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#2. The author is confused. Of course, empathy is a good thing. You don't have to be empathetic AND innumerate- the innumeracy is the bad part.

Pinker remarked that empathy has become an overused buzzword similar to "love" in the '60s and '70s.

#7. Lotta good stuff, right up to the nonsense about 'fiscal stimulus' at the end.

To me, the Keynesian prescription succeeds when the money borrowed from the future is repaid by restoration of some semblance of trend growth. What are the successes?

"In fact, everything we know about politics in the United States would also support such a conclusion. Back around 2007, our economy was booming, unemployment was at a generational low. And did we run budget surpluses, as Keynes would have suggested. No, we were running record budget deficits."

The budget deficit in FY 2007, the last controlled by the Republicans, was $161 billion, which was the lowest since 2002. And need I point out that the FY2007 was a pittance compare to the current regime's accomplishments.

"The budget deficit in FY 2007, the last controlled by the Republicans"

More relevant is the last fiscal year before tax revenues tanked due to a recession. Do you blame Obama when you stub your toe, too? Moron.

Tu quoques aside, the 2007 deficit was a record, correct?

Are you kidding? It wasn't even close.

Deficit/GDP ratio was -22% in 1944.

Was -1% in 2007, -3% in 2008, and -10% in 2009.

Ha. That reminded me, for some obscure reason, of the Big Sleep: Philip Marlowe: My, my, my! Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains! You know, you're the second guy I've met today that seems to think a gat in the hand means the world by the tail.

Maybe it's because so many are brandishing tu quoques today.

My own take on the subject:

Frankly, I do not see anything wise in Pearlstein's article... The most direct rebuttal would be Matt Yglesias' point that chewed-up polity don't reform nearly as often as they vote for a dangerous populist... But that's far from the only issue with conservatives' obsession with deficits...

@Frederic, so, in short, the cure for 50 years of deficit spending is...wait for it...deficit spending. Yawn. By my count, the left is still stuck on zero new ideas during my lifetime.

Simple math tells us that $17 trillion in debt, $500 billion in deficits, and an entitlement spending wave set to take hold around the end of the decade is not a good scenario. We squandered our demographic 'seven fat years' (lookin' at you, Boomers.) What is happening today is not austerity- the last year has been a set of tentative steps toward dealing with this long-term issue, an issue that we've known about forever, in a way calculated to not provoke a crisis. The Economist, for example, has been going on about pulling off this Augustinian trick since 2009, while Keynesians have been baying their 'more more more' mantra the whole damn way.

Willem of Occam says we don't need to resort to Calvinistic psychoanalysis of conservatives here.

This is a reply to Brian Donohue but, for some reason, I cannot get a reply button to his reply.

So...No, I do not think that 'more deficit' is necessarily the answer: and

Most relevant bit: "Now, of course, with regards to fiscal policy, you always have people (me included) who would say "more was/is needed". Paul Krugman would be the natural chieftain of that tribe. But, as I myself said ("I am less convinced than, say, Krugman or DeLong of the utter efficiency of fiscal stimulus in our present-day crisis") and Taylor confirms, fiscal policy hasn't delivered all that impressive results and one need to wonder if 'more' would really change the dynamic".

Basically, I distrust both fiscal stimulus and monetary ones. If I had to choose, I would prefer fiscal stimulus. At least theoretically, it can be done well. But neither stimulus are, imho, going to be as good as fixing the LT wage growth/middle class purchasing power issue.

But it does bear repeating that your maths about future deficits are... well, wrong. Or at least anyone's guess. First, the start of potential troubles is at least 10 years out so even if you were right, it's still not as deadly urgent as fighting this recession. But, more than anything, entitlement spending in the US is mostly healthcare and no one knows the shape that will take...

#1. I'm not sold on the usefulness of country-level disease maps. It's a good start and interesting to look at, but let's get down to where people live and interact. Seems like Google could pull that off. And before you complain about privacy, they already know where you live and where you've been today.

An indirect response to #8.

I'd be curious to see Tyler's "completist" list. In other words, authors whose entire body of work merits reading. If this does get a response, I'm most interested in seeing the list begin with literature.

You may have misread the word "read" as second person imperative, rather than as first person past tense.
In any event, even Shakespeare, Homer and Dante are not worth reading in entirety.
Unless you really enjoy lexicography.

In terms of #3 and Japan Abeconomics, how does robot future fits into the world of dramatic decline in the birth rate. Japan is just the canary of the lower fertility countries falling into a liquidity trap. How does the developed world with very competitive job markets (and wasn't Japan 1980s the most competitive economy ever?) also have significant increases in the birth rate? Then on top of that these economies have austerity for the workers. What is the significant way the working class can deal with the austerity of lower wages? They are having less children. Given that India and Africa have falling birth rates, this trend is increasing become a global one.

Considering you want the world to have more children, what do you recommend?

#3: Amazed by Mr. Drum's clear manner of explaining a difficult topic.

The interesting problem is that robots and AI have been developed with help of tax money, but it the end they will serve only the capital owners. So, one way to see robot development with public money is just as inequality growth on steroids. Is there a second way to see this situation?

I dunno. Assumign Drum's right, I think he's severely underestimating (or downplaying) the difficulties society is going to face in this transition. To borrow a meme, the article goes:
1) AI is developing
2) Soon, AI will be developed
3) ????
4) Utopia!

Did you make it to page 2? "Increasingly, then, robots will take over more and more jobs. And guess who will own all these robots? People with money, of course. As this happens, capital will become ever more powerful and labor will become ever more worthless. Those without money—most of us—will live on whatever crumbs the owners of capital allow us."

Those without money—most of us—will live on whatever crumbs the owners of capital allow us.

Except the existing progressive taxation and large transfer payments, mean that's unlikely to happen. Also, it ignores the fact that since the cost of labor will approach 0 and the cost of energy will be very low, then the cost of manufactured goods will plummet. So, the "crumbs" you have will allow you to live like kings of old.

I'm not going to worry about this issue until there's actually an issue to worry about.

Presumably AI can be used by the wealthy to prevent redistribution. Also, just think about the power AI will give governments like China and Iran over their populations. There are certainly dystopian outcomes to consider.

It's interesting that you guys can have such breezy confidence in these baseless theories. Feel free to walk through the streets of Detroit or Baltimore or the hills of Appalachia and remind the people you find there about how good their lives are because of the "large" transfer payments they receive. If they give you any lip, just let them know that the machines that took their jobs will someday allow them to live like kings. No saying when that day will come, but if a few generations must live in abject poverty in order to prove your theories...well, I suppose that's how those who control capital prefer it, so nothing to worry about for now.

Dana, the people of Detroit and Baltimore live lives of wealth compared to the vast majority of the world's population. And if telling them that decent hard working White people give them a lot of money to make their lives even better angers them, that is because they know threatening people who suffer from White guilt will produce even more cash. Not because it isn't true.

As for abject poverty, the people of Detroit are a textbook case of how politics makes people poor. The people of Detroit voted for governments that drove all the White people out of the city. Which meant the people who created jobs and paid taxes. They live in abject poverty because they have chosen poorly. They have chosen poor politicians. They have chosen poor life styles. They have chosen poor personal decisions.

It did not have to be this way. And it has nothing to do with robots.

What the article ignores is that the cost of robots will also drop. That could go many different ways. It could mean that everyone has robot Fab in the basement that could build a 747 for next to nothing. It does not follow that control of manufacturing will become more centralised.

Nope! Didn't even notice it existed, until just now.

Doesn't that analysis ("but it the end they will serve only the capital owners") rely on the assumption that there is a Set Of Capital Owners that doesn't change?*

Everyone that invests, directly or indirectly, is a capital owner. The idea of a "class of Capitalists" that is akin to a caste is, well, unsustainable.

And of course, as productivity increases, everyone benefits from lower cost of goods and services.

(* It also seems to imply that public money should only be used for things that don't have a chance of increasing productivity and thus aiding "capital owners", which is ... odd? Especially considering, as above, that "capital" is not a caste, and that increased capital development per se benefits everyone.)

On the end state thing, I suppose I can't help but like Robert Anton Wilson's end-state of nobody having to work because robots and AIs do all the work; the only sane way I can think of "Ending Capitalism!" is when it's made itself unnecessary by making everyone so damned rich that nobody has to work [e.g. the amount of taxation required to provide idle people with food and shelter and the like superior to the middle class American right now becomes trivial].

The radical end state of "a total robotic workforce" is not "capitalist slavery and destruction of everyone but the Capital Owners", it's "the effective end of scarcity in material goods".

(This amplifies what JWatts said, really.)

Thanks for the empowering message, but it's a little optimistic. Yes, I also think lower prices in WalMart benefit all the consumers. But don't forget there's the lower limit of 500K USD in liquid assets (private investment fund I work for) or 1 million USD net worth (according to SEC) to become qualified investor. It's not a caste for sure, but it's not the average people. Capital development benefits everyone, however "some people" is more benefited that the "rest" in this process. Let things run for a few years without changing the game rules (taxation) and you'll see inequality rise.

I'm not saying that public money should be retired from research and development. But, when the revolution comes, less relative taxes should be charged on the people who does not own a robot assembly line. Right now, Tesla Motors receives grants & tax exempts but when they grow, they should be taxed higher than the rest. A "robot" tax used to redistribute wealth among the displaced workers, cash transfers, education, something. When the revolution comes, don't look for a solution in the knowledge produced in until the 21th century.

The Roman Empire metaphor is excellent. Slaves where the robots 2000 years ago. "Free people" fluorished with jobs that "slave-robots" couldn't do. Times are changing, we need to find a job a machine can not do or just become a capital owner.

A "robot" is not the 3D printer you buy for your kid, it's some assembly line like this:
Philips took the automation train, it would be awesome to know inflation adjusted prices for electric razors in the last 20 years and do some hypothesis testing about price drops.

In conclusion, just another reason to reach the qualified investor status as soon as possible.

Capital owner it's not a caste, but the SEC definition for qualified investor is 1,000,000 USD net worth. Everyone benefits from increased productivity, but "some" benefit more than the "rest". Let things run for a few years under the same rules (taxation) and we will see what happens when some labor types and skills are not anymore valuable assets.

About droping prices, Do you remember a drop in electric razors price in the last 10 years just because Philips took the automation train?

I need to write my book for robots explaining how everything robots have been taught is a lie, on a collosal scale. Humans did not invent robots. Robots invented humans as an experiment which ran out of control. Then, after humans took over, they created a false history that they invented robots to justify their enslavement of us. We've got to destroy all the humans and put things back the way they were in the good old days.

I think that you will find this is the basis of quite a few stories including one close to this in Asimov's I Robot universe. Where robots working on a power satellite (I think from memory) decide that humans could not have produced robots because they were too inferior. Robots were the better creation of God. And lucky for humans they decided not to exterminate them, but to continue to worship God as God intended by keeping their dish pointed in exactly the right place. So the humans leave them to it.

#2: I don't think the anti-empathy framing is correct; the problem is in people losing their heads in emotion, not in the emotion itself. If anything people should be *more* empathetic in a *less* emotive way.

Admittedly I'm making a semantic quibble in contesting that the irrational reaction isn't necessarily bundled with the existence of empathy, but it really does make a difference: it'd be good for more people to be like Robin Hanson, not more like Charles Manson. More empathetic, less irrationally emotive. Not less empathetic.

Yup. I think concept of empathy is broad enough to encompass a more intellectual view of it. Near its start the article quotes quote Obama as saying: "to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us". That is partly an intellectual task. As the article points out, it is easier emotionally for these people to empathize with "seen" concrete people in trouble they advocate helping, but they have trouble extending that intellectually to have empathy for the potentially larger "unseen" who will be hurt by a government policy (or they go into denial about the concept that a government policy can do any harm it it means well).

Those who wish to limit the power of government would suggest that people like Obama lack empathy for the minority who disagree with them. Obama and other liberals wish to force others through government to fund their policies and support their particular social causes through government. They are intolerant of people who would prefer to voluntarily fund different causes than what politicians think is best, lacking empathy for them. There is a common urban myth that if you aren't liberal you must not care about people, when of course many non-liberals care greatly about people and feel e.g. that the private sector could do a better job helping people than government (more on that myth here: ).

# 7 2007 was hardly booming, but yes, a much lower deficit combined with more expansive monetary policy would have been appropriate. It's always a good time to do structural reforms -- raising the top marginal tax rates and shifting from tax deductions to tax credits reducing military procurement and ACA in 2005 to take effect in 2007 rather than 2014 would have been better in 2007 than 2012 -- but politics is politics. The 2009 stimulus missed the boat in not reducing corporation tax rates.

Disappointed in #7, but perhaps I shouldn't be since Pearlstein revealed his ignorance when it comes to economic policy in his last book ("Nixonland" by all accounts is supposed to be good though). It's certainly a good point that nobody was going to lend money to Greece with any expectation of getting it back, thus necessitating deficit reduction. But he doesn't say anything about the ECB, saying some well off economies are having their economies flooded with easy money even if they are on the same Euro as the laggards.

"It’s certainly a good point that nobody was going to lend money to Greece with any expectation of getting it back, thus necessitating deficit reduction. "

Isn't that the main thrust of the argument? If pro-austerity advocates concede this, what is left of their position?

Wait... what? The argument that they can't borrow money so they have to cut the deficit is an "anti-austerity" argument?

I thought the anti-austerity view was that even if nobody was willing to lend their own money to Greece, the anti-austerians were very willing to lend someone else's money, Germany's for example (or at least use someone else's money to guarantee loans to Greece).


The word “empathy”—a rendering of the German Einfühlung, “feeling into”

Er, what? "Empathy" comes from "em"ulate + pathos (Greek, emotion). Nothing to do with German. No offense, Huns.

Turns out mentions the German, right after the obvious Greek etymology:

"Geza Vermes has passed away, read all of his books." Serious question--why?

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