URLs du Jour

2022-04-03

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  • Money Printer Go Brrrr. Veronique de Rugy considers Inflation: The Result of Sticker Shock on Government Spending. It's a good Econ-101 explainer:

    Many people still blame today's inflation on snags in globe-spanning supply chains. The chief proposed solution is to dismantle decades of globalization and bring production home. Some are also pushing for measures to offset inflation, including robust child subsidies and tax rebates for gas and food.

    These proposals are rooted in a misunderstanding of the true cause of inflation: namely, government-induced demand. More spending, therefore, will only fuel the inflation fires.

    Over the course of the pandemic, the Treasury issued roughly $6 trillion, $2.7 trillion of which was monetized by the Federal Reserve. Americans were sent $5.1 trillion through various programs, including individual checks and unemployment bonuses. Overall federal debt has since risen by about $6 trillion.

    This response assumes the 2020 recession was sparked by a demand shock leading to a fall in aggregate demand, rather than the strangling of aggregate supply caused by the pandemic and lockdowns. Under these circumstances, sending people and companies money was never likely to impact output. Instead, it greatly inflated demand for the durable goods still being produced.

    I assume the next few years are gonna be painful. I hope I'm wrong.


  • An overdose of euphemisms for "spending a shitload of money we don't have." Chris Edwards analyzes the Words in Biden’s Budget.

    The Biden administration on Monday released its budget for 2023. Federal budgets are a combination of spending data for hundreds of agencies and a discussion of proposed policies.

    The 158‐​page budget summary document starts with the president’s message and runs through discussions of each major department. I looked at the document’s language to see what it suggests about the administration and its priorities.

    Here are word counts from the budget summary in brackets ( ), along with my comments.

    “Invest” (398), “Spend” (11). Invest sounds less wasteful than spend.

    “Support” (430), “Subsidy” (0). Never admit to subsidizing.

    “Strengthen” (139), “Build” (137), “Bolster” (43), “Robust” (27). More spending and subsidizing.

    […]

    Many more at the link. Most sobering: three occurrences of "freedom", zero of "liberty".

    But—I looked—one mention of "civil liberties". Promising that none of the $33 million bump for the FBI's "domestic terrorism investigations" will go toward infringing them.

    But how else are you gonna find out about those domestic terrorists at school board meetings?


  • Longest article ever? Jim Geraghty looks at Corporate America's Hypocrisy.

    There’s something heartening about the way corporate America has rushed to cut ties with its operations in Russia. But the quick, sweeping moves offer a strange contrast to the way corporate America has rarely if ever uttered a critical word about the government of China despite its ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs, its human-rights abuses, its oppression of Hong Kong, its threats toward Taiwan, etc.

    In fact, corporate America might be getting tough on the Russian government in hopes that people forget how much it has groveled to Beijing and obeyed the wishes of the equally autocratic, equally aggressive and abusive Chinese government.

    Example: Starbucks suspended its Russia operations last month. But has "opened more than 5,400 stores in China since 1999".

    Don't get me started on Disney.


  • You'd think this would be a no-brainer. Lawrence M. Krauss thinks we should be Focusing on Science at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

    In a move that bodes poorly for science, President Biden replaced his science adviser, renowned scientist Eric Lander, who resigned Feb. 7, with two individuals whose recent focus has been on a peripheral scientific distraction. One of the advisers isn’t a scientist. She is a sociologist whose work has focused on studying racism in science and medicine. The other is an established scientist and administrator whose focus recently has been to steer the National Institutes of Health based on arguments about systemic racism.

    One may wonder how significant the presidential science adviser is in any case. The answer depends of course on which president and which administration one is discussing. A colleague of mine, who happened to have been a former Presidential Science Advisor, once told me a lot depends upon how soon a science adviser is appointed and where in the bureaucratic infrastructure of the executive branch they sit, both literally and metaphorically. It also depends on what issues the science adviser and the president choose to focus on.

    Lander quit (according to Wikipedia) due to accusations that he "bullied and demeaned his subordinates."

    Fun fact involving my alma mater:

    Many advancement programs and scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students at higher education institutions in this country and others are restricted by race or gender. Consider for example, Caltech’s “Future of Physics” Program, a two-day conference that brought undergraduates to campus to learn about cutting edge science and about applying to graduate school. It was only open to women*. The asterisk was in the application materials and referred to the following: “*We use a fluid definition of “woman” that is inclusive of trans and genderqueer women, femmes, and gender non-confirming/non-binary students.” It would have been simpler say that the program was not open to males or those defining as males. This conference was then followed by a “Futures Initiative,” this time open to only people of color, accompanied by the a detailed specific list of what a “student of color” was. Asians, for example, did not make the cut. Programs like this are now the norm, rather than the exception.

    Gee, there's only one problem with that sort of thing: it's manifestly illegal.


  • And then there's the idol who is easily confused. A charming story from Astral Codex Ten: Idol Words.

    The woman was wearing sunglasses, a visor, a little too much lipstick, and a camera around her neck. “Excuse me,” she asked. “Is this the temple with the three omniscient idols? Where one always tells the truth, one always lies, and one answers randomly?”

    The center idol’s eyes glowed red, and it spoke with a voice from everywhere and nowhere, a voice like the whoosh of falling waters or the flash of falling stars.

    No!” the great voice boomed.

    “Oh,” said the woman. “Because my Uber driver said - ". She cut herself off. “Well, do you know how to get there?”

    It is here!” said the otherworldly voice. “You stand in it now!

    “Didn’t you just say this wasn’t it?”

    No!” said the idol. “I said nothing of the sort!

    As you leave, please visit the gift shop around the back.