Thursday, April 21, 2011

Updates on me

- I just got Robert Shimer's new book in the mail and am very excited about it! With any luck this is going to be a major jumping off point for my dissertation.

- I got my articles for the Encyclopedia of American Populism back from the editor - very minor changes - they seemed to like them. I wrote articles on "technological unemployment", "the Quantity Theory of Money", "Coin's Financial School", "the National Monetary Commission", and "the International Monetary Conference". All late 19th/early 20th century monetary history stuff, except for the technological unemployment article. The encyclopedia is intended as an undergraduate reference volume, which is a nice change of pace. It's also a good economic history publication to add to the CV.

- I have a new collaboration project which I'll hopefully share more about in the future - still hashing out the details.

- I was at home all of yesterday recovering from some minor dental work and made major progress on my chapter on engineering labor supply - hopefully within the next couple weeks enough will be finished to get a draft up on SSRN to get some reactions to it.


  1. LK at the SD-21st-C blog had once linked to a speech on YouTube by an American Populist and hardcore political Creationist. I didn't bother to remember his name, but it was a long one.

    This Populist was a pro-inflation politician, as the YouTube description explained, because the Civil War era allowed farmers to get ahead of the game with higher food prices and supposedly put that burden on the much wealthier urban populace. The said Populist felt that inflation would help create wealth at the grassroots and that opposing inflation was the equivalent of contempt for the poor.

    I once explained to a friend that pro-inflation populists have existed. He didn't believe me. "It's not possible for inflation to be politically popular", he said, pointing to the current Indian situation where inflation threatens to break down the existing coalition government. "It doesn't benefit anybody", he added.

  2. William Jennings Bryan?

    The Encyclopedia covers the range of populists from back in the 19th century to the Tea Party. I noticed this when I saw their initial subject list, so I deliberately brought that range into may articles. One of the things I pointed out in the Quantity Theory article was that the "naive Quantity Theory" has been consistently used by populists, but often to different ends. In Bryan's time of course it was used to make pro-inflation arguments, and today it is used by the Tea Party to make anti-inflation arguments.

    For the most part, I think it was the 1970s changed people's views on inflation and deflation. The reality is there is good inflation and there is bad inflation and there is good deflation and there is bad deflation. It all depends on (1.) what the causes are, and (2.) whose interests you most highly value.

  3. Yeah, that's the person.

    What is interesting is that it was a textbook of the Austrian School that first convinced me that increase in money supply does NOT necessarilly lead to increase in price level and in many cases has not.

    Today, Austrian School-ers are (justifiably) called quantity theorists, not because even premier Austrian School thinkers believed in quantity theory, but because the likes of Peter Schiff and others have found they receive great publicity if they make panicked claims of hyperinflation.

    They do so knowing full well that even Mises and Rothbard were skeptical of such claims.

  4. And speaking of populism:

    Many people defend state-run medicine on the grounds that it is more democratic, or that large numbers of people polled want something like that.

    It is a shortcut that goes around arguing whether state-run medicine actually delivers services properly to the right person at the right place at the right time.

    They set a dangerous precedent here. For *some* of the people who support state-run medicine are also the ones who are anti-deflation. Are they actually going to give up on their views if deflation is politically popular and inflation is politically unpopular?

    Going by views of social commentator David Sirota, "progressive" solutions involve not repealing previous solutions but compounding them with new ones. I am guessing such people will propose complete price controls to deal with popular opposition to inflation. In fact, the same blogger LK had once said that price and wage freezes should have been used to deal with 1970s stagflation.

    Conclusion: It is always a bad idea to justify any policy based on what an arbitrary, invisible, unspecified, or fictional "masses" want. It's a shoot-yourself-in-the-foot argument.

  5. Prateek Sanjay,

    Much of the populism of the 1930s was based on the idea that inflation is always great; indeed, that was the theory behind killing all the pigs, etc. Never mind misery going on the cities.

  6. Prateek,

    This tied in with a notion that somehow or another the city folk had been lording it over rural America. One thing that government is really good at is accentuating any social, ethnic, etc. within the boundaries of a nation-state.

  7. Update on me: I got married on the 9th of April and I am currently residing in the U.S. illegally.

  8. Congratulations! (on your marriage, not your fugitive status)

    Is that easy to work out with your marriage now?

  9. Daniel,

    Fingers crossed! The attorney seems confident.

    I overstayed my visa to get married. Well, at first, it was an accident. I thought I had 90 days to leave the country when I actually had 60; I discovered this on about the 65th day. Rather than risk getting a ban for overstaying, we just decided to get married. It might have been the better thing to do in any case, because returning home, getting a fiancée visa, and then returning to get married can take over a year.

    I should write all this on my own blog, but then it's just not that kind of blog.

  10. Oh, and all this partially explains my online absence for the last few months.

  11. Wives and overbearing government naturalization proceedures both tend to monopolize time.

    The former is quite appropriate and expected. The latter is unfortunate.

  12. Gary, every now and then, I try to explain to people that egalitarianism has always been a tool to divide people and throw them into a zero-sum game against each other. I don't mean just state-enforced egalitarianism, but the kind promoted by, say, activists and other upsetters of peaceful life.

    Earliest movements towards egalitarianism were used by feudal nobles to disempower the magistrates, merchants, and other important professionals by branding them as oppressors of the poor and themselves as their saviour.

    It was all purely for finishing off their opposition. And turning two subjects against one another, despite the fact that ordinary people are otherwise okay with having magistrates, police officers, and merchants.

    Today, Barney Frank blackmails bankers by threatening to release addresses of their family households, and threatening to press false charges against them. He gets away with it, because the media thrives on finding political villains and turning people against them.


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