Saturday, January 29, 2011

This Seems Odd

As I understand the events in Egypt, in response to mass protests Mubarak appointed Omar Suleiman vice president, the first since 1980. Mubarak is 81 and Suleiman is 75. Both have support from the parts of the Army, the Secret Service, possibly, part of the American political elite, and most likely Saudi Arabia.  But they seem a bit on the aged side of the ledger to rush in and stabilize and clearly politically dysfunctional state. Sort of like replacing Andropov with Chernenko. Also it seems that the police have abdicated their responsibilities and a certain degree of chaos is descending on major cities.

I am Sure This is a Coincidence

In an post title Karl Marx, Real Business Cycle Theorist, Matthew Yglesias proves that history repeats its self.

Kudos to Benjamin Kunkel for trying to present an accessible Marxist account of the current financial crisis. I was struck reading the piece, though, by how similar the Kunkel/Harvery/Marx account of the crisis is to linguistically and ideologically quite different accounts from the right.
Essentially the Marxist and the real business cycle theorist are united in the view that these things happen and mass unemployment and prolonged periods of immiseration are just what happens in a market economy. The RBC stops there while the Marxist looks forward to the construction of an entirely new system along entirely new lines. The range of views associated with John Maynard Keynes and his followers or Milton Friedman and his followers says, essentially, no. A transient period of somewhat elevated unemployment could reflect a change in tastes—people decide they want fewer apples and more pears and various elements of the economic system need time to reshape themselves to fit the new conditions. But a prolonged period of widespread mass unemployment paired with a collapse in overall spending reflects something else. People haven’t decided they want fewer apples and more pears, they’ve decided they want fewer goods and services and more safe liquid financial instruments. What has to happen in response is that governments need to create more safe liquid financial instruments—more dollars, more euros, more Swiss; British sovereign debt—until people decide they’ve had enough and want to increase their demand for goods and services.
Bradford Delong on made the same incorrect witticism back in '08 Leaving aside the striking similarities, lets examine the facts of the matter.  What is RCB? Here is a explanation. As John Quiggen makes clear on the RCB and the current crises
[t]he failure of RBC is brought into sharp relief by the current global crisis. Not even the most ardent RBC supporter has been game to suggest that the crisis is caused by technological shocks or changes in tastes, and the suggestion that it was all the fault of a minor piece of anti-redlining law (the Community Reinvestment Act) has been abandoned as the speculative excesses and outright corruption of the central institutions of Wall Street has come to light.
Kunkel explicating Harvey on the crises:
as The Limits to Capital implies without quite stating, the special allure and danger of an elaborate credit system lie in its relationship to class society. If more capital has been accumulated than can be realised as a profit through exchange, owing perhaps to ‘the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses’ that Marx at one point declared ‘the ultimate reason for all real crises’, this condition can be temporarily concealed, and its consequences postponed, by the confection of fictitious values in excess of any real values on the verge of production. In this way, growth and profitability in the financial system can substitute for the impaired growth and profitability of the class-ridden system of actual production. By adding over-financialisation, as it were, to his model of overaccumulation, Harvey means to show how an initial contradiction between production and realisation later ‘becomes, via the agency of the credit system, an outright antagonism’ between the financial system of fictitious values and its monetary base, founded on commodity values. This antagonism then ‘forms the rock on which accumulation ultimately founders’. In social terms, this will take the form of a contest between creditors and debtors over who is to suffer more devaluation.
The real originality of The Limits to Capital, however, is to add a new geographical dimension to crisis formation. Harvey goes about this via a theory of rent. One effect of the approach is to suggest why property speculation – with its value ultimately tied up in potential rental income – should be such a familiar capitalist perversion (in the psychoanalytic sense of overinvestment in one kind of object). Another is to convert an apparent embarrassment for Marxian theory into a show of strength. The would-be embarrassment lies in the evident difficulty of reconciling a labour theory of value with the price of unimproved land, given that land is obviously not a product of human labour. Harvey’s bold and ingenious solution is to propose that, under capitalism, ground rent – or the proportion of property value attributable to mere location, rather than to anything built or cultivated on the land – becomes a ‘pure financial asset’. Ground rent, in other words, is a form of fictitious capital, or value created in anticipation of future commodity production: ‘Like all such forms of fictitious capital, what is traded is a claim on future revenues, which means a claim on future profits from the use of the land or, more directly, a claim on future labour.’
 Does that sound linguistically similar to RBC theorists? And a bit further along, does this?
The real test of Harvey’s 1982 theory of crisis is how well it serves in the face of the thing itself. The Enigma of Capital can be read as an effort to meet the challenge. Naturally, its success or failure depends on whether it can offer a more comprehensive and persuasive account than rival theories. On the score of comprehensiveness there can be little doubt that Harvey’s work and that of other Marxists goes beyond the alternatives. ‘The idea that the crisis had systemic origins is scarcely mooted in the mainstream media,’ Harvey writes, and that might be extended to include even the trenchant work of the neo-Keynesians. The crisis, after all, is that of a capitalist system, and no account of it, however searching, can be truly systematic if it neglects to consider property relations: that is, the preponderant ownership of capital by one class, and of little or nothing but its labour power by another.

Relatedly does Keynes demand increased monetary supply like Freidman? Or does Keynes demand increased government borrowing of excess capital in order to become the an engine for job creation in those periods when the capitalists cannot or will not invest? Yglesias has not a clue as to what he is talking about.

A Riot of Me Own

Given the events in Africa and the Middle East, I went to my riot file to see if there was anything there of interest.  There is, of course, lots.  But this one is on the intertubes for free, it's Timothy Garton Ash making a public middle-brow intellectual case for how to understand the riots and mass demos associated with if not the cause of the collapse of the Soviet Empire.You should, by all means, read the whole thing is cleanly written and makes a strong case for considering the manifold causes of 1989.  This paragraph, however, I think is very helpful when considering the shape of things to come and how, why, or why not pushing for more international involvement might be helpful.
In truth, the essence of 1989 lies in the multiple interactions not merely of a single society and party-state, but of many societies and states, in a series of interconnected three-dimensional chess games. While the French Revolution of 1789 always had foreign dimensions and repercussions, and became an international event with the revolutionary wars, it originated as a domestic development in one large country. The European revolution of 1989 was, from the outset, an international event—and by international I mean not just the diplomatic relations between states but also the interactions of both states and societies across borders. So the lines of causation include the influence of individual states on their own societies, societies on their own states, states on other states, societies on other societies, states on other societies (for example, Gorbachev’s direct impact on East-Central Europeans), and societies on other states (for example, the knock-on effect on the Soviet Union of popular protest in East-Central Europe). These portmanteau notions of state and society have themselves to be disaggregated into groups, factions, and individuals, including unique actors such as Pope John Paul II.
I would argue that, as was the case in Iran, an American refusal to participate in immediately aiding any emergent  multivocal coalition, particularly if some one or another of those voices are viewed as insalubrious, that might now be forming by creating or participating  in the creation of a space within which the Egyptians, Tunisians, Yemeni, and whoever else can act.

See also where Ash asks
A further question is whether the aspiration to more democracy is also definitionally characteristic of [non-Violent Revolution]—in which case, however, the argument for a link between nonviolence and liberal democracy would risk becoming circular. Could you have a velvet revolution to establish a different kind of dictatorship? Hamas and Hezbollah hardly qualify as nonviolent, although they have done well in elections, but what would emerge from, say, a “scarab revolution” led by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?
The coming days may well answer his question.

And for more on the history of velvet revolutions see here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Omitting to Tell the Truth

We all know that as a committed neo-Liberal, Matthew Yglesias cannot always tell the whole story.  Today he attacks regulations designed to protect California's coast line by quoting from an abstract:
So, the regulation both limits new housing supply and raises local housing demand because the community becomes more exclusive.
The bolding is his; the full quote:
This regulation induced buffer zone is valuable to these folks and this bids up the price of existing homes within the Coastal Boundary Zone.   So, the regulation both limits new housing supply and raises local housing demand because the community becomes more exclusive.    In addition, I do believe that this regulation also maintains the local beauty of the coast and this is also reflected in the high home prices.
Leaving aside the dangers of unregulated development on any coastline for environmental reasons. 

Which Witch is Which

The events in Egypt are giving Conservatives fits.  Jay Nordlinger over to the Corner writes
It seems that a democratic revolution is sweeping the Middle East — spurred, I am sure, by American and allied actions in Iraq. (Our chattering classes will never admit this.)
Nina Shea, on the other hand, frets because
Egyptian scholar Samuel Tadros [told her] that observers in Cairo are seeing Islamists out in full force among the protesters today for the first time since the demonstrations began. They poured out of the mosques after Friday prayers and are marching and shouting Islamist slogans.
On Fox News the confusion is so great that they cannot decide if they should hate Obama for supporting a dictator or for fostering the next Iran.

Me? I say wait and see.

When Work is Play

Many, many people ride their bikes from here to there to get to a there that isn't all that much fun, work, school, the grocery, etc.  Or rather many, many people did that. Today we learn that Bike Paths are unconstitutiunal because Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) says shut up that's why.
HUNTER: I don’t think biking should fall under the federal purview of what the Transportation Committee is there for. If a state wants to do it, or local municipality, they can do whatever they want to. But no, because then you have us mandating bike paths, which you don’t want either.
STREETSBLOG: But you’re OK with mandating highways?
HUNTER: Absolutely, yeah. Because that’s in the constitution. I don’t see riding a bike the same as driving a car or flying an airplane.
STREETSBLOG: How is it different?
HUNTER: I think it’s more of a recreational thing. That’s my opinion.
Much like the notion that marriage is reserved for procreation this is nonsense on stilts. But, in keeping with the new Tea Party Patriots constitutional conservativism, I urge all motorist using federal highways and byways for purposes of recreation, vacation, visiting mom and dad or sis, to pull of to the side of the road and wait until they have serious economic matters to attend to.

There's a Riot Goin On II

Megan McArdle emerges from hours studying Egypt through the eyes of CNN and lets us know that there is no dominate theory about why riots topple states and governments. Not to get all technical but the reason there is no dominate theory is because each case is different and consequently the success or failure of a given mass protest, riot, or other spontaneous popular uprising would have all what's to do with the concrete situation.  And, as by the way, did you know that sometimes mass popular events stopped coups d'etat?  It's true.

There's a Riot Goin On

Recently, Frances Fox Piven wrote a brief essay for "The Nation" in which she seeks an explanation for the lack of "mass protests" here in these USA by the un- and under- employed, as well as by those who everyday losing out because of  ne0-Liberal policies. Stanley Kurtz, well-known buffalohead, read this as an incendiary call for the violent overthrow of these United States, or something like that.  Glenn Beck, as is his wont, decided that this was more proof, should proof be needed, that the Left is planning a revolution, which led to some ugly rhetoric and, it seems, death threats against Piven. Barbara Ehrenreich then wrote an Op-Ed piece in which she blamed the lack of an organized response to the worsening political and economic situation on the rise of Beck's army of extremist who see criticism of a failed economic system as a form of treason.

Conor Friedersdorf weighed in by mocking Ehrenreich for worrying about Beck inspired lunatics because
[s]ay what you will about Glenn Beck, but it's odd to criticize him for lessening the grass-roots mojo of Americans: he's the guy who filled the national mall with his fans, a huge backer of Tea Party rallies all over the United States, and the inspiration for the Jon Stewart counter-rally for that matter. What a weird moment to write a long piece about how Americans aren't taking to the streets anymore.
Her concern about gun owners threatening protesters is ludicrous
Given the membership of the NRA and the profile of Tea Party demonstrators, it sure seems to me like gun owners are more likely to engage in politics in addition to buying guns, not less likely because they feel as if they've already said their piece by arming up.
I hope you get this, worrying about Beck's influence on politically active gun nuts is wrong because gun nuts who are politically active are so because of Beck's paranoid rantings.

He then insists that
What nonsense. An American street protestor today, whether on the right or left, is significantly safer from physical violence than the Civil Rights era protestors or the kids at Kent State or the San Francisco dockworkers or Salinas lettuce strikers of the Great Depression.

Along the way he opines that
[d]ecades later, it's easy to romanticize protests where American laborers took to the streets in times of economic turmoil. But as I well know from reading up on Depression-era labor strikes in California alone, those events were often driven by the desperation of people without anything resembling the safety net Americans enjoy today, and they often turned violent, sometimes due to rabble rousing protestors, other times because of overzealous riot police. Street protests themselves signal a failure of politics and policy, not a triumph.
I leave it to your judgment to discern if Ehrenreich are romanticizing earlier protests or lamenting their absence because, if nothing  else, they give un- or under- represented  groups a voice in the debate.  I will, just note in passing, that in a situation where the official unemployment rate is 9.something and throwing in the discouraged, no longer counted, and under employed gives a number considerably higher; to say nothing of continued tax breaks for the very rich, promises of further cuts to the already tattered safety net, several wars declared and other, might be taken, by someone in touch with reality, as evidence of politics and policies that have failed or are failing.

Honesty Really Not the Best Policy

The other day someone or another made a pretty funny argument about the way in which politicians use the future to enslave the present.  It is true that the promise of a better tomorrow for the children of today, or the older us of then, plays an important role in convincing all and sundry to put up with all manner of nonsense.  The key, however, is always to present the kind of future you would want to inhabit, even as it realization is put off for another week or so.  You know, better jobs, more money, less war, etc.

Today, however, in a rare burst of honesty about what his refusal to interfere with the world as it is, Matthew Yglesias pens a quick note designed to convinced those without that their future lies as the body servants of those with. To wit:

As people get richer, they eat at fancier places where service is more labor-intensive so we’ll have more sommeliers and waiters. Not only will there be more old people in the future, but the richer old people of tomorrow will be better cared-for and have more caretakers of various kinds per capita. People will go on more frequent and more ambitious vacations with all the extra commerce that implies.
I suppose standing in front of the US Congress and saying “imagine the extra stuff your family would do if it were 15 percent richer; now imagine some more people providing those services—that’s how we’ll win the future.” But sometimes the truth is a little boring.
No go out there and deregulate for the children, fully-employed sommeliers and  body servants of the future.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do I Contradict Myself?

Matthew YglesiasOn January 22th
So the era of big government wasn’t over in 1995 and it’s not over in 2010, but what is over is the era of big government liberalism. That’s not to say there will be no new changes to health care policy or to education policy or any of the rest of it. But there aren’t any major new fundamental commitments to be undertaken and there isn’t any more money to undertake it with.
 On January 25th
That’s all to say, in other words, that while there are new things I would like to see the government undertake realistically a large portion of the revenue would have to be taken out of existing commitments.
In a global context absolute poverty remains an extremely severe problem in a way that dwarfs any conceivable worry abouot inequality. But especially in the developed world, we’re not doing a good job of meeting real human needs.
So, you see, big government Liberalism is over with because everything that needs to be done has been done, except for all those other things that need to be done which we can't pay for because I won't argue for a sensible tax plan, to say nothing about the crushing inequality that needs to be dealt with through some means other than state intervention in the market place because the era of state intervention in the market place is over.

After bemoaning the role of "creative destruction on his own family, Yglesias concludes that
[i]t’s clear if you look at the past 300 years of human history that allowing this process of change to move forward leads to huge increases in average living standards. But the notion that it makes everyone better off or that market outcomes are “fair” is a lie. Hence the need for redistribution in general and, ideally, some kind of active labor market policy for people like these former auto workers.
 Add this to the list of state interventions into the economy which, while technically no longer necessary because the age of big government liberalism is well and truly over.  Consider that sort of sadist whose advice on fixing a system that periodically destroys the economic and social life of a not insignificant number of its victims is to train the victims and their children to be savaged at some point in the every nearer future.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This is Not News

Over to Balloon Juice this story is touted as a must read. All I can say is that if this is the most exciting economic story you've read in a while, you need to get out more. You could, for example, go read this. The core of the argument is that the current rampaging inequality in the US and the world more generally
underscores a bigger dilemma facing the business community. The big rise in economic inequality over the past four decades is partly the result of impersonal economic forces — technological change, mostly — but political decisions have played a crucial role as well. Financial market deregulation, tax-code changes, and all manner of other policy choices in the have promoted inequality in the U.S., as Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson demonstrated pretty convincingly in their 2010 book Winner-Take-All Politics. And similar moves were made in much of the rest of the world.
Really?  This is news?  Rich people rig the game so that rich people get to get richer? Also how is "technological change" evidence of "impersonal economic forces"?  Are we to believe that the robots built and installed themselves and then decided to move the company to China while the politicians and managers were napping? A series of decisions based on the belief that created the greatest profits for the fewest numbers which includes deciding what kind of technological developments you are going to fund and implement isn't an impersonal economic forces; it's a series of bad decisions, where bad means hurts more people than it helps.

In the same article, there is this argument from Mark Thoma
There is an equivalent of a Laffer curve for inequality, but the variable of interest is economic growth rather than tax revenue. We know that a society with perfect equality does not grow at the fastest possible rate. When everyone gets an equal share of income, people lose the incentive to try and get ahead of others. We also know that a society where one person has almost everything while everyone else struggles to survive — the most unequal distribution of income imaginable — will not grow at the fastest possible rate either. Thus, the growth-maximizing level of inequality must lie somewhere between these two extremes.
I wonder if the greatest innovations arose from a desire to increase one's wealth relative to others.  Did Harvey, for example, try and monetize his discovery of the circulation of blood.Was Darwin seeking riches when he came up with descent with modification based on fitness for a specific biological niche? Not, of course, that the might have made some money, book sales, professorships, etc, off the discovers but was the desire for more money the motivation?  Clearly, for people who discover new ways to get money are motivated by the desire for money but the world as it is right now would seem to be a pretty solid argument in favor of doing what ever we can to stop that kind of activity and, by golly, if that means we all have to share and share alike, I, for one, freely offer equal shares of my infinity of nothing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Favorite Things

There are few things I like as well as learning something new.  This post from Henry over to Crooked Timber is a model of clarity, insight, and analysis on Irish politics; I learned a lot.  Unfortunately, I can make neither heads nor tails of the comments, which assume a rather more detailed understanding of the ins and outs of Ireland's political culture than I possess. But still.

On the other hand this post on Kant, morality, and state action is less well done. 

When the Perfect Becomes the Enemy of the Good

When Voltaire wrote that I think he had this particular troika of doodlebugs in mind: Ross Douthat, Megan McArdle, and Matthew Yglesias. These three members of the pundocracy spend much of their time blathering about things of which they know nothing.  Recently, they all managed to pen posts that denigrate the idea of doing anything to meliorate the world as it presently is.

Douthat argues that
[a]fter all, what ultimately ails the world is its inherent imperfectibility — its fallen character, if you’re a Christian; its irreducible complexity and tendency toward entropy and dissolution, if you’re a strict materialist. This is true on all the great issues of the day. No matter how many lives may be saved or lost because of health care policy, no lives will be saved forever, and every gain will be an infinitely modest hedge against the wasting power of disease and death. No matter the wisdom of our politicians or the sagacity of their economic advisors, no policy course can guarantee universal wealth or permanent economic growth. And no matter the temperature of our discourse, the state of our gun laws, or the quality of our mental health care, nothing human beings do can prevent the occasional madman from shooting up a crowded parking lot.
I am not sure what he means by "strict" in his characterization of materialist, but I am, more or less, a materialist and what he said there is poppycock. It is, obviously and trivially, true that no matter what problems will remain; this doesn't mean we have to stop. From a Christian perspective there is no greater call to action than this
34 Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungered, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: 36 Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you an hungered, and fed you? or thirsty, and gave you drink? 38 When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you? 39 Or when saw we you sick, or in prison, and came to you? 40 And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.
It is also that case that, according to Christ, the world will be made perfect
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
There is the whole tradition of Christian melioration of things of the this world, like Just War theory, Peace of God, Truce of God, and the whole notion of meliorating the City of Man while the Douthatss of the world await the Son of Man to return and send the rest of us goats to the fiery pits. He is, in other words, full of it. Sure the world as it is is a tough place to love and harder place to fix; but so what?  I thought Catholics rejected a theology of despair.

McArdle reads, or claims to, the recent Atul Gawande, that I mentioned here, and concludes
But not the only reason. Even the programs that genuinely work have a lot of things going for them that a broader program won't.  They have a crack team of highly educated experts who are extremely excited about the program, and understand the ideas behind it backwards and forwards.  They work in a controlled environment, and usually have a decent amount of administrative support for their efforts.  They are time limited, which matters--people are willing to endure lots of things for a limited, known duration that they wouldn't do permanently. They are often offering bonuses for participation.

Then they get implemented in the real world, with ordinary people who don't particularly want to change the way they've always done things, don't really care about the noble ideas behind your program, and don't see any end to it.  And the effects disappear
See, it cannot work because "ordinary" people wont do the work necessary to make change a reality. Of course, the one of the points was that ordinary people with the necessary skills could and did make the various experiments work.  It is also odd, isn't it, the degree of contempt she displays toward ordinary folks.  The article made clear that there was template for success: more intervention led to lower health care costs for the most expensive patients and their health improved.  Her claim is that "ordinary" people hired to engage in similar acts, wont because, you know, "ordinary" folks are lazy asses. This from a woman who cannot add.

Matthew Yglesias, riffing off of something Jon Chait burbled, thinks that although
[w]hen Bill Clinton pronounced that “the era of big government is over” in 1995, he was clearly wrong. And since that time we’ve gotten SCHIP, Medicare started covering prescription drugs, and now we have the Affordable Care Act. So the era of big government wasn’t over in 1995 and it’s not over in 2010, but what is over is the era of big government liberalism. That’s not to say there will be no new changes to health care policy or to education policy or any of the rest of it. But there aren’t any major new fundamental commitments to be undertaken and there isn’t any more money to undertake it with. 
Future public policy has to be about ways to maximize sustainable economic growth, and ways to maximize the efficiency with which services are delivered. 
Remember that neither Chait nor Yglesias has anytime for anyone on their left and Yglesias really and sincerely believes that, despite all reality to the contrary, neo-Liberalism is the most bestest way to make the world a better place for all; primarily, the last quoted sentence suggests, because the supply of robots is unlimited. Color me shocked, a neo-Liberal looks around at a world with high unemployment, increase income and wealth disparity, increasingly deregulated economies falling into cycles of boom and bust much like the bad old days pre-Keynesian interventionism, and so on and concludes that our most pressing problem is the continued depression of workers wages and the continued process of deskilling.  If you don't believe me on the last point go and read one of his posts on education reform. Or, better yet, go read about neo-Liberalism and welfare or the way in which Yglesias, whether he knows it or not, is acting and speaking in the interests of the wealthy and powerful.

If we listen to anyone of these up-and-coming embarrassments to the all-American values of hard work, getting things done, and the gradual creation of an ever more perfect, even if it always sucks, world, we would give up. Why, one wonders, would such a "diverse" group of "thinkers" decide to try and convince everyone to stop working?

How Much Technology

It's fair to ask how much technology do I think we ought to use.  The right amount is the answer.  Technology ought to improve working condition without endangering jobs because, after all, the purpose of society is to provide the greatest good for the greatest number not the most money to the fewest doodlebugs.

So, for example, I once worked in bulk mail.  When I started we had these truly awful machines that used printer paper with the holes punched in the sides and a guillotine to cut the paper into rows and then a knife to cut the rows into individual labels which then had to have glue stuck on the back of them which then were glued on to the envelope, catalog, or what have you and then went to a conveyor belt where somebody scanned the labels and organized the letters into stacks of at least 10, I think it was, mailing by full zip, first three, or state as they whizzed along. Then the letters got tied into a bundle and thrown into a filthy mail bag. It was a crap job.  The glue didn't work or the machine would jam and eat up a bunch of labels or you buried trying to sort, although some folks were really good at it.  At some point they brought in inkjet machines that sprayed the label on the mailing and organized the mail by full, three, and state by stopping between the correct number of pieces so that on the conveyor belt a gap appeared.  Productivity went up, the job got a lot easier, no one was fired, in fact, they created two new position because of the need to format the mailing lists on the computer.

This is bad technological innovation:

Why?  Because at some point the greater efficiency and lower costs will led to all robot warehouses and, given the crappy job creating skills of the unfettered market, no jobs for the humans displaced by the robots.  Now, obviously, getting rid of all the people is a fine idea if you cannot think past the end of your nose.

Books and Their Titles.

From nearly everyone on the Intertubes  and its related webs, a new web page that offers titles that negate the need to read:

Monday, January 24, 2011

China, Investing, and Anthony Trollope

Your assignment is to go read Trollope's The Way We Live Now, here in kindle for 89 pennies, then go read Surowieki on the coming China bubble and practice saying no one could of known.

Honesty Not Always the Best Policy

The other day, I argued that honesty was not the best policy for neo-Liberals like Matthew Yglesias because reality disproves their ideological commitment to freer markets, fewer unions, and it gets in the way of their war on humanity. For decades, the doodlebug contingent have provided cover for a managerial class determined to destroy unions, the economy, and the environment in search of a short term financial gain for an ever decreasing percentage of the world's population by insisting that if we all just deregulate harder the magical fairy dust of unfetter market capitalism will shower us all golden unicorns.  This hasn't happened and, not only does it continue not happening everyday, it isn't happening with increased violence against the vast majority of the world's population

Recently, Yglesias made the mistake of making the point that workers jobs are only safe to the extent that workers are willing to work for less than robots. It would be nice if recognizing this Yglesias decided to weigh in on the advantages of increasing the number and kind of people making decisions on automation to include those whose livelihoods, as opposed to profit margins, were directly involved. Instead,  he argues
I’m not sure exactly why that is, but I guess there’s a perception that this kind of “caring” work is less manly than working in a factory. But the various forms of nurse (or advanced nurse) and physician assistant type jobs out there are precisely the type of middle class work for which there’s certain to be growing demand in aging, increasingly wealthy societies. Someday probably someone will come up with a way to build robot nurses, but that seems a ways off at this point.
What's wrong with his picture? Leaving aside the his refusal to think through the effects on wages of increased competition for jobs, or the already strained educational/vocational systems leading to these kinds of jobs, he ignores his eager and endless support for an economic system that pits workers against robots in the search for their daily bread, there are already robot medical assistants and more every day. Indeed, in a move guaranteed to warm the cockles of Glenn Reynolds heart, there are now sex robots for brothel owners looking to cut their labor costs. Keep in mind as well that folks like Rhee and Yglesias see semi-robotic teachers in our future.

I find it hard to believe that even a dim bulb cannot be swayed by the light he casts on the errors, misery, and commitment to emiseration inherent to his preferred economic system.

P.S. He wants union organizers to be more like the NRA, seriously.  I mention this because I cannot go back there today.