What I’ve been reading

1. Richard A. Arenberg, Congressional Procedure: A Practical Guide to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress.  You know, this stuff matters a lot more than it used to.

2. Timothy Larsen, John Stuart Mill: A Secular Life.  Covers the evolution of religion in Mill’s life, and stresses that toward the very life he turned back to a religiously-oriented world view.  Arguably all of the (< 12) people at Mill’s funeral were Christians.  As a side benefit, the book has an illuminating treatment of the romance with Harriet Taylor.  I’ve since ordered four other of Larsen’s books, the ultimate compliment.

3. Daniel Walker Howe, The Political Culture of the American Whigs.  An excellent history book in its own right, this is also one of the best sources for understanding the 19th century roots of our current dilemma.  Reading everything by Daniel Walker Howe is in fact a good algorithm for proceeding in life.

Daniel S. Hamermesh, Spending Time: The Most Valuable Resource is a good introduction to what economists know about the allocation of time, both evidence and theory.

Adam Zamoyski, Napoleon: A Life I read only some parts of, and found very well-written and entertaining, but it wasn’t sufficiently conceptually innovative to hold my interest.

Jacy Reese has a new book The End of Animal Farming: How Scientists, Entrepreneurs, and Activists are Building an Animal-Free Food System.  It is overstated, but still better than the near-unanimous ignoring of these issues which goes on in the economics profession.


What the Hell is a book?

Ending animal farming. What they mean is forcing their views onto the rest of the citizens. The simple and fair choice would be for these nuts to simply stop eating meat. Their goals are met. But no! They have to force everyone else to stop eating meat. Let me guess; they will do it by raising taxes and crippling regulations, just like the "cure" to global warming.

I have conflicting feelings about the whole subject, but your post reflects a deep misunderstanding of your opponents on the issue.

I mean, outlawing slavery is also forcing a view onto other citizens. If you believe animal farming is injust and immoral, just stopping yourself from eating meat is neither "simple" nor "fair", nor does it meet their "goals".

Exactly! Thank you! I knew someone would slip up.
just stopping yourself from eating meat is neither "simple" nor "fair", nor does it meet their "goals".

Indeed! There goal is to force their strange views on all of us and they hope to use the government heavy hand to do it. Interesting how the left is always so intolerant.

Damn Dusin I think I really misunderestimated new jersey labor unions and the drive across the Pulaski skyway.

I do not know what you mean.

I didn't slip up, I said _exactly_ what I meant.

Imagine you lived in some place and time where forced slavery was legal and widely accepted. Now imagine you believed forced slavery was immoral and injust.

If you still believe the "simple" and "fair" solution is for yourself is to just not own slaves yourself, then you've living in some dream world.

You do understand that this issue has nothing what so ever to do with slavery??? Your attempt to conflate them seems to be because you cannot defend your position on farm raised meat being a legitimate choice and should not be forced on anyone. Answer one simple question; Should all animals also be prevented from eating meat? Just trying to understand how deep the crazy goes.

"...turned back to a religiously oriented world view" must be a mistake - JS Mill was hardly raised Christian.

A group of my first year students produced a very creditable assignment on the welfare effects of increasing veganism this year.

Re: Larsen, I also recommend his three “Hansen Lectures”, which he gave at Wheaton College.
More here: https://www.wheaton.edu/academics/academic-centers/wadecenter/news-and-events/ken-and-jean-hansen-lectureship/timothy-larsen-2016-2017-hansen-lectures/

Thanks for the link...the lectures look interesting and I plan to check them out.

@#2 - it's possible Mill was not a Christian, since Wikipedia, usually pretty good on a 'first pass' says "In his views on religion, Mill was an agnostic". So possibly the author Timothy Larsen, an academic Christian theologian, is filtering Mill's story so that it fits his worldview.

Agnosticism is an acknowledgment that one doesn't know whether there is a God; after all, how would one prove there is or there is not a God? The Christian and the atheist are the same in that both rely on belief: the belief there is a God and the belief there is no God. Of course, it's possible that when when approaches the moment of death the proof becomes evident.

Agnosticsm is an acknowledgement of the fact unknowableness of the existence of a God. Atheism is a disbelief that a god exists.

I do not _know_ that a nearby star has NOT went supernova, but I do _believe_ that to be the case.

Most self-labeled atheists are agnostics. Many self-labeled agnostics are atheists.

#1 - Congressional Procedure - seems too bland. From the one review on Amazon it seems this is a sort of "how-to" manual rather than what I want, a "tell-all" manual. The author spent many years on the Hill but probably, for professional reasons, doesn't want to upset the apple cart. Unlike lawyers, laypeople can tell secrets and not, except for moral reasons, suffer any consequences. The author could have 'spiced up' his book with anonymous references to affairs, shenanigans, and dastardly deeds; instead, he simply tells us bills originate in the House and are approved in the Senate*, the Senate confirms treaties and the like. Boring.

* Bonus trivia: only tax legislation originates in House, not all legislation, apparently, when trying to compromise, the Senate will draft its version of a bill and send it back to the House, which to me sounds unconstitutional but there it is.

'You know, this stuff matters a lot more than it used to.'

One would think that (apart from the 'used to'), but our current president apparently need not bother with the legislative process when deciding what parts of the Constitution he can simply rewrite.

'... and stresses that toward the very life he turned back to a religiously-oriented world view'

Straussian poetry, or a couple of missing words?

And the previous president. And the one before that...and the one before that...and the one before that...

Fair enough, though Bush had someone like Yoo write him legal justifications for his actions. And what does Yoo, a man with extremely expansive views concerning presidential power say about Trump's apparent belief that he can end birthright citizenship? 'The 14th Amendment’s reference to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” refers to children who are born in US territory and are subject to American law at birth. Almost everyone present in the United States, even aliens, come within the jurisdiction of the United States. If the rule were otherwise, aliens present on our territory could violate the law with impunity. …'

Along with this - 'United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898) upheld the American citizenship of a child born in San Francisco to Chinese parents, who themselves could never naturalize under the Chinese Exclusion Acts. The Court held that “the Fourteenth Amendment affirms the ancient and fundamental rule of citizenship by birth within the territory, in the allegiance and protection of the country, including all children here born of resident aliens.” It also explicitly rejected the argument that aliens, because they owed allegiance to a foreign nation, were not within “the jurisdiction” of the United States.'

Yoo continues - 'After the Civil War, congressional Republicans drafted the 14th Amendment to correct one of slavery’s grave distortions of our law. In Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), Chief Justice Roger Taney found that slaves, even though born in the United States, could never become citizens. The 14th Amendment directly overruled Dred Scott by declaring that all born in the U.S., irrespective of race, were citizens. It also removed from the majoritarian political process the ability to abridge the citizenship of children born to members of disfavored ethnic, religious, or political minorities.'

The main difference between Trump and his predecessors seems to be that Trump feels no need to even pretend that his actions have constitutional limits, nor any need to pretend that his actions may have a legal argument to support them.

The Hamermesh book "Spending Time" is a waste of time if it does not discuss the backward-bending labour supply curve, with the substitution effect (more logically also called the incentive effect) and the offsetting income effect (if leisure is a normal good, people want more of it when they have more income). So the labor curve of wages vs hours starts bending backwards as wages and hours worked rise. If the author is any good (which I somehow doubt, I bet his book is simply one paragraph or more distillations of the literature, which probably has gone beyond the basics of a backward bending labor supply curve), he will discuss this, as well as speculate why: (1) in the USA and Japan people don't want to retire early or work fewer hours, while (2) in the Middle East due to oil income they don't want to work, and (3) the future of 'work' in a post-scarcity robotics economy. But I doubt the author has the brains or the ability to write such a book. I could however, but it's a waste of my time to educate people, I already waste enough time on this site.

Unbelievable .....you haven't read the book, bring up an Econ101 concept (i.e restrictive assumptions) and suggest a prominent economist doesn't know anything about the topic he's writing on. Did you vote for Trump as well?

Economists ignoring animal farming: I'm not sure what Tyler is getting at here. The ethics of killing animals? The market implications of veganism vs omnivore-ism? (Which do not strike me as particularly interesting; it's not news that animal-based diets consume more resources nor is it news that the earth will have billions more mouths to feed over the next few decades. So animal-based foods will have higher prices and thanks to the law of demand people will eat more plants and less meat.) Surely Tyler is not advocating veganism? That'd be more shocking than him announcing he's joining the Democratic Socialists party.

'That'd be more shocking'

Not really - Prof. Cowen is clearly someone that feels vegetarianism (and veganism, for that matter) has an appropriate place in society, if only due to concerns about animal suffering - https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/06/will-never-disapprove-current-levels-animal-cruelty.html

Admittedly, as with many things produced for public consumption by Prof. Cowen, you are welcome to place your own value concerning what he actually believes.

American Whigs: Like Cowen, the Whigs supported policies to achieve rapid economic growth; unlike Cowen, the Whigs supported an activist government to achieve rapid economic growth, including large-scale "internal improvements" (i.e., infrastructure), tariffs to protect American industry, and a "loose" monetary policy managed by a national bank (euphemistically called a "business-oriented" money supply). Fast forward to today: many political observers expect that Trump will neutralize the Democrats by offering up a $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill, all debt-financed, that is almost all local pork projects (building bridges, paving roads) rather than a serious effort to modernize our transportation network, but will pay big dividends for Trump in 2020. The Democrats, being Democrats, won't be able to resist and will fall head-first into Trump's trap.

What does "a serious effort to modernize our transportation network" imply? Ports, waterways, airports, air traffic control, highways, freight rail, passenger rail, bike paths?

Here's the LA Times on one big ticket effort - California high-speed rail: A train to nowhere without a conductor - in September 2018 ...

"In 2008, voters approved what was supposed to be a $33-billion railroad completed by 2020. Today — and check back tomorrow, because these numbers could change — the cost has exploded to an estimated $77 billion and the current completion date estimate is 2033."

Here's some 2015 data on road quality by state. California is rated at the very bottom.


The how people really spend their time is a quite neglected subject. For instance would we to adjust much economic data to the fact that more and more hours during working hours are spent consuming distractions, the number could look quite differently.

Tyler, what to read for an introduction to the visual fine arts:

Portraits by John Burger - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24997355-portraits

and a quick introduction into seeing, the award winning, 1972 BBC series Ways of Seeing - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL129BAEF72445DDBB

You sleep now, here sit ying and yang. O, be some other name!

"Time is the ultimate scarce resource and thus quintessentially a topic for economics, which studies scarcity. Starting with the observation that time is increasingly valuable given competing demands as we have more things we can buy and do, Spending Time provides engaging insights into how people use their time and what determines their decisions about spending their time.

Being stressed for time is central to modern life, and Hamermesh shows who is rushed, and why. With Americans working more than people in France, Germany, the U.K., Japan and other rich countries, the book offers a simple but radical proposal for changing Americans' lives and reducing the stress about time."

There's nothing scarce about time at all. Everyone gets the same amount, if you care to look at it in the modern focus. The western world conceives of time as a commodity, a linear commodity, that can be "saved" like money. Evidently there are time piggy banks where time can be hoarded for use in future vacations or trysts with the neighbor's wife while he's out mowing the lawn. The modern obsession with time and its monetarization is due, as Lewis Mumford said, to the invention and use of the mechanical clock, a relatively new device. Our attitudes about time are a cultural artifact that's unrelated to reality.

What is our current dilemma and what does it have to do with the Whig party? Why don’t you ever just say what you mean?

Re: "The End of Animal Farming: How Scientists, Entrepreneurs, and Activists are Building an Animal-Free Food System": if this becomes economically practical, what's to prevent some entrepreneur from growing human cells in a vat to create "long pig" meat for human consumption? After all, what could be more closely matched to human dietary requirements than ... humans?

Would such a product sell? Could curiosity overwhelm yuk-factor?

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