Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Auschwitz Borders

When Chris Lightfoot wrote the original "Melanie Phillips Naziometer", he considered adding to the search strings the names of a few prominent Nuremberg defendants along with the names of the major concentration camps. This was rejected as being too much faff, so the Naziometer only counts instances of the string "Nazi" on Melanie Phillips' Diary.

This means that it can occasionally be misleading, in that if Melanie is calling someone the equivalent of Goebbels, or comparing loft insulation to the Munich agreement or some such, then as long as she doesn't actually say "Nazis", the Naziometer will underestimate the true extent to which her blog wildly overuses Nazi analogies.

And so it is at the moment; the counter is zero, but three of the last four posts have references in them to the pre-1967 borders of Israel as "the Auschwitz borders". This is a quite unusual description; apparently Abba Eban was the first to make the reference, and the actual phrase "Auschwitz borders" was coined by Benjamin[1] Netanyahu. I swear that yesterday when I had a look on google there were fewer than a couple of dozen references to this phrase, but now there are 675; it's still not a common phrase though, and I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that its sudden dash to prominence might be the result of a public relations campaign[2].

The reason that they're called the "Auschwitz borders" is apparently that it's militarily impossible to defend them. Perhaps a strange claim to make, given that the one time they have been attacked, in 1967, they were in fact defended successfully.

[1] I am actually beginning to see the sense behind the BBC geopolitical theory of pronunciation. I know that "Binyamin" is almost certainly phonetically closer to the way the guy himself pronounces his name, but it seems a bit pretentious to me, particularly given that he isn't really in the news much any more.

[2] Oh no! Spooky conspiracy theory guy! Maybe it's Mossad forcing everyone to call them "Auschwitz" borders! LOL! Or possibly not. I do not in fact agree with the Mearsheimer & Walt thesis, but it cannot be seriously disputed that the government of Israel does employ PR agencies, and that the overall effect of these PR agencies on the quality of newspapers is negative. Quite strange really, that this bland assertion of fact has the air of conspiracy theory to it, while the utterly unsupported speculation that Syria is a puppet state of Iran (and of the Ahmadinejad faction within Iranian politics specifically) is the sort of thing that serious people can state without evidence while remaining serious.
15 comments this item posted by the management 11/28/2007 03:07:00 AM

Friday, November 23, 2007

This is such a big heap of partisan right-wing bullshit that there must be a pony in there somewhere!

Just before this slips down the grating; Brad DeLong waves the waggy finger of disapproval at anyone who slurs Milton Friedman's name by suggesting that the US PATRIOT Act is of a piece with the shmibertarian tendency to turn a blind eye to authoritarianism as long as it cuts the rate of capital gains tax.
One would imagine from this that Milton Friedman approved of the Un-Patriot Act--which he most definitely did not. Unlike Hayek, Friedman believed in individual liberty and autonomy first, and order and hierarchy second if at all.

tsk those liberals and their always poisoning the debate! Why can't they leave principled old Uncle Milton alone.

But hang on ... what did Friedman actually say about the US PATRIOT Act?

DA: In a time of war, how do we maintain our freedom?

MF: We don’t. We invariably reduce our freedom. But that doesn’t mean it’s a permanent reduction. As long as we really keep in mind what we’re doing, that we keep it temporary, we need not destroy our freedom.

DA: Are you concerned that some of the measures we’re taking now to fight the war, like the Patriot Act, may be more than just temporary?

MF: It’s not clear. The Patriot Act is a very complicated issue, and I’m not going to get involved in that. But I think that on the whole, this war is small enough relative to our economy that it is not going to be a serious impediment to our freedom. But the sooner we can get rid of it and out of it, the better.

DA: Do you agree with President Bush that the actions in Iraq were necessary as a part of our war on terrorism?

MF: I think you can argue either side of that. Where I do feel strongly, is that having gone into it, whether we should have or not, we must see it through.

DA: Even if it costs some of our freedoms?

MF: There’s no way to avoid a burden on your freedom. The costs themselves are a burden on your freedom. The restrictions that are necessary in order to get rid of the terrorists are a burden to your freedom. So there’s no way in the short run to avoid a restriction on your freedom. But if we’re going to avoid a permanent reduction in freedom, we have to see this war through

In other words, he was in fact for it, and if that bit about "the sooner we get rid of it, the better" fooled you, then I've got a second hand bridge k% monetary policy rule for you to buy.

They're always hacks, Brad. Always. Yes even Milton Friedman. The more independent-minded ones will occasionally come up with a liberalish or fair-minded idea or two, but this is purely for display, not for ever doing anything about if to do so would run the risk of a higher rate of capital gains tax. The ideological core of Chicago-style libertarianism has two planks.

1. Vote Republican.
2. That's it.

Why are American liberals so damnably obsessed with extending intellectual charity to right wing hacks which is never reciprocated? It reaches parodic form in the case of those tiresome "centrists" who left wing American bloggers are always playing the Lucy-holds-the-football game with. Oh, but their politics are sooo centrist! They're practically 50% of the way between Republicans and Democrats! Yeah, specifically they're right-wing Democrats in non-election years and party line Republicans any time it might conceivably matter (note that here, two years after the White House ceremony at which Friedman apparently "spent most of his 90th birthday lunch telling Bush that his fiscal policy was a disaster", here he is signing a letter in support of more of the same).

I wouldn't mind, but it's clearly not intellectual honesty that makes American liberals act pretend that Milton Friedman wasn't a party line Republican hack (which he was; he was also an excellent economist, which is why he won the Nobel Prize for Economics, not the Nobel Prize for Making A Sincere and Productive Contribution To The National Political Debate, which he would not have won if there was one). If it was just pure scholarly decency that made Yank liberals so keen on recognising the good qualities even in their political opponents, then you'd expect that they would also be quick to recognise the good qualities, analytical insights and so on in prominent Communist intellectuals. And do they? Do they fuck. I won't link to the Paul Sweezy obituary, because I think everyone involved agrees that this wasn't Brad's finest hour, but it certainly wasn't atypical.

Of course the explanation's quite sensible. American liberals kiss up to Friedmanites and kick down on Reds because they're still, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, scared of being red-baited. One of the enduring reasons why I regard JK Galbraith as a hero is that practically alone among mainstream commentators of the era, he by and large refused to play this game.
42 comments this item posted by the management 11/23/2007 12:25:00 AM

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My contribution to that race-and-intelligence debate that has the world of blogs all agog

... and I posted it here rather than CT because it involves not being nicey-nicey and calling people "racists".

There are two claims which are being twisted together here:

1. That there is a genetic component to intelligence.

Status: Not proven, a lot of the measuring techniques being used to try to prove it are irredeemably fucked up, but not entirely ridiculous either. Denial of this proposition is not actually a strawman "Darwinism-below-the-neck", but it does involve you in asserting that if and when we get a useable (almost certainly multi-factor) metric for something that is reasonably described by the English word "intelligence", the individual-to-individual variability in this will be large enough relative to the inherited variability to mean that there is no practical significance to inherited brain characteristics.

2. This genetic component for intelligence is tied together with the specific genes that make black people black.

Status: On the same sort of level as the proposition that MMR vaccine causes autism. Believed by basically nobody who knows what they're talking about, on the basis of massive amounts of evidence. A theory that is constantly being resurrected on the basis of new crank analysis, but which has been knocked smack down on its arse every time.

Furthermore, anyone believing in 2 is, by that token, a racist. If you believe that black people are genetically inferior, then you need to be arguing that it's OK to be a racist, not that racists are terrible but you aren't one. According to the "Savage Love" advice column, there are a surprisingly large number of men who regularly have oral and anal sex with other men but nevertheless insist that they are straight and even hate gays. Anyone who claims to be "anti-racist", but takes seriously the proposition that black people are genetically less intelligent (or more prone to criminal behaviour, etc) than white people is in a similar state of denial. William Saletan's series of articles aimed at "seriously discussing the research on intelligence and race" appear to me to be exactly in this vein; he may think he's looking for fucking Narnia but he's actually just in the closet.

So ... (and I seem to remember it was a version of this view that got me banned from the Abiola Lapite site, so be aware that it can be taken in a rather offensive way, which I swear is not the way I intend it) ... is there a genetic condition which black people are susceptible to which predisposes them to poor educational outcomes, a high rate of incarceration, shorter male life expectancy, alcohol and drug addiction and so forth?

Yep. It's the same genetic condition which causes them to get more speeding tickets. It's called "being black". Black skin is a genetically determined condition, and in the world as it exists (which is the only world we have), it's a dangerous, often life-threatening one. Look at the actuarial tables if you don't believe me - if you have the choice of being born blind or being born black, choose blind.

Of course, it's obvious that being black isn't intrinsically a physical handicap like being blind is. But equally, being blind isn't much of a physical handicap if other people act so as to accomodate the fact that you are blind. The way other people behave is part of the way the world is, and the way that other people behave in this world (which is, I reiterate, the only world we have), is so as to systematically handicap black people. Most of my readers will recall (if for no other reason than that it's beloved of net.libertarians), the Kurt Vonnegut short story "Harrison Bergeron", in which run-amok egalitarians used to intentionally handicap the physically or mentally gifted in order to bring them down to normality. Imagine that story, but instead of putting a headache-machine on the intelligent, or hanging weights off the strong, or blacking out the teeth of the beautiful, they just randomly applied these treatments to black people.

Or rather, don't bother imaginging, because that's what the world is actually like. In a world in which black people have spent the last couple of hundred years being systematically handicapped by white people, the entire discussion of what the genetic component of their problems might be is just ridiculous.

This is the day when Americans celebrate the people who landed on Plymouth Rock, so it's as good a time as any to dig out that Malcolm X quote about that short fifth of the US population who aren't descended from immigrants and didn't come to those shores in order to escape exploitation.

"We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us"
24 comments this item posted by the management 11/22/2007 09:31:00 AM
Bleggers can't be choosers, apparently

On this day of Americans giving thanks for things, a few notes updating on the occasions when I have asked you, my loyal readers, for help.

The quote "I used to think that there was no place on earth like Angola …" is from Kurt Maier's Angola: Promises and Lies quoted in "Civil War is Not A Stupid Thing" by Christopher Cramer. I found my copy of the book in an old briefcase and this must have been where I'd read the quote as it is definitely nowhere on the web.

My copy of "The Economics Of Input/Output Analysis" by Thijs ten Raa remains at large; I have ended up buying a replacement.

Nobody lifted a finger on the Home Office Research Thursday Project, although shortly after I wrote that, they did bow to pressure and introduce a sensible release schedule.

My constant requests for someone to finish that Freakonomics review for me were all apparently taken as jokes. I reiterate, they weren't. Come on readers, the sequel is apparently nearly finished!

Thanks for fucking nothing, folks.

Update: on the other hand, I suppose you did me proud in holding up our contribution to the Iraqi employees campaign, so thanks very much for that.


0 comments this item posted by the management 11/22/2007 06:03:00 AM

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Pollardiana

And, of course, he trots out the lie that anyone who criticises Israeli behaviour is labelled antisemitic. I'll tell him what does veer towards antisemtism - making up the lie that anyone who criticises Israel is attacked as an antisemite.

Wow, that Institute is going to be a doozy, isn't it guys?

I would like to be the first to deplore the modern tendency to attack anyone who says that anyone who criticises Israel is attacked as an anti-Semite as an anti-Semite. Would any readers like to point out that it is bordering on anti-Semitism to make up the lie that anyone who claims that anyone who criticises Israel is attacked as an anti-Semite is attacked as an anti-Semite? We could get a regular game of one-potato-two-potato going on here.

It does worry me though. As I've mentioned in the past, if you repeat a word enough times it loses all meaning.


1 comments this item posted by the management 11/20/2007 04:24:00 AM

Monday, November 19, 2007

Professional deformations of economics, part whatever it is

Via Felix Salmon, Tim Harford, "The Undercover Economist"[1] writes on how importing food isn't a bad thing. Not so bad as far as it goes, but he misses the most important point in any analysis of food miles, which is the one Alex picked up - the concept of food miles is pretty much totally incoherent, as a great deal of this stuff is picked up as a backload. It's not surprising that a conventionally-trained economist would have missed it, because backloads are surprisingly difficult to integrate into any normal economic model - it's certainly worth remembering that you don't need to tell debatable stories about QWERTY keyboards to get into trouble, because there are big issues of nonlinearities and nonconstant returns to scale in a simple trucking route.

[1]Basically the Tommy Steele of Freakonomics. Not as irritating as L&D but still IMO a Bad Thing for the science. The only one of these books I've got time for is the Robert Frank one, precisely because it ties the whole science of economics down to specific problems with case-specific solutions (and then tries to generalise) rather than developing a set of generic solutions and then trying to force-fit the problems into them.


6 comments this item posted by the management 11/19/2007 11:32:00 PM

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Linking to Youtube videos is only for twats

and hence, that's what I've done

(or if you prefer the disco remix)

also, a rather good live version of the theme tune from the Sopranos. Cooper Clarke does, at the end of the day, piss on about 99% of punk rock.


0 comments this item posted by the management 11/15/2007 04:55:00 PM

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A few updates

1. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is still not really going anywhere in the Pronunciation Theory of Geopolitics stakes. The newsreaders still don't give a crap, even though the Pronunciation Unit has apparently given guidance on how to pronounce it. The most recent radio broadcast I heard might have been considered a rise in his stock, as they appear to have started doing a Hebrew "h" at the start of his name, which is typically the first baby step British newsreaders make in the direction of making any effort to get a Middle Eastern name right. However it's no real improvement - all it does is turn "I'm a dinner jacket" into "Ach! I'm a dinner jacket".

2. First week back after half term at the Thomas Deacon Academy and still no real signs of local protest. I was close to declaring books closed on this one, but this story, indicating that Dr McMurdo has something of a my-way-or-the-highway approach to exclusions and thus might not be much of a democrat when it comes to his pet scheduling idea, means that I'm going to keep monitoring it at least until the New Year. Apologies to my readers for this; fun fact, despite my constant picking of fights and fellow travelling with evil, this topic is far and away the biggest email generator in the history of D^2D, the majority complaining that it is extremely boring.

3. "European Institute For The Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism" - still nish. I think Pollard is on holiday at the moment, so with any luck he will come back with all guns blazing and launch before Christmas. In the meantime, I am noticing a distressing tendency in some corners to demand that other people recognise Israel's right to exist "as a Jewish State", rather than simply "right to exist". I don't know what this additional caveat means (rather as I didn't understand what the craze of a couple of years ago for referring to "Eretz Israel" in English journalism rather than to the State of Israel) and I must say I'm rather suspicious of it.

PS: what about the Freakonomics review and the natural resource curse post? well, keep an eye on Crooked Timber.


12 comments this item posted by the management 11/06/2007 02:25:00 AM

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