Political Science

Imagine a deal where America and Russia agree on combating ISIS in Syria, admittedly through the sad means of supporting or at least tolerating Assad.  After all, we were all able to agree on Iran, right?

Russia also will agree to keep Snowden away from the embarrassment of a trial and conviction in the United States.  Easier for Obama to let sleeping dogs lie.

America and China could agree on how close American planes and ships could come to the artificial islands.  The Philippines could be part of that deal.

We know which two nations need to lead a climate change agreement.

Toss in a U.S.-China bilateral investment treaty.

Then there’s the arms control agreement for cyberspace, for all three nations, maybe someday Iran too.

Up to forty different U.S.-Chinese agreements have been predicted — after all, Uncle Xi has to come home with something.

It all seems so easy, and logical too.  But, unfortunately, international politics is rarely so straightforwardly Coasian.  Maybe the bilateral investment treaty will come to pass!

For a useful conversation I thank J.

I found this a fascinating book, in spite of some over-generalizations.  We all know that something is wrong with Europe, and with France in particular, but what?  The argument starts with this:

We need to take religion seriously, especially when it starts to disappear.

It continues:

…we gave the name ‘zombie Catholicism’ to the anthropological and social force that emerged from the final disintegration of the Church in its traditional bastions…This cultural survival is probably the most important social phenomenon of the years from 1965 to 2015.  It eventually led France into a multifaceted ideological venture, including the rise of a new kind of socialism, decentralization, a surge of pro-European feeling, a masochistic monetary policy, a deformation of the nature of the Republic, and, as we shall later see, a particularly shifty form of Islamophobia and, probably, of anti-Semitism.

It’s hard to unpack this following sentence in a blog post, but it gives you an indication of where the book is heading:

The demonization of Islam is a response to the intrinsic need of a completely de-Christianized society.

Todd notes that the vote share of the National Front is higher in “egalitarian territory” than in inegalitarian territory (pp.125-126).  And yet there is more:

We have been obliged to admit that there is a zombie Catholicism, and a zombie Protestantism too.  We should not shy away from postulating that there is a zombie Islam.

Ross Douthat, telephone!

I ordered my copy from Amazon.uk.  Here is a useful article on the French controversies surrounding this book.  It’s making my list for one of the most interesting of the year.

Here is Bloomberg on next week’s election:

If separatist parties secure a majority and Madrid refuses to negotiate, Mas says he’ll declare independence unilaterally within 18 months.

I read this earlier in the week:

The gap between Spanish 10-year bond yields and Italian yields has widened to a two-year high as political uncertainty escalates ahead of an election in Catalonia this month and a general election in December.

Spanish 10-year bonds now yield 0.27 percentage points more than Italian bonds. In October 2014 they yielded 0.4 percentage points less. The spread has widened by 0.15 percentage points in the last week alone, indicating a rising risk premium, with the timing of the sell-off coinciding with a major demonstration by Catalonian separatists on Friday.

The EU warns that independence would mean automatic expulsion from the EU.  Various leading banks have warned they would leave an independent Catalonia.  The odds are still against this actually happening, but it’s climbed on the radar screen again.

My position remains that this would be a big mistake.  It would bring significant economic harms.  Furthermore the current notion of “what it means to be Catalan” seems to be as much defined by the union with Spain as it would be realized without such a union.  Voting to leave is like voting to become a very new people, although it is rarely framed that way and more commonly framed as a kind of self-preservation or cultural preservation.  There’s nothing wrong with deciding to become a new people, but that can be done within larger political units as well.

What about the evidence on the economics?:

First, no historical evidence supports this claim [that an independent Catalonia would grow more rapidly]. Andres Rodriguez-Pose from the London School of Economics has studied the economic record of independence, mostly in Eastern Europe and the former Yugoslavia, and finds that countries at best maintain their previous growth paths.

Second, no evidence suggests that institutions in Catalonia perform better than the Spanish average. Anecdotal evidence suggests that corruption is as pervasive in Catalonia as in the rest of Spain. On a more scientific basis, the 2012 European Commission report [pdf] measuring the quality of government in European countries and regions shows Spain ranked 13 out of 27 EU countries, while Catalonia ranked 130 out of 199 EU regions, thus in the bottom third of EU regions. Catalonia also ranked last among Spanish regions.

Third, Catalonia’s potential growth benefited massively from the 1992 Olympic Games, which were financed mostly by the Spanish State and the City of Barcelona, with a minor contribution by the Catalan government, and which opened up new parts of the city with civil infrastructure investments. Research conducted by the University of Barcelona and the City of Barcelona shows that this spending not only boosted the economy before the games but also provided long-lasting benefits. For example, Barcelona moved higher in the “best city to conduct business” ranking.

That all said, Spain and the eurozone are now outside their immediate and dire fiscal and financial crisis, at least compared to say 2011.  So I now think that if a clear majority in Catalonia wants to leave Spain, Spain should let them go.  I wrote a few years ago that would be my stance once the most pressing parts of the financial crisis are past, and it seems to me that is now the case.  Catalonian separatism, while I still think it is imprudent, is no longer morally irresponsible from a broader European point of view.

Good luck, I’ll be watching either way.

Licinius wrote:

Some thoughts from a pseudonymous political consultant:
1) The filter for politicians hardly selects for spontaneous television charisma at all until the very highest levels. Typically the types of offices one holds prior to being a Governor or a Senator (Congress, lesser statewide office, Mayor of a medium-sized but not too big city) are offices that select for skill-sets like working a room of a handful of insiders, and avoiding making mistakes; not spontaneously debating on camera. Let’s say at any given point in time there are 1,000 people in the country in one of these “feeder” offices (Congress, Statewide elected officials, mid-city mayors, etc).
2) Governor and Senator positions select a little bit more for charisma and media presence, but not much, and usually they only do so in big expensive contested Senate Races – not in the safe blue or safe red states that most Senators and Governors represent. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that no more than 50 out of 150 Governors and Senators were elected in the sorts of elections that test a person’s debating mettle and television presence. This doesn’t seem like a process where one is going to end up with tremendously charismatic TV personalities running for president. But it does pose an interesting puzzle, because it would seem to me that professional entertainers could wipe the floor with politicians.
3) Very rarely do celebrities or CEOs run for offices that are “to scale,” or things that they could easily win. If Carly Fiorina had run for an open Republican seat in Congress instead of Senate on her first shot, she’d be a shoo-in. Ben Affleck would be iffy for Senate, but he’d coast to a victory in Congress (and then Congressman Ben Affleck could easily rise up the ranks and build a political career from there, if he had the patience). When they do run for things that are “to scale” – like Kevin Johnson running for Mayor of Sacramento – they tend to win. When they do things not to scale – Chris Dudley running for Governor of Oregon – they tend to lose.
4) Being an entertainer/CEO is generally a better life than being a politician. This selects for second tier CEOs and entertainers running for office, not first tier ones. Al Franken was an entertaining guy, but he was hardly a first-tier celebrity prior to running for office. For him, running for Senate was a step up in status. For somebody like John Stewart or Stephen Colbert, not so much. Similarly, Bill Gates and Tim Cook have nothing to gain by running for office, so the businessperson candidates we get are generally not first-tier. No offense to Carly Fiorina, she has “succeeded” more than the vast majority of people ever will in her field, but she has dedicated her life singularly to making money, and there’s thousands of people who have done a better job than her. She’s the businessperson equivalent of a State Attorney General, not a Governor or a Senator. Trump fares a little better, but still, there are dozens of more successful businessmen in the U.S. than him. If you were to rank all the politicians in the U.S. in terms of electoral success, all the legitimate presidential contenders would be in the top 150. Would anybody make the case that Carly Fiorina is one of the top 150 businesspeople in the U.S.?
5) This leads to the interesting observation that CEOs and entertainers may be so much more talented at some aspects of charisma than politicians are that a C-list CEO or entertainer might still be more compelling than an A-list politician. And if an A-list entertainer or CEO ever decides to run for major office (like Arnold running for Governor), they’ll have a real shot at winning.

Here is what some Chinese thought of the candidates.  Here are comments from David Brooks.

Don Boudreaux had asked Dani why favor free trade within nations, but not always favor free trade across nations?  Dani wrote a long response here, self-recommending, do read the whole thing, but here is a brief excerpt:

So the national market and the international market are different. The defining characteristic of a national market is that it is deeply embedded in a set of social and political institutions – a common legal and regulatory framework provided by the nation-state. The international market is at best weakly embedded in transnational arrangements, and the arrangements that do exist such as the WTO and bilateral investment treaties are commercial rather than fully-fledged political/redistributive/regulatory arrangements.

On Thursday the dialogue will continue

Yes, the set up is important, but let’s cut to the chase:

The experimental behaviors of these three subject classes—once again, making real allocations with real money—revealed stark differences between attitudes toward economic justice among ordinary Americans and among the elite. To begin with, the Berkeley and Yale subjects were twice as likely to be selfish as their compatriots in general. In this respect, intermediate and extreme elites stand together with each other, and stand apart from the rest of the country.

What’s more, elite Americans show a far greater commitment to efficiency over equality than ordinary Americans. And this time, the bias toward efficiency increases with each increment of eliteness. The ALP subjects split roughly evenly between focusing on efficiency and focusing on equality; the Berkeley students favored efficiency over equality by a factor of roughly 3-to-2; and the Yale Law students favored efficiency by a factor of 4-to-1.

Yale Law students’ overwhelming, indeed almost eccentric, commitment to efficiency over equality is all the more astonishing given that the students self-identified as Democrats rather than Republicans—and thus sided with the party that claims to represent economic equality in partisan politics—by a factor of more than 10-to-1. An elite constituted by highly partisan Democrats thus showed an immensely greater commitment to efficiency over equality than the bipartisan population at large.

That is from Ray Fisman and Daniel Markowits, do read the whole thing.  I say that is mostly good news, and I disagree with the claim of the authors that a new class war is on its way.

I watched about an hour total, mostly because my father-in-law has been regularly engaged in this Methodenstreit.  Two related facts struck me:

1. I know this is hard to believe, but not every participant did remarkably well from a marketing point of view.  Put aside whether or not you agreed with them, more than one candidate was disappointing in terms of voter appeal.  Yet these were, for the most part, professional politicians.

2. The two participants who have done the best relating to voters, through the media, are the two former CEOs, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.  Overall that is true even if you think Trump had a subpar performance this debate.

A priori, you would think that being a professional politician selects exactly for people who can do well in a televised national debate.  Yet, from this limited number of data points, it is the CEOs who have the relevant skills.

What should we infer about the relative filters for CEOs and politicians?

a. Do CEOs work with real people more?  Or perhaps the CEO filter requires a greater diversity of life experience.

b. Is the CEO market simply tougher, more competitive, and more demanding of talent, given how much money is on the line?

c. Do CEOs have an easier time being eclectic or perhaps talking tough?  After all, they’re “the boss” and they can on a regular basis make tough, oppositional decisions in a way that a mainstream politician usually cannot.  (Indeed Fiorina and Trump have done plenty of this.)  This seems to be a time when many voters prefer eclecticism and outside the box flair.

d. Is there something else about the filtering process for professional politicians?  What might that be, if not the ability to be good on TV?  You might think “ability to raise $$ from big donors” is a major filter, but I would think the donors would care enough about electability for this to collapse back into the original question of why the CEOs are doing better on TV.

Robin Hanson yesterday raised the question of why actors and actresses, in either the literal or the operational sense, do not take over the upper tiers of the political sector.  Take a taller Tom Cruise, subtract Scientology, school him, and put him on that floor — how well would he have done?  Would a George Clooney or Harrison Ford really have no chance?  How about a smart talk show host?

Inquiring minds wish to know.

The transcript is here, with a podcast version, and there is also a YouTube version at the link, with cleaned-up audio compared to any earlier link you may have come across.  Luigi was wonderful, and also fantastically witty.  The topics included Italy, Donald Trump, Antonio Gramsci, Google and conglomeration, Luchino Visconti, Starbucks, and the surprisingly high productivity of Italian cafés.

Here is one excerpt:

I don’t understand why in the United States the only thing that is really noncompetitive is sports. In Europe, the only thing that is really competitive is sports.

And another:

COWEN: …Angela Merkel, overrated or underrated?

ZINGALES: I think she’s probably underrated. I’m impressed by her ability to, number one, run Europe for the interest of Germans in a very effective way.

The longest bit from me is where I compare and contrast Luigi with Gramsci, another theorist of hegemony, and try to sum up Luigi’s work; you can find that on the video or in the transcript.

And again from Luigi there is this:

…when I arrived in this country 27 years ago, you were not really drinking coffee. You were drinking a dark thing that tastes like I don’t say what because we’re online. The culture of coffee did not exist here.

The culture of coffee and a café where you seat and drink, et cetera, what Starbucks is, is an Italian or at most French culture. Why were you unable to export this? This is my little explanation. By the way, the only country in the world where Starbucks has not arrived is Italy.

Luigi then considers when Italian coffee is better tasting and better run at the artisan level, yet without the same possibilities for corporate expansion.  I liked this sentence from Luigi:

The extreme agency problems of Italy make it difficult to scale firms.

And finally:

One thing I can predict fairly confidently is that we are not going to pay the debt.

This is also a worthwhile observation:

When you’re down to one or two kids, the chance that one is an idiot is pretty large.

His favorite film is Visconti’s The Leopard, a good pick.  And he was the public choice scholar who forecast the rise of Donald Trump, as we discuss in the chat.  Self-recommending.

Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter

by on September 16, 2015 at 12:55 am in Data Source, Political Science, Religion | Permalink

Thanks Hugo Chavez for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world

link here, from 2013, and

I believe that homeo-meds works for some ppl and that it compliments ‘convential’ meds. they both come from organic matter…

link here, from 2010.  The spelling and grammar could be improved, too.

The pointers are from Marc Andreessen.

By William H. Overholt, here is one wee bit:

Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao reversed much of this. With the population weary of market-oriented reforms, having seen over 50 million SOE jobs evaporate, market reforms ceased or receded. To cope with the global financial crisis, they poured money into the only institutions that could create rapid increases of production: big SOEs. The government and party bureaucracies nearly doubled. SOEs revived their pre-eminence. The 1990s campaign to increase competition dissipated. Senior military officers reverted to managing lucrative side businesses. Some top leaders and their families began making huge fortunes. The scale of graft became astronomic.

That is one way of thinking about why one should be worried about the economy of China.  That is via Bill Bishop.  The longer version of the piece, starting on p.22 here is interesting throughout.

They are solving for the equilibrium, so to speak:

Germany is reinstating controls at its borders with Austria as Europe’s top economy struggles to cope with a record influx of refugees, according to media reports.

Passport checks had been abolished for countries within Europe’s Schengen zone, but the decision to bring back controls is expected to be announced by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere at a press conference on Sunday evening.

Bild newspaper cited security sources as saying that the state government in Bavaria had asked the federal police to help deal with the task. The newspaper said the federal police would send 2,100 officers to Bavaria to help it secure its borders.

Here is the technological shock.  Here is my earlier post on Germany and the backlash.  Here is my earlier post on the moral regression of Syria.  Put those all together and mix…

One reason the Chilean reforms went well was that the state had nationalized the copper mines.  That provided a steady flow of money, thus minimizing the need for revenue-raising distorting policies elsewhere.  More generally the revenues helped build a stable state backed by a secure coalition, which in turn liberalized much of the rest of the economy.  For all the talk about laissez-faire and the Chicago boys, the Chilean privatizers never gave up their hold on those mines.  And the mines proved easy enough to run and convert into revenue…and they are still a lucrative source of foreign exchange.

One reason the Chinese reforms went well was that the state had nationalized the SOEs.  That provided a steady flow of money, thus minimizing the need for revenue-raising distorting policies elsewhere.  More generally that ownership helped build a stable state backed by a secure coalition, which in turn liberalized much of the rest of the economy.  For all the talk about dismantling communism, the Chinese reformers never gave up their hold on those SOEs.  And the companies proved easy enough to run and convert into revenue, at least until the low-hanging fruit was plucked…and they are still…?

The problem of course is that privatizing the SOEs is the economic reform China needs over the medium term, yet it may not be consistent with their political economy in support of broader market forces.

*Black Earth*

by on September 11, 2015 at 7:38 am in Books, History, Law, Political Science | Permalink

The author is Timothy Snyder and the subtitle is The Holocaust as History and Warning.  Here is one bit:

The Germans had come to understand that pogroms were not an effective way to eliminate Jews, but that the production of lawlessness was an appropriate way to find murderers who could be recruited for organized actions.  Within weeks they grasped that people liberated from Soviet rule could be drawn into violence for psychological, material, and political reasons.

In per capita terms more Jews from Estonia died than from any other country at the time.  As of 1944 there were still three-quarters of a million Jews in Hungary and ultimately more than half of Hungary’s Jews survived the Second World War, even though Hungary was both a German ally and it was later invaded by Germany.  More generally:

Jews who were citizens of Germany’s allies lived or died according to certain general rules.  Jews who maintained their prewar citizenship usually lived, and those who did not usually died…Jews from territories that changed hands were usually murdered.  Jews almost never survived if they remained on territories where the Soviet Union had been exercising power when German or Romanian forces arrived…In all, about seven hundred thousand Jews who were citizens of Germany’s allies were killed.  Yet a higher number survived.  This is a dramatic contrast to the lands where the state was destroyed, where almost all Jews were killed.

Recommended, interesting throughout, and gripping throughout, including the discussions of agricultural productivity and of Hitler as a non-nationalist who saw race as the primary category of human existence.  It’s not easy to write an original and readable book on the Holocaust these days, but Snyder seems to have done it.  You can read some reviews here.

I reproduce this verbatim from Angus:

Cool study forthcoming in AEJ Applied about how legal immigration status reduced recidivism of foreign prisoners in the EU. Here’s a link to an un-gated version of the paper.

Here’s the abstract:

We exploit exogenous variation in legal status following the January 2007 European Union enlargement to estimate its effect on immigrant crime. We difference out unobserved time-varying factors by i) comparing recidivism rates of immigrants from the “new” and “candidate” member countries; and ii) using arrest data on foreign detainees released upon a mass clemency that occurred in Italy in August 2006. The timing of the two events allows us to setup a difference-in-differences strategy. Legal status leads to a 50 percent reduction in recidivism, and explains one-half to two-thirds of the observed differences in crime rates between legal and illegal immigrants.

So the good news is that the identification scheme here is pretty darn good. The bad news is that to achieve this strong identification, the paper ends up studying a fairly small sample of foreign criminals:

We are left with 725 and 1,622 individuals in the treated and control groups, respectively.

Kai Xue writes:

But I say in plain honesty that terrible air pollution while taken as mandarin indifference to public demands is to the contrary a manifestation of commitment to a mass middle class by the Chinese political system.

Policy deliberately trades off public health for blue collar jobs. Around Beijing are industries including steel mills and cement plants that are major polluters. About 1 in 10 tonnes of the world’s steel output is smelted in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. With so much local heavy industry, cleaning the air would start with plant closures that cause concentrated unemployment.

Whether this bargain of clean air for economic growth is a good deal is a fair question but whether it is virtuous public policy depends on the extent decision-makers are subject to or instead insulated from the consequences of self-produced actions.

Beijing is the seat of power in a centralized state. About one third of the thousands who hold junior ministerial rank or higher and many of the very rich reside here.

Regardless of stature, for every Beijing inhabitant air pollution is the most serious public concern.

That is from an Atlantic article by James Fallows.