Assorted links

by on April 2, 2012 at 9:39 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Welcome to the Biobank.

2. Martin Feldstein on inflation risk.

3. What is the economic value of privacy?

4. Who is most likely to oppose totalitarianism?

5. Mind-numbing debates over banking, and a response from Krugman, and Nick Rowe.

Brian Donohue April 2, 2012 at 9:45 am

What Feldstein says seems so obviously true to me. Do any serious economists disagree with this?

Slugger April 2, 2012 at 10:10 am

How can one disagree? He says that inflation is a risk. He did not quantify the risk. Is it 10%, 20%, 50%, or what?
I think that there is a risk of inflation not occurring.
Let’s not give people too much credit for stating tautological truths.

Brian Donohue April 2, 2012 at 11:17 am

The commentary I generally hear goes like this: “We are doomed by inevitable inflation!” “No, inflation is nothing to worry about- it’s a liquidity trap, I tells ya.” Feldstein describes the tricky path between Scylla and Charybdis. Quite good, sensible, and sane compared to much of what one reads these days. Don’t see the tautology to which you refer.

The Other Jim April 2, 2012 at 10:48 am

4: While the other is correct that it tends to be religious people who oppose totalitarianism, the situation is a lot worse than he thinks. For whatever reason, he decided to ignore a certain popular religion which has exuberantly embraced very severe totalitarianism in a number of non-trivial countries, and is quite happy to kill to spread it elsewhere. You certainly cannot count on the merely “religious” to bail us out.

Even in the US, freedom is usually only maintained by a 5-4 vote. It will seem a quaint concept soon.

dead serious April 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm

“God” willing.

The Other Jim April 2, 2012 at 10:49 am

Er.. “the other” ? Let’s make that “the author.” My apologies.

Nathan Tankus April 2, 2012 at 10:53 am

It’s funny how what you say is a “mind numbing debate” has enormous relevance to the logical coherence of link number 2.

UnlearningEcon April 2, 2012 at 10:53 am

They’re not mind numbing, they’re incredibly important. Krugman thinks that banks lend out their deposits, but all the empirical evidence (like, you know, what bankers actually say they do) undermines this point. You can’t built a theory on false premises like that (please don’t link me to Milton Friedman in response to this point).

Tyler Cowen April 2, 2012 at 11:20 am

Both mind numbing and important!

UnlearningEcon April 2, 2012 at 11:29 am

Fair play.

Kevin April 2, 2012 at 11:04 am

I’m surprised to find the link to “who is most likely to oppose totalitarianism” on this website. Isn’t this sort of argument made by Glen Beck?

Andrew' April 2, 2012 at 11:07 am

What is this “sorts of argument” you speak of?

Kevin April 2, 2012 at 11:52 am

“People of faith are good, atheists are bad, but those who deny God have the upper hand in today’s fallen world, and so we’re all doomed”, blah blah. This sort of know nothing populism goes all the way back to the founding of the Republic. The Federalists, literally, tried to use this argument against Jefferson.

Adam April 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm

“know nothing populism”? I’ll say this while trying to not sound overly harsh: you really don’t understand his point or his views very well.

I’d say his views (I’m quite familiar with them, having read his books and articles as well as being a student of his during my undergraduate days) are every bit as radical, maybe more, than Jefferson, and definitely not populist.

Wonks Anonymous April 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm

If you’d asked me who was a populist between the Federalist & Democratic Republican parties, I would have assumed the latter. It was a member of the former who said “The people are a great beast!”

Adam April 2, 2012 at 11:57 am

Andrew’s correct to ask what exactly you mean? If you read the article carefully, as well as the final comment, also from the author, you’ll realize he isn’t describing atheism or some general “faith” as desirable or undesirable.

He clearly stated, “I have no systematic data on this matter, only my impression gained from fifty years of studying the state at various times and places.” Dr. Higgs simply made an observation, not a statement of value or desirability.

Kevin April 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I don’t want to go after Higgs (this is the only thing of his I’ve ever read). I’ll just ask about one passage.

“I have been struck repeatedly by a certain fact about episodes of sudden or extraordinary expansion of the state: when push came to shove, those who resisted—often to the death—tended to be people of faith. In U.S. history they included primarily Anabaptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other marginalized Protestant sects.”

Who are these Anabaptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses who resisted the extraordinary expansion of the American state “often to the death”? This doesn’t seem a little wacky?

Adam April 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm

While I certainly can’t speak for the author, and wouldn’t want to try, I’d say that they didn’t resist “extraordinary expansion of the American state “often to the death”. I’d interpret this to be more of a refusal to bend their behavior to government directives of various types. These refusals may have confronted orders to join the military (for various reasons), send their children to public schools as well as deny their faith publicly, as was experienced in almost every communist country.

Again, it seemed to me his statement should be taken as a very general observation, and happens to be one I’d, again generally, agree with.

Bob Knaus April 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I am descended from one of the “marginalized Protestant sects”. In America, examples of resistance to death are pretty hard to come by. There is a tale handed down of some Anabaptist settlers being massacred by Indians rather than fighting or hiding… but I doubt that’s the kind of government expansion Higgs had in mind.

My great-great-great-uncle Maurice Hess spent two years in Leavenworth for refusing the draft during WWI. That’s the harshest penalty I am aware of in a long family history.

“Fox’s Book of Martyrs” was common in early American households. It was gripping, vivid, and reminded folks why they had left Europe. The parallels to more modern tales of religious resistance to Nazi and Communist regimes are easy to see.

Cyrus April 2, 2012 at 1:24 pm

If you go back to the Civil War, you can find episodes where conscientious objectors were executed (both North and South).

MD April 2, 2012 at 1:06 pm

“Andrew’s correct”

Shouldn’t that be “Andrew”s correct”?

Adam April 2, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Yes. Although I’m quite familiar with the rule governing the apostrophe, feel free to correct any other typos you see.

MD April 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

You’re funny.

A Berman April 2, 2012 at 11:39 am

#4: The title reminds me of this 1941 Harper’s magazine article:
“Who goes Nazi?”, by Dorothy Thompson.
http://harpers.org/archive/1941/08/0020122

Adam April 2, 2012 at 2:34 pm

While I can understand why this reminds you of Higg’s post, reading Thompson’s thoughts reminded me why I left the Republican party 17 years ago….and the more recent one doesn’t.

Paul April 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Tyler:

Perhaps you don’t want to have your blog spammed by the MMT people (which is understandable given that for all their blather about “engaging” and “polite discourse” they throw out insults with the best of them), but I am curious what your views on #5.

Paul April 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm

*about your views

UnlearningEcon April 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Endogenous money =/= MMT.

NAME REDACTED April 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm

+1

Adam April 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Is Feldstein’s argument at all a new one? Seems this is one of the arguments (that the Fed may run into the inflation v.s. growth/employment conundrum) numerous bloggers / commentators were making when QE II was being debated.

JA April 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Is anyone else confused by this statement in #3: ‘”It turns out that when you are good on privacy you can charge more and make a greater profit,” says Sören Preibusch, of the University of Cambridge, one of the authors of the study.’ The article says that with a 50-euro-cent increase in movie ticket price, the privacy-friendly cinema’s market share dropped from 83% to 31% (where privacy-friendly means not requiring cell-phone numbers) and from 62% to 13% (where privacy-friendly means promising not to send advertising emails to customers). While market share does not equal profit, this does not suggest that being “good on privacy” allows you to charge a premium and gain “greater profits.”

Becky Hargrove April 2, 2012 at 2:48 pm

4) I’m glad you linked to this, because it has been on my mind lately how Jesus wanted us to ‘love our neighbors’ (i.e. interact with them in respectful and economically viable ways). Something as seemingly odd as feet washing for instance – that showed how our services to one another can be provided in egalitarian ways, or, how being voluntary servants to one another helps us both. Turns out that those concepts were not just moral and religious blather, but some really good survival advice that a lot of people seem to have completely missed (including a lot of Christians). It inevitably becomes a problem later in life when there are no connections left with neighbors, and we end up involuntarily dependent on family, money and especially government.

byomtov April 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Higgs:

In Nazi Germany, many of the regime’s opponents were Roman Catholics,….

As indeed were many of its supporters.

as were the opponents in Poland under Communist rule.

Well, given that just about everyone in Poland was a Roman Catholic, at least nominally, I don’t see what this tells us. Again, many of the regime’s supporters were Roman Catholics as well.

One thing Higgs overlooks is that it was essentially a labor organization that essentially led the resistance to the Polish regime.

Adam April 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I’d agree with you in regards to what he said about Poland, and to a lesser degree about Roman Catholics in Germany. How many Lutherans supported or resisted the Nazi’s? I really have no idea, but worth asking since Germany is, and was, roughly split between Catholics and Protestants.

That being said, his point was more general in nature, and if you take any single country you could say that it doesn’t really tell us much, although some certainly us more than others. His thought sprouted from an observation after examining Political Economy for decades, focusing growth in government.

I wouldn’t say he “overlooked” the specifics of Poland’s situation, but I agree better examples wouldn’t be hard to find, specifically almost every communist country every tried and failed. Ethiopia and Yemen would be odd exceptions that would warrant their own study.

Other other? Jim April 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

And the ideas behind that labor organization were influenced by Catholic Social teaching.

Floccina April 2, 2012 at 4:03 pm

5. Mind-numbing debates over banking, and a response from Krugman, and Nick Rowe.

To me banking is a great example of The Hayek quote: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” Back when Governments took over the monetary system even the experts did not understand much about it. Yet a government takeover in a democracy puts the monetary system under the control of the median voter. Yet the experts in the post do not completely agree.

In free banking even the bankers do not need to understand the system as a whole, with a Government controlled central bank the median voter needs to understand the Monetary system as a whole. How could that every work well?

Floccina April 2, 2012 at 4:41 pm

#4 before I read the article I thought that he would say the paranoid. You know the fringe types who have food stored up. The Gold bugs the Ron Paul supporters, the end of the worlders and yes the Anabaptist.

It has been my observation that being a minority makes one more libertarian. I.e the mainline protestants where fine with government schools until the agnostics became powerful enough and ended their reign (think prayers and bible reading) in schools. Now they are big supporters of Independence in education through vouchers, home schooling or whatever.

Robert Higgs April 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm

In modern U.S. history, military conscription — state-imposed military slavery — constituted one of the most egregious violations of human rights. In World War II, about 3/4 of all those imprisoned for refusal to comply with the draft laws were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Does anyone find that statistic remarkable?

Millian April 2, 2012 at 6:08 pm

No. Pacifists are more likely to refuse to comply with draft laws. Small religious sects are more likely to be pacifists. Furthermore, those pacifists did less than their fighting brothers to oppose the actual totalitarianism in Nazi Germany.

Bob Knaus April 2, 2012 at 8:34 pm

No. As a descendant of one of the “historic peace churches” I view the US government’s response as remarkably mild. Where the government had problems was with relatively recent proselytes from social classes which whey viewed as suspect.

“Heightens the contradictions” as UBL was fond of saying before his assassination.

Millian April 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm

4. I thought to myself “recent minority groups like Cuban-Americans or Russian-Americans”. I thought of the wrong context.

“Atheists as a class” are tiny, as is noted by commenters there and byomtov here, and especially compared to Catholics in Poland. (For Pete’s sake, talk about a misleading comparison!) Further, “atheists as a class” have not proselytised like the religious, so they haven’t needed to promote heroes, like resisters of tyranny, as incentives for affiliation. This will change as atheists organise. Third, those religious groups haven’t been very successful in opposing totalitarianism. The two most successful groups in opposing totalitarianism are (a) foreign soldiers like Eisenhower and (b) second-generation totalitarians like Deng. The post promotes ineffective ways to oppose totalitarianism, so it is probably not about opposing totalitarianism, but rather raising the status of religious people.

Benny Lava April 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Does anyone else find it ironic that the author of #4 cites Catholics resisting the Nazis in Germany when Hilter was, you know, a Catholic. And strange that he doesn’t mention Jews at all.

Steko April 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Nothing very ironic or strange, the whole piece is wildly ignorant.

byomtov April 2, 2012 at 11:00 pm

There’s a lot more to say along those lines, of course. That Hitler was Catholic barely touches the surface.

Adam April 3, 2012 at 12:34 am

You wouldn’t agree that saying you’re a catholic and actually practicing the faith (any faith) are completely different things. Bashaar As-Assad says he is a Muslim, but really he isn’t. And using him as an example also barely scratches the surface.

In fact, I could be wrong, but as i understand it, Roman Catholic resisters in Nazi Germany generally resisted because of their faith. Wouldn’t that be odd if Hitler was an actual practicing Catholic and not just calling himself that to win popular approval. Similar (at least to me) to Bush calling himself a Methodist.

Mike Kimel April 3, 2012 at 7:59 am

I’m not an expert on Islam or Assad, but I over the past few years I have had enough of an interest to read a few books on the elder Assad. He was (and I presume his son is) an Alawite. Many Muslims outside Syria (distinction to be made clear below) do not regard Alawites as Muslim because of their belief in incarnation (i.e., God can be made flesh), the rejection of the Koran and the view that the five pillars of Islam are merely allegorical, and reincarnation. (See here: http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/islam/blfaq_islam_alawis.htm)

Now, there is a requirement in the Syrian constitution that the President be a Muslim. When Assad took power, it actually required him to be a Sunni… the Sunni part was dropped. The regime apparently shopped around and found a prominent Lebanese Shia cleric who issued a fatwa declaring Alawites to be Muslim. I’ve seen it speculated that it would have appeared to heavy handed, apparently, to put the screws on a Syrian cleric, but it seems the ruling was a enough of a stretch that it couldn’t be obtained outside a client state. Again, I’m no expert on any of this.

byomtov April 3, 2012 at 11:36 am

Somewhat different of course. But then you have to inquire into the actual as opposed to nominal beliefs of the resistors as well, don’t you? You can’t claim Hitker doesn’t count because he wasn’t a “real” Catholic, but all resisters do.

Besides, leaving Hitler aside, anyone who claims that the Church was a major source of opposition to Nazism doesn’t know much about the history of the relationship between the Vatican and the Nazis. That relationship endured even after the war, as the Vatican helped spirit many war criminals off to Argentina and elsewhere.

Adam April 3, 2012 at 5:56 pm

True enough. However, there is a difference between calling yourself something, and resisting as a result of your faith.

Hitler called himself a catholic for political purposes, yet “Historian John S. Conway states that Hitler held a “fundamental antagonism” towards the Christian churches.” And apparently he displaying in numerous ways and places.

And that “the Church was a major opposition” isn’t the actual claim. It’s that the vast majority of resisters did so because of their faith. Somewhat subtle, but important difference.

the spam robots are getting better and better April 2, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I dont know about ironic. I just find it scary. Scary that people like this exist, and scary that other people take these views seriously. Of course if you ask these Glenn Beck types what their views are on theocracies of other faiths, they are obviously evil and wrong. But only because they havent yet had the chance to hear about the good book.

TGGP April 2, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Within Germany, Catholic regions were less likely to vote Nazi (they had the Centre Party). And the historical association of communism with Jews is well known enough that it shouldn’t have to be mentioned (though for those who’d like to know more, check out Yuri Slezkine’s “The Jewish Century”). Those in the S.S tended to identify at “Gottglaubeiter” rather than with a particular church. Hitler himself seems not to have attended Mass and had respect for Martin Luther, though you’re right that he’s best categorized as Catholic.

Beefcake the Mighty April 3, 2012 at 4:11 pm
Adam April 3, 2012 at 5:58 pm

“best categorized as Catholic”. The funny thing is so was my college roommate, having been baptized as an infant. Yet he was also agnostic and attended mass about as often as Hitler did.

Max April 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Religious people seem quite comfortable with state intervention when it suits their purpose.

msgkings April 3, 2012 at 10:20 am

Too bad this one is so far down because: thread winner.

chuck martel April 2, 2012 at 11:27 pm

A major component of those emigrating to what is now the US from western Europe in the 17th & 18th centuries were religious adherents that felt that they were either persecuted or marginalized by governments in which they had no say or were deeply disturbed by what they perceived to be the moral degradation around them. Fortunately for them they were able to leave and start a new life in a new place rather than pick up the sword at home. Not everyone has been that fortunate.

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