Friday, June 10, 2005
My colleges are in the news
I must also applaud President Schapiro (for whom I was a teaching assistant when he taight Economics 101) to for being savvy enough to lure Friedman out to Williamstown and getting some fine press for the institution in the New York Times.
Thanks to alert reader B.K. for the pointer.
UPDATE: The utility of searching the stacks contrasts nicely with James Falows' lament about computer searches in the New York Times:
Economists are flummoxed
When Alan Greenspan can't explain the bond market, I start to get very, very nervous.
Of course, what Greenspan is sure about doesn't make me feel any better:
Now part of the reason savings is at a historic low is that asset prices have been rising so dramatically over the past ten years -- equities in the late nineties and housing now. So it's tough to say that the American consumer is behaving irrationally -- why save income when your assets are appreciating at a healthy clip?
Tyler Cowen speculates on whether this is true and is just as flummoxed as Greenspan is about the bond market:
Now is normally the point in the post when I give you my take on things. Not this time -- I'm just as stumped as Cowen and Greenspan on these questions.
Thursday, June 9, 2005
One of my favorite Simpsons moments is when Homer is watching a TV set showing Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor -- at which point he bangs on the set and says, "Be funnier!!"
That moment came to my head when I read this Jackie Calmes report in the Wall Street Journal that this year's budget deficit is smaller than projected:
Why did I think of that moment? Because Bolten's comment was so absurd that I was tempted to bang the computer and yell "Spin better!!"
Finding out that the annual budget deficit is 20% smaller than previously should be manna from heaven for the administration. And there's an excellent line for the explanation -- the administration's policies have fostered faster-than expected economic growth which has increased tax revenues. So if I were working for the administration, I'd say, "With the president's focus on growing the economy, we're seeing an improved balance sheet for the government." That's spin in the best sense -- accentuating your positive attibutes.
What I wouldn't mention is "the president's focus on spending discipline," which brings up two unformortable facts: a) this administration has no spending discipline; and b) combine that with a Congress that loves to spend as well and you've got widening deficits for some time.
Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Can North Korea overtake South Africa?
This step by FIFA -- and North Korea's ongoing campaign for Rogue State of the Year -- got me to wondering: which country in the world has been the most popular target of sanctions approved by an international organization?
As someone who's written a bit about economic sanctions, I confess to not having a definitive answer -- to my knowledge, no one has ever researched this question. Certainly North Korea has been moving up in the ranks -- the UN (back during the Korean War), the IAEA in 1994, and now FIFA.
However, I'd still be willing to bet that the answer to this question is apartheid-era South Africa. At one point or another, the United Nations, Organization for African Unity, European Economic Community, South African Development Community, and the Commonwealth imposed sancdtions -- not to mention the International Olympic Committee and FIFA.
The hard working staff here at danieldrezner.com will be on top of this issue to see if and when North Korea can overtake the rogue state of the twentieth century. I hjave no doubt that the regime in Pyongyang is capable of pulling this off.
The costs and benefits of military primacy
I've blogged in the past about the security benefits of American military hegemony -- namely, that when one state holds military primacy, the incentives for other countries to engage in arms races and military advanturish declines. One obvious measure of these kind of security benefits is the reduction of aggregate military expenditures. As Gregg Easterbrook noted two years ago:
Soooo..... I was a bit chagrined to read this AP report that says global defense spending is on the rise:
What are the normative implications of this? We go back to the AP report:
The OECD's recipe for economic growth
Psst... hey, buddy -- want to make some more money?
Chris Giles writes in the Financial Times on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's latest working paper:
You can access the OECD's summary here, and the full report here. By barriers, the authors are referring to tariffs, limits on foreign direct investment, and product market regulation. The bulk of the gains come from regulatory reforms.
How big are the benefits? This is from the report's cover letter:
UPDATE: Robert Tagorda at Outside the Beltway has some more thoughts on the OECD report.
Meanwhile, Gary Hufbauer and Paul Grieco's op-ed in the Washington Post yesterday makes a similar point about the past benefits of economic openness:
[But the costs... what about the costs!!--ed. Ah, yes, they measure that too:
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
492326* words later....
Readers may have detected a somewhat harried nature to my blog posts of the last few weeks. The reason is that I was preparing to hand in my tenure file -- the packet of information that is sent to external referees asked to write about my case. A tenure file consists of:
If this sounds like all it would require is a cloistered weekend and some toner, well, that's what I thought six weeks ago. I then discovered, however, that writing a statement of research and teaching is the equivalent of writing a ten page cover letter saying, "Look at me!! LOOK AT ME!!!" You'd think with my blog and everything this would be easy to write, but you'd be wrong.
Then I decided that this would be an excellent opportunity to revise my book manuscript and polish all of the draft articles I have in the wings. Not surprisingly, this took a bit longer than expected, and distracted me a hell of a lot more than my lovely wife expected.
I handed in the file this morning. As I sank back into my chair, I began to wonder just how many words I had printed out. In a fit of sheer bloody-mindedness, I opened up every document, did a word count, and added it all up. Which is where I got the title to this post.
[What's with the asterisk?--ed. Because that word count, while accurate, is nevertheless inflated. Like every other political scientist, I publish my scholarly work in both article and book form. Many of my articles are simply book chapters that have been hived off into stand-alone essays. Similarly, I have sometimes published more accessible forms of my research in policy journals. So while the word count is pretty high, there's a lot of duplication. How much duplication?--ed. I'd say that buried beneath that word count are about three big ideas, four pretty big ideas, three smaller ideas, and some nice moments of criticism.]
Anyway, it's off my desk and out of my hands -- so I'm now off to do some serious drinking.
After the whole process is over -- i.e., in early 2006 -- I might be motivated to post something about the political economy of getting tenure. For now, however, political scientists should click over to Henry Farrell's informative post about how to get your conference paper accepted for the American Political Science Association annual meeting.
Monday, June 6, 2005
What I got out of Mark Felt this week
The orgy of commentary and journalism produced by the revelation that W. Mark Felt was Deep Throat has been staggering -- and mostly unproductive. The revelation that a key source for Woodward and Bernstein was the number two man in the FBI and a J. Edgar Hoover loyalist has produced a lot of bullshit -- and in the case of Pat Buchanan, outright lies.
So has there been any commentary of value to be gleaned from this revelation? I've seen two things worth reading -- though both of them are only tangental to Felt's coming out party. Surprisingly enough, they're written by two people who probably don't get along very well -- David Brooks and Sasha Issenberg (click on this Noam Scheiber essay to find out why they don't get along).
Brooks does a great riff off of Bob Woodward's first person account of how he first met and got to know Felt. This allows him to talk about the topic he covers so well -- what aspiring young people do to get ahead:
As you would expect, one Junior Lippman takes the time to respond -- but if you ask me, Brooks' point has attracted too much attention for it to be dismissed lightly -- see Elizabeth Bumiller and Tim Noah for more on this theme.
Issenberg, meanwhile, has a great piece in Slate about how Felt's revelations bring to mind an excellent Watergate movie -- and it ain't All the President's Men:
Hmmm.... paranoid style in American politics infecting public commentary... yes, that sounds familiar. Well, at least Felt's revelations will put the conspiracy meme to rest on this question. Oh, wait....
When graduate students discover the Internet
"Alan Mendelsohn" has a pretty funny first-person account in the Chronicle of Higher Education about what happens when a literature department at "a major research university on the West Coast" sets up a blog for grad students. The results are not pretty at all. One example:
Ah, the academy -- almost everyone on the same side of the ideological fence, and nary an agreement in sight.
"Mendelsohn" concludes that maybe the Internet is not the nirvana of Habermasian discourse, but the academic version of crack:
"Alan Mendelsohn", by the way, is a pseudonym -- and I can't say I blame him. But I will always be grateful to him for the introduction of "postmodern wanker" into my lexicon.
Sunday, June 5, 2005
Giving a whole new meaning to "the chosen people" means
This Economist story makes me very, very uncomfortable:
Read the whole article to understand the explanation of Cochran et al. Here's a link to their working paper on the topic.
The thing is, Cochran has also advanced the idea that, "homosexuality is caused by an infection," which is just strange.