“How the Rise of the Post Office Explains American Innovation”

“A new paper examines the importance of government in economic growth.”

Source: How the Rise of the Post Office Explains American Innovation

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“Review of Eric Rauchway’s “The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace” | History News Network

Robert Brent Toplin gives Eric Rauchway’s new book a thumbs up: “There are so many books in print about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s handling of the depression and war that it seems difficult to break new ground. Yet historian Eric Rauchway does just that in this intriguing analysis that combines familiarity with recent scholarship, impressive work in diverse archives, and original insights.”
Rauchway focuses on the relationship between FDR and Keynes and in particular the gold standard. As Toplin notes, the issues that FDR dealt with are still relevant today, especially as some on the Right are trying to return to the gold standard.

Read the entire review here: History News Network | Review of Eric Rauchway’s “The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace”

The Money Makers

“Thomas Piketty to India’s Elite: ‘Learn From History’” – The New York Times

“On a visit to Mumbai, the economist and author hopes India’s elite can ‘learn from the stupid mistakes of the other elites.’” Will they? I doubt it! But I applaud Piketty for trying.

Source: Thomas Piketty to India’s Elite: ‘Learn From History’ – The New York Times

“The political aftermath of financial crises: Going to extremes” | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal

I was tempted to say “duh,” but a closer look at their research shows a much more nuanced finding that would not be obvious from a simple review of the history. What is particularly concerning to me is the fact that our instincts in the face of these crises (not just financial but security threats as well) are wrong. Our response usually makes things worse without solving the real underlying problems. When will we learn, a knee-jerk, fear based response is not the solution!

Source: The political aftermath of financial crises: Going to extremes | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal

“There Is No Excuse for How Universities Treat Adjuncts” – The Atlantic

Too few people are aware of this growing problem, and the problem is not just the fact that adjuncts are an exploited work force. This injustice also has broader implications for the quality of higher education.

Caroline Fredrickson at The Atlantic explains the problem, and uses an interesting analogy with companies like Uber:  “With courses that need to be taught every semester led by an interchangeable set of adjuncts, the schools seem to be doing just what trucking companies, housecleaning services, and now app-driven businesses such as Uber and Lyft have been accused of doing: misclassifying workers as contractors. Especially when a teacher is asked to carry out similar responsibilities as full-time permanent staff but for less than half the salary, there may be grounds to believe that universities and colleges are evading their legal obligations as employers. And with the overrepresentation of women in these jobs, it seems possible that many of these universities could be violating not only labor laws but civil-rights laws as well.”

Read the entire article here: There Is No Excuse for How Universities Treat Adjuncts – The Atlantic

“Training for Neoliberalism” | Boston Review

In his review of Richard H. Thaler’s Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, John McMahon takes to task behavioral economics for its complicity in propagating the neoliberal project (i.e. promoting limited government and free-market capitalism), rather than questioning its dehumanizing assumptions. “The implications of behavioral research are constantly constrained so that they actually buttress foundational assumptions about markets. Why? Thaler disavows the role of the ‘moral philosopher,’ refusing to ‘render judgment about what ‘is’ or ‘should be’ fair’, because economics is supposed to be a ‘purely descriptive exercise’—and thereby preempts interrogation of the fairness of the market itself.”

Read Thaler’s trenchant review here: Training for Neoliberalism | Boston Review.

The Making of Behavioral Economics misbehaving-web

“What Libertarianism Means Today” |History News Network

In Richard Striner’s final post on the history of Libertarianism, he examines the influence of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek. Then he briefly examines the rise of the current movement in the U.S. from Barry Goldwater to the present. In conclusion, he questions the viability of the rigid libertarian worldview that is based on an extreme form of individualism: “We prize our own liberty, true, and we will obviously struggle to defend it —— fiercely if we must —— when it is threatened. But to elevate government above all other possible threats to our liberty is hard to do when push comes to shove. When a natural disaster devastates the region in which we are living and reduces our homes to a shambles —— what then? If vicious thugs invade our homes, what instincts take over as we rush to respond to the invasion? Do we immediately think of warning all the agents of government to watch their step and avoid messing with us? Or do we call 911 and hope the agents of government arrive just as quickly as they can?”

Leif  Parsons, The New York Times http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/the-taint-of-social-darwinism/

Leif Parsons, The New York Times

 

Thomas Piketty Gives Merkel a History Lesson

The economist Thomas Piketty, who gained fame last year as the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, reminds Merkel, “It was in the 1950s, he notes, that Germany benefited from a massive — and, in those days, surprisingly common — round of debt forgiveness that catapulted its rise into a peaceful economic power. Greece was one of the nations forgiving Germany’s debts. In other words, Piketty suggested, when it comes to how to handle Greece in 2015, the best argument against Germany might be … Germany, circa 1953.” Piketty is right, of course, but I doubt Angela Merkel will change her stance. She seems determined to punish Greece even if it makes things worse not just for Greeks, but for all of Europe.

Read Piketty’s history lesson here:  Thomas Piketty accuses Germany of forgetting history as it lectures Greece – The Washington Post.

“FILE – In this Feb. 27, 1953 file photo, the German Debts Agreement is signed in London. Though Germany is resisting Greece’s pleas for some relief, it should know better than most what it can achieve. After the hell of World War II, the Federal Republic of Germany – more commonly known as West Germany – got massive help from its former foes, among them Greece. The agreement, in which Greece and about 20 other countries effectively wrote off a large chunk of Germany’s loans and restructured the rest, is a landmark case that shows how effective debt relief can be. It helped spark what became known as the German economic miracle. (AP Photo, file)”

“This Is What Happens When You Slash Funding for Public Universities” | The Nation

In Arizona the state legislature cut $99 million dollars from the higher education budget, and it is even worse in places like Wisconsin and Louisiana. This trend has been going on for some time, but the economic crisis prompted even more severe cuts to higher education. As Michelle Goldberg notes, many states have begun restoring funding, but “[e]ight Republican-dominated states, however, have kept cutting. Among them are North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona, Louisiana, and South Carolina.”

What is driving this trend? It is partly political (animus towards the “liberal” academia), partly ideological (absolute devotion to privatization and taxing cutting), and partly financial (the opportunity to make money off of education).

What are the consequences? 1) Higher tuition that will increasingly make college accessible only to the wealthy. 2) University’s are turning to solutions that will harm the long-term quality of education, such as larger class sizes and corporate partnerships that put the focus on making money rather than educating students. 3) There will be less time and money for faculty to do the research that is vital to the health and wealth of our nation. 4) Higher education will start to become more of a job-training program, rather than an educational institution that creates well-rounded and thoughtful citizens in addition to preparing them for their careers. 5) Inequality will increase.

Please read the entire article here:

This Is What Happens When You Slash Funding for Public Universities | The Nation.

Arizona-State-University