24.5.16

TAIL TRACK.

Barring signal troubles, links to any posts of substance ought to work.

THE DREAM BECOMES A NIGHTMARE.

When the housing bubble popped, a lot of canonical planned-use developments heavily skewed to sport-utes and culs-de-sac stopped expanding.  That's a mixed blessing for me, as Cold Spring Shops headquarters exists because a local builder was willing to talk with me about crazy ideas like a basement under the garage, a wide stairway on a straight line from the garage downstairs, and a bookshelf the entire expanse of a wall.  As long as the sport-utes were rolling in from Naperville with people ready to sign up for the one interior plan disguised with four different exteriors, and the lenders were lending money, that wasn't happening.

But the economic environment is changing, and Fortune's Leigh Gallagher envisions The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving, and here comes Book Review No. 9.  The book touches on a lot of Strong Towns themes including the inadequacy of the tax base, the over-reliance on cars, and the anomie (although that idea goes back to the late 1950s in cultural studies.)  Ms Gallagher acknowledges the influence of Strong Towns thinking in her writing, there's an interview here.

For policy purposes, the end may not yet be here.  Consider a dissenting perspective from Joel Kotkin at Forbes.  "It’s time to put an end to the urban legend of the impending death of America’s suburbs." There are weaker suburbs and stronger suburbs and migration patterns reveal a preference for stronger suburbs, or perhaps for opportunities to live among other functional people. "So when millennials move they seem likely to not move to the nice old suburbs, or the deteriorating one, but those more far-flung suburban communities that offer larger and more affordable housing, good schools, parks and lower crime rates."  Sounds like an evolutionary stable strategy to me.

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)

REMEMBER WHEN RONALD REAGAN RECRUITED FOR YURI ANDROPOV?

The latest deflection from the Democrats and their palace guard media is that Donald Trump's tough talk about the Sillies, and his generalizations about Moslems as undesirable immigrants, assists the jihadis in their recruitment efforts.  Never mind that the Sillies are having trouble finding new splodeydopes.  Perhaps it's because the cities the Sillies run make Detroit and Baltimore look good, or perhaps it's because Mr Trump's rhetoric is frightening potential recruits, or encouraging patriotic Americans, including practitioners of Islam, to point out their straying neighbors.  That, I'm sure, will be material for criminology case studies in a few years.

But the Democrat-Media-Academic trope about tough talk creating more enemies is old.
On March 8, 1983, in his speech to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida, US President Ronald Reagan introduced the term “evil empire” to describe the Soviet Union. Reagan exhorted the audience to “pray for the salvation of all of those who live in that totalitarian darkness – pray they will discover the joy of knowing God.”

He subjected the Soviet leaders to criticism, as the embodiment of the “darkness” and reproached the “aggressive impulses of the evil empire.” The Soviet Union, for its part, accused the United States of being the center of imperialism, holding out for world domination; it was the Soviets’ duty to fight this in the name of communism. In Moscow, the Soviet press agency TASS said the use of the words “evil empire” only proved that the Reagan administration “can think only in terms of confrontation and bellicose, lunatic anti-Communism.”

Reagan, however, genuinely believed that all he had done was call a spade, the only right thing to do under the circumstances; any euphemisms would signal the concession of the free world to totalitarianism. His approach to the problem was vastly supported by conservatives, but was showered with criticism by pacifists. The latter viewed such an attitude as perfectly capable of triggering a nuclear war between the two superpowers.
And so many comrades were enticed to march Forward to the Victory of Communism that ... oh, wait.
Reagan would explain: “For too long our leaders were unable to describe the Soviet Union as it actually was. The keepers of our foreign-policy knowledge … found it illiberal and provocative to be so honest. I’ve always believed, however, that it’s important to define differences, because there are choices and decisions to be made in life and history.” Few were willing to speak that truth to power, but Reagan was unafraid. He further explained: “The Soviet system over the years has purposely starved, murdered, and brutalized its own people. Millions were killed; it’s all right there in the history books. It put other citizens it disagreed with into psychiatric hospitals, sometimes drugging them into oblivion. Is the system that allowed this not evil? Then why shouldn’t we say so?”

To Reagan, this honesty was necessary for eliminating illusions. Reagan said such candor was needed to “philosophically and intellectually take on the principles of Marxism-Leninism.” “We were always too worried we would offend the Soviets if we struck at anything so basic,” he said. “Well, so what? Marxist-Leninist thought is an empty cupboard. Everyone knew it by the 1980s, but no one was saying it.”
Much jihadi thought is also an empty cupboard. What is missing yet is Mr Trump channelling his Don Rickles and making fun of the more outrageous tenets. The only difficulty is that a faith-based political system with no pretense of a scientific basis isn't as easily mocked. Scientific socialism, on the other hand ... and nobody put the hair pins in Poland's five year plan?

TODAY'S FOURTH TURNING UPDATE.

Start with Michael Lind for Politico.  He proposes an hypothesis that will likely launch a thousand dissertations.
Though this election feels like the beginning of a partisan realignment, it’s actually the end of one. The partisan coalitions that defined the Democratic and Republican parties for decades in the middle of the twentieth century broke apart long ago; over the past half century, their component voting blocs — ideological, demographic, economic, geographic, cultural — have reshuffled. The reassembling of new Democratic and Republican coalitions is nearly finished.
Mr Lind's maintained hypothesis is that there's little left to contest by way of the culture wars, but the national security and economic interests are shifting. In detail, though, there's a lot that looks like business as usual.
Republicans will be a party of mostly working-class whites, based in the South and West and suburbs and exurbs everywhere. They will favor universal, contributory social insurance systems that benefit them and their families and reward work effort—programs like Social Security and Medicare. But they will tend to oppose means-tested programs for the poor whose benefits they and their families cannot enjoy.

They will oppose increases in both legal and illegal immigration, in some cases because of ethnic prejudice; in other cases, for fear of economic competition. The instinctive economic nationalism of tomorrow’s Republicans could be invoked to justify strategic trade as well as crude protectionism.
That sounds like a formula for a Republican Party reduced to irrelevance, particularly at the national level, changing demographics or not.  There's much to appeal to the remaining yeomanry, whether as farmers, small business owners, practitioners of the skilled trades, but not much toward fostering the preservation, let alone the continued evolution, of the yeomanry.  Perhaps it's wishful thinking by Democrats.  But the future for Democrats also looks a lot like business as usual.
Democrats of the next generation will be even more of an alliance of upscale, progressive whites with blacks and Latinos, based in large and diverse cities. They will think of the U.S. as a version of their multicultural coalition of distinct racial and ethnic identity groups writ large. Many younger progressives will take it for granted that moral people are citizens of the world, equating nationalism and patriotism with racism and fascism.

The withering-away of industrial unions, thanks to automation as well as offshoring, will liberate the Democrats to embrace free trade along with mass immigration wholeheartedly. The emerging progressive ideology of post-national cosmopolitanism will fit nicely with urban economies which depend on finance, tech and other industries of global scope, and which benefit from a constant stream of immigrants, both skilled and unskilled.

While tomorrow’s Republican policymakers will embrace FDR-to-LBJ universal entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, future Democrats may prefer means-tested programs for the poor only. In the expensive, hierarchical cities in which Democrats will be clustered, universal social insurance will make no sense. Payroll taxes on urban workers will be too low to fund universal social insurance, while universal social benefits will be too low to matter to the urban rich. So the well-to-do in expensive, unequal Democratic cities will agree to moderately redistributive taxes which pay for means-tested benefits—perhaps even a guaranteed basic income—for the disproportionately poor and foreign-born urban workforce. As populist labor liberalism declines within the Democratic party, employer-friendly and finance-friendly libertarianism will grow. The Democrats of 2030 may be more pro-market than the Republicans.
That might be very interesting, with the gentry metrofexuals getting richer and more huddled masses being brought in to do the grunt work (and being poorly served by the government schools?)

A more dismal perspective comes from W. R. Mead in The Meaning of Mr Trump.
Trump is the purest expression of the politics of ‘NO!’ that I personally can recall. He’s the candidate for people who think the conventional wisdom of the American establishment is hopelessly out of touch with the real world. He’s the little boy saying that the emperor, or in this case, the aspiring empress, has no clothes.  What energizes the Trump phenomenon is the very power of rejection: people who think the train is about to head off a cliff want to pull the emergency cord that stops the train even if they don’t know what happens next. To many of Trump supporters, Hillary Clinton looks like Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: the enforcer of a fatally flawed status quo and the personification of bureaucratic power in a system gone rogue.
But don't look for a Gray Champion.
Trump appeals to all those who think that the American Establishment, the Great and the Good of both parties, has worked its way into a dead end of ideas that don’t work and values that can’t save us. He is the candidate of Control-Alt-Delete. His election would sweep away the smug generational certainties that Clinton embodies, the Boomer Progressive Synthesis that hasn’t solved the problems of the world or of the United States, but which nevertheless persists in regarding itself as the highest and only form of truth.

The interest groups and power centers that surround Secretary Clinton like a praetorian guard—Wall Street, the upper middle class feminists, the African American establishment, the Davoisie, the institutional power of the great foundations and educational bureaucracies, Silicon Valley, Hollywood—have defeated their intellectual and political rivals in their spheres of interest and influence. Supporting her is a massive agglomeration of power, intellect, wealth and talent. Her candidacy is the logical climax of the Baby Boom’s march through the institutions of American life. Even the neoconservatives are enlisting in her campaign.

The American Right for all its earnest efforts has been unable to construct a counter establishment that can compete with the contemporary liberal behemoth. Libertarian nostalgia for the 1920s and 1890s, social conservative nostalgia for the faux-certainties of the 1950s; paleocon isolationism; white nationalism; ‘reformicon’ tweaks to the liberal policy agenda—none of these mutually hostile and contradictory sets of ideas can challenge the Boomer Establishment synthesis. The Clintonian center-Left won the cultural and intellectual battles of its time against both the hard left and the fragmented right. The Clinton candidacy is about inevitability, about the laws of historical and institutional gravity.

Yet though the Boomer Consensus has triumphed in the world of American institutions and ideas, in the eyes of many Americans it has not done all that well in the real world. Foreign policy, financial policy, health policy, support of the middle class, race relations, family life, public education, trade policy, city and state government management, wages: what exactly has the Boomer Consensus accomplished in these fields?
What do you think happens when you encourage dysfunction for some people and mau-mau others? How many experiments against reality can you run?
Those of us who care about policy, propriety and the other bourgeois values without which no democratic society can long thrive need to spend less time wringing our hands about the shortcomings of candidate Trump and the movement that has brought him this far, and more time both analyzing the establishment failures that have brought the country to this pass, and developing a new vision for the American future. The one thing we know about 2016 is that neither of these two candidates has what it takes to repair or to renovate the ship of state.
Perhaps not, but during a saecular crisis, when the institutions themselves are in flux, the Guidance of Wise Experts is the least relevant thing.
The likeliest forecast is that under either candidate, the slow unraveling of the liberal world order and the American domestic system will continue and possibly accelerate. The 2020 election may take place against an even darker background than what we now see; if America’s intellectuals and institutions don’t start raising their games, 2016 could soon start to look like the good old days.
Complex adaptive systems tend to do what they d**n well please.  Institutional evolution is about mutation, selection, and adaptation.  The best thing for some of the institutions might be that they go away.  I'll give Mr Lind the final word.  "And though it’s impossible to know exactly how it will end, one thing is clear: In 2016, the old political system is crumbling, and a new American political order is being born."

Emergence will find a way.

THE VALUE OF THE CORE.

Dean Dad's "Everything Else Major" from five academic years ago is really about seeking one.
The liberal arts major is actually the highest-enrollment major on my campus, even though it’s probably the least well-defined. Broadly speaking, it attracts the type A students who intend to transfer to the better four-year colleges en route to professional careers, and the type C students who take it for lack of any better ideas. It’s the home of most of our Honors students, and it’s simultaneously the default major for students who don’t know what they want. It’s the program for the purists, and it’s the program for the folks who just want to get their gen eds out of the way, as they inevitably put it.
The way it's currently set up, however, renders it as unsuitable for the purposes of the students, whether grade-improving careerists seeking to transfer, or nontraditional careerists seeking a human capital upgrade.
It’s structured like the classic Chinese menu, with generous helpings of electives in various disciplines. Beyond a few basic requirements -- the composition sequence, notably -- students can fulfill most of it with choices from within categories. You can take multiple philosophy classes or none at all; you can build a mini-major in psychology or avoid it altogether.
Where there are transaction costs, institutions ought be evolving to conserve on them.  The way forward might be to ensure that no matter what sort of careerism the students might be engaged in.  There's a University Diaries post I flagged, about the same time the Everything Else Major post appeared, that, while making the more traditional case for Playing With Big Ideas, also suggests the value of one Liberal Arts core for each student, irrespective of institution, irrespective of aspirations.
Maybe most people in college are careerists; but [Wash U.'s Eve] Samborn speaks for many when she laments the absence of something she’s right to want and expect in college: An atmosphere of sustained and excited and subversive discourse about foundational human questions (And so: Life is justified.). She worries about “what kind of educated people we will become if we have not given sufficient thought to the world.”
Also from about that time, the National Association of Scholars asked,
Might students be telling us that they want their colleges to help to develop the capacity to tell good from bad arguments? Might the solution be to restore the search for accuracy and truth to the center of the educational enterprise?
That sounds like yet another skill set that transfers.  Never mind the nature of the matriculants' careerism, developing a working jive detector and participating in that "sustained and excited and subversive discourse" ought to be something offered to incoming students, whether at a community college, or a regional comprehensive, mid-major, or land grant, or the state flagships or the institutions with the U.S. News problem.

23.5.16

GOD KEEP THE TSAR FAR AWAY FROM US.

Grandmaster Garry Kasparov has become a spokesman for civil society and one of Vladimir Putin's most visible critics.  In Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped, he documents the emergence of the latest prison-house of nations.  I'll keep Book Review No. 8 short.  The title presents his thesis, the text provides the details.

One observation might be worth study for extension to other parts of the world.  That is, Yugoslavia began to come apart after Josip Broz Tito died, with ethnic cleansing and other echoes of World War II surfacing (perhaps the first major cracks in the Pax Americana?)

Nobody, either in the Atlantic Alliance, or the Warsaw Pact, actively sought regime change in Yugoslavia.  The strongman dies, and no successor is able to keep the country together.  The generalization to other parts of the world -- would Iraq or Libya or Syria be better off without external encouragement of regime change? -- is left as an exercise.

There's a part of the Yugoslavia story that Grandmaster Kasparov does not take on that's also relevant for understanding international relations.  The Atlantic Alliance's intervention, during the waning days of the Clinton Administration, supposedly to protect Moslems from the Orthodox, did not secure much goodwill with the jihadis plotting in Afghanistan.  It destroyed any goodwill that might have been developing between the Atlantic Alliance and Russia.  Tchaikovsky's Marche Slav, after all, honors a Russian alliance with Serbia, and whose side did Russia take in 1914.  Is it any accident, dear reader, that a Russian nationalist would ascend to the Russian presidency in 1999?

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)

SLOWLY THEY LEARN.

Passenger Rail north of Boston continues to catch on.  Although there's no longer excursion service from Brunswick to Rockland on the former Maine Eastern, the Amtrak service between Boston and Brunswick will be getting a servicing facility at Brunswick, and now there are people at Augusta and Waterville who would like to get on the train.
“The people in Lewiston and Auburn already have money to look at this,” [Maine Rail Group spokesman Richard] Rudolph said. “We’re better off having a more focused group look at train service to Augusta and beyond, maybe to Bangor, and to Rockland, too, if they want.”

He said he’s not interested in pitting communities interested in rail service against each other.
We're still a long way from the mid-day Boston and Bangor Flying Yankee via Lewiston with through cars for or from Rockland switched at Portland let alone Aroostook County cars interchanged at Northern Maine Junction, and the shopper-friendly Bangor and Boston Pine Tree via Augusta and Brunswick.  And a Washington and Bangor East Wind might be a dream too far.


And yet,  we have people seriously discussing extensions of Amtrak service to locations that have been freight service only for over half a century.

THAT VICTORY DIVIDEND RESOURCE CURSE.

It's the gift that keeps on giving.  Edward McClelland, long before the Trumpening, resurrects the union-busting story behind the disappearance of family supporting jobs at union scale.
Let me tell you the story of an “unskilled” worker in America who lived better than most of today’s college graduates. In the winter of 1965, Rob Stanley graduated from Chicago Vocational High School, on the city’s Far South Side. Pay rent, his father told him, or get out of the house. So Stanley walked over to Interlake Steel, where he was immediately hired to shovel taconite into the blast furnace on the midnight shift. It was the crummiest job in the mill, mindless grunt work, but it paid $2.32 an hour — enough for an apartment and a car. That was enough for Stanley, whose main ambition was playing football with the local sandlot all-stars, the Bonivirs.
That $2.32 an hour in 1965 dollars, Mr McClelland helpfully notes, is $17.17 an hour in Obama bucks.  That "lived better than most of today's college graduates" neglects the material condition of steel workers in Communist China, the Soviet Bloc, and much of the third world, where the Gospel of Development According to Walt Rostow (or was it Kwame Nkrumah?) included heavy industry, such as steel mills.

But Communism proved to be the longest route from early industrialization to early industrialization, and the emerging steel producers of the next decade were still picking up the pieces of their steelmaking capacity rendered unproductive by the Army Air Force.
Stanley’s job was more difficult, more dangerous and more unpleasant than working the fryer at KFC (the blast furnace could heat up to 2,000 degrees). According to the laws of the free market, though, none of that is supposed to matter. All that is supposed to matter is how many people are capable of doing your job. And anyone with two arms could shovel taconite. It required even less skill than preparing dozens of finger lickin’ good menu items, or keeping straight the orders of 10 customers waiting at the counter. Shovelers didn’t need to speak English. In the early days of the steel industry, the job was often assigned to immigrants off the boat from Poland or Bohemia.

“You’d just sort of go on automatic pilot, shoveling ore balls all night,” is how Stanley remembers the work.

Stanley’s ore-shoveling gig was also considered an entry-level position. After a year in Vietnam, he came home to Chicago and enrolled in a pipefitters’ apprenticeship program at Wisconsin Steel.
Yes, shoveling taconite simply required strong arms, but there were plenty of other employers hiring people for their strong backs (although the emphasis on youth fitness in the elementary schools of the era suggested creeping couch-potatoism, long before cable sports and wireless remotes).
So why did Rob Stanley, an unskilled high school graduate, live so much better than someone with similar qualifications could even dream of today? Because the workers at Interlake Steel were represented by the United Steelworkers of America, who demanded a decent salary for all jobs.
Collective bargaining can affect the division of the gains from trade, but that presupposes gains from trade to divide.  And it's much easier to divide gains when there are monopoly rents.  That was once the case in steel (and many other unionized Rust Belt industries) but not so much any more.  Mr McClelland elides the history.
The greatest victory of the anti-labor movement has not been in busting industries traditionally organized by unions. That’s unnecessary. Those jobs have disappeared as a result of automation and outsourcing to foreign countries. In the U.S., steel industry employment has declined from 521,000 in 1974 to 150,000 today.
That's true in part.  Managements of the legacy steel companies have long been in favor of preserving the monopoly rents, and making labor peace with the unions.  But that $17 an hour wage in the United States looks like Eden Itself to a peasant looking at the wrong end of a mule in the third world.  Thus steel requests for protection (and raising the specter of dumping) are as old as the re-emergence of the European and Asian steel companies.  David Ignatius did an analysis for The Washington Monthly in 1979.  The hard copy is still in my files (that's what happens when you do applied work on the steel business.)  Jeff Jacoby says they're still at it.
Nucor, Steel Dynamics, United States Steel and other American producers should be told to man up and face their competition in the marketplace. They shouldn't be rewarded for hiring lobbyists and publicists to wangle special-interest privileges that no business has a right to claim.
To repeat: it's easier to buy labor peace if there are rents to dissipate.  It's sad, though, that Nucor and Steel Dynamics are now among the rent-seekers.  These used to be the disrupters.  What Mr Stanley couldn't anticipate, and what Mr Ignatius didn't see -- I came across the phenomenon while conducting further research on the steel industry -- was that there were alternatives to making steel by shoveling taconite into blast furnaces (something about that doesn't sound right, anyway) that involved recycled scrap, of which there's plenty in the Rust Belt, at pay packets comparable to union scale, but without the restrictive union job descriptions.

THE SELF-DESTRUCTION OF THE POLITICAL CLASS.

Glenn "Insta Pundit" Reynolds summarizes what has gone wrong.  "Being law-abiding for its own sake is a traditional part of bourgeois culture, and our ruling class has lately treated the bourgeoisie with contempt as well. Which raises the risk that this contempt will be returned."

Question the privilege of the nomenklatura, and their mascots.

Why are they allowed to do things that we’re not allowed to do?

It's beginning to dawn on longtime Democrat insider Robert B. Reich.
That most Americans don’t particularly like Trump is irrelevant. As one Midwesterner told me a few weeks ago, “He may be a jerk, but he’s our jerk.”

By the same token, in this era of anti-politics, any candidate who appears to be the political establishment is at a strong disadvantage. This may be Hillary Clinton’s biggest handicap.

The old politics featured carefully crafted speeches and policy proposals calculated to appeal to particular constituencies. In this sense, Mrs. Clinton’s proposals and speeches are almost flawless.

But in the new era of anti-politics Americans are skeptical of well-crafted speeches and detailed policy proposals. They prefer authenticity. They want their candidates unscripted and unfiltered.
I concur in part, and wish to extend in part.

Yes, the usual chin-pullers with their usual patter song (at-the-end-of-the-day-bipartisan-compromise-consensus-process-comprehensive-reform: perhaps Gilbert and Sullivan could set it to music) are so last campaign.

More to the point, though, all that expertise has failed.

But we're not quite to the resolution envisioned by George Will.  Imagine a modest Inaugural Address.
My tribute will be to delay [attending the traditional inauguration day brunch with Congressional leaders] for the 10 minutes or so it will take to sign a stack of executive orders nullifying most executive orders issued by my predecessor. He used them to wield executive power to institute policies and alter laws that properly should be initiated by Congress.

This will be enough business for Day One of my first 100 days. And I promise you this: On the 100th day of my administration, America will be . . . pretty much indistinguishable from what it is today. Would you, my over-excited countrymen, really want it any other way? Would you really want to live in a nation that can be substantially changed in a matter of a few months by a hyperactive government?
Mr Will has been on record as questioning the overblown cult of the presidency previously.  He doesn't disappoint.
For efficiency, and to minimize unnecessary folderol, I am going to take a minute right now to deliver my first and last State of the Union address. It is this one sentence: Things are much better than they once were — slavery? gone; the Oregon Trail? replaced by the Interstate Highway System — but things could be better.

There. Wasn’t that less disagreeable than the annual midwinter prime-time pep rally that presidents stage because of the Constitution’s blurry mandate that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information” about the country’s condition? How quaint. As though Congress is interested in information.

After today’s lunch, Congress should try nibbling at the edges of our problems, many of which Congress created to please you, the clamorous people. To you I say: We have nothing to fear but your insufficient fear of what has been done on your behalf and at your behest.
Plus a cautionary peroration.
If you want the United States to be Puerto Rico writ large — or, even worse, Illinois — just stay the course you are on. In words Lincoln spoke at his first inauguration, the nation’s fate is “in your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine.”
The real inaugural address, no matter who gives it, is likely to be less edifying, less clarifying, and less refreshing.

20.5.16

SEEKING THE BLUEPRINT MARX NEVER PROVIDED.

The great hope of leftist vanguards of all stripes is that they will have the great good fortune to be alive during the Final Collapse of Capitalism.  The dynamics are simple enough.  "Marx, of course, is the chronicler of technical progress making possible the production of stuff in such abundance that the workers would have insufficient buying power to buy it, because the private owners of the means of production accumulate wealth out of the difference between the prices of the products they sell and the subsistence wages they pay."  The ending seems foreordained.
Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself, The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.
And yet the Long Depression that accompanied the Gilded Age didn't bring it.

The Great Depression didn't bring it.

Two decades of bursting bubbles and Great Reset haven't yet brought it.

But David M. Kotz, in The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism, today's Book Review No. 7, thinks about how to bring it.  Think a shorter Capital, starting with the market-friendly reforms that accompanied the failures of the Great Society and the European welfare states rather than with the primitive accumulation, and, after a look at the internal contradictions unleashed by those reforms, it concludes with suggestions about what comes next.  We're past the simple dialectic in which a socialism replaces capitalism.  Page 181: "The social structure of accumulation theory argues that every structural crisis is followed by major institutional restructuring."  (There are books that can be written about what sorts of restructurings are futile reforms and what revolutionary transformations are sectarian, but Mr Kotz, mercifully, doesn't go there.)

He concludes, however, with the observation that This Time It's Different.  Not quite integument-bursts-asunder different, but different enough that people might be receptive to "social democratic capitalism" (it differs from "Western Europe" but read the book) or to "democratic participatory planned socialism" (the details are fuzzy; there are emergence possibilities I grapple with here) as possibilities.  Mr Kotz concludes, likely correctly, that the getting there "cannot be predicted."

(Cross-posted to Fifty Book Challenge.)

A FOURTH TURNING PREDICTION.

Michael Walsh.
This will be the last election between two Baby Boomers, whose personas were forged in the tumultuous Sixties, a time so very different from our own; there is no need to take political advice from small children. What's happened is that boomer Left has in effect turned on its own excesses of half a century ago, and turned into the censorious parents they spent their young lives loathing. And as the SJW harpies and their emasculated "male" counterparts intensify their onslaught on traditional ("traditional" because it works) culture, they're about to learn a very ugly lesson: it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature.
That's what happens when you neglect the implications of "confers evolutionary advantage."

IMPOSSIBLE TO RAISE FREE-RANGE KIDS.

I grew up in Chicago, and the suburbs are all wrong for my kids.
And as for me, the mom in the suburbs: Sometimes I just don't feel like driving over to Starbucks to meet a friend for coffee. I yearn for the way it was when I grew up, in that three-story apartment in West Rogers Park, where our French windows stayed open all the time, and my mom could yell up to her friend on the second floor, to come have an iced tea. It's not just that I'm a mother who wants it to be like it was "back in my day." I wish for my kids to experience some of the kind of childhood and independence I gained from living in the city.

It's not just helicopter parenting, structured play dates and social media that have made their lives seemingly easier, or perhaps if not easier, lazier. It's living in the 'burbs. I want my boys to experience how the little things in everyday life don't always come so easy. I remember my mom searching for a parking spot on the street, carrying groceries way farther than across a porch, of trusting me to walk alone every day, make friends with the drugstore owner and actually talk to strangers.

I'm not saying that I wish I was a mom carrying groceries for blocks and blocks. I think that's what I wanted to avoid when we first moved to the suburbs. I wanted the ease and convenience of a driveway, a front porch. But now all I feel is an anemic lifestyle. Car to gym to home to school to home to work to office to store to home again. Then the evening carpools start. For the kids, and I guess, for me, there's no grit, no problem-solving necessary to get from Point A to Point B. And that's what I'm afraid my children aren't learning by living in this supposed utopia - a way of life that fosters self-reliance and problem-solving.
Never mind that if she does encourage her kids to walk to the store or the park or ride their bikes somewhere or organize a pickup football game in the street the Enforcers of Conformity will call in social services or the police or the park rangers.

RESURRECTING THE INTERESTING QUESTIONS.

Once upon a time, before powerful computers and all matter of advanced methods for decomposing residuals, empirical research in economics looked relatively simple.  For instance, one could dip into the Census of Manufactures, come up with a return on assets, regress it against the four-firm concentration ratio, and make an inference about the exercise of monopoly power.  The economic tricks have gotten better over the years, but as a research question, this one appears to have gone out of fashion about thirty years ago.

That means it's time for the question to be reopened.  Paul Krugman approves.
There are, then, good reasons to believe that reduced competition and increased monopoly power are very bad for the economy. But do we have direct evidence that such a decline in competition has actually happened? Yes, say a number of recent studies, including one just released by the White House. For example, in many industries the combined market share of the top four firms, a traditional measure used in many antitrust studies, has gone up over time.

The obvious next question is why competition has declined. The answer can be summed up in two words: Ronald Reagan.

For Reagan didn’t just cut taxes and deregulate banks; his administration also turned sharply away from the longstanding U.S. tradition of reining in companies that become too dominant in their industries. A new doctrine, emphasizing the supposed efficiency gains from corporate consolidation, led to what those who have studied the issue often describe as the virtual end of antitrust enforcement.
That change in antitrust enforcement transcended ideology, something that makes doing political economy rather than engaging in partisan politics difficult.  In the same way that transportation deregulation and tight monetary policy began during the Carter presidency and the fruits came in in time to re-elect Ronald Reagan, a substitution of international trade for antitrust enforcement as a way of protecting consumers enjoyed the support of William Baxter, the deputy assistant general for antitrust in the Reagan years, as well as Lester Thurow, at the time a policy intellectual at MIT.  William G. Shepherd, then of the University of Michigan, published a paper arguing that about three-fourths of national income originated in "effectively competitive" industries by 1980; that improvement over about half of the income over the preceding twenty years reflecting antitrust enforcement and increased international competition.

It all made sense against the news: the Reagan administration settled both the International Business Machines and American Telephone monopolization cases, dropping the first as overtaken by events (of what possible use, let alone meaning, is a mainframe monopoly?) and negotiating an agreement by which the Bell operating companies, still regulated monopolies, stood separately from the long distance and telephone equipment divisions, which faced competition.  And Chrysler had just been bailed out by the taxpayers, with the legacy car companies and the integrated steel producers lobbying for greater trade protection.

We seem condemned, however, to return to the old set of policy and research questions, though.
The White House announcement was accompanied by a 17-page issue brief, prepared by the [Council of Economic Advisors] the agency that advises the President on economic policy, on the benefits of competition. The brief acknowledges that the American economy has become less competitive and more concentrated in recent decades, and suggests that robust enforcement of antitrust laws can serve to mitigate this problem.

The CEA lists a number of underlying reasons for the decrease in competition across the American economy, among them “efficiencies associated with scale, increases in merger and acquisition activity, firms’ crowding out existing or potential competitors either deliberately or through innovation, and regulatory barriers to entry such as occupational licensing that have reduced the entry of new firms into a variety of markets.” It also makes the case that consumers and workers would benefit from concerted government action to promote competition “in a variety of industries.”

The CEA relies on a large number of academic studies to argue that competition benefits consumers and workers, and that firms’ abuse of monopoly power may harm workers and consumers alike, by leading to overpricing, lower quality, and lower wages. “The presence of many firms in a market does not ensure competition. Under certain conditions, firms may be able to collude with each other to create and abuse market power, for example by agreeing to raise prices or by restricting output (thereby raising prices) to consumers or by restricting wage growth for workers,” the Council writes, noting that in the United States price-fixing is illegal and that the detection and prosecution of “collusive cartels” is and should be an important priority of antitrust agencies.
We used to be less worried about rising concentration globally, as the world market was large enough to support multiple firms, and the competitive interests of firms with different linguistic and cultural heritages likely precluded rational cooperation (if there are sufficiently few firms, they don't have to meet in a smoke-filled room or at Dirty Helen's to fix prices).  But now, the old worries are back, and when even the University of Chicago has to make do with a chart showing rising concentration of revenues, how long will it be before another concentration-and-profits regression lands in a journal?

OUR UNIVERSITIES ARE BEING RUN BY STUPID PEOPLE.

Let them deal with the consequences of their stupidity.  Reason's Robby Soave is on it.
For 50 years, race-based admissions have fomented racial inequality and feelings of inferiority on campus. The modern war on college free expression is, as Justice Fleming predicted, the inevitable result. We have university administrators to thank for that, too.
Justice Fleming's report referenced here.  Let the record show the Lord Chancellor of Oxford noting the pernicious effects of differential admission standards.

Were preferential policies another consequence of the victory dividend that is now spent?

WALMART'S SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WELFARE STATE.

It goes beyond selling cheap crap to the EBT crowd and behaving monopsonistically toward vendors and hiving off employee benefits on the taxpayers with personnel policies that swell the EBT and Medicaid rosters.  The Walmart clientele are notoriously nyekulturny, and now the editors at Tampa Bay's Times note that all the police calls to the local Walmart are yet another instance of corporate welfare.
The world's largest retailer pads its bottom line by relying on police to provide basic security at considerable cost to local taxpayers. That is the only reasonable conclusion from the Tampa Bay Times' detailed review of thousands of police calls to local Walmarts. There has to be a smarter way to fulfill government's obligation to protect everyone and enforce the law, and it should start with local governments insisting Walmart work as a better corporate partner to reduce its drain on public resources.

A review of nearly 16,800 calls in a single year to Walmarts in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties revealed some startling trends. Times staff writers Zachary T. Sampson, Laura C. Morel and Eli Murray found sheriff's deputies in Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties were called to Walmart stores more often than anyplace else. In Pinellas County, Walmarts ranked second. In Hillsborough, seven of the 10 busiest locations for the Sheriff's Office were Walmarts. These are numbers that cannot be explained away by the number of Walmarts or their store sizes or locations.

The details of the investigation are just as disturbing. Some 7,000 calls were for suspected thefts, and many of those involved inexpensive items such as a $10 gas can or a $6.39 electric toothbrush or $3 eye drops. There has to be a more time-saving, cost-efficient way of dealing with petty theft cases involving items worth less than $300. Another 9,000 police calls were for basic disorder such as trespassing or minor disturbances. How many of these situations could have been more efficiently handled by diffusing situations using store managers or private security than by calling police and arresting someone?
We'll get a better class of Walmarts when we get a better class of shoppers there.

A POSITIVE #NEVERTRUMP #NEVERHILLARY STRATEGY.

Perhaps I have the luxury of considering this electoral maneuver as under the Constitution, Illinois's electoral votes are likely to be in the Dowager Empress's lockbox already.
Neither [former New Mexico governor Gary] Johnson nor [former Massachusetts governor William] Weld is a purist libertarian, and both [they served as Republican governors] have come under fire within the Libertarian Party, which will nominate its candidates in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend. Johnson displeased many libertarians (including me) by saying that government should ban discrimination on the basis of religion, including requiring a Christian baker to bake and decorate a cake for a same-sex wedding. Weld has supported some gun control measures.

But they will present a clear alternative to Trump and Clinton: strong and coherent fiscal conservatism, social liberalism, drug-policy reform, criminal-justice reform, reining in mass surveillance, ending executive abuse of power, and a prudent foreign policy that is neither promiscuously interventionist nor erratic and bombastic — all grounded in a philosophical commitment to liberty and limited government.

They acted on those ideas as governors, with the usual accommodations to political reality.
The article notes that the Johnson and Weld ticket is the only constitutionalist alternative already on all fifty ballots.  It also notes that the ticket's chance of winning electoral votes isn't good.

What matters, though, whether it's Mr Trump or Mrs Clinton being sworn in next January, is that the Constitution gives Congress some powers.  Both Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton are walking exemplars of Why Presidential Power Must Be Checked.  Thus, even if the conventional wisdom is correct (#NeverTrump gets you Hillary), the Congress has some power to frustrate a president's ambitions.  (That's a common talking point among Mr Obama's defenders: look what he has to push against!  To which I say, imagine how much worse it would be with a compliant Congress.)

Thus, dear reader, whether you implement #NeverTrump #NeverHillary by abstaining on the presidential line, or picking the libertarian, or one of the other minor parties that somehow got through the Cartel's ballot rules, make the effort to learn who is running for the other offices, and choose wisely.

STRIPPED.

The Board of Trustees of Northern Illinois University have ratified the University Council's revocation of the 1999 honorary degree conferred on then Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, now another jailed Illinois politician.

The roads paid for in an earmark to the porkulus transportation bill of the early 2000s continue to hurry traffic through otherwise unimproved land the university once intended to build buildings to sell naming rights to.

19.5.16

UNCONTROLLED POLICY EXPERIMENTATION.

Barbara Miner's Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City begins with the Milwaukee Braves winning a World Series and ends with the Madison protests prior to the attempted recall of Republican governor Scott Walker.

The history overlaps some with my own.  I started kindergarten in 1959, and was in a class that was bussed intact (not because of integration, as later became the case, but because there were more students in my neighborhood school than there were classrooms.)  Later I attended a new high school that featured a planetarium and the "superior ability" classes offering college-prep plus.

I finished in 1971.  The city, the high school, and the Milwaukee Public Schools, all came apart sometime after.  Ms Miner documents all the ways Milwaukee changed: the immigration from the black South and the Third World, the flight of the factories and the once-unionized jobs to the black South and the Third World, the flight of the white ethnics (primarily Polish and German extraction) to the suburban counties.

It's not that the policy activists -- Ms Miner is clearly sympathetic to the recall movement, and to the advocates of school integration or diversity or however you want to frame it -- didn't protest and agitate and elect.  It's not that the school administrators didn't try everything -- you'll read about intact bussing and integration and open enrollment and magnet schools and voucher schools and charter schools and for all I know schools of smelt -- and yet Milwaukee "collapsed" badly during the 1980s and didn't recover.

And yet, Book Review No. 6 suggests the Lessons from the Heartland are incomplete.  We end with the usual suspects occupying the Capitol, and yet the governor survived the recall election, and won re-election two years later, and the Milwaukee Public Schools are no better, and the work of evaluating the policy experiments remains for other writers to do.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

NOSTALGIC FOR THE NODDING DONKEYS.

The BBC documents the Passenger Rail operators' efforts to retire the Pacer railbuses.
There's the rattling, the shuddering, the bouncing and the occasional squealing. You don't have to be a trainspotter to know you're riding a Pacer.

Essentially, each one is an old Leyland Motors bus frame mounted on train wheels and, thanks to the vehicle's rudimentary suspension, regular travellers are all too familiar with the distinctive sounds and sensations.
British Rail and the successor Passenger Rail operators tended to exile them from London, although they could be relegated to the Midlands and the North.


Pacer from the 143 series, Manchester Piccadilly, 10 March 1997.

The cars' rough riding properties contributed to the nickname, "nodding donkeys,"  which reflected their design, and the rattling and bouncing could only be augmented by the opposed joints in British track.
Pacer carriages aren't fitted with bogies. This means they have just four wheels instead of the usual eight. The lack of bogies also means there's only one layer of suspension springs, rather than two, which "can make the ride rather bouncy", says Simon Iwnicki, director of the Institute of Railway Research at Huddersfield University. "There aren't many vehicles that are as long as the Pacer that have just four wheels."

This set-up also means the Pacer can emit a distinctive - and to many passengers, annoying - squealing noise as it runs through curves. It also limits the top speed to 75mph.
The long wheelbase -- it is a bus body, after all -- is evident in this picture.


Pacer set at Manchester Victoria, 22 May 1995.

The Pacer, arguably, lasted as long as it did, because nobody attempted to pretend that it was anything other than a budget-priced rail car using bus components.  And 3 and 2 seats that would look right on a yellow school bus (which, in DeKalb, are now operated by First Student, another division of First Group.)
Budgets were tight and British Rail was under great pressure to cut branch lines, says [author Christian] Wolmar. Meanwhile, at its factory in Workington, Cumbria, motor manufacturer British Leyland had produced a single-decker bus, the National, which needed to sell in high volumes to be viable.

"We had one practical chap [who] suggested maybe you could take the body bit of the Leyland National and put it on a rail track," says Eric Woodcock, who was a bus designer at the state-run conglomerate at the time and now campaigns on public transport issues.

Simultaneously, British Rail had been working on freight wagon technology, and engineers from both nationalised companies began collaborating on a way to fuse the National's body with a bogie-less chassis to create a cut-price diesel multiple unit (DMU) train.
That's more honest than putting an intercity bus body on two axles and pretending it's an intercity flyer.


Aerotrain coach at Green Bay, Wisconsin.

In an ideal world, you do not want to make a train that looks like a bus.  Or a string of buses.

The article notes that Pacer enthusiasts seek to preserve some of the railcars.  They'll be easier to keep in service than the short Aerotrain consists left in our museums.

I'LL OUTWORK YOU AND I'LL OUTEARN YOU.

Mandated family leave continues to be contested territory, most recently with a stressed editor wanting to have the corner office and to go home at a reasonable hour.
I loved my career. As an editor at a popular magazine, I got to work on big stories, attend cool events, and meet famous celebs all the time.

And yet, after 10 years of working in a job where I was always on deadline, I couldn’t help but feel envious when parents on staff left the office at 6 p.m. to tend to their children, while it was assumed co-workers without kids would stay behind to pick up the slack.
Predictably, the parents who took parental leave in order to be parents weren't impressed.
Maternity leave is a lot of wonderful things — but, especially for first-time parents, it’s a crazy, sleep-deprived period of time in which your entire life is turned upside-down. For birth mothers, it’s also physically devastating as your body recovers from producing a new human.
That's not to say that the current dispensation in the workplace isn't one that gets people to think favorably of time away.
Most white-collar workers today are expected to be constantly connected to work, without much time away to truly disconnect. Even when we’re given permission to be out of the office, many of us have bright shiny iPhones that lure us back with a constant stream of notifications and beeps and the promise of instant distraction.
Yes, I was fortunate enough to get away with telling colleagues and administrators that I did not have a mobile 'phone.  People doing more time-sensitive work, not so much.

The fundamental tradeoffs still apply.
There's no intellectual basis for criticizing the individual who is willing to outwork others in order to secure income, or promotions.

On the other hand, there's no reason for a corporation to restrict its promotion opportunities to the most conspicuous time-servers, or to restrict its flexible job descriptions to mothers.
And perhaps working parents might have reasons to want to offload the rugrats, at least temporarily.  On the other hand, those supposedly family-friendly workplace policies place additional burdens on the workers that can't use the tee-ball game as reason to get out.  I was feeling testy when I wrote, "Grasp the proposition that other people might be bearing some of the burden of your balance, by taking on the work you have shirked."  About the same time, though, advice columnist Caroline Hax put the same proposition more tactfully.
The ones without spouses and kids, meanwhile, are often the ones families count on to travel farthest to family events, to nurse ailing parents, to work late when everyone else has to bail, to throw themselves into volunteer work in ways that people with more demanding ties simply can't, to be the best uncles and aunties (or Big Brothers and Big Sisters) around.
That such behavior might produce bigger pay packets and promotions might be incidental, or it might be intentional.

THE EMERGENCE OF EVOLUTIONARY ADVANTAGE.

Will Wilkinson, The Great Enrichment and Social Justice.
Accounting for the Great Enrichment is the deepest puzzle of the social sciences. Some think it was all just a matter of figuring out how to exploit natural resources, or some combination of enslavement, exploitation, and colonial plunder, or maybe it was just geographic and genetic good luck. None of that really explains it.
That's the starter. Here's the main course.  Go, read, and understand.
Each of these views is part of the truth. The debate is mainly a matter of how beliefs and norms, institutions and incentives, scientific knowledge and technical innovation all fit together. Which are the causes and which are the effects? There’s no way to adequately summarize the involuted nuance of the debate. But it’s not wrong to sum it up bluntly like this: humans rather suddenly got immensely better at cooperating and now a lot of us are really rich.

Before I go on, I hasten to add that not all of us are really rich. Most humans don’t live in the places first touched by the Great Enrichment and aren’t that rich now. Moreover, the path from “extractive” to “inclusive” institutions in the places that did get rich has been bumpy and brutal, and the liberal revaluation of values has always been opportunistically applied and rife with hypocrisy.
Emergence is messy. But mutation, selection, and adaptation don't lend themselves to easy management.

THAT SMUG PALACE-GUARD MEDIA.

Behold Norah O'Donnell, condescending to Ivanka Trump.



Here's why Mr Limbaugh's message still matters.
Norah O'Donnell brought in Ivanka Trump, the daughter, to discuss whether or not her father gropes women, as the New York Times hit piece on Sunday said.  Now, keep in mind when you listen to this, she would never ask Chelsea Clinton even one of these questions.  She would never ask Chelsea Clinton about Monica Lewinsky or Bill Clinton's multiple affairs or the alleged rape, Juanita Broaddrick.  She wouldn't even go there, but she's got such contempt for Ivanka.

Question.  "It says many of the women interviewed reveal unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on their female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct.  Is there unending commentary on the female form with your father?  Does he always objectify the way women look?"
And so it goes on.  The CBS spin is here, should you be interested.

Newsbusters also complains that Chelsea Clinton receives more favorable treatment by the legacy networks.  Never mind that Chelsea is one of the trustees of the Clinton influence-selling foundation, as well as the spouse of a failed hedge-fund manager.

Just in case anybody wonders why tumbrels and pitchforks might be next.

CONTROL THE INTAKE OF THE DISTRESSED MATERIAL.

I maintain that U. S. News sell those university rankings as a way of reassuring potential students (or perhaps their anxious parents) that those large investments in tuition and fees produce human capital.  Selectivity functions as a proxy for "there won't be a lot of disengaged, unprepared, and clueless classmates dragging down the level of discourse."

Now comes the chancellor of Oxford University, Chris Patten, a man who has much to fear if the British version of the league tables rank Oxford as yet another regional comprehensive, telling the truth.
“I don’t support quotas at universities. Nobody will explain to me how you can make a system of quotas work while retaining the highest admissions standards.

“Quotas must mean lower standards. There are better ways of addressing social inclusion at universities."
Yes. Spell out the metrics by which you define diversity and by which you trade off preparation for diversity.  And while you're at it, deal with the failures in the lower grades.  "Patten's remarks blame high schools, rather than Oxford, for failing to prepare certain students for acceptance into prestigious universities."  I'm quite happy to have a Peer of the Realm taking up the cause, heretical though it might be.

TODAY'S ZINGER.

Betsy Newmark, quoting David Harsanyi.  "In 2001, Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman Paul Krugman, whose written some of the most effective defenses of so-called sweatshops — “bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all” — explained why these efforts were insanity."  Still true today, whether or not having clothing sewn in Sri Lanka diminishes BeyoncĂ©'s street cred.  By all means follow the links.

18.5.16

THE CASE FOR INCOME ACCOUNTING.

Hair-on-fire-headline in Destination: Freedom. China Railway Debt Reaches $US 640bn.  "China Railway Corporation (CRC) has almost twice as much debt as the Greek government, according to an external audit of the company’s first quarter results, which reveals total debts reached Yuan 4.14 trillion ($US 640bn) at the end of March, a 10.4% year-on-year increase."  Yes, and if that borrowing is generating assets, such as sufficient freight train capacity to preclude days-long traffic jams, those might be yuan well borrowed.

For contrast, U. S. railroads spend less than $10 billion a year on capital improvements, but the freight railroad main lines are in a state of good repair.

DOODLING ELEGANCE AND DIDDLING RIGOR

There's a long-running debate among economists about the roles of rigor and relevance.  Is High Practice the construction of intellectually airtight arguments, whether using the higher mathematics or not?  Is it the provision of an Operator's Manual for Wise Experts to Organize A Good Society?  Is it demonstrating cleverness by arguing that what appears odd actually makes sense?

Some years ago, Levitt and Dubner's Freakonomics attempted to demonstrate cleverness with a particularly provocative set of odd situations.  That provoked a columnist called Noam Scheiber to ask, Is Freakonomics Ruining Economics? That column has long gone down the memory hole, but reactions by James Joyner and Alex Tabarrok remain on line.  Short answer: there's division of labor.  People competent at identifying trembling-hand refinements do that.  People who can write their own estimators or build their own data sets do that.  People who can put an intriguing twist on a pass through a panel study do that.  People who solve partial-equilibrium imponderables do that.

Mr. Joyner:
While it’s likely true that a tenure and promotion system that incentivizes doing studies that can be done quickly will divert some attention that might have gone to those which can not, there are, almost by definition, plenty of people interested in the “important” and “policy relevant” questions. Presumably, if academic economists aren’t doing them, think tanks and private foundations will.
Mr. Tabarrok:
The truth is that even today most of economics is a wasteland of boring papers on profoundly uninteresting questions.  The choice is not Levitt v. Heckman it’s Levitt and Heckman (and many others like Buchanan who neither Levitt nor Heckman might appreciate) versus a huge number of non-entities (many highly paid and famous) who answer trivial questions poorly and do it without even the courtesy of offering some entertainment on the side.
The reference to "Levitt v. Heckman" refers to a public spat in the economics department at The University of Chicago over whether entertaining partial equilibrium problems were worthy of study.  That might be what prompted Mr Scheiber to bring up the "ruining economics" question.

Bet on emergence.

RECLAIMING THE MEDIATING INSTITUTIONS

There's a lengthy Yuval Levin meditation in The Wall Street Journal, "The Next Conservative Movement," which addresses the way in which the old saecular order fractures, and the major political parties are inadequate instruments for dealing with the fracture.  He starts with a consideration of what A Good Polity looked like.  That is, why did an America That Worked come apart?  And why are the major parties still haunted by those days?
Both Democrats and Republicans often appeal to such a sense of loss. For Democrats, the peak came in the 1960s, when cultural liberalization seemed to coexist with a highly regulated economy. For Republicans, it came in the 1980s, when economic liberalization was accompanied by a resurgence of national pride and a renewed emphasis on family values. By now, American politics is largely organized around these related modes of nostalgia, and the two parties address voters as if it were always 1965 or 1981.
That's all familiar turf. The appeal of the Civil Rights movement was that of removing legal impedimenta preventing people, on the basis of race, from participating in the fruits of victory. The Best and The Brightest thought there were enough fruits to create a Great Society at home and contain Communism abroad.  It takes more space than I want to devote to detailing the ways The Best and The Brightest messed up, but mess up they did, and the appeal of the Reagan years to Republicans is in the partial rolling back of the administrative state, plus the laughing of the Soviet Union into oblivion.

What follows, though, is the generational morphology in two paragraphs.  Victory produces a social order that is settled enough for now, but there is no such thing, particularly where emergence is concerned, as settled for all time.  (There's probably something for Hegel scholars to chew on in there, but that's why we have philosophy departments.)
The America that our exhausted, wistful politics so misses, the nation as it first emerged from the Great Depression and World War II and evolved from there, was (at least for its white citizens) exceptionally unified and cohesive. It had an extraordinary confidence in large institutions—in the ability of big government, big labor and big business to work together to meet national needs. Its cultural life was dominated by a broad traditionalist moral consensus that celebrated two-parent families with children born into wedlock and frowned on divorce and abortion. And in the wake of a world war in which most potential competitors had burned each other’s productive capacities to the ground, the U.S. utterly dominated the global economy, offering opportunity to workers of all stripes.

But almost immediately after the war, that consolidated nation began a long process of unwinding and fragmenting. During the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the culture liberalized, the economy was deregulated to keep up with rising competitors, and an exceptional midcentury elite consensus in politics gave way to renewed divisions. In time, this fracturing of consensus grew from diffusion into polarization—of political views, economic opportunities, incomes, family patterns and ways of life. We have grown less conformist but more fragmented, more diverse but less unified, more dynamic but less secure.
Freedom is like that.  Plus, part of the victory dividend resource curse was the expectation, irrespective of your political stance, that the objective conditions for continued prosperity would always be with us.  We see that in the pop-culture treatment, early in the Reagan years, of former hippies entering middle age as yuppies.  It's more subtle than that, as there were more young people who had a bourgeois bent, despite all the efforts of the academic culture of the era to make bourgeois a dirty word, than there were smelly hippies, but yes, the hippies and the long-haired radicals had the idea there would be enough of the productive economy to sustain them once they got bored with their crusades.  Thus we find ourselves here.
Conservatives and liberals stress different facets of these changes. Liberals treasure the social liberation and growing cultural diversity of the past half-century but lament the economic dislocation, the loss of social solidarity and the rise in inequality. Conservatives celebrate the economic liberalization and dynamism but lament the social instability, moral disorder, cultural breakdown and weakening of fundamental institutions and traditions. Part of Mr. Trump’s appeal has been that he basically laments it all—and thus unites the anxieties of those who see no real upside for themselves in the evolution of modern America.
Thus, the cultural and institutional conflicts.  There's a tradition in political economy, dating back to the brains trust that claimed to have ameliorated the Depression and then managed the mobilization for victory, of relying on Governance By Wise Experts.  Adherents of that tradition call themselves Democrats.  The Republicans find themselves in a more difficult position, as the last time their party was in a position to manage a saecular crisis was in the 1860s.  Governance by Wise Experts brought us the Anaconda Plan, emancipation, the Pacific Railroad, and more than a little rent-seeking.  Currently, their message of Government Failure resonates, but during a saecular crisis, Governance that Does Something matters.  Emergence is desirable, but emergence is a hard sell, particularly against a narrative that Four of Five Experts Know What's Good For You.
In health care, for instance, the old progressive approach has been to centralize decision-making so that consolidated expertise could direct our immense health-care system more efficiently. Obamacare, like Medicare and Medicaid before it, embodies this approach—and demonstrates its failings. The new conservative approach would liberate insurers and providers to offer many different models of coverage and care, empower consumers to choose (including through financial assistance to those unable to afford insurance) and let their choices matter—making the system more efficient from the bottom up.

Or consider primary and secondary education, where the old progressive model was the universal public-school system—offering one product to all and administering it in as centralized a way as public opinion would permit. The new conservative approach would instead direct its resources to let parents make choices for their children and allow the education system to take shape around their priorities and preferences.

As these examples suggest, such a bottom-up approach has long been championed by conservatives in some arenas, albeit with limited success against an entrenched progressive welfare state. But as the old progressive model exhausts itself, a new conservative approach can make its case more boldly—both in familiar arenas and in new ones, from welfare to higher education to local public administration and more.
The way to make progress, however, will be for adherents of evolutionary stable strategies to adhere to each other, and to refuse to associate with, or to marginalize, practitioners of dysfunction.
In an increasingly fractured society, moral traditionalists should emphasize building cohesive and attractive subcultures, rather than struggling for dominance of the increasingly weakened institutions of the mainstream culture. While some national political battles, especially about religious liberty, will remain essential to preserve the space for moral traditionalism to thrive, social conservatives must increasingly focus on how best to fill that space in their own communities. That is how a traditionalist moral minority can thrive in a diverse America—by offering itself not as a path back to an old consensus that no longer exists but as an attractive, vibrant alternative to the demoralizing chaos of the permissive society.

Indeed, the revival of the mediating institutions of community life is essential to a modernizing conservatism. These institutions—from families to churches to civic and fraternal associations and labor and business groups—can help balance dynamism with cohesion and let citizens live out their freedom in practice. They can keep our diversity from devolving into atomism or dangerous cultural, racial and ethnic Balkanization. And they can help us to use our multiplicity to address our modern challenges.
Those hundred flowers might already be blooming, in obscure places and out of view of the addled mainstream press.  Writing in The American Conservative, Matthew Loftus extends Mr Levin's argument.
If we are to find a solution to the problem that Donald Trump has exposed—the cultural and economic evisceration of the working class, particularly the white working class—we cannot simply ask how to magically prescribe jobs. We have to ask how public goods and virtuous behavior come to be. And that must always bring us back to community, and to whether our cities and towns are organized in ways that make us good neighbors.

Conservative discourse has of late found itself unable to describe how virtue is formed, even as it presupposes that virtue and the institutions that form it are necessary for any meaningful political order. We can bluster on about the role of faith, family, virtue, self-discipline, and community in maintaining economic and social flourishing, but then we actually give very little regard to such institutions when we talk as though people would abandon them all for $185 a month and some food stamps.
People do abandon life management skills. The availability of a welfare check and an EBT card might contribute to that behavior. An intellectual ethos that's down for transgressiveness rips away any residual sense of propriety that people might otherwise have.
Talking about personal character and cultural decay as black boxes from which spring forth either virtue or victimhood is a lazy habit of thought that has no place in conservative discourse; discipline is always imposed by someone or something, and while deprivation is often a means of discipline, it is hardly the most useful or most prescient one. Relationships discipline as well as support, and good behavior often comes from good neighbors.
Yes, when the village has the redeeming features of the hippie commune and the trailer park, bad stuff happens to people who might otherwise not be well equipped to cope.
If we are going to invoke the value of virtue and refuse to accept anyone’s learned helplessness, then we must also count the cost of inculcating self-discipline and refuse to throw our own hands up when compassion and justice require difficult choices from us.
I've been fighting it out on this line for over a decade.  Hope and Change appear to be eight lost years as far as fixing the international or the domestic saecular challenges.