Monday assorted links

1. Was David Ricardo the richest economist in history? (pdf)

2. More evidence on the growing importance of social skills in the workplace.

3. Demographics will work against state and local government employment.

4. What makes Denmark tick?  And are the Democrats in trouble?

5. There is no great curling stagnation but maybe there should be.

6. “Police “disappeared” more than 7,000 people at an off-the-books interrogation warehouse in Chicago, nearly twice as many detentions as previously disclosed, the Guardian can now reveal.” Link here, yikes throughout.

7. Review of Roger Lowenstein’s new book America’s Bank, on the origins of the Fed.


Let me just throw out this idea re the Democrats (#4b):

The Democratic Party in the 21st Century is at its greatest comfort level when it is an opposition party or otherwise impotent. They have discovered that ruling is difficult, while they can generate big donations from the line "The Republicans are ruining the country, you need to give us more money/votes/whatever to defeat them." Their single policy success in this century has been the ACA, which ended up being a political loser -- while their fortunes have been highest when the Republicans are embarrassing themselves with political adventurism.

(Okay, gay marriage has also been a policy change that the Democrats favor, but it was enacted judicially rather than legislatively for the most part.)

I don't think any major Democrat is self-consciously defeatist, but I do think that the aggregate tactics of the party have responded to incentives, and the incentives are to at the very least make sure that the Republicans can be strongly obstructionist.

Or, it could all be gerrymandering.

Well, okay, maybe it is. Certainly gerrymandering is a big political fact of life in the US.

But why are these not complimentary explanations? If gerrymandering makes it hard for the Democrats to attain political control, then Yglesias' point is that they don't seem to have a plan to undo the gerrymandering (or, more truthfully, redo it in their favor), and my point is that perhaps they don't actually have that much of an incentive to try to undo the gerrymandering.

My ultimate point is that incentives matter, and that for at least powerful parts of the Democratic party apparatus, I don't think that "attaining policy control of the US at a federal level" is necessarily the incentive that drives them. If they get more money and more electoral success if they can plausibly claim to be powerless to enact the change that their constituents are demanding, isn't that something that would tend to shape their strategy?

It is not difficult to contrive a practice manual for the drawing of electoral constituencies which would limit the need for discretionary cuts to a modest appendix upon a rule-driven apportionment process (and assign the responsibility for making the cuts to local boards composed of municipal judges). The districts drawn according to such a manual would avoid systematic underloading of much consequence of either urban or rural constituencies and avoid disparities in constituency populations of larger than about 1.6 to 1. The trouble is, courts have set a standard of strict equipopulousness, which requires purely discretionary boundaries. They've also injected addle-pated race patronage into the redistricting process, so you get crustacean districts to assemble a critical mass of blacks or Puerto Ricans in a constituency. If you want to fix the gerrymandering problem, you first have to legislative strip courts of jurisdiction over redistricting, and then use the appropriations process to shut down courts which try to seize it back by declaring a court-stripping bill 'unconstitutional'.

Good point. Incentives do matter, as you correctly point out. The problem facing the Democrats is that their average rank-and-file voter is more motivated by symbolic victories and status games than by substantive policy issues. This works fine to incentive people to vote for the new President, but it does not motivate people to vote for the local representative. Organized labor used to be the rank-and-file, but that's a dying constituency. Public sector employees vote Democrat, but that's evidently not sufficient to win elections. They are going to have find a new constituency who will vote their pocketbook in the boring local and state elections.

No it could not. As recently as 1975, the Democratic Party of Rackets controlled or held one chamber in 46 state legislatures. As recently as 1984, they won 58% of the House seats with 52% of the popular vote. It was only about 20 years ago that the Republicans had enough of a position in state legislatures to vitiate the Democratic advantage from gerrymandering.

Partisan Democrats have no conception of neutral procedural rules. 'Fair' is what ever chicanery gives them what they want.

Yes, gerrymandering is the reason GOP controls the US senate and 2/3 of governors.

State borders were gerrymandered at their inception to give Republicans of the early 21st century a political advantage

"What does it say that most of the 10 poorest states are Republican?"

-Voting Republican is a response to your state's poverty. Or, alternatively, Republicans are the Poor White Man's Party.

How about looking at counties?

Those numbers are not meaningful unless you include actual vote tallies.

What is the population-weighted ratio of Governors? I mean really, is California "one" and Wyoming "one" governor?

You can't gerrymander the state governorship.

Hmmm . . . maybe the states need to form electoral colleges of their own. I shall have to discuss this with the Koch brothers.

"They have discovered that ruling is difficult, while they can generate big donations from the line 'The Republicans are ruining the country'"
OK, but why would Democrats feel comfortable in opposition (what was comfortable about being a voice calling in desert and being humiliated in 2004?) and Republicans raising hell? Can't (aren't) Republicans able to generate big donations in opposition, attacking Obamacare, gay marriage, abortion and current immigration policy?

My belief is that the Republican base in at least the last 10 years has demanded substantive success from its representatives in a way that the Democratic base has not. I don't think that the angry Tea Partiers were satisfied with, "Oh, the Democrats stopped us," and I think that the business interests that are another part of their coalition are not cool with, "Oh, we're trying."

Or maybe they are, but their expression of comfortable powerlessness comes from infighting within the Republican party instead of saying "The Democrats stopped us."

It is interesting. I have to think about it. Thank you. But it surely was a long day since Clinton's days (were Republicans less obstructionist or were Democrats more confident and with more popular ideas?).

It is far simpler. The Democrats of the baby boomer generation are all old. The current slate of candidates are representative of that group. The new Democrats are barking mad and can't get elected. Obama managed to bridge the middle by using the new Democrat energy and drive while running as a classic New Deal democrat. He is unbelievably successful in his goal to get his bust on a mountain somewhere, but not by leaving an experienced group of electables. Democratically controlled states and cities are almost universally a disaster, leaving a guy like OMalley with not a stray email server to drag around but Baltimore.

Obama managed to bridge the middle by using the new Democrat energy and drive while running as a classic New Deal democrat.

Classic New Deal Democrats derived from the trade unions and urban machines, with a dash of Dixie populism tossed in. Obama is nothing like that and by all appearances despises ordinary working-class people.

Maryland is hardly a "disaster", whatever one thinks of Martin O'Malley. Louisiana, Kansas, Illinois-- there are three true disaster states.

Try again. The unemployment rate in Kansas at 4.6% is below the national mean and the employment-to-population ratio is higher (0.48 v. 0.44), and those metrics exclude farm employment. Kansas has had lackluster growth rates, but so have about half the states.

Baltimore is a disaster. O'Malley was the Mayor of Baltimore, made no progress on crime control to speak of, and the scandals in the city jail found their point of origin during his tenure.

Nevertheless, O'Malley despised moving people suggested for parole out of prison.

So what? Baltimore's police force is wretchedly understaffed and suboptimally deployed and trained, hence a homicide rate 3x what it could be.

No, the Democratic Party is at its greatest comfort level granting special favors to their clientele ('waivers'). Having a complicated regulatory apparatus and tax code is important. Having lots of candy distributable in the federal budget is helpful as well, so you get idiot federal grants for minor public works and local projects.

The way I see it Democrats have dominated policy in the last 50 years. Dominated! Republicans have complete given up and flopped on many policies.

"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."
"Mankind." "That word should have new meaning for all of us today."

7. They took a "substantial amount" of marijuana and $10K in cash from Jose, but he claims he wasn't dealing. Yeah, OK, sure. (And he had kids in the house too!)

He didn't deserve to be treated like a terrorist, and the whole operation is horrible, but at least part of the discussion ought to include the question "Did it generate the results the police intended?" and if so, what lessons can be drawn from that and reapplied in a constitutionally valid way, given the existing law?

Going beyond the present to the ideal, my opinion is that we ought to legalize drugs so that criminals get arrested for actual crimes instead of drug crimes being used as a proxy. We ought to raise the cultural restrictions on drug use/sales at the same time we lower the legal restrictions. Is there an abstract, social way to penalize and deter drug use/sales without violating people's rights?

Oops, that should be "6."

6: Disappeared? Like Argentina?

Nah, "disappearances" in the Latin America context regards flat-out murder and disposal of the body. In Chicago, people are being locked up for hours to days without access to basic legal rights we are supposed to take for granted in the United States. Sketchy as hell and probably illegal, but not on the same level of violence as Latin American dictatorships. (Yet, anyway...)


The "Disappeared" word is just mindless left-wing hype. Held for a few hours to a few days? Yes. Disappeared? Laughable. The holding facility in question, Homan, is in a very-high crime area of Chicago. Here is my suggest. TC (and the Guardian authors) should move to the Homan neighborhood for a year or so.

Then we read about "Homan is model for how justice should work", "we need 100 Homans", "the only problem with Homan is that anyone gets out".

I used to live in Pilsen, a similarly bad neighborhood, during the years when murders peaked in Chicago at over 900. It was run-down but livable for an early twenties white guy who had a white-collar job.

For kids it was horrible. Gang members didn't even notice me. They spent all their time on boys age 12-20.

LOL, I had a similar experience living in a run-down hispanic neighborhood in San Jose, California. I did get the evil eye from a few guys who thought I was invading their drug turf, but they did nothing when they realized I was just a yuppie. I used to also walk around in the dead of night, no fear. Nothing happened to me though a few people I passed looked like zombies. I remember one guy though that in the middle of the day passed me, and he was the baddest, scariest guy I've never seen, literally he would make your heart skip a beat. The mouth guard made of metal, tattoos, scars, the works. Probably he knew it, too, and it was a typical Hispanic "don't mess with me, I'm loco" tactic. It worked for me, I stayed clear of the guy.


The Chicago Police Department seems to be a real wretched hive of scum and villany. Let's not forget that these were the same thugs that had an informant drug Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party, so he couldn't defend himself when the cops raided his house and shot him dead in his sleep. Also, a few days ago a local news affiliate was running a story on how two veteran cops, with 20+ years of experience, were being investigated for child pornography and involvement in sex trafficking. Seems like conditions for an armed militant group still exists...

(Side-note, when I comment with my normal e-mail/website, I seem to be blocked)

Dollars to doughnuts it's spin spin spin by the Guardian's reporters and editors. Of course, the moderators regard these stories without a trace of skepticism.

I could not blame the Fairfax county police were they to institute a standing policy to slow walk any call for help from one of two addresses in the county.

"Dollars to doughnuts it’s spin spin spin by the Guardian‘s reporters and editors."

Of course. Every "source" in the article is biased.

"same thugs that had an informant [allegedly] drug Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party"

In 1969!

Cops in Chicago have long careers it seems.

" Seems like conditions for an armed militant group still exists…"

Left wing wet dream is always organized police murderers.

>Left wing wet dream is always organized police murderers.

More like, armed self-defense is an expected and legitimate response to state violence.

"But he started it!"

My guess is that this (the sketchy warehouse thing) is a tribalist police response to escalating drug gang violence and sales. "They wanna play tough, so let's play tougher." Similarly, the underhanded way they did Fred Hampton was a response to the thuggish "scum and villainy" of the Black Panthers.*

*I forgot I knew this: the Black Panther Party went through two waves. The first was mostly a grassroots bootstrappy thing where they mostly privately provided a lot of services to black people that the government wasn't doing a good job with, coupled with mostly peaceful political activism. The second wave was where a bunch of aggressive young men got in on the action but really just used it as an excuse to be aggressive and violent, not only toward white people and cops but toward each other. The old guard were disgusted and called the new kids "jackanapes" but also were desperate for help and didn't fight hard enough to quash the unsavory transformation.

The "two-wave" framework for understanding the Panthers is not very accurate, in my opinion. The party was originally founded in 1966 as an organization intimately involved in armed action, and its power drew largely from its ability to synthesize a romantic vision of armed revolutionary struggle with peaceful self-reliance and community-level social entrepreneurship. After 1971, the party split into two: a peaceful social-democratic faction that was steadily absorbed into the Democratic Party, and a violent insurrectionist faction that was absorbed into the Black Liberation Army (which was wiped out by the late '70s). Maybe its the aftermath of the split you are thinking of?

My understanding is based on what I've read/heard from people who were involved with the BPP. Of course, they could be distorting things; that wouldn't be unheard of. I learned all this stuff when I was 19-20 so it's also possible that I swallowed some BS along with some truths.

Jon Burge's rein of terror ran from the early 70s to the late 80s. The police and DA protected him for years.



"had an informant drug Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party"

Maybe not. See "The Black Panthers and the Police: A Pattern of Genocide?" (New Yorker)

"The grand jury also attempted to resolve conflicts between the findings of the Panthers' private autopsy and those of the police autopsy by ordering Hampton's body exhumed and yet a third autopsy performed, by an out-of state medical examiner in the presence of both a Chicago pathologist from the coroner's office and a pathologist retained by the Hampton family. Two points were clarified by the third autopsy. First, despite the statement of the Panthers' pathologist that there was no exit wound for the fatal bullet that entered Hampton's forehead, this autopsy plainly showed an exit hole in front of the left ear when the sideburns were shaved. Second, the Panthers' claim that Hampton was heavily drugged with Seconal before the shooting was not supported either by this autopsy, which showed "no trace of drugs in the body," or by the report of the F.B.I. Laboratory in Washington, which had also tested the sample used in the Panthers' private autopsy. The toxicologist who performed the analysis for the Panthers told the grand jury he had not performed the most specific test for Seconal, the gas-chromatography test but had relied instead on a less sophisticated test, which required some "subjective evaluation." In performing the gas-chromography tests on the same sample that the Panthers' toxicologist had used, the F.B.I. found no Seconal or other drugs, but did find deterioration in the blook that could have been partially responsible for a mistaken analysis."

#1: No. Ricardo could not afford an airplane ticket or air conditioning. He and his friends and family lacked access to even the most basic modern healthcare. He did not own a telephone, let alone a smart phone. By any modern developed country standard he was poor, like everyone else in the 1800s, which means every professional economist alive today is richer than Ricardo.

It's hard enough to convert 1970s dollars to 2015 dollars; forget about going back to the 1800s. The only definition of "rich" that would be comparable across time would be one that depends not on purchasing power but on wealth as a share of total world output or something similar. I don't know the numbers, but Ricardo may be rich by that definition.


My guess is that essentially all of today's poor people would gladly trade their lives for that of the wealthy of the 1970s. The 1970s just weren't that different. No smartphones of course. However, airlines, indoor plumbing, clean water, safe food, central heating, AC, cars, telephones, household appliances, color TV, etc. were available back then for anyone with money (and the middle-class could afford all of them).

I wouldn't make the same claim for 1800.

I sometimes blog about curling, thanks for the story. In a way, it reminds me of Uber vs. Taxis. A new technology comes along to upset the established order. I'm all for it.

I don't find Vox headlines that interesting (perhaps because I am not in their ideological wheelhouse), but I still go there just to read Yglesias's posts. He's almost always a fun read.

Are there other writers over there that I might also like?

I'd recommend visiting vox to look at the super scientific graphs and charts. It's nice to get an objective look at the day's news. Yglesias's columns are just icing on the cake.

Ezra Klein. You might also like Josh Barro, though he's with NYT, not Vox.

matty yce has saved me tons of time with his article on why cooking pizza at home is so stupid

Dylan Matthews is pretty good. While my disagreement with most left-wing pundits strikes me as being based in their inability to understand the arguments against their position, in his case I get the sense that it's a legitimate difference of values.

#2 What a nonsensical chart. RNs need more math skills than lawyers and judges? Truck drivers need more social skills than accounting clerks?

Not sure how they quantified math skills, accountants do not need more math than computer scientists.

Most lawyers need nothing more than simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Its one of the big attractions of being a lawyer, no math.

On Ricardo, I have seen claims (sorry, no links) that Andrei Shleifer may actually be a billionaire. I do not know if that is true, but if Ricardo was only worth $100 million, the rumor about Shelifer could be off by nearly an order of magnitude and still have him beating out Ricardo. That was nice of Skousen to make the estimate of his wealth, but I do not think he spent much time on checking on that of other economists, and there are several other current ones who have been involved in some serious consulting who might well be worth more than $100 million.

Oh, and to all of those who think that it is just plain obvious that GOP somehow "deserves" to have all this large holds on the House of Reps and so many state legislatures, I note that in 2012 Dems easily had more votes nationally for congressionaly races than did GOP candidates, but we know what the outcome in seats was. Not exactly a situation where too much arrogant chest thumping is appropriate.


Typing "Andrei Shleifer billionaire" into Google turns up quite a few hits. None definitive. Actually, some suggest that his wife has the real money.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn would have fallen into this category as well, with his Anne Sinclair bringing close to (or over by some accounts) a billion USD to the relationship.

Democrats live in urban archipelagoes where they win 70% of the vote. Republicans live in sprawling suburbs and small towns where they win 60% of the vote.

Unless you plan on combining bits of downtown Dallas and far flung farm counties into the same district, it's quite difficult to have districts that don't favor Republicans.

Look at a place like Tennessee. Republicans control 7/9 of the Congressional districts, the districts are fairly compact and every wins reelection with like 65% of the vote. You'd have to do some funky stuff with redistricting to add more competitive districts.

Indiana, same story. There are two urban centers, each with their own Democratic congressmen. There are a bunch of surrounding low density areas with Republican Reps. Everybody gets 60%+ of the vote.

7. Review of Roger Lowenstein’s new book America’s Bank, on the origins of the Fed. -

--this kind of book used to be more exciting for me until I concluded--and the evidence proves this true, Google "Ben S. Bernanke FAVAR 2003"--that money is neutral. If money is (largely) neutral, long and short term, then what the Fed does with the money supply is of scant interest. A better book--if you like exciting reads--is "The Creature of Jekyll Island", a conspiracy theory of why and how the Fed was created (that also assumes money is not neutral, otherwise, who cares?).

Yes Tyler, I noticed the curling snark. Again.

#4 Nordic welfare states tax the middle class much more heavily than the United States.

What is the point of taxing the middle-class and then spending the proceeds on the middle-class? We can do better for the poor than they do and do it for less with a BIG.

4 - Vox touches slightly on quality of services delivered but that's almost the whole point. Is it the case that Danes have public sector services that are cost effective and efficient over time and if so, what allows that to happen in the absence of market discipline in delivery of those services? My guess is this is an area where population and homogeneity rear their heads. You are replacing market discipline with democracy. If democracy largely reflects a popular will that is strongly representative of each voter's will, you can achieve through democracy something that resembles a market signal. As population grows and regional, ethnic, and class interests create fissures in the notion of popular will, democracy less and less effectively represents a balance of interests. It is kind of crappy at aggregating diverse interests. So, you get a balance that looks like lets keep the work going to make Labor happy and lets buy off the restraint voices with some piece of candy they like. The result is nothing like market discipline and you get ... what we get.

Police agencies aren't held to legality because they have "departmental policies", a very different thing. Ergo cops can literally kidnap suspects, which is what they do when they don't follow the legal requirements described in the article. Even as agents, these cops and their bosses should be behind bars themselves. While the Guardian is a left-wing rag, it's doubtful that they've made this story up out of whole cloth. It's come to a sad state of affairs when the leadership in American journalism, such as it is, belongs to the Daily Mail and the Guardian.

It's not the Democrats who are screwed, it's the Republicans. Well, according to Kevin Drum.

The attempt by the Guardian to insert a racial angle into this story is predictable and tiresome. Comparing the racial demographics of detainees to that of the general population makes no more sense than comparing the sexual demographics of detainees to that of the general population. The figures they give are entirely consistent with the demographics of crime in Chicago, with 75% of homicides and 85% of robberies being committed by black offenders.

I'm absolutely certain that men were overrepresented, too, because men commit more crime than women, but they didn't mention a word of that, because it doesn't fit the narrative and might clue readers in to the reason blacks were overrepresented.

The cause of anti-racism is not well served by telling easily disprovable lies while yielding a monopoly on truth to racists.

Actually, they do nothing more than present the data, and leave it entirely up to you to draw your own conclusions.

Not even the remotest hint that this was the result of unfair profiling or any such thing (which is in fact unfair in some places, but I don't doubt that in Chicago the racial profile is largely earned by those who violate current drug laws).

Actually, they do nothing more than present the data, and leave it entirely up to you to draw your own conclusions.

Leaving you to draw your own conclusions is never the point of features like this.

Did they draw the conclusions for you?

7. It's true that Senator Aldrich met in secret with five New York bankers at the Jekyll Island Club in Georgia to develop the plan for the Fed, providing lots of ammunition for conspiracy theorists, then and now. Rubin doesn't mention this in his review of Lowenstein's new book, perhaps because Rubin has been a frequent target of the conspiracy theorists. I just wish to add a historical irony. As most people know, Aaron Burr, Jefferson's VP, was a strident critic and nemesis of Alexander Hamilton, who was the architect for the first central bank, created at Hamilton's urging when Washington was president over the strong objections of Washington's Secretary of State (and Hamilton's other nemesis), Mr. Jefferson. The animosity between Burr and Hamilton culminated in a duel in which Burr killed Hamilton when Burr was Jefferson's VP. Fearing Hamilton's friends, Burr fled to a plantation on the Georgia coast located only a few miles from where the Jekyll Island Club would be built years later and where the plans for today's Fed would be developed. As for conspiracy theories, I've often wondered if Jefferson encouraged Burr to kill Hamilton, whose friends believed that Burr reneged on a gentlemen's agreement between Burr and Hamilton not to aim to kill but to allow both to preserve their honor by intentionally missing the other in the duel. Of course, Burr later proved himself to be a traitor. In any case, it is a fitting end that Burr would hide near the place where today's Fed would be developed. Hamilton would appreciate the irony.

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