The Captured Economy: Book Talk at U.C. Berkeley | Tu Apr 10 @ 2 PM | Blum Hall Plaza Level | 2018-04-10

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“The best attempt so far at a social democratic–libertarian synthesis of the origins and cure of our current political-economic ills…”—Brad DeLong

The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality

Brink Lindsey and Steve Teles

Niskanen Center:

“A compelling and original argument about one of the most pressing issues of our time, The Captured Economy challenges readers to break out of traditional ideological and partisan silos and confront the hidden forces that are strangling opportunity in the contemporary United States.”—Matthew Yglesias

“Are you looking for how to get out of our current mess? The Captured Economy is perhaps the very best place to start.”—Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics, George Mason University

“American politics is mired in endless arguments about how much downward redistribution we want and how to provide it. But as Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles point out in this engaging, powerfully argued book, the reality of our political economy often looks much more like upward redistribution. In one arena after another, public policy enriches the already rich and advantages the already advantaged.”—Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs

“Steven Teles and Brink Lindsey ask one of the most important questions of our times: What are the political reforms we need to reduce the ability of the wealthy to maintain their capture of our government? Combining the analytic forces of liberalism and libertarianism, they provide a much-needed investigation into why the U.S. government works on behalf of the powerful and the steps we can take to address rising inequality and regressive regulation so that it instead acts in the public interest.”—Heather Boushey, Democratic Economic Policy Director, 2016

Available at Powell’s:

Available at Google Books:


  • Today: a stagnating economy and sky-high inequality
  • Breakdowns in democratic governance: wealthy special interests capture the policymaking process
  • Regressive regulations that redistribute wealth and income up the economic scale
  • Stifling entrepreneurship and innovation
  • New regulatory barriers shield the powerful from competition inflating their incomes extravagantly:
    1. Subsidies for finance’s excessive risk taking
    2. Overprotection of copyrights and patents
    3. Favoritism toward incumbents through occupational licensing schemes
    4. The NIMBY-led escalation of land use controls that drive up rents for everyone else.
  • Needed: improve democratic deliberation to open pathways for meaningful change


For years, America has been plagued by slow economic growth and increasing inequality. Yet economists have long taught that there is a tradeoff between equity and efficiency-that is, between making a bigger pie and dividing it more fairly. That is why our current predicament is so puzzling: today, we are faced with both a stagnating economy and sky-high inequality.

In The Captured Economy , Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles identify a common factor behind these twin ills: breakdowns in democratic governance that allow wealthy special interests to capture the policymaking process for their own benefit. They document the proliferation of regressive regulations that redistribute wealth and income up the economic scale while stifling entrepreneurship and innovation. When the state entrenches privilege by subverting market competition, the tradeoff between equity and efficiency no longer holds.

Over the past four decades, new regulatory barriers have worked to shield the powerful from the rigors of competition, thereby inflating their incomes-sometimes to an extravagant degree. Lindsey and Teles detail four of the most important cases: subsidies for the financial sector’s excessive risk taking, overprotection of copyrights and patents, favoritism toward incumbent businesses through occupational licensing schemes, and the NIMBY-led escalation of land use controls that drive up rents for everyone else.

Freeing the economy from regressive regulatory capture will be difficult. Lindsey and Teles are realistic about the chances for reform, but they offer a set of promising strategies to improve democratic deliberation and open pathways for meaningful policy change. An original and counterintuitive interpretation of the forces driving inequality and stagnation, The Captured Economy will be necessary reading for anyone concerned about America’s mounting economic problems and the social tensions they are sparking.

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DeLong: The Future of Work: Automation and Labor: Inclusive AI: Technology and Policy for a Diverse Human Future

Thank you very much.

Let me follow the example of our Lord and Master Alpha-Go as it takes the high ground first.

Let me, therefore, take the hyper-Olympian and very long run historical point of view.

The human brain is a massively parallel supercomputer that fits inside half a shoebox. It draws 50 watts of power. It is an amazing innovation, analysis, assessment and creation machine. 600 million years of proto-mammalian and mammalian evolution coupled with the genetic algorithm means that almost every single human can solve AI problems far beyond our current engineering reach—so much so that much of what our machines find impossible our brains find so trivially easy that we call such capabilities “unskilled”.

When combined with our brains, human fingers are amazingly fine manipulation devices.

Human back and leg muscles—especially when testosterone soaked—are quite good at moving heavy objects.

Thus back in the environment of evolutionary adaptation, we used our brains, our big muscles, and our fingers to lead cognitively interesting if stressful and short lives.

But history has rolled forward since the hunter-gatherer age. And as history has rolled forward, we have figured out other things to do to add economic and sociological value than their uses in the hunger-gathers paradigm. Over the long historical sweep, the ability to add value using our backs to move heavy objects and our fingers to perform fine manipulations in cognitively-interesting ways has, relatively, declined. We have, so far:

  • turned many of us into robots ourselves, performing simple routinized repetitive and vastly boring tasks to fill in the gaps in value chains between the robots that we know how to build.
  • found jobs as microcontrollers for domesticated animals and machines—the horse does not know what plowing the furrow is.
  • found jobs as relatively simple accounting and software bots, keeping track of stuff, what it is useful for, and how its use is to be decided.
  • become personal servitors.
  • become social engineers—trying to keep all those things and all those people—especially, perhaps, trying to keep those brains soaked in testosterone—somehow working in harmony, somehow pulling together, although admittedly with limited success.
  • remained innovators, analyzers, assessors, and creators as well.

Backs started to go out with the domestication of the horse. Fingers began to go out with the invention of the spinning jenny. But humans-as-microcontrollers, humans-as-accounting-‘bots—paper shufflers—and humans-as-the-robots we cannot yet build—took up all the job slack. Every horse needs a microcontroller. And a human
brain was the only possible option. Even today, to a large amount every textile machine needs a human watching it at least part of the time. It doesn’t know when it’s gone wrong. It has no clue how to fix itself. It no more understands the idea of “fixing” any more than Alpha-Go understands that it is playing Go, and not just solving a problem of outputting a two-element vector in response to a 19 x 19 matrix of inputs with the additional structure that the output changes the matrix and that the possible matrices have a value-function structure.

Now, however, we can finally peer into a future in which the microcontrollers and the accounting bots are on their way out in a manner analogous to the backs and the fingers. Fortunately, this brings with it the forthcoming extinction of the the jobs that treat humans as simple robots: simple cogs in the machine that is Henry Ford’s River Rouge assembly line. Many occupations that vastly underutilize the massively parallel supercomputer that fits in half a shoebox are on the way out—and good: for those are not properly “human” jobs at all.

That leaves us with a future of work—not next year, and not next decade, but further out by some unknown time—in which humans’ jobs will be as:

  • personal servitors,
  • social engineers, and
  • innovators, analyzers, assessors’ nd creators.

And here we might well, someday, have a huge problem.

The market economy will amply fund AI research that replaces workers in capital intensive production processes by machines. Such industries have mammoth returns to scale. They thus tend to be characterized by large oligopolies. And so the firm that funds such labor-replacing research will capture with its own scale and in its own value chain a substantial part of the benefits of such R&D. But the market economy will to amply fund AI research that assists and amplifies workers in labor intensive production processes. Such tend to be small scale. The inventors and the innovators cannot capture even a small part of the benefit in their own production processes and value chains. And intellectual property is a very weak reed indeed to rely on to fix the problem—in fact, intellectual property is more likely to be the problem than the solution, cf. Nathan Myhrvold, and Intellectual Ventures.

That means that the combination of coming AI with a market economy will be absolute poison for equity and equitable growth. It will race ahead with the first: shedding workers in capital intensive production processes. Yet AI could be gold for equity: amplifying the capabilities of workers in labor intensive production processes would, as John Maynard Keynes once said, bring us vastly closer to economic El Dorado.

Utopia or dystopia? Heaven or hell? I turn that over to you. And by “you”, I definitely include our engineering dean Shankar Sastry. Because firms will not invest on a large scale in AI that amplifies the capabilities of labor in labor intensive industries, it will not happen unless some NGO does. How about an engineering school? How about an engineering school like an engineering school at a public university?

And let me stop there.

As prepared for delivery:

Inclusive AI: Technology and Policy for a Diverse Urban Future Wed, May 10, 2017 10:30 AM – 5:30 PM

Panel 3: The Future of Work: Automation and Labor

  • Ken Goldberg
  • Brad DeLong,
  • James Manyika
  • Costas Spanos
  • Laura Tyson
  • John Zysman

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Since I get to go first, I will preemptively take the hyper-Olympian and very long-run historical point of view…

The human brain is a massively parallel supercomputer that fits in half a shoebox. It draws 50 W of power. 600 million years of proto- and mammalian evolution mean that almost every single human can solve AI problems that our machines cannot—what our machines find very hard or impossible, our brains find so trivially easy that we call such capabilities “unskilled”.

Human fingers are amazingly fine manipulation devices. Human back and leg muscles—especially when testosterone soaked—are quite good at moving heavy objects. And so, back in the environment of evolutionary adaptation, we used our brains, big muscles, and fingers to lead interesting, if stressful and short, lives.

But as history has enrolled we have done other things to add economic and sociological value than use our backs, our fingers, and our brains to innovate and create. Over the long historical sweep, backs and fingers have declined and we have turned many of us into, instead:

  • robots performing repetitive tasks,
  • microcontrollers for domesticated animals and machines,
  • relatively simple accounting and recording software bots,
  • personal servitors,
  • social engineers trying to keep all those things controlled by brains—especially by the testosterone soaked ones—working together harmoniously. With limited success.

while remaining innovators and creators.

Backs started to go out with the domestication of the horse. Fingers with the invention of the spinning jenny. Microcontrollers and accounting ‘bots, we can see, are now on the way out too. So, fortunately, are the jobs that treat humans as simple robots.

That leaves us with a future of work made up of:

  • personal servitors,
  • social engineers,
  • innovators and creators.

The market economy will fund AI that replaces workers in capital-intensive production processes. Such are large scale and oligopolistic: firms profit from R&D because they capture a significant portion of efficiencies in their value chains. There is no equivalent market force funding AI that assists and amplifies workers in labor-intensive production processes.

The first is poison for equity and inclusion. The second is gold.

That second is one thing this NGO institution that surrounds us would be good at doing, and needs to do.

Utopia or dystopia? Heaven or hell?

Over to you, James. And, in a broader sense, over to all of you—in the audience, and out there in Internet land.

The Future of Education and Lifelong Learning: DeLong Opening DRAFT

Harvard Class of 1982 35th Reunion :: Science Center B :: Saturday, May 27, 2018, 10:45-12:00 noon

  • Seth Lloyd, MIT: Moderator
  • Brad DeLong, U.C. Berkeley
  • Ivonne Garcia, Kenyon
  • Noel Michele Holbrook, Harvard
  • William Sakas, CUNY
  • Carol Steiker, Harvard

In the spring of our freshman year, then-young economics professor Richard Freeman came to Ec 10 to tell us that going to Harvard would not make us rich.

He was wrong.

Up until 1980 America was winning, and Richard Freeman expected it to keep on winning, the race between education and technology: Thus there were ample numbers of people to take the increasing number of jobs requiring formal education for first class performance. Thus the amount the market paid you extra for taking a college requiring rather than a high school requiring job was modest: 30% or so–not enough to make up for the income you would’ve earned, had you taken the tuition you would not have spent and the extra wages you would have made from working, and put them into some reasonable investment.

But after 1980 America began to lose the race between education and technology.

The expansion of American higher education slowed massively. Higher education for native-born males simply froze in its tracks. As a result, in the world in which we have worked for the past 35 years employers have been betting up the relative price of college graduates: Rather than making 30% more than our counterparts who went straight into the job market after high school did, we have on average received double.

The freezing and of the relative numbers of native born American males taking advantage of hire education as demand, supply, and heterogeneity components.

On the demand-side, states withdrew tuition subsidies. Public college ceased to be free. Those whose parents were not rich worried about their student loans: what if they didn’t succeed and finish and could not get one of those high paying jobs? How were they going to pay back their loans? Americans almost surely over worry about this. But people are who they are, and not who economic theory dictates they should rationally be.

On the supply side, states stopped building campuses. Getting the courses you wanted and needed at public universities became iffy: five or six years rather than four.

And on the heterogeneity side, our colleges are designed for those who take to print literacy and to Arabic mathematics like ducks to water–if you do not have that, or are not trained to have that, learning the way we are taught to teach becomes much more difficult. We economists see this every semester, as even Ec 10 requires great facility in reading, in arithmetic, in algebra, and in algebraic geometry. The extra slice of the population that we would have been sending to higher education in a better counterfactual world in which America had not lost the race between education and technology would have been less well prepared and less suited to benefit.

What is the balance between these supply, demand, and heterogeneity considerations? That, we say, is a research problem.

How important is all this? I would say that about 1/3 of the problem is with America that have developed over the past 35 years–1/3 of the ways in which I see America today falling far short of what I confidently helped America would be by now–are due to our losing the race between education and technology.

Let me make one final point: Over the past generation, Harvard has not helped. We had 1600 in our class. Last week’s graduating class was essentially the same size. Worldwide, between five and ten times as many people are well-qualified to join my niece as freshmen this fall. In our class there were perhaps four times as many people well-qualified to attend as Harvard admitted. Today there are between twenty and forty. Yet Presidents Bok, Pusey, and Rudenstine seemed to have little interest in helping America and the world in the race between education and technology. Contrast that with the University of California, which, under Chancellor and President Clark Kerr and California Governor Pat Brown, set in motion the plan to clone itself across the state and increase enrollment tenfold.

If you are thinking about giving money to help America win this race with education and technology, I would not recommend Harvard. U.C. Berkeley, Columbia, and MIT for moving people whose parents’ were in the bottom quintile into the top 1%. And for overall bottom fifth to top fifth mobility? CUNY. U.T.-Pan American. TCI. SUNY Stonybrook. Pace. and Cal State-LA. That is what Yagan, Turner, Saez, Friedman, and Chetty say…

The Benefits of Free Trade: Time to Fly My Neoliberal Freak Flag High!: Hoisted from March 2016

Hoisted from March 2016: The Benefits of Free Trade: Time to Fly My Neoliberal Freak Flag High! I think Paul Krugman is wrong today on international trade. For we find him in “plague on both your houses” mode. On the one hand:

Paul Krugman: Trade and Tribulation and A Protectionist Moment?: “Protectionists almost always exaggerate the adverse effects of trade liberalization…

…Globalization is only one of several factors behind rising income inequality, and trade agreements are, in turn, only one factor in globalization. Trade deficits have been an important cause of the decline in U.S. manufacturing employment since 2000, but that decline began much earlier. And even our trade deficits are mainly a result of factors other than trade policy, like a strong dollar buoyed by global capital looking for a safe haven.

And yes, Mr. Sanders is demagoguing the issue…. If Sanders were to make it to the White House, he would find it very hard to do anything much about globalization…. The moment he looked into actually tearing up existing trade agreements the diplomatic, foreign-policy costs would be overwhelmingly obvious. In this, as in many other things, Sanders currently benefits from the luxury of irresponsibility….

But on the other hand:

That said… the elite case for ever-freer trade, the one that the public hears, is largely a scam…. [The] claims [are] that trade is an engine of job creation, that trade agreements will have big payoffs in terms of economic growth and that they are good for everyone. Yet… the models… used by real experts say… agreements that lead to more trade neither create nor destroy jobs… make countries more efficient and richer, but that the numbers aren’t huge….

False claims of inevitability, scare tactics (protectionism causes depressions!), vastly exaggerated claims for the benefits of trade liberalization and the costs of protection, hand-waving away the large distributional effects that are what standard models actually predict…. A back-of-the-envelope on the gains from hyperglobalization — only part of which can be attributed to policy — that is less than 5 percent of world GDP over a generation…. Furthermore, as Mark Kleiman sagely observes, the conventional case for trade liberalization relies on the assertion that the government could redistribute income to ensure that everyone wins—but we now have an ideology utterly opposed to such redistribution in full control of one party…. So the elite case for ever-freer trade is largely a scam, which voters probably sense even if they don’t know exactly what form it’s taking….

And, Paul summing up:

Why, then, did we ever pursue these agreements?… Foreign policy: Global trade agreements from the 1940s to the 1980s were used to bind democratic nations together during the Cold War, Nafta was used to reward and encourage Mexican reformers, and so on. And anyone ragging on about those past deals, like Mr. Trump or Mr. Sanders, should be asked what, exactly, he proposes doing now.… The most a progressive can responsibly call for, I’d argue, is a standstill on further deals, or at least a presumption that proposed deals are guilty unless proved innocent.

The hard question to deal with here is the Trans-Pacific Partnership…. I consider myself a soft opponent: It’s not the devil’s work, but I really wish President Obama hadn’t gone there…. Politicians should be honest and realistic about trade, rather than taking cheap shots. Striking poses is easy; figuring out what we can and should do is a lot harder. But you know, that’s a would-be president’s job…. [But] he case for more trade agreements—including TPP, which hasn’t happened yet—is very, very weak. And if a progressive makes it to the White House, she should devote no political capital whatsoever to such things.

So I guess it is time to say “I think Paul Krugman is wrong here!” and fly my neoliberal freak flag high…

On the analytics, the standard HOV models do indeed produce gains from trade by sorting production in countries to the industries in which they have comparative advantages. That leads to very large shifts in incomes toward those who owned the factors of production used intensively in the industries of comparative advantage: Big winners and big losers within a nation, with relatively small net gains.

But the map is not the territory.

The model is not the reality.

An older increasing-returns tradition sees productivity depend on the division of labor, the division of labor depends on the extent of the market, and free-trade greatly widens the market. Such factors can plausibly quadruple the net gains from trade over those from HOV models alone, and so create many more winners.

Moreover, looking around the world we see a world in which income differentials across high civilizations were twofold three centuries ago and are tenfold today. The biggest factor in global economics behind the some twentyfold or more explosion of Global North productivity over the past three centuries has been the failure of the rest of the globe to keep pace with the Global North.

And what are the best ways to diffuse Global North technology to the rest of the world?

Free trade: both to maximize economic contact and opportunities for learning and imitation, and to make possible the export-led growth and industrialization strategy that is the royal and indeed the only reliable road to anything like convergence.

So I figure that, all in all, not 5% but more like 30% of net global prosperity—and considerable reduction in cross-national inequality—is due to globalization. That is a very big number indeed. But, remember, even the 5% number cited by Krugman is a big number and a deal: $4 trillion a year, and perhaps $130 trillion in present value.

As for the TPP, the real trade liberalization parts are small net gains. The economic question is whether the dispute-resolution and intellectual-property protection pieces are net gains. And on that issue I am agnostic leaning negative. The political question is: Since this is a Republican priority, why is Obama supporting it without requiring Republican support for a sensible Democratic priority as a quid pro quo?

That said, let me wholeheartedly endorse what Paul (and Mark) say here:

As Mark Kleiman sagely observes, the conventional case for trade liberalization relies on the assertion that the government could redistribute income to ensure that everyone wins—but we now have an ideology utterly opposed to such redistribution in full control of one party…. So the elite case for ever-freer trade is largely a scam, which voters probably sense even if they don’t know exactly what form it’s taking…

The “Short” vs. the “Long” Twentieth Century…

Ah. I see that Branko Milanovic has found the first draft of my opening lecture for Econ 115 next semester…

I think whether it is more useful to do the tell of 20th century economic history as the “short” 1914-1989 (as Hobsbswm does) or the “long” 1870-2012 (as I want to) rests on two analytical judgments:

The first judgment that leads you to the “short” century is the judgment that Kuznetsian modern economic growth was implicit in the steam engine, the spinning Jenny, and the iron horse. The belief is that, after that breakthrough, more than two centuries of 1.5%/year frontier-economy TFP growth plus the full demographic transition were largely baked in the cake.

By contrast, the judgment that leads to the “long” century is the judgment that there were three big game-changers. The first was the British Industrial Revolution jump from 0.07%/year to 0.35%/year global TFP growth. The second was the subsequent jump to 1.7%/year. The third was that the world became rich enough and literate enough and feminist enough for the demographic transition to take hold. A world with TFP growth ebbing or even continuing at 0.35%/year is still a semi-Malthusian world. It is a world in which the demographic transition would have had a hard time taking hold. And that world would be a very different world than ours.

That world is very close to ours in some multiverse-timelines sense. As of 1870 and even as of 1919 the Malthusian Devil was still very visible in the mind’s eye. Recall J.S. Mill writing in 1871 in his Principles of Political Economy about the British Industrial Revolution:

Hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of manufacturers and others to make fortunes. They have increased the comforts of the middle classes. But they have not yet begun to effect those great changes in human destiny, which it is in their nature and in their futurity to accomplish. Only when, in addition to just institutions, the increase of mankind shall be under the deliberate guidance of judicious foresight, can the conquests made from the powers of nature by the intellect and energy of scientific discoverers become the common property of the species, and the means of improving and elevating the universal lot…

You can say that Mill wrote that in 1848 and–carelessly–did not revise it for even the 7th edition of 1870. But he did not revise it. And Mill’s Principles of Political Economy was still the Oxford textbook in 1919.

Recall John Maynard Keynes writing in 1919 in The Economic Consequences of the Peace:

After 1870 there was developed on a large scale an unprecedented situation, and the economic condition of Europe became during the next fifty years unstable and peculiar…. In this economic Eldorado, in this economic Utopia, as the earlier economists would have deemed it, most of us were brought up. That happy age [had] lost sight of a view of the world which filled with deep-seated melancholy the founders of our Political Economy. Before the eighteenth century mankind entertained no false hopes. To lay the illusions which grew popular at that age’s latter end, Malthus disclosed a Devil. For half a century all serious economical writings held that Devil in clear prospect. For the next half century he was chained up and out of sight. Now perhaps we have loosed him again…

The second judgment that leads you to the short century is the judgment that the big story is that of Leninism as the century’s tragic hero: confidently dreaming of utopia, confidently albeit brutally attempting to build utopia, exhausting itself saving the world from the monstrous dystopia of the Nazi abattoir, and then expiring in “a vast bureaucratic incompetence”. I agree that if you are going to do that tell, 1914-1989 is the 20th century that tells it. (And if you know ex ante that 1914-1989 is the 20th century, then that is the natural story that suggests itself.) But I believe that if you start thinking that the 20th century is 1900-2000, the natural story–the important story–is the more complex one that I want to tell. Then the natural thing to do is not to shorten the century but to extend it, and to extend it to 1870-2012.

Why did Hobsbawm write about the short century in his Age of Extremes? Three reasons:

  1. He was writing in the early 1990s.
  2. He had already written Age of Empire 1870-1914.
  3. There was no way in Heaven, in Hell, or here on God’s Green Earth that Eric Hobsbawm was going to write a triumphalist Fukuyamaesque “end of history” book about the triumph of liberal capitalist democracy. He has chosen his side in Germany in the 1920s. And a British gentleman did not turn his coat and change his side under any circumstances–even if it meant one had to spend a lifetime in bed with and making excuses for Josef Vissarionovich…


Eric Hobsbawm (1987): The Age of Empire
Eric Hobsbawm (1995): The Age of Extremes
John Maynard Keynes (1919): The Economic Consequences of the Peace
John Stuart Mill (1871): Principles of Political Economy

Must-Read: Paul Krugman: Trade and Jobs: A Note

Must-Read: Ah. I’ve been waiting for Paul Krugman to write up something like this…

I think that he is, of course, correct. The estimated effects of the China shock on individual regions and labor markets is solid. Their aggregating up is fatally flawed pre-2008…

Paul Krugman: Trade and Jobs: A Note: “Trade and jobs… The big story in the academia/policy space…

…Autor et al… estimated large losses from Chinese import penetration…. But… some conceptual issues… are important for interpreting the results…. I would begin by posing a counterfactual: what would U.S. employment look like if we had pursued policies such as Trump tariffs that prevented the large trade deficits in manufacturing we actually have?… A balanced expansion of imports and imports would have, to a first approximation, no effect on manufacturing value added, and an effect on employment only to the extent that import-competing industry is more labor-intensive than exports…. [So] what matters is the manufacturing trade deficit… $600 billion in 2014. How much manufacturing did that deficit displace?… About $360 billion…. 2 million jobs.

OK, what about the effect on overall employment?… If monetary and fiscal policy are used to achieve a target level of employment–as they generally were prior to the 2008 crisis–then a first cut at the impact on overall employment is zero. That is, trade deficits meant 2 million fewer manufacturing jobs and 2 million more in the service sector. Since 2008, of course, we’ve been in a liquidity trap, with the Fed either unable or unwilling to hit its targets and fiscal policy paralyzed by ideology, so trade deficits are in practice a major drag on overall employment…. So, how big a deal is displacement of 2 million manufacturing jobs? Not trivial…. But… absent the trade deficit… we would have roughly 11.5 percent of the work force in manufacturing, rather than the actual 10. Compare this with the realities of the past: more than 20 percent in manufacturing in the late 1970s, more than 25 percent in the 1960s….

Autor and various co-authors… do… a bottom-up approach…. The impact of the China shock on employment, wages, and so on at the regional level… beautiful work. But what they do next is to apply the implied coefficient from this analysis to the aggregate effects of the China shock. And that’s much more dubious–especially when, in the second paper, they purport to estimate the effects on overall employment. In general, you can’t do that: applying estimates of partial regional effects to the overall aggregate exposes you to huge possible fallacies of composition. And in this case the crucial issue is monetary and fiscal response. Up through 2007… [their results] should be seen as jobs shifted out of manufacturing to other sectors, not total job loss…

Must-Read: Heather Boushey and Kavya Vaghul: Working Mothers with Infants and Toddlers and the Importance of Family Economic Security

Must-Read: If an intelligence vast, warm, and sympathetic from a planet orbiting a distant star were to scrutinize the United States today, it would be puzzled. Raising the next generation is one of two or three most important tasks any civilization that is going to survive must perform. Arranging society so that the proper resources are devoted to one task is thus one of the principal problems that any non-dysfunctional societal socio-economic system must address. Yet there has been a sharp drop over the past generation in the share of society’s resources that flow to mothers of young children either through within-household or within-kin group transfers from those who have not given birth or through entitlements–e.g., AFDC–provided by society as a whole, with SCHIP and the expansion of EITC being the only factors cushioning the impact of other social and economic changes.

An intelligence vast, warm, and sympathetic from a planet orbiting a distant star would probably conclude that we have, collectively, gone mad in our decision that the raising of young children is a less important part of the collective work of society than was previously held to be the case:

Heather Boushey and Kavya Vaghul: Working Mothers with Infants and Toddlers and the Importance of Family Economic Security: “WOver the past four decades in United States, the composition of families with children has changed markedly…

…Most importantly, there is an increase in diversity of family types. There is no longer a dominant ‘typical’ family, especially not one with a breadwinning father, a care-taking mother, and their dependent children…. Marriage (if it happens at all) happens later in life, and the median age of first marriage is now 29 for men and 27 for women…. The typical woman has her first child now at age 26. Further, children are increasingly being born into families with unmarried parents; in 2014, 40.3 percent of all births in 2014 were to an unmarried mother…. It used to be that most children were raised in married-couple families, be they at the top or the bottom of the income ladder. Now, however, while families at the top continue to raise children inside marriage—typically with both parents holding down a fairly high-paying job—children in families at the bottom of the income distribution—and now many in the middle—are living with a single, working parent, most often a mother…

Must-Read: Nell Abernathy, Mike Konczal, and Kathryn Milani: How to Check Corporate, Financial, and Monopoly Power

Must-Read: Nell Abernathy, Mike Konczal, and Kathryn Milani: How to Check Corporate, Financial, and Monopoly Power: “The policies we propose specifically address rules that have distorted private sector behavior and provided benefits to multinational corporations and rich individuals at the expense of average workers and the economy…

…If taxed and regulated properly, big business, banks, and wealth-holders can contribute to broadly shared prosperity. But tailoring the rules to serve their interests—in essence, leaving these powerful forces untamed—promotes rent-seeking and greater inequality and leads to weaker long-term growth and a less productive economy. Untamed builds on recent analysis of economic inequality and on our 2015 report, Rewriting the Rules, in which we argued that changes to the rules of trade, corporate governance, tax policy, monetary policy, and financial regulations are key drivers of growing inequality…

Must-Read: Nicholas Warino: The Bay Area Housing Crisis Is Caused by and Can Be Solved by Local Government

Must-Read: Nicholas Warino: The Bay Area Housing Crisis Is Caused by and Can Be Solved by Local Government: “Professor Walker… presents some reasonable ideas and even some good policy solutions…

…(rent control, eviction controls, low-income public assistance, etc.) As far as I can tell, he’s on left, so I bet we’d agree on many issues. That said, Professor Walker’s analysis of the housing crisis is not good…. I’ll quote them directly and respond.

But while it’s true that we need to expand the region’s housing supply, building more housing cannot solve the problem as long as demand is out of control, as it is today. There is simply no way housing could have been built quickly enough to avoid the price spike of the current boom.

This is a common argument: building more housing will help, but we nevertheless ‘can’t build our way out of the problem.’ This is wrong in two ways: 1) The only way for demand to be ‘out of control’ is for demand to consistently outpace supply. So it’s logically true that ‘building more housing cannot solve the problem as long as demand is out of control’ because within that sentence is the assertion that demand will always be greater than supply. In other words, this paragraph is true in the same way ‘you cannot fix The Problem as long as The Problem still exists.’ True but meaningless.

2)…. The housing crisis problem is not a binary problem, where it either exists or doesn’t. The problem with out-of-balance supply-and-demand is a continuous pressure on the housing market…. Every single additional unit added to the housing market turns the valve and releases some pressure, leading to lower prices than would be the case if that unit had never been built.

Three basic forces are driving the Bay Area’s housing prices upward: growth, affluence, and inequality. Three other things make matters worse: finance, business cycles, and geography.

Other basic forces…. People, money, consciousness, the Sun, the lack of worldwide plagues, and the Big Bang…. ‘Growth’ and ‘affluence,’ which is to say people earning more money, which is to say ‘demand,’ is a part of the problem. Hence supply-and-demand. And yes, finance contributes to the problem, in the sense ‘finance’ means the flow of money throughout our economy and the Bay Area housing market is part of our economy. Geography? You bet… but luckily we’ve invented ways to build up, not just out…. But both building up and building out require a focus on BUILDING.

All of these operate on the demand side of the equation, and demand is the key to the runaway housing market.

There is always ‘demand’ in an economy, unless everyone is dead. The relevance of demand is how it relates to supply. Even if the total amount of demand for housing in the Bay Area is accelerating, it would not be a problem if the supply of housing was also accelerating…. Reminder: demand in an economy simply means the amount of money in the economy that wants to be spent on a good or service. Generally, one of the primary goals of a society is to increase how much money people have, so they have more money to demand things and pay other people who will have more money to demand other things. And so on. This is how societies–if they ALSO focus on the equally critical goals of equity, justice, and fairness–lift people out of poverty, increase happiness, increase the tax base for new public goods and services, and increase the amount of money that can be used for innovation and progress. When the demand in an economy increases, like you’re seeing in the Bay Area housing market, the healthy response from the market is to increase supply…

Must-read: Kara Scannell and Vanessa Houlder: “US Tax Havens–The New Switzerland”

Must-Read: Kara Scannell and Vanessa Houlder: US Tax Havens–The New Switzerland: “In an old discount store hugging a corner in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota…

…the heirs to the William Wrigley chewing gum fortune have an office for their family trust. So do the Carlson family, owners of the Radisson hotel chain, and the family of John Nash, the late hedge fund giant. They are among the 40 trust companies sharing an address at 201 South Phillips Avenue, a modest, two-storey white-brick building. Inside, $80bn worth of trust assets are administered…. Assets held in South Dakotan trusts have grown from $32.8bn in 2006 to more than $226bn in 2014…