Assorted links

by on May 20, 2014 at 12:14 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Man comes out 89 cents richer after a year of penny-rounding, a Canadian tale.

2. What if you could read the notes of your therapist?

3. The Cambridge economics fellow who wants to show “women as they truly are.”

4. Claims about who really runs North Korea (speculative).  And David Brooks on democracy and The Fourth Revolution.

5. A Touch of Sin is an excellent Chinese movie, big screen required of course.

6. The Growth Economics blog.

7. Cass Sunstein on Richard Epstein.

Z May 20, 2014 at 12:36 pm

#4: I see Brooks has caught the Friedman Flue. That’s where comfortably kept men of the ruling class fall in love with authoritarianism of the Eastern variety. Like Friedman, he has an uncanny ability to not learn anything from the books he reports on for the Times.

That said, the Custodial State is upon us in the West. It is the natural consequence of Fromm and Berlin. Positive liberty has been the default position of Western elites for a long time now. Outside of libertarian weirdos and conservative cranks, no one accepts negative liberty. The communications revolution was the last piece to the puzzle.

The Engineer May 20, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Brooks’ piece is satire, right? Right?

On what planet is this guy? Who doesn’t believe that our federal government isn’t run by an elite educated in a small number of schools? There isn’t one Supreme Court Justice who didn’t go to Yale Law, for example. Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama are all Harvard or Yale products.

And that’s just Washington. Our economic elite (Wall Street) is similarly educated. The Ivy League feeds right into Wall Street.

If the elites of other countries are doing better than ours are, well, they’re lucky, and luck runs out at some point.

Cahokia May 20, 2014 at 1:47 pm

If only Yale, Harvard, and other Ivy League universities didn’t have rigorous ethnic quota policies we could be more confident about their elite alumni.

Z May 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm

The bit about innovation and the schools was a knee slapper. Take any American school and fill it with high IQ Asian kids and see what happens.

The Engineer May 20, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Ask any South Korean about their schools. They hate them. Weird that Brooks thinks that they are a model for the world.

JWatts May 20, 2014 at 5:37 pm

I was pretty impressed with the opening of David Brooks piece. While his attempt to tie long running weakness of democracy with the fall of the Soviet Union, is a bit speculative, it’s at least plausible that the current Western malaise is partially a fallout of those events. Even here he ignores the obvious demographic changes that the West is facing as the Baby boomer generation gets older. But nonetheless he hasn’t said anything grossly stupid.

He then covers the “Guardian states”, and I think his points are probably correct, though I’m unconvinced that they are really any different than they always were. Doesn’t the description: “Corrupt, unresponsive to local government and elitist but better at long-range thinking and moving fast because they limit democratic feedback” apply pretty well to the Soviet Union for most of its history?

However, then Brooks get to his conclusion and his logical argument falls off a cliff.
“The quickest way around all this is to use elite Simpson-Bowles-type commissions to push populist reforms.”

What!? The Simpson-Bowles commission failed to enact anything like the changes that it recommended. How is that different than the “Voters tend to want more government services than they are willing to pay for.” structural flaw of democracy that Brooks stated was part of the problem?

Then Brooks concludes:
“So, obviously, the elite commissions should push proposals that magnify that advantage: which push control over poverty programs to local charities; which push educational diversity through charter schools; which introduce more market mechanisms into public provision of, say, health care, to spread power to consumers.”

I’m at least happy that Brooks is actually espousing conservative ideas in this article. However, I’d be shocked if a majority of Democrats in Congress would go along with this approach. Honestly, I’d be surprised if you could even get any of these points past an Obama veto even if you could get it through Congress. And it’s idiotic for David Brooks to pretend this isn’t the case (or even worse, fail to recognize it) and not attempt to deal with the opposition to the programs he espouses in the actual article.

A smarter David Brooks would have started with the conclusion and made a case for enacting that conclusion.

careless May 22, 2014 at 8:51 am

Only three of the SCOTUS justices went to YLS. Most went to Harvard.

chuck martel May 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm

“Democracies tend to have a tough time with long-range planning. ”
If you’re an existentialist that isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. One of the few, however.

Tom Noir May 20, 2014 at 12:36 pm

#3 – If she’s really committed to this idea, let’s see her hang that portrait on the wall outside her office.

#4 – Interesting. But in a regime built on stifling information, does even the regime itself know what’s truly going on?

#5 – “Governments have lost touch with their citizens” + “National governments need to be less democratic” = ???

Benign dictatorships always stack up favorably against democracies when you look at the speed of change, etc. This is not new. If you could find a way to guarantee that benign dictatorships stay benign, that would be new. Also, for how many hundreds of years has democracy been ‘failing’ now?? I don’t find Brooks’ arguments compelling, because they are not arguments.

T. Shaw May 20, 2014 at 12:37 pm

If one isn’t attempting to earn or learn from them, sans the sexualization aspect they’re not worth speaking with.

chuck martel May 20, 2014 at 12:48 pm

#7. “But philosophers and economists have a lot to say on those questions, and there is no consensus, to say the least, that Epstein is right.”

Sunstein must mean that in order to be correct, an interpretation of the constitution must conform to “consensus”. As he seems to indicate in his review, Sunstein himself is a part of the consensus as he sees it. He’s defending the consensus interpretation of the constitution as perceived by him from a book and an ideology with views that differ from his own. More than anything, Sunstein is making a muddled attempt at refuting a widely held belief rather than reviewing a particular book.

Handle May 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Sunstein’s review, in addition to being awful, wasn’t even a review at all, just very polite name calling. But the subtle implication that Epstein is not sufficiently qualified as a Constitutional Law scholar to make an adequately informed case about it’s appropriate meaning and interpretation is both laughably absurd and two-faced.

A B May 20, 2014 at 5:27 pm
Enrique May 21, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Also, I am sure that Sunstein’s own views on constitutional interpretation are just as political as Epstein’s …

Kabal May 20, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Attractive women as they “truly are,” love decorating themselves with “aesthetic treatments,” their “objecification,” and the attention and power it brings them.

As for women like Dr. Bateman, I suppose they have comparative advantages in other ways to garner attention, such as writing columns blaming men and painting (heh) women as eternal victims.

It’s not just the pose that makes you look unflattering, Bateman.

Kabal May 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm

This is @3, if it wasn’t obvious.

Jeff May 20, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Well stated, sir.

mavery May 20, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Is this just trolling? Or is this just what you think the article was about?

dearieme May 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm

She’s certainly got balls. Metaphorically.

ummm May 20, 2014 at 1:05 pm

#1 like HFT but on a much slower scale

JWatts May 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm

From the article:

“The Royal Canadian Mint stopping distributing pennies in February 2013. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)
Now that the experiment is done, Guitar is glad to have come out on top — but he still has some questions.
“What I would like to do is go to one of these stores and calculate it from their point of view,” Guitar said.

It turns out, 365 cash transactions have made the man from Montreal’s South Shore 89 cents richer as a result of the elimination of the penny.

I think that’s a pretty easy calculation. From the stores point of view: -0.89/365 = $0.002 extra cost transaction.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and claim that the labor saved in not having pennies involved in the transaction more than covered the 1/5th of a cent in extra monetary costs.

ummm May 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm

#4 like many conservatives, praises Eastern Asian achievement, ignores the r-word that makes it possible

So Much For Subtlety May 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm


There are so many things that make East Asian achievement possible. It is a pity that so many of them also make North Korean development impossible – as it did in China for the 1000 years before Mao.

mofo. May 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Im not entirely sure David Brooks qualifies as a ‘conservative’. Authoritarian id agree with, but conservative…?

mavery May 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Depends if you want to use a 1980′s definition or a 2010′s definition.

JWatts May 20, 2014 at 5:44 pm

True. If you are using a 1980′s definition, Brooks would be a centrist Democrat. Today, he’d lbe much closer to the right side of the Democratic party.

Yancey Ward May 20, 2014 at 1:35 pm


I suspect one would learn that he/she needs to pick up milk before heading home, or to get the oil changed in the Escalade.

Jason Smith May 20, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Anyone else catch that the growth economics website chose … that could be read “Grow the Con”?

Funny :)

Brian Donohue May 20, 2014 at 5:10 pm

very funny!

Mark Thorson May 20, 2014 at 5:18 pm

I’m reminded of the California license plate PEDAGOG issued to a teacher, which was recalled because it has DAGO in it.

Urso May 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Holy moly @ #3:

“Their second reaction may come when they read the name plaque and find ‘Dr Victoria N Bateman, Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge’. As I have seen myself in the gallery, people are often shocked when they realise that the naked image stood before them is an intelligent woman.”

I wonder what her therapist’s notes say.

Ethan May 20, 2014 at 1:53 pm

A Touch of Sin??? Besides the charmingly odd first segment, that was some ponderous shit. Relied alternately on cheap violence and opacity to appear deep.

Quinton Tarunteenoh May 21, 2014 at 11:37 am

That’s what makes it an art film the critics like.

Andrew' May 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

7. Make two things that are different equivalent to apply criticisms of one to another. Elsewhere point out their differences to progress your argument against the first. Sunstein is good at this. Justices have been wrong and almost entirely in one direction in their interpretations, which barely reach the status of interpretation and look to be more like spreader bars. Sunstein pivots his critique on calling Epstein a moral reader, so that he can equate him to the unfettered crusaders who are only constrained to the constitution through brazen lip-service, as if, like some obscure liberal arts professor, they are amusing themselves with what they can get away with.

Anon. May 20, 2014 at 2:53 pm

#5 A bit too blatantly xenophobic/anti-markets/pro-party for my tastes.

j r May 20, 2014 at 4:11 pm

#3: Everyday lots of woman, who don’t have doctorates and who are not given space in a major newspapers to bloviate, post or publish nude or near-nude representations of themselves in any number of outlets. They do it because they like the attention and they believe that it will give them exposure and open up future opportunities. Can anyone convincingly argue that this woman has done anything meaningfully different than the chick who posts a twerking video on Vine?

Urso May 20, 2014 at 5:48 pm

She has a PhD! You are stunned to discover that she is intelligent!

Axa May 21, 2014 at 7:09 am

That was the topic on the “other book on inequality from a Frenchman”. The greatest inequality today is not economical but of public attention, the masses are invisible, irrelevant.

Dan Hanson May 22, 2014 at 2:13 pm

What struck me about the painting is that it’s absolutely unremarkable. She seems to think her pose is one that removes the sexuality from the image, but to me it just looks like a common pose of any nude model in an art class – not overtly sexual, but it isn’t nonsexual, either. Painted nudes are rarely pornographic and not all that often even sexual in implication – they’re simply studies of the female form.

I also noticed that her pose highlights the positive qualities of her own figure, and that she says in the article that she’s comfortable with her own body and her initial motivation was to capture an image of herself at this point in her life – a point I can only assume she wants to capture because she is happy with her body shape.

I would have been more impressed by the message if the professor had been 50 lbs overweight and allowed herself to be painted while in a pose that absolutely made her physically unattractive but realistic.

Instead, the article read more like a rationalization for a high-brow selfie.

Mesa May 20, 2014 at 4:52 pm

So David Brooks thinks more Simpson-Bowles will do the trick. Nope. It’s the polarization of the electorate that is the issue, not a scarcity of ideas about what to do. It’s an interesting question though about what types of statistical distributions of opinions in the electorate will lead to a governable democratic society. One would imagine that very fat-tailed distributions or widely spread bi-modal distributions are bad for democracies. Maybe that’s what we have. Perhaps politically diverse or extremely polarized societies can’t be governed effectively in a democratic way, or can’t move forward. Maybe it’s a size issue. Maybe a medium sized state is as diverse and large governable entity as can exist.

JWatts May 20, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Isn’t one obvious solution to push more of the governance down to the state level and let the Federal government handle the things that are impractical for a state to handle?

Mesa May 20, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Yes. It seems that the states are becoming more different, not less. But I think it’s an urban/rural thing more than anything else. Cities are “evolving” culturally and economically much faster than low density regions. The politics is being bifurcated by this.

JWatts May 21, 2014 at 10:31 am

“Cities are “evolving” culturally and economically much faster than low density regions.”

I think that’s incomplete and possible incorrect. Cities have generally been the trend setters for obvious reason. Communication being the most obvious. Not many people could be trend setters on a farm in Nebraska in 1950. The internet and smart phones have changed all that. It’s possible to be far more tied in today to the front edge of culture than it was even 20 years ago.

chuck martel May 21, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Communication improvements have affected everyone, urban or rural. In 1789 it was a requirement that people meet in person to decide issues in a reasonable amount of time. All communication involved a personally delivery from the originator to the recipient, from one end of Manhattan to the other or from Santa Fe to El Pao. It was only for a very short period of time that urban areas had a communication advantage over the hinterlands. “Trend setters” obviously have to start somewhere, trends aren’t spontaneous mass events. At one time practically nobody wore their ballcap backward but someone did it first. That person should be found and suitably ridiculed.

msgkings May 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Well, catchers have worn their caps backwards pretty much since the baseball cap was invented. So, did up the corpses of 1890s catchers?

msgkings May 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm

‘dig’ not ‘did’

spencer May 20, 2014 at 5:03 pm

The chart of productivity shows a major growth factor that few know and one that makes a very important point.

In the US of a century ago the workers migrated from agricultural to manufacturing were moving from a low productivity industry to a high productivity industry, so it was accompanied by a big boost to productivity and real incomes.

Now,we have people moving from high productivity industries like manufacturing to low productivity industries like retail and that generates a major drag on economic growth.

It is also why those people that argue that moving farmers out of agriculture did not hurt so moving people out of manufacturing is also OK are all wrong. They should not =try to make than analogy.

JWatts May 20, 2014 at 5:52 pm

“to low productivity industries like retail ”

How is retail a “low productivity” industry by definition? I’d say that retail has some very high and real gains to productivity in the last 20 years.

carlospln May 20, 2014 at 7:45 pm
Brian Donohue May 20, 2014 at 5:17 pm

#3. If the goal was an unsexy female nude, mission accomplished!

JWatts May 20, 2014 at 5:54 pm

From reading the article: The goal was to have an un-sexual female nude. I think the subject believes she was “breaking” ground in that area.

So Much For Subtlety May 20, 2014 at 6:04 pm

So she has never seen a single painting by Lucian Freud? Although I gather he thought they were sexy.

In fact it would be difficult to think of the last important British painter who painted someone you might want to have sex with. Pre-WW2 probably.

Mark Thorson May 20, 2014 at 9:35 pm

She looks worse in the painting than in the photo of her with the painting. The painting looks like it adds about 10 years.

Steve-O May 20, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Mission not accomplished. I saw it and immediately thought of sex (with her).

A B May 20, 2014 at 5:32 pm

#3 When a non-professional-model poses nude in public, the reason given is never the real reason. This is especially apparent when the given reason is political, i.e., ‘to promote awareness of [fill in the blank].’ The only awareness promoted is that of the woman, herself.

Facebook poster May 20, 2014 at 5:55 pm

I’m totally showing off this picture of my breasts to promote Breast Cancer Awareness!

andrew' May 20, 2014 at 6:40 pm

2. Imagine how depressed she’d be if not for years of therapy!

R May 20, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Tyler, why have you not visited North Korea? Are you restricted, or fearful? Surely not incurious…

Paul May 21, 2014 at 1:44 am

Too valuable a hostage of course.

Paul May 21, 2014 at 1:43 am

4. Is this a Brooks satire? The US Federal government is less corrupt than Singapore’s government? Conflating a 5 million former British colony Venice-like city-state with the 1 billion plus China and its distinct civilization to make a point? He’s got to be kidding.

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