Friday, May 6, 2011

Assault of Thoughts - 5/TGIF/2011

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking" - JMK

I am in a very good mood today - I finished up a draft of a report on apprenticeship that has been bogging me down at work, I'm actually going to get out on the river in my kayak tomorrow which I've had to put off weekend after weekend lately, I'm going to get to start working on my engineering paper in the morning again rather than this apprenticeship paper, and my mother-in-law's house, which I have been doing cleaning and repair work on almost every weekend for months now is almost ready to go on the market. A good Friday! How is everyone's weekend going to be? Here are some interesting links:

- Blogger Noahpinion has two posts providing his opinion on his economics PhD program. I have not gotten the chance to read them yet, but a lot of people seem to be liking the posts (here and here).

- Brad DeLong provides measured praise of Tom Hoenig, the outgoing president of the Kansas City Federal Reserve who has gotten a lot of grief from people like me for advocating tighter monetary policy. It's a good read, and I think importantly makes the point about what unusual times we're in. Tom Hoenig actually had a pretty good tenure because he worked as a strong guarantor of price stability. And Keynesians are nothing if not advocates of price stability. The problem is, that disposition which works well in normal times can give you certain knee-jerk reactions that don't work well in severe downturns. Sometimes I muse on how liberal people in the blogosphere think I am. I'm really not all that liberal. When I say I'm "center" or "center-left" I mean it, and I have no major problem with the label "neoliberal". In normal times I'd be willing to put a fair deal of focus on deregulation and controlling inflation. But I'm not going to pretend that it's excessive regulation that got us into this, and I'm not going to worry about inflation right now. I'm actually a big fan of welfare reform and I think its good we've largely phased out cash welfare and replaced it in a lot of ways with the EITC. I think some targeted welfare programs to the truly destitute is a good idea, but for most of those hovering around the poverty line I think good labor supply policies like the EITC and perhaps a labor demand policy like a job creation tax credit are much, much better ways of going about it than welfare. People know I'm a strong advocate of federalism. People know I think property rights are essential and that a lot of our problems (e.g. externalities) emerge precisely where property rights are weak. I'm always curious whether, if I'm still blogging after the crisis subsides, some people are going to be surprised at how non-liberal I am. Keynesians look awfully liberal in a crisis to some people, but that can be misleading.

- Gene Callahan with more deep thoughts (for those who don't know the lingo "NAP" is non-aggression principle).

- I hate talking about the Civil War, partly because I know the South made an absurdly bad decision but I still feel an identification with the South. Virginia gives me an out in some ways, because Virginia resisted secession when it was just about guaranteeing slaveholders rights, and then finally caved when Lincoln started a war over it. It's a far cry from Washington's personal unionism, of course, but it's better than Alexander Stephens. This post provides some very interesting details on the role that a Coastal Survey map played in inspiring the secession within a secession: the secession of West Virginia from Virginia. I realize a lot of my readers may not have much experience with West Virginia - and it often gets portrayed as a real red-neck state. In a lot of ways that's justified I guess, but it really is a beautiful place, all the people there I've met are very nice - it's definitely worth visiting if you're in the mid-Atlantic.


  1. The Union didn't fire on Fort Sumter, the Confederacy did. If the Confederacy was stupid enough to maneuver itself into starting a war, that isn't Lincoln's fault.

    John Nash is from West Virginia. I've driven through it on a number occasions; it is quite beautiful. It is no more redneck than rural Pennsylvania or rural New York or rural Oregon.

  2. Right - did I say the Union didn't fire on Fort Sumter? The South provoked a war, Lincoln raised 75,000 troops to start that war and pushed Virginia into secession. Don't try to start a fight over something I never said.

  3. I have found that Virginians ought not to discuss the Civil War while maintaining residency in the Land of Lincoln.

    On another note... did you like how Menand treated unionism v. abolitionism in the first sections of The Metaphysical Club on the Holmes family?

  4. For those who haven't read it, it felt like half the Civil War material in The Metaphysical Club was about the home front in Boston especially. Ya, I thought it was very interesting.

    What I would love to read, if anyone is aware of a good one, is a social history of the South during the Civil War - something to cover people who weren't in the leadership in the South at the time. The Southern leadership is essentially unredeemable. The Northern leadership had anti-slavery sympathies but the universal motivation was unionism. The Northern populace was similarly divided, and often acrimoniously so. What I don't feel I have a good grasp on is the Southern populace. Clearly there was racism and white supremacy - but you had that throughout America. Certainly stronger int he South, but I wonder personally who they reflected more: their same class in the North or their same sectional identity - elites in the South.

  5. The Peirce family's Confederate sympathies as a reasonably well known family in Boston was interesting too.

  6. Daniel,

    Read Mary Chestnut's diary for a starter.

    The war started with the assault on Ft. Sumter. But for that event the war would have not occurred.

  7. Daniel,

    On southern nationalism read "The Idea of a Southern Nation." I especially loved the chapter on creating a network of "southern" universities which honor southern culture - it is where a plethora of southern universities go their start.

  8. But for secession that would not have happened... but for the Missouri Compromise that would not have happened... but for the situation at the Constitutional Convention that would not have happened... but for...

  9. True, but, the war that began in 1861 was the result of the attack on Ft. Sumter. The South gambled and lost.

    More fully, the South decided to start a war as a result of the paranoia regarding the "peculiar institution" and the fear of its abolition (Brown's raid played right into that, even if it was not remotely representative of northern opinion). The irony being that its demise was dramatically hastened by the war.

    Of course, I'm an Oregonian; we generally don't get much concerned about the "Lost Cause" or "bloody shirt."

  10. I agree with all that Gary - all I'm saying is that there's nothing wrong with me pointing to Lincoln's actions as the precipitating cause of Virginia's secession. Clearly Lincoln's actions didn't come out of the blue. Your rush to see talk of "fault" in what I've said is my concern, as if I'm some sort of Tom DiLorenzo Lincoln-hater.

  11. Daniel,

    If you are ever in Vermont visit the state house (Vermont doesn't have a mansion for the Govehnuh); there is a beautiful mural representing the Battle of Cedar Creek - Vermonters kicked some ass in the Civil War (the 8th Vermont lost something like 2/3rds of its numbers to death or injury in Battle of Thermopylae like stand during the early stages of that particular battle, but kept the battle from turning into an early rout in the process, giving Sheridan time to reform and allowing for the later Union victory in the afternoon against Johnny Reb)

  12. Daniel,

    Ever been to Gettysburg?

    One of my favorite spots has always been "Little Round Top" - watching where Chamberlain and the 20th Maine defended their position was very cool. I liked walking down where he ordered his left flank to fix bayonets and charge against the 15th Alabama.

  13. It's been a while, but ya - I should go back soon.

  14. Daniel, I'm curious; in what way was the South's decision bad? Was it because they underestimated Union resolve, or because Remaining in the Union was really more in their interests and they didn't see it?

  15. I know that progressive intellectuals avoid class and race based pejoratives UNLESS they are aimed at poor non-Jewish whites, but I thought a fan of Keynes would avoid even that (for the obvious reason.)

    That's unless Kuehn self-identifies as a red-neck.

  16. mobsrule - I can't speak for progressive intellectuals. I certainly don't have anything against poor non-Jewish whites, and I resent the implication.

    I'd appreciate it if you just stop commenting here, mobsrule.


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