Assorted links


1. So, a year after Palin's support helps several candidates win elections, she's "done." Frum offers no support for his thesis other than that's what he wants to happen, but he's "on a roll." I swear, Tyler's standards are dropping like a rock.

It was obvious after leaving the governorship she has no interest in being president. I wasn't even paying attention, so it was probably obvious to others before that. To me it appears noone on the right has ever liked her as much as people on the left hate her, except for the schadenfreude. Even I enjoyed seeing the conniption fits. Now we have a Tea Party Left and maybe that will start sinking in.

Anyway, who was that guy...ummm...errr...oh yeah, John Edwards.

Frum's article is more of a rant than any kind of analysis. He calls Palin a con artist. Really now, exactly who did she con and how? She is what she is, a conservative cheerleader. That's neither good nor bad, it just is.

Who did she con? Well, apparently John McCain, for one.

Actually, I think Frum offers support for his claim that Palin is a con artist: "Sarah Palin was the ultimate taker. She abandoned her post as governor of Alaska to cash in on lectures and TV. She squeezed her supporters for political donations and spent the money on herself." In his view, she conned people into thinking she would serve the conservative cause, but she actually only served herself. It is a rant, but he also has a serious argument.

My first reaction to the piece was that it is too mean-spirited. I believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to motives. However, I find it hard to disagree with his analysis. Palin was done for me when she quit as governor. Is there a way to see that move as other than self-serving?

And I hardly ever agree with David Frum.

Lack of antibodies -- Dear God. Yeah, the GOP should have immediately squashed this woman who was able to rally millions of people to the party, many of whom were never interested in politics before, and get them into conservatism. Such a disaster! How could they let this happen???

Frum is a misogynist, useless dope, and Tyler is show a very special retardation when he approvingly links to him.

"Tyler is show a very special retardation"...nice job there.

David Frum's job has always been to protect the GOP establishment. Sorry, but while Tyler is a very interesting economist, he continues to blog on politics not as if he were any sort of libertarian, but as if he still desperately wants be invited to Brad DeLong's parties. Academia is like high school, watching the desperate attempts to be one of the cool kids.

"Academia is like high school, watching the desperate attempts to be one of the cool kids."

Crap, I thought I came up with that originally. Hell. If I had any chance to be invited to DeLong's parties I'd do whatever it takes. He seems like someone it would be fun to have a close friendship with.

Tyler supports Mitt Romney, David Fruma nd frequently David Brooks and higher taxes(VAT, CO2 tax, you name it). These guys are all big government, expansive military interventionist, supporters of the drug wars, supporters of every war and every increase in military spending they have ever seen. Tyler supported the bailout plan. Romney supported Obamacare. Tyler and Romney and Frum were all in support of TARP/ Paulson Plan.

Whatever you want to call this club, there is nothing libertarian about any of this.

If China stops buying our Treasurys, do they not start buying products? I'm thinking back to the original backstop here. Do those other guys go back and talk about how TARP could have been avoided because it was the lesser of all evils and yet still evil? I don't know, I don't seek out their opinions, but it doesn't seem like it.

"there is nothing libertarian about any of this"

Can't be true. Huben implies that this is a steady stream of libertarian propaganda.

D'oh, darn that selective memory!

You clearly don't read the blog, can you back any of those assertions with actual quotes by Tyler. No need to work hard at it, just point to the posts that you feel confirm your perspective.

I'm having a hard time seeing "Brad DeLong" and "cool kid" in the same sentence.

Frum comes across as petty. "Sarah Palin was the ultimate taker." Really? What has she taken that compares to what actual elected officials and bureaucrats in DC have taken from us? She doesn't make the top 1000 list. She was relatively good governor. The media going nuts about her, building her up and then slamming her down, says something about the media, but it doesn't say that much about her or Republicans in general. The "lack of antibodies" comment doesn't even make sense: she never got in the race because the lack of support was obvious.

She was never a threat to be president, and yet they talk like she's the antichrist. John Edwards came really close, and he IS the antichrist.

Why was she not a threat to be President? Consider the sequence of events:

A. McCain-Palin win in 2008.
B. President McCain (age 72 when he takes office) dies before completing his term.

Is the probability of that so low as to disregarded? I don't think so.

Palin was a promotion from the beginning. Her mission was to help hi-jack the tea party to strip away and misdiect any of the genuine small governemnt, anti-fed, anti-interventionism sentiment that was originally involved in the tea party.

I'm no Palin supporter, but Frum's piece was a hatchet job. Why you like dat link?

Because Mitt Romney is no taker...I guess. If you think Palin is harmless then you just sit back and enjoy the show, unless you think she's hogging the spotlight from a superior alternative. Since Frum doesn't believe as I that the establishment is going to get it good and hard for failure, he is in the latter camp.

3. I could not watch more than a minute of the first video..kind of disturbing. (The Daily Show has the only coverage of the Wall Street occupation that I can stomach.) I loved the pairing with the second video. Humor makes current events a little easier to think about.

Nobody tell those people about the internet. It will be our little joke.

In all fairness to the Occupy Wall Street crowd and their seemingly goofy "repeat everything I say" methods:

A New York bylaw prevents anyone from using a bullhorn or megaphone without a permit, so the protesters have adopted a system they call “the people’s microphone” to communicate with each other during large meetings. Someone shouts a message, a few words at a time, to the crowd, and then everyone who heard those words repeats them together for the benefit of those farther away. It’s an excruciatingly slow way to communicate, but it gets the message across.

-- Globe and Mail, October 6 2011

"The Green Revolution improved grain yields by 126 percent from 1950 to 1980, but yields have risen only by 47 percent in the decades since"

This exemplifies my problem with this tech stagnation argument. We are choosing two completely arbitrary periods of time to compare something and the results are not even that shocking
(47% sounds pretty good to me! No wonder we have an obesity problem now and didn't have it in the 70s). Besides that, the 1970 person arriving today would be faced with many other innovations Brooks chooses to ignore. These might not be 'science fiction like' but I really don't understand how we can measure development by that. I mean, I know this was the 80s but at one point AIDS looked like the end of the world. We didn't defeat cancer but treatment today is incredibly better than it was in the 70s. Same thing with cars! I wonder how amazed that 70s person would be to drive a Civic. How about crime? If that person came from NY I bet he would be expecting something much, much worse!

I would turn this little experiment on its head and say that this time traveler from the 70s would be willing to have a much, much lower income today and would still choose to stay here instead of coming back.

What does a person from 1970 see when he arrives in the future?
"Where are all the public pay phone booths?" Oh, well nobody needs them we all carry a phone on us.
"What about the post office boxes?" Well we don't use them either, the phone does mail too.
" Ok, but your planes are just the same." Well sort of, but they burn less fuel, have auto pilots, are safer, travel further and are quieter. But if none of that counts as progress then no they aren't any better.
"And your cars are the same, too". Again, they burn less fuel, are much safer, emit less pollutants, have TV's in them, satellite radio, automatic doors, windows, mirrors, seats. Oh and the seats have heaters. And we have more of them, but ignoring that, yep just the same.
"And you haven't been any further than the moon?" With men, no we haven't. Of course we sent robot probes to most of the planets in the Solar system, multiple ones to Mars (no Martians, by the way), a couple of probes have actually left the Solar system. We now have telescopes that have detected hundreds of planets on neighboring stars and make some pictures that are awesome screen savers on laptops.
"What's a laptop?" It's a computer, that's small enough to fit on your lap.
"Wow, you have a laptop as small as a breadbox?!!" No, actually it's quite a bit smaller than that. And it has a battery, so it's portable.
"Oh, so you have to carry a battery the size of breadbox to power it and a fork lift for the TV you hook it to!" No, the battery is the size of a pack of cards and the TV is built into the laptop. It's only about .5 inch thick.
"Now you are lying to me. I've seen a TV tube and it can't be fit in that small a space!" Well, we also developed new types of TV and many people just hang them on the wall like a picture.
Far more than information technology has changed substantially over the last 40 years.

Exactly. "You must have 10 TV channels by now" "No we have hundreds and I get my TV from a satellite dish on my roof. I also get radio via satellite. And I can watch TV shows when I want to using a DVR. CWe've gone from records to 8 tracks to CDs to mp3 players. My mp3 player can store thousands of songs. My camera can take and store thousands of photos and I can see them instantly. The military can find you with an airplane flown by someone thousands of mile away and blow you up. A private business has built it's own reusable spacecraft and soon people will be able to buy a ticket it on for as little as $100,000. etc....

Not to mention the billions we've poured into researching ever-more realistic fake tits!

Truly this is a golden age.

Along those lines, we have now have far. far better treatments for acne, impotence, male hair loss, and depression that Mr. 70s would have ever thought remotely believable, and our filmmakers can put literally anything they can imagine onto the screen...

I am consistently stunned by the lack of historical imagination that comments like this exhibit. No one is saying that there has been no progress. We're saying the progress is much, much slower. Are you really claiming that the difference between a Ford Trimotor and a 747 is the same as the difference between a 747 and a 777? That the changes in cars since 1970 equal the changes of the prior 40 years - automatic transmission, tubeless tires, steel belted radials, radios, heaters, alternators, fuel injection, power brakes, power steering, power windows, air conditioning? That the existence of more space probes in the last 40 years equals the development of rockets, of space travel, of space probes, of satellites, of radar, (and for that matter, nuclear energy) all of which happened in the prior 40 years? One could go on nearly forever with such lists.

You are too present-minded. If you think the development of the iPhone was a major technological advance, you are sunk into a stagnation mind-set.

Hmmm, a wireless communications device with instant access to all the information in the world, that can make phone calls, send letters instantly, show movies, play music, take pictures and videos, show street-level maps of much of the world, translate between any major language--need I go on? And it is vastly more powerful than the biggest supercomputer of 40 years ago. How would this look to someone from 1970?

I think you are the one lacking historical perspective. Computer, internet, and wireless technology have become so ubiquitous that you don't see how revolutionary they are.

Also, rapid progress always comes in cutting-edge technologies, rather than mature ones. It is no surprise that innovation has slowed down for things like airplanes and cars. Space travel is a different case, perhaps--it is not mature, but it has stagnated. However, its advance was driven by strategic concerns, rather than the market. Manned spaceflight was a great technological achievement, but it didn't have any near-term practical applications. When the Soviet Union crumbled, there was no longer anything to drive innovation in this area.

I agree with Dan. But even besides the iPhone example I think Mike and others miss the point about incremental changes. It is not just the wow factor that counts. Maybe a few very fancy cars in the 70s did have fuel injection, power brakes, power steering, power windows, air conditioning, etc. but these were not the standard. Granted, I grew up in Brazil where standards were quite lower but fuel injection only arrived there in the 90s. My first air conditioned car was actually from 1992. Airplane rides were super expensive as well. What is the change in standard of living that these changes provided in the last 40 years? I think that first of all it is almost impossible to measure but to try to measure it by wow factor seems like a very juvenile way to do it.

Also, all the innovations Brooks say are not mature (like genetic mapping) did happen in the last 40 years nonetheless. Just because they have not yet produced business value does not mean they are not important (by the way, what was the business value of flying to the moon? It was a military victory at the most). Maybe the time traveler would not consider genetic mapping very 'impressive' but how can that be our measure of its importance? Do we really need to wait until the incremental change on that comes and we cure diabetes? I don't think so.

Tyler is channeling Animal House...

Let's not forget that this is John McCain's entirely fault. We warned you about him.

RE #4

.....take 3 envelopes.

I have no problem criticizing Palin for her views or her competence, but the claim that she is a grifter is offensive and below David Frum's usual standards. It seems to me that it is a lot less offensive for Palin to make money off of TV shows and speeches than it is for elected politicians to make money off of how they vote.

6. Tech Stagnation

It was clear, even a few years ago, that oil was going to take a big chunk out of tech. With high oil prices, talented people are drawn into energy rather than information technology. Remember, ten years ago we could icnrease the oil supply by 2-3% per year with $250 bn of capex. This year, we'll be over $500 bn, and the increase in supply might be pretty minimal. The Big Four oil field services companies have added something like 150,000 employees since the mid-2000s. And all those folks have not increased the oil supply much at all. We're working harder just to stay in place, and we're drawing capital and talent out of other sectors to do so. For example, this year Halliburton will hire 5,000 engineers. Halliburton and Schlumberger together have as many PhDs as the faculty of a good-sized Ivy League university.

Of course, there is huge technological innovation in energy, most notably in horizontal drilling and hydrofracking. Hydrofracking means natural gas prices are half here what they are in Europe, a savings of about $1,000 per household per year. How does that rack up against your i-phone? You think Brooks might mention that?

Shale oil may become even more important. Without it, we will remain starved of transportation fuel and job growth. With it, this country can blossom and take advantage of all the bounty China will offer us. So there is innovation. But prices are drawing that innovation into commercially viable energy projects. The readers on this site are not sensitive to events in the oil industry, by and large, because it is not visible unless you visit Houston, and then, wow, it's just one oil field services company after another. And many of them are huge. And a lot of them have some very nice, high-end German, British, Italian and Japanese cars in the parking lot. Our industry is really going gangbusters, very typical pre-crash levels of activity.

By rights, the protesters should be in Houston, not here on Wall Street (they are literally downstairs from our offices here at 40 Wall). And they should be complaining about high oil prices and demanding that the industry drill faster.

6. The Brooks' article ends so well: "The roots of great innovation...require new ways of seeing. As Einstein put it, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” If you want to be the next Steve Jobs and end the innovation stagnation, maybe you should start in hip-hop." I have been amazed at how helpful music on my iPod has been for thinking about the economy and life in general over the past few months. Of course, most of my day is spent slogging through data and models, but a little bit of hip hop goes a long way.

Tempting - I feel a script coming on..
"I think he said, blessed are the Keynesians?"
"So, what have the economists ever done for us???"
"..Bwing me Kwugman.."
"He's not an economist, he's just a very naughty boy.."

Brooks says: "A person born in 1900 began with horse-drawn buggies and died with men walking on the Moon, but the last few decades have seen nothing like that sort of technological advance." But buggies were hardly the best technology in 1900, and walking on the moon, while perhaps the greatest technological achievement ever, did not have any practical application in people's lives. Also, this is a 70-year period, not a "few decades."

A better statement might be, "a person born in 1900 began with streetcars and fast trains, and died with cars and airplanes." Is that really so much more innovation than the period of 1940-present? From 1940-2011, the U.S. life expectancy increased by 15 years. In 1940, a "computer" was a person employed to perform mathematical calculations.

I think that possibly there has been some slowdown in innovation, but Brooks and others greatly overstate the case.


NASA’s early failures were seen as steps along the way to a glorious future. Deepwater Horizon’s failure demoralized the whole nation.

Now that is a pathetic comparison.

1. NASA's early failures neither killed people nor damaged their livelihoods nor harmed the environment.
2. No one thinks offshore drilling, successful or not, will lead the way to brilliant technological advance.
3. NASA's failures were not the result of negligence and corner-cutting by a lot of irresponsible greedheads.

Did Brooks reflect for even two seconds before writing those two sentences?

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