Wednesday assorted links

1. Free copy of Roger Paulin’s 662 pp. biography of August Wilhelm Schlegel, which received a very strong review from the TLS.

2. Explaining the cross-regional features of the Great Recession in the United States.

3. Polygenic scoring.

4. I can’t say I am convinced by this defense of Chomsky’s universal grammar.

5. Some basic economics of Wells Fargo.

6. A West Coast Straussian defense of Trump (no, not my view but the contrarian in me wishes to pass along some of the smarter people writing on this topic).

7. The secret stimulus: another fiscal failure.


7. You want economic growth, then you have to facilitate economic growth. Growth is facilitated by infrastructure: without it, an economy cannot grow. Even the Chinese know that! How many blog posts has Cowen made on self-driving cars, the obvious inference being that private enterprise will lead us into the next growth spurt. Who will provide the separate right of way that will make autonomous vehicles more than a fantasy? Arguments about whether fiscal stimulus in and of itself produces economic growth misses the obvious. Blind economists: they not only would have opposed the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway system, they would have opposed the Louisiana Purchase!

"they would have opposed the Louisiana Purchase!"

What infrastructure do you think is lacking in the US today that is hampering economic growth? Be specific, please.

High-speed rail and wifi everywhere! Don't forget my bike lanes!

So, the FCC wasteful spending taking TV spectrum away from broadcasters is just useless infrastructure spending because the wireless network infrastructure is overbuilt?

Yes, but which infrastructure, and where? Opportunity costs and incentives do matter. Plus 'Growth is facilitated by infrastructure' is a chicken & egg argument, with a number of empty cities around the world serving as fine counter examples to the benefits of Govt planning. Robert Moses himself displayed a fine skill in building infrastructure and restricting growth - certain bridges that were built too low to allow buses to pass, comes to mind.

Autonomous vehicles won't require a separate right of way, the problem has been developing an automatic system that can operate with human driven vehicles. An automatic car should be a better driver than any human, they don't get tired or inattentive, and have faster reactions. They should have no difficulty operating in mixed traffic, and are being designed to do just that.

You need government to facilitate economic growth because the private sector cannot realize the growth produced by natural incentives because government regulation stands in the way. And you pretend to know people attending Yale. Your LSAT was 160 equivalent at best.

"Who will provide the separate right of way that will make autonomous vehicles more than a fantasy?"

You think there will be no fully autonomous vehicles without separation of fully autonomous vehicles from human-driven vehicles?

6. What is a Straussian reading of those comments? Holy moly. Flight 93 wasn't a stark enough metaphor for them, oh no. Gettysburg. Dunkirk. And lets not forget the role of the Jews in....whatever Trump is supposed to be fighting to stop with his....rallies.

"Basically, Trump is our Sulla." lol. well, at least Sulla was married a whole bunch of times, too.

The Straussian reading is to read it inversely. There isn't so much hope that Trump will fix things, as Trump is the last shot. You are witnessing the first stage of political disunion. Win or lose, Trump is probably the end of the beginning.

...or more likely, the beginning of the end.

Late to this, but in this case Straussian is to be taken literally. There is no doubt the person writing as Decius is some sort of Claremont Institute associated Straussian.

Ray is not first, perhaps that large typhoon caused some, #4.

The problem gets interesting because we're a mix with Neardenthals and perhaps there's a 3rd ancestor So, does the Universal Grammar applies only for Homo Sapiens, for Homo genus, or even the whole Hominidae family? I think Chomsky proposed this theory from an unknown unknown in Biology knowledge several years ago. 50 years ago the lines that separate "species" was clear. Today, the biologists working with tools that allow quantitative analysis of DNA are starting to see the line that separates species is a bit blurry. The most recent example is the finding of 4 giraffe species where people saw only 1 before.

Mr. Linguistics PhD candidate goes long on how "our species" is special, but it is a mix. It would be interesting if the linguistics people would say something about the origin of the UG. Does it comes from the sapiens, from the neardenthals, from the new ones or all of them?

There's a typhoon in PH? I did not know that, I'll check. I'm in Athens, Greece right now. So, are you an "out-of-Eve" (majority) or "multi-center" (minority) anthropology student? Or perhaps it seems you are in-between? The shock was when they sequestered Neanderthals DNA, as you say, and found they were not killed off by Homo sapiens. A wise man once said, joking, that some humans are indeed descendant from apes more so than others, and if you look at the human branches as species rather than genus divisions, maybe there's more 'mixing' than we think?

I'm just a groundwater guy that drinks frequently with people from biology. They're the ones making DNA analysis and telling stories on how the "lines" between species are blurry. Someone needs to make a review, make sense of the new discoveries and update the popular culture definition of species.

"update the popular ... definition of species". The only thing "popular culture" should (imho) know about "species" is that its a vague ill-defined term when used by science educators, and that there are as many *technical* definitions (many of which contradict one another) as there are sub-sub-sub-sub disciplines of biology and paleontology. But Darwin stuck us with it for the foreseeable future, I don't see anything worthwhile coming out of an effort to deconstruct it.

Deconstruction? No, just the slow and steady progress of science.

The Vox version with plenty of pictures

The Secret Rule of Generative Linguistics is that you can mumble about biology, but you're only really concerned with Sentences. UG exists because of this methodological restriction. If you look at how other animals communicate, or how modern computer systems communicate (the ones that use big data and machine learning), you find it very hard to identify a distinct grammatical level of analysis that would exist to support a "universal" aspect.

Evolution as a biologist thinks about it is the Modern Synthesis of molecular biology and population genetics, and you need to incorporate developmental biology (evo-devo) if you're deling with brains consisting of more than a few thousand neurons. (Consider specifying a brain with 10 billion neurons using only the 10,000 genes that are expressed there.) Creating a theory of communicative behavior based on brains that grow and learn and that scales across brains of different sizes and evolutionary histories is a radically different research program from ex cathedra declaring the existence of a "language organ" that implements UG that Chomsky built his disciplinary edifice upon. Conducting scientific revolutions like that is not for junior tenure-track academics or PhD. candidates in linguistics. The search for UG is beginning to look very much like "the search for the engram" or the search for "the NCAM" (neural celll adhesion molecule), i.e. an ambitioous project that sucked in many famous scientists and faded away without achieving its triumph, and is now viewed as hopelessly naive in the light of modern data and understanding.

#5: Calling ineffectual financial regulations "heartbreaking" is just deranged, but nonetheless I agree with the author the fine seems light. Bank employees messing with people's accounts is something that I think everyone can agree ought to be punished harshly. I suppose there is still the chance that WF may face the additional punishment of the loss of some of its customers, though. (Switch to PNC!)

As is usual for New Yorker, they vastly overstate the case. Average amount refunded to each customer involved (based on the material loss he/she suffered) was $25. It was mostly about opening savings account if you already have a checking one, or sending you a credit card you didn't ask for. It's not like Wells Fargo could underwrite a mortgage on your home without your knowledge, and then foreclose on you because you didn't make the payment. Take everything New Yorker writes with a lot of HCl.

Oh, the article gets insane-er the further I read: "bankers secretly manipulated LIBOR rates for TWENTY YEARS..." This is the case of "this guy doesn't know what he is talking about, but he has the megaphone". LIBOR is, by definition, an average of rates reported by the banks. What happened during the financial crisis, is that no bank wanted to report that it has to borrow at a rate significantly higher than other banks, because that would rise questions about its solvency, which could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, some of the banks reported lower borrowing rates than was the case. During the crisis, not for twenty years. It is not clear if the banks made or lost money if LIBOR was set lower than it should have been, as the banks have a lot of positions, linked to LIBOR, both receiving and paying the rate.

"It is not clear if the banks made or lost money.." [snip]

To clarify, you mean that its not clear to you.

Incentives matter! Ask a trader.

Hydrochloric Acid?

Six molar.


You got me there - NaCl. So, I got one right, you got one.

True, no one should be reading the New Yorker for its in-depth financial reporting. That said, I still agree with them that the fines seem piddling. Even if the losses to individual account holders were small, bank employees initiating unauthorized transactions or other changes to customers' accounts is something that ought to be punished pretty harshly. To me, that's like some guy who comes into your house all the time while you're at work and just hangs out and watches tv. Sure, he can argue that what he's doing is no big deal, since he doesn't break anything and he only steals pocket change from the cushions in the sofa, but still....if it's your house, you're still gonna be justifiably angry at someone messing with your stuff.


I think I will wait for a more definitive biography of the estimable Schlegel.

1. And Wittgenstein was a beery swine,
Who was just as sloshed as Schlegel.

I tried to read #4 but I fell asleep a third into it.

I read #6 this morning; it's a good essay, but two things:

1. I think he needs to grapple with the fact that people's values change in predictable ways (ie, they generally move leftward) as wealth and income levels increase. As someone who is (somewhere) on the right, I find this regrettable, but excoriating movement conservative pundits for being a bunch of useless humps, true as it is, does little to change the basic equation we're dealing with here.

2. If this is really the Flight 93 election, the fact that we're counting on the vacuous, histrionic, previously a-political Donald J. Trump to wrest the controls away from the maniacs in the cockpit suggests to me that it's already too late. The plane's in a steep nose-dive, our altitude's too low to pull out of it; there's nothing to be done now except clean up the wreckage and then build a pretty monument somewhere near the crash site.

Surely, with respect to Americans, it would be more accurate to say that they become more libertarian as they become richer. This applies to both individuals at any given moment, and to the country as a whole over the past 60 years. So richer people tend to be more socially liberal and more economically conservative, and America has become more libertarian in most respects over the past 50 years. (Imagine the government today trying to prohibit people from owning gold or buying European bonds, or imagine someone advocating income tax rates of 91%.) There is one big exception, which is that American society has become fanatically opposed to "discrimination" and willing to endorse any expansion of authoritarian power if it is directed against "discrimination."

Citation for leftward correlation of wealth or income?

Gelman has it the other way:

Hmm...well, this is what I had in mind:

But looking back at it, there seems to be a lot less empirical evidence included than I remembered and more off the cuff hypothesizing. Nonetheless it sure rings true to my ears, so I'm sticking with it.

To paraphrase and update Nixon, you have to lean to the crazy during the primaries and lean to sanity during the general.

I disagree that it is a good essay. His basic premise is that since we've only have seen Trump act legally (unless you include civil prosecutions he has copped to), and speak using his Constitutional right to lie (blatantly, so much so that it proves his lack of respect for his audience's intelligence), that we should expect no worse once he surrounds himself with yes-men, and is placed into the most powerful position in the world; that his erratic behavior will be magically limited. I guess the basic question is do you think we've seen Trump at his best, or at his worst? My guess is best, but what I know is this: power corrupts, except (possibly) for those with remarkable self-discipline and high values. Neither Trump nor Clinton are one of those people.

A good quote I heard in another thread - "Voting UKIP is like smoking - bad for you but it annoys all the right people". Trump is much the same. I genuinely believe the Republicans *and* the Democrats genuinely hate him, and, well, I hate the Republicans and the Democrats. To my tiny lizard brain, Trump annoying the Rs and Ds pleases me greatly. The presidency is a toy that neither establishment party can be trusted with, and I'd be perfectly content to watch Congress stonewall him at every move, the media hound his every step. Almost like Congress and the media would start doing their jobs again!

Not sure still how I'm going to vote - Johnson's really my boy policy-wise - but after Clinton called my mother deplorable, I don't have any shame about helping out the Trump campaign either.

Sorry about your racist mom.

#6 is a rambling, incoherant, self-important mess that I couldn't even finish. Basically, it's a stupid person's idea of what a "smart" essay looks like. If the thesis is that somehow Trump is the one to "save" the country from itself, then the nation is already dead and gone, and that seems to be the entire justification that Trump has given the entire campaign, then the nation is dead and gone already.

Boy, "Stupid person's idea of what a smart 'X' sounds like" sure is a fun accusation to throw around. It's quite pompous and so fashionable these days!

6. That sounds like Moldbug to me.

6. The US has been in a Golden Age since the end of the Cold War, and has had no one except for the Muslim equivalent of stoners living in their parent's basements as a unifying enemy- not exactly the USSR. But it is only natural for people to have enemies, and the media loves to stir up trouble so they have beaten it into our heads that "the system is broken".

In the 25 years after WW2, median family incomes grew an average of 3%/year.

In the 25 years after the end of the Cold War, median family incomes barely grew at all.

Would you rather live with the fear of nuclear annihilation or the reality that your children may not live as well as you do?

#6 features quite the number of erudite references but gets way out of line about puffing up recent events -- for instance it claims that the Libya war was "perhaps the worst security policy mistake in US history". The War of 1812 and Prohibition come immediately to mind as things that I think most everyone would agree were colossal mistakes that wreaked orders of magnitude more havoc on our nation's security.

And W's attack on Iraq?


#6: "not my view but the contrarian in me wishes to pass along some of the smarter people writing on this topic"

Well, I don't know who (the modern) Publius Decius Mus is, so I can't comment on whether he/she is among the smarter people writing on this topic. But I will say strongly that what was written there cannot be called smart. It is pretty much a fact free rant that veers close to the paranoid in spots and barely conceals (if at all) that its main support of Trump and the "Flight 93" characterization of his campaign is based in fear and loathing of immigrants and the non-white demographics who are a growing proportion of the electorate. OK, there are occasional lucid intervals scattered through the essay, but they get lost in the overall unhinged tone..

Now, as you might guess, I view Trump's campaign and the alt-right segment of his supporters as anathema. But I think there are people who make intelligent arguments for him, and you can do a lot better than this, Tyler, if you want to link to something that presents his side of things. That essay was unworthy of a link from your thoughtful and thought-provoking blog. (Yes, effusive praise from a proud leftist whose day is not complete until I read what you have to say.)

#4 Andrew Ng, (associate professor in the department of computer science at Stanford University, and the chief scientist of Baidu on deep learning and AI, formerly founded the Google Brain project) on Chomsky's theories,

at about 14:20, """ I think I have a lot of problems with Chomsky's theories (wrt to AI deep learning of speech)... """

That was a great post, Tyler ... Like you, I don't agree with him (although we disagree for different reasons), but an intelligent, well-read author nonetheless.

4: I don't see it so much as a defense of Chomsky's universal grammar as an attack on one of its critiques, and that attack seems sound to me ... I'm no expert on linguistics, but the recursion vs embedding distinction is clearly useful and seems relevant.

And 6 is a mess, as some other commenters said I didn't bother to finish reading it, it was a waste of time. But is that in fact what Tyler is trying to get us to say, while he notes that this is one of "the smarter people writing on this topic"? I'm lost in the Strauss-ianity (or is it a Strauss-inanity?).

#7 seems pretty pathetic. The 'stimulus' hasn't even happened yet it's just a change in the projection of the federal deficit and we are already looking backwards in time for changes in GDP?!

It's a change in the actual deficit over the past 2 years. During recoveries, Keynesians forget all their countercyclical arguments.

Its really amazing post admin , finally my search ends here & i got the information.

#6 was pretty good, but...

1. Conservatives have been winning the battles on guns, and in some respects, abortion.
2. I'm generally opposed to "The end is near" sandwich-boarding. The Left has their own sandwich boards out around Trump. Tiring.
3. Trump is something of a wildcard regardless. As much as I try to get lathered up like Decius, I always end up with "Yeah, but Trump?"
4. Very true observation about immigration and the Overton Window. Trump deserves credit for this- it is the sine qua non of his candidacy. The left and other Open Borders people need to be reined on in this. I'm pro-immigration, but maybe we need to take a breather here for a decade or so. Reminiscent of the 1920s. The halcyon days of the 1950s, fondly remembered by all, saw much lower immigrant as a % of population numbers. Trumpists complain about working class whites bearing the brunt of immigration, but poor black Americans are similarly affected.

This is a great summary of the times.

"The halcyon days of the 1950s, fondly remembered by all"

As is often the case here on MR, I can't tell if this is serious or ironic, but if serious: I suggest that J. Robert Oppenheimer, Rosa Parks, and the residents of Bikini atoll have less-than-fond remembrances of the 1950s.

Americans don't want a return to the 50s, they want a return to the 80s. The demographic shift is extremely recent, as is widespread globalization.

What fights are being won on either guns or abortion? A minor fight was won on gun rights, with a narrow minority, that is now gone. If you think the Liberal Wing will actually hold and defend DC vs. Heller or companion cases, you have more faith in the Liberals than I do.

In both cases, public opinion has moved opposite to the liberal agenda. Ultimately, you have to move public opinion, like on gay rights. You can get ahead of the public a bit, but not a lot.

The trend toward increasing rights for animals etc. makes abortion more problematic. There are definitely places in this country where it's hard to get an abortion. Is anybody campaigning in favor of using taxpayer dollars for abortion?

As far as guns, the number of guns in the possession of Americans today is a fact on the ground, regardless of future laws. Running on a platform of taking guns away is a political loser across the country. Restrictions on 'assault weapons' can't get off the ground. I heard there are more gun shops than Starbucks in the good ole USA.

The liberal gun platform is the primary driver of my political behavior and voting. I'm far more liberal than both would indicate as a result; however liberal goals, methods, and language around firearms is (for what I believe are deeply considered and core reasons) so antithetical to what I believe is right and tolerable that I'm close to a single issue voter.

Restrictions on the made-up "assault" weapons are currently in place in multiple states, have historically been in place in the US, and are supported by this very blog! We have nothing more than a temporary, fleeting victory. Our position is no more tenable and in fact weaker than the anti-gay marriage position in 2004-5, where all right-minded people knew gay marriage was a fictional concept and the President supported a Constitutional Amendment to ban it. You're 6 years away from having gun rights restricted to almost nothing and the gun-grabbers are only going to become more emboldened upon the election of another Clinton.

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