Assorted links

1. The 100 best novels, as selected in 1898.  How many have you never even heard of?

2. Beyond Medicaid?  And the Swiss proposal for a guaranteed minimum income.

3. On Krugman and the eurozone, by Anders Aslund.  I don’t agree with everything in the piece, but it makes some good points and in any case this perspective is underrepresented in the economics blogosphere.

4. Which animals dislike their own pooh and why.

5. Mirowski responds to critics (pdf).  In the end section, he should have been more gracious to Diane Coyle.

6. “He’s my best friend.” (Department of Why Not?)  And maybe books do change peoples’ minds after all (NFL player quits after reading Noam Chomsky and the Dalai Lama).


Henceforth, when some jackass asks me "Who is John Galt?" I'll finally know the answer.

He's the author of The Ayrshire Legatees, in 1820. Obviously.

And this John Galt seems to've had a thumbnail bio for years in the Oxford Companion to English Literature (I have only the Fourth Ed. to consult), which with Ayrshire Legatees also favorably cites Annals of the Parish (1821), The Provost (1822), and The Entail (1823).

According to Wikipedia, J.S. Mill credited Annals of the Parish with the first usage of the word utilitarian. Wikipedia also nominates Galt as the first novelist to tackle the Industrial Revolution. I look forward to Prof. Cowen's review.

He deprived the world of his superior mechanical engineering abilities and exacted his revenge by penning forgotten literature. Brothers, we deserved it!

1) I am surprised at how many of those novels are still commonplace. Although, anecdotally, most of the novels that I know were written long before 1898 so had exhibited staying power already!

Glad to see guilty pleasures listed, like (11.) The Castle of Otranto - 1764 - Horace Walpole, and (15.) Vathek - 1787 - William Beckford.

6) Are bison friends paid friends?

Creo que si!

#1. Don't know over fifty of the titles, but then I've never heard of almost fifty of the authors. Late Victorian critical sensibilities perhaps were no more reliable than early Victorian critical sensibilities (Thackeray, by his own testimony in English Humorists of the Eighteenth Century and by most accounts since his day, woefully misunderstood Swift and Gulliver both). Alternatively, the list shows the perils of writing popular historical fiction: no enduring claim to fame necessarily results.

#6b. Not to begrudge him his career choice, but maybe this guy's already suffered some traumatic brain injury: he might do well to submit to extensive testing before proceeding far with his career in philosophy. But who knows? Maybe he'll take up Feyerabend's critique of science and scientism.

I think I might read 40. Mr. Midshipman Easy - 1834 - Frederick Marryat. Any other suggestions for ripping yarns?

Krugman doesn't understand the elementary economic principle that entrepreneurs attempt to satisfy consumer demand, and the implications of this. His version of AD ignores or at least slights Investment demand, as he focuses on consumption and government spending. Private investment is led by consumer demand, whereas government spending is led by politicians and state planners, which is why a lot of it goes to Solyndra and bridges to nowhere. A private Solyndra quickly goes bankrupt and its losses are borne by its investors, not tax payers. And government "employees" are net tax consumers, not net taxpayers, except for the tiny subset who have sufficient private assets, the taxes on which exceed the tax consumption of their government payouts.
As a Keynesian and an academic, Krugman understands none of this, just as he doesn't have any understanding of business or the real world.

"As a Keynesian and an academic, Krugman understands none of this, just as he doesn’t have any understanding of business or the real world. "

This ad hominem negated any positive elements and caused me to ignore the whole thing.

#2. Swiss proposal for a guaranteed minimum income.

I fail to see how such schemes won't end up in a form of apartheid. It seems like the logical development is for: a) the Swiss at the low end of the income spectrum refuse to work menial jobs, because the money isn't needed
b) foreigners immigrating to take up the menial jobs
c) the foreigner workers being taxed to provide governmental revenue
c) the Swiss refusing to allow any significant increase in citizenship, because that would reduce the yearly dividend.

The end result would seem to be a significant and growing amount of poor, hard working foreign workers contributing to the welfare of a more rich and less hard working native class. Doesn't Saudi Arabia effectively practice this?

Granted, you can attempt to prevent any foreign immigration, and the system will probably work out. As the wages of menial jobs grow they will at some point attract a sufficient number of Swiss residents. Of course, inflation may grow and thus reduce the real value of the guaranteed minimum income, but it will equalize at some point. However, I don't see that working with any kind of significant immigration of non-citizens.

If they cut social services by the corresponding value of the stipend, I guess it might work out to be not unlike the "negative income tax." In fact, that might be the interesting policy debate for future Swiss: Shall we increase funding for the social safety net, or shall we simply increase the guaranteed monthly income?

Maybe if it got to the point where the only market distortion was nominal inflation it could actually do some good. Of course, that involves a lot of "ifs."

Or maybe once people don't need to work, they will figure out that a lot of the work doesn't need to be done at all. Neither by Swiss, nor by foreigners. Maybe people will relax and spend the time with their children or with good books or hiking in the mountains.

It will be financed by foreigners depositing large amounts of money into Swiss bank accounts.

"spend the time ... hiking in the mountains"

Those would be the mountains of uncollected trash, I presume?

Robots can already manage some trash issues

Or, as long as we're given to dreaming, maybe the Swiss will proceed to nationalize Roche Pharmaceuticals so that some remaining custodian of institutional civility can dispense free dosages on demand of lysergic acid diethylamide. Just think of all those pretty colors waiting to be glimpsed in all that Alpine snow!

Whoops! --Sandoz Labs (now part of Novartis), not Roche, was where Hoffman found LSD-25. (Apologies, all.) Novartis is Swiss, though, so the scheme could still be undertaken . . .

I think that people will still work some only for in family consumption. Many low income wives for example may be able to produce more value cooking, cleaning, painting etc. at home than they can in the taxed economy.

Is it "apartheid" when American blacks laze around spending welfare money to buy products made by unbelievably hard working Indians and Chinese for slave wages?

This is actually a pretty good point. If I remember correctly, Saudi Arabia gives a dividend to each of its citizens, courtesy of its oil revenue. I think they also recently increased it, too, to counteract any possible revolutionary fervor that might have been brought on by the Arab Spring.

I guess it comes down to whether the Swiss want forms of apartheid appearing, where they import second-class citizens to do their dirty work for them. If they don't, then they could make it such that all residents get the basic income; this might create problems with regards to the lack of labor supply for menial jobs, but I'm optimistic that this can generally be solved through investment in automation and roboticization technologies.

But still, definitely something to watch out for.

yeah, well, the swiss absolutely have it going on. They have a real nation, not a sham like the USA. The people are in charge over there.

What you describe is happening in Fiji. Native Fijians own all the property and don't work much while immigrant Indians provide the labor force.

#1) There are a suprising amount of lesser known works from great authors on hear. The Holy War instead of Pilgrim's Progress? Wilhelm Meister instead of Faust? Kenilworth instead of Ivanhoe? Bracebridge Hall instead of Geoffrey Crayon? It makes me wonder whether they were more popular at the time or the editor was just trying to be original.

Faust is not a novel.

And Geoffrey Crayon is a collection of stories.


I strongly suspect this list is not so much an accurate representation of critical consensus at the time, but a representation of the quirks, attention-desires, and contrarian opinions of a single critic.

" Krugman's mistake was to look at only a couple of indicators and draw a simplistic analogue." Not so much a mistake as an MO.

Surprised by the number of women on the list of best books. Wonder how a comparable list from today would fare?

So was I, and perhaps even more surprised by the number of women authors on the list of those that I recognized.

I counted 31% of this Victorian gentleman's list of top deceased novelists of all time as female. I offer some reflections on gender among novelists here:

'Krugman's most spectacular failure has been his prediction of the dissolution of the eurozone.'

Well, at least he didn't give a catchy name to what would happen. Unlike a colleague of his.

Who then wrote this - 'I don’t agree with everything in the piece.'

So, the author really should have mocked the term 'eurogeddon,' so prominently featured here in the not so distant past? Or was this the major point of disagreement from the article - 'Contrary to his predictions, the eurozone has survived.'

I'm particularly interested in the :

"Krugman represents the mainstream of Anglo-American economic commentary and enjoys both popularity and an impact on policy"

Did that actually happen at some point? Was the book tour that effective? I never got that impression.

Krugman himself says he's more effective outside the White House than he would be as Sec Treasury.

"Mirowski responds to critics (pdf). In the end section, he should have been more gracious to Diane Coyle."

Why? She was hardly gracious in her hatchet job on him. And he's right in saying the range of her opinions substantially exceeds the range of her knowledge.

I'm sympathetic too, but you have to decide at these moments whether your aim is to give your critic what is due them, or to be rhetorically effective in speaking to some larger audience. Rarely do the two coincide.

"Why? She was hardly gracious in her hatchet job on him."

Among other things, because it would reduce the bad impression he creates when he responds to a negative book review with invective. So upshot is that Coyle is not actually a member of the dreaded NTC but only a "shill". Interesting. I take it then that Mirowski agrees the term is too loaded and imprecise to be used accurately by anyone except Mirowski himself. Thus demonstrating the vacuity of the concept and confirming that Coyle was right to wonder if she qualified.

You may be correct that Coyle's analysis is superficial (although Mirowski's analysis seems much more so) but that cannot be established by name-calling. Does Mirowski have anything more to offer?

Yes. Yes, he does. Labels. And the claim that he's really just writing for his own ilk.

5. And the Robert Lekachman Award goes to Philip Mirowski.

#4: As a UK resident I'm not allowed to see international BBC content.

#6: The suggested figure is insanely high even for Switzerland's cost of living, 2,800 Euros a month, . I think it might well be a great system but at a level of more like $10,000 a year and then negative tax rates for lower incomes. The negative tax rate would make menial jobs attractive for citizens who are having their wages subsidized.

The suggested figure is insanely high even for Switzerland’s cost of living, 2,800 Euros a month,

I agree, the figure is bizarrely high. So high, I can't imagine anybody who can do any math, is really seriously considering it. But, on the other hand, there are a lot of low math capable voters.

To put it in perspective, the cost of this program is approximately: Population of Switzerland: 8 million * 2,800 E/month * 12 months/year = 269 Billion E/year

Current Federal governmental budget of Switzerland: roughly 70 billion E/year

The actual figure is 2,500 Swiss francs, not euros -- roughly equivalent to $2,800.

#1 What strikes me most is how narrow the author's time frame of selections are. There is only one novel from the 17th century, and the rest are from the 18th and 19th century. Where is the Iliad, Canterbury Tales, or Beowulf? Though I suppose even a modern list might mistakenly leave out Shui Hu Zhuan or One Thousand and One Nights.

None of those are novels.

And the only novel from the 17th century is commonly understood to be the first true novel.

Uh, which of the two books listed as being published in the 1600s isn't really from the 17th century?

Nothing on the list by Robert Smith Surtees, creator of John Jorrocks and Soapey Sponge.

Mirowski: Always with a chip on his shoulder. Nothing ever changes.

#2: People forget that we almost had one version of a Guaranteed Income...

Isn't the Earned Income Tax Credit pretty much a guaranteed income, at least for those who work some minimal amount?

#6 - Speaking as someone who is probably closer to Chomsky than to the average football guy, I'd still have to say that the social tradeoffs for professional sports are largely positive.

To me, the most remarkable thing about the Top 100 Novels list is that it is nowhere near as English-centric as today's lists. E.g, compare:

The Chomsky quote seems interesting, until you realize that Aristotle said it, and said it better, more than 2,000 years ago.

Humans, as a rule, hate poo.

Ever see 2 Girls 1 Cup?

Its quiet hard to give final list of the best novels . Cause everyone have his own liking and disliking .As in our kitchen some use Standard refrigerators while others are used Stylish refrigerators with new design so nature of two person can't be same.

> How many have you never even heard of?

Authors or novels?

Sixty two if we're counting novels, but a good dozen of those are lesser known works by authors who are still well known.

re 3: I don't particularly like defending Krugman, but seriously?

The article might be good, but he lost people already at the end of the first paragraph. "After five years, it is clear that the eurozone has survived contrary to his predictions and the countries that pursued fiscal discipline, contrary to Krugman's advice, have done better -- both economically and politically -- than those that did not." Clear to whom? And which are these countries? Apodictic sentences aren't the best to start that sort of writing.

Then Latvia: "it is now the fastest growing economy in Europe".. and still, 5 years later, with lower GDP and higher unemployment then when the crisis started. Success story?

Then "He treated the eurozone as primarily a system of fixed exchange rates". in fact, he treated it following the optimum currency area model and it is arguable that the only reason the Euro is still going is because at some point the ECB decided it was the case, altho surreptitiously, to step in as lender of last resort as much as it was possible (which wasn't the case when Krugman started writing of a possible Eero break-up). The funny thing is the author admits it himself ("ECB President Mario Draghi did understand the dangers, and in July 2012 he declared that ECB would "do what it takes" to save the euro"... so there WAS a possibility of breakup!)

Also, it could be argued that currency union in which one of its members has frozen financial accounts and where the people cannot withdraw or convert their euros (Cyprus) and, worse, where the people sell their frozen account at a discount, effectively creating an indirect Cypriot Euro:European Euro exchange rate, has, in fact, been broken.

Then there is "He has persistently favored fiscal "stimulus," larger budget deficits, and slower fiscal adjustment. Today, the record is clear. The countries that have followed his advice and increased their deficits (the South European crisis countries), have done far worse in terms of economic growth and employment" without noting that the countries that increased their deficit have done it not because of any stimulus, but because of safety net programs that automatically kicks in and exploded when unemployment in said countries sky-rocketed. Incidentally, is his even flawed point valid now that even good countries like the Netherlands are in a crisis, with rising unemployment and deficits, because their economies are slowing down due.. possibly. austerity they self imposed on themselves and are requesting to their neighbours who are, also, their economic (export) partners?

After that, I admit I stopped reading, because we reached garbage level. Which are the "some good points" that he makes again?

Exactly. I would also love to see those "good" points in an article, because it is ridden with incredibly bad points some of you already stated. Some points made it clear that he does not understand Krugman points. Like measuring austerity as deficit-to-GDP then claiming when it is low it is a proof of fiscal austerity? Seriously? All these things were pointed ad nausea many times, some - like prediction of EURO breakup - by Krugman himself.

There is a reason why these opinions are underrepresented in blogosphere as opposed to press talks of EU officials. If any prominent blogger would make the same points he would rightfully find himself immediately under intense fire.

I see no difference between a government reacting to a crisis by passing new "stimulus" legislation, and pre-crisis governments passing legislation with automatic stabilizers built in that automatically create "stimulus" in the event of a crisis. They both reflect the exact same policy decision.

But have different aggregate effects.

Safety nets typically replace a portion of the incomes of the people affected by a recession and the multiplier of such spending is usually much lower than 1 both because they typically replace a fraction of the previous spending power and also because people in dire straits tent to try to save up more as a precaution. In the meanwhile, productive capacity dies and becomes obsolete, together with diminished skills and employability of people held up by the safety net.

Spending stimulus is supposed to increase overall productive capacity and retain productive capacity and skills (in this sense, potentially recovering the stimulus in future tax receipts).

In practice, think GM. Safety net would imply GM going out of business, with the destruction of the productive capacity, and releasing hundred of thousands of employees who would get a portion of the salary they had for two years (immense overall diminished spending capacity) and who'd see their skill and employability reduced quickly (loss of future tax receipts. Your deficit raise first because of safety net payment, and again for the loss of tax receiopts from GM and all the workers.

Spending stimulus, you but car, your deficit raise, but you retain the production capacity and your GDP isn't permanently hit which, in Europe, turns into an increased deficit due decreased denominator of the debt/GDP ratio, which in turns becomes automatic austerity or higher taxes to reach the 3% treaty limit, which decreases the GDP again, which call for more austerity... until economic death.

Query: Why is "pooh" spelled with an h? Why not just "poo" pr "poop"?

2: So conservatives are arguing for paying $300 billion a year to doctors just to be primary care doctors who will list people as patients without any need to see them. - race to find the healthy patients, or men who are unlikely to ever call but tough it out?

If Obama were to propose paying primary care docs $80 a month as proposed, he would be attacked for proposing something that would lead to rampant fraud as docs sign up 10,000 patients just to get $800,000 a month.

And the other parts of the proposal are bizarre - well, given the only 10% chance of heart attack or stroke in the next 5 years with a treatment cost of $250K (over 65, need for nursing care plus rehabilitation after ER and surgery and intensive care), it is better to give the person $5000 per year to spend on anything they want, because spending $5000 on a new car and fixing the house and helping the unemployed kid is certainly wiser investing than government dictating it be spent on health insurance. Well, does that mean when a stroke occurs and he arrives at the ER, a check of bank balance is done and if too low he's sent to the euthanasia and organ harvest unit? And with an expected cost in excess of $25K, everyone gets sent to organ harvest unless they already had $250K to start. But then means testing is called for by conservatives so they don't get the $5000 cash. Thus might as well not pay $5000 to anyone because everyone will be euthanized unless they were rich at age 65.

Wouldn't automatic euthanizing of sick and risk taking people prevent people from choosing to be sick or to take any risks? Other than those committing suicide....

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