What I’ve been reading and not reading

Linda Yueh, What Would the Great Economists Do?: How Twelve Brilliant Minds Would Solve Today’s Biggest Problems.  Think of this as the updated Heilbroner.

John Blair’s Building Anglo-Saxon England is a remarkable look at the archaeological and historical evidence on what went on before 9th century A.D.  This is not a book of irresponsible generalizations.

Sebastian Edwards has a new, forthcoming book American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle Over Gold.

Adam Winkler, We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights, is a useful and readable treatment of the history of how businesses acquired various kinds of “personhood.”

Michael J. Piore and Andrew Schrank, Root-Cause Regulation: Protecting Work and Workers in the Twenty-First Century is an interesting book, written under the premise that the Continental model of labor safety and labor market regulation is a good thing, including for Latin America.

David C. Engerman, The Price of Aid: The Economic Cold War in India.

I have only browsed Fawaz A. Gerges, Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash that Shaped the Middle East, but it looks quite good.

Ge Zhaoguang, What is China?: Territory Ethnicity Culture & History is the result of a China scholar considering all the questions suggested in the subtitle.  I was not ever astonished, but it is about time we all read more books by the Chinese about China.

Self-recommending is Richard Sylla and David J. Cowen, Alexander Hamilton on Finance, Credit, and Debt.

I spotted several intellectual and emotional fallacies in Zadie Smith’s Feel Free: Essays.

Friday assorted links

The Kevin Williamson/Atlantic fracas

Many of you are asking my opinion of what happened.  I’d like to answer a slightly different question.  As you may know, America does in fact (partially) restrict a woman’s right to an abortion beyond a certain stage of her pregnancy.  I believe Roe vs. Wade specified up until the 22nd to 24th week for the relevant right, and as of a few years ago eleven states had imposed legal restrictions.

I believe I have never read a piece, much less a good piece, on how these restrictions are enforced in practice, and what happens when such laws are broken.  I’ve also never read a good piece, from any point of view, on how these laws should be enforced, given that a particular law is in place (I have read pieces on what the laws should be).

My suggestion is this: do not focus your emotional energies toward revaluing Kevin Williamson or The Atlantic.  Ask yourself what are the relevant topics you have yet to read good pieces on, and then try to find them and read them.  Over time, your broader opinions will then evolve in better directions than if you focus on having an immediate emotional reaction to the events right before your eyes.  The more tempted you are to judge, the higher the return from trying to read something factual and substantive instead.

Cross-cultural digital instruction

Comparative ethnographic analysis of three middle schools that vary by student class and race reveals that students’ similar digital skills are differently transformed by teachers into cultural capital for achievement. Teachers effectively discipline students’ digital play but in different ways. At a school serving working-class Latino youth, students are told their digital expressions are irrelevant to learning; at a school with mostly middle-class Asian American youth, students’ digital expressions are seen as threats to their ability to succeed academically; and at a private school with mainly wealthy white youth, students’ digital skills are positioned as essential to school success. Insofar as digital competency represents a kind of cultural capital, the minority and working-class students also have that capital. But theirs is not translated into teacher-supported opportunities for achievement.

Here is the AJS piece, by Matthew H. Rafalow.  For the pointer I thank Kevin Lewis.

Dulles Amazon northern Virginia cricket fact of the day

Loudoun County’s growth over the past three decades has been driven in part by Asian Americans, who have flocked there to work for AOL and other tech companies that have set up shop in the area. Today 18 percent of the district’s residents are Asian American. Nearly half of those are Indian American; between 1990 and 2010, the number of Indian Americans in the county grew by a factor of fifty. Drive past a park on a summer evening, and you’ll see cricket matches under way—the Loudoun County Cricket League has forty-eight teams and more than 1,200 players.

Here is more, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

The economics of the Border Adjustment tax

Lastly, border taxes increase government revenues in periods of trade deficit, however, given the net foreign asset position of the U.S., they result in a long-run loss of government revenues and an immediate net transfer to the rest of the world.

That is from a new working paper by Omar Barbiero, Emmanuel Farhi, Gita Gopinath, and Oleg Itskhoki.  By the way, this does mean the idea doesn’t actually work.

Thursday assorted links

Who’s complacent?

What or how much are we willing to sacrifice to continue to promote some of mankind’s greatest creative achievements, namely classical music?:

Musicians could be required to wear earplugs “at all times” following a landmark ruling on hearing loss.

In the first case of its kind, viola player Christopher Goldscheider claimed he suffered hearing loss while playing at the Royal Opera House in 2012.

A High Court judge ruled on Wednesday that the company had been in breach of regulations regarding noise at work.

The verdict has “profound implications” for the future of live music, said the umbrella body for British orchestras.

“It effectively says an orchestral workspace is no different from a factory,” said Mark Pemberton, director of the Association of British Orchestras.

“What it says is that musicians will need to be wearing their hearing protection at all times.

Here is the full BBC story.

*Neruda: The Poet’s Calling*

That is the new and excellent biography by Mark Eisner, here is one good bit:

“The antagonism toward Borges may exist in an intellectual or cultural form because of our different orientation,” Neruda answered. “One can fight peacefully. But I have other enemies — not writers. For me the enemy is imperialism, and my enemies are the capitalists and those who drop napalm on Vietnam. But Borges is not my enemy…He understands nothing of what’s going on in the contemporary world; he thinks that I understand nothing either. Therefore, we are in agreement.”

And:

After [Juan Ramón] Jiménez’s “great bad poet remark, Neruda and his friends started to prank call Jiménez’s house, hanging up the phone as soon as he answered.

This book is remarkably well-constructed and easy to read, the best treatment of one of the 20th century’s greatest poets.

Are Washington, D.C. and the Bay Area superseding New York City?

In terms of influence, absolutely:

Traditionally, Americans have thought of New York City as the country’s cultural and intellectual center. That’s no longer the case. New York dominates in many areas, most of all the arts, but those are no longer the most influential or innovative parts of the American Zeitgeist.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that NYC feels higher status or is so diverse or has some of the coolest people.  Right now it is not the place with the generative ideas — sorry!

Here is my bit on D.C.:

The D.C. area is the center of legalistic thinking, which is increasingly important with the growth of government and the regulatory state. Lawyers and policy-makers are our engineers for incentives, so to speak, even if they don’t always get it right. Their efforts are backed by an array of economic, legal, political, public opinion and bureaucratic expertise that is without parallel in history. If, for instance, you talk to the specialist at the Treasury Department on accelerated tax depreciation, that individual will be impressive, even though his or her final output may be filtered through some very unimpressive political constraints.

D.C. has also become an increasingly important media center, where so many rhetorical battles over the future of the country are started. President Donald Trump maximized his influence by moving to the nation’s capital, though augmented by Twitter, a San Francisco product.

I’m not saying you have to like this, in fact it may end in the overregulation of tech and the Bay Area — America’s other generative center — to the detriment of economic dynamism:

But the Bay Area and the D.C. area are built on such different principles, and they don’t understand each other very well. It’s more likely that we see a rude awakening, as the U.S. realizes its two most influential centers have been pulling the country in opposite directions.

Here is the rest of my Bloomberg column, recommended.

1986 interview with Thomas Bernhard

It is wonderful throughout, here is one good part of many:

What, in your view, is a conversation?

I don’t usually have them. To me people who want to have a conversation are suspect, because that raises particular expectations they’re unable to satisfy. Simple people are very good to talk with. When talking is supposed to become conversation, that’s when things get gruesome! That fine expression “everything under the sun.” It all gets thrown in together and then one person stirs this way, the other stirs that, and an unbearable stinking turd comes out the bottom. No matter who it is. There are collected conversations, hundreds of them, books full. Entire publishing houses live off them. Like something coming out of an anus, and then it gets squashed in between book covers. This wasn’t a conversation either.

Do read the whole thing.