Assorted links

by on December 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Six case studies of writers who changed their minds.  On what basis were they picked to contribute?  And when you like the writer but not the books.

2. Markets in everything: I want to be Brahms’s German Requiem.

3. Brad DeLong on Piketty.

4. Styrofoam essentialism.

5. The North Carolina experience with cutting unemployment benefits.

6. Leading economists endorse Christmas presents, sort of.  And Times Higher Ed best books list, deep and broad.

7. What is the deal on the new banking union?

Rob December 19, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Re 5, does the drop in labor force participation mean these are people who would seriously be looking for work had unemployment benefits been more generous, or are these people who were only doing the bare minimum to get a benefit? If someone would prefer not to work (given their options), what benefit does society gain by paying them to half-heartedly look for work? And if there just is no work for them (they want it, but it isn’t there), whether they are looking or not, is indefinite unemployment the best way to deal with the unemployable?

chuck martel December 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm

When someone quits actively looking for work, what do they then do, tune in to Oprah or rob gas stations or what?

RAstudent December 19, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Are you kidding me? Why is it hard to understand what people do when they can’t find work? They do a whole bunch of things. Move into their families basement, they move out of a house and into an apartment and live off their spouse (until she or he divorces them), they live in their car or a homeless shelter, they sleep under a bridge, they live in a tent in the woods, they beg, borrow, steal, con people, sell drugs, prostitue themselves. What kind of bubble do you live in?

Slocum December 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm
john personna December 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm

First, I am all about incentives to work. I think unemployment benefits should start high and then drop with each and every check, to drive the idea that finding work is imperative.

That said, I think the article’s linkage to food bank reports is pretty compelling. Presumably we are not talking about people who want to live off food banks and soup kitchens. That is quite a strong motivation to work in itself.

(Should I mention that I think food stamps should be for food essentials only? The right and the left have reasons to believe they should buy soda, but again, incentives.)

RAstudent December 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Your idea of gradually decreasing benefits is interesting. That said anyone that thinks unemployment is voluntary should try visiting a few soup kitchens or homeless shelters or unemployment offices every once and a while. The idea that people are happy to live in that manner and would prefer it to gainful employment is either a nut, a liar, or just plain sheltered.

john personna December 19, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Oh I agree. I think those declining unemployment payments should tail down until they become welfare or some kind of minimum maintenance framework. The endpoint should not be a backpack and a place under the bridge.

Rich Berger December 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Note this only happened in July, but the unemployment rate fell from 8.9% to 8.0% (BLS). Also note the relative lack of interest by the MSM in the large number leaving the work force nationally. When Obama was inaugurated, 80.5 million were not in the labor force. Now (Nov 13), it’s up to 91.3 million. How much higher would the US unemployment rate be if the labor force participation rate had stayed constant (it has dropped almost 3% in that period)?

This Bloomberg article is a joke.

XVO December 19, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Thought the same thing rob.

Of course a certain amount of people are going to give up looking for work if you stop paying them to pretend to look for work!!!! Giving up on working is akin to giving up on life, how can someone give up on working? They’re either working off the books or what? Sleeping on the beach? Starvation?

Are they getting more money through welfare? Is it even possible for someone without children to get welfare?

chuck martel December 19, 2013 at 2:52 pm

If someone has “given up looking for work” does that mean that they have no intention of getting another job or that they’re waiting for somebody to walk up and offer them one?

john personna December 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I would hope that most are in a family network which can support a non-worker. Perhaps that means early retirement. Perhaps it means moving back in with mom. Perhaps it means a single income family where there was a dual income before. In the very worst case of course, it is that group pushing up demands on community pantries and etc.

See also Tyler’s two observations, the average is over, we aren’t as rich as we thought we were.

chuck martel December 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Now we’re getting somewhere. If there’s going to be structural unemployment, that means that some workers are going to have to support others beside themselves, either through welfare programs or family situations. Not only that, the years of luxury for adolescents will be over as well. They’re going to have to contribute to the family instead of being pampered pets. Of course, this will only be true for the schleps in the private sector. Public employees will still have it made.

Walter McGrain December 19, 2013 at 4:51 pm

At what point will we acknowledge that it is time to give immigration a rest until we can get a sustained job recovery or at least find jobs for those who are willing to work?

I’d like to see the total number of non-farm jobs created in the U.S. in 2013 vs. the number of legal and illegal immigrants.

Urso December 19, 2013 at 1:04 pm

#6 ty to Richard Thaler — “To test price theory, try a cash gift next Valentine’s day.”

Surprisingly (to me at least) several of the women were the farthest on the end of the “agree” side. Signaling, perhaps, but what? Or it may simply reflect that the (non-monetary) costs of the gift-giving season tend to fall disproportionately the distaff, so they are less sentimental about these things?

Marie December 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Sure. Women buy the lion’s share of gifts, especially at Christmas and at some point it just becomes tedium and there’s no longer any joy to be taken from it. I’ve tried to convince the larger family of JUST doing a drawn-name gift exchange. If I only had to shop for one gift I could really put a lot of thought into it and enjoy myself. Seems like it’ll never happen though.

This year I did donations in everyone’s name instead (real ones, not Costanza styles ones). Laziness diguised as generosity! And no one can really whine that a village received a clean water well when they really wanted a chocolate fountain.

Mitch Berkson December 20, 2013 at 8:03 am

They can still whine about whether the village is better off with a cow or cash:

http://www.poverty-action.org/blog/cash-or-cows

Brian December 20, 2013 at 6:50 am

Austan Goolsbee had the thread winner tbough… “instead of proposing to your wife with a diamond ring, offer cash. efficient, if you dont count the hospital bills!”

Andreas Moser December 20, 2013 at 7:13 am

If money is too impersonal, you can simply ask people what they want.

Or if you think that money shows laziness, you can get something of which you are sure that the recipient needs it. Toilet paper is something that comes to mind: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/giving-presents/

prior_approval December 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm

7. So what is the deal on the new eurozone banking union? Is anyone still predicting eurogeddon?

Especially since I distinctly remember some U.S. based economists assuring everyone that eurogeddon was just around the corner – and here we are, a couple of years later, with an apparent eurozone banking union (based on German precepts, no less).

But who cares about accuracy in the U.S. anyways? That being such a passe concept, after all, And it isn’t as if false predictions have any penalty connected to them in the wonderful world of American blog writing.

I remain confident, just like this blog used to be, that eurogeddon remains evber so imminent – though I can’t remember precisely – was that a prediction of a member of the GMU faculty, the general director of the Mercatus Center, or just the private musings of someone with a web site on the Internet?

JWatts December 19, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Didn’t you leave out something from your standard spiel? Koch brothers or some such?

kebko December 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm

#5: I think Evan is being a bit too broad with his interpretation of the labor market in North Carolina. There have been two distinct phases of labor force adjustments:

1) Between the passage of the law and its implementation, there was a small decrease in unemployment. But, mostly, on net, there was a decrease in employment and a corresponding decrease in labor force participation. The movement was from employment to not-in-labor-force. I don’t know if there is a straightforward way to interpret this, but I don’t believe Evan is addressing it cleanly in the article.

2) After the implementation of the law, labor force participation stabilized. Since that time, there has been a decrease in unemployment and an increase in the Employment to Population ratio. People are moving from unemployment to employment.

The first phase could have a number of interpretations. The second phase is clearly what opponents of Emergency Unemployment Insurance would have predicted. At this point, I think we still need to give it a few months to see if the rebound in the employment to population ratio continues. If it does, then this article by Evan will have been unfortunate.

Here is my post on the issue, with some graphs:
http://idiosyncraticwhisk.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-natural-experiment-on-emergency.html

Brian Donohue December 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Good comment. There is so much screwy stuff going on in the denominator. I think economists should evaluate this based on the number of people working.

Roy December 19, 2013 at 2:14 pm

#1. Everybody but Elledge, the guy who now thinks the euro would have been a disaster for the UK, shifted to the more politically correct position, and with two of the writers I couldn’t figure out how they have changed their mind. Deciding to vote Labour for tactical reasons is hardly a change of mind, especially when one admits to voting tactically in previous years.

RPLong December 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm

If you consider Krugman reflective of the leftist position, then every single instance was a case of the writer moving toward a more extreme form of leftism. They couldn’t even find one example of someone adopting a less-leftist position on anything. Not one.

Thor December 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm

I didn’t expect any different from the NS. But the THED? Easily, in my opinion, the worst of the various “Books of the Year” lists from major magazines and newspapers.

Careless December 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm

What does Krugman have to do with it? And the pro- to anti-Euro guy wasn’t moving to the Left, at least

RPLong December 20, 2013 at 9:18 am

As far as I know, Krugman’s an anti-Euro guy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m just saying, if Krugman is to be considered the conscience of a liberal, then it’s a leftward shift, that’s all.

mike December 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Sounds like a Leftist to me:

“I was, and am, embarrassed about Britain’s petulant Euroscepticism, and our constant threats to take our ball away from a sensible, if flawed, international project. Support for the Euro was a way of showing that I wasn’t one of those people.”

“My pro Euro stance, in fact, was a mirror image of the little Englander Euroscepticism I professed to despise. Given that, I’m bloody glad I’ve grown out of it.”

Still to this day sneering at the people who held the opinion he now holds. Same with the one right after it, actually.

Thor December 19, 2013 at 4:04 pm

What this piece in the New Statesman has in common with the Times Higher Ed supplement list of Books of the Year is that, obviously, both are based in Britain and the majority of peopled polled are Brits (though some work in the US). But I also noted a considerable left of centre bias.

I’m not surprised about the New Statesman, but the THED? … So what’s a slightly right of centre Brit to read, if the creme-de-la-creme of the THED is (more or less) reading liberal to highly liberal stuff?

Roy December 19, 2013 at 7:41 pm

That list seemed pretty modern Tory to me. Being the oldest still existing political party in the world they preexist the invention of principle.

You emigrate or join a far right party and call for a return to flogging…at least that is what British conservatives who don’t move with the times do, they’ve been doing it for over a century.

Millian December 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Is Charles Moore’s Thatcher biography liberal or highly liberal?

So Much For Subtlety December 19, 2013 at 9:52 pm

A centre-right Brit reads the Spectator or the London Review of Books.

Of course the Times Higher Ed section is left of centre. British Higher Education has no problems with people who apologised for the Khmer Rouge – or actually took part in the Stalinist repressions of his homeland in the case of Zygmunt Bauman. While they will fire someone with tenure if they suggest that maybe not all racists are equal, as they did with Frank Ellis.

Millian December 19, 2013 at 8:24 pm

In the UK, anti-euro is the PC position on the left. The new stability framework is too rigorous for woolly-minded socialists, since you can’t inflate your way through a crisis as the UK did, and it means you can actually praise Gordon Brown for something (mirabile dictu!).

Ian Leslie December 19, 2013 at 4:02 pm

“On what basis were they picked to contribute?” They’re all New Statesman bloggers.

Brian Donohue December 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm
TMC December 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Read his next one about aliens too. He really is a good writer.

msgkings December 20, 2013 at 2:16 pm

+1
I’m a huge Ridley fan….Ridleyite? Ridleyer? Ridler?

Millian December 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm

1. They changed their minds in a manner than conforms to majority left-wing opinion in the UK. In this world, pornography is violence against women; the Tories are so beastly that they make Tony Blair look less horrid; Gordon Brown was a genius for rejecting the neoliberal euro project. The typical New Statesman reader probably shares the contributors’ new beliefs.

So Much For Subtlety December 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm

It is immediately noticeable that none of them have changed their minds about the big issues of the day – except one who changed his mind on Iraq. And I suppose some idiot who has ceased to be a climate sceptic – not that I believe a word he says.

Take the Soviet Union for instance. The New Statesman used to be full of people who loved the USSR with most of the rest preferring Mao’s China. Did they bother to ask a single one of them when and where they changed their minds about Stalin?

The New Statesman, along with the Guardian, was happy to turn its pages over to Islamists until very recently. Which was embarrassing for the Guardian because they kept having to ban their own contributors for racially abusing other Asians and the like. So the Guardian editorial page was full of rant after rant about Sharia and suicide bombing. They have backed away from that a little and I doubt that stoning is as popular among the British Left as it used to be. Anyone asked to explain their change of heart? Not that I can see.

I mean in the end, TNS and the Guardian have been wrong about pretty much everything. And all they are interested in is whether someone has grudgingly admitted bisexuals might exist?

Asher December 20, 2013 at 6:50 am

#6: Loaded question designed in part to give respondents an easy way to appear enlightened. “Agree or disagree: Christmas presents are inefficient compared to cash gifts.” (Nothing to do with Christmas, by the way.) What about: “Agree or disagree: Routine Christmas presents are destructive because they erode the spiritual aspect of a religious celebration.” Or: “Christmas presents are inefficient because they are an expensive chore for both giver and recipient.”

An exceedingly narrow take on the question, guaranteed to shed no real light on the really important underlying issues.

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