Saturday assorted links


4. To be effective, it's best to accommodate both sides while always pursuing the correct path. It's not hypocritical, it's realistic. MY gets this right, Krugman doesn't. I recall my brief (one year) stint long ago working for a committee in my state's legislature. On my first day, a very wise woman told me that the members and senators represented a cross-section of the population, some smart, some not so smart, and that I as a staff person worked for all of them.

#5. I'd be curious to see the country by country breakdown. How much "trust" I have in the government isn't universal. It depends on the regime. I'd answer very differently if we're talking about the Swedish gov't than I would the gov't of N. Korea.

Trust is a complicated notion. Take personal data, for instance. Maybe I trust a company to use my data appropriately (e.g., keep their promise to not share it with third parties, if such a promise has been made), but maybe I don't trust them to protect it. In general, I believe (maybe naively) that companies will actually act according to my privacy settings or within laws like HIPAA, but I've had my personal information lost or stolen from numerous companies at this point in my life (my bank, my insurance company, and two department chains).

Furthermore, my "trust" in government is not distinct from my trust in business. Most of my trust issues with government involve money in politics, corruption, lobbyists, regulatory capture, etc. I do not trust the government to put my interests (and rights) ahead of a corporation's. But the reason this troubles me is because I don't trust the corporations (who may be writing and/or lobbying the laws and regulations) either. If I trusted businesses more, maybe I wouldn't mind the regulatory capture and lobbying so much. That is, I don't trust the government because I feel it too willingly hands over the reigns to businesses I trust even less.

In general though, if faced with a situation where a company like Pfizer said a chemical was safe vs. the FDA says it's safe, I'd probably trust the FDA over Pfizer.

#3 This is a fascinating insight. Implications go beyond even what KD writes about. How about changing the time horizon to something really big: caveman vs modern suburban living? Caveman can't answer the question which life is better because he doesn't even know what a cellphone is. But are we so sure we can answer the question, either? What if caveman's (presumably) short existence is actually the much, much happier one? He at least has the advantage of being almost perfectly evolved to suit his environment, as compared to us, who are similarly evolved for his environment, not ours.

Anyhow: my takeaway is KD has found a compelling argument that makes Inflation as it is broadly understood meaningless. "Inflation" is only defined when it refers to the cognitive hack central banks use to cut people's wages (when necessary) without people realizing they've actually just been handed a pay cut. Full stop.

That's a pretty romantic view of evolution.

1) As the old saying goes, we did not evolve to be happy; we evolved to survive--and leave surviving offspring. Pain, dissatisfaction, and a lot of other unhappy things have survival value for humans.

2) Natural selection can only work on the variation existing in a population. Evolution is, to a large extent, a never-ending series of kludges. No population is ever going to be perfectly or "almost perfectly evolved to suit his environment." One assumes that the longer a species exists in an unchanging environment, the better adapted it will be to that environment. Yet modern humans have not existed for that long: 50,000 years at a minimum, 200,000 at a maximum.

Without a negative consequence, I can choose to not deal with a "business." I can't opt out of paying taxes or obeying laws of the state. In other words a business can harm me if I let it. The state can harm me at discretion.

Formerly, progressives would jibber-jabber about the "dictatorship of the majority." The rest of us termed it the "consent of the governed." They solved that problem by packing the courts and subverting youth in public schools.

#3 Isn't the question here, is the much politicians and the left leaning media...income stagnation of the "middle-class" a real problem?

#1) Just make sure they are "serious" people

Suggestions for links :

i) Joseph Heath (U Toronto Philosopher) has an excellent NY Times Op-ed on carbon pricing, the climate and the related statements made by the Pope).

ii) Pinker and Ian McEwan thoughtfully discuss Pinker's recent book on writing (Available on Youtube).

iii) Joshua Bell and Anoushka Shankar have a great live performance on Youtube (~ 50 min). Absolutely delightful.

iv) Charlie Rose interviews Putin

Regardless of which economist they choose, candidates have to be concerned with fiscal policy. Another big tax increase could break the camel's back. Policy must control spending, eliminate deductions and cut tax rates.

#3 is some pretty serious nonsense:

1. Cell phones themselves are a new technology since the 80s (for most people)

2. Lack of a smart phone does not mean lack of internet use (or digital camera use or GPS use). Facebook is chock full of grandparents.

3. One of the obvious reasons seniors may not flock to smartphones (but are happy using the internet otherwise) is the combination of aging eyes and small screens.

4. Senior citizens are not the same people they were in the 1980s. Learning new skills is much harder in your 60s and 70s than 30s and 40s.

Another point is that a fair amount of the use of smartphones involves typing on or otherwise using a small touchscreen keypad, which may not be the easiest or most convenient thing for aged fingers.

And they are home more than younger people.

Maybe they have had more time to get tired of planned obsolescence in every gadget they buy.

A key point to consider: the 80s had better music.

#1) Wait...when did James Pethokoukis become an economist? Or do they give out a free economics PhD for every journalism BA? Buy one get 16 free.

It's sad to see him on that list, because he's just about a "pop culture economics journalist". It's sad to see him there even more, to think that GOP has to scrape the bottom of the pop-culture journalism barrel to get "economics advice". Well, I guess Rick Perry is off my list then, if this is the sort of people he advises with (not that Rick Perry was ever on my list).

It's actually disheartening to the state of GOP economics affairs. On the list, half of the people have barely any qualifications to be called "economists" (they may be successful in a lot of things, but they ain't economists!). To be sure, many on there are pretty good.

But we went from Milton Friedman and Harvey Rosen and Greg Pethokoukis?? Dear Lord!

What is truly sad is that they feel the need to have court jesters called economists in the first place.

So everyone must have the proper credentials or they are useless. Got it.
Keep in mind that Obama had the best economist for stimulus, Christina Romer, and her forecast was dead wrong.
Which probably is not a knock on her, but a reminder that the economy is not under presidential control.

1) If economists are "useless", then why bother having them?

2) I didn't say one needs credentials or they are useless. I said one needs credentials to be called an economist. I'm not an astro-physicist because I saw a 10 minute Youtube clip of Hawking.

No but if you wrote a coherent, comprehensible paper clearing up any of the mysteries surrounding the behaviour quantum fields in the presence of blacking holes then you *would* be an astrophysicist. Regardless of what degrees you hold.

On the other hand if you came out of the blue to write some paper advancing postmodernist philosophy then things might not be so clear. I guess economics is somewhere in the middle.

I don't know what this has to do with my point. My point is simply that these people aren't economists. None of the people on that list who aren't economists, have any economics achievements to their name either, so they wouldn't pass your first requirements either.

I think Pethokoukis is fine to talk to. He doesn't present himself as an actual economist. If Republicans want to win national elections in the future, they're going to have to sound a lot more like him in the future. I doubt he's giving them much detailed economic advice, and no one is exclusively talking to him.

What worries me more is the "actual" economists they are talking to. Laffer? Stephen Moore? These are one trick ponies who have nothing new or interesting to say.

I think Pethokoukis is not fine. He, I think, embodies what has become wrong with "conservative" economic thinking. It's purely "populism" appealing to emotions. 95% of his "articles" are something like this: "The middle class is suffering, this is why we need to do something about it". Followed by a line on a graph which is supposed to show how bad things are for "average working class Americans", and the conclusions which a freshman econ student ought to be able to recognize as faulty.

And 95% of the recommendations are the same: more wealth transfer to the middle class.

I.e., populism has infested the GOP, and places like AEI are at the forefront of this "intellectual" collapse.

PS: Stephen Moore isn't an economist either.

PPS: Something new or interesting isn't necessarily what we're looking for. Some advice on the basics on how to think, and a counter-balance to the advice of the rest of a candidate's team (which will inherently be populist in nature, since their aim is to win votes, not come up with sensible policies), is what I'd prefer.

I think that for most sums from lower middle class to just below mega mega rich, I would prefer to live in the past. Why? Because for me what relative income buys you are positional goods and the inflation measures don't pick those up very well.

If you have kids, you care a lot about what other kids study there and whom the neighborhood keeps out. This is less about absolute income than relative. One way to think about this, is would you rather have $10k a year and live in a typical neighborhood for that income in Thailand or $15k a year in most parts of the US? I submit that if you care about schooling and quality of neighborhood (low crime, etc.) Thailand is the reasonable answer.

The big loss is medical care. But I'm not convinced that most of the breakthroughs in things like cancer research in the last 25-30 years outweigh the greater costs of personal home care and access to the best doctors and hospitals if you had a lower real income, especially as the cost of that care has gone up much faster than inflation.

As for the internet, it's nice. But speaking as an old fogey, if it were to cost me over $500 a month to stay connected (all or nothing), I'd probably choose to give it up entirely. Heck I won't even pay a hundred bucks when travelling abroad to guarantee access to the net on my phone. Others may disagree, but there are enough who would side with me to make clear how unevenly the internet is valued.

"If you have kids, you care a lot about what other kids study there and whom the neighborhood keeps out."

You really don't have to do that. You can just focus on your own kid.

"One way to think about this, is would you rather have $10k a year and live in a typical neighborhood for that income in Thailand or $15k a year in most parts of the US?"

My experience with middle income countries is in Latin America rather than Thailand, but. I would say a couple of things. First, the cost of living is so much lower, that amount of money provides an absolutely not just relatively higher living standard, and second, the people in those places still have all the modern electronics. So you're not choosing the equivalent of the 1980s by living in a developing country.

It's also the case that there are many places in the US that are cheap and safe and have decent schools, but they're rural rather than urban.

Economics and sex! What two things go better together than those! Shouldn't the study also test a negative influence factor. What's the result of half the sex as usual? Best would be random variation -- once a day or once a week the participants receive their instructions.

So people don't trust government, but they trust the corporations that own and control government? Hank Paulson: government or business? Robert Rubin: government or business? Al Gore: government or business? Is it colder in the winter or in the city?

6 is really unsurprising.

I love how #3 drops the hypothetical income all the way down to the *depths* of $30k a year, to really drive home the *crushing poverty* you're enduring in exchange for your technological gadgets. lol. I guess it's in Mother Jones, so what do you expect.

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