Discover more from Brad DeLong's Grasping Reality
Nobody Expects... Þe Spanish <strike>Inquisition</strike> Virus Variant Mutation
& BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-12-20 Mo
Failing to ask the Rubin Question:
Noah Bierman: Kamala Harris Says Administration Did Not Anticipate Omicron: ‘“We didn’t see Delta coming. I think most scientists did not—upon whose advice and direction we have relied—didn’t see Delta coming,” she said. “We didn’t see Omicron coming. And that’s the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants.”… “I get it. I get it. I totally get it,” she said. “I mean, you know, one of the concerns that I have is the undiagnosed and untreated trauma at various degrees that everyone has experienced.” President Biden celebrated “independence” from the virus in an upbeat July 4 speech, saying, “While the virus hasn’t been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives. It no longer paralyzes our nation. And it’s within our power to make sure it never does again.” At the time, some public health experts warned that his optimism was premature, given that the Delta variant was already a significant threat…
The Rubin question is "what will be wish one, two, five, 10 years from now that we had done here today?”
Asked at the end of a meeting, either it leads to great confidence and reassurance that the bases are covered, or it completely up-ends the meeting and sends people frantically scrambling off to think and plan how to handle scenarios. It appalls me that I did not learn to do this until I was 33. It is even more appalling that the Biden administration did not focus in December 2020 on the fact that this thing mutates, and that our failure to vaccinate the world as fast as possible was about to give it much more running room and ample test grounds within which to explore its genetic space.
As Jim Stock first said to me back in February 2020: if we do not, after the fact, look back and say “we took vastly excessive steps to deal with the threat of the virus”, we will not have done enough.
ABC: The Look of Love <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNEdxZURTaI>:
The New City of the Phoenicians, in -300:
Forthcoming September 6, 2022, from Basic Books:
Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century: Paragraph 10: My estimate—or perhaps my very crude personal guess—of the average worldwide pace of what is at the core of humanity’s economic growth, the proportional rate of growth of my index of the value of the stock of useful ideas about manipulating nature and organizing humans that were discovered, developed, and deployed into the world economy, shot up from about 0.45 percent per year before 1870 to 2.1 percent per year afterward, truly a watershed-boundary crossing difference. A 2.1 percent average growth for the 140 years from 1870 to 2010 is a multiplication by a factor of 21.5. That was very good: the growing power to create wealth and earn an income allowed humans to have more of the good things, the necessities, conveniences, and luxuries of life, and to better provide for themselves and their families. This does not mean that humanity in 2010 was 21.5 times as rich in material-welfare terms as it had been in 1870: there were six times as many people in 2010 as there were in 1870, and the resulting increase in resource scarcity would take away from human living standards and labor-productivity levels. As a rough guess, average world income per capita in 2010 would be 8.8 times what it was in 1870, meaning an average income per capita in 2010 of perhaps $11,000 per year. (To get the figure of 8.8, you divide 21.5 by the square root of 6.) Hold these figures in your head as a very rough guide to the amount by which humanity was richer in 2010 than it was in 1870—and never forget that the riches were vastly more unequally distributed around the globe in 2010 than they were in 1870.
Very Briefly Noted:
Luigi Zingales: Burying the Laissez-Faire Zombie: ‘The long-standing dichotomy between the state and the market is misleading, and poses a major obstacle to understanding and addressing today’s policy challenges. We should instead aim to improve both, and to contain each within its respective sphere… ]<https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/myth-of-state-versus-market-antagonism-by-luigi-zingales-2021-12>
Stefanie Stantcheva: Inside America’s Polarized Views on Race: ’Decades after the civil rights movement, America still has not closed the massive gap in socioeconomic outcomes between white and Black households. One of the biggest reasons, it seems, is that Americans’ polarized views on the issue are extraordinarily resistant to change, even in the face of new information… <https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/us-polarized-views-on-racial-inequities-by-stefanie-stantcheva-2021-12>
Zhang Jun: Why China Continues to Rise: ‘In a world of restricted cross-country trade and migration, countries with large populations can provide more opportunities to increase economic output through internal trade and specialization… <https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/china-technological-development-despite-international-hostility-by-zhang-jun-2021-12>
Sam Ro: One Stat Shows How Hard It Is to Pick Market-Beating Stocks: ‘Most stocks don’t deliver above-average returns…. Only 22% of the stocks in the S&P 500 outperformed the index itself from 2000 to 2020…
George Osborne: ’It would be good to have Lord Frost’s thoughts on what happened in 2016 so we understand his ideas for making Britain a more attractive place to do business…
Michael DeLong: After Tort Reform Failure, Time for Real Insurance Reform: ‘A Louisiana driver with a perfect driving record and excellent credit pays an average annual premium of $826 for basic auto coverage. But if that driver has the same perfect driving record but fair credit, their average premium rises to $1,200. And if they have a perfect driving record and poor credit, their average premium skyrockets to $1,709. “Consumer Reports” even found that Louisiana drivers with perfect driving but poor credit pay much more than Louisiana drivers with excellent credit and a DUI conviction!… Several auto insurers charged substantially higher premiums to good drivers simply because they work blue-collar jobs. Executives get a sweetheart deal while plant workers pay a penalty, regardless of driving record…
George Scialabba (2018): Slouching Toward Utopia: ‘The average educated human of the 23rd century will look back at the average educated human of the 21st century and ask incredulously about a considerable number of our most cherished moral and political axioms, “How could they have believed that?” We do it every time a movie like Twelve Days a Slave or a novel like The Handmaid’s Tale or a play like Angels in America or a work of history like Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee… prompts…. Two four-letter words lie at the heart of contemporary America’s public morality: “free” and “fair.” “It’s a free country” is every American’s boast; “I only want a fair shake” is every American’s plea. Now, to be reminded of the more flagrant forms of unfairness in our national life… is not really why you’re here…. Let’s instead consider a different question: whether our present-day ideals of fairness and freedom, even if we lived up to them, would satisfy our descendants…. I’m being paid very generously to speak here tonight, but I would have gladly done it for much less, perhaps even for free. Trying to persuade people like you to share my ideals, to feel as I do about our common life and fate, to shape a future of beauty and joy rather than ugliness and pain—this is my vocation…. The chief reward is internal: the pleasures of giving and of exercising one’s faculties at their highest pitch…. Nowadays, the gift economy leads a precarious existence, appearing mostly in commencement-day addresses in which graduates are exhorted to follow their dreams, while most of the poor dears are worrying frantically about how to pay their debts. The family is a gift economy, and so is culture…. Much of 19th-century America, where individual households produced their own subsistence, supplemented by mostly face-to-face exchange with other small economic units, was a hybrid…. But ever since that most fateful of innovations, industrial mass production, has become virtually universal, the market economy has progressively squeezed out the gift economy…. Creativity and generosity are not forbidden but they are no longer self-justifying; they are, on the contrary, subordinated, like all activity in the non-public sphere, to the goal of increasing shareholder value. In the private economy, you can do whatever you like—create beauty, pursue truth, help others—as long as what you like to do makes someone a profit…
Dexter Tiff Roberts: What Is “Common Prosperity” & How Will It Change China & Its Relationship with the World?: ‘A stage in its development where the turbo-charged years of growth of the last decades should be replaced with one that, at least in official policy statements, is much more focused on equity. “Common prosperity” also is inextricably tied up in the party’s goal to “build a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious” by 2049… help China in building soft power and presenting a China model that might be appealing to other countries…. “The scale of Xi’s ambition has long been clear: he wants to be the peer of Mao and Deng,” writes Andrew Batson, China research director at Gavekal Dragonomics…
Heather Hurlburt: ’Doesn’t this bring us back to the core problem from Putin’s perspective being not US “democracy promotion” but that large numbers of people in his region want democracy (the color revolutions)? Daniel Larison: I think there’s a lot to that. NATO expansion to the Baltics was not welcome, but it wasn’t a huge problem. It was the pairing of NATO expansion with “color revolutions” and Bush’s “freedom agenda” that really alarmed Moscow, and it grew from there…
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Getting ready to teach “History of Economic Growth” next semester. The current this-week task is to get the lecture notes into some kind of shape—and decide what kind of course I am going to teach, which requires figuring out what kind of students I am going to attract: