a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Arthur Silber - A Post I'm Crazy About: "Real, Full Members of the Human Race"
This one, from Violet Socks.
Susie Madrak - Fund Drive
Just like with public television and radio, you need to put your money where your interest is. If you can afford to help, please do so! If you can’t, don’t worry about it. . .
Andrew Sullivan - The Verdict On Romneycare? Ctd
. . .I’m in the ER of the Hennepin County medical center. . . and I just had to pay them $240. If you can spare a contribution, I would really appreciate it. . .
pragmatic realist: "Tell me that you didn’t come out on the losing end of a blogger fight."
Susie: "Nah, I’m okay now."
Despite [drawbacks], it's important to note that most Massachusetts residents wouldn't want to go back. . .
Brad Delong - Macroeconomics: Safety, Savings, and Sovereigns
. . .Why the lack of complaint? Let me give you one reason. In October 2008 my daughter, then 10, was hit by a bone infection in her hip. Despite surgery and a lengthy round of antibiotics her hip was damaged to the point where a total hip replacement became necessary. Her hip replacement will wear out in 25-30 years even if nothing goes wrong. If she lives a normal lifespan, that is, she will have to replace it twice - two very expensive operations. Under the status quo, she would not be able to get insurance for these procedures - she has a huge preexisting condition, right?
But we live in Massachusetts. Indeed, throughout my daughter's ordeal we were repeatedly told by physicians, nurses and friends that our daughter would, as a practical matter, have to live in Massachusetts for the rest of her life, because if she moved elsewhere in the country as an adult and her hip went out she would face potentially crippling costs. "But at least she can live here," they said. "It's not like the rest of the country, where you're simply fucked."
Stories like this are why people like Romneycare, even if they complain about it. As Obamacare becomes law and situations like this become known, it is difficult for me to imagine a groundswell for throwing children like my daughter into the fire.
. . .we have three options:
1) Tough it out, in the belief that austere virtue will in some way be good for us.
2) While most organizations cannot expand and produce at a profit, some can--notably the governments of France, Germany, Britain, the U.S., and Japan. Since they can borrow money extraordinarily cheaply and make things, they should do so--and thus restore full employment of factors of production.
3) The price of safety right now is at outlandish levels because financial markets do a lousy job of mobilizing the global risk-bearing capacity of the world. Central banks and the governments that back them can, however, mobilize that risk-bearing capacity. They should buy up risky assets, distribute the risks across the globe's taxpayers, and issue safe assets until supply and demand have once again pushed the price of safety down to a level at which ordinary companies can make a profit when they jointly produce commodities on the one hand and the quality of savings vehicles that they can issue on the other. This last is quantitative easing--what Raghu calls "easy money", and says the economy does not need. . .
I think there is one other option, which has dangers, but has the possible (questionable) virtue of not printing money or increasing public sector debt: What Ricardo Caballero calls "Trimming tail risk"
, i.e. having the government become the insurer or reinsurer of last resort for the first 20-40% of the principal of certain classes of risky, private-sector assets. This may be equivalent to quantitative easing, but I'm not sure that it is.
To clarify the point: Why are investors so overwhelmingly flocking to sovereign debt? Because sovereign debt does not have the same risk of complete principal wipe-out that risky private debt has. You may lose 5 or 10% of the principal, but you won't lose 100%. By the government being a reinsurer of last resort, guaranteeing the first 20-40% of the principal for certain classes of risky, private sector assets, government could make investors more willing to hold risky private assets, and therefore induce more private investment.
One idea for the U.S. Post Office to make some additional money: rent to other organizations the right to put fliers, DVDs, etc, in PO Boxes, instead of having to hang them on doorknobs, stick them under the door, or other second-best solutions.
Atul Gawande - A Townie Speaks
(via Ezra Klein
Nicholas Kristof - Military Health Care & Education
Dana Goldstein - Should All Kids Go to College?
C.S. Lewis - A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942)
VIII. Defence Of This Style
Jethro Tull - Cup of Wonder (1977)
By a Stock Response Dr. I.A. Richards means a deliberately organized attitude which is substituted for the `direct free play of experience.'. . .
. . .All that we describe as constancy in love or friendship, as loyalty in political life, or, in general, as perseverance - all solid virtue and stable pleasure - depends on organizing chosen attitudes and maintaining them against the eternal flux (or `direct free play') of mere immediate experience. This Dr. Richards would not perhaps deny. But his school puts the emphasis the other way. They talk as if improvement of our responses were always required in the direction of finer discrimination and greater particularity; never as if men needed responses more normal and more traditional than they now have. To me, on the other hand, it seems that most people's responses are not `stock' enough, and that the play of experience is too free and too direct in most of us for safety or happiness or human dignity. . .
. . .Normal sexuality, far from being a datum, is achieved by a long and delicate process of suggestion and adjustment, which proves too difficult for some individuals and, at times, for whole societies. The Stock response to Pride, which Milton reckoned on when he delineated his Satan, has been decaying ever since the Romantic Movement began - that is one of the reasons why I am composing these lectures. The Stock response to treachery has become uncertain; only the other day I heard a respectable working man defend Lord Haw-Haw by remarking coolly (and with no hint of anger or of irony), `You've got to remember that's how he earns his pay.' The Stock response to death has become uncertain. I have heard a man say that the only `amusing' thing that happened while he was in hospital was the death of a patient in the same ward. . .Even the Stock response to pleasure cannot be depended on; I have heard a man (and a young man, too) condemn Donne's more erotic poetry because `sex', as he called it, always `made him think of lysol and rubber goods'. . .
. . .poetry was formerly one of the chief means whereby each new generation learned, not to copy, but by copying to make*, the good Stock responses. . .(* -"We learn how to do things by doing the things we are learning how to do,' as Aristotle observes (Ethics, II, i)).
. . .Discipline, while the world is yet unfallen, exists for the sake of what seems its very opposite - for freedom, almost for extravagance. . .The heavenly frolic arises from an orchestra which is in tune; the rules of courtesy make perfect ease and freedom possible between those who obey them. . .The whole man is kindled by his vision of the `shape of virtue'. Unless we bear this in mind we shall not understand either Comus or Paradise Lost, either the Faerie Queene or the Arcadia, or the Divine Comedy itself. We shall be in constant danger of supposing that the poet was inculcating a rule when in fact he was enamoured of a perfection.
XII. The Theology of Paradise Lost
. . .The best of Milton is in his epic: why should we labour to drag back into that noble building all the rubble which the laws of its structure, the limitations of its purpose, and the perhaps half-conscious prudence of the author, have so happily excluded from it? Must Noah always figure in our minds drunk and naked, never building the Ark? . . .
. . .The blindness here displayed reminds one of Napoleon's utterances after his fall, `I wonder what Wellington will do now? - he will never be content to become a private citizen again.' Just as Napoleon was incapable of conceiving, I do not say the virtues, but even the temptations, of an ordinarily honest man in a tolerably stable commonwealth, so Satan in this speech shows complete inability to conceive any state of mind but the infernal. . .
. . .It remains, of course, true that Satan is the best drawn of Milton's characters. The reason is not hard to find. Of the major characters whom Milton attempted he is incomparably the easiest to draw. Set a hundred poets to tell the same story and in ninety of the resulting poems Satan will be the best character. In all but a few writers the `good' characters are the least successful, and every one who has ever tried to make the humblest story ought to know why. . .It is in their `good' characters that novelists make, unawares, the most shocking self-revelations. Heaven understands Hell and Hell does not understand Heaven, and all of us, in our measure, share the Satanic, or at least the Napoleonic, blindness. . .
. . .Yet even the `good' characters Paradise Lost are not so unsuccessful that a man who takes the poem seriously will doubt whether, in real life, Adam or Satan would be the better company. Observe their conversation. Adam talks about God, the Forbidden Tree, sleep, the difference between beast and man, his plans for the morrow, the stars, and the angels. He discusses dreams and clouds, the sun, the moon, and the planets, the winds, and the birds. He relates his own creation and celebrates the beauty and majesty of Eve. Now listen to Satan: in Book I at line 83 he starts to address Beelzebub; by line 94 he is stating his own position and telling Beelzebub about his `fixt mind' and `injured merit'. At line 241 he starts off again, this time to give his impressions of Hell: by line 252 he is stating his own position and assuring us (untruly) that he is `still the same.' At line 622 he begins to harangue his followers; by line 635 he is drawing attention to the excellence of his public conduct. Book II opens with his speech from the throne; before we have had eight lines he is lecturing the assembly on his right to leadership. He meets Sin - and states his position. He sees the Sun; it makes him think of his own position. He spies on the human lovers; and states his position. In Book IX he journeys round the whole earth; it reminds him of his own position. The point need not be laboured. Adam, though locally confined to a small park on a small planet, has interests that embrace `all the choir of heaven and all the furniture of earth.' Satan has been in the Heaven of Heavens and in the abyss of Hell, and surveyed all that lies between them, and in that whole immensity has found only one thing that interests Satan. It may be said that Adam's situation made it easier for him, than for Satan, to let his mind roam. But that is just the point. Satan's monomaniac concern with himself and his supposed rights and wrongs is a necessity of the Satanic predicament. Certainly, he has no choice. He has chosen to have no choice. He has wished to `be himself', and to be in himself and for himself, and his wish has been granted. The Hell he carries with him is, in one sense, a Hell of infinite boredom. Satan, like Miss Bates, is interesting to read about; but Milton makes plain the blank uninterestingness of being Satan.
. . .Yet the choice is possible. Hardly a day passes without some slight movement towards it in each one of us. That is what makes Paradise Lost so serious a poem. The thing is possible, and the exposure of it is resented. . .We have all skirted the Satanic island closely enough to have motives for wishing to evade the full impact of the poem. . .