Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Update on June 30th...

Deana and I had a great time at Henry Young Professionals wine tasting...

We sat with a great couple one of whom is volunteering on the Ray McBerry campaign for Governor!

One of the nice thing about politics is that no matter all the differences on policy, and despite all the invective that gets thrown around in the heat of the moment (and cognitive framing of said policy differences) people are people; and good company, with a good glass of wine is one of the little priviliges of life.

Last push to...  $885!  Yay for co-worker...

446.02 in expenditures

438.98 on hand...

Just filed.  I'm tired. Night...

by the by... the 2006 Sycamore Lane Merlot was my pick of the night.  medium bodied... wonderful!



Posted via web from Jim Nichols

@JimN2010... What next...

Some people have been asking me what the next steps are in the campaign.
This month we will be continuing the transition into a full-fledged campaign. 
The plans include
  • The website going live
  • Filling two internships for the campaign
  • fundraising, fundraising, fundraising (9 out of 10 races are won by the candidate with the most money)
To continue with the Jim in 2010 message of New Ideas, New Energy, and a New Generation of Leadership we will be introducing another New Idea in the next week or so.
Also, as a number of you have requested, I will be setting up the online contribution capabilities for those who want to use a credit card.
I want to thank my team for all the work they've done so far, keep up the great work!!!  Remember, we have 489 days till election day.  There is a lot of work ahead of us so I ask my supporters to please roll up your sleeves and join us on the campaign trail!  Bring your skills sets and we will put them to good use in some form or fashion.  There is always work to be done...

Posted via email from Jim Nichols

The not quite a press release press release....

Will skip the perfunctory format of the press release--and as I still haven't set up my professional site I'll just release on my personal blog instead--i'm going to be hit for being a blogger anyways (rant's and screeds, bad editing---Oh my!).  Not to mention its a running theme.
I pulled an all nighter working (mostly) on my ethics paper.  Its nice to know that the life of a university student is, well the life of a university student--even when you're 28 and have to got load trucks at 4am.  Dad I wish I had heeded your advice when I was 22!
So then I head to GA State for class.
I get home.  File.  Have dinner. Sleep.  Alarm clock 2am.  Then play more catch up with school.
So I have time to do a press release, all nicely formatted... around Sat? Maybe?
Look.  Nobody is going to pay attention to the blogger running for state house. Speaking of which is anyone else in this state openly running yet?  See thats part of the problem with our political process.
Okay I’ll have brought in $835. Its more than Rudy Cox’s State Senate Campaign here in Henry brought in for the entire race. But lets face it 9 out of 10 races are won by the campaign that brings in the most money.
I'm sure some Dem's were waiting to see how I'd do.  I better get cracking if I plan on playing solitaire--with a deck full of Steve Davis votes to work with.
The trucks won't load themselves so here is your morning quotes as well.
We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.  Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)
Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.  Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826), Notes on the State of Virginia

Posted via email from Jim Nichols

Monday, June 29, 2009

If it wasn't having an influence...

why would she even bring it up?

I always chuckle when local conservatives call the likes of Feinstein "Left-wing."  They've obviously never been to calfironia and talked to voters who live and work there...


Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Public Option brings competition... where there isn't enough...

Health-Care Market Characterized By Consolidation, Not Competition

As Congress gets set to take up health-care reform, there's a crucial piece of data that hasn't received nearly the prominence in the debate that it deserves.

Defenders of the status quo on health care like to point out that a public option will destroy the system of robust free-market competition that currently exists.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), speaking earlier this month on Fox News, called President Obama's plan the "first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known." A public option, Shelby added, would "destroy the marketplace for health care."

But the notion that most American consumers enjoy anything like a competitive marketplace for health care is flatly false. And a study issued last month by a pro-reform group makes that strikingly clear.

The report, released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country's insurance markets are defined as "highly concentrated," according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that's led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.

Far from healthy market competition, HCAN describes the situation as "a market failure where a small number of large companies use their concentrated power to control premium levels, benefit packages, and provider payments in the markets they dominate."

So extreme is the level of consolidation, in fact, that one former top Federal Trade Commission official working with HCAN has sent a letter to the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, asking for an investigation into the health insurance marketplace.

The problem is most acute in small rural states, according to the report. In Shelby's own state of Alabama, the biggest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, controls 83 percent of the statewide market. There, and in nine other states -- Hawaii, Rhode Island, Alaska, Vermont, Maine, Montana, Wyoming, Arkansas and Iowa -- the two largest health insurers control at least 80 percent of the market. So much for Shelby's "marketplace for health care."

The report doesn't consider how this reality stands to affect the forthcoming congressional battle for reform. But extreme consolidation may actually be making it harder, not easier, to win support from lawmakers for a public option.

That's because insurers who control large swathes of a given market stand to see their bottom lines particularly threatened by the introduction of a lower-cost public option. So, in turn, they'll be particularly aggressive in pulling out all the stops to pressure lawmakers to oppose the plan. Given the healthy amount of campaign dollars that some wavering members take in from the major insurers, that's hardly encouraging.

Of course, the Senate is where the major legislative showdown will likely occur. So in some forthcoming posts, we'll be taking a close look at just which senators have taken money from insurers who control major percentages of the state-wide market -- and where those senators stand on the public option. Stay tuned...

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Old Media may downsize... but New Media?


TPM Hiring 7 New Editorial Staffers

As I mentioned on Friday, TPM is doubling the size of its editorial staff.

Today we are announcing seven new job openings -- three in Washington, DC and four at our main office in New York City. Four of the seven are reporting jobs; the rest are a mix of writing, editing and production positions.

For job descriptions and instructions for applying see our job announcements page here.

--Josh Marshall

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Creative nonfiction in the digital age...


There has been a lot of talk about how the Internet has changed political campaigns in this election cycle, about how the candidates have raised piles of money through online donations and used e-mail and Web sites to communicate with their supporters. But less has been said about how the Internet has changed political journalism—in particular, citizen journalism, a growing genre akin to creative nonfiction. These days, anyone with a blog can publish news and opinions on the campaigns and potentially influence the race.

The last time campaign writing had this much punch was probably in 1972, when Hunter S. Thompson covered the Nixon-McGovern race in a drug-addled haze for Rolling Stone. Thompson's manic tone accurately captured the chaos of politics in a way that cautious, just-the-facts-ma'am reporting could not. Thompson was also unapologetically partisan—at once contemptuous of politics and in favor, against his better judgment, of McGovern, who went on to lose spectacularly in November.

At the time, there was not a word for the kind of writing Thompson did, rooted in real events but propelled by stream-of-consciousness prose. An editor called it "gonzo journalism," which had the advantage of suggesting there was also something slightly unhinged about the author. Thompson, of course, embraced the term.

The other groundbreaking work in campaign reporting is probably Richard Ben Cramer's What It Takes: The Road to the White House (Random House, 1992), a book—roughly the size of a cement block—that probes the psyches of six presidential candidates in 1988 (Republicans Bob Dole and George H. W. Bush and Democrats Gary Hart, Joseph Biden, Richard Gephardt, and Michael Dukakis). The book feels more like a novel than a newspaper, and it gets at the complexities and nuances of campaigns that straight-up reporting can't reach.

Nevertheless, both Thompson and Cramer were trained reporters, and their work was published long after the events they were recounting had passed—in Cramer's case, a full four years after the election he was covering. Citizen journalism is characterized by the nonprofessional status of its practitioners and the speed at which they publish. Thanks to bloggers, videographers, and anyone with a digital camera, cell phone, or recorder, campaign events play out in almost real time on the Internet. One effect of this immediacy is that citizen journalists are able to not only comment on the race, but influence it.

In April, a fellow citizen journalist, writing for the Huffington Post, commented on Barack Obama's mentioning that some midwestern voters were "bitter" and clung to "guns and religion." The quote was picked up by the mainstream media, and within seventy-two hours both Hillary Clinton's and Obama's campaigns had invested many hours (and many thousands of dollars) in responding to it. The media's response to the words helped portray Obama as elitist and may have affected his performance among voters.

In this case, the Internet allowed a one-off remark to be broadcast over and over, like a bullet shot into an echo chamber, but citizen journalism allowed it to be heard in the first place. The author of the Huffington Post entry attended the private event where the candidate was speaking, not as an official member of the press, nor as a strictly loyal supporter, but as a fan of Obama who wrote about the campaigns for a popular political Web site. In this capacity, she was bound by journalistic ethics to tell the truth of what she heard, but free as a citizen to write about the event however she saw fit. Her blog entry is a gem of an essay, including a reflection on her father and an excerpt from a poem. Like Thompson and Cramer, the citizen journalist not only gives readers information, but helps them see it through the writer's eyes.

Creative nonfiction writers may find citizen journalism an extension of the craft they already practice, but for the public, it may take some getting used to. For one thing, citizen journalism doesn't fit into a category familiar to most readers. News writing is expected to at least aim for objectivity; satire and opinions are reserved for the op-ed page; dialogue, figurative language, and ruminations are relegated to creative writing. Citizen journalism often blends these forms.

At worst, this combination can undermine readers' confidence in the authority of what they are reading and can infuriate journalists who rightly fear their profession is being threatened by people untrained in the conventions of the craft. (To add insult to injury, citizen journalists, by definition, work for free. In a business that already has more supply than demand, journalists must now convince publications to buy the cow when the milk can be got for free.)

At best, citizen journalism not only expands the genre of creative nonfiction, but opens up publishing, making it more diverse, more democratic, more critical, more insightful, more entertaining, and—God help me—more American. On the campaign trail this year, I've encountered high school students blogging about education and foreign policy; a retired TV producer who volunteers his time and equipment to film supporters' stories; a group of recent college grads who are reporting on the race in order to educate their peers about the political process; a graduate student publishing ethnographic research on the Iowa caucuses; self-appointed researchers who comb through Federal Election Commission data to find specious entries in the candidates' financial records; and countless individuals who write thoughtful, poignant pieces about what they observe in the campaigns and how it fits with their own feelings, history, and expertise. All together, the nontraditional campaign coverage this year feels like a Walt Whitman poem come to life, coupled with a healthy dose of free-market capitalism—each writer has to develop her own following based on the appeal of her voice and the reader's confidence in her information.

As a Jeffersonian, I'm delighted by the plurality of voices this year and by how creative and sharp many of them are. But as a writer, I have to admit I'm dying a little bit inside.

Until this year, a dedicated creative nonfiction writer dabbling in journalism could pretty well stay undercover, standing anonymously in line for a campaign rally and then going home to scribble down everything she'd glimpsed and overheard. In a few days or weeks, she could develop her thoughts into a longer piece and hopefully get published by an independent magazine, where those thoughts would have virtually no influence at all. But thanks to the Internet, everyone else in line is a potential writer too, and the pressure to get one's ideas out when the news cycle is still fresh is intense.

The new visibility of citizen journalism also means the candidates are now on alert that anyone, anywhere, at any time may be chronicling their words and body language, and everything is fair game for broadcast.

After my fellow citizen journalist broke the story on Obama's "bitter" statement, an Obama campaign spokesperson acknowledged that there's "an expectation now—even at private events—that everything will be recorded and posted." This means that we, as writers, are losing the unguarded moments that make for the best and most revealing stories, and we as a public will lose our last best hope at getting a glimpse of the candidates as they really are.

Kelly Nuxoll has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University. She is a citizen journalist for the Huffington Post.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Sunday, June 28, 2009

links around the world...

World economic storm hits Uganda safari tourism

Zuma takes the oath

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Anarchy, State, and Utopia --Nozick on Locke

Nozick on Locke’s Theory of Acquisition, the Lockean Proviso, and Collective Assets

[Readings come from Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Part II, Sections I & II]

Locke’s Theory of Acquisition

Nozick’s goal in this section of AS&U is to, in his words, “introduce an additional bit of complexity into the structure of the entitlement theory.” To do this, he uses as a starting point Locke’s approach to justice in property acquisition—namely, that ownership of an object originates in one’s mixing of labor with that object. Nozick then proceeds to ask the standard gamut of questions calling attention to some difficulties in Locke’s theory of acquisition, like whether dumping a can of tomato juice in the ocean constitutes “mixing one’s labor” with the ocean. Essentially, the questions seek the strict boundary between what constitutes a mixing of labor sufficient for just acquisition and what does not. Under the Lockean notion of acquisition, it seems that one naïve interpretation would say that improving upon an object entails full ownership of the object. Of course, as Nozick points out, if the stock of improvable unowned objects is limited, this view is unfeasible. He uses the appropriation of a grain of sand as an example of one’s appropriation removing another’s liberty (as Hohfeld uses the word) to act on a previously unowned object, but intuitively suggests that this particular removal is not problematic. The central concern, he says, “is whether appropriation of an unowned object worsens the situation of others.”


Here, Nozick introduces a principle aimed at addressing that notion, which he terms “Locke’s proviso”: that an appropriation must leave ‘enough and as good left in common for others.’ One version of the proviso, if applied consistently, would make all past appropriations disallowed under Locke’s proviso once a single person’s situation were worsened by an appropriation. Nozick interjects that this argument actually depends on how stringently the proviso is interpreted. Further, he asks whether persons in a world where there are no more “accessible and useful unowned” objects are indeed worsened, citing numerous empirical considerations favoring private property vis-à-vis its satisfaction of the proviso. The difficulty of the argument, however, lies in answering the question “Lockean appropriation makes people no worse off than they would be how?” Nozick says answering this question lies beyond the scope of his work; he suggests that discovering the baseline could begin by estimating the general economic importance of original appropriation (say, by the percentage of income based on natural resources rather than human action). He closes with a note that these questions not only must be faced by advocates of private property; all theories of property (like collective property) must still, too, provide a theory of property rights legitimately originate.

The Proviso

Nozick starts off by assuming that any reasonable theory of justice must have some sort of proviso similar to a weak version of Locke’s. In short, if the position of others no longer at liberty to use an appropriated thing is worsened, a permanent bequeathable right to that thing can not be conferred by any valid process. The emphasis on the mode of worsening is important here, as the proviso does not encompass other modes of worsening, like worsening due to more limited opportunities to appropriate or “worsening” of one seller by another due to an appropriation leading to more market competition. Nozick also suggests that compensation of the appropriator to those whom he is worsening can satisfy the proviso.

Nozick then shifts the focus to justice in transfer, asserting that any theory of just acquisition must account for justice in transfer. Quite centrally, he posits, “If my appropriating all of a certain substance violates the Lockean proviso, then so does my appropriating some and purchasing all the rest from others who obtained it without otherwise violating the Lockean proviso.” Unlike the earlier argument in which the original appropriation violated the proviso as well as the appropriation which actually left a person worse off, it is only the combination of the original appropriation and the later transfers that is sufficient to violate the Lockean proviso.

Next, Nozick argues that one’s title to his holding includes the “historical shadow” of the proviso; namely, the title-holder may not transfer it into an agglomeration that violates the proviso, nor may he use it in a way that violates the proviso by making others worse than their baseline situation. Thus, one may not only not appropriate the only water hole in a desert and charge what he pleases, but he also may not charge what he pleases if it just so happens that circumstance destroys all other watering holes. Nozick briefly deviates for a moment to clarify that the owners’ rights are not eliminated in these cases, but simply “overridden to avoid some catastrophe” (not, however, in some ad hoc way, but internal to the given theory of property).

Delving into further exposition, Nozick asserts that someone owning the entire supply of something necessary for others to remain living does not always mean that appropriations leading up to this ownership left some people in a situation worse than the baseline. In service of this assertion, he cites the case of a medical researcher who finds an effective treatment for a disease but refuses to sell it except on his own terms; the researcher does not violate the proviso because he did not appropriate the chemical materials he used in a way that, through causing scarcity, violated the Lockean proviso. Ultimately, this demonstrates that the Lockean proviso is not an “end-state principle”; the structure of the situation that results is not relevant, but the nature of the actions taken to reach that result is. Following this, Nozick puts forward his belief that a free market system would not actually come into conflict with the Lockean proviso, making the “empirical historical” claim that people’s concern for the possibility of the proviso’s violation above other possibilities is only due to the effects of previous illegitimate state action, ending his exploration of the “complication in the entitlement theory introduced by the Lockean proviso.”

Nozick then moves on to address what he earlier labeled “the negative argument”: “the use of the claim that people don’t deserve their natural assets to rebut a possible counterargument to Rawls’ view. He has us consider the following counterargument to Rawls (“E”):

1. People deserve their natural assets.

2. If people deserve X, they deserve any Y that flows from X.

3. People’s holdings flow from their natural assets.


4. People deserve their holdings.

5. If people deserve something, then they ought to have it (and this overrides any presumption of equality there may be about that thing.)

Because Rawls would rebut this counterargument by denying the first premise, the connection between natural assets being morally arbitrary and the statement that distributive shares should not depend on natural assets is clearer. Here, Nozick attempts to show that the concept of “desert” needn’t be present in an argument of this sort for it to properly follow. He starts with a new counterargument, “F”:

1. If people have X, and their having X (whether or not they deserve to have it) does not violate anyone else’s (Lockean) right or entitlement to X, and Y flows from (arises out of, and so on) X by a process that does not itself violate anyone’s (Lockean) rights or entitlements, Then the person is entitled to Y.

2. People’s having the natural assets they do does not violate anyone else’s (Lockean) entitlements or rights.

The argument would then proceed to argue that people are entitled to the fruits of their labor and to what others voluntarily give or exchange with them. Nozick, quite succinctly, phrases his objection to holding equivalence between desert and entitlement:

It is not true, for example, that a person earns Y (a right to keep a painting he’s made, praise for writing a theory of Justice, and so on) only if he’s earned (or otherwise deserves) whatever he used (including natural assets) in the process of earning Y. Some of the things he uses he just may have, not illegitimately. It needn’t be that the foundations underlying desert are themselves deserved, all the way down.

Thus, since people can be described as entitled to their natural assets even if they can not be labeled as deserving of them, then an argument parallel to argument E with ‘are entitled to’ replacing ‘deserve’ throughout will be valid. Returning more explicitly to Rawls, Nozick then implies that Rawls’ argument is in a bind. Recognizing people’s entitlements to their natural assets could be necessary to avoid a strict application of the difference principle that would entail even stronger property rights than wealth-redistributive theories usually yield. Nozick cites Rawls’ counterargument that he avoids this dilemma, “because people in [Rawls'] original position rank the principle of liberty as lexicographically prior to the difference principle, applied not only to economic well-being but to health, length of life, and so on.” One of Nozick’s footnotes calls our attention to the discussion of collective assets later to further this objection.

Continuing, Nozick professes his inability to find a cogent argument to help support that variations in holdings caused by variations in natural assets ought to be eliminated or minimized. He connects the idea of the “moral arbitrariness” of natural assets to Rawls’ construction of the original position by pointing out that there must be an argument to “shape” the original position to exclude natural assets from the participants’ knowledge (i.e. there must be a justification for the veil of ignorance). Nozick argues that if a particular feature being arbitrary from a moral point of view is sufficient to fall under the veil of ignorance, then those behind the veil of ignorance should know nothing about themselves, because each of their features (like rationality, the ability to make choices, having a life span of more than three days, having a memory, ability to communicate) will be based on morally arbitrary facts (that the sperm and ovum that made them were genetically composed in a particular manner). However, Rawls’ construction of the original position has persons know some of these things.

At this point, Nozick stops to qualify his argument. He calls our attention to an ambiguity in the statement that “a fact is arbitrary from a moral point of view”: in one sense, it could mean that there is no moral reason why a fact ought to be; in another, it could mean that a fact is of no moral significance and has no moral consequences. Nozick states that rationality is not morally arbitrary in the second sense. Nonetheless, if rationality escapes exclusion for this reason, it now has a “partner in guilt”—natural assets—which must also escape exclusion for that reason. Thus, an entitlement theory similar to Rawls’ that holds that entitlements arise from or are at least dependent on such facts is called into question.

“Collective Assets”

Later in the book, Nozick aims to tackle Rawls’ seeming notion of “collective assets,” specifically referring to the idea that “everyone has some entitlement or claim on the totality of natural assets (viewed as a pool), with no one having differential claims.” He argues that a theory separating men from their talents, assets, abilities, and so on can only be adequate if one “presses very hard on the distinction between men [and those things],” noting that whether any conception of a coherent person remains when this distinction is made is an open question. Further, he states that talents and abilities are an asset to a free community, and are not part of a constant sum game, then asking whether extraction of more benefit is what justifies treating natural assets as a collective resources, leaving open the question of what justifies the extraction.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Anaximander and Heraclitus

Anderson Brown:

Starting off my course in Ancient Greek Philosophy I am very much enjoying Beginning With the Pre-Socratics by Merrill Ring, a brisk little book that moves quickly into serious philosophical issues and sticks there, very nice discussion of Parmenides for example. (I've also drug out my old buddy The Presocratic Philosophers by Kirk and Raven, always a treat, and On Reserve for the students are Irwin's Classical Philosophy and Kenny's Ancient Philosophy, both thematically arranged instead of the usual chronological treatment of the ancients.)

Anyway, I noticed from Merrill Ring's book a nice connection between the Milesian Anaximander and Heraclitus that I probably should have noticed long ago but hey. Runs like this: the basic problem is to explain why change occurs, or why action in general occurs. To say, "Because there is energy coursing through the world" is to express a type of theory, it turns out to be a good one so far as it goes, but the Ionians were approaching the question of energy at a more basic level. "What generates and organizes this energy?" Anaximander's idea was that there were sets of opposite qualities (dry/wet, cold/hot) that generated change as they struggled with each other. The tension between the opposites is the source of the energy. If these qualities were essentially linked with physical elements - (dry:earth/wet:water), (cold:air/hot:fire) - then maybe we could generate a systematic explanation of change. Our one existing fragment of Anaximander reads, "Existing things perish into those things out of which they have come to be, as must be; for they pay reparation to each other for their injustice according to the ordenance of truth."

Or as Heraclitus says, "Things taken together are whole and are not whole, something which is being brought together and brought apart, which is in tune and out of tune; out of all things there comes a unity, and out of a unity all things." Specifically one of Heraclitus's doctrines is the unity of opposites: "And as the same thing there exists in us living and dead and the waking and the sleeping and young and old;: for these things having changed round are those, and those having changed round are these" (trans. from Kirk and Raven). So the treatment of "opposites" in Anaximander and Heraclitus is the same: they are the right concepts to use to understand the energy that is causing change. Furthermore, both Ionians are trying to practice "physis," that is to discover basic principles of material interactions. Noticing the connection to Anaximander makes Heraclitus look more materialistic: the unity of opposites is an attempt to develop a dynamic model of nature rather than a static one.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

"Explaining Theoretical Disagreement"

Brian Leiter:

I have posted a draft of the main paper I've been working on this summer here.  Here is the abstract:

Shapiro (2007) has recently argued that Dworkin posed a new objection to legal positivism in Law's Empire, to which positivists, he says, have not adequately responded. Positivists, the objection goes, have no satisfactory account of what Dworkin calls ???theoretical disagreement??? about law, that is, disagreement about ???the grounds of law??? or what positivists would call the criteria of legal validity. I agree with Shapiro that the critique is new, and disagree that it has not been met. Positivism can not offer an explanation that preserves the ???face value??? of theoretical disagreements, because the only intelligible dispute about the criteria of legal validity is an empirical or ???head count??? dispute, i.e., a dispute about what judges are doing, and how many of them are doing it (since it is the actual practice of officials and their attitudes towards that practice that fixes the criteria of legal validity according to the positivist).

Positivism, however, has two other explanations for theoretical disagreement, which ???explain away??? rather than preserve the ???face value??? disagreement. According to positivists, either theoretical disagreements are disingenuous, in the sense that the parties, consciously or unconsciously, are really trying to change the law, that is, they are trying to say, as Dworkin puts it, ???what it should be??? not ???what the law is???; or they are simply in error, that is, they honestly think there is a fact of the matter about what the grounds of law are, and thus what the law is, in the context of their disagreement, but they are mistaken, because, in truth, there is no fact of the matter about the grounds of law in this instance precisely because there is no convergent practice of behavior among officials constituting a Rule of Recognition on this point. The ???Disingenuity??? and ???Error Theory??? accounts of theoretical disagreement are explored, with attention to the theoretical desiderata (e.g., simplicity, consilience, methodological conservativism) at stake in choosing between competing explanatory theories. Particular attention is given to the best explanation for Riggs v. Palmer in light of the actual historical context of the decision and other opinions by the Riggs judges in contemporaneous cases.

I'll be presenting this at the ANU later this month, and hope to prepare a revised version thereafter.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Benjamin Brittan's War Requiem...

I used to hate the opening of it...
now I love it.
Go figure.

Posted via email from Jim Nichols

Who Benefits From Women’s Progress?


Casey B. Mulligan

Over the last couple of decades, professional achievements and pay have grown substantially for women — especially for married women — although they have not yet fully caught up with men. A recent study of happiness by gender suggests that men may have shared a significant amount of the gains from progress made by women.

Often it is assumed that economic gains by women create benefits for women (and perhaps their children), but losses for men. Economic theory does not support this assumption, because the job market is not a zero-sum game. Employment gains for one group can create benefits for others as these gains create additional opportunities to exploit the efficiencies of the division of labor.

Perhaps more salient in this recession is how job market gains by married women can ease some of the financial hardship from job losses by their husbands. Employed husbands also gain when their spouses are successful, in part because of the significant incomes brought home by their wives.

On Monday, the National Bureau of Economic Research released a study of happiness by Professors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers of the University of Pennsylvania. Using a variety of measures for the United States and the European Union, they found women and men to be equally happy in recent years — decades after much of the economic progress for women had occurred.

If Professors Stevenson and Wolfers had found that men were happier than women in the 1970s — before much of women’s economic progress had occurred — the zero-sum theory of the job market would have some support. In other words, such a finding would say that women were relatively unhappy when their economic outcomes lagged behind men’s, and that their happiness caught up as their economic outcomes started to catch up.

However, they found the opposite — that women were happier than men in the 1970s.

Happiness measures are notoriously difficult for economists to interpret because happiness is measured subjectively — as answers to questions like, “How satisfied are you with your life today?” Thus, one interpretation of this study is that happiness is measured in a way that is poorly suited to comparisons with economic outcomes, so that no conclusion should be drawn from such comparisons. On the other hand, some previous studies have found happiness to be correlated with income, health and other objective outcomes (although admittedly other studies dispute some of the correlations).

Professors Stevenson and Wolfers do not know why men and women have different happiness trends, but raise the question, “Did men garner a disproportionate share of the benefits of the women’s movement?”

Given that men and women often live and work together, the answer to their question may be yes.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

The Cost of Fat

David Leonhardt

While reporting my column today on soda and obesity, I asked the economists at the Rand Corporation to estimate how much money obesity costs the federal government. They imagined that the American population was no more overweight than it had been in the 1980s and then analyzed how Medicare and Medicaid costs would be different in that situation. (They used a Rand economic model of theirs called the Future Elderly Model.)

The answer: $40 billion.

That’s a decent amount of money. It would pay about one-third the cost of health-care reform, for example. It is equal to about 6 percent of the total budget for Medicare and Medicaid.

Clearly, no set of public policies can return the nation’s obesity rate to its 1980s levels, at least not anytime soon. But it’s worth remembering that obesity brings a big cost, in both human and fiscal terms, and attacking obesity could pay real dividends.

Its time to tell Americans to take a hike... literally


Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Education is about more than better jobs and bigger paychecks.

The Common Good Forecaster.

Education is about more than better jobs and bigger paychecks. More education is also linked to better health, fewer crimes, less incarceration, more voting, and brighter prospects for one’s children. See what happens when you boost educational attainment levels in your community! Read the report | Read the release

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Frege, Wittgenstein, and the competing metaphysics of idealism and realism...

The Duty of Genius by Ray Monk (p189--190):
However, further evidence of Wittgenstein's preoccupation at this time with the competing metaphysics of idealism and realism is provided by a letter from Frege--the last Frege is known to have written to Wittgenstein--dated 3 April
Frege was evidently responding to criticisms Wittgenstein had made of his essay 'The Thought', in which Wittgenstein had spoken of 'deep grounds' for idealism.  'Of coarse I don't take exception to your frankness,' Frege began:
But I would like to know what deep grounds for idealism you think I have not grasped.  I take it that you yourself do not hold the idealist theory of knowledge to be true.  So, I think, you recognise that there can, after all, be no deep grounds for this idealism.  The grounds for it can then only be apparent grounds, not logical ones.
The rest of this long letter is taken up with an analysis by Frege of the lack of clarity of the Tractatus.  This time he concentrates solely on the first proposition: 'The world is everything this is the case.'  Assuming, he argues, that the 'is' in this statement is the 'is of identity', and further assuming that it is meant to convey information and not simply to provide a definition of 'the world', then, in order for it to mean anything, there must be some way of identifying the sense of 'the world' and that of the phrase 'everything that is the case' independently of the statement of their identity.  How is this to be done? 'I would be glad', he wrote, 'if you, by answering my questions, could facilitate my understanding of the results of your thinking.'
This is the last preserved communication between the two.  Frege died four years later, presumably no nearer to understanding a word of the famous book inspired by his own work.  The 'deep grounds' for idealism which Wittgenstein perceived are undoubtedly connected with the account of the world which he gives in propositions 5.6-5.641 of the Tractatus. 'The world is my world', 'I am my world. (The microcosm.)', and yet I am not in my world: 'The subject does not belong to the world; rather it is a limit of the world.' Thus, solipsism, 'when its implications are followed out strictly', coincides with pure realism: 'The self of solipsism shrinks to a point without extension, and there remains the reality co-ordinated with it.' The realism of Frege is thus seen to coincide with the idealism of Schopenhauer and the solipsism of Weininger.
It is a view that gives a philosophical underpinning to the religious individualism adopted by Wittgenstein and Engelmann.  I am my world, so if I am unhappy about the world, the only way in which I can do anything decisive about it is to change myself. 'The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the unhappy man.'
Nevertheless, in a sense Frege was right to find the metaphysics of this view unintelligible.  On Wittgenstein's own theory, its expression in words can lead only to nonsense.  And yet, though he was unable to explain it to Frege, unable to convince Russell of its truth, and unable to find a publisher for its expression as the outcome of a Theory of Logical Symbolism, Wittgenstein remained firmly convinced of its unassailability.  Though he had suffered greatly from 'external' causes in the last year--The death of Pinsent, the defeat of the Habsburg Empire, the problems of publishing his book--he looked only to an 'internal' solution.  What, in the final analysis, did it matter if his book remained unpublished? By far the most important thing was to 'settle accounts with himself'.
The essence of this is something David Pacini over at Emory has tried to push me on.  At least I think...
You have to skip the metaphysical hiccups--as they will or won't be resolved by us mere mortals.  And resolved yourself only to that which one has control of--my internal solution can only be created by my 'self' and "settling accounts with myself" is the only way to be "in the world" rather than "of the world."  Being "of the world" is discord... it perpetuates discord.  Being "in the world" is to be at peace yet staying attached rather than detached.
At least I think thats what he's driving at....

Posted via email from Jim Nichols

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Is ACORN providing workers for the 2010 census?

Q: Is ACORN providing workers for the 2010 census?
A: No. ACORN employees will not be taking the census. The group is one of more than 30,000 "partners" that will help publicize the event.

Via Factcheck.org

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

On deficit...

Remember, these deficits are driven almost entirely by projections of exploding private sector health care costs.

see for yourself... 

Health Care reform now!

Statutory PAYGO: An Important First Step Toward Fiscal Responsibility

I am happy to be back before this Committee to support the enactment of statutory PAYGO. Enshrining in law the PAYGO rules which Congress adopted in 2007 would highlight their importance and make them easier to enforce. Statutory PAYGO is a small, but important step toward restoring fiscal discipline to the federal budget. Along with President Obama, the Blue Dog Coalition, and many other proponents of responsible federal budgeting, I urge you to take this step without delay.

The long term budget outlook: impending catastrophe

No one needs to remind this Committee that the outlook for the federal budget is worrisome—indeed, scary. Long before the financial crisis and the current deep recession, this Committee was anxiously pointing out that current federal spending and revenue policies are on a risky, unsustainable course. Promises made under the major entitlement programs (especially Medicare and Medicaid) will increase federal spending rapidly over the next couple of decades, as the population ages and medical spending continues to rise faster than other spending. Federal expenditures are projected to grow substantially faster than revenues, opening widening deficit gaps that cannot not be financed.

The financial crisis and the recession, combined with the measures the government has taken to mitigate both, have worsened the budget outlook dramatically. The federal deficit will probably reach 13 percent of the GDP this year and will likely remain at worrisome levels even as the economy recovers. Federal debt held by the public, including our foreign creditors, is projected to double as a percent of GDP over the next decade. The recent rise in long term Treasury rates is a timely reminder that our creditors, foreign and domestic, may lose faith in America’s willingness to take the difficult steps necessary to move the budget toward balance. This loss of faith—reversing the widespread perception that U.S. Treasuries are the safest securities in the World—could lead to rapidly rising interest rates, killer debt service costs for the federal government and others, a plunging dollar, and an aborted recovery.

As I testified before this Committee on January 27, 2009, I strongly believe that most of the emergency actions that authorities have taken to stimulate the economy and rescue the financial sector were the right policies in these dire circumstances. An escalating deficit and huge amounts of debt were necessary to avoid a much deeper and longer recession and a total meltdown of the financial system. However, these actions have made it absolutely necessary for Congress and the Administration to work together aggressively to bring future deficits under control. Unpopular actions to restrain future spending and augment future revenues must be taken now, even before recovery has been achieved. Putting Social Security on a sound fiscal base, credibly reducing the rate of growth of federal health spending, and raising future energy-related and other revenues are all actions that could be taken now to reduce future deficits.

Immediate actions to reduce long-term deficits—such as fixing Social Security this year-- will enhance the prospects for recovery by restoring confidence in government and reducing long-term interest rates. These actions to reduce future deficits will require political courage. Stronger budgetary rules, such as statutory PAYGO, can bolster political courage.

Statutory PAYGO: one tool for fiscal discipline

PAYGO is budget speak for “do no harm” or “don’t make future deficits worse.” PAYGO rules are designed to discourage Congress and the Administration from enacting legislation that would add new mandatory benefits or reduce revenues without taking other actions that would have equal and opposite effects on the deficit over a ten year period. Statutory PAYGO affecting both mandatory spending and taxes was in effect from 1991 through 2002, when the legislation lapsed and was not reenacted. Currently PAYGO is part of the House and Senate rules, but does not have the force of law.

I believe that statutory PAYGO proved a highly effective deterrent to deficit- increasing legislation in the 1990’s—at least until the surplus was achieved in 1998. The effects of PAYGO were not visible to the public or the press because they involved spending and taxing proposals that never saw the light of day. At the Office of Management (OMB) in President Clinton’s first term my uncomfortable job was to tell the President and rest of the Administration that many of their most cherished ideas could not even be proposed because we could not find a way to off-set them under the PAYGO rules. Similar conversations took place in Congressional committees. Detractors of PAYGO, who point out that a serious sequestration has never been enforced, miss the point that sequestration is a deterrent, not a policy. It would be a more powerful deterrent if it could be waived only by enacting a law subject to veto. I believe sequestration would be an even more effective as a deterrent if there were fewer exceptions to its automatic cuts.

The difficult problem of defining the baseline

The most difficult decision in designing a strong PAYGO rule is answering the question, “Don’t make deficits worse compared to what?” Should the baseline be strictly current law or a more realistic appraisal of what is likely to happen? In general, it is best to stick with current law, because it is the easiest rule to understand and explain. However, occasionally extending currently law is clearly not what most people expect to happen.

President Obama’s statutory PAYGO proposal recognizes that four specific provisions of existing law are so unrealistic that incorporating them in a current law baseline would make the PAYGO rule unworkable. The proposal recognizes that Medicare payments to physicians under Part B will not automatically be cut by 21 percent as the law requires; the estate and gift tax will not expire in 2010 and return to pre-2001 levels in 2011; that the current AMT patch will not be allowed to expire without replacement; and that all of the 2001 and 2003 tax provisions will not all expire at the end of 2010. Critics of the Administration’s proposal point out that allowing these adjustments to a current law baseline amounts to accepting the damage already done to future budgets that these bizarre legislative provisions were designed to hide. They argue that in making these exceptions Congress would be ducking the responsibility to face the consequences of its past lack of budgetary courage. I agree that these are four examples of legislative sleight of hand covering up future bad news. But the bad news must be dealt with head-on in a comprehensive policy process. Keeping these four legislative anomalies in the current law baseline for PAYGO purposes, would only guarantee that PAYGO would be immediately waived and its future usefulness seriously impaired.

Moving beyond statutory PAYGO

While I support the Administration’s proposal for Statutory PAYGO, I regard it as a small first step on the arduous path that will move the budget to long run sustainability. We also need firm caps on discretionary spending. But the biggest threat to future budget solvency is not new legislation; it is the budgetary consequences of legislative decisions already made—both with respect to mandatory spending and the tax code.

While the current annual budget process involves Herculean efforts to scrutinize discretionary spending, it leaves entitlement programs and revenues on automatic pilot outside the budget process. Fiscal responsibility requires that all long-term spending commitments be subject to periodic review along with taxes and tax expenditures. There is no compelling logic for applying caps and intense annual scrutiny to discretionary spending, while leaving huge spending commitments, such as Medicare or the home mortgage deduction entirely outside the budget process and not subject to review on a regular basis. Nor is there any good reason for subjecting new mandatory spending and revenue legislation to an elaborate PAYGO procedure while ignoring the budget implications of past legislation.

I am a member of a bipartisan group called the Fiscal Seminar (sponsored by The Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation) that addressed this problem in a controversial paper entitled, Taking back our Fiscal Future, in 2008. We proposed that Congress enact long run budgets for the three biggest entitlement programs. These budgets would be reviewed every five years. Spending overruns would trigger automatic spending cuts or revenue increases that would take effect unless Congress acted. We recognized that we had proposed only a partial solution—the tax side of the budget should be included--and others may have better ideas. However, we clearly identified a glaring defect in the budget process that stands in the way of getting the federal budget on a sustainable long run track. We believe it is imperative for Congress to adopt a new budget process that includes ALL spending and revenue and subjects the budget impacts of long term commitments to serious periodic review.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Notes on What Makes Right Acts Right by W.D. Ross

Ross --->   When two duties conflict you pick the duty which is in the circumstances more of a duty rather than an utilitarian question of bringing more good into existence by the one action over the other
Cases of conscience    ex. fulfilling a promise or helping someone to whom I had made no promise when they would bring equal amounts of good
two theories
  • Kant---> certain duties of perfect obligation
  • Moore/Rashdall --> only duty is producing good --> asking which action will bring about the most good
Ross --> but its more important that our theory fit the facts than that it be simple
Jim -->  yes! exactly...
Ross --> Ideal Utilitarianism of Moore/Rashdall simplifies our relations w/our fellow man in saying that the only morally significant relation in which my neighbors stand to me is that of being possible beneficiary by my action ...   Ross---> yes, but they stand to me in relation of promises to promiser creditor to debtor, wife to husband, child to parent as well.  That each of these relations is a prima facie duty
Ross--> when facing more than one prima facie duty in a certain situation --> I must study the situation and form a "considered opinion" of which one is more incumbent than the other.
Ross divides prima facia duties into 6 categories
Ideal Utilitarianism's defect?
Ross --> it ignores or doesn't give full justice to the highly personal character of duty
more to come --Jim

Posted via email from Jim Nichols

I like this idea...

ethics as clarification...

Rather than frame things as there is one right/wrong ethical model...

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

What happend to the Republican party?

The Scandalous Fall of the Modern Conservative Movement

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

I'm not happy Obama...

WaPo: Obama Admin Drafts Order To Allow Indefinite Detention

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

@JimN2010... the unstated question/challenge...

All of these posts...

a new media politican


@JimN2010 I couldn't agree more....

@JimN2010 What I have to offer? 

"thats all he's going to offer" response

Are asking a question about how do real citizens run for office?  Because of the politically correct movement we only have people running for office who either have no faults (which is untrue... they are just straightlaced to the point of boring) or people who can raise a lot of money...

A democracy wants real citizens who face real problems and understand what real people deal with.  So many people I talk to won't run for office because they don't want to put their families through smear campaigns that focus on issues that belong in the private sphere.  Citizens shouldn't be afriad of running for office... thats one thing I hope I can inspire in others by running for state house.  Its time for citizens to take back their government from professional politicians who can raise money and put keeping their job over representing people and getting things done for the people.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Wittgenstein and Ethical Inquiry

Wittgenstein adn Ethical Inquiry by J.Jeremy Wisnewski  (pg 3)
The early Wittgenstein, as is well known, claimed that there was no such thing as an ethical proposition.  Propositions assert something about the world (facts); ethics, as concerned with something beyond the world (values), can thus not be propositional: "It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words.  Ethics is transcendental."  This position is largely mirrored in the content of Wittgenstein's 1929 "A Lecture on Ethics":
My whole tendency and I believe the tendency of all men who have ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religoin was to run against the boundaries of language.  This running against the walls of our cages is perfectly, absolutely hopeless. Ethics so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can be no science.  What it says does not add to our knowledge in any sense.
Here, too, one sees an insistence on something like the fact/value distinction.  What can be asserted in the ethical sphere cannot count as knowledge.  There can be no science of values, on Wittgenstein's 1929 view, because a science can only express facts in the world.
The later Wittgenstein, however, has often been read as repudiating this view of ethics.  Having seen that language can function in many ways, a door seemed to open to new approaches to ethical inquiry: ethical dilemmas can be resolved, one reading of Wittgenstein goes, in the same way that our philosophical problems can.  To solve an ethical problem, one must clarify a misunderstanding one has concerning some specific ethical concepts. 

Posted via email from Jim Nichols

“Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!”

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon’s roar; —
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
Or know the conquered knee; —
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Whatever happend to the Ownership society?

Remember the "ownership society"? Just an election cycle ago, conservatives were urging Americans to give up their antiquated social-insurance programs--Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance--in favor of tax-subsidized individual accounts that would vest responsibility for dealing with economic risk in workers and their families. Thankfully, the most extreme elements of that agenda failed, and the vision behind it (of responsive financial markets capable of managing risk with limited government oversight, and the private sector providing inclusive, progressive protections with minimal public prodding) is now discredited.

Yet while the ownership society was a practical and intellectual failure, it was more of a political success than commentators generally acknowledge. Even before the financial crisis, the broad set of economic protections that arose in the Great Depression and expanded in the decades after--sometimes called the "safety net," though in truth the net was never understood to be the bare minimum that the term implies--lay in tatters. Over the last generation, our economy and society have dramatically changed, creating new risks and intensifying old ones. But our public-private framework of economic security has decayed, leaving advocates of the existing policies increasingly defending a Potemkin village of hobbled and out-of-date protections.

If ever there were a time for an alternative to the reigning orthodoxies of risk management, this is it. Now is the time to adopt a vision not of individuals managing economic uncertainties on their own with limited government help but of all of us providing the common foundation for economic prosperity and advancement through smarter and broader sharing of risk. Yes, progressives must unlock financial markets and put them on a stronger basis. But our longer-term goal should be more fundamental: a new public-private partnership that builds upon and extends the basic underlying principle of the New Deal. That principle--even more true today than it was in the 1930s--is that security is not opposed to opportunity but essential to it. In a dynamic and flexible economy, well-designed policies of economic security are critical if workers are going to have the confidence they need to invest in and achieve the American dream.

Consider our failing health-care system, with its spiraling costs and cratering coverage. One in three people younger than 65 in the United States goes without health insurance at some point every two years, and even Americans who have health insurance are at risk of catastrophic costs that can drive them into bankruptcy. Our exorbitantly expensive system weighs down family finances, harms labor-market flexibility, and siphons off money that could be invested in enhanced productivity and skills. In the face of this crisis, calls for health savings accounts or greater personal responsibility fly in the face of the overwhelming evidence--from our own history and cross-national experience--that broader sharing of risk through publicly sponsored public and private insurance would not only head off countless preventable hardships but also slow the skyrocketing growth of health costs and improve our economy and long-term fiscal standing.

Health care is only the tip of a larger iceberg. In every facet of Americans' economic life--their health care, their pension plans, their job security, their family finances--risk and responsibility have shifted from the broad shoulders of government and corporations onto the fragile backs of workers and their families. In an era of partisan polarization and gridlock, we have failed to update our nation's safety net to reflect the changing economic and social realities of our nation. We still have strong benefits for the elderly, but we do very little to help the millions of young Americans struggling to gain a foothold in the job market or buy a home or start a business--the future of our economy and society. Our safety net emphasizes short-term exits from the work force, even though long-term job losses and the displacement and obsolescence of skills have become more common. And some of our social polices still embody the antiquated notions that family strains can be dealt with by a parent, usually a mother, who can easily leave the work force when there is a need for someone at home.

Above all, our safety net is based on the dying belief that job-based health and retirement benefits can easily fill the gaps left by public programs, when it is ever more clear that they cannot. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars subsidizing workplace benefits through the tax code so that employers can serve as mini-welfare states. But, of course, employers are less and less willing to take on these obligations, and less and less willing to provide broad protections on equal terms to their workers when they do. At one time we had guaranteed private pensions that looked much like Social Security; now we have 401(k) plans that place nearly all of the risk of retirement planning on workers. In effect, we have shifted from the traditional "three-legged stool" of Social Security, guaranteed private pensions, and private savings to a wobbly two-legged stool of Social Security and private savings (inside and outside of 401(k)s). Once again, economic common sense and social justice both argue for moving away from our present mess toward the broader and more direct pooling of risk.

George W. Bush's ownership society was based on the belief that "financial innovation" would spread the rewards of economic growth to all Americans through better and broader access to financial assets. Yet the exact opposite has been true. As government and corporations have pulled back, the personal safety net has been fraying, too. There is no need to restate the familiar statistics: bankruptcy and home-mortgage foreclosures are up, savings are down, debt is up, and middle-class incomes have grown slowly in an era in which most of the rewards of economic growth have gone to the richest of Americans.

"Risk" may be the word on people's lips today, but most understand it far too narrowly. Risk does not simply concern the breakdown of our nation's financial institutions; it concerns the breakdown of our nation's social contract. If we are to fix that contract--and our economy--we will have to do more than socialize risk for those at the top of the economic ladder. We will need to reclaim the twin ideals of security and opportunity for all Americans.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

"A Long Way to Inflation"

Employment, Interest, and Money

Most of the media seem to have interpreted today’s lower-than-expected increase in the producer price index as good news. I’m not so sure. If you were worried that 5% inflation was just around the corner, then naturally you will have felt relief. Personally, I was more worried about deflation, and I still am. The inflation risk, if it exists at all, is in the distant future, and you could even argue that deflation in the short run increases the risk of high inflation in the long run. It’s hard for me to see how falling prices today are good news at all. And prices – excluding food and energy – did fall in May according to the PPI.

You might worry about energy and commodity prices feeding through to the broader price level. I’m worried about that too, but not in the way you might think. Undoubtedly some of that feed-through is already happening, and it hasn’t been enough to keep core producer price growth on the positive side of zero. I’m worried about what happens when commodity prices (1) stop rising (which they must do eventually) and/or (2) start falling again (which they may well do if the recent increases have been driven largely by unsustainable forces such as stockpiling by China). If core prices are already falling, and only energy prices are keeping the overall PPI inflation rate positive, what happens when energy prices stop rising?

What worries me particularly is that about 70% of the costs of production go to labor, and the forces of deflation work very slowly in the labor market. The data that are coming out today are only the tip of the iceberg. We’re already seeing evidence of the loss of upward inertia in compensation. Wage growth is decelerating, and, based on all historical experience, the deceleration is likely to continue – in this case, to continue to the point where it becomes deflationary.

I’m not talking about what will happen in the next 6 months; I’m talking about what will happen over the next 5 years. “Green shoots” – however green they may be – do not presage an imminent end to deflationary wage pressure. And they certainly don’t presage the beginning of inflationary wage pressure. Consider everything that has to happen before the wage pressure reverses and becomes inflationary:

  1. Output must stabilize.
  2. Output must start growing.
  3. Output must grow faster than trend productivity.
  4. Firms must slow layoffs to the normal rate.
  5. Firms must remobilize slack full-time employees (workers who are still on the full-time payroll but aren’t being asked to produce much, because businesses have been trying to reduce inventories).
  6. Firms must bring part-time employees back to full time. (This recession in particular has been characterized by the tendency to reduce hours rather than laying off employees.)
  7. Hiring (which has been falling rapidly) must stabilize.
  8. Hiring must rise to the point where it equals the normal rate of layoffs, to get total employment to start rising.
  9. Hiring must become rapid enough that employment starts to grow faster than the population.
  10. Hiring must become rapid enough that employment growth is faster than the sum of the population growth & labor force re-entry. In other words, net hiring has to be fast enough to absorb all the workers who will start looking for jobs again once there are more jobs around to look for.
  11. The unemployment rate must start declining.
  12. The unemployment rate must decline by 4 or more percentage points, which, by historical experience, will take a matter of years.
  13. Firms must start competing for labor.
  14. Firms must start raising wages.
  15. Firms must raise wages faster than trend productivity growth.

Maybe – just maybe – we have already reached step 1. Step 2 may be just around the corner. There is no evidence thus far that we are approaching step 3. As for steps 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15......that show may come to town eventually, but...I don’t see much need to start reserving tickets in advance.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Climate change impacts in US

Climate change is already having an impact in the Midwest and across the US

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Extreme weather, drought, heavy rainfall and increasing temperatures are a fact of life in many parts of the U.S. as a result of human-induced climate change, researchers report today in a new assessment. These and other changes will continue and likely increase in intensity into the future, the scientists found.

Researchers representing 13 U.S. government science agencies, major universities and research institutes produced the study, "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States." Commissioned in 2007, it is the most comprehensive report to date on national climate change, offering the latest information on rising temperatures, heavy downpours, extreme weather, sea level changes and other results of climate change in the U.S.

The 190-page report is a product of the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is written in accessible language, intended to better inform members of the public and policymakers about the social, environmental and economic costs of climate change. It focuses on effects by region and details how the nation's transportation, agriculture, health, water and energy sectors will be affected in the future.

In a press conference today, University of Illinois Harry E. Preble Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Don Wuebbles, a contributor to the assessment, outlined the current and predicted effects of climate change in the Midwest U.S.

"We well recognize that the earth's climate varies naturally and has been warmer and cooler in the past," Wuebbles said. "But we also know that the climate changes we are experiencing today are largely the result of human activities."

Average temperatures have risen in the Midwest in recent decades, Wuebbles said, especially in winter. The growing season has been extended by one week. Heavy downpours are now twice as frequent as they were a century ago, he said, and the Midwest has experienced two, record-breaking floods in the past 15 years.

These trends are expected to continue into the future, Wuebbles said. Average annual temperatures are expected to increase by about two degrees Fahrenheit over the next few decades, and by as much as seven to 10 degrees by the end of the century, he said, with more warming projected for summer than winter.

Precipitation is expected to increase in the winter and spring, while summer precipitation will likely decline.

"More of the precipitation is likely to occur during heavier events," Wuebbles said.

As temperatures and humidity increases, heat waves, reduced air quality and insect-borne diseases are more likely to occur. Pollen production and the growth of fungi will also be stimulated, he said.

Heavy downpours can overload drainage systems and water treatment facilities, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases, he said.

The Great Lakes, which contain 20 percent of the planet's fresh surface water, will also be affected by the changing climate, Wuebbles said. Depending on the extent of climate change, average water levels in the Great Lakes could drop by as much as two feet in this century, he said. This would affect beaches, coastal ecosystems, fish populations, dredging requirements and shipping.

Some of the effects of the changing climate are inevitable and will require human and animal populations to adapt, Wuebbles said. Other effects can be mitigated by limiting future emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, he said.




University of Illinois atmospheric sciences emeritus professor John Walsh and University of Illinois research associate Katharine Hayhoe, who is also a geosciences professor at Texas Tech University, were among the scientists who contributed to the report.

The full report, "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States" is available online at http://www.globalchange.gov/usimpacts.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Thoma asks-- "Do tax cuts increase productivity?"

Study separates russian flat tax myth and fact

Proponents of a flat rate income tax often point to Russia's 2001 switch to a 13 percent flat tax as nothing short of an economic miracle.

The new tax policy slashed taxes for higher-income Russians who previously paid rates of 20 and 30 percent. Despite the savings to taxpayers, real tax revenues reaped by the government increased by 25 percent in the year after the reform. The windfall, flat tax advocates say, happened because a simpler, fairer tax system leads to better compliance, and because lower taxes spur productivity.

That assessment is half right, according to a study published this month in the Journal or Political Economy. The study by economists Yuriy Gorodnichenko (University of California, Berkeley), Jorge Martinez-Vazquez and Klara Sabirianova Peter (both of Georgia State University) looked at household level data to see how tax reform influenced tax evasion and real income. The study found that tax evasion decreased under the flat tax, but the reform did little to increase real income for taxpayers.

The lesson? Where underreporting of income is widespread, a flat tax can produce a revenue increase, but don't expect massive economic productivity gains.

Tax evasion by nature is tough to quantify. To get an estimate of the extent to which Russians hide income from the tax collector, the researchers used what they call the "consumption-income gap." They gathered data from household surveys conducted in 1998 and from 2000 to 2004 by the University of North Carolina. The surveys asked respondents to catalog their monthly spending on everything from food to entertainment. The data from these surveys show that Russians generally spend 30 percent more than they report receiving in income. It's unlikely that households are getting the extra buying power by dipping into savings accounts, because most of those surveyed had little or no savings. So the gap between household consumption and reported income is largely explained by an underreporting of income.

Looking at the survey data over time, the researchers found that the consumption-income gap shrank substantially in the years after the tax reform. In other words, the amount of income Russians reported got closer to the amount they spent. This effect was strongest for households who had been in the highest tax brackets before the reform. That's a good indication that the flat tax was directly responsible for decreasing tax evasion in Russia.

The other implication in these data is that the flat tax seems to have done little to increase real income for taxpayers. If real income had increased substantially, one would expect consumption to increase as well. That wasn't the case. Taxpayers whose tax rates were cut increased their consumption net of windfall gains by less than 4 percent.

"The results of this paper have several important policy implications," the authors write.

"The adoption of a flat rate income tax is not expected to lead to significant increases in tax revenues because the productivity response is shown to be fairly small. However, if the economy is plagued by ubiquitous tax evasion, as was the case in Russia, the flat rate income tax reform can lead to substantial revenue gains via increases in voluntary compliance."


The lack of a significant productivity response undercuts the main supply-side argument that cuts in taxes produce increased growth in output that generates a partial offset (some even argue a more than full offset) to the revenue lost from the tax cut. So many supply-siders have switched to the compliance argument for the US, but I doubt this effect would be large, and certainly not large enough to pay for the tax cut, and compliance can be increased in other ways such as closing loopholes and better enforcement of existing tax law.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Financial Reforms...

George Soros:

I am not an advocate of too much regulation. ... While markets are imperfect, regulators are even more so. ... Three principles should guide reform. First, since markets are bubble-prone, regulators must accept responsibility for preventing bubbles from growing too big. Alan Greenspan ... expressly refused that responsibility. ...

Don't let bankers make huge risky bets with other peoples money--without having their own capital to back it.

Reich notes:

Best of all would be a requirement that investment banks return to being partnerships and the capital on their books be their own, not yours or your pension fund’s. When investment banks were partnerships, every partner took an active interest in what every other partner and trader was doing. The real mischief started once they started selling shares to the public.

No too big to fail's --seperate commericial and investment banks...

Also via Soro's again:

we must reconceptualise the meaning of market risk. The efficient market hypothesis postulates that markets tend towards equilibrium and deviations occur in a random fashion...

But the efficient market hypothesis is unrealistic. Markets are subject to imbalances... If too many participants are on the same side, positions cannot be liquidated without causing a discontinuity or, worse, a collapse. In that case the authorities may have to come to the rescue. That means that there is systemic risk ... in addition to the risks most market participants perceived prior to the crisis.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

The nice thing about the internet...

Is you can fact check conservatives with the click of a button...

health care reform can't work!!!

except in the rest of the world???

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

mythology of conservative's

The stagflation myth

Via Dean Baker, Robert Samuelson declares — as a simple fact — that

Johnson’s economic policies, inherited from Kennedy, proved disastrous; they led to the 1970s’ “stagflation.”

Wow. I didn’t know that. Neither, as far as I know, did any economist who has actually studied the issue.

Seriously, this is a standard bit of conservative propaganda. Ever since Reagan, conservatives have been using the evils of stagflation to denounce liberal economic policies. Yet mainstream economics — even at Chicago — has never made that connection.

Stagflation was a term coined by Paul Samuelson to describe the combination of high inflation and high unemployment. The era of stagflation in America began in 1974 and ended in the early 80s. Why did it happen?

Well, the textbooks basically invoke two factors. One was a series of “adverse supply shocks”, mainly the huge runup in the price of oil. The other was excessively expansionary monetary policy, especially in 1972-3, which allowed expectations of inflation to become entrenched. (Ken Rogoff — a Republican, by the way — attributes that expansion to the desire of Arthur Burns to see Richard Nixon reelected.)

The appearance of stagflation was a win for conservative economics, but it was conservative monetary economics that was partly vindicated: Milton Friedman’s assertion that there is no long-run tradeoff between inflation and unemployment turned out to be correct, and is now part of the standard canon.

But where is the Great Society in all this? Nowhere. The claim that stagflation proved the badness of liberal ideas is pure propaganda, which not even conservative economists believe.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols

Medicare and the VA --> they don't want to fix it... they want to kill it...

I'm catching up on my Krugman...

Medicare and the VA

So we’ve been treated to lots of opinion pieces declaring that Medicare is doomed, doomed I tell you, and entitlements are out of control. And I had a thought.

You see, we actually have a real live case of impressive cost control in health care: the VA system. The CBO reports:

Adjusting for the changing mix of patients (using data on reliance and relative costs by priority group), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that VHA’s budget authority per enrollee grew by 1.7 percent in real terms from 1999 to 2005 (0.3 percent annually).2 Though not the decline in cost per capita that is suggested by the unadjusted figures, that estimate still indicates some degree of cost control when compared with Medicare’s real rate of growth of 29.4 percent in cost per capita over that same period (4.4 percent per year).

So if you really think that Medicare as it is is doomed, why not propose converting it to a VA-type system as opposed to simply declaring it bankrupt and shutting it down? I mean, the standard argument — socialized medicine! loss of choice! — doesn’t seem to apply if the alternative is no health care at all.

But you know that the entitlements scaremongers won’t bite on this solution — because they don’t want to make social insurance affordable, they want to kill it.

That was kind of my point with the boy who cried deficit meme...

Every time I read a "the sky is falling" deficit (because of Obama) hawk... who at the the same time wants to continue the status quo health care crisis in complete disregard to the impacts that doing nothing have on the deficit i'm simply going to post the following... (if you are a blogger you might want to do the same--> I have no clout as a blogger... so I'm talking to myself)


IOUSA Budget Deficit Calculator allows you to see what the projected U.S. budget deficit would be, as a percentage of GDP, if the United States had the same per person health care costs as various other countries which enjoy longer life expectancies than the United States.

The U.S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance ---World Health Organization

Stand with Dean     

Having a philosophical objection to something but saying "you want to fix it" and yet consistently turn away from ideas that "would fix it" says you either don't understand policy or are putting your philosophy before good policy and hide behind the idea that it just can't be done.

Posted via web from Jim Nichols