Saturday, March 28, 2020

Tyler Cowen. "The real contributions of Harvard, MIT and Stanford to the world are not the food-service workers they hire."

Henry Farrell responds
There is also the conservative case (from @SWGoldman fair) that the actual function of Harvard etc is to inculcate appropriate values in elite. On the one hand, those values might include solidarity with ordinary people in hard times.
Farrell and Cowen.

The more things change...

Farrell and Cowen now have tags, along with Kieran Healy. That one is interesting.

The rise of science denialism is the backlash against decades of academic and political pseudoscience.

Nichols is the author of The Death of Expertise, published by Oxford.
I'd forgotten that Quiggin linked to a positive review.

Friday, March 13, 2020

New examples of the same old thing, and slow change. Liberal authoritarianism, the return of the social, of experience, empiricism, etc. The tags explain.

Branko Milanovic
"Swapping my Russian passport for a Dutch one, I realized that while nothing has changed about me as a person, I am treated radically differently anywhere I go. This is the random privilege that contemporary citizenship upholds."
linking to Nils Gilman
Citizenship is a morally repugnant scam whose "key function boils down to the preservation and reinforcement of global inequalities, as well as the distribution of liabilities to the majority of the world’s population, mostly former colonial subjects."
linking to The case against citizenship
When we understand citizenship’s actual functioning in faithful, accurate terms, it cannot under any circumstances be justified.
Citizenship is the foundation of self-government. Liberals support 'guided' democracy and the rule of technocrats, a ruling class searching for 'justice'.

Liberal technocrats support hate speech laws, (a recent example of German perversity).
Efforts by German authorities to clamp down on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign took a sinister turn recently after a Jewish-German singer and daughter of a Holocaust survivor was warned that a concert in which she is scheduled to perform would be cancelled if she made any remarks in support of BDS. 
The threat, which suggests that German officials are policing how Israel is discussed in arts and cultural events, shows Nirit Sommerfeld receiving a letter in which the singer is warned that if she used the word BDS or anything they deem to be “anti-Semitic” German authorities would cancel the concert in Munich on Saturday. Sommerfeld and her orchestra Shlomo Geistreich are scheduled to hold a conference marking the 20th anniversary of the band.

Videos being passed around twitter of Italians in their apartments, singing songs together out into the street. The Europeans and others are touched. One pompous Oxbridge philosoph, from Rome, posts a thread,  "to celebrate the resilience of ordinary people", with videos from Salerno, Naples, Turin, Benevento, Siena, Florence, Nuoro, Arigento. Himself not being an ordinary person, he's celebrating the fatalism of the weak. No one seems to get that this is a parallel to the inability of Italy to have an organized functioning response to the crisis. An American academic specializing in Europe notes happily that they sang songs in the plague years in 16th century. Of course they did. And it's beautiful, but it's tragic. Those singing get the point.

Arindrajit Dube:
"Maybe one thing Americans have got going for us is that as a people we actually are ok with social distancing from other human beings and don’t need to really even do balcony dances."

I made my usual response

"The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer."
Milanovic March 19, 2020, Foreign Affairs:
"The Real Pandemic Danger Is Social Collapse. As the Global Economy Comes Apart, Societies May, Too"
Even so, the human toll of the disease will be the most important cost and the one that could lead to societal disintegration. Those who are left hopeless, jobless, and without assets could easily turn against those who are better off. Already, some 30 percent of Americans have zero or negative wealth. If more people emerge from the current crisis with neither money, nor jobs, nor access to health care, and if these people become desperate and angry, such scenes as the recent escape of prisoners in Italy or the looting that followed Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 might become commonplace. If governments have to resort to using paramilitary or military forces to quell, for example, riots or attacks on property, societies could begin to disintegrate. 
Thus the main (perhaps even the sole) objective of economic policy today should be to prevent social breakdown. Advanced societies must not allow economics, particularly the fortunes of financial markets, to blind them to the fact that the most important role economic policy can play now is to keep social bonds strong under this extraordinary pressure.
Milanovic, March 30, 2019, the most recent link,  to a post from 2017:
Dining alone…in a hyper-competitive world
Is the life where we “bowl alone”, dine alone, exercise alone, go to concerts alone, live alone our ultimate objective? It seems to be the case. The average size of household has been going down with higher income. Not only do richer countries have lower (or negative) population growth rates, but the richer the country the smaller the household size. The final objective will be to live in a world where each household is composed of one person. Denmark, Norway and Germany are almost there: the average household size is 2.2 (Senegal and Mali have the average household size of 9.1 and 9.5). Japan offers a vision of a society of ultra-competitiveness combined with loneliness.

We should not be surprised by such an outcome. Being together with others always had an economic angle: expenses were less, on a per capita basis, when shared; we needed children to help us in the old age and spouses to pay our bills. But with higher incomes and higher labor participation rates, we can afford expensive utility bills, we can provide for our old age and a comfortable old-age home (so broadly advertised today). Our children (if we have any) will be too far away, cast around by the availability of jobs and hyper-competitiveness to take care of us.

Being alone is both our preference and a response to a world of competitiveness, commodification and higher incomes. The new world that we can glean will not be dystopian. It will be a Utopia, with a twist.

“It will not be a universal concentration camp for it will be guilty of no atrocity. It will not seem insane, for everything will be ordered, and the stains of human passions will be lost amid the chromium gleam. We shall have nothing to lose and nothing to win. Our deepest instincts and our most secret passions will be analyzed, published and exploited. We shall be rewarded with everything our hearts ever desired. And the supreme luxury of the society of technical necessity will be to grant the bonus of useless revolt and an acquiescent smile.” (Jacques Ellul, The technological society, 1954).
Milanovic replying to me in Feb 2018. "We all die alone"
He seems to be learning something, but it's hard to tell.

Capitalism Alone. He's considered to be on the left, which is stupid. He's a hard-wired technocrat struggling to come to terms with the need for a social cohesion that technocracy doesn't supply. I don't quibble with his description of China, and tossing his book at them is the easiest response to earnest American preachers of the end of capitalism.

Gilman's a fan of Hofstadter. He used to read me here, when he was the Chief of staff of the Chancellor at UC Berkeley. He needs his own tag.  From Berkeley to The Berggruen Institute to godawful Breakthrough InstituteMandarins of the Future indeed.

Milanovic reminds me of Zizek. That's something to write about. I like Yugos. [I changed my mind about Milanovic]
When Europeans talk about Liberalism, they're referring to the state of being of the modern bourgeoisie.
“Achh! you’re so bourgeois!” they say.
That’s the basis of every European conversation.
“Good morning”
“Achh! you’re so bourgeois!”
“Achh! you’re so bourgeois too!”
In America at least in big cities when we pretend to like foreigners, we talk about being Liberal instead of being bourgeois, because to attack liberalism seems to imply conservatism, or worse! That puts people in the position of arguing that Gramma’s manicotti is really not as good as the frozen kind because Gramma was a peasant who went to Church three times an hour while waiting for the Second Coming, and frozen manicotti is the wave of the future and besides, it feeds the masses, but anyway you don’t eat frozen manicotti because you go to La Maison de la Casa House or some other such for manicotti that is better than Gramma’s and that only cost $40 so why not? This is modern American liberalism.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

I left the job yesterday, and put my tools in the shop. I told my boss everything would be shut down in a week. He thought it would be three.

Because I'm lazy and it's easy this way.
Quiggin has a tag. It's not new.