"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Friday, July 03, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

Obama on Marc Maron's podcast

Obama on WTF with Marc Maron

I'm a longtime fan. (Same with Galifiainakis.)

Blogpost about Maron from back in 2008.

Great how Obama said he liked Pryor, Gregory, Seinfeld and talked about Louis CK.

No Dave Chapelle? George Carlin? Lenny Bruce? Bill Hicks? That would be too comedy nerdish.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Duda and Market-guided NGDPLT

Kenneth Duda's comment at Jason Smith's blog.

Jason, my name is Ken Duda. I'm a computer programmer who supports Sumner's program at Mercatus.

I am not going to defend Sumner's specific analysis. However I would ask you to think carefully about whether it's possible for a central bank to increase economic activity when there's rising unemployment, falling NGDP (or at least falling NGDP growth), low inflation, and the short-term risk-free nominal interest rate is zero. Krugman, Delong, and Wren-Lewis basically say no, or probably not, maybe the central bank should try, but there's not much it can do. I think they're wrong and the market monetarists are right. The idea that the monopoly issuer of a fiat currency can't induce more nominal spending seems nuts. Sure, the interest rate channel may be dead, but what about the expectations channel? If the central bank tells the market that it will hit its NGDP target come hell or high water, it's just a matter of time, and by the way, the target is rising constantly at say 5% a year, and all this money we're creating will absolutely not be sucked right back out of the economy until NGDP hits that target (or, more precisely, until a prediction market tells us that we'll overshoot our target if we fail to suck the money back out of the economy), then people expect more spending in the future, and that expectation of future spending stimulates spending today, either investment spending to build in anticipation of the future spending, or simply "getting while the getting is good", i.e., buying before prices rise significantly (inflation). 

Again, I am not here to defend Sumner and Sadowski's analysis in this case. However, it breaks my heart to see good intelligent people arguing about style or argument types etc when we just went through 8 years of 10 million people needlessly unemployed, lives shattered, savings lost, when the whole thing could have been averted with better monetary policy. Why can't you, me, Scott, Paul, Simon, Brad all get together, set aside the debate over fiscal stimulus, and demand better monetary policy? Market-guided NGDPLT seems like such a dramatic improvement over high-priest-guided inflation targeting, let's make it happen.


Kenneth Duda
Menlo Park, CA

Friday, June 19, 2015

SyFy goes SciFi

Hyperion comes on the heels of several high-profile scripted projects announced by Syfy, including the series pickup of The Magicians, based on Lev Grossman’s best-selling books; the 10-part series The Expanse, airing December 2015 and starring Thomas Jane; Arthur C. Clarke’s epic mini-series Childhood’s End, also set to premiere this December; Aldous Huxley’s classic novel Brave New World with Amblin Television; Gale Anne Hurd’s 13-episode thriller Hunters; David Goyer’s Superman prequel, Krypton; and Incorporated, a futuristic espionage drama from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Varoufakis on Piketty

Varoufakis on Piketty

In summary, Varoufakis (2011, 2nd edition 2013) hypothesises that, having already run the war economy successfully, the New Dealers feared, with excellent cause, a post-war recession. In charge of the only major surplus economy left after the war had demolished most of Europe, they understood that the sole alternative to a global recession, which might have threatened an already weakened western capitalism, would be to strengthen aggregate demand within the United States by (a) boosting real wages and (b) recycling America’s aggregate surpluses to Europe and to Japan so as to create the demand that would keep American factories going. If anything, Bretton Woods was the global framework within which this project was embedded. Its fixed exchange rates, capital controls and an underlying international consensus on labour market policies that would keep the wage share above a certain level, were all aspects of the same struggle to prevent the post-war world from slipping back into depression.

Naturally, the resulting wealth and income dynamics reduced inequality, increased the availability of decent jobs, and produced capitalism’s golden age. Was this an aberration? Of course it was not! The Marshall Plan, the Bretton Woods institutions, the strict regulation of banks etc. would not have been politically feasible had capitalism not threatened to commit suicide in the late 1940s, as it does once in a while (the last episode having occurred in 2008). Were these policies and new institutions inevitable? Of course they were not! While the political interventions that had the by-product of reducing income inequality were fully endogenous to the period’s capitalist dynamics, the latter are always indeterminate both in terms of the politics that they engender as well as of their economic outcomes.

Alas, Bretton Woods and the institutions the New Dealers had established in the 1940s could not survive the end of the 1960s. Why? Because they were predicated upon the recycling of American surpluses to Europe and to Asia (see above). Once the United States slipped into a deficit position, some time in 1968, this was no longer possible. America would have either to abandon its hegemonic position, together with the dollar’s ‘exorbitant privilege’, or it would have to find another way of remaining at the centre of global surplus recycling. Or, to quote a phrase coined by Paul Volcker, “if we cannot recycle our surpluses, we might as well recycle other people’s surpluses”.

This is, according to my book’s narrative, why the early 1970s, and the end of Bretton Woods, proved so pivotal: The United States, through its twin deficits, began to absorb from the rest of the world both net exports and surplus capital, therefore ‘closing’ the recycling loop. It provided net exporters (e.g. Germany, Japan and later China) with the aggregate demand they so desperately needed in return for a tsunami of foreign capital (generated in the surplus economies by their net exports to America, and to other economies energised by the United States’ trade deficit).

However, for this tsunami to materialise capital controls had to go, wage inflation in the United States had to drop below that of its competitors, incomes policies had to be jettisoned, and financialisation had to be afforded its foothold. From this perspective, inequality’s resurgence in the 1970s, the never-ending rise of finance at the expense of industry, and the diminution of collective agency around the world, were all symptoms of the reversal in the direction and nature of global surplus recycling. The manner in which by-product ‘inequality’ and by-product ‘financialisation’ coalesced to destabilise capitalism, until it hit the wall in 2008, is a process that several studies have thrown light on in recent times (e.g. see Galbraith, 2012). Professor Piketty’s single-minded effort to construct, at any cost, a simple deterministic argument is, unfortunately, not one of them.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Brüning and Weimar

Weimar Republic

Brüning expected that the policy of deflation would temporarily worsen the economic situation before it began to improve, quickly increasing the German economy's competitiveness and then restoring its creditworthiness. His long-term view was that deflation would, in any case, be the best way to help the economy. His primary goal was to remove Germany's reparation payments by convincing the Allies that they could no longer be paid.[44] Anton Erkelenz, chairman of the German Democratic Party and a contemporary critic of Brüning, famously said that the policy of deflation is a:

rightful attempt to release Germany from the grip of reparation payments, but in reality it meant nothing else than committing suicide because of fearing death. The deflation policy causes much more damage than the reparation payments of 20 years ... Fighting against Hitler is fighting against deflation, the enormous destruction of production factors.[45] 

In 1933, the American economist Irving Fisher developed the theory of debt deflation. He explained that a deflation causes a decline of profits, asset prices and a still greater decline in the net worth of businesses. Even healthy companies, therefore, may appear over-indebted and facing bankruptcy.[43] The consensus today is that Brüning's policies exacerbated the German economic crisis and the population's growing frustration with democracy, contributing enormously to the increase in support for Hitler's NSDAP.[1]

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

monetary policy

Bernanke on monetary policy and inequality by Steve Randy Waldman

James Bullard came out for NGDP path level targeting.

Clive Crook came out for helicopter drops.