What I’ve been reading

1. Harold James, The German Slump: Politics and Economics 1924-1936.  Not economic history in the post-cliometrics sense, but a history of economic issues, very high quality, full of good information on just about every page.

2. William Rosen, Miracle Cure: The Creation of Antibiotics and the Birth of Modern Medicine.  A good book on exactly what the title promises, my favorite sentence was this: “Before penicillin,  three-quarters of all prescriptions were still compounded by pharmacists using physician-supplied recipes and instructions, with only a quarter ordered directly from a drug catalog.  Twelve years later, nine-tenths of all prescribed medicines were for branded products.”

3. Justin Yifu Lin and Celestin Monga, Beating the Odds: Jump-Starting Developing Countries.  An instructive look at how countries have to start growing before the right institutional framework is in place, and how they can get around that.  Haven’t you wondered how China racked up so many years of stellar growth with such a bad “Doing Business” ranking from the World Bank?  One of the better books on developing economies in the last few years.

4. Joan C. Williams, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America.  An intelligent and indeed reasonable basic approach to answering questions about class, including “Why don’t they push their kids harder to succeed?” and “Why don’t the people who benefit most from government help seem to appreciate it?”  I am not the intended audience, but still this was better than I was expecting.

Rick Wartzman, The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America, is a densely-written but nonetheless useful history of how America moved from paternalistic big businesses to lower-benefit jobs.

Arnold Kling, The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides.  This short book, revised, improved, and expanded, is so good it is wasted on almost all of you.  Here are various pieces of background information.

Comments

6) Are you mad at us?

Tyler is being Straussian. Reading between the lines, I understand him to mean: "This book is garbage, unworthy of my brilliant audience."

Straussian means a little bit more than using verbal irony which is something you learn in seventh grade language arts textbooks. Which isn't to say your post is wrong but does make cowen's understanding of Strauss seem kind of limited.

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He's right. Of all of us, only Thiago can see past the lies we tell ourselves. We all smell of jackfruit.

Thiago? Jackfruit? Can someone please explain? Is Prof. Cowen's comment about Kling's book a recommendation or a warning? I feel so obtuse! I should stop drinking in the morning. :-)

Since I am not Straussian, and believe people deserve clear communication, I guess I should try.

As I understand Kling (from supplemental texts and not the book) ideologues are 1) submerged in a psychological framing, and 2) blind to the "equally valid" framing of opposing ideologues.

And so Tyler's shot would be that most of us are secure in a "true" psycho-ideology and uninterested in complications.

The Thiago joke is about rejecting all of the US ideologues, and observing that they are all screwing up as a team. See also "overrule jackfruit"

Ideology is like the Emperor's New Clothes. They may fool the stupid and weak-minded but they are transparent to the shrewd.

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That really is "overripe" Mr. Google, not "overrule."

Thank you!

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The book would certainly be wasted on me.

Orwell" Politics are essentially coercion and deceit.

Does one of the three languages contain the vocabulary of gun fire?

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'“Before penicillin, three-quarters of all prescriptions were still compounded by pharmacists using physician-supplied recipes and instructions, with only a quarter ordered directly from a drug catalog. Twelve years later, nine-tenths of all prescribed medicines were for branded products.”'

Almost as if the mass production of pencillin was not developed during WWII, an event that just happened to require medical compounds that could be used worldwide, without the presence of a doctor, much less a pharmacist. World War Two was the first war where medicine was effectively used as a force multiplier, and consciously so. At least on the part of the Nazis (as noted here - https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/25/blitzed-norman-ohler-adolf-hitler-nazi-drug-abuse-interview ) and by the British and Americans.

Human error does creep in when the name/address is typed each session.

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Joan Williams - good stuff!

Read this: https://hbr.org/2016/11/what-so-many-people-dont-get-about-the-u-s-working-class

Good read.

"At a deeper level, both parties need an economic program that can deliver middle-class jobs. Republicans have one: Unleash American business. Democrats? They remain obsessed with cultural issues. I fully understand why transgender bathrooms are important, but I also understand why progressives’ obsession with prioritizing cultural issues infuriates many Americans whose chief concerns are economic."

But speaking pragmatically, further "unleashing American business" (quite unleashed already) only helps the working class if another random shuffle by the Invisible Hand breaks that way.

Sure, some people would like a steady, 30 year, job at Carrier building air conditioners. And then perhaps a conventional pension.

Will "unleashing" seriously provide that, or is it a token of membership believing it will? I think Kling is right that basic psychology breaks one way or another. But at a second level institutional beliefs become attached to the tribes.

Sadly, at this point it doesn't really matter if "unleashing" is really a thing, or if it makes sense. It is liturgy.

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#3 Isn't it time we replaced the batteries and fixed the alternators in all these economies?

You should be president of the World Garage.

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"Justin Yifu Lin and Celestin Monga, Beating the Odds: Jump-Starting Developing Countries. An instructive look at how countries have to start growing before the right institutional framework is in place, and how they can get around that. Haven’t you wondered how China racked up so many years of stellar growth with such a bad “Doing Business” ranking from the World Bank? One of the better books on developing economies in the last few years."

As per Steve Sailer, an ongoing effort to raise global IQ by fortifying staple foods with micronutrients such as iodine and iron to reduce cretinism etc. would be v helpful.

I don't know how many other readers of this blog weigh 110 lbs. and often don't eat quite enough, but I can certainly attest that my brain jettisons non-essential functions when I've not eaten anything much in the previous 18 hours. A very minor but constantly-recurring example, since a period of little-eating is generally followed by a trip to the grocery store: when I have eaten a decent meal and then shop, I can return straight to my car without any conscious thought. If I've not eaten, I come out of the store and have no idea where I parked and wander around. As I've never been seriously deprived of food, it alarms me to think how little brain processing I would have going on if I were chronically hungry, when I would need it most. I am very lucky, to live when and where I do.

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“Why don’t the people who benefit most from government help seem to appreciate it?” When you say "government help" do you mean taxpayers' dollars?

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Kling: Here is a short review from 2013 by Austin Frakt, a co-creator of The Incidental Economist and someone I greatly admire: http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/the-three-languages-of-politics/ I need to read this book. I have read Jonathan Haidt's book, The Righteous Mind, which I found wanting in many respects. Maybe it's because Haidt applied a dichotomy (liberalism vs. conservatism). Kling, on the other hand, goes after all three isms (including libertarianism).

3. I'm always amused by western views of the "China miracle": it couldn't happen, it didn't happen, and it won't last. Why did the captains of industry choose to move their production to a place that can't do it, wouldn't do it, and won't do it? I'm equally amused by western views of China's new strategy, One Belt and One Road. Is there a day that goes by that western media don't predict imminent economic doom for China? Maybe Kling should write another book about different political languages used by the west and the east.

Before we could discuss the political language of China, they would need free speech first so that there would be actual language to analyze.

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Here is a rundown by the war correspondent Tom Ricks on new books about war: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/26/books/review/military-history.html? It's been stated (by Churchill) that history is written by the victors. If that's true, victors lie.

And losers bore. Hint.

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t’s been stated (by Churchill) that history is written by the victors.

No, history is written by the intelligentsia, many of whom are liars.

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1. I recall the prediction made a few years ago that imminent hyperinflation would trigger the rise of right wing populism in the west just as hyperinflation in Germany had produced Hitler. Hyperinflation (indeed, inflation) kept on not happening in the west yet the west has experienced a rise in right wing populism. As this book recounts, the inflation in Germany following WWII had long since been replaced by economic depression and deflation by the time of Hitler's rise to power. Inflation, deflation, why is it that we speak different political languages even in matters that seem obvious. [This book does consider the poor policy choices made by Germany that contributed to the depth of the slump in Germany; bad things don't just go around happening, people/governments make them happen.]

WWI

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Hyperinflation is not what boosted the Nazis to power. They continued to be risible crackpots through the mid-20s. It was the Great Depression which resulted in a German unemployment exceeding 30% that brought the Nazis to power.

That, and Paul von Hindenberg's senility, and the cack-handed gamesmanship of Baron von Papen. The Nazis actually lost seats between the July and November 1932 elections. It's a passable guess that without the reins of government, it would have proved a fad movement and evaporated as rapidly as it arose. Germany needed its own Franco or Horthy.

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At least Kling concedes that libertarianism is a type of tribalism (very rare from that set) but there is no way anyone who is/was associated with econlog can explain how a non-open borders libertarian thinks speaks or acts.

First Henderson showed up there and watered down the content, then Kling split shortly after.
It went from one of my first stops on the daily roundup to a site I come across via a link every few months.

You sell Kling very short with your snarky comment. Even before his new blog he was interested in exploring why those he disagreed with believed as they do. Probably a little less so during the meltdown of 08, but he was one of the best sources to read anywhere online during that time.
Caplan is a goof, but has interesting ideas. He was so darn proud of himself that time he waited in a Kaiser Permanente office with a bunch of Mexicans. Russ is also kind of a goof and a light weight on his pod, but between them they give you a pretty good peek at ivory tower libertarianism. Their fumblings just show how magnificent Hanson is.

Kling is right up there with Cowen as a source of looking at how libertarianism can fit in the real world.

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#6 After I read the first version of Kling's book, I've not viewed the idiots who disagree with me the same. Seriously, though, it was very good. The second edition is on my short list.

While I found Haidt's analysis of conservatives, progressives, and libertarians to be interesting, I found Kling's book to be much more useful. It is one of those rare books that changed how I think about things.

As well, more books need to be as concise and to the point like this one. In the age of Kindle, there's no need to fill up a book with 300+ pages just to make it look more impressive on a shelf.

+1

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#4 Do you think there would be enough data from areas like North Louisiana where oil and gas drilling (Haynesville Shale) took people from the middle class to extremely wealthy in a short amount of time (think Bayou Billionaires)? Or the workers in similar industries who took significantly higher paying jobs in those areas and spent that money on a living a more luxurious type of the same life (i.e. just more expensive toys)?

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“Why don’t they push their kids harder to succeed?”

Because they don't want them to pack up and leave. They don't want to become the proud parents of distant offspring they rarely see, who no longer share their interests and world view, and who have become embarrassed about where they came from.

“Why don’t the people who benefit most from government help seem to appreciate it?”

They want work, not government programs. They know, for example, people subsisting on SSDI who aren't really disabled and they really don't want to be like that. But also, they know that the tribe trying to push government help on them does not like, understand or respect them.

Because they don’t want them to pack up and leave. They don’t want to become the proud parents of distant offspring they rarely see, who no longer share their interests and world view, and who have become embarrassed about where they came from.

You're ascribing to the white poor a level of self-awareness the vast majority of them don't possess. I grew up with these people. I have some in my extended family. It boils down to resentment, lack of self-discipline, and insecurity more than anything else. Emotionally, they stopped maturing early in their teenage years. Their decision-making is driven primarily by immediate gratification.

The white poor I know who do have that level of self-awareness without exception push their kids to succeed, to do better in life than themselves. Like parents decades or centuries ago who encouraged their children to leave the old country and emigrate to America.

The mentality you're describing is more common among the rural upper-middle class--successful small-to-medium-sized business owners and landowners. They've spent their lives and careers investing in a particular way of life in a particular place. In many cases, their families have been there for generations. They view their local community as extended family. When their kids leave for opportunities elsewhere, they see it as abandoning a multi-generational family project.

What they fail to recognize is how that project has become OBE and why. Business consolidation, economies of scale, and technological innovation have rendered much of that project obsolete. The opportunities that were locally available for them are not as available, if at all, for their children.

They want work, not government programs.

Not quite. Were that the case, they'd be agitating for resources to help them re-train, gain new skills, and become competitive in the job market again. Alternatively, they'd be agitating for resources to help them relocate to where the work is.

No, what they want is the economy and job market of the 1950s back. They want to be paid and paid well for skills they already have regardless of what those skills are worth in the market and whether those skills are even still relevant.

Apparently these people for whom you ooze contempt (for instance I doubt you talk that way about minority underclass) are exceedingly bright to recognize the complete canard that is re-training for someone older than say 30. In other words they are wiser than you.

Apparently these people for whom you ooze contempt (for instance I doubt you talk that way about minority underclass) are exceedingly bright to recognize the complete canard that is re-training for someone older than say 30.

Bullshit.

Wait you were the guy whining about abrasive argument earlier right? Argument of convenience meet FUBAR.

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Even in the 1950s people were not born with the skills needed in the economy. Those skills had to be learned back then too.

Also, I see a big red flag in any argument (not just picking on you) that conflates the working class and the poor. A lot of working class people have become poor due to lack of decent paying work, but they are not fundamentally poor (and do not see themselves that way) in the sense that it's a generational or lifelong thing. With proper opportunities they could and would escape their situation.

Based on your posts, what you call "working class" is what I'd call "blue-collar middle class" (i.e. skilled labor). What I call "working class" (i.e. unskilled labor) is what you'd call "working poor." I'm increasingly convinced these terms have different colloquial meanings depending on where one is from and among whom one grew up.

At any rate, I take your point about decent working people tumbling into poverty due to job insecurity. IMO, those are the sort of people who'd benefit most from support to re-train and/or relocate.

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Were that the case, they’d be agitating for resources to help them re-train, gain new skills, and become competitive in the job market again. Alternatively, they’d be agitating for resources to help them relocate to where the work is.

Where possible, we should encourage those two things (retraining, relocation).

But most people won't be able to hack it. You generally cannot take someone who has been doing carpentry for 20 years and then put him in a class with a bunch of college-aged kids to learn to code. It's frustrating and humiliating for him.

(I don't know if carpenters are out of work, but there are just a blue-collar example.)

We want the economy to move forward, and we want to reward people who make the correct choices. But we can come up with ways to reduce the hard landing for those who chose wrong. Having them continue to work and provide value to their neighbors using mostly market forces let's then retain self-respect and stops them from voting Trump.

They don't need to learn to code.

There's been a labor shortage in the skilled trades for years.

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The employment-to-population in the Plains states exceeds national means, Oklahoma excepted. Nine of the 11 states with the most intense labor mobilization are in a contiguous bloc in the middle of the country. The other two are Vermont and New Hampshire. Utah, Colorado, and Minnesota have a majority in dense urban settlements. The others are majority exurban, small town, and rural.

The share of the population supported by Social Security Disability is, in 9 of these 11 states, below the median. (The exceptions are Vermont and New Hampshire). This is also the section of the country wherein the share of the population relying on SSI is lowest. Of the dozen states wherein SSI reliance is least frequent, 9 are in this contiguous set of states in the Great Plains / Rocky Mountain region. (New Hampshire is another rural state where SSI reliance is among the least frequent).

Right. Except for a few parts of Appalachia, middle America isn't falling behind because they are lazy bums. The industries of that region have been hit by broader economic trends, and many of their most talented kids from an IQ perspective decamped for the coast because of similar trends. As best I can tell they are doing about as well as you would expect anyone two given broader forces outside their control.

Maybe they just decent folk that genuinely dislike things the elites are doing that in some cases could in fact have been done differentely.

That part of the country is not failing. That's the whole point.

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As someone with working class roots (whose parents however were staringly supportive in academic achievement) let me add that a lot of working class people see the Upper Middle Class as an alien gang of morally dubious, arrogant snobs, and at some level they do not want their children becoming that sort of person. Read blogger Rod Dreher's account of his family's anger at him for leaving rural Louisiana and becoming a nationally and successful member of the commentariat-- even though he is fairly right-wing, at least on social issues.

Re: They know, for example, people subsisting on SSDI who aren’t really disabled

There are very few people on disability who do not in fact have a valid medical problem-- it's very hard to lie your way into that, and it requires years of careful prep work to create the necessary medical paperwork trail. The issue is that many of these people *could* work but only at certain sorts of jobs and only if employers were willing to hire them. These days employers want nothing to do with anyone with even a slight disability for fear of the person causing health insurance premiums to sky rocket or putting them at risk of large workers comp claims.

But yes, the working class wants jobs-- however the only answer may well be jobs the government underwrites, like the old WPA.

Mostly agree with this, but

But yes, the working class wants jobs– however the only answer may well be jobs the government underwrites, like the old WPA.

Subsidize employment, or at least stop penalizing it as much, and many of those jobs would return.

No, they wouldn't.

The problem is that a lot of those jobs are obsolete.

Some of those jobs are obsolete, yes. But many have merely moved a bit down below the threshold where they make economic sense. Instead of the government paying full freight for them to be on welfare, the government can pay a fraction for them to continue providing value to their neighbors, which keeps them engaged with the workforce and stops their skills from going away.

By all means, retrain where possible, but there's a reason the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" has been around for hundreds of years.

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Read blogger Rod Dreher’s account of his family’s anger at him for leaving rural Louisiana and becoming a nationally and successful member of the commentariat– even though he is fairly right-wing, at least on social issues.

Dreher is more bibliophilic than his late father and late sister. He is no more extensively educated. All three attended LSU and his father and his sister worked in salaried civil service employment (one as a county health inspector, one as a schoolteacher). The parish the Drehers lived in has 10,000 free residents (and another 5,000 in the state prison) and a core village with 1,700 people therein. Dreher burned his bridges locally as an adolescent and, returning there in 2011, appears to have burned them all over again.

Here's your counter-factual: what if he'd worked all these years as a pharmacist in suburban Baton Rouge? It would have required a lengthier and more demanding academic program, but they'd have been freed of the need to make excuses about why they weren't reading his column.

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There are very few people on disability who do not in fact have a valid medical problem–

That's true, but it's also true that the adjudicated disabled are an escalating share of the population. A lawyer correspond with is furious on this subject, maintaining he has on his client list a 'disabled' couple whose only disability is that they're drug addicts. In 1981, the SSA tentatively ejected about 40% of the population on the rolls consequent to Congressional instruction the previous year. The decision was reversed consequent to a great hue and cry. As we speak, the share of the population drawing Disability is half again as large as it was in 1980.

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#4) I wonder how conservatives and progressives receive Kling's three-axis model. A libertarian might think, "Of course, we view politics along the axis of liberty vs. coercion. At least in America, the founding principle is that the purpose of government is to secure unalienable, natural rights. Every institution has its purpose. A family instilling values in their children might think in terms of civilization-barbarism and oppressed-oppressor, as might a church or non-governmental civil organization. A business thinks in terms of profit-loss, not liberty-coercion. Libertarians don't insist that *all* institutions be viewed along a liberty-coercion axis, just those whose purpose is to protect liberty."

Conservatives and progressives would have to argue that the civilization-barbarism and oppressed-oppressor axes are so fundamental to society that there can be no specialization among institutions. Every institution, including government, must think along these axes. Businesses are not just about profit-loss, military is not just about winning wars, and mathematics isn't just about axioms and theorems. I guess that's how one ends up with oppressed-oppressor math: [http://www.nationalreview.com/article/447714/social-justice-math-dehumanizing-tool].

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