The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 TeasersAudacious Epigone Blog
Your Job Is to Stay Home
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeThanksLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

Granting for sake of argument that we need “to get the virus under control”, she’s not wrong:

If a lockdown is mandated, it needs to be accompanied by a UBI. It’s cruel to deprive people of a source income by government dictate without making up the difference in aid.

The US effectively had a means-tested UBI in effect from March through July when tens of millions of unemployed people were receiving over $1,000 in state and federal transfers. The stock market is higher than it was pre-Covid, the unemployment rate continues to decline, and prices are stable. The consensus is that the $5 trillion bill didn’t cost a thing. There is such thing as a free lunch, and it’s time the people get more than crumbs to eat.

Putting aside the fact that the bill passed the House 419-6 and she was one of those 419, this is a modus operandi the GOP must shed if it is to avoid the dustbin of history. The same can be said of the trillions in ‘defense’ spending the party celebrates. That there is always money for wars and Wall Street but never for regular Americans makes those regular Americans cynical and angry in good times. It’s how revolutions start in bad times. Bad times like, say, a perceived pandemic where tens of millions of regular Americans find themselves unable to make a living.

The upside for astute Republican pols, if there are any, is that the ‘opposition’ is now firmly in the hands of the neo-liberal corporatist wing of the Democrat party. The AOC/Sanders wing is getting shut out of everything in even the seminal stages of the Biden administration.

Where the progressive left is being shut down, the populist right can make gains. These neo-liberal corporatists didn’t buy Biden/Harris for the populism, they bought the ticket as assurance against it. They have the neocons and Chamber of Commerce cohorts to prove it.

The stage is set for the political realignment that began with Trump’s election to stabilize into something lasting.

 
• Category: Economics, Ideology • Tags: Coronavirus, Politics, UBI 
Hide 45 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. If a lockdown is mandated…

    Here’s how I would say it:

    “If a lockdown is mandated and, say, restaurants must operate at 50% capacity with every other table with taped X’s, then:

    Congress & Senate must be reduced by half and put taped X’s on every other seat to protect the health of the older than average politician demographic. National, State, County etc, all the way down.

    All welfare program checks will now go out every other week/month so postal workers don’t have to touch so much Covid infested mail.

    Electricity and water will be shut off every other day so the utility employees can “stay home and be safe.”

    Immigration naturalization ceremonies will be reduced by half so they can have room for all the taped circles to stand in.

    We are all equal, comrade, and all will bear the burden of the War on [X where X = Coronovirus] equally.

  2. Dumbo says:

    I think it was the idea of the Lion of the Blogosphere (whom I haven’t read in ages) to pay people to stay home playing videogames. That was much before Corona-Panic and any talk of UBI.

    I guess the future has arrived, pay people to stay home playing videogames, watching porn, smoking weed (in Oregon also heroine and cocaine), and most of all not reproducing.

    I can’t think of a more demoralizing way of living, but the media is painting it as “heroic”:

    https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/german-government-ad-hails-couch-potatoes-as-coronavirus-heroes/?sba=AAS

  3. Mark G. says:

    The Republicans need to ditch the pro-Wall Street and defense contractor form of conservatism since this is crony capitalism instead of free market capitalism. I say that as someone who is involved in military accounting for contractors and can see how much money is being made there. There are a lot of people vacationing in Hawaii or their second homes in Michigan and getting rich from being involved in the big piles of money involved in procuring supplies and equipment for the military.

    The first step for Republicans is to stop inflationary policies that raise stock prices that make rich stock owners richer and raise wages that make the working class poorer since the higher wages make them unable to compete on the world labor market, thus causing job loss.

    This crony capitalism is sometimes labeled “neoliberalism” and Milton Friedman is often pointed to as the main villain involved in the rise of this in the late seventies and early eighties. I admire Friedman and he takes a lot of good free market positions but his haters have a point. Friedman, unlike the Austrian economists, didn’t support the gold standard. It was Tricky Dick Nixon leaving Bretton Woods in 1971 and severing the last link to gold that enabled the inflationary policies that followed. Since 1971 we have had year after year trade deficits that have hollowed out our industrial base and that, along with increasing prices on stocks owned primarily by the rich, have caused increasing income inequality.

    • Agree: Audacious Epigone
    • Replies: @V. K. Ovelund
  4. unit472 says:

    The Covid virus is winning and there doesn’t seem to be anyway to stop its spread. Vermont had few cases but, even there, cases have begun that ominous increase. North Dakota isn’t a place where there are sights to see and things to do so, if staying home works, it should have worked there, Instead it has the highest infection rate in the country.

    There was a story of a woman in Texas the other day. She lived in a rural county a mile and half down a gravel road with no neighbors within a mile. She was fastidious about mask ( and glove) wearing and had curbside pickup for groceries. Her only recent in person contact was for lunch with her best friend and they ate outside. She felt sick and tested positive soon after. I assume we ALL will eventually become infected. The virus is just too contagious. I suspect a week or two after Thanksgiving we are going to see an explosion in new infections.

    • Replies: @Dumbo
  5. Glad to see good Mr. Epigone has gone over to the (Richard) Spencerian side of politics and is now retweeting AOC. You should consider going on his new podcast as the data guy. Dr. Dutton has become an insufferable election fraud truther.

  6. Putting aside the fact that the bill passed the House 419-6 and she was one of those 419, this is a modus operandi the GOP must shed if it is to avoid the dustbin of history. The same can be said of the trillions in ‘defense’ spending the party celebrates. That there is always money for wars and Wall Street but never for regular Americans makes those regular Americans cynical and angry in good times.

    Yes, this is where we are headed. Trump INcreased spending on defense because, as a Boomer who went to a military academy, he still thinks it’s the organization of duty, honor, country. Make no mistake, there are plenty of people in the military like that. But the military obeys Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

    In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

    So he poured more dollars and power into the hands of the people who care only about dollars and power, not duty, honor, country. It’s the same with the Intelligence community. You need only read The Devil’s Chessboard to see the CIA as a strongly Republican outfit, at least in the early 1960s when the author makes the case that they took part in the assassination of JFK. It was Frank Church, a Democrat from Idaho(it was another world), who produced the first clamp down on the CIA in the 1970s. Perhaps this was the time at which the CIA and intelligence agencies began their long leftward drift. I was surprised in 2016 when a friend told me how strongly the intelligence community backed Hillary over Trump. Surely Trump must’ve known this?

    We are coming to a real crossroads. At the current rate of the 30 year bond, 1.53%, $27 trillion in federal debt requires $413 billion annually in interest. That is an amount of dollars that is about half of the total federal deficit in 2019. Before Covid. In other words, the government could only net borrow about $500 billion to put towards things like military spending, and all the other “wonderful” benefits of federal spending. At some point,And maybe not soon because interest rates have been slashed tremendously since last year at this time, interest will claim a larger share of the federal government the net borrowing. At that point, there’s going to be a war for resources.

    Gary north has always said that in the battle between Granny and the military, granny was always going to win out. Cue systemic racism. If granny has already benefited from the racist oppression of minorities in the USA, then it will be legitimate to take money from old, rich, 90% white granny to pay for new generations of woke leaders in the military. Eliminate the military and you can pay off all of the interest that’s being accrued on existing debt, and perhaps pay down a little bit of the existing debt.

    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  7. Anonymous[409] • Disclaimer says:

    Why are you suddenly agreeing with left wing drivel?

    I can’t stand the alt-right and even I see that economic leftism only leads to socialism and mediocrity.

    • Troll: Supply and Demand
    • Replies: @Audacious Epigone
  8. I’ve been working from home since 2012, not because I have to, but because I can. Savings on office rental, commute, etc. The government can’t pay me enough to cover my income, but I’m already home, working across the hall from my bedroom, and I will take whatever peanuts you say they should throw at me.

    Meanwhile, I can look out my window right now, on a Saturday, and see guys with heavy equipment cutting and chopping trees and branches and brush on my neighbor’s property. (He’s clearing out a whole acre on one side. Unlike me, he doesn’t value trees and greenery; he likes to show off his property at all costs, thus the clear cutting. There is no accounting for taste. He’s an immigrant, BTW, with none of the attachment to the land that I have.)

    Those guys making all the noise over there can’t work from home, and they aren’t, but if they get checks in the mail from the government I pay monetary tribute to, so should I.

    In fact, I can’t even tell if those guys are here legally, or if they voted, or who the F they are, but I’m sure they get the same, measly checks I do. If you want UBI, Mr. Epigone, then by God you’d better adjust it UP, UP, UP to my level in my case. I’m expecting a big, goddam check every month, so I can just stop working. I’m happy to stay home (because it’s nice here.)

    • Replies: @anon
    , @unit472
  9. Republicans are the same as Democrats only Democrats are the same as Republicans.

    Just like racists and anti-racists are exactly the same.

    Distinctions without differences.

    • Agree: Kratoklastes
  10. Dumbo says:
    @unit472

    The Covid virus is winning and there doesn’t seem to be anyway to stop its spread.

    If there isn’t, then why the stupid and criminal lockdowns and masks all over the world??

    Covid is a lie.

    • Agree: Mark G.
    • Replies: @Kratoklastes
  11. It’s cruel to deprive people of a source income by government dictate without making up the difference in aid.

    It’s even crueler to lead people to think that UBI will keep it purchasing power the longer it goes. You know what amazes me about the current food lines in the US is that they are lines of people in cars, many yakking away on cellphones. Somehow they find the money for gas and airtime.

    You will own nothing …

    • Agree: V. K. Ovelund
    • Replies: @Jtgw
  12. Your job is to stay at home, be terrified at the news reports from the democratic party’s news agencies and do as your’e told, or you are being a “white supremacist”, or some such animal.

  13. anon[264] • Disclaimer says:
    @Buzz Mohawk

    (He’s clearing out a whole acre on one side. Unlike me, he doesn’t value trees and greenery; he likes to show off his property at all costs, thus the clear cutting. There is no accounting for taste. He’s an immigrant, BTW,

    No doubt he wants a better view of his magic dirt.

  14. @Mark G.

    Since 1971 we have had year after year trade deficits that have hollowed out our industrial base….

    Tariffs would have filled that hollow.

    • Agree: iffen
    • Replies: @dfordoom
    , @Mark G.
    , @Rosie
  15. @TomSchmidt

    I was surprised in 2016 when a friend told me how strongly the intelligence community backed Hillary over Trump.

    Question for your Intel Community friend: are they not troubled by Hillary’s keeping Special Access Programs on her illegal home server? By her Clinton Foundation accepting Russian bribes for Uranium One? By Biden being on the Chinese payroll? How many of their lives or the lives of their intell assets did Hillary’s grossly negligent security failures cost?

    What exactly has Trump done to earn their enmity, besides being an outsider? Or was that enough?

    • Replies: @TomSchmidt
  16. MBlanc46 says:

    So you’ve got the Dems doing what the Repubs used to do, flunkying for the bankers and the capitalists, and the Sandernistas snapping at their ankles. What’s the role for the Repubs supposed to be?

    • Replies: @Audacious Epigone
  17. Jtgw says:
    @The Alarmist

    Whatever happened to the UBI in Finland? I remember progressives going ecstatic over it.

  18. @Almost Missouri

    Funny you should ask. I started the conversation just assuming that the Intel community was opposed to Hillary because of the server. He came back right away and said that the community strongly supported her over him. I did not press the point but I got the sense that they did not like Trump as an outsider (maybe also they didn’t have anything on him,like they surely had on Hillary.)

    When I spoke with him in 2018, he was fully onboard with Russian interference in the election of 2016. (And, frankly, there WAS Russian interference; not enough to swing the thing, but a tiny bit. )

    More than anything, I get the sense that it’s two things: they don’t like being questioned and not accredited as the bright spooks they all are, and they REALLY don’t want to give up the defense/intelligence bucks. I understand circling the wagons against the outsider, and the desire to hold onto inflated salaries.

    Here’s the thing: almost all those people make a lot of money for one major reason: they can get a security clearance. As an American citizen. For some positions, you need to be born here. My friend makes well into the six figures because of his military background and expertise, and his higher security clearance. He guest lectured over video once, because he was not allowed to be in the same room as a Chinese National.

    It’s a shame they don’t want that same overvaluing of US citizenship for the rest of us that were born here.

    • Replies: @Almost Missouri
  19. dfordoom says: • Website
    @V. K. Ovelund

    Since 1971 we have had year after year trade deficits that have hollowed out our industrial base….

    Tariffs would have filled that hollow.

    Tariffs would have made consumer goods more expensive which would have made most people unhappy.

    You have to ask yourself if it’s really worth worrying about having an industrial base. Having an industrial base is no longer the secret to prosperity. The modern economy is all about consumption, not building refrigerators and TV sets and cars. Give people a UBI and they’ll consume more and there’ll be more prosperity.

    Rebuilding the industrial base is based on the idea that it’s possible to recreate the 1950s. To rebuild a competitive industrial base would require a huge use of automation and would not bring back as many jobs as a lot of people like to think. And you might just end up with an unprofitable industrial base that has to be continually bailed out.

    • Agree: AaronB
    • Disagree: iffen
    • Replies: @V. K. Ovelund
    , @iffen
  20. Mark G. says:
    @V. K. Ovelund

    Tariffs would have filled that hollow.

    You can try tariffs. They might be helpful in the same way treating the symptoms of a disease is helpful but in dealing with a disease you also want to find and treat the underlying causes. What often happens is that a government intervention causes problems and then the government deals with that by adding another intervention to deal with the problems caused by the first intervention rather than going back and repealing the first intervention.

    The high levels of income inequality in this country are going to eventually cause political instability with possibly even calls for violent revolution so you want to deal with it before that happens. You can look at other countries and also historical examples, including eras in this country where you had lower levels of income inequality. People say things like “you can’t go back to the fifties” but if the fifties had less income inequality than now it might be worthwhile to go back and see what fiscal and economic policies they were using and then compare it with what we are doing today.

    There was a saying back in the fifties that the job of the Fed was to take away the punch bowl just as the party was getting started. There was an attempt to prevent high inflation leading to huge stock bubbles like the one in 1929 and more recently 2000, 2008 and now. Eliminating the higher levels of inflation now would make American worker wages more competitive on the world market. They wouldn’t be harmed by falling domestic wages because you would have falling domestic prices at the same time. It would cost more to borrow money but that might be a good thing because it would decrease consumption and increase saving. Savings lead to investment and investment in new businesses leads to higher productivity and more wealth.

    • Thanks: V. K. Ovelund
  21. Rosie says:
    @V. K. Ovelund

    Tariffs would have filled that hollow.

    Tariffs are the only way to fill it. Mark G’s voodoo economics notwithstanding.

    • Replies: @762x39
  22. @dfordoom

    Tariffs would have made consumer goods more expensive which would have made most people unhappy.

    You have to ask yourself if it’s really worth worrying about having an industrial base.

    This is an old debate in the United States. I feel strongly that it is worth it, and the American public (including, curiously, immigrants perhaps) has been gradually and fairly steadily shifting to agree over the past 30 years. Indeed, I used to stand on the other side, so I am part of that shift.

    For a great, formerly self-sufficient industrial power with copious natural resources to overrely on imports (i) threatens national security, (ii) invites foreign manipulation, (iii) affords an excuse to meddle abroad, (iv) restricts the scope of entrepreneurialism at home, (v) pleases the intellectually vain, (vi) sacrifices intimate access to engineering/industrial nexi, (vii) leaves one to rely on technical documentation and support systems prepared in and for alien cultures, (viii) depresses wages, (ix) throws workmen out of work, (x) ruins once-thriving towns, (xi) uproots families from the local soil in which generations of their ancestors are buried, (xii) discourages domestic investment in plant, equipment and training, (xiii) forces one to care what foreigners think, (xiv) promotes the international movement of labor, (xv) disrupts the balance by which domestic goods and imports mutually cover one another’s shortfalls, (xvi) drains the treasury of tariff revenue, (xvii) converts formerly patriotic manufacturers into hostile multinational corporations, (xviii) and is generally disliked and distrusted—on common-sense grounds—by the citizenry.

    That’s just off the top of my head.

    I am familiar with all the rebuttals. I quantitatively grasp the second-order reason the great theorists Say, Ricardo, Heckscher, Ohlin and Samuelson disagree, but the United States grew to be a great industrial power, 1816 through 1939, under cover of tariff protection. The Corn Laws were never repealed here. Americans know better from experience.

    Trade is good and necessary. Free trade however is not free but comes at a cost. I want Congress to count the cost.

    • Replies: @Rosie
    , @iffen
  23. unit472 says:
    @Buzz Mohawk

    You didn’t mention what state you’re in but it could be your neighbor is creating a firebreak around his home or doesn’t want trees falling on his house if you are in hurricane country.

  24. Rosie says:
    @V. K. Ovelund

    (viii) depresses wages

    Apparently depressed wages are good for workers! Who knew?

  25. Typical gov’t thinking.

    Create one problem (lockdown) and solve it by creating another problem (UBI).

  26. @Dumbo

    Covid is a lie.

    The problem with that phrase is that it’s probably incorrect on its face, although it’s rhetorically correct. ‘Covid is a lie’ is a bad way to say that the syndrome caused by the novel coronavirus is not a threat to the vast majority of people who contract the virus itself.

    It’s likely that a novel coronavirus exists, and that in a very small fraction of susceptible people it causes a constellation of respiratory symptoms that, taken together, constitute a ‘syndrome’ that merits its own identifier.

    The ease with which a slogan can be attacked as (probably) factually incorrect, does a massive disservice to the rationalist argument (that is, the arguments of the anti-Doomers). In the same way, people who claim that vaccinations do not work, do a great disservice to rationalist arguments against vaccination as currently practiced.

    Slogans make for bad arguments: they get people asking the wrong questions.

    Asking the wrong questions have plagued public health bureaucracies for a hundred years.

    The best epidemiological example is the relatively-recent acknowledgement that Plague is not spread by rat-fleas. It is spread almost entirely by human ectoparasites: body lice (not head lice) and human fleas (a distinct species from rat fleas).

    For over a hundred years, epidemiologists assumed it was rat fleas, and so they asked the wrong questions about plague. They got useless answers as a direct result, and their recommendations had the wrong targets (rats). A bunch of policies from the 1660’s “Great Plague’ in London were derided by ‘modern’ epidemiology because they were thought to be pointless… because they didn’t control rats.

    It turns out that a few policies from the Great Plague had the right target, almost entirely by accident. Fumigation, lime-washing, quarantine, lock-ins and bans on transfer of chattels all prevented the transmission of the actual culprits: human lice and human fleas.

    None of those policies were part of the standard set of interventions in subsequent plague outbreaks, because health authorities were always trying to get rid of the rats.

    • Replies: @TomSchmidt
  27. @Kratoklastes

    It turns out that a few policies from the Great Plague had the right target, almost entirely by accident. Fumigation, lime-washing, quarantine, lock-ins and bans on transfer of chattels all prevented the transmission of the actual culprits: human lice and human fleas.

    None of those policies were part of the standard set of interventions in subsequent plague outbreaks, because health authorities were always trying to get rid of the rats.

    Fascinating. Do you have a link on this? Justinian’s Flea traces Yersinia Pestis up the Nile valley, making the argument that it was only moved out of the center of Africa due to cold weather that allowed plague-bearing rats to migrate up the valley. If rats were the original source, it would not prevent the disease from becoming more severe once it had moved to humans.

    This explains something about the Black Death and the Genoese in Caffa being infected by dead bodies being hurled into the city. If it were rats transmitting, you’d expect the city had already gotten a dose from rats traversing the besieging Mongol army. But if it was human fleas and lice, then dead bodies would almost certainly have a number of these looking for a new host.

    • Replies: @Kratoklastes
  28. iffen says:
    @V. K. Ovelund

    Comparative advantage doesn’t really work when you can just move the cloth factory to Bangladesh.

    • Replies: @V. K. Ovelund
  29. 762x39 says:
    @Rosie

    Jeez, that’s what we all need is more tarrifs (taxes!)

    And why would giving the government even more our money make any sense?.
    Because they are successful solving the country’s problems?

    That’s what the USA needs more of ? Government?

    We have been pouring money down that rat hole for decades for what?

    Imbecile.

    • Replies: @V. K. Ovelund
  30. @iffen

    Comparative advantage doesn’t really work when you can just move the cloth factory to Bangladesh.

    Eminent economists Heckscher, Ohlin and Samuelson offer an elegant rebuttal, but I still believe that you are right.

    [MORE]

    Unfortunately, I do not know how to write the rest of this without coming off as one of the high-IQ fools against which @dfordoom has rightly warned us. Let me just say this. Gomory, Baumol and Fletcher agree with you, but the economics profession is largely with Heckscher and the free traders—and in my estimation, Heckscher and the free traders have analytically the more compelling argument.

    But I do not believe that it matters who has the more compelling argument, for they’re arguing about the wrong thing.

    In mathematics, there exists a form called the Taylor series. You may remember it from school. The Taylor series includes a second-order term, and this second-order term features prominently in the Heckscher-Ohlin-Samuelson trade theory.

    Second-order terms don’t really matter in instances like this. Heckscher, Ohlin and Samuelson would be the first to admit that second-order terms don’t really matter, yet the second-order term is all their theory delivers.

    The second-order term is conceptually interesting but, as a basis for policy, it’s pretty lame.

    In my observation, the chief attraction of free-trade theory is that it appeals to intellectual vanity. To appreciate the theory, you need to know what a Taylor series is. You need to know why a second-order term doesn’t matter. If you know these things, then you can feel important, so damn the fellow with calluses on his hands who works in the mill, right? That fellow almost deserves to get laid off, because he didn’t get an A in calculus.

    The attitude is ugly and wrong, but that is what the attitude is, at least in part.

    So am I saying that Heckscher and friends are right but that we should ignore them because Taylor series are esoteric, Heckscher is cruel, and calluses are good? No, I am not saying that.

    I am saying that the discussion is beside the point. Eighteen reasons have earlier been given why free trade is a bad idea. Heckscher and friends (inadequately in my opinion) address two of the reasons. You still have the other sixteen.

    • Thanks: iffen
    • Replies: @Kratoklastes
  31. @762x39

    That’s what we all need is more tarrifs (taxes!)

    The question of heavier or lighter overall taxation is a different question. I prefer tariffs to other taxes. Don’t you?

    • Thanks: Rosie
  32. @TomSchmidt

    Thanks. I can understand the logic, if not the morality, of preferring a President you can control. But preferring someone who is effectively a traitor because she is a soi-disant “insider” while betraying you versus an outsider who, whatever his rhetoric, in no way defunded the military industrial complex strikes me as perverse.

    So we have a situation where the least offensive explanation for the Intel Community’s actions is extremely self-interested parasitism, while the more likely explanation is bizarre and cucky incestuousness.

    Then add in the facts that their forecasts are almost always wrong, their covert actions usually fail, and that they are spying on ordinary citizens, and it is hard to see how we would be worse off without these institutions.

  33. it is hard to see how we would be worse off without these institutions.

    I write under my own name, and I frankly don’t care if I get locked up for it. That’s a dangerous thought you just wrote there. Millions of Americans can see the benefits of Social Security and Medicare, and some of the other things the Feds do. But the benefit we proles derive from the military, and Intelligence, and the reserve currency status of the dollar: those are questionable. Ever more so.

    The late David Graeber wrote, in Bullshit Jobs, that the military is about the only non-bullshit job that rightists can go into that pays decently and also provides the psychic benefit of “serving and protecting.” Leftists can work for the many progressive foundations that exist to “do good.” Once it becomes clear that most of the military spending is a grift to support those 10 of the 11 richest counties in the USA that surround DC, we might actually demilitarize from WW2.

    If you thought the resistance to Trump was strong, imagine the full force of the military-intelligence lobby turned against the American people.

  34. @TomSchmidt

    I was gobsmacked when I first heard of the ‘human ectoparasite hypothesis’ (last year): not because the hypothesis was surprising, but because it was obvious once it was mentioned (and it fills holes in the rat hypothesis).

    Like most hypotheses that challenge an institutionally rusted-on truism, it has its vocal opponents – but it withstands scrutiny (especially when considering that rat-targeted interventions don’t work, but lice-targeted ones work a treat).

    A good starting reference is Dean et al (2018) Human ectoparasites and the spread of plague in Europe during the Second Pandemic, Proceedings of the National Acadamy of Science, 2018 Feb 6;115(6):1304-1309.

    I always do a double-take when I see ‘Second Pandemic’ – like most Anglophones I intuitively think of the Black Death (14th century) as the ‘First Pandemic’, but it was the starting point for the second – which only ended in the late 19th century. As you mention, the First Pandemic was a period that included the Plague of Justinian.

    As a young’un it always perplexed me that London ‘intramuros’- where the affluent lived – was largely unaffected by the Great Plague: surely there were rats within the walls of London at the time, so there was no impediment to spread if it was caused by rat-fleas.

    If human fleas and lice are to blame, it makes much more sense… the relatively wealthy had more than one set of underclothes, more than one set of bedsheets, and were able to afford higher standards of hygiene.

    • Replies: @TomSchmidt
    , @TomSchmidt
  35. @V. K. Ovelund

    The problem with this sort of supercilious claptrap is that those second-order terms are not only present in the market for the good to which the tariff is applied. Add up all the distortions introduced by tariffs (including distortions to rates of return on capital, which affects investment decisions), and they can be seen for what they actually are: special pleading that returns to capital in some specific industry deserves to be subsidised by the polity.

    I have some (very small – third-order, if I’m frank) sympathy for the “don’t import your bullets” trope (the idea that relying on gains from trade can be a bad thing if it puts a nation at risk of supply chain disruptions for warmaking)… but then there’s the intertemporal issue to contend with: the nation gets cheaper ‘bullets’ for the entire period during which it’s not at war.

    People who think of things in Taylor-Maclaurin terms, betray the fact that they’re thinking in comparative-static (and usually single-sector) terms. General [dis-]equilibrium dynamics – and particularly the predictable dynamic consequences of bureaucracies – outweigh the putative ‘first order’ benefits from tariffs, by orders of magnitude.

    The men with calluses don’t need to work in a car plant whose returns to capital are subsidised through higher general prices (due to product, intermediate and factor market distortions): getting rid of deadweight losses (which are paths) means that capital gets allocated nearer to its highest-productivity manifold (qua capital, i.e., without political interference), which means that capital-labour ratios are closer to optimal, which means wages in general are higher than they would otherwise be. The men with calluses can make something other than buggy-whips.

    There is a very good reason why the term “beggar thyself” is used when discussing protectionism. Like other forms of artificially-granted market power (e.g., IP monopoly), protectionism redounds to the benefit of sectional interests, not to the benefit of the consumer (or the citizen).

    If China is prepared to send the West a proportion of its output at subsidised prices… more fool them. Mercantilism is retarded.

    • Replies: @V. K. Ovelund
  36. @Kratoklastes

    I do not understand your reply, unfortunately. You might have to break it down for me.

    The problem with this sort of supercilious claptrap …

    I would like to sharpen my argument. I would especially like to avoid superciliousity! Which part of what I wrote is supercilious claptrap in your view, please?

    [MORE]

    [T]hey’re thinking in comparative-static (and usually single-sector) terms.

    Your adjective “comparative-static” has sent me to the dictionary. I have looked it up.

    I do not believe that a comparative-static analysis is was what I was doing. I gather that you mean something like what one does in an elasticity calculation—but sir, you’ll have to spare me excessive jargon: I am a motivated amateur with a strong analytical foundation, not a specialist. The analysis with which I am familiar linearizes nothing. No terms are dropped.

    At any rate, the analysis with which I am familiar is a two-sector analysis. As far as I know, a single-sector analysis would be pointless in this context. (I assume that a multi-sector analysis—more than two sectors—would involve taking the Jacobian of something but would yield the same second-order benefit as the two-sector in the end.)

    … the putative ‘first order’ benefits from tariffs …

    You may have misunderstood me. I did not impute a first-order benefit to tariffs—not in any rate in terms of any theoretical economic model.

    … special pleading that returns to capital in some specific industry deserves to be subsidised by the polity.

    No one in this thread has pleaded for that.

    I am prepared to yield to you acknowledgment of your greater facility with the Heckscher-Ohlin-Samuelson theory, but the acknowledgment is moot if the theory [a] has poor predictive power and [b] addresses some other problem than the problem others in this thread want addressed.

    It would be preferable to try to keep the discussion at a level at which other readers can follow (including me).

    • Agree: Yahya K.
    • Replies: @iffen
  37. @Kratoklastes

    The problem isn’t that rat fleas is “wrong.” It’s a very good explanation, and for the initial spread of bubonic plague, true. It’s just that for the actual plague, lice works better. And in retrospect, as Schopenhauer might say, it was self-evident.

    Lice isn’t an obvious explanation to modern Americans who have no experience with body lice (head lice have apparently made a comeback, along with TB, thanks to immigration). To me, the explanation that gas chambers at Auschwitz were for “de-lousing” was ridiculous as an excuse for Nazis. It was only reading accounts of soldiers imprisoned at the end of WW2 (some great 50-year retrospectives in 1995) that detailed the tremendous problem of lice amongst camp inmates that made the problem of lice real to me. Knowing how many people in concentration camps died of typhus, and that lice are implicated in typhus epidemics, brought a bit more understanding.

    Thanks for the link; fascinating.

  38. @Kratoklastes

    Before reading your link, I had found another website that claimed that the Black Death wasn’t bubonic plague at all, but rather a hemorrhagic fever like Ebola. There’s an interesting argument for that, as well.

    Caffa, where the Mongols first launched plague-ridden bodies onto the Genoese, is about 550km from Constantinople. Searching around, I found that the speed of sailing ships in1750 was about 4.5 knots, or about 8.3km/h. At optimum conditions, this would put a boat in at Constantinople in 3 days. Buboes form in 24-48 hours after infection, so the ship of Genoese would hav been obviously plague-infected by the time it reached Constantinople.

    The article made the point that a hemorrhagic fever can take up to two weeks to manifest. This might explain why the ship reached Genoa and dispatched infected souls there.

    Interesting thought.

  39. iffen says:
    @V. K. Ovelund

    Some people only have a hammer.

    • Replies: @V. K. Ovelund
  40. @iffen

    Some people only have a hammer.

    That’s what I think, too; but after @Kratoklastes had gotten the highfalutin jargon out of his system and settled down a bit, I wanted to see whether he had a point to make in language you and I can understand.

    With resort to the dictionary, I can understand just enough of what @Kratoklastes has already written to appreciate that he probably has some real background in the topic. Due respect is granted. However, usually, a person that cannot summarize at a college-freshman level of comprehension is a sophomore, not a expert.

  41. iffen says:
    @dfordoom

    And you might just end up with an unprofitable industrial base that has to be continually bailed out.

    Just as with the personal UBI you will need to set it (and adjust it) to the starvation level.

    • Replies: @dfordoom
  42. dfordoom says: • Website
    @iffen

    Just as with the personal UBI you will need to set it (and adjust it) to the starvation level.

    A great way to make the industrial base competitive would be to get rid of those silly child labour laws. Sending eight-year-olds down the coal mines didn’t do them any harm. It was character-building. There’s no reason we can’t use eight-year-olds today as factory fodder. That way we can set those starvation levels even lower. Kids will do just fine on a bowl of gruel a day. If some of them actually do starve there’s plenty more where they came from.

  43. @Anonymous

    It’s unspeakably cruel to shutdown people’s livelihoods without compensating them for the duration of the shutdown. As has been argued here from the beginning of the coronavirus scare, mandatory shutdowns shouldn’t have happened to begin with.

  44. @MBlanc46

    Use the dollar while it can still be used for the unapologetic benefit of American citizens.

    • Replies: @MBlanc46

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to All Audacious Epigone Comments via RSS