand dollars of public money; his duty says--"You ought to pay this money over"--but his interest says, "You ought to run away with this sum, and be a nabob the balance of your life." And who that knows anything of human nature, doubts that, in many instances, interest will prevail over duty, and that the Sub-Treasurers will prefer opulent knavery in a foreign land, to honest poverty at home? But how different it is with a Bank. . . . Its interest therefore is on the side of its duty--is to be faithful to the Government, and consequently, even the dishonest amongst its managers, have no temptation to be faithless to it.
This is from a speech given by Abraham Lincoln on December 26, 1839 in Springfield, IL.

I highlight it because it's on the back cover of the June 1993 issue of the Journal of Political Economy. From sometime in the 1970s to sometime in the 1990s, the JPE had a quote on the back cover of virtually every issue. I once suggested one that got used. This one was suggested by Milton Friedman.


America's middle class: 50 years of amazing progress, by Scott Sumner

Sun, 24 Sep 2017 14:27:02 -0500

You see a lot of hand wringing about the plight of America's middle class, so I thought I'd check the data. But which data? You might start with average incomes, but these are skewed by the rapid growth in income of the top 1%. So most experts believe that median income is a better metric. The next question is household income versus family income. I choose family for two reasons: 1. The data series for family income goes way back, whereas household income starts being collected in the mid-1980s. 2. Households include single individuals, whereas families are multi-person households. I was technically "poor" from age 18 to 26, but I don't think anyone was too concerned about my plight. Nor should they have been. I was a household, but not a family. I think when people talk about the plight of the middle class they tend to envision families. The next question is whether to use real or nominal income? I think most people believe real income is a better measure of living standards. So here's real median family income from 1966 to 2016: Real median household family income has soared from $48,800 in 1966 to about $72,700 in 2016, an all-time high. And keep in mind that 1966 was a golden year for the US economy, a period where living standards had reached highs that were far above almost any other time or place in human history. And from that point we've gone still higher, much higher. And it gets even better. Most economists think that the CPI (used to construct this data series) seriously overstates inflation. They tend to prefer the PCE price index. Using that index to deflate median family income, I came up with this graph: Now the real median family income has nearly doubled, soaring from $48,800 to $92,900. Live must be pretty sweet for the median American family. Let me anticipate some objections: 1. There are more two-income families today. But does anyone really think people are working harder than in 1966? Lots of grueling, boring factory jobs have been replaced by office work where people spend 1/2 the day surfing the web (which is consumption disguised as work.) Women do far less housework than before. Those affluent women with grueling jobs sometimes have maids to help out around the house. It doesn't seem to me that people work harder than in the 1960s. In addition, families tend to be much smaller, so that $92,900 is shared among a smaller number of family members. 2. We are richer than ever, but the growth rate has recently slowed. Yes, but that's a pretty weak argument. There's no iron law of economic growth that says the world will continually experience the sorts of growth rates in family incomes than we saw in 1945-73. That was a very unusual period of time. My point is that all the hand wringing about middle class families is off base. They are doing spectacularly well. Maybe their already extremely high living standards are improving at a slower rate than before, but that hardly counts as a crisis, (or "carnage" to use Trump's language.) And I'd add that the past 4 years have seen rapid growth in real median incomes. I'm sure I missed something here, so I look forward to your comments below. PS. If your eyes are telling you that living standards are declining, then I suggest you read this post, and get new glasses. There's a reason why new homes being built today are far nicer that the sort of "Levittown" homes built after WWII to house the middle class: PPS. In a recent MoneyIllusion post, I pointed out that birth rates in America continued to plunge in 2016, despite soaring median income in recent years. A commenter Alec Fahrin pointed out that the early data from 2017 point to a continued decline in birth rates. The widely held view that the Great Recession is responsible for lower birth rates seems to have surprisingly little empirical support. Whatever is causing the plunging birth rate[...]

Reply to Bryan on utilitarianism, by Scott Sumner

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 07:22:12 -0500

Bryan Caplan has responded to my recent post on liberalism and utilitarianism. I agree with his first criticism: First, if "Liberalism is what happens when you are optimizing for a safe environment, and illiberalism is what happens when you optimize for thriving in an unsafe environment," are we talking about selfish optimization or social optimization? If the former, then how does being rich make caring about outsiders "selfishly optimal"? If the latter, then it sounds like utilitarianism requires illiberalism in unsafe environments. Mea culpa. I unthinkingly adopted the term "optimizing", which was used by Scott Alexander. I should have used something like "operating". Thus militarism is what you get when you are a tribe operating in a world of lots of other aggressive militaristic tribes. Norway and Switzerland is what you get when you are operating in a region with lots of peaceful, free-trading EU nations. Non-utilitarian illiberalism occurs when countries keep acting like they are in the dangerous world of the Stone Age, (or Middle Ages), even though they live in the 21st century. (See North Korea.) I don't agree with the other criticisms: Second, classical liberalism, social democratic liberalism, and neoliberalism have all been widely accused of ignoring the interests of wide swaths of the population. Classical liberals and neoliberals allegedly ignore the interests of the poor; social democrats allegedly ignore the interests of taxpayers and entrepreneurs. There will always be differences in opinion as to how to best implement utilitarian values. Indeed that's why liberalism has evolved over time. In 1780, people really did think laissez-faire was in the interests of the poor. In the 1930s, people really did believe that socialism was in the interests of the poor. Even at a point in time, opinions can vary. But I believe that all of those forms of liberalism were basically aiming at maximizing aggregate utility, regardless of what the critics said. Third, most - perhaps all - of what Scott calls "illiberal" views have been defended on utilitarian grounds. See e.g. James Fitzjames Stephen, noted 19th-century conservative utilitarian. You could say, "I'm classifying views based on whether they really maximize total happiness," but then why include three disparate flavors of "liberalism"? They can't all be right. It's certainly true that some past liberals held beliefs that are now viewed as illiberal. Readers of Richard Rorty know that there is no such thing as being "actually correct", as opposed to what is believed to be correct. All three types of liberals were perceived as holding correct (utilitarian) views at the time, by a consensus of fashionable intellectuals. Thus all three were forms of liberalism. As an analogy, the beliefs of 20th century Christians are radically different from the beliefs of 10th century Christians. But both groups are Christians. Concern for the welfare of others is part of the utilitarian ethos. But so is sober cost-benefit analysis and, as a corollary, hostility to Social Desirability Bias. 1966 may have been a period of relatively high sympathy for blacks (though probably little for Indochinese), but it was also an era of rampant wishful thinking. American sympathy for the Indochinese was higher than normal for wartime. During WWII, Americans were not much troubled by atrocities committed against our foes. During the 1960s and 1970s, Americans were very concerned about atrocities committed against the Vietnamese. The bombing of Vietnam was far more controversial than the bombing of Japan, despite the fact that in the Vietnam War the military tried much harder to avoid civilian casualties--as compared to WWII. (That's not to say they tried as hard as they should have---they did not.) As far as "wishful thinking", that's always a problem. Certainly the "Gre[...]

Cold James Buchanan, by David Henderson

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 19:47:52 -0500

I'm about 60 percent of the way through Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains, a book that many critics have commented on.

On p. 32, Professor MacLean writes:

His bearing was "austere," a later colleague explained; while he was "a good person"--a man of integrity--he was also "one of the coldest people I have ever met."

Her footnote references this article in the New York Times.

My mileage varied a good bit. I've been cleaning my campus office at the Naval Postgraduate School in preparation for my retirement next Friday. I came across a James Buchanan file that I thought I had had in my downtown office that burned down in February 2007.

In it was a letter from Jim, which I received at age 20 in response to one I had written him. By the way, I had written him only about a week or so earlier.

Here's the letter:

Sept 1971 letter to DRH.pdf

And here's a highlight from the letter, some advice he gave a 20-year-old stranger that went well beyond what I asked for:

Incidentally, in a discussion last month, several of us agreed that now would be an excellent time for some student to take the procedure used in that appendix and apply it to the US national debt and see how the situation has changed since, say, 1960. This could be done easily, and it might well snake a publishable note for, say, the National Tax Journal.

Unfortunately, I didn't take it, which is true of lots of advice I was given at that age.


Feldstein's Insight on Standards of Living, by David Henderson

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 19:07:33 -0500

In a recent op/ed in the Wall Street Journal, my former boss at the Council of Economic Advisers and Harvard economist Martin Feldstein points out that the data on real incomes in the United States systematically understate its growth. The article is titled "We're Richer Than We Realize," WSJ, September 8 (September 9-10 in the print edition.) An excerpt: Consider how the government handles manufactured products when their quality improves. Statisticians track a large number of products. For each, they ask the manufacturer two questions: Has the product changed since last year? If so, how much more does it cost to make this year's model than it would now cost to make last year's model? If there is no increase in the cost of production, the government concludes that there has been no increase in quality. And if the manufacturer reports an increase in the cost of production, the government assumes that the value of the product to consumers has increased in the same proportion. That's amazing! I knew, and have written about, the fact that the government understates improvements in quality. I had not known how naively the government did that. It reminds me of something I did know and reported on in "The Digital Economic Revolution," Red Herring, September 1, 1997. I wrote: Which brings us back to the government data. To compute labor productivity in an industry, the federal government's Bureau of Economic Analysis divides the output of an industry by the number of people employed. Not bad for, say, copper mining, where tons of copper mined is a pretty decent measure of output. But how do you think the federal government, with all its high-powered analysts and its multimillion-dollar budgets for gathering data, measures productivity in the banking industry? The number of transactions per employee? Or maybe the per-employee value of deposits and loans, adjusted for inflation? Neither. The Commerce Department's august Bureau of Economic Analysis measures output of banking by the number of people employed in banking. This means that if the number of banking employees rises by 10 percent, then the government's data crunchers simply assume that output rises by 10 percent. Therefore, the banking industry's productivity growth is zero, not by observation, but by definition. Of course, productivity in banking is growing. According to surveys by the Bank Administration Institute, the number of checks processed per hour, a measure of bank workers' productivity, rose from 265 items in 1971 to 825 in 1986, a rate of increase of 7.6 percent annually. Presumably computers were a factor in this productivity growth. And as noted by Martin Baily, an economist at the Brookings Institution, and Robert J. Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University, the per-check processing costs for electronic funds transfers (EFTs), which were made possible by the information technology revolution, are a fraction of the cost of conventional check processing. EFTs still constitute only a small percentage of transactions, but as this segment grows, productivity will increase. Marty points out another factor that understates growth: There are other problems that cause the official statistics to underestimate the true growth of real income. A basic government rule of GDP measurement is to count only goods and services that are sold in the market. Services like Google and Facebook are therefore excluded from GDP even though they are of substantial value to households. The increasing importance of such free services implies a further understatement of real income growth. Sadly, a number of commenters on the Journal's site failed to get his point. I'll quote three and, rather than tell you what's wrong with the commenters' statements, leave that as an exercise for the reader. Remember that these statements are made [...]