Keeping up with the FITs 11/27
Emily Oster on COVID policy; Freddie deBoer disses young leftists; Daniel Gordis says Israeli students are not snowflakes; Megan McArdle sees elite snobbery; Bari Weiss picks John Cochrane over me
There are a number of policies we have tried that appear to have little or no impact on COVID case rates. These include school closures, extra cleaning procedures, and restrictions on outdoor activities (including any outdoor masking other than in very crowded settings). We shouldn’t be doing these!
we have armies of people who insist they’re willing to take part in meaningless street combat with whatever right-wing losers show up, and take photos for social media the entire time, but we have far fewer who will actually show up week after week to do the slow and laborious work of canvassing, phone banking, tabling, handing out leaflets, and otherwise slowly changing minds. If it doesn’t feel cool, today’s left want do it. The only politics they desire is the politics of catharsis.
I think that the smart phone has reduced everyone’s ability to think long term or to hear from the political center. It has increased everyone’s propensity to virtue-signal to one’s own tribe and ignore opportunities to find reasonable people on the other side with whom to engage. Left-right politics is turning into something like Israel/Palestinians, in which hard-liners on each side justify the other side’s fears, effectively silencing the majority who would compromise in order to defuse conflict.
Daniel Gordis sees Israeli students as more willing to listen to other points of view.
Students in Israel do not report professors for saying things that make them uncomfortable or that “trigger” them (a word no one uses in Israel).
That is not to say that no professor at any Israeli university and college ever crosses the line of what I might personally find in good taste, but it is to say that students who go to war don’t go looking for micro-aggressions.
They have real aggressions to deal with.
Actually, the greater tolerance may come from the fact that before Israelis attend university, they spend time in the army, where they are thrown in with people from different backgrounds and social classes. As Matt Yglesias points out, integration works to reduce fear and hatred of outsiders. I think that the strong sorting by social class in America, which is especially pronounced in the demographics of elite colleges, is a big part of our problem.
Speaking of elite snobbery, Megan McArdle writes,
Raising the SALT cap so much would cost $275 billion over the next 10 years (though Democrats have tried to make it look deficit reducing through budget gimmickry). It’s the highest-cost line-item in the bill — larger than $205 billion for family and medical leave, $175 billion for affordable housing, or $150 billion for expanding Medicaid community-based care. The Tax Policy Center estimates that more than half the benefit would go to households making $824,000 or more, who would get an average tax cut of about $35,000. The top 0.1 percent would average roughly $154,000.
. . .Republicans will be running on those tax cuts come next year — and on higher gas prices. And self-absorbed Democrats are making it easy for them to do so.
Economic writing these days is especially bad. . .There are at least two major exceptions. Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok’s excellent blog, and The Grumpy Economist by John Cochrane
She hosts an essay by Cochrane. I was nodding along in agreement until I came to this:
High prices tell you to wait and to let someone who values that Peleton more than you do have it. Most Americans should take this golden opportunity to build up some savings
I am taking the opposite approach. Prices are not high—they have further to rise. If you are unhappy about high prices now, you will be really unhappy in six months. For things we usually buy, we are stocking up.
Indeed, as written John's words make nonsense. The only way to make sense of them would be to presume he wanted to say "save and stock up you as much consumption goods as possible" --even knowing that most households' capacity to stock up is quite limited.
I was surprised to read this John's line: "The Federal Reserve failed at its most basic job: to figure out how much the economy can produce, and to bring demand up to, but not beyond, that supply." In 60 years of dealing with central-bank economists in several countries, I have never found one that could figure that out but in their defense, I should say that they never thought that it was their job. Indeed, they could "extrapolate" GDP series but nobody would take that as a proxy for "how much the economy can produce". I laugh at the idea that those economists could bring the demand up to, but not beyond, the "extrapolated" supply by playing games with central banks' instruments.
I didn’t quite understand why Cochrane was suggesting that, either. If there are Black Friday sales (perhaps a big if?) with lower prices, and you expect prices to go up due to the value of money dropping, then you should go out and do all the buying you can now. Unless you have an investment that looks to earn better than the rate of inflation, which is what, 5-10% ? Or really high interest debt.
I can only assume Cochrane believes the inflation is due to wholly temporary effects and so if we mostly hold our breath it will taper off. I think the spending and borrowing at all levels of government are going to keep increasing, possibly at an increasing rate, and so inflation isn’t going down for a while no matter what.