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Monday, April 23, 2018

A New Pareto Liberal Paradox (reposted from 2004)

One of the core principles of Liberalism is that there must be equality before the law. The law must not discriminate. In practice, this principle is often restricted to citizens and people are citizens only if they are born in the liberal polity or have the right ancestors. I personally consider this restriction absolutely inconsistent with my core beliefs.

In any case, equality before the law is a core principle. Liberals might consider equality of income very important or not at all important, but we must defend legal equality or else we are not liberals.

I naively imagine that I am pretty utilitarian. Consequentialist enough to accept Pareto improvements anyway. I reconcile my absolute respect for legal equality with my absolute respect for utils ideologically, that is by convincing myself that reality is such that I can hold both moral beliefs. In plain English, I am deeply convinced that legal equality is not just good in itself but also is the most efficient legal rule. I think that hereditary priviledge is not only wrong but also leads to incompetence in key positions.

However, I can imagine an alternative world in which a law which discriminates can cause a Pareto improvement. I am absolutely unwilling to name such a law clearly, because I consider it obscene. I will discuss the issue only in complete abstraction. The reader will have guessed that I am more liberal than utilitarian and would reject the Pareto improvement in the unhappy alternative universe.

The model is a case of the Matsuyama model (QJE 1991 vol 104 pp 617-650) built on the Murphy Shleifer and Vishny big push model and analysed by Herrendorf Valentinyi and Waldmann (ReStud 2000 Vol. 67 no. 2 pp. 295-307). This is a model in which different people leave villages where they farmed and move to cities where they work in industry. It is assumed that different people either face a different moving cost or have different productivity in manufacturing. This means that for intermediate values of the present value of wages in the city, some people move to the city and some stay on the farm.

The interesting dynamic arises because there are Marshallian spillovers or something (in MSV imperfectly competative firms with increasing returns to scale). Thus it is not wise to move to the city if no one else does. In an early draft of HVR 2000 Akos suggested considering congestion as well. In an unpublished draf, for very high urban populations, wages in the city decline as more and more people move to the city creating congestion. The math doesn’t change if this is a non pecuniary disutility of living in a crowded city. In the model all aspects of living in the city today are summarised by the “wage” which is the income which would give the same utility if earned in the villages minus the income which would be earned in the village. Clearly the "wage" is not just a wage. It is, at least, a wage differential.

will further assume that the income of villagers goes up as more people move to the city. This makes sense as simply supply and demand. The key variable which depends on urbanisation (n) is the difference between the income in the city and the income on the farm which first increases in urbanisation then decreases in urbanisation (n). This should be called a wage differential, but I will call it the “wage” to create confusion.

Given the risk of congestion, it might be Pareto improving to restrict migration to the City. The model becomes evil, because it is also assumed that the state is inept and can only do this by choosing an arbitrary inate characteristic of people and restricting migration based on that characteristic. That is, the State can’t say you are allowed in the city if you moved here already because it can’t keep track of it citizens. Also it can’t tax and transfer because its employees are crooks or something.

People die at a constant rate and new people are born in villages so the population is constant. Babies are all somehow born in the countryside, because … well I forget why but it is a model meant to clarify thought.

It changes in a very simple way. For any n, there is a present value of “wages” such that n remains constant. The graph of this is called the ndot =0 curve where ndot is the derivative of n with respect to time. For higher V (above the ndot =0 curve) n increases and for lower V n decreases. At n = 1, the ndot =0 curve goes to infinity. In the example in figure 1 it is horizontal for n close to 1 then becomes vertical.

Recall that the wage is really a differential between the value of income plus non pecuniary amenities in the city minus that in the countryside (randomly called “villages” farm and all sorts of things because this is a blog and I am the editor).

Another key variable is the present value of “wages” V. V changes according to Bellman’s equation, because it is a present value. This means that for any n there is a V such that V does not change which defines the Vdot=0 curve. Such a V is the “wage” dividied by the sum of the real interest rate and the death rate. Importantly present value has the property that if V is above the Vdot = 0 curve V is increasing. That is present values tend to be unstable. This makes perfect sense when you realise that in the present value equation with perfect foresite the future causes the present. (that was a joke).

It is possible for the model to have a steady state which is a “saddle” that is such that n near steady state n can, in perfect foresight equilibrium converge to steady state n (I have corrected figure 1 so that it shows a saddle steady state). This requires exactly the right initial V on the saddle path. Let’s make everything linear near such an equilibrium. Then the saddle path is a line as shown on figure 1. There is also an explosive path which leads away from the steady state. The saddle path is also called the stable manifold and the explosive path is also called the unstable manifold.

Assume that initial n is very slightly above the steady state n of the saddle steady state. A question of interest (to ecotheroy geeks) is whether n must decline to the saddle steady state n or whether it can increase and get to some other steady state. This would be another perfect foresight equilibrium. In the example this second equilibrium would definitely be Pareto better than moving down the saddle path to the saddle steady state.

ne possibility is to move out the unstable line and see what happens. Given initial n near the saddle steady state, this is pretty much the only alternative. Initial n and V minus saddle steady state n and V must be a linear combination of (delta n, delta V) on the saddle path and (delta n, deltaV) on the explosive path (because all vectors are). The equations are all linear for a large region around the saddle steady state in the example so you can think of these to vectors seperately. The one on the saddle path gets smaller and smaller and (n,V) gets closer and closer to the explosive path. Figure 1 illustrates this among other things.

update: In fact it is possible to characterise the lowest explosive path with increasing V in (n,V), that is, the one with lowest V for given n. This lowest path is the one followed if the economy starts on the n dot = 0 line and hence above the Vdot = 0 line. If one starts with higher V, then V is higher for any n, since perfect foresight paths can't cross. If one starts with lower V but still above the saddle path, (n,V) moves up and to the left till it touches the n dot=0 line then up and to the right and passes over n_o above the n dot = 0 line, above the lowest explosive path with increasing V and stays above it. If V is below the saddle path , n goes to 0 and V violates the transversality condition. Figure 2 to illustrate this.

Figure 2 is a closeup of figure 1 near the saddle steady state. The red curve is the explosive path with increasing V which has the lowest V for any n. I have added another path, drawn in purple to show why this is the lowest such path.

Possible paths leading to steady state with higher n must be very close the explosive path. Weird assumptions about the “wage" can be made so that these paths cross the V dot = 0 curve but stay above the ndot=0 curve and are not on the Vdot = 0 curve at n = 1 (see figure 1). If n is not changing because everyone is in the city, V must be on the Vdot = 0 curve. Otherwise the transversality condition is violated.

No equilibrium with high n is possible because people don’t stop going to the city when the possible equilibrium path hits the V dot = 0 curve. Let’s say this happens at n =0.9. This good steady state can be reached, at the end of a perfect foresight equilibrium path, if one tenth of people chosen at random are forced to stay in the country side. The equilibrium is better than the saddle steady state for them too, because the relative price of food is high. The unspeakable policy causes a Pareto improvement.

OK all this depends on the figure which I will feebly try to explain. The red curve is the lowest curve whith increasing V for initial n n_0. The very key Vdot = 0 curve is hard to see. It slopes up from 0 to s as more people in the city help each produce (s for Solow or standard or something because after that, for a while nothing weird happens). At g the “wage” jumps up. This is like the late 90s in the US somehow with a growth spurt. G is for Greenspan or Glassman or Gilder or anyway someone who thought the tech bubble would last. At meverything begins to go wrong and society starts to collapse in the city. This is named Mathus or Marx or anyway someone gloomy. So the Vdot =0 curve slopes up, goes flat, slopes up steeply then slopes down very steeply. If congestion problem went critical very suddently, the V dot curve could jump down and wouldn’t be continuous. In this case the saddle path to the saddle steady state (low n steady state) could be the only equilibrium.

The blue curve is the n dot = 0 curve with the discriminatory policy. The policy is descigned so that it stops urbanisation just before (or just after) congestion kicks in. It makes the red curve an equilibrium path. The new blue ndod=0 curve and the old black ndot = 0 curve should be superimposed when they are horizontal. The policy shifts the ndot =0 curve n/10 to the left because 10% of migration is banned.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Thoughts on Capehart on Kagan

I ├Č'm reading the Washington Post and note one very outstanding op-ed by Catharine Rampell which you should just read. She links to excellent summaries of social science research and notes that Republicans don't listen to experts and aren't reality based.

But I want to write about a dumb op-ed by Jonathan Capehart. I'm picking on him partly to explain what is so extraordinary about Rampell. The op-ed is a summary and review of a speech by noted neoconserviative Robert Kagan. Writing it did not involve googling. Capehart is, more or less, reporting a speech. He didn't check claims of fact with various competing published sources. Now I don't work enough to complain about his work effort. I really just want to stress that it is amazing how much Rampell taught me.

I also want to discuss Kagan. Kagan notes that the post WWII liberal world order is an aberration. Such a period of near peace with so many once rival countries working together is extraordinary. His valid and important point is that we should not assume it is the natural order of things and assume it will last. He argues that US engagement is necessary to preserve the (relatively) peaceful order and that America first isolationism is unacceptable.

Oddly, the op-ed doesn't identify him as a neoconservative. This is, I think, highly relevant context. As briefly summarised Kagan doesn't explain how he thinks the US should engage. In practice he has advocated invading countries. Does his respect for the world order require the USA to submit to the rules imposed on other countries ? What does he think of foreign aid ? How about global warming ?

I think Capehart is trying to unite anti-├╣Trumpers, bury hachets and refrain from grinding old axes. He presents Kagan as an idealistic internationalist and doesn't get around to discussing whether he is a hawk or a dove. On reflection, I think this is good strategy and will post this post only because almost no one will read it.

Kagan's version of recent history and the rise of neo-isolationism includes

But after the end of the Cold War, Kagan says, “A lot of Americans increasingly [began] asking, ‘Why are we doing this?’” The question got louder as the United States began ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early part of the last decade and as the economy collapsed in 2008.

I object to lumping together Iraq and Afghanistan. I think that, while the longest US war in Afghanistan with no hint of victory in sight is very frustrating, that it would not have caused a neo-isolationaist public reaction. The decision to invade is as close to unanimous as is possible with 340 million people. It is still rarely questioned. In contrast, at least with the benefit of hindsight, invading Iraq seems insane.

Furthermore, the invasion of Iraq was a break with the previous 58 years of US foreign policy, and was presented as such by advocates. Advocates of invasion treated stability as a dirty word. I think that 2003 was the breaking point, and neoconservatives did every thing they could to break the old order. It would be uncharitable to suggest that Kagan bears as much of the blame for the current situation as his limited power allows and to suggest that he might consider shutting up forever. I am feeling uncharitable.

But what is even odder is that he basically leaves two rather important countries out of his discussion of the late lammented liberal world order -- the USSR and the People's Republic of China. He decides that japan and Germany finally became peaceful because of the extraordinary virtue of the USA. The possibility that the peaceful coexistence and then close alliance of ancient adversaries had more to do with a common enemy than a common ally is barely mentioned. The cited phrase "cold war" is literally the only hint.

I too am a nationalist, but the excessive credit Kagan gives the USA is absurd. This is actually relevant. He must argue that the USA played an essential role *and* that we can do so again even though Putin and Xi are only moderately terrifying. If the relative near peace since 1945 was based on a balance of power between super-powers, deterrence and mutual assured destruction, it will be harder to recreate it with good intentions.

Anyway I just wanted to get that off my chest here where almost no one will read it.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Matt Bruenig Tries to Figure out Harry Potter from op-eds

So it turns out that Noted commentator Matt Bruenig has an almost unique perspective because he can read but hasn't read any Harry Potter books. So Elisabeth Bruenig interviewed him trying to find out what he could figure out about Harry Potter based on Harry Potter references in political commentary.

It is actually very interesting.

Matt Bruenig is a total hero, because he is willing to display total ignorance on a topic where many (most) people are well informed. He is especially a hero, because the actual content of the interview will not be helpful to his causes.

Bruenig is notably a leftist (no he's not old, his twitter avatar is a photo of John Rawls). His view of Harry Potter is largely based on a Ross Douthat collumn and he, oddly, assumes that Douthat is more or less fair to JK Rowling (who is also a leftist even if Bruenig seems unconvinced).

There are two interesting misconceptions. Bruenig guesses that Voldemort is the dean of Hogwarts & can't figure out what Dumbledore is doing in the book. And Bruenig assumes that wizards don't just segregate themselves from muggles but also act as a ruling class (not just death eaters and in book 7 but all of them starting in book 1).

I think it is mildly interesting that Bruenig assumes the bad guy is in power at the beginning of the series. Listening to the podcast, I am struck by the importance of the very first chapters of the first book in which the Dursley's abuse Harry Potter. After that, it is not easy to think of muggles as an oppressed under-class.

Bruenig denounces the good guy wizards and Rowling for segregating. He sure doesn't believe in separate but equal. But the point is that no one (successfully) communicated to him that the Harry Potter books are set in the contemporary UK with parliament and prime ministers and such. He doesn't consider the possibility of separate but equal as fantasy. It might be that Douthat was being mischievous and trying to portray the leftist Rowling as an elitist & Bruenig just assumed that things were as insinuated by Douthat. It is certainly true that the premise of the books is not plausible (for example, magic would be even more widely abused -- oh and magic doesn't really exist -- that's implausible too).

I am now reading the Douthat column. I must admit that "For the six readers who have never read the Potter books but who have stuck with the column thus far nonetheless:" is a good line. By that point, however, Douthat had left no doubt that he considers Rowling a political enemy -- she will not be forgiven by a never Trump Republican for unfavorably comparing Trump to Voldemort. Rowling is quite left wing, but it would be nice if one conservative left politics out of it once, just to see what it's like. Oh and it would also be nice if one ever accepted that non-conservatives don't reject all thoughts of conservatives out of tribal hostility (and projection ?).

Douthat honorably notes that he got his idea from someone who uses the pseudonym Spotted Toad. Mr Toad doesn't make much sense. He says the appeal of Rowland is to people who are loyal to a school like Hogwarts. Uh Spotted (can I call you spotted) if Rowland appealed only to people loyal to elite educational institutions, she wouldn't be so rich. There aren't enough such people to buy a book onto the best sellers list (notably there are lots of people, including Douthat, who are ostentatiously disloyal to the elite educational institution without which they would not be prominent). On the other hand, Bruenig's belief that muggles are an underclass is based on ignoring Douthat's clear explanation "Muggles are non-magical folks, the billions of regular everyday human beings who live and work in blissful ignorance that the wizarding world exists. " which is actually also a good line -- a very brief very clear summary of a point that Bruenig missed. Douthat does insist that, in real life, Hogwarts graduates rule the world & that this is a problem. This is forcing the discussion to the home territory of an pseudo anti-elitist member of the elite of the elite. This may have confused Bruenig, but it wasn't a trick. In contrast, Douthat did assert that Hogwarts is coterminous with the wizarding world & the challenges to Hogwarts come from inside the school which explains why Bruenig thought Voldemort was at Hogwarts and had no idea that there is a Ministry of Magic in the books.

I think we do actually learn something about Bruenig from the fact that he seems to assume that power will be abused, so even the nicer wizards rule over muggles. It is certainly true that the Rowling idea of wizards hiding, even though they have the power is not plausible.

But the very alarming thing is that Bruenig proposes violent overthrow of wizards followed by something along the line of genocide -- he conceeds that Harry Potter seems to be a nice guy so it would be OK to just sterilize him. But he has the idea that there can't be peace and equality with some people so much more capable than the rest of us.

I have to admit that he might be right -- disbelief in the possibility that wizards generally hide their skills can be suspended, but disbelief sure makes a good bit of sense. But the idea that rough equality of ability must be achieved by sterilization and a sort of egalitarian eugenics does sound a good bit like a right wing parody of the left.

I suppose, the open mindedness based on not reading the books and suspending disbelief has its advantages. I do wonder what humanicy could do with the extreme inequality of ability of wizards and muggles (this is also a big theme in the generally underappreciated Marion Zimmer Bradley Darkover novels).

Thursday, March 08, 2018


I am so thrilled that I cyber-know two of the four finalists in THE GARY COHN MEMORIAL NEOLIBERAL SHILL BRACKET --- that I wrote a fight song

It's the i of the tiger,

it's the shill in the fight

Risin' up to the challenge of their rival

And the last two survivors

snark their prey in the night

And their watchin' our votes

with the eye of the tiger

Face to face, out here to tweat

Hangin' tough, stayin' hungry

They stack the odds 'till we beg them to tweet

For the kill with the skill to survive

It's the i of the tiger,

it's the shill in the fight

Risin' up to the challenge of their rival

And the last two survivors

snark their prey in the night

And their watchin' our votes

with the eye of the tiger

Rising up, straight to the top

Had the guts, got the glory

Went the distance, now the're not going to stop

Just two men and their will to survive

It's the i of the tiger,

it's the shill in the fight

Risin' up to the challenge of their rival

And the last two survivors

snark their prey in the night

And their watchin' our votes

with the eye of the tiger

i of the tiger

i of the tiger

i of the tiger

i of the tiger

Monday, March 05, 2018

In the middle of a very courteous, diplomatic, and insightful post about Modern Monetary Theory Simon Wren-Lewis recalls his student days "I was told as a student that neoclassical economics was fundamentally flawed, and would soon be replaced in some kind of Kuhnian revolution. I know how easy it is to follow your political instincts and thereby miss out on so much important and useful knowledge." I first thought "exactly what important and useful knowledge" and "odd that he assumes that rejection of neoclassical economics is based on "political instincts" and not evidence. But now I want to focus on "Kuhnian".

I'd say that, since I was a student, microeconomics has changed fundamentally, but that there hasn't been a Kuhnian revolution at all. Back then courses were mostly theory with occasional empirical examples (which don't come to mind). The key features were well defined utility functions and rational utility maximization. Only later (in then current research) was there a mix of purely theoretical articles (which are still being written) and empirical work. The empirical work would rely on a lot of theory, including typically dubious assumptions needed to identify parameters of interest. Referees and discussants would note that among there interesting critiques there would be the standard questions about identification.

Some economists whom I had the fortune to meet, were looking for natural experiments. They argued that a valid instrument which captured a tiny fraction of the variance of the explanatory variable was more useful than an invalid instrument which gave smaller standard errors and biased estimates.

The point of this post (if any) is that this was not a revolutionary storming of baricades. Each article which used good instruments justified by common sense was uncontroversial. Exactly because the theory needed for identification was plausible and simple -- easily explained to non-specialists who would find the argument convincing and unintimidating -- it wasn't controversial within the profession either. A paper about the effect of unemployment insurance cost of living adjustments on unemployment duration was threatening to no one. The new empirical economics whose (always necessary) theoritical assumptions were plausible and obvious infiltrated and took over. I can't even say when it happened -- it appears as a trend not a break.

OK so I just googled [Noah Smith empirical revolution] and got the perfectly titled "A paradigm shift in empirical economics?"

There is the phrase made famous by Kuhn "paradigm shift" . My answer is maybe yes. I would be better able to answer if I had a clue what people mean when they write "paradigm," but there clearly wasn't a scientific revolution. The field evolved into something almost unrecognizably different. I suspect that this may be the rule rather than the exception. I think the example of the quantum revolution in physics is roughly as extraordinary as it seems to be. Trying to think of other examples, I come up with plate tectonics aka continental drift. Also, I guess, Darwin (and the three independent co-discoverers of evolution by natural selection) were revolutionary.

But now I want to type about Kuhn and "paradigm". I think the very best part of "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (later editions)" is the afterword in which Kuhn apologises for his abuse of the word. He says he used it with many different meanings in the main body of the book and that he should have stuck to the original definition which is based on the paradigm of a paradigm -- illustrations in texctbooks. This (potentially useful term) shows bow important typical illlustrative examples are to our understanding of theories and the world to which they attempt to correspond. So Special relativity have implications for everyday life which are almost identical numerically, but the typical example of motion in modern introductory textbooks is relative motion of about half the speed of light where they are very different. The revolution triumphs when the typical example is something which had been new and strange. This is a useful point. Sadly this potential useful use "paradigm" was permanently blocked by Kuhn and his many fans. I think it is best to just talk about "the illustrations in textbooks" preferably with examples (paradigms of paradigmatic paradigms).

But the point (if any) of this tangent is that Kuhn was rewarded for his mistake. In fact, he became a super star scholar exactly because of it. His carely abuse of "paradigm" made it possible for others to impress the impressionable by using an oddly spelled word which came to English from Greek not mere Latin or merer German. The vagueness forcess me to use another technical term (which has bovine not Greek origins) Bullshit. Megatons of bullshit.

Which Kuhn regretted (not that he minded being a star).

You're so Vain Thou Probably Thinkest this Song is About Thee

Showing my age, I am remembering Carly Simon's "You're so Vain" when it was new and constantly played on the radio.

I was 11 years old then (really showing my age exactly. I was born November 9 1960 the day after Kennedy was elected). I was very confused by the refrain "You're so Vain. You probably think this song is about you." It seemed to my logic infatuated mind that, whomever might be the referent of "you", the song was about him.

My sister (not then when she was --- uh look she's cool but you just don't blog women's ages) has a theory that the point is the song isn't about the guy, and is about Carly Simon's learning to appreciate and assert herself.

I had another thought just now. Maybe there are many jerks like that in Hollywood (very safe assumption) and Simon guesses that each assumes he is The vain one who angered her enough to inspire a song. Thus the problem that you != you is solved using old fashioned English.

You are (all) so vain that thou (in particular) probably thinkest this song is About Thee makes sense. There are lots of you when zero would be plenty, and each and every single one of you thinks that he and he alone is the special one who has earned by special contempt. This makes logical sense.

On the other hand, I realize there is a more elementary solution. "You probably think this song is about you" does not logically imply that the song isn't about you. It might be that the less rythmic lyric would be "You probably correctly assume that this song is about you, but you don't know that, you are sure of your (correct) guess because you're so vain". It does make sense. If the referent of "you" is such an arrogant asshole that he is sure that he is most arrogant asshole ever to be involved with Carly Simon, and in fact he is, then he must be pretty damn vain.

Do click the link above. It was huge on AM radio, but it's a very good song.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

In which I agree with Jonah Goldberg and the World Didn't end (if you are reading this)

@JewishCoffeeH tweeted

The part that's not a joke is that he thinks lifetime presidential terms are desirable, whether he was referring to China or everywhere. Trump is the first president who openly disdains basic American Constitutional values.

The part that's not a joke is that he thinks lifetime presidential terms are desirable, whether he was referring to China or everywhere. Trump is the first president who openly disdains basic American Constitutional values.

Jonah Goldberg (author of "liberal Fascism") responded

I think Trump is hostile to, and ignorant of, the Constitution. But Woodrow Wilson openly disparaged and dismissed the Bill of Rights.

I Should only say that I never called Woodrow Wilson a liberal (segregation is not a liberal policy by any of many definitions given to the word over the centuries)

But I write that Goldberg is correct and that I can think of a few other examples off the top of my head

1) George Washington acting as President of the Constitutional Convention very openly disdained the constitution of the day -- the Articles of Confederation. That constitution had procedures for amendment that were ignored. The writing and ratification of our current Constitution requrired treating an earlier constitution as irrelevant.*

2) John Adams

a) Signed the Sedition Act which declared it illegal to "Rail against any Just act of Congress". A more direct attempt to repeal freedom of speech and the press by mere legislation is not possible.

b) ordered a US Naval vessel to fight French ships in the Caribbean ignoring Congress's exclusive authority to declare war or issue "letters of Marque and Reprisal" which words must have been clearer to the delegates at the Convention than they are to me.

3) Thomas Jefferson fought an undeclared war involving an attack on Tripoli (some things never change).* Also he (and contemorary Democrats) introduced the concept of nullification in response to Adams's attack on the constitution which almost destroyed the whole thing.*

4) James Madison *

5) James Monroe *

6) John Quincy Adams made a deal to defeat the winner of a plurality of votes and electoral votes. Constitutional but offensive to the spirit (he's basically #1 constitution respecter so far)

7) Deprived the Cherokee's of their property (and for a while liberty) & also (may have said) Justice Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it. which would be a direct rejection of constitutionality of any kind (and even if he didn't say it out loud he acted as if he believed it). *

8) Martin Van Buren I don't know watch "Amistad"

9) William Henry Harrison didn't violate the constitution during his 1 month presidency which he spent dying.

10) James Tyler was actually extreme given his conflict with Congress but I don't remember what he did.

11) Francis Polk ordered US army troops to enter disputed territory previously recognized to be part of Mexico (before that part of the Spanish Empire) without requesting a declaration of war (which was declared with the Mexicans fought back).

12) Zachary Taylor commanded the troops mentioned in 11). *

13) Millard Filmore ran as a candidate of the Native American Party after holding the office of President as a Whig.

14) Franklin Pierce (I remember the name but nothing else)

15) James Buchanan actually may have respected the Constitution of the Union he very nearly destroyed.

16) Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of Habeas Corpus almost immediately. Imposed a draft. Basically ignored much of the Constitution to save any of it. Did what he had to do, much of which was unconstitutional.

17) AndreW Johnson completely rejected and fought the 14th amendment. His ingtense conflict with Congress was the second greatest threat to the Constitutional order (after the recently ended Civil War).

Skipping ahead

18) Yeah Woodrow Wilson didn't respect the Constitution

19) Warren G Harding (see W.H. Harrison)

20) Coolidge undeclared war on Nicaragua

21) Hoover (see 20)

22) Roosevelt ordered the incarceration of thousands of US citizens because of their national origin. Authorized fire bombing (or at least the buck stopped there) violating the Geneva Convention which was ratified by the US Senate and, therefore, US law.

23) Truman (see 22 but this time it's atomic) and tried to draft steel workers as "commander in chief in war UN approved mission time.

24) His justice department prosecuted someone for simply being a member of the Communist Party directly assaulting the first amendment. Sent "military advisors" to Vietnam without a declaration of war.

25) Kennedy approved warrantless wiretaps of, among others, Martin Luther King (OK so his little brother did but the buck still stopped there). Invaded Cuba without a declaration of war. see 24

26) Johnson sent the regular US military to Vietnam based on the Tonkin Gulf resolution which he promised as it was being debated did not amount to a declaration of war. Invaded the Dominican Republic without a delaration of war.

27) Nixon invaded Cambodia without a declaration of war. Oh come on, don't make me try to list Nixon's crimes against the constitution.

28) Ford -- Maybe OK

29) Carter did not disdain the Constitution which is part of why he is disdained.

30) Reagan Embezzled US funds to give them to the Contras. Invade Grenada without a declaration of war (not that I'm against doing that).

31) H.W. Bush undeclared war on Panama (see 30 above)

32) Clinton undeclared war vs Serbia. Bombed a TV station (civilian target). Disdained the 8th amendment when governor (ordering the killing of mentally incapacitated Ricky Ray Rector).

33) W. Bush first see Nixon above. When caught wiretapping without warrants he declared himself to be above the law, the law being the Patriot Act which he signed into law. He claimed the ability to declare a US citizen arrested in O'Hare airport an enemy combatant and hold him indefinitely incommunicado without trial. A more direct assault on the 5th and 6th amendments is inconceivable. Claimed the authority to establish a whole new kind of court by executive order without even pretending to name which act of Congress he was pretending to execute. Asked the CIA to see if tough interrogation methods worked violating the Geneva Conventions and the 8th amendment George Bush 2nd President of that name claimed powers not claimed by George Hanover third king of that name. Was an absolutist, that is, a consistent and determined enemy not just of the US Constitution but the whole idea of limited government.

34) B. Obama never openly disdained the constitution, but did mildly, moderately, humbly order the killing of US citizen Anwar Awlaki without a trial and even if he was "far from any combat zone" (quoting from memory of a leak). Sent troops to Syria without a declaration of war. Now these are arguably allowed under the September 2001 authorization for the use of military force with Awlaki a combatant (it's not like killing a prisoner). Syria is a stretch as Daesh is not al Qaeda, and they are in fact fighting al Qaeda along with most of the rest of humanity. Obama did not the Constitutional problem and asked Congress to do something about it.

OK so some have respected the Constitution (one at least partly because he was busy dying) but it is very much the exception not the rule.

*He deprived his slaves of liberty without due process of law (the Constitution was totally hypocritical on this point clearly allowing slavery and pretending to establish a right to due process)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Contra Mannheim

First rules of blogging. I type as I please.

I haven't read anything by Karl Mannheim but I think he wrote the phrase "social construction of truth". I think that is a bad phrase and all use of it or similar phrases should be criticized.

My reason is simple. I think anything true which can be said including the phrase "social construction of truth" can also be said using "social construction of belief". I think that all such valid claims amount to the assertion that our beliefs develope as part of a process of interaction with other people. I don't think many people have noted that beliefs are socially constructed, because the fact is so obvious that it (almost always) goes without saying.

Rather, the reason I vaguely remember that some German guy wrote "social construction of truth" is the assertion that there is no truth other than belief. It is an assertion of idealism -- that all that exists are minds and ideas. Now I don't have a problem with idealists (I disagree but I do not denounce). I do have a problem with blocking arguments by redefining words.

If "truth" is redifined to be a synonym of "belief" it is impossible to assert that beliefs are true if and only if they correspond to an external reality. It may be that this assertion (called realism) is incorrect, but I think it is very bad to redefine words so that a view with which one disagrees can't be stated.

One can assert that "truth" vs "belief" is a distinction without a difference, but it is better not to redefine "truth" so it is a distinction without a distinction.

In particular, I think the appeal of "social construction of truth" is that the meaning is ambiguous. When it must be defended from criticism it is interpreted to mean "social construction of belief" which is an assertion too obvious to make clearly. When it is not subject to criticism, it is defined as implying there is no external reality -- nothing but opinions, no atoms and no void.

I think it relies on an equivocation and is invalid reasoning.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- OK now a bit of borderline xenophobia and nationalism. Mannheim's first language was German. I don't speak any German but I do speak Italian and have become painfully aware that the Italian word "verita" does not translate the English word "truth". A closer translation is "realta". The points are that I now have a larger vocabulary, because I learned Italian and discovered that Italian words are not exact translations of English words, and, also, that there a lot of confusion is caused by semi translated words.

Very often I find what I believe to be incorrectly translated French mixed in the English. I recognise it, because it makes sense as incorrectly translated Italian. I am very sure that this is a more irritating problem for people whose native language is anything but English, as the flow of semi-translation is mainly from English to every other language.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Drum goes easy on Goldberg

It is progress that hack conservatives are bothsidesing now. Jonah Goldberg correctly notes that the problem isn't just Trump but also broader extreme partizanship. He asserts that both parties are to blame. He seems to know he can't defend this assertion and declines to try. I think he may be sincere -- the extreme partisanship of Republicans means that in the Conservabubble it was generally agreed that Obama exceeded his authority. Many of the conservative attacks on Obama were due to the progressive insanity of the conservative movement. Goldberg has noticed that Trump is extreme and a threat to the Republic, but he won't bother to re-examine what he thought back when he was an orthodox conservative.

Liberals roll their eyes at the claim that President Obama violated democratic norms or abused his power. But putting aside the specific arguments, conservatives saw plenty of abuses and violations, from the IRS scandals and Benghazi to the Iran deal. Obama said many times he couldn’t unilaterally implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program because he wasn’t a “king.” Then he did it anyway.

Kevin Drum is very hard on Goldberg.

Yeah, OK, except that we really can’t put aside the specific arguments here. We know now that the IRS “scandal” was a minor screwup that affected both parties, and certainly had nothing to do with Obama anyway. Benghazi was a tragedy, but not a scandal in any reasonable sense of the word. The Iran deal was…the Iran deal. And getting new legal advice on DACA is hardly some unprecedented norm violation. It’s up to the courts to decide if an executive order is legal, and so far no court has even taken up the question of DACA, let alone ruled against it.

It is indeed offensive that Goldberg wrote "putting aside the specific arguments" before stating his conclusions on those specific topics. He is saying that he demands that his claims be accepted (as an effort to avoid extreme partisanship) even though he won't bother to defend them.

However, Kevin Drum is not hard enough. He lets plainly false claims about DACA pass. I guess Goldberg was sincere. His claim about Obama and DACA is 100 % false, but conservatives generally agreed that it's true. When Drum asserts Obama got "new legal advice". There is absolutely no evidence that this is true. Goldberg's argument is entirely based on ignoring the difference between deferred action (within the authority granted by the Immigration and Naturalization ACt to the executive and comprehensive immigration reform which Obama consistently said he did not have the authority to impose by executive order.

My long comment.

You are much too charitable to Goldberg. His claim "Obama said many times he couldn’t unilaterally implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program because he wasn’t a “king.” Then he did it anyway." is 100% false. In particular the word "Then" is totally false. Obama said he couldn't implement Comprehensive Immigration Reform because he wasn't king. He said that *after* the DACA was implemented. Also, formally, Obama did not issue a DACA order "DACA is based on a June 2012 memorandum issued by Janet Napolitano, then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security."

The denunciation of Obama for allegedly claiming to do what he admitted he couldn't do did came after DAPA (deferred action for parents of Americans) an order issued long after DACA and after comprehensive reform was blocked by Boehner (and Boehner alone there were the votes in the House). DACA was not especially controversial.

But the key thing is that DAPA (although much larger in scale that DACA) was *not* comprehensive immigration reform (that is Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013). Note 2013 which came after 2012. It was during the 2013 debate *after DACA* that Obama asked Congress to do that whiich he said he didn't have the authority to do. The difference is the the gang of 8 reform included a path to citizenship. Obama has consistently held the position that under existing law, the executive can order deferred action and grant work permits and can *not* grant legal status (green cards) or a path to citizenship.

. People also repeatedly confuse the content of DACA and the very different content of the DREAM Act (another different thing, the first chronologically, which was blocked by a filibuster in the Senate). The Dream act (and the gang of 8 comprehensive reform) included paths to citizenship.

It is that which Obama said he didn't have the authority to do by executive order. DACA does not include a path to citizenship. It does include deferred action, which clearly falls under prosecutorial discretion, and granting work permits (but not green cards). It is precedented. George H.W. Bush issued an executive order based on the exact same claim of authority.

Only by eliding all reference to granting citizenship can Goldberg claim Obama did what he said he couldn't do. This is totally false. It is bullshit. It depends on asserting that different policies are the same and that citizenship doesn't matter. It is true that, although DAPA has the exact same legal justification as DACA, it's legality was controversial. People generally sympathetic to Obama said that it seemed that the GOP might have a point this time. Then you talked to experts on immigration law who said that Obama clearly had the authority.

I quote you "I confess that I’ve been a little surprised by what I’ve discovered. As near as I can tell, both liberal and conservative legal scholars—as opposed to TV talking heads and other professional rabble-rousers—agree that Obama has the authority to reshape immigration enforcement in nearly any way he wants to."

note the date 2014 (DAPA) not 2012 (DACA). Although they differ only in scale, DACA was no where near as controversial and never blocked by a Court

Note also the DAPA injunction does not address the question of whether Obama had the authority to order deferred action and work permits

"But when those programs [DAPA] were temporarily enjoined by the district court in Texas, it was not on constitutional grounds, Kalhan said, "but rather based on a conclusion that Obama administration should have instituted the policy using notice and comment rule-making, rather than using the more informal guidance document that it issued.""

The entire argument depends on equating deferred action + work permits (within his authority) and green cards and a path to citizenship (Obama consistently said he didn't have the authority to grant that).