Tuesday assorted links

1. Bykov’s favorite books.

2. Is Jacob Neusner the most-published man?  Is Jacob Neusner underrated?

3. Are the minimum wage and EITC complements?

4. Has Vanguard saved investors $1 trillion?

5. Dog owners already knew this.

6. George Soros’s campaign to elect better prosecutors.

7. China regulation of the day: “TV stations must play down shows’ casts and limit celebrities’ appearances on reality shows.”


What? No comments?

No comments about naughty Apple?

6. Why would left/liberal prosecutors be "better"? Was John Lindsay a "better" mayor than Rudy Guiliani? (That is the sort of stupid thing that limousine liberals who live in the 'burbs tend to believe.)

It's Politico. So Progressive = Better.

Tyler, not Politico, wrote "better."

The story doesn't use the word "better".

Billionaires' money has become toxic and is deployed to hijack the electoral and legislative process. They should be told to run the country themselves or their wealth will be confiscated.

Except Trump?

He's volunteering to run the country.

So in your plan billionaires would all have to run for president to keep their money?

Maybe he means this:


"Nearly 20 percent of Trump campaign cash has gone to Donald Trump and his kids."

Well, it is better than Brazil's average so there's it, I guess.

It's "A Modest Proposal."

Governance used to be by the most physically imposing and charismatic. Then it was by the monarchs and lesser lords who inherited kingdoms from their physically imposing, charismatic ancestors. The merchant class did not rule. Then we decided that "the people" would rule via the ballot box. Due to various court rulings, billionaires are effectively able to buy legislators who tell the voter class what they want to hear, and then proceed to do the donor class's bidding.

The best example of this is Eric Cantor, who got tossed out on his ear by voters who were sick of his Open Borders positions. Cantor promptly landed in a $300K/year job. The prospect of being voted out of office is no longer a threat to the ruling class. We live in an oligarchy dressed up in democratic trappings. This is a great advantage to the oligarch puppetmasters, who might otherwise find their own necks on the line for the destructive policy choices they bribe legislators and executive branch officials to follow.

So, get government aligned back with ownership incentives. Since the current metric is wealth rather than physical prowess and charisma, then we'll just stick the wealthy with running the place, or their wealth will be confiscated so it can't subvert rule by the people.

@The A-G: there was a poster here, hasn't been around in a while, who did indeed suggest incentivizing governments monetarily. Something like a bonus system, where legislators and the executive get paid meaningful amounts based on hurdles like GDP growth, deficit control, crime rates, whatever you want to incentivize. Properly designed it might work (like anything, not easy to do). Incentives matter after all, right now the incentive is just to stay in office long enough to cash in when you are done. You'd have to probably ban lobbying by former pols and such.

Worth a thought.

This is a great advantage to the oligarch puppetmasters,

There are no puppetmasters. About forty years ago, an academic political scientist offered a critique of Ralph Nader's polemic Who Runs Congress?. At the conclusion of his dissection, he offered this: "Congress runs Congress". Cantor, a lapsed real estate agent from a small city, can collar compensation like that because federal policy has such an effect on the incomes of people who hire him that he can collect an access toll of that value. There are analogues to Cantor in state capitals. You want less swag pitched to people like Eric Cantor, you have to restructure policy so that there's less in the way of politically-determined income.

4. Whether John Bogle (the creator of Vanguard and the index fund and index investing for which it is known) is the savior or the devil depends on one's view of the index fund and index investing: was it a great innovation, creating vast wealth for those investing in them, or has index investing magnified the ups and downs of the market, making it more volatile than it otherwise would be. I don't have an opinion about this.

Index funds are the greatest financial innovation since mutual funds. Right up there with ATMs. Asking investors to fork up 25% of their returns in exchange for less market volatility is madness. And who cares about volatility if you're buying and holding over 20, 30 40 years?

And the Clintons? (Over $100 million in assets and growing rapidly, plus de facto control of the billion dollar Clinton Foundation).

I clicked thinking this might be a good development. Instead of concern with the prosecutiom of drug possession and the use of plea offers as a method to expand the scope of prosecution, Soros is concerned with electing minorities that will support longer sentences for whites and shorter sentences for blakcs and hispanics. Explicit racism and interracial attacks.

It's working out so well in Baltimore.

Re: plea agreements, I suppose you missed the part where it said "...and directing some drug offenders to diversion programs instead of to trial."

Also, it seems odd to argue that similar punishment for the same crime, regardless of race, is "explicit racism".

It presumes that black, white, and hispanic defendants receive systematically different sentences when pleading guilty to the same top count, and do so absent systematic differences in the circumstances incorporated into those top counts. That's a contentious notion right there. It also assumes that this 'disparity' is an important problem in criminal justice generally, not merely in a particular prosecutor's office.

And that's assuming the article renders the intention of the sorsophere organizations faithfully, rather than cleaning it up for public consumption. However, we know that controversies over school discipline in which the federal Education Department have taken an interest have concerned 'disparities' in the proportion of each racial category subject to discipline, not disparities in treatment when an offense has been confirmed. Everybody understands that different racial categories have different perpetration rates, and that an absence of 'disparity' can be achieved only by different effective standards of conduct for each racial category.

So if white men commit pedophilia more often than other demographics, they should be punished differently? Again, an odd argument to make.

No, but if I get a DUI the same night as you did, but it was my third and your first, sentences would differ.

The couple of studies that I've seen about this did not take factors like this into account. Similar to studies about minority access to credit. Income was the same, and the only thing considered, when in fact credit scores were vastly different. Like credit scores would matter when deciding about giving credit.

Again, an odd argument to make.

That's not an argument I've ever made, your gamesmanship notwithstanding.

The couple of studies that I’ve seen about this did not take factors like this into account. Similar to studies about minority access to credit.

I think you're referring to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston about 25 years ago, which was sufficiently clueless that some people reading it figured it was actually a con job. IIRC, Thomas Sowell pointed out a discrete datum which called the whole study into question: the default rate of the various subpopulations, which was sufficiently similar across all that it discredited the idea that banks were being systematically unfair.

What kind of imbecile picks the Odyssey over the Iliad?

What kind of imbecile picks only a single work by Shakespeare but includes The Complete Sherlock Holmes?

It is fair to state that the Iliad is a far greater work of art, I guess. But; in the original Greek, and probably in a few of the very best translations (the only translation at a high enough level that I am familiar with is by LeConte de Lisle, into French) it is probably very clear to most that the Iliad and the Odyssey are, while both fantastic, seeking for extremely different effects (Pope and even Chapman glide over this; Andrew Lang might not). Maybe nobody at all really familiar with the iliad is likely to say that there are not, in almost every book (the second book of the wrath of Diomedes being an exception that comes to mind) anywhere from at least 8 or so to 120 or so lines that are the real lines of genius, whereas the other seven or eight hundred or so lines keep the story bubbling along with real but, fallen man being what he is, not consistently transcendent poetical power (think of Tolkien's disappointment with Shakespeare's missed chance with the talking forest in MacBeth...). The Odyssey, on the other hand, has long long stretches where the poet clearly is enjoying, as almost no poet has since, the sprezzatura the happiest of all poets qua poets rejoice in - of confidently setting forth, one uninterrupted line after another, yet one more line for the listener (or reader) which, like the recurring waves of the sea in the middle of the night, does not seem to be preceded at any remembered earlier point in the poem by any line (or by any wave, if you are still picturing the sea) of lesser poetic (or oceanic) power. Also, the Odyssey has well-drawn female characters who are not goddesses, the Iliad almost doesn't. Anyway, if you really like the Iliad and the Odyssey, you are likely to be familiar enough with each of them to have memorized many of your favorite lines. It is easier, I believe, to look (as a devoted fan of Homer) at the Iliad and think, if I had to, I could recite, or at least describe, many or almost all of the lines I like the most (at this moment, for example, I can almost clearly recall each of the grateful words of intense friendship Hector had for a friend who appeared to him - in a false image, not that Hector knew it at the time - to stand with him against Achilleus on Hector's last lonely day of one-on-one battle) . The Odyssey, while shorter than the Iliad and lacking some of its nobility, is a stranger country when we return to it, and it is harder to think of someone remembering the Odyssey as a more or less portable group of favorite quotations. Hence it (the Odyssey) is a book one would rather own, if one had to make the choice. If the Odyssey were a friend, we could say of it, it likes us the way we are, but likes us too much to want us to stay that way. The Iliad, if it were a friend, might be less magnanimous. (last two sentences quote Junebug on God out of context ).

Not bad. 8.5/10

bjk - Thanks that was generous. I would not give it an 8.5 myself. A second draft might make 8.5 - it would be many words shorter, it would drop the references to translations in the second sentence - people who care about Homer don't need to hear about my favorite translations, those who don't are not going to read the comment anyway. A second draft would set up the scene (in book 22) better where Homer, alone against Achilles and his gods outside the walls, thinks he has a friend and a brother at his side (Deiphobus, a son like Hector of both Priam and Hecuba) but doesn't, just a few moments in epic-time before his last and most human speech, where he, alone with Achilles and death, implores and rebukes Achilles with immortal words, words which Achilles, who will soon in his turn suffer the fate he set himself up for, could not possibly understand. Also, I would drop the "picturing the sea" and "oceanic" stuff, again, anyone who cares about Homer has thought about that on their own, and people don't like to think you are underestimating them, even when you are not...I would replace the "sea" & "oceanic" riff with a ten to twenty word version of some half-true or quarter-true memory of this real cool apartment I played cards in with some pals in the 80s when we were young adults and where the host was an Eastern Front Polish special forces vet , or else an ex-POW who liked to brag about things that he never did four decades earlier. Also, I would keep the MacBeth part but I would spell the name right...Oh well, we Homer fans are generous to each other. Thor - a "lifelong fan"? I am jealous, I first read the Odyssey in Reader's Digest Condensed Books for Children when I was 10 and didn't read much Homer again until I was a lot older, so I will never be able to say I have been a lifelong fan. Dickens, yes, Mark Twain, yes, the Bible, mostly yes, but Homer, unfortunately, no, not a lifetime fan. I think I pretty much get it, now (get what Homer was going on about, in the Iliad and the Odyssey), but that is sort of like learning what elementary calculus or electric guitar is really about thirty years after high school - interesting, in its way, and a useful ground for entertaining one's over-caffeinated friends, but a lost opportunity.


I'm a lifelong fan of the Iliad, and have read most of the translations. But I can see one would occasionally put down the book about the war between the Acheans and Trojans, and pick up a work that follows the exploits of one (generally likeable and admirable) character, as he attempts to get home to his family.

6. George Soros’s campaign to elect better prosecutors.

I.e. prosecutors who will seek to frustrate law enforcement at the local level, run shakedowns of oil companies or tobacco companies or insurance companies at the state level, and financially ruin Republican politicians at the federal level.

Wow, you picked up a lot of context from that article. I didn't notice any of those things mentioned.

Art is likely completely correct.

Not like Soros doesn't have a track record. I thought the headline was too go to be true.

The sorosphere's notion of what makes a 'better' prosecutor:


The government prosecutor is the quintessential bureaucrat — very powerful and unaccountable.

The United States is the only country in the world where voters elect prosecutors (in many states and locales). It didn't start that way; most all prosecutors were appointed, at America's founding.
But scandals in political patronage and prosecutor corruption prompted three-quarters of the states to change to elected prosecutors, by 1861. Not long after prosecutors became elected, however, they became heavily involved in and co-opted by partisan politics.

Origins of the extreme prosecutorial discretion and power we see in today's America are unclear, but stem from a steady aggrandizement of bureaucratic police and judicial powers. Historical scholarship can not explain how the American government-prosecutor system emerged from the strong Common Law tradition of "private prosecution" to reach the immense power it has today.

Anglo-American criminal law worked well for many centuries without any government prosecutors.
Criminal or quasi-criminal prosecutions were initiated by the aggrieved private parties. Privately-initiated criminal prosecution was a key feature of the Common Law tradition and a privately-initiated court procedure might assist in controlling now unaccountable government prosecutorial rule. The existing “government by prosecution” framework offers citizens little defense against an emboldened government legal bureaucracy.

Perhaps the people should take back control of their criminal justice system... by eliminating many/all government prosecutors (elected or appointed)?

Yeah, that'll work.

Under such a system, all punishment would be corporal, capital or financial. Prisons would not exist beyond facilties to enable convicts to work off their blood debt.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

3. "As states and cities respond with higher minimum wages to the "Fight for $15" protests, some economists have called for boosting the Earned Income Tax Credit instead. Yet others insist that the minimum wage complements the EITC by ensuring that the benefits go to workers rather than employers. However, the minimum wage achieves this by preventing the EITC from increasing labor force participation. This is a problem given the research showing that work has positive spillovers for low-income households. In other words, the minimum wage does not complement the EITC, it undermines it."

The idea here is that by increasing the pool of potential workers(higher labor force participation rate), the EITC reduces workers' wages. Can anybody think of anything else that reduces workers' wages by increasing the supply of labor?

Ozmiek cites a meta-analysis which showed some positive results from mothers working in early childhood. But those were the exceptions:

" Analyses of studies that spanned 5 decades indicated that, with a few exceptions, early employment was not significantly associated with later achievement or internalizing/externalizing behaviors. The exceptions were for teacher ratings of achievement and internalizing behaviors: Employment was associated with higher achievement and fewer internalizing behaviors."


These early childhood effects, if they are even real, are probably not long lasting.

The minimum wage causes involuntary unemployment, while the EITC reduces wages. But reducing immigration would help both people who have jobs and people who don't, as those who have jobs would get a raise which really reflects increased demand.

Depends on the attributes of those immigrating.

#2...I'm a big fan of Neusner's writings and have often used his books for classes and group study. I have to admit, though, that a fair number of people don't like them. I find him generally very clear and easy to understand, and so a good place to start. The same goes for his translations. However, although I often begin with his books, I always move on to other texts and views as I progress. His political views and personality have never concerned me.

Neusner isn't underrated. At all. It's just that the academic-intellectual worlds of any religion are going to be very small subsets of the larger group. Even an openand very successful theologian like Alvin Plantinga would be underrated by these standards. Kal vachomer an historian like Neusner.

#6 Money in politics. Liberals claim to be against it. Emphasis on claim.

Come on, you don't think Bernie was sincere about that?

I do. I also watched the Democratic Party bend over backwards to deny Bernie even the slightest chance at getting a nomination.

Right, but Bob was talking about 'liberals'. Not the Democratic Party mainstream.

Bernie loves a 501c4 (which can raise big, stealthy donations) when it's his super PAC.

Bend over backwards meaning what exactly?

It's an idiom (American, I guess?), which basically means to try one's very hardest and take unusual steps to make sure something happens.

Bernie just bought a $600k summer home. A third home.

Bernie doesn't mind money so much.

Congressmen make about $175 K, and Bernie's been in Congress for a long time. He's clearly 1% (or 2%), but he's not George Soros.

As Urso points out, Sanders is a 74-year-old man who earns a six-figure salary so of course he is doing well. That said, his family is not in the top 1% in terms of income and most estimates of his net worth estimate it is less than $1 million which places him well below the top 1% in terms of wealth. He is upper middle class.

Purely on income you're right. I'm actually surprised to see that the income cutoff for 1% is so high -- over $400,000. I would've guessed somewhere in the $2's. But any definition of "the one percent" that doesn't include a sitting US Senator is absurd.

#4: Finally, there is the “Vanguard Effect”: The company’s influence leads other funds to lower their fees in order to better compete. For example, the average fee for active funds has dropped from .99 percent in 2000 to .77 percent today, which can also be seen in the above chart. This decline benefits the investors who make up the $10 trillion in active mutual-fund assets. In other words, Vanguard has saved non-Vanguard investors about $200 billion in active funds alone.

How do we know this is attributable to Vanguard? What if it's mostly attributable to falling transaction costs or the rise of ETF's and ETN's, where Vanguard is a small or non-existent player? I'm a Vanguard customer and I think they're great and all but the above paragraph is a bit of a stretch.

2. Working as I do in the fields directly related to Neusner's work - Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, rabbinic literature, and so forth - I don't remember the last time I read someone who cited Neusner for any other purpose than to disagree. His views on most things just aren't very compelling. That said, I continue to see him cited a whole lot. Maybe that's inevitable given the rate at which he published, but it is hard to write about ancient Judaism or Christianity nowadays without disagreeing with Neusner several times. Maybe that does make him underrated.

I do not know how many publications Neusner has had (or whether the "over 1000" includes popular articles and so forthi) but there are certainly others who have had on the order of 1000 refereed journal articles. One was the late mathematical genius, Paul Erdos, he of the number (mine is 4). However, even though he published in many areas of mathematics, usually jointly, and is heavily cited, he remains "just a mathematician," just as Neusner has been "just a scholar of Judaic studies," if covering a wide array of areas therein.

However, another figure, who may be behind Neusner, at a mere 954 refereed journal articles as well as a bunch of books, is the late Herbert Simon, who, of course, got a Nobel Prize in economics for his ideas about bounded rationality. As it is, most economists are unaware of his truly vast and brilliant set of papers and books in numerous other disciplines, with him arguably more important in computer science, especially artificial intelligence, than in economics. His PhD was on in political science, and he was never in an economics department. When he died, he was in four departments at Carnegie-Mellon: computer science, where the department's building is named for him (and it is one of the top comp sci depts. in the world largely because of him), psychology, cognitive science, and management, and he had earlier also been in the management dept.

The last time I communicated with him was to ask him to be in a session I was organizing on complexity for the AEA. He said no due to health problems (and he died not long after that), but his attitude towards conventional economics was somewhat hostile, and he told me to "give them hell" in the session, which I think we did.

5. When my dog would disobey me and I'd smack him, my wife would say, "That's not fair; he can't understand you."

Game set match!

#4) The author gets it almost, but not quite, right, especially since he uses the phrase "utility of the finance industry" (and by "finance" industry, he probably means "asset management" industry). He is right to consider the difference in fees between active and passive funds multiplied by the assets in passive funds. That number, however, is not the value added by the passive managers. Rather, it's the value of the positive externality created by active investors for passive investors. (Passive managers' value added is measured by their own fees --- that's what investors pay them for aggregating assets to gain economies of scale.) If one believes that passive funds will do just as well as active funds, then one believes that active investors, by making markets efficient, provide passive investors with all the benefits of active management and investment research for free. Another example would be the free inflation forecasting and research that active TIPS managers provide for the Fed and others interested in inflation.

Conventional theory of externalities posits that positive externalities will be underprovided by the market. Here, we see a glaring exception (unless one believes that there are too few resources devoted to active investment management). Economists would do well to understand why the asset management industry seems to provide positive externalities in spades with an eye towards applying that understanding to the provision of positive externalities in other contexts. Maybe, we don't really need to subsidize and mandate as many things as we seem to think we do.

On a related tangent, Reginald Hill's "Arms And The Woman," while not the very best of his celebrated mystery series, contains an entertaining story within a story; a fun nod towards The Odyssey.

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