Jun 292010

Paul Krugman says we are now entering a 3rd depression.   We may indeed be entering one, but I question his counting method (to say nothing of his ideology).  Here‘s how he explains how he’s keeping score:

As far as I can tell, there were only two eras in economic history that were widely described as “depressions” at the time: the years of deflation and instability that followed the Panic of 1873 and the years of mass unemployment that followed the financial crisis of 1929-31.

What I question is why he didn’t include the depression of the 1890s in his count.    I don’t know if the word depression was used at the time, but people certainly realized they were in the middle of bad times that had begun with a panic in 1893,  just as a panic had resulted in a depression 20 years earlier. Surely Dr. Krugman has heard of Coxey’s army and the violent strikes of 1894.   The bad times were the subject of political debates at the time.   This depression is now considered the worst one prior to the 1930s.

I have a special interest in the 1890s depression because there is some family history about it.    My grandfather was just a kid then, but he used to tell me how his father, a small-town law enforcement officer, was charged with the duty of keeping hobos out of town.   There were a lot of homeless men riding the rails then, trying to pick up meals, odd jobs, and loose chickens wherever they could.    When I was little I would be surprised at how my grandfather, who I knew could ill afford it, would give away $5 to the traveling vagrant who would come into our yard and merely ask for it.  I remember asking for an explanation for such generosity, and that he had an answer, but I don’t remember what the answer was.  I do remember what he did and the tone of respect for the man who had asked.  Maybe it happened only one time that I knew of, but I got the idea that it would easily happen for any other hobo who asked.   I’ve since wondered if it had anything to do with the men his father, whom he greatly admired and with whom he was in conflict long after he was dead, would chase out of town in the 1890s.)

Come to think of it, I don’t know why Krugman didn’t count the depression of the late 1830s, either.    But if the word depression was only first used in the 1870s,  I don’t know why it wouldn’t have been used in the 1890s, too.

Maybe Krugman has an explanation but didn’t want to get bogged down with it in his article.   I’m just saying I’m not believing his scorekeeping without further evidence.

Jun 282010

Much better to be enlightened than informed, I suppose.

Pat Baker, of Arlington, Va., said, “I thought the [Al Gore] speech was awesome. It was over my head a little bit when he talked about global warming and some of the other issues, but as an HR professional, I think it’s key that we stay enlightened with all of the subjects.”


Jun 272010

Set aside for a moment President Obama’s statement that it’s about Barak Obama, and how it’s important for us to learn about him rather than for him to learn about us.

When he presents these difficult choices, I wonder if he means they’re going to be difficult for the people to accept or difficult for Obama to accept.

People should learn that lesson about me because next year when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step-up because I’m calling their bluff.


Jun 222010

I hereby confer on Caleb Stegall the Leviathan Ankle-Biter Award, to be enjoyed by him with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.

He wrote an article at Front Porch Republic in which he gently resists the the Lightning Monitor Priestess who will not allow kids to play ball under a clear sky when her oracle says there is lightning in the area.

It strikes me as bizarre how demure and passive this crowd is and these coaches are in accepting the judgment passed upon us all from a little black box. What a trifling thing it is to control man! How easily we believe in fairy tales when they come cloaked in the black box of authority and superior knowledge. And the digital readout is only the latest version of the king’s sword. In contrast to the sunny sky, my inner weather darkens and I think that here are people not yet ready to confront and resist the stifling and deadly black boxes of arbitrary authority pronouncing their judgments from Topeka or Washington D.C.

Jun 222010

Democrats have concerns and opinions about issues, but Republicans use issues. That asymmetry is common enough in news reporting, but it’s not often that one gets to see the contrast in such close juxtaposition. Here it is in two successive sentences:

Democrats say the documents, released over the weekend by the Department of Defense, strengthen support for Kagan by showing that she permitted military recruitment through the Harvard Law School Veterans Association, despite her opposition to the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gay servicemen and women.

But Republicans are using the documents to blast Kagan’s “discriminatory treatment of the military” while she was at Harvard.

Fox news URL here.  The emphasis is mine.

Jun 172010

Who, exactly, does Alan Blinder mean by “us” in that phrase, “helped keep us from falling into the abyss” ?

So the next time you see Chairman Bernanke, congratulate him for threading the needle. And the next time you see members of the House and Senate who voted for TARP and the stimulus package, give them a hug and say thank you for taking two monumentally tough votes that helped keep us from falling into the abyss.

WSJ article here. Cafe Hayek discussion here.

Jun 172010

If liberals had not gone extinct in the U.S., and especially if there were liberals in the White House, Jon Leibowitz would not be chair of the FTC.

While Leibowitz distanced himself from the proposals for the taxes, calling them “a terrible idea,” his comments appear to be related only to the levies proposed in the working paper. Nobody is commenting on the other part of his proposal — a subsidy for news organizations. —URL

Jun 152010

WSJ headline: “U.S. to Demand BP Fund

That is an inaccurate headline, of course. It’s the Obama administration that’s asking for it, not the U.S. The U.S. has laws against extortion. A better headline is a small blurb on the same page on which the misleading one appeared: “The White House plans to ask BP for a damage fund.”

If there is such an escrow account, though, who would keep the money for safekeeping and administer it? The Obama administration is not eligible, because its policy of nationalizing any industry within reach creates a conflict of interest.

The British government also has a conflict of interest.

The United Nations? The money would be gone in a day if deposited there.

Here are my three nominees:

  • The government of Ireland. The Irish have no great love for the Brits or for America, but get along reasonably well with both.
  • The government of the Czech Republic. Václav Klaus can be trusted not to be easily intimidated.
  • The government of Georgia. This would help focus more attention on a country that needs it. And Georgia would have great motivation not to mess up.
Jun 142010

It wasn’t so long ago that we were told we had had enough laissez faire and that it was time for more regulation. Now Nancy Pelosi is telling us that we need more laissez faire and less regulation.

At least for some people. Maybe not for everybody.

WSJ article: “Pelosi: Ethics Are Overrated — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is sending private signals that she is willing to support watering down the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Jun 122010

Does this mean the FSB can prevent the murders of people like Alexander Litvenenko and Anna Politkovskaya by locking up government officials who might “cause or create the conditions” for such things to happen?

From KyivPost:

MOSCOW, June 11 (Reuters) – Russia’s parliament on Friday voted to boost the powers of the successor to the Soviet KGB, allowing it to summon people it believes are about to commit a crime and threaten jail for those who disobey its orders….

The bill, which would allow the FSB to issue a legally binding summons to anyone whose actions it considers as “causing or creating the conditions for committing a crime,” was passed in the first of three required readings in the State Duma.