Thursday assorted links

1. French “grandes écoles” & Progress Studies.

2. New results: “the presence of S-cross-reactive T cells in a sizable fraction of the general population may affect the dynamics of the current pandemic, and has important implications for the design and analysis of upcoming COVID-19 vaccine trials.”

3. Economist Nancy Ruggles.

4. New paper on the causes of the great stagnation (I have not yet read it, but investment seems central to the story).

5. How much will restaurant prices have to go up? (NYT)

6. Northern Virginia to experiment with self-driving shuttle.

7. Soumaya Keynes on Emmanuel Farhi (The Economist).  And some tributes to Farhi.

Comments

3. Former MR commenter Claudia Sahm has an interesting article - macromomblog.com/2020/07/29/economics-is-a-disgrace/

Sounds like a discussion about academia in general. Seems like its filled with mediocre people who really believe they should be famous. They abuse others because they think they are abused themselves, all that intellect going unnoticed.

I did used to like Claudia's comments when she came around here though.

I did too. Her comments were generally excellent. However, people were rude and the trolls were well trollish.

I just read her blog briefly and to a degree she overreacts to sexist jokes and crude behavior. Economics is fashion, and fashion ruled by old men who know math (think Samuelson). Hence the below strikes me as a bit too...what? Much? I mean some women when they sit on the floor look very sexy, when they fold their legs under them...at a firm once one of the hot associates was told not to sit that way, perhaps she was giving one of the old geezers a hardon? Dunno... anyway I wish Ms. Claudia well but seems she's very sensitive. - RL

Quoted on Ms. Claudia's blog, not sure who the speaker is:
"Finally, the woman economics major at Chicago, who went to office hours. She sat on the floor since the room was crowded. Her professor offered her a chair. She said she was fine sitting on the floor. He looked at her and said, “I see you like it on your knees; women do.” Oh yes, and he had had to apologize for telling a sexually explicit ‘joke’ in public. He continues to teach undergraduates.[If I ever cross paths with this old nasty man, I will beat the shit out of him.] Economics breaks people and it is broken. I am angry. You should be too."

She wants him fired for telling a tasteless joke. If there's any line in the piece which provides evidence for the proposition that #metoo is just a weapon to be used in vicious office politics, it's that one.

Maybe an overreaction on her part, but certainly an inappropriate joke that would make many people pretty uncomfortable.

would make many people pretty uncomfortable.

Very few people outside of rarefied realms are going to be impressed that you were 'uncomfortable' during a meeting. And it's a reasonable wager she'd feel less uncomfortable in the future if the usual reaction to such tales was to tell her to get over it.

I'd rather she beat the shit of him.

Because tasteless jokes=violence! Hence violence is an appropriate response.

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"Impressed" is an odd verb to use. I think most HR people would and should be concerned about behavior like that, which is going to make employees less productive and more litigious.

It probably made everyone in the room uncomfortable. I doubt being told that nobody cared about their discomfort would help at all.

Although I do think in general that indulgence of absurd outrage is causing people to become more and more outraged and actually damaging their mental health in addition to making the world much more annoying.

"Impressed" is an odd verb to use. I think most HR people would and should be concerned about behavior like that, which is going to make employees less productive and more litigious.

No, HR people being 'concerned' about trivia is making the world worse.

You'd think listening to you and to this woman that she was being subjected to Alec Baldwin's tirade in Glengarry Glen Ross every month. She isn't, and you know the outer boundary of her problems by what she lists as examples. Well, you're not going to be 'comfortable' every moment of your workday. Attempting to assuage every little feelz you have ruins the workplace for other people. This is not that difficult to understand, but you're pretending you do not.

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Well, not just academia: the MR comments section too.

We know that Claudia occasionally still reads the comments, I wonder if she'll even bother to come to read these though, knowing the idiotic crap that she'll have to wade through.

And MR is a pool of enlightened conversation compared to EJMR (or how EJMR used to be, I think it may be moderated now? I gave up on it years ago.)

I was going to comment that I'd never heard of Nancy Ruggles, despite efforts over the years to recognize women economists who were under-recognized even if they were as famous as say Anna Schwartz. So the rehabilitation efforts continue.

But as useful and educational as that Ruggles link is, Claudia post is I think much more important.

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+ 1

Claudia was one of the best

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That is a difficult read. It's a mishmash of things that are true and deep; true and trivial; bizarre and irrelevant; and the author's own issues. I'm not sure what to actually take away from it.

That economics and Progress Studies should have absolutely nothing to do with each other comes to mind.

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Also in the middle of the post she oddly says "I am not here to judge," despite the entire post being one big rambling judgment. She seems quite unhinged.

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"I'm not sure what to actually take away from it."

That would be an appropriate reaction if all we had was this one post. But EJMR exposed economists for how they really feel. (Not all economists feel that way obviously, but it's more than a tiny minority.)

But EJMR exposed economists for how they really feel.

Here's how this guy 'really feels'

Trevon D Logan
@TrevonDLogan
·
Jul 2
The Economics profession will need to have a reckoning with our colleagues who have willingly served in this administration, so blatant and open with their white supremacy. It will not be a comfortable conversation, but necessary conversations are typically uncomfortable.
Marianne Wanamaker
@mwanamak
·
Jul 2
I’m sorry you feel that way, Trevon. My perspective is very different. I won’t engage further on Twitter, but would be happy to arrange a real conversation about this offline if you are interested.
Trevon D Logan
@TrevonDLogan
Replying to
@mwanamak
“I’m sorry you feel that way” is an infantilizing non-apology for my feelings, which I absolutely do not need. I sleep well every night knowing I am doing my best to bring justice and equity to my community.

He is, by the way, the associate dean of arts and sciences at Ohio State.

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Woops, let me try this again. (MR's comments section becomes unwieldy when there are many replies.)

"(Not all economists feel that way obviously, but it's more than a tiny minority.)"

How can you make that claim about a totally 100% anonymous website? Even on that website itself, you can't tell what percentage of users are the bad users or even if they're actual economists. As the comments section of MR and other econ blogs makes clear, it is not necessarily the case that online economics forums attract actual economists.

The EMJR thing is very telling in the way some people fill in the blanks with nothing more than their own personal hunch and fail to recognize that's all they're doing.

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"(Not all economists feel that way obviously, but it's more than a tiny minority.)"

How can you make that claim about a totally 100% anonymous website? Even on that website itself, you can't tell what percentage of users are the bad users or even if they're actual economists. As the comments section of MR and other econ blogs makes clear, it is not necessarily the case that online economics forums attract actual economists.

The EMJR thing is very telling in the way some people fill in the blanks with nothing more than their own personal hunch and fail to recognize that's all they're doing.

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She has been accused of making some false statements in this piece. She claims something that is not in any of what Tyler has put up and with regard to which no official statement has been made. It is that Emmanuel Farhi committed suicide, a rumor also being repeated by others.

If so, he would be joining Alan Krueger, Martin Weitzman, and William Sandholm as a respected and successful economist to have done so, but we still do not know.

OTOH, 96-year old Georgist economist Mason Gafney died of Covid-19, officially.

Herman Cain too. This Democrat hoax to make Trump look terrible is killing off the GOP for real.

It's a tragic time to be a black Trump supporter.

One was shot and killed last week in Milwaukee & another was stabbed in Portland.

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A 74 year old stage 4 cancer survivor and a 96 year old sound about right for the average COVID death...

Is anyone surprised that the elderly in ill-health die? Honestly...

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It is that Emmanuel Farhi committed suicide, a rumor also being repeated by others.

If that's false and the local coroner has completed any pending investigation, his family can correct it.

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Emmanuel Farhi did indeed commit suicide. This is very sad.

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The problem of Sahm mentioning the suicide of four major economists this yeas as a supplementary argument to her rant against Economics is that these four economists belong to the precise subgroup (white male economists in position of power) she accuses of making the field of Economics terrible. What to tell from this contradiction?

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Someone told a tasteless joke, someone got someone's name wrong, someone she met once committed suicide for reasons she's unaware of, and she's having a nervous breakdown at the horror of it all and recriminating against a vague collection of others. I'm supposed to take this woman seriously?

It sounds like there are legitimate concerns, but the nature of some of the complaints and the overall piece made me interested in the viewpoints of others.

She notes that she complained many times and everyone basically shrugged her off. I don't know anything about the economics profession, but generally I find people not to be universally terrible. So I do wonder how seriously she asked herself whether maybe the fact that everyone she asked agreed it was not a big deal perhaps indicated that she was wrong about things.

It sounds like there are legitimate concerns,

No, these are pseudo-concerns.

She notes that she complained many times and everyone basically shrugged her off.

Because it's trivia.

Employees harassing and denigrating fellow employees is a serious issue for business owners.

Employees harassing and denigrating fellow employees is a serious issue for business owners

Well, since that's not what she's facing or any of her examples facing, the 'serious issue' is irrelevant to the discussion. What she's facing is her own emotional problems. This woman is 44 years old and with scant doubt has been treated more gently in labor markets than 99% of the workforce. She can bloody well suck it up.

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She describes herself this way:

"policy analyst - she/her - well with bipolar disorder - Sahm rule - my blog: "

I'm inclined to be selective in paying attention to what she says.

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#5 Wasn't there an Atlantic (I think it was the Atlantic...anyone remember?) article 11-12 months ago that said pretty much the same thing? Just how thin margins were becoming in the industry and how much overhead was increasing?

This is not surprising to me. Inflationary costs hit certain industries harder and sooner, and the restaurant industry is definitely among them.

"This is not surprising to me. Inflationary costs hit certain industries harder and sooner, and the restaurant industry is definitely among them."

I believe the lockdowns have hit the restaurant industry to a far greater extent than inflationary costs.

That was kind of the point I was trying to make, that it's been a 'double-whammy'. There were already headwinds for many within the industry before covid hit, with covid being an accelerationist factor in an already changing landscape.

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What about you bring the food and we cook it, with limitations on acceptable food and cooking style? Restaurant provides the rest including wine selection.

That is what we call a 'lawyer's wet dream', not to mention the invalidation it creates for municipal code enforcement and licensing authorities.

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Roast pangolin with a fruit bat coulis.

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6. Is exactly what one would expect in the Mosiac District, with its carefully curated shopping center.

I was about to post a comment on this line from the article:

"the popular shopping and living community in Merrifield"

and was going to ask "what is a 'shopping and living community'?" I don't have time right now to google it but maybe "Mosaic District" is the answer, or the start of the answer, to my question.

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Progress studies sound too much like progressive studies unfortunately

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Only 96 more days of hearing about COVID!

Hang in there, everybody!!

You are an optimist. It will be in the news everyday till January 20th at the least.

It will disappear, as predicted. Though April still seems more likely, with the heat that comes in.

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Evidently, Americans keep dying just to annoy Trump.

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RIP Professor Farhi.

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6. Okay, we understand: self-driving vehicles will be limited to narrow and controlled environments. That won't stop folks from engaging in wishful thinking, self-driving cars racing along at 70 mph sharing the road with teenagers and soccer moms. Vroom. Well, maybe the sound of a chirping bird.

I think the roads will change to give much more information to driverless vehicles and ones with drivers to help the problem. Information about lanes, pedestrian crossings , erratic drivers and pedestrians and unusual events

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Ray, you keep standing in front of history, yelling Stop! One of these days it will work for you.

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4. Yea, right, crowding out by government borrowing and spending. It's true that the stagnation was caused by the absence of investment, the absence of investment in productive capital (which shifted to Asia), while investment in America focused on tech and financial assets.

"Constrictions on the private market sector from growing government spending limit the potential for higher levels of private investment necessary to offset greater depreciation from rapid obsolescence of increasingly high-tech investments."

Ie, the spending of billions in tax dollars on vaccine development across the entire vaccine value chain by paying the private sector to. Pay workers to invest in knowledge capital and factories has made existing knowledge and factories obsolete, destroying the incentives to invest in egg farms to supply egg based vaccine production, as an example.

Plus the rising public spending paying workers to treat patients sick with COVID-19 has eliminated private investment in COVID-19 insurance plans that charge high premiums to only people who are both high income and self isolating in large homes with investments in high quality virus elimination technology sold at high profits with lots of impossible promises, along with high profit old drugs promising cures with zero evidence.

Note, chloroquine is declared a cure/preventative because COVID-19 wasn't in Africa where malaria is treated with chloroquine while ignore the fact malaria is in Asia where chloroquine is widely used and those using it experience and die from COVID-19. Malaria was widespread in China before 2000 and still was a major threat in 2010 when China undertook an eradication public health campaign to get to zero recorded cases in 2016. (Replay of the US eradication campaign 1947- 1951 which started the CDC with government spending killing all private US investment in treating malaria.)

If only the government spending had not eliminated the private investment in treating malaria, as well as TB, small pox, COVID-19 would not be a major health threat and lots of private profit on treating diseases would build lots of hospitals to treat many more sick and dying people!

The other interpretation of the data is that fiscal and monetary policy create low interest rates and government deficits during recessions. which are caused by animal spirits reducing investment.

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"5. How much will restaurant prices have to go up? "

"The Pandemic Could End the Age of Midpriced Dining"

None of those listed places were "MidPriced" dining from the POV of 80% of the American public. The average American consumer considers a mid-priced nice restaurant to be in the $20-30 range.

Relatedly, I wonder what the kitchenette-only apartment folks are going to do? Eat microwave dinners 7x per week?

That worked for one of the main characters in Jim Jarmusch's, Stranger Than Paradise, though the film was made when TV dinners were still heated in foil. At :38 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwefGellnhk

"It isn't always frozen." One of the funniest lines in any movie.

Jim Jarmusch cites are always welcome. Yesterday I read an article about Detroit being used as the setting for movies, and Detroiters lamenting how when filmmakers want to set a movie in a place showing urban decay, Detroit is one of the first places they think of.

The article smartly cited Jarmusch's _Only Lovers Left Alive_, which almost made a virtue of that Detroit bleakness.

The opening scene of Stranger Than Paradise, shot in Hoboken, really caught the state of decay that was the New York City metro area in the 1970s-early 1980s.

"This is the way we eat in America."

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You can get an Instant Pot and a portable induction cooktop, neither of which need much space, for quite reasonable prices. Between the two you'd have a lot of flexibility in cooking options.

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I don't care whether a restaurant meal goes from $75 to $100 or $150, because I won't go there anyway. As you indicated, if a $25 entree goes to $40, I care.

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meanwhile
another newwoketimes.con style wreckoning
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/two-chicago-cops-shot-at-police-station/ar-BB17nB1P?ocid=msedgdhp

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5. An interesting idea: raise prices while demand collapses. In my low country community many of the locally owned, good, moderately priced restaurants failed. Why? They lost their customer base. What I didn't know is that these restaurants had a symbiotic relationship with another sector, the real estate sector: the restaurants' lunch business was primarily people in the real estate business. When real estate collapsed, so did the business at these restaurants. Restaurants assume that their customer base is made up of people who appreciate good food at a fair price. If that were true, they'd stay home and cook for themselves. Identifying the customer base is the first step toward recovery.

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#2 the question I think about when I see these stories is why did so many i that choir get Covid?
https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-29/coronavirus-choir-outbreak

There were TWO superspreaders singing that day, not one.

At least if you believe what is said about super spreader as people, instead of superspreading events.

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The claim that 50% (or 30 or 80%) of people have some cross reactive partial immunity to SARS CoV2 is NOT a claim that in every possible group of people, 50% of them cannot get SARS CoV2. It is a probabilistic statement. It means that on average half the people are immune but within any group of people, it could be substantially fewer (or more) than that.

So the theory predicts that seeing large groups of people where very few were not previously immune is a low probability event. And after many months and millions of infections, we have found roughly one example where what is claimed to be a low probability event did in fact occur. That actually strongly indicates that it *is* low probability.

(And note that previous coronaviruses were also quite contagious, so we should expect many groups to be somewhat correlated as to whether they have previous immunity or not. This means we shouldn’t assume each person in a group has an independent 50% chance)

Dying from complications of influenza is a low probability event and "cross immunity" is at about 90%, not an imagined 50% because influenza is endemic and constant vaccination programs create substantial herd immunity in the US, yet an average 100,000 per year die from complications from influenza in the US.

COVID-19 has caused an estimated 150,000 deaths in 6 months, so the SARS-COV2 virus is easily as deadly as all influenza viruses plus all other "cold viruses" (rhinovirus, coronavirus, picoronavirus, other enteroviruses) where it's well studied that immune response is weak.

Cold viruses do not mutate as fast as influenza viruses, and coronavirus endemic in humans are very stable. So far, there is no evidence SARS-Cov2 is different with no significant mutation showing actual different effect in human populations.

I know that economists believe paying workers costs too much and the high costs of paying workers kills jobs, but the only way to study SARS-Cov2 virus mutations, action, variation, is to study tens of thousands of patients infected with SARS-Cov2 in some detail which will require paying thousands of research scientists and technicians.

"yet an average 100,000 per year die from complications from influenza in the US."

Where did you get this from?

"COVID-19 has caused an estimated 150,000 deaths in 6 months,"

97% of deaths were in April, May, June and July.

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We already know that not all exposure is created equal. My armchair theory is that the preexisting cross-reactive partial immunity is generally adequate to combat smaller amounts of virus arriving through shallow initial exposure to mucous membranes, but not deeper exposure to the lungs through prolonged aerosolized exposure (the kind that occurs at the church-style events and in hospitals during intubation).

To flesh this out a little bit, we can specifically imagine two “types” of exposure events and their implications:
-- “Type 1” exposure through large droplets and surfaces to mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, and throat, which acts like:
-- a mild or asymptomatic infection in “most” individuals (with existing cross reactive partial immunity, good health, and lack of genetic susceptibility)
-- an initially-mild infection slowly progressing to a severe infection in individuals lacking the trifecta of protective factors
-- “Type 2” exposure through prolonged inhalation of aerosolized particles directly into the lungs. Results in severe illness in a typical individual even with protective factors, and death or long term morbidity under much weaker conditions than “Type 1” infection.

If you believe this “model,” then what makes SARS-Cov-2 particularly dangerous and effectively ineradicable is that “Type 1” and “Type 2”-infected individuals may be equally capable of passing along both infection types — or “Type 1”s may be even better! Thus, there can be prolonged reservoirs of infection involving long chains of “Type 1” transmission hidden in the population until one of those individuals generates a bunch of “Type 2” infections in a super-spreading aerosolized event when the combination of factors is right. Finally, far from being “protective,” widespread partial immunity actually facilitates the hidden preservation of these reservoirs.

! good explanation, sounds like a real possibility. Less like to me seems the claims that 50% of people are not susceptible, but the choir ended up with enough susceptible people (45 out of 60) and all where sufficiently exposed or more than 45 were susceptible and only 45 were sufficiently exposed)

Sixty singers showed up. A greeter offered hand sanitizer at the door, and members refrained from the usual hugs and handshakes.

“It seemed like a normal rehearsal, except that choirs are huggy places,” Burdick recalled. “We were making music and trying to keep a certain distance between each other.”
Learn about the symptoms of cITP so you can stay in control

After 2½ hours, the singers parted ways at 9 p.m.

Nearly three weeks later, 45 have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or ill with the symptoms, at least three have been hospitalized, and two are dead.

In this choir event, the age distribution was skewed old. These people are less likely to have previous immunity.
Singing is very forceful breathing without masks ! And they weren't far from each other.
We know from the laser light scattering experiments that forceful breathing (I.e loud talking) expels more droplets

addendum : "Among the 61 choir members who attended the March 10 practice, the median age was 69 years" These people are less likely to have previous immunity or have a robust immune system.

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6919e6.htm

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1- That's not new. Infection is dose dependent as was first shown with SARS in the Hong Kong apartment complex study. Infection severity depended on proximity to the index case.

2- Severe illness does not necessarily depend on infecting the lungs right off the bat ( no pun intended). The virus will do this on its own, starting from an upper respiratory infection and going to a lower one, if the first stage is left unchecked and the virus infection continues. That's basically what happens to older people. They start with an upper respiratory infection.

3- There is no prolonged reservoir of infection. An infected individual who has a " mild case" passes from infected to Immune and does not carry an infectious virus anymore

meant as a reply to anonymous

1. It certainly is not new. I am trying to be more careful about exploring the implications of this not-new observation for transmission and herd immunity by fleshing out a “binary” version of the observation with two “types” of infection.

2. I am not using “reservoir” in the “correct“ epidemiological sense of an individual being a long term carrier - rather, that a potentially long chain of unbroken “type 1” infections among healthyish people could sustain the virus undetected for months (or longer?) before a noticeable outbreak of illness, rather than the weeks we seem to normally be looking for.

3. See the second potential outcome I listed under a “Type 1” exposure.

Overall, the point of my original post isn’t to claim a sharp dichotomy between exactly two exposure types. Its an oversimplification, as all models engage in. Rather, it is to identify a few underappreciated implications of exposure variation affecting disease severity: 1) it should dramatically impede the ability to detect viral spread over time, thereby dramatically increasing the length of time we might think we need to avoid mass aerosol exposure events based on how much disease we see “on the ground”, 2) if exposure is not “binary” then it stands to reason that immunity isn’t either (also a “not new” observation), 3) there is likely a complex interaction between how exposure type and immunity type -jointly- influence disease severity and transmissibility (so that individuals vary both in exactly what types of exposure events events make them sick, as well as what types of exposure events make them asymptomatic carriers), and 4) this in turn has complicated implications for how measured preexisting immunity will likely affect our ability to control viral spread.

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You know, as an American living in a small community in Pella, Iowa, I was somewhat disappointed on Trump's (lack of) leadership and values as president. However, I got my enthusiasm about Trump back when I read the news about Brazil's leader supporting him and vouching for him. Brazil's President Captain Bolsonaro is a conservative hero of mine.

Thiago, did they let you out of the boobyhatch, hun?

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1. "And it’s getting worse because...all grandes écoles have been trying to turn themselves into something more like universities." Wrong direction.

If only the USA had grandes écoles focusing on good administration.

US universities and institutions are already richly endowed with large deposits of the element Administratium.

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It's striking that a chap who trained as a French civil servant thinks universities are afflicted by "the bureaucracy that this whole world seems to entail".

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#5: another one to file under "average is over"

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#4..."The Great Stagnation can be readily reversed economically. Tax measures offer limited benefit, but reduced government spending creates economic space for necessary increased investment, especially if government deficits also decline."

I estimate that, if government spending is eliminated , the growth rate will be 25% a year. The problem is the inability to understand that there has to be some kind of agreement of what we want government to do to fairly assess what government will cost. Politically hard to do means other citizens having different values or simply wanting more done. I would like less government but that's because I already believe it's a good idea.

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#4 - Great Stagnation caused by private investment crowded out by government spending since 1970. CNTRL + F + "patent" gives zero hits. The 'crowding out' thesis btw has been discredited vis-a-vis investments in several other papers, I wonder if the author discusses this.

I'll say it again: Patents are the dummy variable that explains growth

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# 2 T Cell immunity.
They detected the reactive CD4+ T cells in healthy donors mostly on the S2 subunit of the S (spike) protein; that’s the fusion protein that’s well conserved among coronaviruses , so that makes sense if we consider that previous exposure to human HCoVs can confer subsequent ( partial) T cell immunity.

The S1 subunit is the receptor binding domain (RBD) and is the most variable among coronaviruses because it is exposed to the most selective evolutionary pressures especially its critical residues that bind to the ACE2 receptor for entry into the cell.

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"After all, this is what you need to do to attract high-paying foreign students..."

I don't think so. My daughter attends Sciences Po as an international student. Although we are "high paying" in the sense that we pay the maximum charge on their sliding scale, it comes to the grand sum of 10,700 Euro per year. Living expenses are around 750 Euro a month all inclusive. Course syllabi and reading materials are very inexpensive compared to textbooks commonly used in the US. And her health care, should she need it, is covered by the French social security system, minus trivial copays. Whatever their reasons for expanding their international student complement, I don't think they're doing this to make money.

That seems pretty expensive. At least its a lot more than I paid in the US.

I do think you are right that they are probably not "profiting" off that tuition. But, I think that is probably true of the vast majority of universities that attract foreign students.

Also I guess I should add that, yes, my lower tuition was from the last couple of years.

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Our trickledown economics is failing us, the great stagnation edition.

Comment on #4.

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What I heard in France in discussion with a matriculant from one of the Grandes Écoles. There was a prior addition to the roster that was quietly closed later:

École Maginot de la Génie Militaire

Nicolas Colin's writings provide clarity and some hope.

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#1 Excellent post; I just ordered "Hedge"!

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nice article!! Thanks for sharing this information..

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