BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-08-04 We

Things that went whizzing by that I want to remember:


Noah SmithWhat Kind of Economy Leads to National Power?: ‘It’s time to start asking this question again…. As the gunpowder age gave way to the age of industrial warfare, it became ever more obvious that whichever side could produce more would have a distinct advantage on the battlefield. The Confederates thought themselves a warrior race; the Union could produce a lot more ships and guns and trains and boots. The central importance of industrial production became even more apparent in the World Wars…. The Cold War, in some ways, continued this trend…. That the Cold War was cold added a new dimension to the relationship between economics and national power—soft power. The fact that people in the U.S. and Western Europe enjoyed consumption goods like nice clothes, rock music, and video games drove home how unrewarding the communist system was for the people who toiled under it. That ultimately helped stir the unrest that brought down the USSR. It also made the Chinese Communist Party determined to grow China’s living standards in order not to repeat the Soviets’ mistake…. Chinas leaders might miscalculate. It might be that private tutoring companies are very important for social stability, because they focus the people’s competitive efforts into academics, keeping them from thinking about overthrowing the government. It might be that companies like Ant Financial would help the country better allocate capital to productive high-tech businesses that would then be useful in war. Meanwhile, the massive amount of money that the government is throwing at semiconductors and other technologies as part of the “Made in China 2025” plan might end up being wasted, if government’s ability to pick winners is inferior to that of independently acting private entrepreneurs. China is flying blind here, as are all its rivals, including the U.S. Changing technology has changed the way that nations build and exercise power, but we don’t know how it has changed…. The shift from thinking about consumption to thinking about power has been slow in coming. It would be wise for all of the democratic countries and their allies to start thinking more about what kind of industrial and economic tweaks might make them better prepared to win the Cold War-like contest that is now developing. 


What kind of economy leads to national power?
In a well-read post earlier this week, I put forward the hypothesis that China is trying to shape its economy so as to maximize its national power. But I glossed over the all-important question of what kind of economy actually does maximize national power. So here I want to think a little about that…
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One Video:

William Hanage & Carolyn BeelerThe Coronavirus Pandemic: The Delta Variant Surge <>

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Very Briefly Noted:


Peter F. DruckerModern Prophets: Schumpeter and Keynes: ‘Schumpeter… will shape the thinking and inform the questions on economic policy…. When Keynes’s masterpiece, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, came out in 1936, Schumpeter… told his students to read the book and told them also that Keynes’s work had totally superseded his own earlier writings on money. Keynes, in turn, considered Schumpeter one of the few contemporary economists worthy of his respect. In his lectures he again and again referred to the works Schumpeter had published during World War I, and especially to Schumpeter’s essay on Rechenpfennige (that is, money of account) s the initial stimulus for his on thoughts on money….. Politically Keynes’s views were quite similar to what we now call “[neoliberal].” His theory had its origins in his passionate attachment to the free market and in his desire to keep politicans and governments out of it. Schumpeter, by contrast, had serious doubts about the free market. He thought that an “intelligent monopoly”-the American Bell Telephone system, for instance-had a great deal to recommend itself…. Schumpeter always maintained that Marx had been dead wrong in every one of his answers… [but] asked the right questions, and to Schumpeter questions were always more important than answers…. Keynes, for all that he broke with classical economics, operated entirely within its framework. He was an heretic rather than an infidel. Economics, for Keynes, was the equilibrium economics of Ricardo…. Schumpeter… starts out with the assertion that the central problem of economics is not equilibrium but structural change. This then led to Schumpeter’s famous theorem of the innovator as the true subject of economics…. Schumpeter’s “innovator” with his “creative destruction” is the only theory so far to explain why there is something we call “profit.”… The question in Schumpeter’s economics is always, Is there sufficient profit? Is there adequate capital formation to provide for the costs of the future, the costs of staying in business, the costs of “creative destruction”? This alone makes Schumpeter’s economic model the only one that can serve as the starting point for the economic policies we need…. No one in the interwar years was more brilliant, more clever than Keynes. Schumpeter, by contrast, appeared pedestrian-but he had wisdom. Cleverness carries the day. But wisdom endureth.

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Chad OrzelJournalism Is the Problem: ‘I’m swinging more toward the scientists’ side of this, though, after the collective response of journalists across a wide range of media covering the Covid pandemic, particularly the post-vaccine phase. This has been, to put it mildly, a catastrophic s—show, and the reason why is embedded in those same norms of story telling…. The charitable interpretation of this is that it stems from innumeracy: journalists aren’t understanding the difference between the probability of infected people being vaccinated and the probability of vaccinated people being infected, and that sort of thing…. The less charitable interpretation is the one Bergstrom puts forth in his thread, namely that this is cynical clickbait on the part of journalists. They’re going with headlines that are actively irresponsible because they need people to click on the stories to get ad revenue…. As innumerable people have noted, the stories about the Provincetown study (and all the other flawed reports) generally contain the actual correct information—that the outbreak was relatively small and quickly contained thanks to the much lower rate of infections among the vaccinated. It’s just buried way down in the twelfth paragraph…. This isn’t a social-media, clickbait-driven problem. This is print newspaper, Strunk and White kind of stuff…. There’s a parallel here to the debacles of the 2016 election, when media flocked to the Trump campaign and overhyped the Clinton email pseudo-scandal for the same sorts of reasons. I don’t think that reporters (outside of a few pundits) genuinely had it in for Hilary Clinton, I just think their professional norms pushed them in a direction that worked to her detriment and Trump’s benefit, which had disastrous consequences. Which was pretty much the defense offered when people complained about the media’s role in the election outcome: that they didn’t do anything that wasn’t standard practice… 


Counting Atoms
Journalism Is the Problem
I am not a journalist, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time being paid to write things for media companies, much of it during my long run at ScienceBlogs (RIP). This was a group that brought together a mix of professional journalists writing about science and scientists writing about their own fields, and there were a lot of arguments between the two gr……
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Charles GabaHere’s Why the Site Has Been so Vaccine-Centric the Past Few Weeks: ‘If you’ve gotten your first shot, make sure to get the second one when you’re supposed to do so (3 weeks later for Pfizer, 4 weeks later for Moderna). And keep masking up in public whether you’re vaccinated or not in order to help protect those who are immunocompromised and for kids under 12 years old who can’t take the vaccine (or at least not yet, for children) until we finally get out of this nightmare… 

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Matthew Yglesias’I feel like we should all talk more about how conservatives’ dream is to make America more like this much poorer, rinky-dink little country in Central Europe [Hungary]. Hungary’s GDP per capita is closer to Mexico than France, less than half of the United States. Like how much do you have to hate immigrants to envy this? Paprika’s not that great. I suppose Hungary (under Communism) does compare somewhat favorably to Estado Novo Portugal.


Richard FaussetAs Virus Cases Spike in Arkansas, the Governor Backtracks on Masks: ‘Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a law banning mask mandates. Now he wants to unravel it…. Hutchinson, a relatively moderate Republican, did not see much harm in it at the time. “Our cases were at a very low point,” he recalled in a news conference on Tuesday. However, he added, “In hindsight, I wish that it had not become law.”… Hutchinson has backtracked, and is now urging state legislators to undo part of the law so school districts may adopt mask mandates before students return to their classrooms en masse… 

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