Saturday, August 27, 2016

Links for 08-27-16

    Posted by on Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (23) 


    Friday, August 26, 2016

    Today’s Inequality Could Easily Become Tomorrow’s Catastrophe

    Robert Shiller:

    Today’s Inequality Could Easily Become Tomorrow’s Catastrophe: Economic inequality is already a concern, but it could become a nightmare in the decades ahead, and I fear that we are not well equipped to deal with it. ...
    One way to judge the likely outcome is to look at what has happened in the past. ...Kenneth Scheve ... and David Stasavage ... looked at 20 countries over two centuries to see how societies have responded to the less fortunate. Their primary finding may seem disheartening: Taxes on the rich generally have not gone up when inequality and economic hardship has increased. ...
    Professor Scheve and Professor Stasavage found that democratic countries have not consistently embraced more redistributive tax policies, and most people do not vote strictly in their narrow self-interest. ...
    This is consistent with my own survey results, which focused on inheritance taxes. ... Taxing around a third of wealth, more or less, seemed fair to people. And perhaps it is reasonable, in the abstract, yet what will we do in the future if this degree of taxation won’t produce enough revenue to meaningfully help the very poor as well as the sagging middle class? ...
    Angus Deaton..., commenting on what he called the “grotesque expansions in inequality of the past 30 years,” gave a pessimistic prediction: “Those who are doing well will organize to protect what they have, including in ways that benefit them at the expense of the majority. ” And Robert M. Solow ... said, “We are not good at large-scale redistribution of income.” ...
    No one seems to have an effective plan to deal with the possibility of much more severe inequality, should it develop. ...
    Despite past failures, we should not lose hope in our ability to improve the world. ...

      Posted by on Friday, August 26, 2016 at 09:02 AM in Economics, Income Distribution | Permalink  Comments (59) 


      Paul Krugman: No, Donald Trump, America Isn’t a Hellhole

      What is Trump's pivot to crime all about?:

      No, Donald Trump, America Isn’t a Hellhole, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...When the Trump campaign started, it was, at least nominally, about economics. Foreigners are stealing your jobs, the candidate declared, both through unfair trade and by coming here as immigrants. And he would make America great again with punitive tariffs and mass deportations.
      But the story changed at the Republican convention. There was remarkably little economic discussion on display... Instead, the focus was all on law and order, on saving the nation from what the candidate described as a terrifying crime wave.
      That theme has continued in recent weeks, with Mr. Trump’s “outreach” to minority voters. His notion of a pitch to these voters is to tell them how horrible their lives are, that they are facing “crime at levels that nobody has seen.” Even “war zones,” he says, are “safer than living in some of our inner cities.”
      All of this is really strange — because nothing like this is actually happening. ...
      Let’s talk specifically about violent crime. Consider, in particular, the murder rate... Homicides did shoot up between the early 1960s and the 1980s... Conservative writers assured us that soaring crime was the inevitable result of a collapse in traditional values...
      But then a funny thing happened: The murder rate began falling, and falling, and falling. By 2014 it was ... back down to where it was half a century earlier. There was some rise in 2015, but so far ... it’s barely a blip in the long-run picture.
      Basically, American cities are as safe as they’ve ever been...
      So what is all of this about? The same thing everything in the Trump campaign is about: race.
      I used scare quotes when talking about Mr. Trump’s racial “outreach” because it’s clear that the real purpose ... is to reassure squeamish whites that he isn’t as racist as he seems. But..: Even when he is trying to sound racially inclusive, his imagery is permeated by an “alt-right” sensibility that fundamentally sees nonwhites as subhuman. ... In the mental world he and those he listens to inhabit, blacks and other nonwhites are by definition shiftless burdens on society.
      Which brings us back to the notion of America as a nightmarish dystopia. Taken literally, that’s nonsense. But today’s increasingly multiracial, multicultural society is a nightmare for people who want a white, Christian nation in which lesser breeds know their place. And those are the people Mr. Trump has brought out into the open.

        Posted by on Friday, August 26, 2016 at 08:19 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (85) 


        Links for 08-26-16

          Posted by on Friday, August 26, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (160) 


          Thursday, August 25, 2016

          Why Do We Talk About ''Helicopter Money''?

          Brad DeLong:

          Why Do We Talk About “Helicopter Money”?: Why do we talk about “helicopter money”? We talk about helicopter money because we seek a tool for managing aggregate demand–for nudging the level of spending in an economy up to but not above the economy’s current sustainable productive potential–that is all of:

          1. Effective and successful–even in the very low interest rate world we appear to be in.
          2. Does not excite fears of an outsized central bank balance sheet–with its vague but truly-feared risks.
          3. Does not excite fears of an outsized government interest-bearing debt–with its very real and costly amortization burdens should interest rates rise.
          4. Keeps what ought to be a technocratic problem of public administration out of the mishegas that is modern partisan politics.

          Right now the modal projection by participants in the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee meetings is that the U.S. Treasury Bill rate will top out at 3% this business cycle. It would be a brave meeting participant who would be confident that we would get there–if we would get there–with high probability before 2020. That does not provide enough room for the Federal Reserve to loosen policy by even the average amount of loosening seen in post-World War II recessions. Odds are standard open market operation-based interest rate tools will not be able to do the macroeconomic policy stabilization job when the next adverse shock hits the economy.

          The last decade has taught us that quantitative easing on a scale large enough to rapidly return economies to full employment is one bridge if not more too far for central banks as they are currently constituted–if, that is, it is possible at all. The last decade has taught us that bond-funded expansionary fiscal policy on a scale large enough to rapidly return economies to full employment is at least several bridges too far for our political systems, at least as they are currently constituted.

          If we do not now start planning for how to implement helicopter money when the next adverse shock comes, what will our plan be? As a candidate for a tool capable of doing all four of these things, helicopter money–giving the central bank the additional policy tool of printing up extra money and either mailing it out to households as checks or getting it into the hands of the public by buying extra useful stuff–is our last hope, and, if it is not our best hope, then I do not know what our best hope might be. ...

          [The post also includes a list of links to other discussion of this topic.]

            Posted by on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 02:16 PM in Economics, Fiscal Policy, Monetary Policy, Politics | Permalink  Comments (69) 


            Economists Who’ve Advised Presidents Are No Fans of Donald Trump

            From Real Time Economics at the WSJ:

            Economists Who’ve Advised Presidents Are No Fans of Donald Trump: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has broken with many of the GOP’s traditional positions on economic policy, garners no support from any of the White House economists who have advised U.S. presidents for the past half-century.
            The Wall Street Journal this month reached out to all 45 surviving former members of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under the past eight presidents, going back to Richard Nixon, to get their views on this year’s presidential election.
            Among 17 Republican appointees who responded to Journal inquiries, none said they supported Mr. Trump. ...

              Posted by on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 08:44 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  Comments (36) 


              Links for 08-25-16

                Posted by on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (143) 


                Wednesday, August 24, 2016

                Blog Note

                Travel day. Not sure when I can post.

                  Posted by on Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 03:54 AM in Economics, Travel, Weblogs | Permalink  Comments (5) 


                  Links for 08-24-16

                    Posted by on Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (167) 


                    Tuesday, August 23, 2016

                    It’s Time to Bring More Realistic Models of Human Behavior into Economic Policy and Regulation

                    David Halpern at Bank Underground:

                    It’s time to bring more realistic models of human behaviour into economic policy and regulation: The Centre for Central Banking Studies recently hosted their annual Chief Economists Workshop, whose theme was “What can policymakers learn from other disciplines”.  In this guest post, one of the keynote speakers at the event, David Halpern, CEO of the Behavioural Insights Team, argues that insights from behavior science can improve the design and effectiveness of economic policy interventions.

                    Behavior science has had major impacts on policy in recent years. Introducing a more realistic model of human behavior – to replace the ‘rational’ utility-maximizer – has enabled policymakers to boost savings; increase tax payments; encourage healthier choices; reduce energy consumption; boost educational attendance; reduce crime; and increase charitable giving. But there remain important areas where its potential has yet to be realized, including macroeconomic policy and large areas of regulatory practice. Businesses, consumers, and even regulators are subject to similar systematic biases to other humans. These include overconfidence; being overly influenced by what others are doing; and being influenced by irrelevant information. The good news is that behavioral science offers the prospect of helping regulators address some of their most pressing issues. This includes: anticipating and addressing ‘animal spirits’ that drive bubbles or sentiment-driven slowdowns; reducing corrupt market practices; and encouraging financial products that are comprehensible to humans. ...[continue]...

                      Posted by on Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 03:41 PM in Economics, Regulation | Permalink  Comments (17) 


                      IMF Cannot Quit Fiscal Consolidation (in Asian Surplus Countries)

                      Brad Setser:

                      IMF Cannot Quit Fiscal Consolidation (in Asian Surplus Countries): In theory, the IMF now wants current account surplus countries to rely more heavily on fiscal stimulus and less on monetary stimulus.
                      This shift makes sense in a world marked by low interest rates, the risk that surplus countries will export liquidity traps to deficit economies, and concerns about contagious secular stagnation. Fiscal expansion tends to lower the surplus of surplus countries and regions, while monetary expansion tends to increase surpluses.
                      And large external surpluses should be a concern in a world where imbalances in goods trade are once again quite large—though the goods surpluses now being chalked up in many Asian countries are partially offset by hard-to-track deficits in “intangibles” (to use an old term), notably China’s ongoing deficit in investment income and its ever-rising and ever-harder-to-track deficit in tourism.
                      In practice, though, the Fund seems to be having trouble actually advocating fiscal expansion in any major economy with a current account surplus.
                      Best I can tell, the Fund is encouraging fiscal consolidation in China, Japan, and the eurozone. These economies have a combined GDP of close to $30 trillion. The Fund, by contrast, is, perhaps, willing to encourage a tiny bit of fiscal expansion in Sweden (though that isn’t obvious from the 2015 staff report) and in Korea—countries with a combined GDP of $2 trillion.*
                      I previously have noted that the Fund is advocating a 2017 fiscal consolidation for the eurozone, as the consolidation the Fund advocates in France, Italy, and Spain would overwhelm the modest fiscal expansion the Fund proposed in the Netherlands (Germany would remain on the fiscal sidelines per the IMF’s recommendation).
                      The same seems to be true in East Asia’s main surplus economies. ...
                      Bottom line: if the Fund wants fiscal expansion in surplus countries to drive external rebalancing and reduce current account surpluses, it actually has to be willing to encourage major countries with large external surpluses to do fiscal expansion. Finding limited fiscal space in Sweden and perhaps Korea won’t do the trick. 20 or 30 basis points of fiscal expansion in small economies won’t move the global needle. Not if China, Japan, and the eurozone all lack fiscal space and all need to consolidate over time.

                        Posted by on Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 10:39 AM in Economics, International Finance | Permalink  Comments (23) 


                        Why We Need a Fiscal Policy Commission

                        I have a new column:

                        Why We Need a Fiscal Policy Commission: During the Great Recession, monetary policymakers were aggressive and creative in their attempts to revive the economy. I wish they had been even more aggressive, and at times they were a bit slow to react due to excessive fear of inflation and the tendency to see recovery just around the corner, but their overall response to the crisis was commendable. Unfortunately, monetary policy alone was far from enough to give the economy the help it needed. Fiscal policy was needed too. 
                        But fiscal policymakers let us down. ...

                          Posted by on Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 09:51 AM in Economics, Fiscal Policy, Fiscal Times, Politics | Permalink  Comments (93) 


                          Links for 08-23-16

                            Posted by on Tuesday, August 23, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (98) 


                            Monday, August 22, 2016

                            Paul Krugman: The Water Next Time

                            "This election is likely to be decisive for the climate":

                            The Water Next Time, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...The governor of flood-ravaged Louisiana asked President Obama to postpone a personal visit while relief efforts were still underway. ... He made the same request to Donald Trump, declaring, reasonably, that while aid would be welcome, a visit for the sake of a photo op would not.
                            Sure enough, the G.O.P. candidate flew in, shook some hands, signed some autographs, and was filmed taking boxes of Play-Doh out of a truck. If he wrote a check, neither his campaign nor anyone else has mentioned it. Heckuva job, Donnie! ...
                            Let’s back up for a minute and talk about the real meaning of the Louisiana floods. In case you haven’t been keeping track, lately we’ve been setting global temperature records every month. ...
                            And one consequence of a warmer planet is more evaporation, more moisture in the air, and hence more disastrous floods. ... So a proliferation of disasters like the one in Louisiana is exactly what climate scientists have been warning us about.
                            What can be done? The bad news is that drastic action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases is long overdue. The good news is that the technological and economic basis for such action has never looked better. In particular, renewable energy — wind and solar — has become much cheaper in recent years, and progress in energy storage looks increasingly likely to resolve the problem of intermittency (The sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow.) ...
                            It probably won’t surprise you to hear that..., as with so many issues, Mr. Trump has gone deep down the rabbit hole, asserting not just that global warming is a hoax, but that it’s a hoax concocted by the Chinese to make America less competitive.
                            The thing is, he’s not alone in going down that rabbit hole..., Mr. Trump is squarely in the Republican mainstream. ...
                            In any case, this election is likely to be decisive for the climate, one way or another. President Obama has made some serious moves to address global warming, and there’s every reason to believe that Hillary Clinton would continue this push — using executive action if she faced a hostile Congress. Given the technological breakthroughs of the last few years, this push might just be enough to avert disaster. Donald Trump, on the other hand, would do everything in his power to trash the planet, with the enthusiastic support of his party. So which will it be? Stay tuned.

                              Posted by on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 07:18 AM in Economics, Environment, Politics | Permalink  Comments (103) 


                              Links for 08-22-16

                                Posted by on Monday, August 22, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (232) 


                                Saturday, August 20, 2016

                                Links for 08-20-16

                                  Posted by on Saturday, August 20, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (239) 


                                  Friday, August 19, 2016

                                  Hard truths for the IMF

                                  Simon Wren-Lewis:

                                  Hard truths for the IMF: It is to the IMF’s credit that they have an Independent Evaluation Office, and their recent report on the Eurozone crisis is highly critical of the IMF’s actions. The IMF’s own staff told them in 2010 that Greek debt could well not be sustainable, but the IMF gave in to European pressure not to restructure Greek debt. Instead the Troika went down the disastrous route of excessive austerity, and the IMF underestimated (unwittingly or because they had to) the impact that austerity would have. In the last few years we keep hearing about an ultimatum the IMF has given European leaders to agree to restructure this debt, and on each occasion the IMF appears to fold under pressure.
                                  These repeated errors suggest a structural problem. Back in 2015, Poul Thomsen, who runs the IMF’s European department, said “we need to ensure that we treat our member states equally, that we apply our rules uniformly.” But that is exactly what the IMF has failed to do with the Eurozone and Greece.
                                  As Barry Eichengreen writes..., it is not as if the IMF have had problems demanding commitments from regional bodies such as African or Caribbean monetary unions and central banks in the past. The problem is much more straightforward. He notes that European governments are large shareholders in the Fund, and that “the IMF is a predominantly European institution, with a European managing director, a heavily European staff, and a European culture.”
                                  In other words we have something akin to regulatory capture. The IMF’s job is to be an impartial arbitrator between creditor and debtor, ensuring that the creditor takes appropriate losses for imprudent lending but also that the debtor adjusts its policies so they become sustainable. In the case of the Eurozone it has in effect sided with the creditors, and ruinous austerity has been the result of that.

                                    Posted by on Friday, August 19, 2016 at 11:03 AM in Economics, International Finance | Permalink  Comments (38) 


                                    The Fed’s Effect on Black Americans

                                    Narayana Kocherlakota:

                                    The Fed’s Effect on Black Americans: The U.S. Federal Reserve appears to be paying more attention to how its policies affect black Americans. This is a wise move...
                                    Imagine we’re in the midst of a severe recession. In deciding how aggressively to respond by lowering interest rates or buying assets, Fed officials must weigh the risk of unduly high inflation against the benefit of reducing unemployment. That benefit will be much greater for blacks..., any policy that reduces the overall unemployment rate by one percentage point ... reduces their unemployment rate by nearly two percentage points.
                                    The differential impact also matters now, as the Fed contemplates removing stimulus. ...
                                    The Fed rightly aims to pursue policies that are best for the economy as a whole. But I don’t believe that it will be seen as truly representative of all Americans unless it understands the differential impact of its policy choices on key demographic subgroups. It’s good to see from the minutes that the central bank is engaged in doing so.

                                      Posted by on Friday, August 19, 2016 at 10:49 AM in Economics, Monetary Policy, Unemployment | Permalink  Comments (11) 


                                      Paul Krugman: Obamacare Hits a Bump

                                      The problems with Obamacare would be easy to fix, the real problem is Congress:

                                      Obamacare Hits a Bump, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: More than two and half years have gone by since the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, went fully into effect. Most of the news about health reform since then has been good, defying the dire predictions of right-wing doomsayers. But this week has brought some genuine bad news: The giant insurer Aetna announced that it would be pulling out of many of the “exchanges,” the special insurance markets the law established. ...
                                      So what’s the problem?
                                      Well, Obamacare is a system that relies on private insurance companies to provide much of its expanded coverage... And many of these private insurers are now finding themselves losing money, because previously uninsured Americans ... turn out to have been sicker and more in need of costly care than we realized. ...

                                      The bad news mainly hits states that have small populations and/or have governments hostile to reform, where the exit of insurers may leave markets without adequate competition. That’s not the whole country, but it would be a significant setback.
                                      But it would be quite easy to fix the system. It seems clear that subsidies for purchasing insurance, and in some cases for insurers themselves, should be somewhat bigger — an affordable proposition given that the program so far has come in under budget... There should also be a reinforced effort to ensure that healthy Americans buy insurance, as the law requires, rather than them waiting until they get sick. Such measures would go a long way toward getting things back on track.
                                      Beyond all that, what about the public option?
                                      The idea of allowing the government to offer a health plan directly to families was blocked in 2010 because private insurers didn’t want to face the competition. But if those insurers aren’t actually interested in providing insurance, why not let the government step in (as Hillary Clinton is in fact proposing)?
                                      The trouble, of course, is Congress...
                                      That said, there may still be room for action at the executive level. And I’m hearing suggestions that states may be able to offer their own public options; if these proved successful, they might gradually become the norm.
                                      However this plays out, it’s important to realize that as far as anyone can tell, there’s nothing wrong with Obamacare that couldn’t be fairly easily fixed with a bit of bipartisan cooperation. The only thing that makes this hard is the blocking power of politicians who want reform to fail.

                                        Posted by on Friday, August 19, 2016 at 10:21 AM in Economics, Health Care, Politics | Permalink  Comments (55) 


                                        Links for 08-19-16

                                          Posted by on Friday, August 19, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (211) 


                                          Thursday, August 18, 2016

                                          Note on Comments

                                          There was a problem with comments -- they haven't been posting for a day or so.

                                          Hopefully it has been resolved.

                                          I will try to dig them out of the spam filter, but may not get to them all until much later today (will be traveling without internet access).

                                            Posted by on Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 11:41 AM Permalink  Comments (4) 


                                            Links for 08-18-16

                                              Posted by on Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (46) 


                                              Wednesday, August 17, 2016

                                              Liberalism and Hate-Based Extremism

                                              [I am traveling, so apologies for the lack of posts lately. Hopefully this will give you something to talk about.]

                                              Daniel Little:

                                              Liberalism and hate-based extremism, Understanding Society: How should a democratic society handle the increasingly virulent challenges presented by hate groups, anti-government extremists, and organizations that encourage violence and discrimination against others in society? Should extremist groups have unlimited rights to advocate for their ideologies of hatred and antagonism against other groups within a democracy?

                                              Erik Bleich has written extensively on the subject of racist speech and the law. Recent books include The Freedom to Be Racist?: How the United States and Europe Struggle to Preserve Freedom and Combat Racism and Race Politics in Britain and France: Ideas and Policymaking since the 1960s. Bleich correctly notes that these issues are broader than the freedom-of-speech framework in which they are often placed; so he examines law and policy in multiple countries on freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of opinion-as-motive. In each of these areas he finds important differences across European countries and the United States with respect to legislation concerning racist expressions. In particular, liberal democracies like Great Britain, France, and Germany have created legislation to prohibit various kinds of hate-based speech and action. Here is his summary of the status of European legislation:

                                              European restrictions on racist expression have proceeded gradually but consistently since World War II. A few provisions were established in the immediate postwar era, but most countries’ key laws were enacted in the 1960s and 1970s. The statutes have been tinkered with, updated, and expanded in the ensuing decades to the point where virtually all European liberal democracies now have robust hate speech laws on their books. These laws are highly symbolic of a commitment to curb racism. But they are also more than just symbols. As measured by prosecutions and convictions, levels of enforcement vary significantly across Europe, but most countries have deployed their laws against a variety of racist speech and have recently enforced stiffer penalties for repeat offenders. (kl 960) 

                                              In the United States it is unconstitutional under the First Amendment of the Constitution to prohibit "hate speech" or to ban hate-based organizations. So racist and homophobic organizations are accorded all but unlimited rights of association and expression, no matter how odious and harmful the content and effects of their views. As Bleich points out, other liberal democracies have a very different legal framework for regulating hate-based extremism by individuals and organizations (France, Germany, Sweden, Canada).

                                              Here is the First Amendment of the US Constitution:

                                              Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

                                              This is pure liberalism, according to which the state needs to remain entirely neutral about disagreements over values, and the only justification for legal prohibition of an activity is the harm the activity creates. There is a strong philosophical rationale for this position. John Stuart Mill maintains an ultra-strong and exceptionless view of freedom of expression in On Liberty.  He argues that all ideas have an equal right to free expression, and that this position is most advantageous to society as a whole. Vigorous debate leads to the best possible set of beliefs. Here are a few passages from On Liberty:

                                              The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. (13)
                                              But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. (19)

                                              This line of reasoning leads to legal toleration in the United States of groups like the White Citizens Councils, Neo-Nazi parties, and the Westboro Baptist Church to conduct their associations, propaganda, and demonstrations to further their hateful objectives. And they and their activists sometimes go further and commit actress of terrible violence (Timothy McVeigh, the murder of Matthew Shepherd in Wyoming, and the murders of civil rights workers in Mississippi).

                                              But as Mill acknowledges, a democratic society has a right and an obligation to protect its citizens from violence. This is the thrust of the "harm" principle in Mill's philosophy of political authority. Is right-wing extremism (RWE) really just another political platform, equally legitimate within the public sphere of debate in a democratic society? Or do these organizations represent a credible threat to personal safety and civil peace?

                                              Certainly most of the disagreements between liberals and conservatives fall in Millian category -- how much a society should spend on social welfare programs, what its immigration policies ought to be, the legal status of single-sex marriage. The disagreements among the parties are intense, but the debates and positions on both sides are legitimate. Mill is right about this range of policy disagreements. The political process and the sphere of public debate should resolve these disagreements.

                                              But RWE goes beyond this level of disagreement about policy and legislation. RWE represents a set of values and calls to action that are inconsistent with the fundamentals of a democratic society. And they are strongly and essentially related to violence. RWE activists call for violence against hated groups, they call for armed resistance to the state (e.g. the Bundy's), and they actively work to inculcate hatred against specific groups (Muslims, Jews, African Americans, gays and lesbians, ...). These groups are anti-constitutional and contemptuous of the common core of civility upon which a democratic society depends.

                                              There are two fundamental arguments against hate-based speech and associations that seem to justify exceptions to the general liberal principle of toleration of offensive speech. One is an argument linking hate to violence. There is ample historical evidence that hateful organizations do in fact stimulate violence by their followers (Birmingham bombing, lynchings and killings of civil rights workers, the assassination of Yitzak Rabin). So our collective interest in protecting all citizens against violence provides a moral basis for limiting incendiary hate speech and organization.

                                              The second kind of argument concerns hate itself, and the insidious effects that hateful ideologies have on individuals, groups, and the polity. EU reports make an effort to capture the essential nature and harms of hate (link). Hate incites mistrust, disrespect, discrimination, and violence against members of other groups. The social effects of hate are toxic and serious. Do these effects suffice to justify limiting hate speech?

                                              This is a difficult argument to make within the context of US jurisprudence. The realm of law involves coercion, and it is agreed that the threshold for interfering with liberty is a high one. It is also agreed that legal justifications and definitions need to be clear and specific. How do we define hate? Is it explained in terms of well-known existing hatreds -- racism, anti-semitism, islamophobia, homophobia, ...? Or should it be defined in terms of its effects -- inculcating disrespect and hostility towards members of another group? Can there be new hatreds in a society -- antagonisms against groups that were previously accepted without issue? Are there legitimate "hatreds" that do not lead to violence and exclusion? Or is there an inherent connection between hatred and overt antagonism? And what about expressions like those of Charlie Hebdo -- satire, humor, caricature? Is there a zone of artistic expression that should be exempt from anti-hate laws?

                                              Here is Bleich's considered view on the balance between liberty and racism. Like Mill, he focuses on the balance between the value of liberty and the harm created by racist speech and action.

                                              To telegraph the argument here, my perspective focuses on the level of harm inflicted on individuals, victim groups, and societies. For individuals and victim groups, the harm has to be measurable, specific, and intense. For societies, racism that fosters violence or that drives wedges between groups justifies limiting freedom of expression, association, and opinion-as-motive. (kl 247)

                                              Further:

                                              Racist expressions, associations, or actions that drive a wedge between segments of society or that provoke an extremely hostile response have little redeeming social value. Their harm to other core liberal democratic values such as social cohesion and public order simply outweighs any potential benefits to be gained by protecting them. At the same time, if the statements or organizations are designed to contribute to public debate about state policies, they have to be rigorously protected, even if they may have potentially damaging side effects. (kl 3403)

                                              And here are the closing words of advice offered in the book:

                                              How much freedom should we grant to racists? The ultimate answer is this: look at history, pay attention to context and effects, work out your principles, convince your friends, lobby your representatives, and walk away with a balance of values that you can live with. (kl 3551)

                                              The issue to this point has been whether the state can legitimately prohibit hate speech and organization. But other avenues for fighting hateful ideas fall within the realm of civil society itself. We can do exactly as Mill recommended: offer our own critiques and alternatives to hatred and racism, and strive to win the battle of public opinion. Empirically considered, this is not an entirely encouraging avenue, because a century of experience demonstrates that hate-based propaganda almost always finds a small but virulent audience. So it is not entirely clear that this remedy is sufficient to solve the problem.

                                              These are all difficult questions. But the rise and virulence of hate-based groups across the world makes it urgent for democracies to confront the problem in a just way, respecting equality and liberty of citizens while stamping out hate. And there are pressing practical questions we have to try to answer: do the non-coercive strategies available to the associations of civil society have the capacity to securely contain the harmful spread of hate-based organizations and ideologies? And, on the other hand, do the more restrictive legal codes against racism and hate-based organizations actually work in France or Germany? Or does the continuing advance of extremist groups there suggest that legal prohibition had little effect on RWE as a political movement? And if both questions turn out unfavorably, does liberalism face the possibility of defeat by the organizations of hatred and racism?

                                                Posted by on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 10:19 PM in Politics | Permalink  Comments (51) 


                                                Links for 08-17-16

                                                  Posted by on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (119) 


                                                  Tuesday, August 16, 2016

                                                  General Equilibrium Theory: Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing?

                                                  A relatively long article by Raphaële Chappe at INET:

                                                  General Equilibrium Theory: Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing?: Does general equilibrium theory sufficiently enhance our understanding of the economic process to make the entire exercise worthwhile, if we consider that other forms of thinking may have been ‘crowded out’ as a result of its being the ‘dominant discourse’? What, in the end, have we really learned from it? ...

                                                    Posted by on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 01:41 PM in Economics, Methodology | Permalink  Comments (38) 


                                                    Obama Rescued the Economy. Could He Have Done More?

                                                    Benjamin Friedman:

                                                    Obama rescued the economy. Could he have done more?: ...Barack Obama took office Jan. 20, 2009, during the worst financial and economic crisis since World War II. By then, the Federal Reserve System had already acted to prevent the collapse of the banking system, and so the new president moved forward promptly to spur the depressed economy. The fiscal package he signed Feb. 17, 2009, allocated $787 billion — more than 5 percent of a year’s total U.S. income — ...aimed at stimulating economic activity. The money could have been better directed, so as to achieve greater impact, and in retrospect the amount was too small. But in the face of opposition from Republicans in Congress, Obama’s fiscal stimulus was about as much as any president could have done.
                                                    After pushing through the stimulus, however, the Obama administration entered a period of quietude on the economic front. Despite large Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, there was no other significant economic legislation during the new president’s first 100 days. Nor in the 100 days following that, nor in the 100 days after that. ...
                                                    Instead, once the economic stimulus became law, the Obama domestic agenda shifted to health care. ... Raising the insured total to more than 90 percent of all Americans will likely stand as a historic achievement, but the cost was a diversion of the administration’s energy and attention from other economic problems badly in need of remedy.
                                                    The most pressing among them was, and remains, financial reform. Rather than advance its own set of proposals ... when the Democrats held a filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate ... the administration largely left the matter to Congress. ...
                                                    Overall, if Dodd-Frank were merely one in a series of financial reform packages..., it would have been a laudable first step. But as the nation’s principal response to the worst financial crisis in two generations, it paled. Further, the specifics of many of the intended reforms were left to agency-level rulemaking exercises ... that, predictably, enabled industry lobbyists to blunt their force, if not thwart them altogether. ...

                                                    There's quite a bit more in the article.

                                                      Posted by on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 11:17 AM in Economics | Permalink  Comments (113) 


                                                      Links for 08-16-16

                                                        Posted by on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 12:06 AM Permalink  Comments (125) 


                                                        Monday, August 15, 2016

                                                        What's Useful about DSGE Models?

                                                        George Evans responds to the recent discussion on the usefulness of DSGE models:

                                                        Here is what I like and have found most useful about Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) models, also known as New Keynesian (NK), models. The original NK models were low dimensional – the simplest version reduces to a 3-equation model, while DSGE models are now typically much more elaborate. What I find attractive about these models can be stated in terms of the basic NK/DSGE model.
                                                        First, because it is a carefully developed, micro- founded model incorporating price frictions, the NK model makes it possible to incorporate in a disciplined way the various additional sectors, distortions, adjustment costs, and parametric detail found in many NK/DSGE models. Theoretically this is much more attractive than starting with a reduced form IS-LM model and adding features in an ad hoc way. (At the same time I still find ad hoc models useful, especially for teaching and informal policy analysis, and the IS-LM model is part of the macroeconomics cannon).
                                                        Second, and this is particularly important for my own research, the NK model makes explicit and gives a central role to expectations about future economic variables. The standard linearized three-equation NK model in output, inflation and interest rates has current output and inflation depending in a specified way on expected future output and inflation. The dependence of output on expected future output and future inflation comes through the household dynamic optimization condition, and the dependence of inflation on expected future inflation arises from the firm’s optimal pricing equation. The NK model thus places expectations of future economic variables front and center, and does so in a disciplined way.
                                                        Third, while the NK model is typically solved under rational expectations (RE), it can also be viewed as providing the temporary equilibrium framework for studying the system under relaxations of the RE hypothesis. I particularly favor replacing RE with boundedly rational adaptive learning and decision-making (AL). Incorporating AL is especially fruitful in cases where there are multiple RE solutions, and AL brings out many Keynesian features of the NK model that extend IS-LM. In general I have found micro-founded macro models of all types to be ideal for incorporating bounded rationality, which is most naturally formulated at the agent level.
                                                        Fourth, while the profession as a whole seemed to many of us slow to appreciate the implications of the NK model for policy during and following the financial crisis, this was not because the NK model was intrinsically defective (the neglect of financial frictions by most, though not all DSGE modelers, was also a deficiency in most textbook IS-LM models). This was really, I think, because many macro economists using NK models in 2007-8 did not fully appreciate the Keynesian mechanisms present in the model.
                                                        However, many of us were alert to the NK model fiscal policy implications during the crisis. For example, in Evans, Guse and Honkapohja (“Liquidity traps, learning and stagnation,” 2008, European Economic Review), using an NK model with multiple RE solutions because of the liquidity trap, we showed, using the AL approach to expectations, that when there is a very large negative expectations shock, fiscal as well as monetary stimulus may be needed, and indeed a temporary fiscal stimulus that is large enough and early enough may be critical for avoiding a severe recession or depression. Of course such an argument could have been made using extensions of the ad hoc IS-LM model, but my point is that this policy implication was ready to be found in the NK model, and the key results center on the primacy of expectations.
                                                        Finally, it should go without saying that NK/DSGE modeling should not be the one and only style. Most graduate-level core macro courses teach a wide range of macro models, and I see a diversity of innovations at the research frontier that will continue to keep macroeconomics vibrant and relevant.

                                                          Posted by on Monday, August 15, 2016 at 02:04 PM in Economics, Macroeconomics, Methodology | Permalink  Comments (15) 


                                                          Paul Krugman: Wisdom, Courage and the Economy

                                                           "What do we actually know how to do when it comes to economic policy?":

                                                          Wisdom, Courage and the Economy, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: It’s fantasy football time in political punditry, as commentators try to dismiss Hillary Clinton’s dominance in the polls — yes, Clinton Derangement Syndrome is alive and well — by insisting that she would be losing badly if only the G.O.P. had nominated someone else. We will, of course, never know. But one thing we do know is that none of Donald Trump’s actual rivals for the nomination bore any resemblance to their imaginary candidate, a sensible, moderate conservative with good ideas.
                                                          Let’s not forget, for example, what Marco Rubio was doing in the memorized sentence he famously couldn’t stop repeating: namely, insinuating that President Obama is deliberately undermining America. It wasn’t all that different from Donald Trump’s claim that Mr. Obama founded ISIS. And let’s also not forget that Jeb Bush ... began his campaign with the ludicrous assertion that his policies would double the American economy’s growth rate.
                                                          Which brings me to my main subject: Mrs. Clinton’s economic vision... It’s very much a center-left vision: incremental but fairly large increases in high-income tax rates, further tightening of financial regulation, further strengthening of the social safety net.
                                                          It’s also a vision notable for its lack of outlandish assumptions. Unlike just about everyone on the Republican side, she isn’t justifying her proposals with claims that they would cause a radical quickening of the U.S. economy. ...
                                                          So here’s my question: Is the modesty of the Clinton economic agenda too much of a good thing? Should accelerating U.S. economic growth be a bigger priority? ...
                                                          After all, what do we actually know how to do when it comes to economic policy? ...
                                                          According to the budget office, potential growth was pretty stable from 1970 to 2000, with nothing either Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton did making much obvious difference. The subsequent slide began under George W. Bush and continued under Mr. Obama. This history suggests no easy way to change the trend. ...
                                                          Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try. ...
                                                          But ... I don’t think enough people appreciate the courage involved in focusing on things we actually know how to do, as opposed to happy talk about wondrous growth. ...
                                                          So it’s actually quite brave to say: “Here are the things I want to do, and here is how I’ll pay for them. Sorry, some of you will have to pay higher taxes.” Wouldn’t it be great if that kind of policy honesty became the norm?

                                                            Posted by on Monday, August 15, 2016 at 01:38 AM Permalink  Comments (147) 


                                                            Links for 08-15-16

                                                              Posted by on Monday, August 15, 2016 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (83) 


                                                              Saturday, August 13, 2016

                                                              Links for 08-13-16

                                                                Posted by on Saturday, August 13, 2016 at 10:23 AM in Economics, Links | Permalink  Comments (186)