"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

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Great Clusterfuck

Reviewing Ryan Avent’s Review of Amir Sufi and Atif Mian’s House of Debt: Friday Focus: May 16, 2014 by DeLong


The Italian Disaster by Perry Anderson

K21 and capital rate of return, i.e "r"

I think that here there is some confusion in these critiques between the interest rate and the rate of return to capital. The rate of return to capital is a much broader concept than just interest rates. If the rate of return on capital were really going to zero, as Summers seems to argue, then the capital share in GDP and the capital share in the economy would be going to zero. This has not been happening at all. Right now, including five years of total crisis, the capital share is much higher than it was twenty years ago in most developed countries. 
So, what’s in the capital share? With the capital share you can have interest payment, dividends, corporate profits (with some of it going into retained earnings which feeds capital gains), and you have rental income. If you make a sum of all these forms of capital payment, then the capital share has not been going to zero at all. 
I think that it is just wrong to take the interest rate on public debt as an indicator of the rate of return. Public debt is a very particular kind of asset: it provides liquidity services – that is, you can easily sell your Treasury bonds – and that is partly why people accept having relatively low returns in comparison to other assets. Also, we are not completely out of the financial crisis yet and we have had a lot of creative monetary policies that have kept interest rates low. 
I think that where Summers is right, and this is where he wants to get, is that we have been asking too much of creative monetary policies in recent years, pretty much everywhere – in the US, in the UK, and in the Eurozone – because at the end of the day we have this very low interest rate on some assets such as public debt or certain categories of short-term or medium-term loans, but this is creating bubbles in other assets – in real estate and in some segments of the stock market – and so you have huge return on some other assets at the same time as you have zero interest rates on the public debt. So in fact, this is probably amplifying the inequality in rates of return, in this huge heterogeneity of rates of return. 
My bottom line is that the average rate of return for all assets combined is not going to zero. It has been going down a little bit over the past 20 to 30 years because of the rise in the capital-to-income ratio, but it has declined less than the increase in the capital–income ratio, so that the capital share has actually increased. My second point is that you have a huge heterogeneity in rates of return between assets, and that having very low interest rates on certain assets, such as public debt in particular, is not necessarily a good thing because it stimulates very high bubbles in capital gains and rates of return on other assets at the same time.

Friday, May 16, 2014


Stop blaming the IMF for everything by Matt O'Brien

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Good piece by Porter.

The Politics of Income Inequality by Eduardo Porter
The Great Recession helped make a case for redistribution. Jason Furman, President Obama’s chief economic adviser, says that the administration’s initiatives — like higher income tax rates, subsidies to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and expanded tax breaks for poor families with children — have produced “the most significant policy-induced reduction in inequality in at least 40 years.” Just the tax measures, Mr. Furman estimated, take off about half a decade’s worth of increasing inequality, as measured by the so-called Gini coefficient. 
Is this as good as it gets? For all the struggle on the part of the White House, the income gap keeps growing. Maybe this means that, in the absence of war, democracy can’t do much more.
I am not as pessimistic as a number of observers and reviewers seem to be after reading my book, and so I am sorry if my book made them pessimistic. The development of information technology and the internet also opens up new ways of spreading information, and new ways of mobilisation. I also believe in the power of ideas and books – and this can also contribute to the diffusion of information, and can try to contribute to a wider political mobilization.

a problem

At another point, he cheerfully relayed a story that also appears in his book about the time he sought advice from Bill Clinton on how to pursue a more populist strategy: “You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley,” Clinton said, “and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the blood lust would rise again.”
Kaminska quotes Summers review of K21:
Even where capital accumulation is concerned, I am not sure that Piketty’s theory emphasizes the right aspects. Looking to the future, my guess is that the main story connecting capital accumulation and inequality will not be Piketty’s tale of amassing fortunes. It will be the devastating consequences of robots, 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and the like for those who perform routine tasks. Already there are more American men on disability insurance than doing production work in manufacturing. And the trends are all in the wrong direction, particularly for the less skilled, as the capacity of capital embodying artificial intelligence to replace white-collar as well as blue-collar work will increase rapidly in the years ahead.
Larry Summers gets it wrong on Piketty and Robots by Colin Lewis (via DeLong)

The Americans

AV Club reviews The Americans: “Operation Chronicle”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Person of Interest

AV Club reviews Person Of Interest: “Deus Ex Machina”

How ‘Person’ Retains Interest at Episode 23 by Mike Hale

macro, pollution, inequality and capitalism

"Like pollution, inequality may be necessary correlate of important and valuable processes, and so should be tolerated to a degree. But like pollution, inequality without bound is inconsistent with the efficient functioning of free markets. If you are a lover of markets, you ought wish to limit inequality in order to preserve markets."
Should markets clear? by Steve Randy Waldman