I will share any comic with the punchline "Free Trade Motherf$#@"
Here are some options:
1. Putin is a crazy hothead who is not even procedurally rational. Merkel received that impression from one of her phone calls with him.
2. Putin is rational, in the Mises-Robbins sense of instrumental means-ends rationality, namely that he has some reason for what he does. He simply wills evil ends, namely the extension of Russian state power and his own power as well.
3. Putin is fully rational in the procedural sense, namely that he calculates very well and pursues his evil ends effectively. In #2 he is Austrian but in #3 he is neoclassical and Lucasian too. He knows the true structure of the underlying model of global geopolitics.
4. Putin lives in a world where power is so much the calculus — instrumentally, emotionally and otherwise — that traditional means-ends relationships are not easy to define. Power very often is the exercise of means for their own sake and means and ends thus meld and merge. Our rational choice constructs may mislead us and cause us to see pointless irrationality when in fact power is being consumed as both means and end. It is hard for we peons to grasp the emotional resonance that power has for Putin and for some of his Russian cronies. They grew up in the KGB, watched their world collapse, tyrannized to rise to top power, while we sit on pillows and watch ESPN.
Here is a former CIA chief arguing Putin has a zero-sum mentality, though I would not make that my primary framing. Here is Alexander J. Motyl considering whether Putin is rational (Foreign Affairs, possibly gated for you). Here is an interesting and useful discussion of differing White House views of Putin. This account of a several-hour dinner with Putin says he is prideful, resentful of domination, and hardly ever laughs. Here is Eric Posner on Putin’s legal astuteness.
My views are a mix of #2 and #4. He is rational, far from perfect in his decision-making, and has a calculus which we find hard to emotionally internalize. His resentments make him powerful, and give him precommitment technologies, but also blind him to the true Lucasian model of global geopolitics, which suggests among other things that a Eurasian empire for Russia is still a pathetic idea.
Putin is also paranoid, and rationally so. We have surrounded him with NATO. China gets stronger every year. Many other Russians seek to kill him, overthrow him, or put him in prison.
Assumptions about Putin’s rationality will shape prediction. Under #1 you should worry about major wars. With my mix of #2 and #4, I do not expect a massive conflagration, but neither do I think he will stop. I expect he keep the West distracted and seek to turn resource-rich neighbors into vassal states, for the purpose of constructing a power-intensive, emotionally resonant new Russian/Soviet empire, to counter the growing weight of China and to (partially) reverse the fall of the Soviet Union. Even if he does not grok the true model of the global world order, he does know that Europe is weak and the United States has few good cards it is willing to play.
Addendum: Whatever your theory of Russians in general may be, watch this one-minute video of a Russian baby conducting and give it a rethink.
In Bryan's blog post Predicting the Popularity of Obvious Methods, he suggests that social scientists are more likely to pursue non-obvious methods when the obvious methods don't provide the answer that they like. In the spirit of his post, the use of non-obvious or overly sophisticated methods can signal that the researcher kept trying until they got the "right" answer. The skeptical might view this as a warning sign about the research.
Most people do not consume research firsthand. Instead, it is filtered through the media. Journalists also have preferences over answers. If a newspaper doesn't like the answer that research provides, they have wide latitude to ignore it. This means that one can infer the preferences of the media by the research that they do cite. Instead of sophisticated methods being the "tell," journalists show their preferences by citing weak research.
To support their preferences for certain questions or certain answers, journalists might discuss research at lower quality journals. Or they might discuss research with inferior methods. In medicine, randomized controlled trials (RCT) are accepted as being better than observational studies. And within observational studies, it is agreed that more test subjects are preferred to fewer. A recent paper compares articles that get covered in the leading newspapers to articles published in the best medical journals. It finds that newspapers are more likely to discuss observational studies than RCTs. And these observational studies have smaller sample sizes than the observational studies published in the best medical journals. The paper suggests that the press skews reporting away from the most reliable research. (Given that this paper is not a million-subject, RCT published in the New England Journal of Medicine, you should infer that I "like" its conclusion.)
An article posted Friday in The Atlantic brought this topic to mind. It described how researchers took 37 girls and randomly assigned them to play with one of three dolls. The dolls were a Barbie doll, a "doctor" Barbie doll, and a Mrs. Potato Head. Each of the girls played with their assigned doll for five minutes. The girls then answered a short survey about what types of jobs they could do when they grew up. The girls who were assigned Barbie dolls saw fewer jobs open to them.
Halfway through The Atlantic article, it reads:
The paper has a few limitations: The sample size was small, as was the effect size. Still, it's ... icky. Why does a plastic spud make your daughter more likely to think she can be a scientist than an actual scientist doll does?
That would be a great question, if it was prodded by a study with more than 37 girls. I wondered if other media outlets would try to downplay the weakness of the research methodology. Interestingly, the LATimes included the weaknesses in the very first paragraph -- including the five-minute play period. Their first paragraph states:
After spending just five minutes with Jane Potato-Head, girls believed they could grow up to do pretty much anything a boy could do.(10 COMMENTS)
Horse head squirrel feeder. Who could possibly want such a thing? Is that the result of a fixed point theorem? Aren’t fixed costs God’s way of keeping such nasty stuff away from us?:
You have a Creepy Horse Mask, why not the squirrels in your yard? It turns out it’s even funnier on a squirrel. This hanging vinyl 6-1/2″ x 10″ squirrel feeder makes it appear as if any squirrel that eats from it is wearing a Horse Mask. You’ll laugh every morning as you drink your coffee while staring out the window into your backyard. Now, if only the squirrels would do their own version of the Harlem Shake video. Hole on top for hanging with string (not included).
For the pointer I thank John De Palma.
From C.W. at Free Exchange, there is more here.
I’m sure there’s a perfectly natural explanation.
He who desires to live in tranquility with nothing to fear from other men ought to make friends. Those of whom he cannot make friends, he should at least avoid rendering enemies; and if that is not in his power, he should, as much as possible, avoid all dealings with them, and keep them aloof, insofar as it is in his interest to do so.
Name some other goods or services for which a government-mandated price hike of 25 percent will not cause fewer units of those goods and services to be purchased.
Beer? Broccoli? Bulldozers? Coffee? Haircuts? Natural gas? Automobiles? Housing? Preventive health-care? Lawn-care service? Tickets to the movies? Smart phones? Subscriptions to the New York Times? Books by Paul Krugman? Professors of sociology? Assistant professors of economics? Any of these products work for you? If none of these work, surely you can name at least one other for which a 25-percent price hike will not cause fewer units of that product to be purchased. Or does low-skilled labor just happen to be the one good or service in the entire world for which a government-mandated 25-percent rise in the price that its buyers must pay for it will not diminish buyers' willingness to buy it?
Seriously, name just one other good or service for which you believe that a government-mandated price-hike of 25 percent will not reduce the quantity demanded of that good or service.
[B]ecause if Mr. Obama's full proposal is enacted the national minimum wage will also from here on in be indexed to inflation, here's another challenge to anyone who dismisses as unscientific or ideological the standard economic argument against the minimum wage: name one other good or service whose real price, according to economic theory, should never fall relative to the prices of other goods or services?
The least-bad answers to Boudreaux's Question #1 that occur to me probably salt and soap. As Oskar Lange asked in 1937: "[W]ould a decline of the price of soap to zero induce them [the "well-to-do"] to be so much more liberal in its use?" By the standard of 1937, almost everyone in the First World is well-to-do today. For Question #2, I'm utterly stumped.(27 COMMENTS)
Sifting through the coins in your pocket, you will likely find many images of politicians. In some sense, this conveys the impression that government leaders are the most important figures in society. However, everyday currency can honor other contributors to society. For example, check out this 50-cent euro coin featuring Miguel de Cervantes. Or these 20th-century physicists on currency. European currency lavishes less honor on political leaders than American currency (perhaps because almost all "great" European leaders have waged war on other European countries).
If we were to rethink which professions should be honored, we might consider where additional talent would most benefit society. This seems unlikely to be the political sphere. Imagine a world where twice as many people vied for political office. This would yield little social benefit.
How about the fields of science and technology? Additional effort in the fields of science and technology would yield significant incremental value. Every scientist relies on the contributions of those that came before her. Miniaturization allows for faster processors and better manufacturing techniques, which in turn facilitates further miniaturization. In recent times, scientists and engineers might have done as much to further the enjoyment of the arts as artists. For example, using a Kindle app, I can instantly download a huge selection of free literary works written before 1923 (since they are in the public domain). Many of these works are out-of-print and would be extremely difficult to acquire otherwise.
It may be obvious that I endorse shifting honor away from politicians and towards scientists and engineers. Towards this end, I have a proposal for a Norman Borlaug memorial. Notice that to keep construction costs low, I've repurposed a pre-existing structure.(17 COMMENTS)
Tyler concedes the moral high ground to advocates of open borders but argues that the proposal is “doomed to fail and probably also to backfire in destructive ways.” In contrast, I argue that the moral high ground is tactically the best ground from which to launch a revolution. In Entrepreneurial Economics I wrote:
No one goes to the barricades for efficiency. For liberty, equality or fraternity, perhaps, but never for efficiency.
Contra Tyler, the lesson of history is that few things are as effective at launching a revolution as is moral argument. Without the firebrand Thomas “We have it in our power to begin the world over again“ Paine, the American Revolution would probably never have happened. Paine’s Common Sense, the most widely read book of its time, is about as far from Tyler’s synthetic, marginalist argument as one can imagine and it was effective.
When in 1787 Thomas Clarkson founded The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade a majority of the world’s people were held in slavery or serfdom and slavery was considered by almost everyone as normal, as it had been considered for thousands of years and across many nations and cultures. Slavery was also immensely profitable and woven into the fabric of the times. Yet within Clarkson’s lifetime slavery would be abolished within the British Empire. Whatever one may say about this revolution one can certainly say that it was not brought about by a “synthetic and marginalist” approach. If instead of abolition, Clarkson had settled on the goal of providing for better living conditions for slaves on the voyage from Africa it seems quite possible that slavery would still be with us today.
In more recent times, civil unions have gone nowhere while equality of marriage has succeeded beyond all expectation. The problem with civil unions, and with the synthetic and marginalist approach more generally, is that even though it offers everyone something that they want, it concedes the moral high ground–perhaps there is something different about gay marriage which makes it ok to treat it differently–and for that reason it attracts few adherents. Moreover, the argument for civil unions doesn’t force the opposition to enunciate the moral arguments for their opposition and when the moral ground of the opposition is weak that is a strategic failure.
The moral argument for open borders is powerful. How can it be moral that through the mere accident of birth some people are imprisoned in countries where their political or geographic institutions prevent them from making a living? Indeed, most moral frameworks (libertarian, utilitarian, egalitarian, and others) strongly favor open borders or find it difficult to justify restrictions on freedom of movement. As a result, people who openly defend closed borders sound evil, even when they are simply defending what most people implicitly accept. When your opponents occupy ground that they cannot–even on their own moral premises–defend then it is time to attack.
Spin it as you wish, we should not have a major party promoting, as a centerpiece initiative and for perceived electoral gain, a law that might put half a million vulnerable people out of work, and that during a slow labor market.
And the American people will never understand the ins and outs of the monopsony debate and the like. Overall, what kind of useful lesson is being taught here about the determinants of wages and prosperity?
I’m sorry people, but those are the bottom lines on this one.
A poster on Reddit asks: What are two events that took place in the same time in history but don't seem like they would have? A few of my favorite answers (from this thread and a previous one):
When pilgrims were landing on Plymouth Rock, you could already visit what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico to stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant and buy Native American silver.
Prisoners began to arrive to Auschwitz a few days after McDonald's was founded.
The first wagon train of the Oregon Trail heads out the same year the fax machine is invented.
Nintendo was founded in 1888. Jack the Ripper was on the loose in 1888.
1912 saw the maiden voyage of the Titanic as well as the birth of vitamins, x-ray crystallography, and MDMA.
1971: The year in which America drove a lunar buggy on the moon and Switzerland gave women the vote.
NASA's Gemini program was winding down at the same time as plate tectonics, as we know it today, was becoming refined and accepted by the scientific community.
Spain was still a fascist dictatorship when Microsoft was founded.
There were no classes in calculus in Harvard's curriculum for the first few years because calculus hadn't been discovered yet.
Two empires [Roman & Ottoman] spanned the entire gap from Jesus to Babe Ruth.
When the pyramids were being built, there were still woolly mammoths.
The last use of the guillotine was in France the same year Star Wars came out.
Oxford University was over 300 years old when the Aztec Empire was founded.
But now we know the actual problem was tight money, which caused NGDP to fall in half.
Here's Noah Smith:
This seems to be the overwhelming consensus in academic macro these days. It seems obvious to most people that the Great Recession was caused by stuff that happened in the financial sector; the only alternative hypothesis that anyone has put forth is the idea that fear of Obama's future socialist policies caused the recession, and that's just plain silly.Perhaps some day economists will realize that the models they were teaching their students in 2007 imply that the world's central banks caused the Great Recession.
Here's Ludwig Wittgenstein:
Tell me," the great twentieth-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein once asked a friend, "why do people always say it was natural for man to assume that the sun went around the Earth rather than that the Earth was rotating?" His friend replied, "Well, obviously because it just looks as though the Sun is going around the Earth." Wittgenstein responded, "Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as though the Earth was rotating?Now let's assume Wittgenstein was a market monetarist:
Wittgenstein: Tell me, why do people always say it's natural to assume the Great Recession was caused by the financial crisis of 2008?
Friend: Well, obviously because it looks as though the Great Recession was caused by the financial crisis of 2008.
Wittgenstein: Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked like it had been caused by Fed policy errors, which allowed nominal GDP to fall at the sharpest rate since 1938, especially during a time when banks were already stressed by the subprime fiasco, and when the resources for repaying nominal debts come from nominal income?
Of course later on V did fall sharply, and the Fed failed to take affirmative steps like level targeting of NGDP, which would have prevented the mild recession from turning into the Great Recession. But it's the Fed's job to control AD. When they do it well they take credit for their success, as when they took credit for the Great Moderation. And when they fail? Well let's just say Milton Friedman would not be surprised by any of the Fed's recent excuses. Here he describes what it's like to read all their annual reports, back to back:
An amusing dividend from reading annual reports of the Federal Reserve System seriatim is the sharp cyclical pattern that emerges in the potency attributed to monetary forces and policy. In years of prosperity, monetary policy is a potent instrument the skillful handling of which deserves credit for the favorable course of events; in years of adversity, other forces are the important sources of economic change, monetary policy has little leeway, and only the skillful handling of the exceedingly limited powers available prevented conditions from being even worse.There were only 45 reports to read back in 1959. Now there are 100. But nothing has really changed.
PS. I do understand that Noah's "financial system" could be read as including central banks. But the rest of his post makes clear he is looking at the financial causes in the same way as 99% of other economists do--banking distress and associated problems.
PPS. A note on my earlier comment that we've forgotten everything we taught our students back in 2007. I was thinking of these sorts of lessons, which back in 2007 appeared in the number one money textbook (by Frederic Mishkin):
It is dangerous always to associate the easing or the tightening of monetary policy with a fall or a rise in short-term nominal interest rates. . . .
Monetary policy can be highly effective in reviving a weak economy even if short term rates are already near zero.
Now I'm starting to feel like Kevin McCarthy in the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Have I "misremembered" my history of progress in 20th century macro? Has some quantum fluctuation plunged me into a parallel universe where post Keynesian theory accurately describes the laws of macroeconomics?
I try to remain dispassionate and look at things logically. What are the odds that some pod-people from space have not only rewired Paul Krugman's brain, but that of most other macroeconomists? Isn't it more likely that I am going crazy? Like a character in a Borges story, I am now afraid to open Mishkin's textbook, for fear that the passage I remember may not be there. If you see a tall thin guy at the Harvard or MIT economics parking lots, jumping on the windshields of cars, please call the appropriate authorities.
PPPS. Marcus Nunes has a reply to my previous post. I have no objection to his claim that money was not too tight during 2003-06. I also have no objection to the claim that money was too tight, given the Fed's 2% inflation target, or even a "dual mandate" of 2% inflation target plus minimizing the output gap.
HT: TravisV.(19 COMMENTS)
Mario Wienerroither takes music videos, strips out all the sound, and then foleys back in sound effects based on what people are doing in the video. You'll get the gist after about 6 seconds of this Jamiroquai video:Mario Wienerroither music remix video
This was a fateful step. For fifty years, the ANC had treated nonviolence as a core principle, beyond question or debate. Henceforth, the ANC would be a different kind of organization. We were embarking on a new and more dangerous path, a path of organized violence, the results of which we did not and could not know.Mandela is well-aware that in modern warfare, innocents routinely perish:
The killing of civilians was a tragic accident, and I felt a profound horror at the death toll. But as disturbed as I was by these casualties, I knew that such accidents were the inevitable consequence of the decision to embark on a military struggle. Human fallibility is always a part of war, and the price for it is always high.Yet he never faces the obvious moral dilemma: Why on earth are you endangering innocent lives if you have no strong reason to believe the consequences will be very good? Mandela's path is especially culpable because he was a voracious reader, but obsessed over a single political question: winning. A typical passage:
I was candid and explained why I believed we had no choice but to turn to violence. I used an old African expression: Sebatana ha se bokwe ka diatla (The attacks of the wild beast cannot be averted with only bare hands). Moses [Kotane] was an old-line Communist, and I told him that his opposition was like that of the Communist Party in Cuba under Batista. The party had insisted that the appropriate conditions had not yet arrived, and waited because they were simply following the textbook definitions of Lenin and Stalin. Castro did not wait, he acted - and he triumphed.Throughout his career, Mandela conspicuously ignores the mountain of historical evidence on the godawful overall consequences of violent revolution. He doesn't just ignore the blood-soaked history of various Communist revolutions, decades earlier and continents away. He also ignores the blood-soaked history of contemporary African independence movements. (See here, here, and here for starters).
... I defended the proposal, saying that the purpose of the armed struggle was always to bring the government to the negotiating table, and now we had done so...So not only did Mandela resort to violence without any strong reason to believe it would lead to good consequences. In hindsight, he wasn't even convinced that violence made much difference. But on his own account, the idea of violence had great appeal. Imagine the horrors the ANC's glorification of bloodshed could have inspired if, say, Mandela had been assassinated by hard-line supporters of apartheid the day after his election.
This was a controversial move within the ANC. Although MK [the armed branch of the ANC] was not active, the aura of the armed struggle had great meaning for many people. Even when cited merely as a rhetorical device, the armed struggle was a sign that we were actively fighting the enemy. As a result, it had a popularity out of proportion to what it had achieved on the ground.
Back in 1933 the US had experienced years of deflation and nominal interest rates were close to zero. FDR sharply devalued the dollar over a period of 10 months, and stock prices closely tracked the value of foreign exchange during this period of monetary stimulus. Last year the Japanese did the same, and Marcus Nunes has a great post showing that the results were pretty similar. Here are some of his graphs:
This is indicative that the income effect of the expansionary policy was stronger than the terms of trade effect of the exchange devaluation. In other words, it reflects an increase in domestic demand.
Marcus Nunes is the master of graphical analysis, and his post has four other nice graphs. Strongly recommended.
From the clueless British announcer who brought you this bad baseball commentary ("No! Caught by the chap in the pajamas with the glove that makes everything easier. And they all scuttle off for a nap.") comes some hilariously misinformed NFL game commentary.
Tags: Anthony Richardson football NFL video
Alabama's fullback has a handkerchief in his back pocket. He must have a cold but he's pressing on regardless. That's stoicism for you.
What do you think you get if you add 1+2+3+4+5+... all the way on up to infinity? Probably a massively huge number, right? Nope. You get a small negative number:
This is, by a wide margin, the most noodle-bending counterintuitive thing I have ever seen. Mathematician Leonard Euler actually proved this result in 1735, but the result was only made rigorous later and now physicists have been seeing this result actually show up in nature. Amazing. (thx, chris)Leonard Euler mathematics video
From a presentation at SIGGRAPH Asia 2013, a demonstration of a program that learns how to walk by evolving the orientation of its muscles.
Love these kinds of things. I remember another video like this that went around a few months ago...but instead of bipeds, it was a a shambling collection of cubes that learned how to move around. Anyone have a link?video