Assorted links

1. Via Brad DeLong, John Cleese on extremism.

2. Data on Bond girls, sex and death, etc.

3. Progress in the war against cancer.

4. Long study of British railway mania, via The Browser.


John Cleese on extremism.

Enemies are such very bad persons, and if it wasn't for them you'd be a very good person all the time.

Cleese nails it.

The Cleese video is gold. Too bad, DeSchlong won't take the message to heart and tone down the haterade he spews on his blog.

Progress in the war on cancer?

"Life expectancy at birth may have been increased by almost three months between 1996 and 2006 by the combined effects of cancer imaging and cancer drug innovation."

This seems a lousy return on investment, considering how much the US spends on cancer treatments.

(I didn't read the whole article, only the part available without paying.)


That's the thing of course; most people are "extreme" when it comes to one thing are another, so it is rather easy to paint anyone as extreme. And of course, being "moderate" is really no virtue on its own; in the 18th and 19th centuries there were these "extremists" known as abolitionists (life is a moving train in other words). The argument Cleese is making makes a lot of sense until you actually take a little time to think about it. It does make a for a nice stylized fact though.

I found myself thinking of Cleese: He's not describing extremism. He's describing partisanship, or more precisely, human nature.

But it is possible to to think that your political opponents are wrong without holding them in contempt as mendacious, morally bankrupt, racist idiots. It is...interesting that DeLong is the source of this link.

Brad posts the Cleese link on the same day he calls Republicans "batshit crazy," and clarifies that it's not just the Republicans on the right wing but those in the "center" and on the "left" of the party.

Though I am sometimes in the same ballpark with DeLong, there are few things that really worry me more about our country (or, I suppose, humanity) than people like him who demonstrate that a high degree of intelligence or field-specific aptitude not only fails to guard against blind bigotry, but may even encourage it.


BKarn sums up what I was getting at. I have no problem with some being extreme in their viewpoints and to some degree it can be entertaining. However, DeSchlong encourages name calling and group think (folks on the right do this plenty also) when he wanders outside of technical areas.

It seems Cleese is painting caricatures of those on the left and the right who have legitimate gripes. He is then portraying those with legitimate gripes as being the boogeyman "extremist". This scapegoating is unsightly...Cleese really feels good about himself as he sticks up for mainstream politicians/the media and the military that are hell bent on destroying self-determinism.

"He's making the argument that the perceived moral evil of your opponents doesn't justify your behaving like an asshole."

Don't ... think that's quite the argument he's making.

I sent the link to the Rail mania to an old friend who replied with this:

Thank you, Spencer. This is terrific.

Some years ago (2003) I was serving on the Economic Advisory Committee of the American Bankers Association and had the opportunity, along the rest of the Committee, to present our views of the economy to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. We did this at the Federal Reserve’s Board room. In that meeting, I compared the internet/technology bubble to the English Railway bubble of the 1840’s, noting that it took years for the market for railway securities and new construction to recover. Chairman Greenspan chose to engage me on that point, and we went back and forth for, maybe, two minutes on it. He noted that this was somewhat before his time, but he was aware of similar happenings later in the 19th century in this country. The overall impression I received was that it was interesting historically, but not of concern with regard to setting monetary policy currently.

My larger point, not made at that time, is that recessions differ in their points of origins and their consequences. By era, 1940-1960 was dominated by war, hot and cold, and recessions were mostly a result of moving from war to peace. The 1960-1980 era produced considerable inflation, some endogenous and some exogenous, and recessions were used as a tool to cool inflation—most notably by Paul Volker just after the era ended. Those recessions were in part intentional and subject to considerable control by the Federal Reserve. 1980-2008 was supply-side, free market (read: capital market) period where asset bubbles could, and did, form without effective response. Those recessions have not been intentional and not under effective control of the Federal Reserve.

Particularly now when we are focusing on causes and cures associated with such episodes, it is very helpful to have such a study as this one. This fits in well, too, with current interest in behavioral economics.

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