Sunday assorted links


#1: It's difficult to take seriously anyone who has a Tumblr blog.

@#1 - it's difficult to take seriously the thesis that in an economy of 143M workers, you cannot find 0.5M construction workers, most of whom are semi-skilled and would come from Mexico. It's not like building balloon-frame US style houses is like laying stone, or pouring concrete walls like they do in Greece. It's all prefab in the USA and with machine tools for nailing. An alarmist post.

Are you taking into account Trump's wall?

,,,,but TC strongly endorses Conor Sen, his blog, and that specific blog post. Why ?

He's not looking at 143 M workers, but a number far less than that. Just the men, just those under 55. Let's say that's about 60M. Furthermore, he's not saying we need .5M in total, but .5M more, for a total of about 3M. That's 3M out of 60M. Basically, he's saying that we need 1 out of every 20 men, age 18-55, to work in construction (that's precisely the 5% number the data he uses suggests). He's saying we can't reach that number just by employing the unemployed (debatable?). We'll need to get men to switch from other jobs, to construction. Essentially, he's arguing that to reach that number, you'd need about 1 out of every 200 non-construction workers to switch to construction work.

So 1 out of 200 men would have to switch careers. You can argue about whether or not that's a big deal. Maybe 1 out of 200 isn't. That is a reasonable thing to debate!

But what's silly is to misread, misinterpret, and misrepresent the debate and confuse your innumeracy with intelligence.

I must have somehow missed the 1 in 200 number from the article, I would think it is more like 1 in 100.

Regardless, I think that this is yet another opportunity for software to eat the world. Hopefully some enterprising entrepreneurs are already getting in front of this trying to solve some inefficiencies in home building.

I've got to agree with Tyler. Conor Sen nailed it. I build houses, and builders, to keep their best subs, are giving them trucks to use, paying for their fuel, and, because so many subs have lost their driver's licenses, builders are also paying drivers to bring those subs to and from the job site. Additionally, construction work leads to bad backs, and bad backs lead subs to doctors prescribing pain killers like they are NASIDs. It's no longer the exception to the rule to find that many subs have become drug addicted. Good subs, who show up to work on time, driving their own vehicles, are quite hard to find and even harder to keep.

"Good subs, who show up to work on time, driving their own vehicles, are quite hard to find and even harder to keep."

Of course, but I'd say it's pretty clearly because the wages have fallen. The construction industry is an entry level position for illegal immigrants. This has forced the wage growth down over the last 20 years. Most of the elder men in my extended family were in construction in the 1970's to 1990's. They've all gotten out, and they all universally noted that they couldn't get the same wages they did previously. There were always plenty of contractors with an illegal crew willing to bid the work cheaply.

Granted, this is a story that's broader than just the construction industry.

Construction workers are regarded as the scum of the earth.

#5: Zizek is similar to bodybuilders...... you wonder what's he's compensating for.

Zizek is one of the dumbest human beings on the planet. The fact that he hails from a former communist country, makes him that much more peculiar. You'd expect Marxists like him in Western countries. But from E.European countries? They are a rarity.

That's what he is compensating for. Slovenia has become a first-world highly successful country under capitalism...and here is this curmudgeon hanging on to dilapidated beliefs. It's got to be tough for such a delusional individual to live where he does. He's happy to get some attention from delusional Western journalists, of course.

Indeed, Slovenia doubled income in the last generation. It should be an interesting problem to tell the people in Slovenia that they're doing it wrong.

Is Sen just overlooking the fact that the increasing number of men who are "out of the labor force" don't show up as unemployed? Maybe they can't be convinced to participate at the rates they used to, but there is a lot of slack there that could potentially go into construction if wages went high enough to attract them.

Yes, just go to the parking lot in front of Home Depot any morning. Plenty of workers.

Sen is buying the construction/trucking lobby spin that we have a dire labor shortage.

#6 - reexamine Sumner's post with the idea that money is largely neutral. Then you'll see that LS-IM or AD-AS largely doesn't matter. And the evidence supports this: Fed policy shocks are 3.2% to 13.2% of the change in any variable (out of 100%), i.e., largely trivial. See Ben S. Bernanke's FAVAR econometrics paper.

Are you sure that Bernanke wrote such a paper? He has used the FAVAR framework to describe non-neutral effects. What would be the advantage of incorporating more factors if money were super neutral? Exceptional claims require some evidence, so you should provide a link.


"[W]e Europeans screwed it up [the Middle East], everything is the fault of our neocolonialism"

Of course, before 1800 Sunnis, Shias, Maronites and Alawites lived in perfect harmony.

Depends on your view of the Ottoman Empire - and in that case, one needs to add all the Christians with various beliefs the Ottomans also dealt with.

One is welcome to say that the job was not well handled, of course.

#5 At least Zizek is not completely delusional about the migrant crisis. But like always in his view everything is pretty much the fault of capitalism again. Marxists are kind of sad.

#3 I saw a British (?) documentary recently that said the same thing. The documentary must have been at least 1-3 years old because it was shown in German public TV and those guys are always way behind.

#5, you are correct, but Zizek was still surprisingly sane, I thought.

I felt the same way, but that shows how far we've come. I wanted to give him a hug just for acknowledging that we can have objective rational arguments where at least one of the parties is wrong. Relativism has gotten pretty bad when a radical Marxist looks this sane.

The only thing that can make Marxism look sane, is it's modern-day off-shoots.

"Of course, I am against harassment, but I was quite surprised at how often it is a very double-edged notion. My time in the US taught me that it can also have a very clear class dimension. For many middle-class academics and liberals, harassment means they cannot really stand the presence of vulgar, aggressive, ordinary people. Crying harassment is a way for the upper-middle classes – academics, intellectuals and liberals – to keep their distance from ordinary people."

Zizek, or Camille Paglia?

Paglia. And I disagree with the sentiment. I sympathize with the UMC yuppie hating being ogled and catcalled while jogging through a gentrifying neighborhood. To imply this is lumped in with hating monster truck rallies is wrongheaded in the extreme.

Shit. I was wrong.

being wrong and being interesting are not exclusive.

I've been on the wrong side of harassment "rules" a time or three. In fact, I've been told flat out, by college and business decision-makers, that "if she says it's harassment, it's harassment" and "harassment is anything the other person perceives to be harassing". It's inherently dangerous... are motor vehicles, factories and hydrochloric acid.

You just can't lay out, in objective detail, everything or even close to everything that could be harassment. It's got to be decided on a case by case basis, under the totality of the circumstances.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and this is one of the reasons why. All we can do is establish and enforce due process standards (among other things, the respondent's right to know in complete detail what s/he's being accused of).

And we need to make clear that the perception of harassment has to be objectively reasonable and based on the respondent's intent, knowledge or even constructive knowledge (in other words, the respondent is only guilty if s/he intended to annoy or harass the complainant, or knew or should have known* that that would happen to a reasonable complainant).

[*] Another sticking point. "Should have known" is often culturally and sub-culturally specific.

"Construction’s share of total employment is currently 4.6%, and in every cycle ever it’s gotten to at least 5%. Given 1) the size and hence housing needs of the Millennial generation in years to come, 2) the lack of construction, of single family especially, since the financial crisis, 3) the potential for infrastructure spending from the next president, whether it’s the Hillary/Dem version or the Trump “build a wall” version, 5% seems like a reasonable conservative target for how high this will go over the next 3-5 years."

OK, that seems like a really lazy argument. Wouldn't it make more sense to look at what actual housing demand and supply are, and then calculate the need for construction workers? Because we may be pretty well supplied with housing - we've got lots of boomers retiring and millenials really don't have any savings to buy that supply. So maybe there will be a tsunami of demand or maybe there won't, but simply saying "5%" isn't persuasive. It's almost as if he has a predetermined conclusion (we need more workers and therefore more immigraiton, what is really the secret handshake of all the right thinkers) and then gets there by any means necessary.

I'm more of a loco-mocoist, myself.

Zisek sigh. Look dude, we get that there are underlying causes including toxic flavors of radical islam and the self interest of local dictators which somehow didn't make it into your story, but there are good reasons you don't focus first on things like neocolonialism in the face of a hostage crisis. It's because it's, you know, a crisis. Changing forces of history is a longer run proposition. Also, FFS we get to watch Venezuela burn to the ground while you blame capitalism for everything wrong in the world. Why do people treat this guy like some kind of radical genius. His ideas were radical in the '40s.

So, has anyone actually read #4 and could venture a TL;DR or some secondary literature? It sounds fascinating, but I sadly don't have time to go read a dissertation on it.

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