Assorted Friday links

by on January 29, 2016 at 11:37 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Does the fame of female painters fade more quickly?

2. Henry on John Stuart Mill and liberalism and the Irish famine: “Hence, if progressivism should reasonably be corrected by the Millian tradition on individual liberties, that tradition could do with a lot of correcting back…”

3. “We would sing and dance around…because we know…we can’t be found…

4. Paul Krugman says no free lunch from single-payer health care.

5. Labor markets in everything Hedgehog Officer.

6. Coursera is starting to charge some users.

7. More details on Go, note the guy who lost to the program is only #633 in the world.  The program is estimated at #279 rank, impressive, but not yet “there.”

8. Using matching systems to improve the allocation of refugees.

1 Ray Lopez January 29, 2016 at 11:39 am

A trove of links here…I just lost a won rook ending, I’m a patzer.

2 Yancey Ward January 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Haven’t you heard the old saying “There are no won rook endings,”?

3 Art Deco January 29, 2016 at 12:03 pm

#1: Of course it does. Men do art. Women do crafts.

4 carlolspln January 29, 2016 at 9:50 pm

The Ninety Year Old Virgin ™

5 chuck martel January 29, 2016 at 12:06 pm

4. Every argument about health care finance revolves around getting the money out of the population to get the services required, through some form of insurance or otherwise. The reality is that medicine, like everything else, has changed dramatically, especially the personnel involved. Not long ago, a doctor was an artist and craftsman that used his education and experience in an intuitive manner to make diagnoses and determine treatments. For this, he became one of the most highly-paid professionals.

Such is no longer the situation. Doctors are now technicians, who read print-outs of computer inputs, compare them to established baselines and consult data bases for treatment. Expensive equipment and tests have replaced tactile interaction. The portraitist in oils has become a studio photographer. The only thing that keeps their income at obscene levels for this work is their government-enforced guild system. As long as this situation continues to exist reforming health care is an exercise in futility.

6 Floccina January 29, 2016 at 1:40 pm


7 Floccina January 29, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Oh and BTW that is mostly a state matter not a federal Government matter, so it seems like the state level is better place to look for a solution.

8 anon January 30, 2016 at 1:30 am

“Doctors are now technicians, who read print-outs of computer inputs, compare them to established baselines and consult data bases for treatment.”

And you know this how? I’m sure many in the health care would be surprised by your unsupported assertion.

“Expensive equipment and tests have replaced tactile interaction”

Perhaps this is part of the problem. Most growth in health care expense is from technology, after all.

9 Justin Kelly January 30, 2016 at 2:54 pm

Very well put. +1

10 Dan Lavatan January 30, 2016 at 7:52 pm

So the solution is to reform it by 1) transitioning to a savings-based payment approach and 2) reducing the use of professionals by moving to self-treatment where we read our own print outs, read the database, and obtain our own medicine. This is achievable, we just need to be asking representatives to enact the above and if they refuse make it clear they support Obamacare during the next primary.

11 anon January 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm

6 is really about what a MOOC portal should be, hosting all courses and certificates under the same terms, or as a marketplace. I think the second has great risk. There are already cheezy hubs out there and I don’t have confidence that some partner universities don’t want the chance to act a little cheezy.

I wonder who, Michigan State University or Couserra, conceived How to Start Your Own Business as the test case? Is the $474 program a good value?

12 rayward January 29, 2016 at 12:19 pm

2. I suppose a defender of “liberalism” (in the 19th century meaning, or what today is often called “libertarianism”) is that Mills’ offense (withholding food from starving Irish because of moral hazard concerns) was an offense of omission whereas the progressive offense (eugenics) was an offense of commission; it’s the difference between not doing something good and doing something bad. Are the equally morally repugnant? Henry must, but I suspect Cowen doesn’t.

13 Millian January 29, 2016 at 12:28 pm

It’s not really a defence. The error of omission is itself an error of commission; you have stopped thinking or feeling at a critical point when better judgement could have led you to the right answer. For instance, the UK certainly had the authority to impose a mighty tariff on grain exports from Ireland; it didn’t; is that an error of commission or omission? It doesn’t matter.

14 TMC January 29, 2016 at 12:33 pm

It was still an offense of commission. The English were exporting food from Ireland as the population were starving.

15 Heorogar January 29, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Years ago, I read the book, Paddy’s Lament. I remember the author stated that, during the famine, the czar (apparently Poland was controlled by Russia) closed Polish ports and prohibited the export of foodstuffs. Not sure the author cited primary source material.

16 Adrian Ratnapala January 29, 2016 at 1:22 pm

I thought the standard free-market rhetoric surrounding this issue was to blame the Corn Laws which prevented importation from France to Britain, thus driving up prices British, thus leading British consumers to out-bid starving Irish ones. I suspect this is right, but there is a more fundamental problem too.

I’m with Armatya Sen on this kind of thing: the true problem was that the Irish were too poor to buy food. Had the political structures allowed, the best policy would have been cash transfers to Irish peasants. But that would only have been a feeble band-aid around the real problem, which was the system of landordism that had paupered them in the first place.

17 prior_test January 29, 2016 at 2:08 pm

‘Had the political structures allowed, the best policy would have been cash transfers to Irish peasants.’

No – one of the more interesting museum visits during an Irish vacation detailed how dead Irish famine victims were found with money in their pocket. The problem was not money – the problem was there simply was not enough food to prevent the literal starvation of a million people. More interesting was the reality in many of the extremely poor and ruralareas, there was no way to use money to acquire food – resulting in starved people with money in their pocket.

The Irish person detailing this historical information did not make the cheap joke about not being able to eat money. It seems fair to say that the Irish generally do not joke about the Great Famine.

18 Cliff January 29, 2016 at 4:15 pm

There was enough food but it was being exported…

19 prior_test January 30, 2016 at 5:47 am

‘There was enough food but it was being exported.’

Not exactly – food was exported (in large amounts, under guard), but the government funded imports of corn, while considerably more wheat was imported than exported during the Great Famine. The problem remained that the poor Irish Catholics, even when given money, had essentially no way to spend it on food. Thus, dead peasants found with money that was worthless – notice that the money was not even worth taking from a dead person, which was valueless in acquiring food.

Money is not a replacement for food, and though the exports were certainly for money, the Irish Catholics were not part of that market system. Even when given shillings as charity.

20 rayward January 29, 2016 at 12:54 pm

I’m not the libertarian so I don’t have to defend the libertarian (i.e., “liberal”) position – I was pointing out the distinction in the case of eugenics (progressives) and famine relief (liberals). Of course, this blog is (for the most part) dedicated to the libertarian position, which means that the default position on any matter is (for the government at least) to do nothing (so as not to infringe on individual liberty or promote moral hazard). Would the Irish have all become shiftless if G.B. had provided relief? Would all unemployed Americans become shiftless if the unemployed receive public benefits? Of course, the Irish famine example is meant to highlight the absurdity of the “liberal” (i.e., libertarian) position; and the eugenics example is meant to highlight the slippery slope of the “progressive” position. Since I’m a cradle Episcopalean (for us moderation is the answer), I don’t understand what the fuss is all about.

21 Ryan January 29, 2016 at 6:14 pm

“I’m not the libertarian so I don’t have to defend the libertarian (i.e., “liberal”) position…”

OK, I’ll bite — what then is your ideological position and what’s your defense of it ?

Your stated premise is that libertarians have to defend their position, so your premise should fairly apply to your own and others positions.

Disagree that this is a mostly libertarian blog — basic posts and comments are generally middle of the road on the American political spectrum. Libertarianism is a fringe ideology and stand out in sharp contrast to most of the content here.

22 So Much For Subtlety January 29, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Actually the problem here is being reduced to simplistic and unfair terms. It is not that the British withheld food from the dying. It is that they were slow to recognize the scale of the problem. When they did recognize it, they took action to help solve the problem. They were just late.

Remember this was the first time that an activist, competent, government had come across this problem and tried to do something about it. Outside of China anyway. Previous governments either did not notice, did not care, or were incapable of doing anything except passing some specious unenforced proclamations.

So in the medium and long term, Mill was right. If the scale of the disaster had not been so bad, Mill would have been right. That moral hazard has not gone away. The scale of the famine was just too over-whelming. After all, the British argued that the feckless Irish Catholics should stop being feckless Irish Catholics, they should embrace the market, teach their children something useful and poverty would go away. Well the Irish Republicans rejected this advice. They got a few more generations of poverty under Dev and his successors. Then the Irish decided to forget the nostalgia for a medieval peasant Ireland, they embraced the market, started teaching their children accounting instead of Gaelic – they dumped the Catholicism along with the more rancid end of Irish Nationalism – and they became a Celtic Tiger. A corrupt and incompetent one that has hit problems admittedly.

But the Irish are not going to give up that market-orientation. They are not going to go back to being peasants. They are not going to give the Church a treasured place in society. They agree with Mill and the other British liberals every minute of every day. And as a result hunger has been replaced by obesity.

23 chuck martel January 30, 2016 at 10:05 am

Wait a minute. The British government CREATED the problem when the Roundheads invaded Ireland and parceled the island out to their friends and benefactors. A little like the situation for the Pawnees and Kiowas when the whites decided to sell or give their tribal lands to east coast allies or, worse yet, German and Scandinavian immigrants. It must have made sense then, to push the natives out of their homes and repopulate the place with uneducated European peasants. But it’s not exactly a parallel with the British in Ireland, where owners of the confiscated land didn’t even have to leave London to reap the benefits while the natives starved.

24 anon January 29, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Ah, looking at the Coursera front page, it seems that they have many unis on board for the new system.

I am disappointed, but perhaps there are other groups pursuing OER MOOCs.

I prefer that public schools at least throw off public resources.

25 feh January 29, 2016 at 12:38 pm

“That means they get access to course materials such as video lectures, discussion boards and practice quizzes, but view-only access to graded assignments. To turn the course materials into an actual course, learners have to pay.”

So you still get everything for free, but if you want to be evaluated you have to pay for the service. I don’t see any problem with that, or how it’s a different access level than other university “here’s our course materials” programs have been doing.

26 anon January 29, 2016 at 12:58 pm

No problem with private companies and universities doing whatever they want, but for public funded ventures I would like to see if pubic good, and economic growth, are optimally supported.

Is it more important for Michigan that students pay $474 or that fewer Michigan businesses fail?

(Presumably graduates fail less.)

27 Andrew Clough January 29, 2016 at 12:53 pm

7) The difference between #279 rank and the top is much smaller than what Go programs were at a year ago. I give it 1 to 3 years before a compute is the best and that represents a huge advance in the state of the art. The combination of neural networks and traditional AI that they used is very interesting and possibly a sign of things to come.

28 Chris January 29, 2016 at 1:27 pm

It seems to me history remembers two kinds of painters. Those that are very innovative that changed the style of art and influenced many future artists, and those that embody the zeitgeist of a particular age. So art history remembers the Renaissance painters that introduced realist perspective, the Baqoue period which introduced new genres and composition techniques, the French impressionists, and the modern art progenitors. It also remembers certain artists from interesting periods like Weimar Germany, French fin-de-siecle, and revolutionary Europe which impacted the culture.

It tends not to remember the highly trained craftsmen that produce great work, but which aren’t all that unique or do not embody/dominate certain cultural periods. This affects a lot of male painters as well as women. William-Adolphe Bouguereau was extremely famous in his lifetime, but was forgotten for most of the Twentieth Century. He is only now making a comeback, mostly because of a backlash against talentless modern artists. So it’s not surprising the fame of female painters fades quickly. The fame of most artists fade quickly. Only a very few continue to persist. Fame is different than importance/contribution to the art form which are the things that persist in the memory of future artists and thus are remembered in popular memory. Art historians will of course remember far more artists than pop culture.

29 Floccina January 29, 2016 at 1:38 pm

#4 the thing Bernie does not say is that a tax is not like a premium in a significant way. If I am considering whether my wife should work in the taxed economy or work to produce for in home consumption (which Bernia could consider a tax dodge) an insurance premium will weighs on the opposite side of balance from a tax.

30 Todd Kreider January 29, 2016 at 1:38 pm

7. Contrary to the article, if I saw a robotic tennis player, say, a young lIvan Lendl, rank only 297th in the world, I’d say he had “mastered the game” of tennis. Typical anti-silicon prejudice that we have seen from carbon based reporters for decades.

Marvin Minsky’s disciple, Ray Kurzweil, said that he could predict when a computer would consistently beat a top chess player by noting for many years that on average top human score ratings were increasing at a point a year while the best programs were improving at a rate of 10 points a year so placed a Deep Blue victory at 1999 in a 1990 book,written a decade before the event happened.

IBM’s Watson’s engineers timed the Jeopardy matches for the year when they thought steady, measurable improvements had reached the point that they were highly confident that Watson would win. I think the same thing is happening with the March tournament. If DeepMind doesn’t win this year it will win soon after as Alex implied.

31 Ethan Bernard January 29, 2016 at 4:25 pm

Kurzweil as prophet. <>

32 MOFO January 29, 2016 at 1:39 pm
33 Vivian Darkbloom January 29, 2016 at 3:26 pm

While we’re it, does the fame of female composers fade more quickly?

34 Mc January 29, 2016 at 8:23 pm

not with a name like ‘Vivian Darkbloom’ . . .

35 charlies January 29, 2016 at 9:56 pm

That’s a man’s name, actually.

Hint: he was russian but wrote mainly in english

36 Mc January 29, 2016 at 10:14 pm

thanks for that charlies, i didn’t do a google/bing search on the moniker, just pondered about the ‘vivian’ intractability of things . . .

37 B.B. January 29, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Just a few remarks about Ireland.

(1) It is one thing for crops to fail. It is another thing for a country in famine conditions to export food, which is what the colonial masters of Ireland happened to do.

(2) I remember hearing the AEA speech by A. Sen in the 1990s. I sat bolt upright when he observed that no democracy has ever experienced a famine. Sen, of course, observed while young the Bengali famine in the 1940s when that land was (also) a British colony. Ireland was no democracy; it was a colony internalized involuntarily into the United Kingdom.

(3) Can you imagine, say, Illinois suffering a million famine deaths from crop failure while the rest of the 50 states did nothing? That is what happened in the UK. The roots of the famine were English racism, not a blight. The blight also hit Scotland without famine breaking out.

(4) Kind of curious that only Catholic Irish died of famine. Very selective famine, it seems.

(5) I think the issue of Millian liberalism and progressivism is barking up the wrong tree. Back then, Malthus grim theories dominated popular intellectual thinking, including economists and including Mill. A high birth rate was bad, and famine was nature’s way of fixing the problem. Under Malthusian thinking, any help would only encourage those awful Catholics to have more babies.

Eugenics is just a manifestation of Malthusian and Darwinian influence.

The issue for today is the grim and horrible neo-Malthusian intellectuals like Paul Ehrlich which dominate progressivist environmental thinking. Those people are a blight. They helped produced horrors like Mao’s single child policy. They are the ones who forecasted that the world would run out of oil by now. Cold indifference to conditions in Africa are a consequence of neo-Malthusian thinking.

Be it Ireland, or China, or Africa, the Mathusians are the hard masters, rather than progressivism as such, or Millian liberalism.

38 Cooper January 29, 2016 at 6:48 pm

Prior to the invention of birth control and a modern understanding of population dynamics, it might have been acceptable to support famine as a means of population control.

Today, it’s utterly unconscionable and borders on sadism.

It might be okay to shoot Old Yeller if there’s no cure for rabies. It’s not okay to shoot Old Yeller if we have a cheap and easy cure for rabies.

39 Adrian Ratnapala January 30, 2016 at 12:41 am

These are good comments. But as for why the famine selectively killed Irish, presumably it is becaues the Protestants were generally richer and could afford food anyway — indeed some of them would have been the very people who were exporting food at the time.

40 Adrian Ratnapala January 30, 2016 at 12:42 am

Do, my comment should read “selectively killed Irish Catholics”. The whole paragraph is premised on the fact that not all the Irish are Catholic.

41 Deek January 30, 2016 at 7:41 am

Regarding point #3

There was famine in Scotland. The affected population was less than in Ireland as the Highlands only held about 200,000 at the time.

The blight in Scotland was almost completely ignored by the London government and the vast majority of relief was through the church. This was possible because Scotland was a far wealthier country than Ireland at the time, having made fortunes in tobacco then reaped the benefits of the mineral wealth required to drive the industrial revolution that the Irish rocks lacked. The Scots diaspora in the New World chipped in with a fair amount too.

The Irish were no more victims of racism than the Scots. The Scots were able to cope because they were a richer nation with a more diverse economy. Despite that, the blight persuaded a third of the Highlands’ population to embark on Glasgow-built ships across the Atlantic in hope of a better life.

The English weren’t racist (against fellow Whites), they simply didn’t care.

42 FYI January 29, 2016 at 5:26 pm

Funny how Krugman cannot control himself and attack Republicans even when he is calling Bernie basically a liar. I guess a political hack is always a political hack, even when he is telling the truth.

43 TMC January 29, 2016 at 5:55 pm

And I wonder how the column would read if it were Hillary calling for single payer.

44 Cooper January 29, 2016 at 6:39 pm

The irony, of course, is that Clinton tried to get to Obama’s left on health care in 2008.

I guess we’re all supposed to forget about that now.

45 JWatts January 29, 2016 at 10:10 pm

“And I wonder how the column would read if it were Hillary calling for single payer.”

It would be a lot more “nuanced”, of course.

46 Mc January 29, 2016 at 6:49 pm

#2.Crooked Timber is too verbose and always reminds me about some old joke about lawyers at the bottom of sea. Monoculture is a set up for demise, the Peruvians would of told you that + many Germans and Russians starved because of the blight too.

47 JWatts January 29, 2016 at 10:28 pm

Crooked Timber always seems to use a lot of words and end up with a pretty weak argument.

48 January 29, 2016 at 7:00 pm

#3 So Ringo Starr knew that long ago.

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