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Trucking And Blue-Collar Woes

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Neither trade nor technology, but politics.
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dougsmith
2 days ago
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Paul Krugman: The Scammers, the Scammed and America’s Fate

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"The destructive effects of false symmetry in reporting":

The Scammers, the Scammed and America’s Fate, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...Mr. Ryan’s proposed Obamacare replacement ... is one of the worst bills ever presented to Congress.
It would deprive tens of millions of health insurance — the decline in the number of insured Americans would be larger than ... simple repeal of Obamacare! — while sharply raising expenses for many of those who remain. It would be especially punitive for lower-income, older, rural voters.
In return, we would get a small reduction in the budget deficit. Oh, and a tax cut, perhaps as much as $1 trillion, for the wealthy.
This is terrible stuff. It’s made worse by the lies Mr. Ryan has been telling about his plan. ...
Some people seem startled both by the awfulness of Mr. Ryan’s plan and by the raw dishonesty of his sales pitch. But why..., he’s still the same guy I wrote about back in 2010, in a column titled “The Flimflam Man.”
I wrote that column in response to what turned out to be the first of a series of high-profile Ryan budget proposals. ... It was a con job all the way.
So how did Mr. Ryan reach a position where his actions may reshape the lives of so many ... for the worse? The answer lies in the ... news media, who made him what he is.
You see, until very recently both news coverage and political punditry were dominated by the convention of “balance.” ... And this ... meant that it was necessary to point to serious, honest, knowledgeable proponents of conservative positions.
Enter Mr. Ryan, who isn’t actually a serious, honest policy expert, but plays one on TV. He rolls up his sleeves! He uses PowerPoint! He must be the real deal! So that became the media’s narrative. And media adulation, more than anything else, propelled him to his current position.
Now, however, the flimflam has hit a wall. ... The C.B.O. told the devastating truth about his plan, and his evasions and lies were too obvious to ignore.
There’s an important lesson here, and it’s not just about health care or Mr. Ryan; it’s about the destructive effects of false symmetry in reporting at a time of vast asymmetry in reality.
This false symmetry — downplaying the awfulness of some candidates, vastly exaggerating the flaws of their opponents — isn’t the only reason America is in the mess it’s in. But it’s an important part of the story. And now we’re all about to pay the price.
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dougsmith
62 days ago
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Misuses of empirical econ

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Tyler Cowen has a new post in the ongoing blog discussion about the value of empirical economics. Most of Tyler's post is about the potential misuse of empirical economics. He writes:
The political process does not select for humble versions of empiricism.  Those end up with virtually no political influence, whereas some of the more dogmatic form of empiricism may find some traction.
Absolutely true. Ideologues just pick and choose results that support them. If 100 studies show the impact of immigration on labor markets is small, and one George Borjas study says it's large, the anti-immigrant people will wave around the Borjas study. (And then the anti-empiricists will say "See? No one can really know who's right!")

Tyler:
A lot of the bias in empirical methods comes simply from which questions are asked/answered. Post Trump and De Vos, I see plenty of commentators and researchers reporting “vouchers don’t raise test scores” and virtually no “vouchers increase parental satisfaction.” Is that empiricism? In isolation, maybe. In terms of reflecting the broader spirit of science, not so much. It is also not humility.
This is certainly true. I'm not sure focusing on certain questions and forgetting about others signals a lack of humility. Groupthink, maybe, but not arrogance.

Tyler:
I find a very common pattern among both researchers and commentators.  They first form...judgments about social systems, based on overall views of history, current politics (too much)...They then view very particular empirical debates through the broader lenses they have chosen.  For instance, views on politics used to correlate with views on the interest elasticity of money demand.  Today views on politics correlate with views on minimum wage elasticity, and so on.
Yep, this is certainly going on all over the place. There's evidence for ideologically motivated reasoning in econ research, though I think the evidence doesn't show that much motivated reasoning. The problem is almost certainly worse for us commentators, and worst of all for politicians. In general, the less people know about how econ research works, the more they seem to pick and choose the results they like based on which ideology it seems to support. Stopping people from doing this is a Sisyphean task for those of us commentators who are dedicated to a more dispassionate analysis of the facts, and even we aren't always the good guys either.

BUT, consider the other approaches to understanding the world. There's formal theory. There's intuition formed from exposure to theory ("thinking like an economist"). And there's intuition formed from exposure to casual observation and stylized facts (which Tyler calls "relatively general empirical judgments").

I'd argue that all of these are equally or more likely to be misused by commentators, ideologues, and politicians in exactly the same way Tyler describes empirical results being misused. People who want to justify fiscal austerity will wave around DSGE models that support fiscal austerity. People who want to kill the minimum wage will use theoretical intuition to claim that minimum wage hurts employent ("Demand curves slope down, DUH!", etc.). People who want industrial policy will use stylized facts - which Tyler calls "broad empiricism" - to point out that development successes like Korea and Japan usually have a lot of industrial policy in their past. And so forth.

The point is: Ideologues gonna ideologue. No economic analysis method will completely or even mostly put a stop to motivated reasoning. The hope for empirical economics is that a weak signal of reality is better, over the long term, than no signal at all. Over time, the hope is that the solid studies push out the shaky ones, that economists' natural rationality and desire to know the truth inches the academic consensus toward a better correspondence with the facts.

I'm optimistic - I think the empirical revolution in econ is no fad. Yes, there will be setbacks, as hot new techniques are over-applied, and as prominent results fail to replicate. But even better techniques will be developed, meta-analyses will weed out spurious results, and armies of smart, fair-minded grad students will comb through methodology sections and data sets to separate the wheat from the chaff. Eventually, theory will follow the weak but insistent tug of evidence - theories that don't fit the facts so well will gradually fall into disuse, while those that explain the most solid results will inch into the limelight. Classes will teach these more popular theories, and the next generation of econ majors will learn intuition that corresponds just a little more closely with observable fact. Eventually, people who rely on the "broad empiricism" of casual observation will start noticing the stylized facts that agree with their new, better theoretical intuition. Thus, progress will crawl forward, bit by bit, never reaching truth, but always headed in more or less the right direction.
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dougsmith
71 days ago
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Why the Republican Health Care Plan Is Destined to Fail

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I have a new column:

Why the Republican Health Care Plan Is Destined to Fail:
It is the general social consensus, clearly, that the laissez-faire solution for medicine is intolerable.” – Kenneth Arrow, 1963.
As Republicans struggle to find an acceptable replacement for Obamacare, a task that does not yet appear to be complete given the growing opposition to their recent proposal, they would do well to remember the words of the person who invented healthcare economics, Kenneth Arrow.
Professor Arrow, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who recently passed away at the age of 95, argued that the market for healthcare is not like other markets for several reasons. ...
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dougsmith
73 days ago
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Should-Read: Morgan Kelly and Cormac Ó Gráda (2016): Adam Smith, Watch Prices, a...

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Should-Read: Morgan Kelly and Cormac Ó Gráda (2016): Adam Smith, Watch Prices, and the Industrial Revolution: "Watches were the first mass-produced consumer durable...

...and were Adam Smith’s preeminent example of technological progress.... Smith makes the notable claim that watch prices may have fallen by up to 95% over the preceding century.... We look at changes in the reported value of over 3,200 stolen watches from criminal trials in the Old Bailey in London from 1685 to 1810... the real price of watches in nearly all categories falls steadily by 1.3% a year... showing that sustained innovation in the production of a highly complex artifact had already appeared in one important sector of the British economy by the early eighteenth century....

Against the view of a narrowly based Industrial Revolution, our results on watchmaking support the view of a more broadly based advance across many manufacturing sectors proposed by Berg and Hudson (1992) and Temin (1997) , among others.... What distinguishes watches... is that, except for scientific instruments, watches were the most complex artifacts of their time. That is what makes their productivity growth so interesting.... Our results support the view that the roots of the Industrial Revolution stretch back further than the mid-eighteenth century. The beginnings of growth in the seventeenth century are consistent with the findings of Broadberry et al. (2015) on English GDP.... As Bailey and Barker (1969) demonstrate, the origins of watchmaking in Lancashire lie in the area’s tradition of brass making that dates back to the late sixteenth century...

Adam Smith Watch Prices and the Industrial Revolution The Quarterly Journal of Economics Oxford Academic

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dougsmith
102 days ago
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dougsmith
102 days ago
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popular
103 days ago
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4 public comments
StunGod
102 days ago
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I'm an American, and I'm a fixer.
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth
digdoug
102 days ago
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13bats is a friend of mine. In a weird coincidence, it turns out he actually took my wife to her prom, (about 20 years before I met her)

He's flummoxed by the viral take off of this image. He posted on Facebook and it has like 35,000 shares.
Louisville, KY
wreichard
103 days ago
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Damn right.
Earth
jhamill
103 days ago
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Not bad
California
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