Apr 22

297 words explaining Econonomics as immoral pseudo-science

And remember, Eugenics used to be respectable as was Galen’s anatomy.  Nobel Prize winning economist Thomas Sargent provides the following list of economics principles, lauded by Vox as deeply insightful

1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.

On the surface, this is a tired truism that one tries to teach toddlers. Underneath it’s economics default position - a defense of the status quo.

2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.

See 1.

3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts,
and their preferences than you do.

Hilarious after (1) and (2), but, again, the surface meaning is misdirection. After all, if we took this at face value, we’d give up college tests (evaluate your own abilities, students), employer evaluations, marketing, and market research. Think about how many people knew they wanted a smartphone before someone went out and made one. What he really means is something a lot more ideological. He means that Democratic government cannot shape the economy for the general prosperity. And that’s false.

4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That
is why social safety nets don’t always end up working as intended.

What he means here is that poor people won’t work if you feed them. This is neither true nor a finding of research, it’s the timeless excuse of the well fed hack for the privileges of his masters.

5. There are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency.

This is just baldly false otherwise the most “efficient” economy would consist of one King and his slaves. 

6. In an equilibrium of a game or an economy, people are satisfied with their choices. That is why it is difficult for well meaning outsiders to change
things for better or worse.

Equilibrium is one of the most pernicious concepts of economics. Basically it means, shut up and be happy with the crumbs, sucker, because this is how it is.  Certainly industrial economies have never been in equilibrium.

7. In the future, you too will respond to incentives. That is why there are
some promises that you’d like to make but can’t. No one will believe those
promises because they know that later it will not be in your interest to
deliver. The lesson here is this: before you make a promise, think about
whether you will want to keep it if and when your circumstances change.
This is how you earn a reputation.

Economics encourages you to forget about stupid shit like honor and just grab what you can, unless you are poor, in which case, see (6).

8. Governments and voters respond to incentives too. That is why governments sometimes default on loans and other promises that they have made.

Surface meaning: people sometimes don’t tell the truth. Actual meaning: you can’t rely on government programs like Social Security, so we should kill them.

9. It is feasible for one generation to shift costs to subsequent ones. That is
what national government debts and the U.S. social security system do
(but not the social security system of Singapore).

This is just false. The social security system increases the national wealth, reducing the burden on subsequent generations.

10. When a government spends, its citizens eventually pay, either today or
tomorrow, either through explicit taxes or implicit ones like inflation.

This is the empirically false common Econ axiom that government spending cannot create wealth. For example, all that spending the US government did on creating and building out the Internet will have to be paid paid later by citizens of the imaginary Economics world where government spending cannot grow the economy. Here in the actual world, government spending on the Internet paid massive dividends.

11. Most people want other people to pay for public goods and government
transfers (especially transfers to themselves).

For example, rich people don’t want to pay for public order and social functioning that permits them to earn wealth.  Oh wait, that’s not what he means.

12. Because market prices aggregate traders’ information, it is difficult to forecast stock prices and interest rates and exchange rates.

The hidden premise here is that stock prices, interest rates, and exchange rates depend on aggregate traders information. Because, for example, the central banks can’t push interest rates up or down, even though they do.

The best statement was the first:

Economics is organized common sense.

No. Economics is a pseudo-scientific ideology designed to preserve the short term advantages of the privileged and justify selfish  blindly immoral behavior even if the cost is the destruction of the world. 

Apr 19

Good faith liberalism

Paul Ryan: ““Your buddy Charles Murray or Bob Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on this. Which is, we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities in particular of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working and learning the value and culture of work. “So, there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

1. Is Charles Murray is a racist who makes up statistics to support his racist doctrine. Is this debatable?

2. Bob Putnam. Let’s come back to Bob Putnam

3. Inner cities. There is a higher rural poverty rate than metropolitan rate. And suburbs have the fastest growing rate of poverty.

4. “not even thinking about working and learning the value and culture of work” - real social scientists who have studied inner city joblessness have documented that there are no jobs and that paucity of employment, and the increased percentage of jobs that pay at or below poverty rate are the operative factors, not any cultural issues that anyone has been able to document.

5. This is what Bob Putnam says: But the story of Port Clinton over the last half-century — like the history of America over these decades — is not simply about the collapse of the working class but also about the birth of a new upper class. In the last two decades, just as the traditional economy of Port Clinton was collapsing, wealthy professionals from major cities in the Midwest have flocked to Port Clinton, building elaborate mansions in gated communities along Lake Erie and filling lagoons with their yachts. By 2011, the child poverty rate along the shore in upscale Catawba was only 1 percent, a fraction of the 51 percent rate only a few hundred yards inland. As the once thriving middle class disappeared, adjacent real estate listings in the Port Clinton News Herald advertised near-million-dollar mansions and dilapidated double-wides.

So, taking Ryan’s remarks at face value, we have a false claim that poverty is a problem of inner city culture not valuing work which he supports by citing a racist fraud and a social scientist who doesn’t say anything of the sort. In other words, it is gibberish. But then we ask, what will Bennett’s audience make of this? Will they scratch their heads and try to figure out how to interpret Ryan’s remarks in light of the research of sociologists and economists, compare Putnam’s work to Teitz’s summary or will they, as a great deal of research indicates, take this reference to “inner cities” and to America’s best known pseudo-scientist ( a frequent guest on Bennett’s show) as confirmation of their racial biases? Are we done yet? Can we stop pretending that Ryan has a sensible position and identify his use of racist code words for what they are?

Apr 13

The gullible nature of Conservative and Mainstream Liberal Foreign Policy

The United States has become almost entirely dependent on the the good will  and stability of the Chinese Communist Party for manufacture of computer boards and many types of electronic components. Much of what manufacturing is not yet in mainland China is in Taiwan.  And it’s not just the components that are made in China, the machines to manufacture the components are more and more made in China (including ones with US or Japanese company names on them).  And yet, the “free trade” economics ideology that dominates US economic decision making is based on the assumption that nothing can go wrong. The Chinese government would never interfere in deliveries for political reasons, disorder or rebellion or even environmental collapse in China is impossible, the rock bottom  shipping costs based on cheap diesel (and foreign flag shipping) are ordained by fate or something. And many of the same people who demand massive levels of military spending for new equipment (that relies on Chinese made components) consider the idea of government industrial policy to preserve and grow US high tech manufacturing “socialism” or worse.

Any critique of this head-in-the-sand attitude it met with the usual false dichotomy argument. One can favor international trade (as I do) and still want to preserve US manufacturing capabilities.One doesn’t even have to consider China a particularly hostile country to consider the condition of dependency to be unstable.

Few of the people who are now raising the alarm over Vlad Putin’s new army were interested when some of us environmentalist wackos warned that sending billions and billions of Euros to Russia to pay for oil and gas was perhaps not so prudent. Well, Vlad has been busy spending that money modernizing the Russian Army. The continued Western tidal wave of money sent to the terrorist financing theocrats in Saudi Arabia and Sudan doesn’t seem to bother the “serious”  Foreign Policy thinkers. The proliferation of off shore banking and “free movement of capital” that our Doctrinaire Economists find so wonderful is a gift to terrorists, pirates, drug dealers, and tax avoiders but hardly anyone concerned with security seems, concerned.

Here’s the bottom line: trade is political too, just like everything else. This was true back when US oil companies and scrap dealers were helping Imperial Japan test out its new airforce in Manchuria, when the Koch Brothers dad was selling oil technology Stalin, and when Germany and the UK fund Putin’s military because “the free market” has decreed Russian gas to be cheap.