What I’ve been reading

1. Incarnations: A History of India in Fifty Lives, by Sunil Khilnani.  A highly readable introduction to Indian history, structured around the lives of some of its major figures.  I passed along my copy to Alex.

2. Haruki Murakami, Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa.  More for classical music and Ojawa fans than Murakami readers, this is nonetheless an easy to read and stimulating set of interviews for any serious classical music listener.  They are most interesting on Mahler.

3. Elsa Morante, History.  In America, this is one of the least frequently read and discussed great European novels of the 20th century.

4. Miriam J. Laugesen, Fixing Medical Prices: How Physicians are Paid.  Will people still care about these issues for the next four years?  I hope so, because this is the best book I know of on Medicare pricing and its influence on pricing throughout the broader U.S. health care system.

My copy of Joel Mokyr, A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy has arrived.  It is a very good statement of how political fragmentation and intensified intellectual competition drove modernity and the Industrial Revolution.

I have only perused John H. Kagel and Alvin E. Roth, Handbook of Experimental Economics, volume 2, but it appears to be an extremely impressive contribution.

Marc Levinson’s An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Return of the Ordinary Economy details what made the post World War II era so special in terms of its economics and income distribution and why it will be so hard to recreate.

Chris Hayes’s A Colony in a Nation, due out in March, he argues that racial equality really hasn’t improved much since 1968.

Guillermo A. Calvo, Macroeconomics in Times of Liquidity Crises is a useful book on sudden stops and related ideas.

Arrived in my pile is Yuval Noah Harati, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.


'I passed along my copy to Alex.'

Who is clearly not the head of a poor Mexican family deserving a used iPad. But whose status was raised, and whose lowered, by this action?

'he argues that racial equality really hasn’t improved much since 1968'

He must have a fascinating definition of 'racial equality,' as many people would argue that American racial equality hasn't improved all that much since 1968, except, possibly, de jure - though considering the 2013 Supreme Court ruling concerning the Voting Rights Act, and its result, one can wonder about the de jure part. De facto, this was the result of that decision in one state - 'The Supreme Court ruled over the summer that new North Carolina voting rules targeted black Americans with "almost surgical precision."' http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/trailguide/la-na-election-day-2016-how-did-the-weakened-voting-rights-act-1478670026-htmlstory.html

Sounds like those in charge of the North Carolina legislature, to use one exceptionally well documented example, retain essentially the same ideas concerning racial equality in 2015 as they did in 1965.

"Fixing Medical Prices: How Physicians are Paid." -- I took a brief look at though the book at Amazon, and it seems quite reasonable. Indeed, Medicare’s prices are the starting point for most prices paid in the US, and the medicare process, while seemingly logical has serious agency issues.

Sadly (as it seems is noted in the book) this is not a compelling narrative to the electorate. The end results is that no one who really understands the subject has any idea how to patch the issues.

"A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy" -- Sounds like a partial rehash of Landes' The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (which was terrific).

"A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy — Sounds like a partial rehash of Landes’ The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (which was terrific)."
Yes, it was.

I am a historian not an economist but I read Landed and learned a lot. I will read this new book over the winter. (Incidentally far too few historians ever study economic history.)

4) The very short Amazon summary is promising. The fact that a committee of doctors dominated by specialists, rather than primary care and generalists, is allowed to determine how much Medicare pays them is the main driver of inflated reimbursement rates. The second problem is that Medicare does not take value into account when making coverage decisions or determining reimbursement levels. It just covers nearly every drug and device (and related procedure) approved by FDA. It costs taxpayers many billions of dollars per year to not even consider the costs of these therapies.

Chris Hayes’s A Colony in a Nation, due out in March, he argues that racial equality really hasn’t improved much since 1968.

The smart money says what he really argues is in favor of doubling-down on the abuse of landlords and employers by lawyers, ever more patronage in the civil service and higher education, and ever more harassment of police officers for doing their jobs. No, he doesn't have the chops to make much sense of serious social research. He's the issue of Brown University, the latrine of the Ivy League.

Yes, but he did major in (IIRC) mathematical logic, so it's very likely not a *cognitive* deficit that retards his analysis. I think you know this. Politics makes people stupid, and nothing makes a smart person stupid like progressive politics.

Not likely. Brown's philosophy department is offering this year four undergraduate courses in logic of which one is in mathematical logic. I doubt they ever offered much more than that; philosophy's not the most novel or protean of disciplines. They have a ten course minimum for their philosophy majors, of which 3 courses must be in a contrived subspecialty.

I'm recollecting all this from his appearance on the Marc Maron podcast that I half-listened to on my commute, so I might be mistaken. I *do* know he at least did his senior thesis in mathematical logic, and he graduated magna or (I think) summa. Also to be adduced is the fact that he attended Hunter in NYC (OD where he was close friends with Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda) which is *hyper*-selective. I stand by my bet that he is rather intelligent. Of course, intelligence isn't insight.

3. Nor is it widely discussed and read in Europe.

Sunil Khilnani's Incarnations is not Indian history per se. It is Indian history colored by left-liberal lenses.

A conservative perspective will inevitably be lacking.

Marc Levinson's An Extraordinary Time: He attributes secular stagnation (not his term) to two things, the shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge (information) economy and a falling labor share of income. Was it inevitable, by design, or just bad luck? It's depressing how few economists bother to consider this question, but encouraging that some do. Levinson adds environmental regulations that vastly improved the quality of the air and water but came at the cost of less investment in the things that enhance productivity; and I will add, motivated firms in developed countries to shift production to developing countries that were less concerned about the environment. The factors that led to globalization and secular stagnation seem to have stumped most economists. Well, maybe not stumped, more likely a case of not wanting to see what's in front of one's nose. Levinson says the high water mark of economic and productivity growth coincided with the 1973 oil embargo. Following the trail from the oil embargo we see tax cuts for the wealthy, exploding deficits, historically high interest rates, the shift in government expenditures from investment in things that make the economy more productive (such as infrastructure but also technology (e.g., the space program and computers)) to investment in things that don't (such as transfer payments), the shift in production from developed countries to low cost developing countries, rising inequality both in developed countries and developing countries, and unchecked tax avoidance schemes that would make Donald Trump blush (well, maybe not Trump). "It was the best of times, and the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, . . ." That was meant to contrast radical opposites taking place in the United Kingdom and across the English Channel in France. This is an apt phrase to be used in the context of today’s world when on the one hand, the rich are enjoying luxurious lives, while the poor are struggling under the yoke of economic decline. For society's winners, it's the best of times, for society's losers, it's the worst of times. Was it inevitable, by design, or just good luck for the winners and bad luck for the losers?

But it's not the worst of times for the 'losers'. The losers have it better now than the losers did before.

"racial equality really hasn’t improved much since 1968."

Of course what he means is equality of results not equality of opportunity and freedom to make choices. It should not be the business of government to try to create equal results especially when the group they are pandering to make great efforts to remain on the bottom rung where all the free stuff rains down on them.

Seems so weird. I'm a blogger and a mom. And I know what to do.

What if I google some ideas for the sake of my blog?

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