BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-05-17 Mo

Things that went whizzing by that I want to remember...

First:

Finally, someone grasps the nettle and calculates the numbers to obtain reasonable guesses of the worldwide scope of the 2020-2022 coronavirus plague. It is a nightmare: a disease that is not quite deadly enough to focus everyone’s efforts on how to guard against and cure it, but deadly enough to do enormous damage to humanity:

The EconomistThere Have Been 7M–13M Excess Deaths Worldwide During the Pandemic: ‘The official numbers represent, at best, a bit less than half the true toll, and at worst only about a quarter of it…. Our figures give a death rate for the mostly rich countries which belong to the OECD of 1.17 times the official number. The estimated death rate for sub-Saharan Africa is 14 times the official number. And the first-and-second-wave structure seen in Europe and the United States is much less visible in the model’s figures for the world as a whole. Overall, the pandemic is increasingly concentrated in developing economies and continuing to grow….

Demography matters a lot: more younger people typically means lower death rates. So, we inferred, do less obvious factors such as systems of government and the degree of media freedom. To take a specific example, excess deaths in Russia are 5.1 times greater than official covid deaths…. We estimate that, by May 10th, there was a 95% probability that the pandemic had brought about between 2.4m and 7.1m excess deaths in Asia (official covid–19 deaths: 0.6m), 1.5m–1.8m deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean (v 0.6m), 0–2.1m deaths in Africa (v 0.1m), 1.5m–1.6m deaths in Europe (v 1.0m) and 0.6m–0.7m deaths in America and Canada (v 0.6m)…

LINK: <https://www.economist.com/briefing/2021/05/15/there-have-been-7m-13m-excess-deaths-worldwide-during-the-pandemic>

&:

Highlighting this from two months ago. The Biden economic plan looks like it will allow the Federal Reserve to exit from the zero lower bound in a sustainable way. Isn’t that an enormous victory? What is going on here?

J. Bradford DeLongWhat Are the New Inflation Hawks Thinking?: ‘After so many years of hand-wringing over disappointing US economic growth, it is odd to hear prominent economists sounding the alarm about the mere possibility of inflation. If anything, we should want an economy in which a higher federal funds rate is warranted…

LINK: <https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/american-rescue-plan-inflation-critics-fear-monetary-policy-normalcy-by-j-bradford-delong-2021-03>

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One Video:

Soumaya Keynes: Why Are There So Few Women In Economics? <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Heiu7RPVggw>:


Very Briefly Noted:


Paragraphs:

Noah SmithYes, Lockdowns Were Good: ‘On the Left, many supported lockdowns, except when it came to protests (fortunately we lucked out when outdoor spread turned out to be very rare)…. Governors of “blue” states… were obviously anxious to minimize lockdowns in order to protect their economies (which actually doesn’t work)…. Americans generally resisted lockdowns. And mobility data show that Americans didn’t even really follow the weak, patchy, and temporary lockdowns we put in place. So this entire post is a moot point. Lockdowns failed. A bunch of us died, until eventually we got vaccines…. But now that the evidence is in, I feel a strange desire to set the record straight…. Lockdowns reduced transmission of the coronavirus. Some types of social distancing restrictions are more effective than others, and some sub-populations benefit more than others, but overall, lockdowns did limit the spread and saved lives…. What did lockdown do to the economy?… Lo and behold, when we look at evidence, we find that lockdowns accounted for only a small percent of the economic slowdown…. Denmark locked down and saw its economic activity decline by 29%; Sweden chose not to lock down, and saw its economic activity decline by 25%. The biggest economic destroyer by far was not government policy; it was fear of COVID…

LINK: <https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/yes-lockdowns-were-good>


Steve MatthewsFed Officials Have Six Reasons to Bet Inflation Spike Will Pass: ‘Acceleration in U.S. price growth this year will have “only transitory effects on underlying inflation,” Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida said Wednesday. Governor Lael Brainard said the day before that officials should be “patient though the transitory surge.” Powell has made the same argument…. Measures of expected inflation suggest price gains… [after] the next year or so… [will] drop back to more normal levels….. Powell said… “It seems unlikely, frankly, that we would see inflation moving up in a persistent way that would actually move inflation expectations up while there was still significant slack in the labor market”…. The sticky-price index rose a modest 2.4% over 12 months through April…. A number of structural factors have led to global disinflation over the past three decades…. Outside of passing on commodities prices, most U.S. firms remain reluctant to raise prices on other goods…. Business survey shows limited price increases over next 5–10 years…. “Base effects will contribute… to core inflation in April and May,” Powell said… “and they’ll disappear”…

LINK: <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-13/fed-leaders-are-confident-inflation-is-transitory-here-s-why>


The Onion (2011): Mitt Romney Haunted By Past Of Trying To Help Uninsured Sick People: ‘BELMONT, MA—Though Mitt Romney is considered to be a frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, the national spotlight has forced him to repeatedly confront a major skeleton in his political closet: that as governor of Massachusetts he once tried to help poor, uninsured sick people…. “My hope is that Republican voters will one day forgive me for making it easier for sick people—especially low-income sick people—to go to the hospital and see a doctor,” Romney added. “It was wrong, and I’m sorry”…

LINK: <https://politics.theonion.com/mitt-romney-haunted-by-past-of-trying-to-help-uninsured-1819572569>


Juan L. Linz (1990): The Perils of Presidentialism: ‘The first is the president’s strong claim to democratic, even plebiscitarian, legitimacy; the second is his fixed term in office…. The legislators, especially when they represent cohesive, disciplined parties that offer clear ideological and political alternatives, can also claim democratic legitimacy…. Who has the stronger claim to speak on behalf of the people: the president or the legislative majority that opposes his policies? Since both derive their power from the votes of the people in a free competition among well-defined alternatives, a conflict is always possible and at times may erupt dramatically. There is no democratic principle on the basis of which it can be resolved, and the mechanisms the constitution might provide are likely to prove too complicated and aridly legalistic to be of much force in the eyes of the electorate… 

LINK: <https://scholar.harvard.edu/levitsky/files/1.1linz.pdf>


Karen Eggleston, Yong Suk Lee, & Toshiaki IizukaRobots & Labour in the Service Sector: ‘Firm-level studies are important for understanding how robots augment some types of labour while substituting for others, yet evidence outside manufacturing is scarce. This column reports on one of the first studies of service sector robots, which suggests that robot adoption has increased some employment opportunities, provided greater flexibility, and helped to mitigate turnover problems among long-term care workers. The wave of technologies that inspires fear in many countries may be a remedy for the social and economic challenges posed by population ageing in others…

LINK: <https://voxeu.org/article/robots-and-labour-service-sector>


Henry A. Wallace (1952): Where I Was Wrong: ‘Before 1949 I thought Russia really wanted and needed peace. After 1949 I became more and more disgusted with the Soviet methods…. But in other respects, ideas… have not changed and are as true today as they were then. I went to Asia in 1944 feeling that colonialism could easily be the downfall of the white race. I felt that the supreme problem of modern times was the unresting march of the common man, and that most of the common men of the world were earning less than one-twentieth as much as the workers in the US, Canada, Britain, and western Europe. These people because of poor food, disease, and ignorance now have a life expectancy 40 years less than ours. With education and good food they have jut as great capacity as we. I wanted the on-rushing common man on our side, and the best way to keep him with us was to trade with him and help him to increase his production… 

LINK: <https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/02/henry-a-wallace-1952-on-the-ruthless-nature-of-communism-cold-war-era-god-that-failed-weblogging.html>


Ethan Knights & al.Hand-Selective Visual Regions Represent How to Grasp 3D Tools: Brain Decoding During Real Actions: ‘We examined the responses of independently visually defined category-selective brain areas when participants grasped 3D tools…. Whether a tool is grasped appropriately… were decodable from hand-selective areas in occipito-temporal and parietal cortices, but not from tool-, object-, or body-selective areas…. These effects were exclusive for actions with tools, but not for biomechanically matched actions with control non-tools…. Finding a specificity for typical tool grasping in hand-, rather than tool-, selective regions challenges the long-standing assumption that activation for viewing tool images reflects sensorimotor processing linked to tool manipulation. Instead, our results show that typicality representations for tool grasping are automatically evoked in visual regions specialised for representing the human hand, the brain’s primary tool for interacting with the world…

LINK: <https://www.jneurosci.org/content/early/2021/04/30/JNEUROSCI.0083-21.2021>


Jeet HeerTwo Paths to a Military Coup: ‘If this newsletter has a theme it can be summed up in a sentence: the threat of authoritarianism remains real. I’ve continued to hammer on this even at the risk of seeming obsessed with the past and unable to move on. I think both the coup of January 6 and the subsequent widespread adoption by the Republican Party of the lie of a stolen election shows how real the threat remains in the United States. Further, the Trumpian phenomenon has parallels in many other democracies. Authoritarianism isn’t the only issue of our time but it is a crucial one…

LINK: <https://jeetheer.substack.com/p/two-paths-to-a-military-coup>


Charlie SykesIs This Working for the GOP?: ‘I respect Enten’s work, so this is worth some thinking about, if only as a reflection of the internal ethos of the swamp. We can easily recognize this logic: Success—measured by polls, or profits, or high grades—is “smart” if you don’t dwell too much on other metrics. A company may pollute the environment, cut corners on quality, and game its taxes but be considered “smart” if it leads to profits. The kid on the playground who gets in his secret punches, but then gets a gold star from his teacher is “smart.” A sports team that cheats to win the World Series and gets to keep the ring—“smart.” And a politician who gaslights and lies, but still polls well, can expect the muted applause of cynical punditry. Getting away with it is all that matters…

LINK: <https://morningshots.thebulwark.com/p/is-this-working-for-the-gop>

Share Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality


Hoisted from the Archives:

20 Yrs. Ago: Þe Monetarist Counterrevolution: Just as modern Keynesians are (in many respects) monetarists, so modern monetarists are really Keynesians—even though they like to admit it even less. They are Keynesians in the sense that they have the same profound and deep distrust in the laissez-faire market economy's ability to deliver macroeconomic stability. Moreover, they share the confidence John Maynard Keynes had that limited and strategic government interventions and policies could produce macroeconomic stability while still leaving enormous space for the operation of the market. Thus there are no believers in true laissez-faire left, at least not as far as academic macroeconomics is concerned….

The "neutral" monetary policy advocated in works like Friedman and Schwartz (1963) turns out to be a policy that pre-Keynesian generations would have called extraordinarily activist on a number of levels. The laissez-faire rhetoric obscures the extraordinarily broad common ground that Milton Friedman shares with John Maynard Keynes…. The monetarism of the monetarist counterrevolution… was as "activist" in its own way as John Maynard Keynes could have ever wished…

LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/04/hoisted-from-the-archives-from-fifteen-years-ago-the-monetarist-counterrevolution.html>


15 Yrs. Ago: Envy and Spite in þe Social Welfare Function: ‘People who say that we should not count the disutility generated by the fact that the poor envy the rich in the social welfare function…. I have also never understood the ferocity of their adverse reaction to the reply: “Well, if we are not going to count the disutility generated by envy, we should also not count the utility generated by spite.”… 

Daniel DaviesNo Riff-Raff: “Entering into the Brad DeLong Eat The Rich Controversy I offer this observation: If it is not the case ‘that the rich are spiteful—that they enjoy the envy of the poor’, then why is the word ‘exclusive’ so popular in the marketing material for hotels, nightclubs, holiday resorts and residential property developments…. It… means that the hotel, nightclub, resort etc is providing a bundled service… excluding a segment of the population… the greasy, hairy polloi…. In order to attract a better class of customer, you have to keep the riff-raff out. Basil Fawlty understood this; why doesn’t the blogosphere?”…

Greg Mankiw…. “In Brad’s world, a rich person conveys a type of negative externality, like pollution. High taxes on the rich can be seen as Pigovian…. But I am uncomfortable making envy a basis for public policy…” He misses the import of the phrase ‘conspicuous consumption.’ It’s not the hard work and entrepreneurship that is to be discouraged. Make inventions, build enterprises, donate money for hospitals and libraries—that is all extremely meritorious and praiseworthy. It’s the conspicuous consumption that is the problem. Surely spite is at least as offensive an other-regarding preference as envy, isn’t it?…

Perhaps some sociologist or psychologist or social psychologist can explain why the reaction is one of jumping to condemn the poor whom the displays by the rich make feel small, rather than to condemn the rich for making the displays in order to feel large…

LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/05/hoisted-from-the-archives.html>


10 Yrs. Ago: Þe Inflation Slope Is Not Þt Slippery: Between the end of the early 1980s recession and the end of the early 1990s recession, inflation in the United States fluctuated between 1.5% and 6.0%—but at no time was there any lack of confidence in the Federal Reserve's long-run commitment to low inflation, at no time did the United States slide down the slippery slope, and if there were any complaints that any average inflation rate of 4% during that decade noticeably degraded the functioning of the price mechanism, I have not heard them.

Between the end of the early 1990s recession and the end of the early 2000s recession, inflation in the United States fluctuated between 1.7% and 6.0%—but at no time was there any lack of confidence in the Federal Reserve's long-run commitment to low inflation, at no time did the United States slide down the slippery slope, and if there were any complaints that any average inflation rate of 3% during that decade noticeably degraded the functioning of the price mechanism, I have not heard them.

Between the end of the early 2000s recession and the start of the subprime crash, inflation in the United States fluctuated between 1.25% and 4.5%—but at no time was there any lack of confidence in the Federal Reserve's long-run commitment to low inflation, at no time did the United States slide down the slippery slope, and if there were any complaints that any average inflation rate of 3% during that period noticeably degraded the functioning of the price mechanism, I have not heard them.

The argument that an average inflation rate of more than 2% per year sends us sliding down the slippery slope is unsupported…

LINK: <https://web.archive.org/web/20110514233338/http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/05/the-inflation-slope-is-not-that-slippery.html>


10 Yrs. Ago: Ron Paul Tells Chris Matthews He Favors Enforcement of No-Blacks Covenants in Deeds?: Not sure I believe this… UPDATE: Yep: It’s twue! It’s twue! Ron Paul’s American utopia: enforcing covenants that property cannot be sold to Black people, and having the police pull Black people out of stores where the proprietor does not welcome them….

Paul… explained that he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act “because of the property rights element, not because they got rid of the Jim Crow laws.”… “This gimmick, it’s off the wall when you say I’m for property rights and for states rights, and therefore I’m a racist,” said the Texas congressman. “That’s just outlandish.” Paul appealed to the free market, and argued that if a business owner were to post signs declaring segregation in his or her business, people wouldn’t patronize it…

LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2011/05/ron-paul-tells-chris-matthews-he-favors-enforcement-of-no-blacks-covenants-in-deeds.html>

10 Yrs. Ago: Scott Hodge of þe Tax Foundation Censors Himself: If you have been relying on the Tax Foundation as a source of information, it is time to stop. Mark Thoma has the story… ’I recently noted a post from The Tax Foundation accusing the Wall Street Journal editorial page of of “a textbook example of how to lie with statistics”… Brendan Nyhan notes today that the Tax Foundation post has been taken down… LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2011/05/scott-hodge-of-the-tax-foundation-censors-himself.html>

5 Yrs. Ago: What Is þe FOMC Thinking?: I confess I could understand FOMC participants wanting to raise interest rates right now if projected growth over 2016 was 3.5% or higher. But we have a first quarter of 0.8% and a second quarter of 2.3%: we may well not even get to 2.0% this year.I confess I understand FOMC participants worrying about “imbalances” created by extremely-low interest rates, but: (1) If they are worried about extremely-low real interest rates, they need to be all-in pressuring the Congress for more expansionary fiscal policy. (2) If they are worried about extremely-low nominal interest rates, they need to be all-in pressuring their colleagues for a higher inflation target. It’s the absence of either of those two from the Fed hawks—and the Fed moderates—that has me greatly concerned… LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/05/must-read-i-confess-i-could-understand-fomc-participants-wanting-to-raise-interest-rates-right-now-if-projected-growth-o.html#more>

1 Yr. Ago: Intro: How Do We Learn (Online Especially)?: Universities will make a hash of moving online unless we answer the question: How do we learn? This video is the leadoff to a module that suggests some possible answers. We also need to know what economics is—and how it is good for. And the module that follows this video intro suggests some possible answers to those questions also <https://delong.typepad.com/files/UNFINISHED-module-0-before-class-begins.pdf>… LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/05/intro-how-do-we-learn-online-especially.html>

1 Yr. Ago: Noted: Campos: Trump’s Acquittal: In the end, Trump’s acquittal may be viewed by future historians much like the Roman Senate’s decision to block the Gracchi is regarded by current historians: as the start of a huge downward spiral. That presidential corruption and malfeasance are subject to no checks as long as 34 senators fear their reelection chances would be damaged by removal is not a state I ever thought I would ever see America reach, but it has… LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/05/paul-campos-_another-brow-furrower_-this-looks-like-one-of-those-deals-where-the-president-says-ill-stop-illegally.html>

6 Mos. Ago: Do I Really Need to Say, Again, Þat Judy Shelton Does Not Belong on þe Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors? Apparently I Do…: It looks like even without Trump Republican senators will continue to be orange-haired baboons: That any Republican senators at all are thinking of voting for Judy Shelton—a woman views whom Milton Friedman dismissed by saying “it would be hard to pack more error into so few words”—for a Fed Governor position reveals an astonishing lack of spine. Yet the Senate Banking Committee chair appears to be attempting to advance her nomination on Tuesday… LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/11/do-i-really-need-to-say-again-that-judy-shelton-does-not-belong-on-the-federal-reserves-board-of-governors-apparently-i-d.html>

3 Mos. Ago: For President’s Day: A Republic, If We Can Keep It: I do not know what today’s Republicans want America to be, but it is certainly not a democratic republic. And it is certainly not any form of “populism” that I am aware of. Perhaps we should classify their goal as a minority ethnocentric demogocracy? “Neofascist” still seems the best word to me, but I am told that is much, much, much too impolite to use, even on the internet: No, Alexander Hamilton was not a president. But he should have been: ’It is impossible to read the history of the petty republics of Greece and Italy without feeling sensations of horror and disgust at the distractions with which they were continually agitated, and at the rapid succession of revolutions by which they were kept in a state of perpetual vibration between the extremes of tyranny and anarchy…. From the disorders… advocates of despotism have drawn arguments… against the forms of republican government… [and] decried all free government as inconsistent with the order of society…. I trust America will be the broad and solid foundation of other edifices… which will be… permanent monuments of their errors. But it is not to be denied that… if it had been found impracticable to have devised models of a more perfect structure [than the petty republics of Greece and Italy], the enlightened friends to liberty would have been obliged to abandon the cause of that species of government as indefensible. The science of politics, however… has received great improvement… distribution of power into distinct departments… balances and checks… judges holding their offices during good behavior… representation of the people… by deputies of their own election… are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided… LINK: <https://www.bradford-delong.com/2021/02/for-presidents-day-a-republic-if-we-can-keep-it.html>

1 Mo. Ago: I Do Not See “Overheating” Þis Year… - Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality: ‘Yes, there will be some inflation—base effects and sectoral shifts and simply the speed of reopening will create bottlenecks in the system, and those with pricing power will take advantage. But—unless the coronavirus plague has done a lot more damage to the economic division of labor than I believe—it will not be because production and employment are in any manner above stable-inflation “potential”. Think of whatever inflation might happen as skidmarks and burning rubber, rather than any form of boilover… LINK: <https://braddelong.substack.com/p/i-do-not-see-overheating-this-year>

1 Mo. Ago: Our Economists’ Letter on þe Need for Public Investment: We need this stuff, badly…. Dear Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Senate Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, and House Minority Leader McCarthy… LINK: <https://braddelong.substack.com/p/our-economists-letter-on-the-need>

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