Assorted links

1. The Three (Four?) Christs experiment.

2.  The price of oil didn’t much react to the Iran dealBy the way: “…this right is clearly stated in the text of the agreement that Iran can continue its enrichment, and I announce to our people that our enrichment activities will continue as before,” Rouhani said in a statement broadcast live on television in Iran on Sunday morning.”

3. Magnus Carlsen and the Flynn Effect.

4. Ed Luce on the promise and limits of on-line education.  MIT seems to be making on-line education work.  And there is declining tuition revenue at 4 out of 10 U.S. schools.

5. Has the future already arrived in Silicon Valley?

6. Aghion on Krugman and France (in French).

7. Russ Roberts is doing an essay contest for Mokyr vs. Cowen and Gordon on stagnation and related ideas.


If the millions who believe that the Pope is infallible are right, then it's possible for a human to have divine characteristics. So, why not three Christs? It's what economists call a "projection".

Isn't papal infallibility more of a legalistic tautology than a claim about divine guidance? The claim is that the Pope can never be wrong about church doctrine, because church doctrine is whatever the Pope says it is.

It's like saying that the Supreme Court can never render an unconstitutional ruling, because the court is the final arbiter of the constitution or the claim that the president can never be guilty of revealing classified information, because he has the power to declassify things at will.

I don't know if you are right about the RC Church. But if you extended it to the US then you would be wrong about the supreme court. The US has traditionally (and I think rightly) accepted the doctrine of judicial review. Certainly the Supreme Court has successfully claimed the right to review legislation this way and thus has enormous de-facto power over determining what the constitution means.

But nowhere is it written that this must be so. And nobody believes the court is infallible, no is the de-facto power total -- lower courts sometimes undermine SC rulings.

The right to review federal legislation proceeds by straightforward deduction:

(1) You have to figure out what the law is before you can make decisions based on it, and deciding particular cases (e.g. whether a defendant is guilty of violating some law) is by all accounts the court's basic job.

(2) To figure out what the law is, you have to resolve conflicts, for example conflicts between legislation and constitution.

(3) In the U.S. we have a written law called our Constitution that says it is the supreme law of the land, i.e. that it trumps legislation.

(4) Believing that clause of the Constitution should be followed, courts conclude that they must review federal legislation to make sure it doesn't contradict the U.S. Constitution.

There's also a fifth amendment that is said, by a rather more indirect argument, to "incorporate" some (not all) of the Bill of Rights such that state and local laws must also be reviewed against said rights. Left as an exercise for the law student. :-)

I'm not a Catholic, but this is my impression of what "papal infallibility" amounts to. Its also meant not to be invoked often, just to settle doctrinal controversies. Its like the umpire or referee having the final call in a sports contest.

This has nothing to do with the linked article, which is about treatments for schizophrenia.

Judicial review really amounts to the idea that although the legislature passes laws, someone can sue the legislature for breaking the law, and a judge can rule that yes, they have broken the law. The reason this sometimes becomes a big deal in the US is that the US Constitution is unusually hard to amend (compared to the situation in other countries), so if the Supreme Court rules that the federal legislature violated the Constitution itself, its hard to fix this by amending the Constitution, unlike changes to or clarifications of regular legislation. Supreme Court decisions have been reversed by constitutional amendments only twice, so in practice the Supreme Court has the last say. Presidents sometimes have instructed the federal bureaucracy to ignore Supreme Court decisions, but people get rightly upset when Presidents disregard other branches of the government in this way.

Google on the fritz where you guys are today?

Judicial review really amounts to the idea that although the legislature
passes laws, someone can sue the legislature for breaking the law, ...

More precisely (in this context) it means that law can become partially or totally inoperable because a court decides that their execution would violate the Constitution. This is an exception to the usual rule that new laws override old ones. Not all countries grant courts this power.

You are correct that all this is a Big Deal in the context of the US (and many other countries) because it leaves the top judges as the most powerful deciders of how the constitution actually works. But this does not make "Supreme Court infallibility a legalistic tautology".

"This is an exception to the usual rule that new laws override old ones."

This hasn't always been the usual rule. It is the rule for modern legislation, and only sporadically and recently has become a rule for judicial precedent.

In practice, the idea that we can at will totally and permanently overturn any body of law -- which is what the rule you quote becomes at it most extreme -- is highly problematic. Wisdom quite often lies more in the older, more mature laws than in the newer experimental ones. The more the law trails off in untried directions, the more attractive recalling the "overturned" precedents becomes.

Yeah, #2 suggests there was, in fact, no real deal signed in Geneva. Now the onus will be on the US whether or not to actually relax the sanctions since the Iranians seem ready to just continue to do whatever it they are doing. It is pretty clear Kerry and Obama have been snookered by people twice as clever.

Arguably American missteps in Syria destroyed American credibility with Iran. Iran no longer believed America would attack, so Iran's negotiating power rose massively.

I assume that Israel no longer has the ability to effectively attack Iran, but I could be surprised. Good thing they accepted our assurances a couple of years ago, hey?

American hesitation is Iraq destroyed our credibility. Once Iran knew we would not invade with armies poised to do so, all bargaining power with Iran was lost.

While that might have been a smart thing to do, hesitation is the wrong word to describe it. It was a political impossibility and everyone knew that in advance. But you're certainly on to something. The main reason we didn't evade Iraq in the first Gulf War was fear of leaving Iran with no balancing force to oppose it. Which turns out to have been a well-founded fear.

Syria was the test of this administration, and that's when they put forward solid evidence that they weren't going to do anything geopolitically assertive no matter what. What they should have done is issued a mea culpa on Syria ("Sorry, I misspoke." And maybe lie and say the use of chemicals didn't appear to be directly under Bashar's control.) and promptly attacked Iran. But apparently the powers that be think a nuclear Iran is better than the risks of a Kosovo-scale air campaign. I don't understand how that can make sense to someone, but I can't see any other interpretation.

It's generous to say Kerry and Obama have been snookered.

I'm more inclined to think they are complicit in fraud. They knew the NYT crowd would spin this as some kind of "win" for them, when they are still reeling from the Obamacare train wreck. Worse, Obamacare will be disaster for years - what better way to ensure ongoing distractions than to let Iran have nukes?

Pretty much an all-around win for the White House. Humanity, not so much.

I think you are probably right. They got *any* deal so they can change the subject. It is old fashioned politics. When story X is bad for you, give the press story Y and then story Z until they forget all about story X.

Read the text (it's short: It very clearly restricts enrichment activities.
-Iran cannot enrich over 5% for the next 6 months and must eliminate their 20% stock of UF6. That makes a breakout to weapons grade very difficult.
-No expansion is permitted at the key facilities, and construction of new enrichment/reprocessing facilities is prohibited. Intrusive IAEA inspections are required for verification. That makes covert weapons grade enrichment very difficult.

Conflicting statements from Rouhani and Kerry are actually about a "right to enrich" norm. Rouhani reads the deal as a step toward normalizing low grade enrichment. Kerry disagrees both for domestic reasons and to give himself room in future negotiation.

Didn't oil prices dip today?

Sure. I can write on a piece of paper to pay to the bearer $1 million dollars. isn't worth a thing.

By the time the us figures out that they didn't hold up the bargain, they already have the benefits of the lifted sanctions.

And what pray tell would happen if they don't "hold up the bargain"?

Is Iran going to launch nuclear missiles at Tel Aviv, Riyadh, Ankara, and Berlin? Are they going to be more reckless in using nukes than Mao's China or Stalin's USSR?

I only wish Iran was double-crossing the U.S. and did develop nuclear weapons. As it is, they'll be satisfied with nuclear power and reduced economic sanctions.

The deal establishes a verification process. Like I said, read it. If you have a problem with the verification regime, make it clear.

Sanctions relief is just as conditional as everything else. Violation of the agreement will lead to loss of credibility and more severe sanctions (with greater buy-in from other countries). Not to mention risk of a military strike. Do you really think 6 months of reduced sanctions is worth that risk? If Iran wanted to weaponize, wouldn't they just do it without the burden of increased inspections and a reduced stockpile?

"Violation of the agreement will lead to loss of credibility and more severe sanctions (with greater buy-in from other countries)."

Why is that? Did Obama declare that violating the agreement would be a bright red line that would be a game changer?

I never would have guessed that reading Marginal Revolution daily is what would turn me into a socialist.

Honestly, I think this is about the best compliment you can give for this blog, since it comes from a libertarian perspective. It truly presents all sides.

I don't think that was the implication of that comment.

It is a side effect of freedom.

#1: One of My Favorite Books, and one of the first books I bought for My Kindle.

Summary in my broken english.
- Krugman says the rating of France is ideological because raising taxes is probably as good as lowering government spending, but not acceptable by the ideology of Standard&Poor.
- Aghion answers that historically, lowering government spending has proved to be much better than raising taxes, and takes Sweden in the 90's as an example.
- Lowering government spending is supposed to lower the demand, but in Sweden, the private job market created more jobs than what the government deleted, so the final effect was rather good.
- Lowering government spending allows to lower taxes on companies, thus making them more competitive.
- Raising taxes lowers both households and companies spending, which has a worse effects than lowering government spending.
- Aghion concludes that Krugman is neither aware of history, nor recent research in economics.

Inrteresting comments of the article stress that Krugman says that Standard&Poor have no clue of what the French government is doing, and if raising taxes is used for useful investments in a time when private companies don't want to invest, it could be a smart move.

Thank you. Because my French doesn't extend much past "merci".

Thanks for the synopsis.

#3 I'm not sure Stephen Hsu's question is well formed, but if I understand it correctly I would say that chess players generally believe there has been ELO inflation, but that this is false and indicative of nostalgia and hero-worship. Attempts to study it suggest there is no ELO inflation and today's best players and programs really are better than those of the past. See, for example, .

I'm not sure whether that means the answer to Hsu's question is yes or no. If Hsu believes the Flynn effect is real and reflects people getting smarter, than yes, chess players have gotten better. If he thinks the Flynn effect is some measurement error, then no, chess is not like that.

Just to add, in work not yet published, I did an exhaustive survey of all games by players both within 10 points of 2600 in individual standard competitions since 1971. I find about a 15-20 point decrease in measured quality between the 1980's and 2000, flat since then, which could argue that many points of "inflation". But (a) this is ascribable to the elimination of adjournments and faster time controls since 1990, and (b) 0 (no inflation) is just-within the error bars anyway.

Re: #1...It strikes me as odd that Dr. Rokeach never seemed to consider that perhaps the lady that appeared to be more receptive to treatment was simply not all that crazy, and that was the cause of her ability to improve, rather than meeting someone else with the same identity.

#5 trashes Tyler's Marie Antoinette moment with a delightful "Yes! Let them eat beans!", to which I would add only: but woe betide those who eat them with *dried* cumin and *fresh* chilies!

5. Has the future already arrived in Silicon Valley?

According to a recent look at various economic and social statistics, California is the worst run state in America. Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico are among the 5 worst run states. While North Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, and Utah are the 5 best run states:

And here is some data on racial preferences in online dating. And this paper from 2009 makes a case for individual reservation of space-time slots at intersections as a way to optimize road traffic management.

Interesting link.

From the link: "Perhaps most surprising is that among men, all racial groups preferred another race over their own. "

Did anybody else get the feeling that the Eli Manning article was just a metaphor for marriage?

Atherton could use better zoning to allow transit orinted development. :)

Related to #6: Krugman (11/24), "It goes without saying that the rollout of Obamacare was an epic disaster. "

But then he comes up with a misleading statistic for the gullible: "And so far, so good: in October, 22.5 percent of California enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34, slightly above that group’s share of the population. "

That sounds good, but he cherry picked his numbers. While that's slightly above the group's share of the population, it's well below the group's share of the insurance market.

The actual pertinent numbers are: "Thus the truthful formulation is as follows: 18- to 34-year-olds make up 33.8% of the Golden State's nonelderly adult population but were only 23.8% of the fewer than 30,000 nonelderly adult Californians who enrolled in October. "

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