Re: Guest Post - Why We Hate Economists

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I thought the post might say something more controversial than "Economists are amoral, Mammon-worshipping robots."


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 10:49 AM
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That's not the only reason we hate economists. Also it gets the fundamental point wrong. Tabarrok and Cowen, much more than the mainstream university economists, are actively political ideologues. It's not just that they're "amoral," it's that they're pushing their own specific vision of political morality. The dumbed-down narrative and nominally technocratic argle bargle that is easily used to lend fake scientificitude to highly debatable questions is pretty common to the profession (though the profession is definitely necessary and has its good points); the absolute unfettered willingness to use them to hawk ideology to undergraduates is pretty specific to Cowen and Tabarrok (I mean, not only them, but they're about the worst).


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 10:57 AM
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I found it interesting as a presentation by someone evidently sympathetic to economics as it is currently practiced. He views it as a problem of presentation strategy, rather than something more fundamental, and ignores the obvious question raised, which is why are Cowen and Tabarrok "unable to restrain themselves".


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:03 AM
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3: Well yeah, but that's because "because they're horrible people" makes for a very short post.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:05 AM
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I'll concede that they're ideologues, but I doubt that the willingness is that specific. Anyway, having seen the beginning of the video, I can think of few worse incentives to study economics than a close-up of creepy Tyler Cowen saying "I love economics!"


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:06 AM
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They should have gone with Piketty, filmed in low light and holding a glass of wine, purring "J'adore l'analyse économique."


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:09 AM
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Obviously, the sea captains forgot they were playing a repeated game. They should have kept letting the prisoners die for a couple of trips to see if they could have got the incentive increased.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:14 AM
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Oh this is just the perfect post from DeLong and Unfogged the day after Syriza wins in Greece.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:16 AM
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Here is my alternative from Yanis Varoufakis, recently resigned from economics dept at UT Austin (working with Jamie Galbraith), elected Syriza member of Parliament, likely soon to be Greek Finance minister. I fucking love me some economists.

No "Watch out folks, be careful not to go to far, right-wing boogeymen are out there" and "morality matters, so be sure to follow rules, laws, and especially contracts and treaties" around YV's blog. Well, not much.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:25 AM
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Especially DeLong and Eggplant finding racially-tinged right-wing boogeymen. Slaveships on this day, fer chrissakes.

He knows your buttons.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:29 AM
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Dsquared had an interesting Syriza analysis on CT.

I don't know enough to add anything or to disagree. I know that I prefer bottum-up assesments to top-down ones.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:32 AM
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From 2:
It's not just that they're "amoral," it's that they're pushing their own specific vision of political morality.

This seems to me to be the most important point to make (that doesn't get made in the linked post). Pretty much every time I hear someone dismissing moral considerations, or telling people to look at a question of what to do objectively without sentiment or morality or whatever, they're trying to advance a moral argument for doing something or other. But they're trying to advance one that no one would take seriously if they didn't think it was something else entirely, both in conclusion and premises. (And, usually, one obviously nasty enough that no one would take them seriously again either.) It's like someone saying "Now you might think that if we added these two numbers together we would get '5' as a result, but actually if you set aside mathematical considerations...".


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:34 AM
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11.2 - Phrasing!


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:35 AM
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For fuck's sake, it's about transportation to Australia, not slave ships. I realize I'm not on solid "read-all-links-in-the-OP" footing, but I certainly do so if I'm going to start to denounce them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:36 AM
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13 what, Greeks stereotypically prefer a rear view.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:40 AM
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Does anyone here know anything about Greece? I was thinking lw might be a good candidate but he's bowed out. The dsquared thing was pretty interesting, but limited b/c written for a very specific audience.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:55 AM
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If bob isn't completely off base, Eggplant is one of the Colonels.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 11:58 AM
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16:I just have links, and I suppose I don't count for having read the material. The usual left aggregators: Jacobin, New Left, not so much New Inquiry, Louis Proyect, Richard Seymour (Lenin's Tomb), North Star are all worth visiting and googling.

Does anybody know who DD's clients were, and who he rented his house to to help finance his would-jaunt?

The last authority in the world to me. Dead last.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:03 PM
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Anecdotally, Greeks take tax evasion fairly seriously-- eg, houses under construction apparently are exempt from property tax, so there's a few pieces of rebar sticking out of the rooftops everywhere.

My not totally well-informed thinking is that Greece is part of the EU, and actually of interest to Western Europe, as a way to protect cultural heritage sites, rather than the people near them. Economically, I do not know how to distinguish contemporary Greece from Bulgaria (yes, Greece is richer, but it's unusual to think of it as just one more country in a low-rent poorly run neighborhood). It's possible that I'm wrong on this, I'd be interested to learn how if so.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:04 PM
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What was in the material you read, bob?

Are there Greek politicians who would like to better connect Thessaloniki with Edirne? The state-owned public power corporation is badly run, employs huge numbers of people. Any sensible reform proposals you've read?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:09 PM
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My based on ignorance fantasy is a Greece-Spain-Portugal-Italy-France ultimatum for an orderly end to the Euro, substantial debt forgiveness for Southern Europe, and return to national currencies. I know that's unlikely but if France goes they could unravel the whole thing, and it sure seems like the Euro was an unequivocal disaster.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:10 PM
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Jacobin has had the deepest coverage

Phase One is long and comprehensive interview by Budgen, who edits for Verso and Historical Materialism publishing. Many other articles by Leo Panitch, Tsipiras himself, Pablo Iglesias of Podemos in Spain, more.

History of Greek Communists at Jacobin, Nikos Lountas, recent


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:11 PM
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The Greece thing is complicated by the fact that Syriza have gone into coalition with ANEL, about which nobody outside Greece knows anything except that they were originally a splinter group of New Democracy opposed to German bullying. What they stand for now, or the terms on which they've joined the government, I can find zilch about anywhere.

In Brit terms it sounds like Respect winning just short of a majority and going into coaliton with UKIP; I don't know what the US analogy would be (anyway, it's banned.)


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:14 PM
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The problem with 22.1 is not that it is bad but that it's unreadable, or at least I found it to be so.

Krugman has lots of stuff, some of which seems to (in tone) but may not actually contradict what Dsquared was saying. I confess to a heretical mild distrust for Krugman's air of certainty but he's got a better batting average than any other commenter I know on any topic.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:16 PM
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Spain is pretty well-run, Greece not. Debt forgiveness usually goes with having someone competent at the helm.

That's plausible in Spain, but IMO not in Greece. I personally have no idea about Italy.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:17 PM
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These two graphs certainly seem to explain the election results. I knew things were bad there (stories of people cutting down all the trees in parks in Athens to heat their homes is one I remember) but like whoa.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:20 PM
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23.1:ANEL

Right populists and nationalists, radical on economic questions, you would not like them on social issues.

Very smart of Syriza if the goal is to start a Euro-populist movement.

24.1: It is worth reading. In line with the directly above, this blog would love Syriza. Very very urban, young, educated, feminists (better than can be expected in Greece), LGBT, Muslim immigrants the whole identity liberal shebang. The Obama coalition, not a farmer to be seen, the KKE communists still held the old industrial unions, Syriza points to knowledge economy, pharmaceuticals, tourism and services, etc.

This is a test to see if that yuppie coalition will always get its elite bought off.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:24 PM
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26. Alternately or as a complementary factor, Greek incumbents are especially horrible so any marginally qualified inexperienced alternative looks good.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:31 PM
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Very smart of Syriza if the goal is to start a Euro-populist movement.

Smart if they want a single issue government. Most of the people who voted for them wanted a bit more than that, I'd guess, like a programme for recovery.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:34 PM
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29:I'd guess, like a programme for recovery.

They have several, varying on contingencies.

40 Point Programme from 2014

20:Max Sawicky hasn't stuck with it, but he changed my life. We don't do policy! he said, about fine details of Iraqi Coalition Administration.

1) Nobody made me boss.
2) It distracts from politics.

Feed the hungry, heal the sick, house the homeless, get us jobs...or we fucking burn shit down elect different people. Don't care how you fix it, until I do. Just fix it.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:49 PM
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28 - The combination of generation-destroying unemployment and firing Harry Theoharis when he started trying to collect taxes from the Greek 1% was an especially nice touch.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 12:56 PM
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By the way, the response to incentives can be completely opposite for socialized individuals than what the purchased economists are apparently saying in the linked video.

There's a story of a day care service in Israel that instituted fines to encourage parents not to be late in picking up their children. The parents then acted as in they were paying for a service, and lateness increased.

Some have suggested that the quality of the blood supply likewise goes down if one relies on paying donors, instead of relying on altruism.


Posted by: Robert Vienneau | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 1:01 PM
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That's because the altruistic always give their heroin to homeless guys who ask nicely.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 1:06 PM
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32.2: Not just a story.

12: I hesitate between thinking that people like Cowen are themselves deluded that they're just being "pragmatic", or whether they realize they're advancing a very unpopular moral position, and framing it as amoral ruthlessness is deliberate camouflage.


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 1:19 PM
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They have an incentive not to realize.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 1:24 PM
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Greek politics was hard enough to follow under normal conditions (such as they were), and post-crisis has become pretty much impenetrable. I wouldn't have expected the coalition with ANEL, I got the sense that everyone was figuring To Potami (Theoharis's party). If it means anything other than that ANEL could be brought on for cheap (and I have no idea if it does; but reports are that they're giving ANEL defense, which doesn't put them exactly at the heart of whatever the government's going to do to address the crisis), I'd guess it's to make the threat of Euro exit more credible (ANEL supports, To Potami opposes).


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 1:25 PM
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Oh and this is a nice touch, if a little on the nose: instead of putting a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier in front of Parliament (which apparently is the custom for a newly sworn-in PM), Tsipras went out to the Monument to the Resistance in Kesariani, commemorating the (largely partisan) victims of the German occupation.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 2:32 PM
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Whenever someone says the words "people respond to incentives", I always check my wallet to see what they took. I mean, it's true, right? People respond to incentives. And yet, the only people who actually say it are invariably trying to pull some con.

Someone claims in the comments that the first transports were carried out by the Navy, and the death rates were much lower. It's only when they outsourced it that the death rates got so big.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 2:34 PM
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lw's 20 and 25 are totally sensible, and yet completely wrong. The economics of the business cycle is the one subject where facile generalists are right, and people with deep knowledge of specifics are useless. There's a reason why it's the only topic in economics that Yglesias was ever right about.

I'm not quite sure what makes it so counterintuitive, because the basic reason why the conventional calls for austerity and reform are wrong-headed is very simple. The Greeks, are too lazy to repay their debts, right? What's the fix for this? I'm not sure, but I can tell you one thing that's not a fix: 26% unemployment. If you owe me money, and as a condition of rolling over your debt is that I make you quit your job, then I shouldn't be surprised when you don't pay me back.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 2:47 PM
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38: Rich people respond to incentives. Poor people respond to punishments.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 2:51 PM
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40: That seems like a succinct summary of what conservatives seem to believe. I wonder if they ever say it out loud.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 2:54 PM
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39. What? I don't have a policy proposal to fix Greece, how can I be wrong?

I do not at all believe that the Greeks are too lazy to pay their debts. Their experienced leadership will likely steal energetically from new money poured in which they're allowed to touch though, which makes implementing public works tricky. New inexperienced leaders couldn't be worse and may be better.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 4:06 PM
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40 is good, but it's missing the moral component; rich people deserve rewards, poor deserve punishments.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:09 PM
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Taking as a given that people respond to incentives is convenient if you want to, say, ignore how people actually respond to economic stress and pretend that making life harder and more uncertain for the poor will reduce their supply.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:14 PM
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The easier you make things for the rich, the more people will become rich because it's so much more attractive to be rich. Desire = reality, right?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:16 PM
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I liked the link in the OP. The post, not the video (which I didn't watch).

This part especially rang true to me:

Unfortunately, if students get fed moral skepticism and right-wing ideology - or if not exactly right-wing ideology, then something that sounds an awful lot like right-wing ideology - on the very first day of class, many will conclude that economics as a whole is unworthy of their attention.

I was certainly underwhelmed by my economics class in college. I remember a number of specific examples, including one extremely dismissive claim along the lines of, "You may think jobs in the sugarcane industry sound bad, but what would you say if people told you they were GRATEFUL for those jobs?" Even as a 20-year-old I knew that was a dumb (or at least incomplete) argument.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:25 PM
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OT, and I realize I'm asking a pretty white blog:

How racist is it to have a tiki-drink-themed party at one's home? (Rather than going out for drinks at a tiki bar.) Assume that one has never been to Polynesia or have Polynesian ancestry. What kind of music would it not be racist to have on the stereo at such an event?


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:41 PM
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Send $5 per attendee to the Native Committee To Keep Fleecing Tourists, P.O. Box 1138, Honolulu, HI and play Martin Denny records on the hi-fi.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:49 PM
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This whitey says that unless you do something weird or hang out with true weirdos you're well within the acceptable ban of minor racism. Tiki drinks culture bears almost no actual relationship to Polynesia whatsoever, so you can just be celebrating the 50s and tiki style. I mean don't send out invites that say something like "Big Tiki Chief Ooga Booga Invite You To Hawaii Tiki-Tiki Night" but if you're just putting pineapples in your drink and playing that 50s-60s exotica music then give yourself a break.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:50 PM
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Acceptable "band" of minor racism.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:51 PM
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How about that slow '50s surfside California music that I always think is being played on a steel guitar but probably isn't? That would have a kitsch appeal and it's probably clear from there how basic I am.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:52 PM
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But seriousl, Tiki seems about as racist as, I dunno, longboard skateboarding in that yes, on some level the white people who made it up thought they were doing cultural appropriation but were about three levels removed from any other culture they might have been appropriating. The guy who invented most Tiki drinks was Ernest Gantt from Limestone County, TX.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:53 PM
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47: T"R"O gets it right. I mean not that this is completely dispositive but if you go to Hawaii itself there's all sorts of tiki kitsch everywhere.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:56 PM
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I would say it was potentially very racist but you could maybe have a sort of Hawaii-meets-LA party that wasn't racist.

(Speaking as someone resident in Polynesia but not of Polynesian descent.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:57 PM
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51: You mean slack-key guitar?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 5:58 PM
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To be real for a second, the only way to make it not extremely racist is for Smearcase to wear a grass skirt and do hula dancing throughout.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:02 PM
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Basically if you had such a party and an actual bloke from the islands showed up and decked you I would say he was well within his rights to be fucked off.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:02 PM
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Also there's a lot of actually good Hawaiian music and I think you could probably happily play that without too much fear of being the evil appropriator. Also, don't have a entrance where you dress up as Sanford Dole and get brought in on a litter carried by Filipino sugar plantation slaves.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:04 PM
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I guess I kind of figured if there are tiki bars in the trembling-with-sensitivity bay area it probably had a stamp of approval of sorts and it wouldn't hurt to make a pitcher of mai-tais...and they don't seem to make cat sized tiki god heads or patterns for knitting same, so it didn't really get that much further down the rails than that.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:05 PM
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Yeah I mean I'd probably avoid lots of tiki idol iconography if you wanted to err on the side of caution, but I don't think serving mai tais and putting out torches and making a pu pu platter is gonna set anybody off. It's roughly as racist as making American Chinese food at home.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:07 PM
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I guess I kind of figured if there are tiki bars in the trembling-with-sensitivity bay area it probably had a stamp of approval of sorts

Well the best one in the area is in Alameda which is not exactly what you could call a bastion of racial sensitivity.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:10 PM
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Yeah, that's pretty much my feel as well. Actual tikis - probably offensive. Mai tais - mildly problematic but really what isn't in this world of ours?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:10 PM
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Famously Trader Vic (or maybe Don Beach, but I think it was Trader Vic) eventually visited the Polynesian Islands relatively late in his life and discovered to his dismay that he hated it there. I don't think he'd had any illusions about whether he was (attempting to) portraying anything about their culture, but after years of Polynesian this and that kitsch I think he assumed that it must be nice there rather than a bunch of damp humid islands without much to do on them.

But yeah it's not seriously racist about Polynesia in any interesting way - it's just a word that got stuck to some but not all of the bits of it. The restaurants were all cheap American-Chinese food, and the drinks were Caribbean, and they were covered in sailor-crap and fake Hawaiian decor.

As far as the drinks go though it's important to look up decent recipes: the original tiki drinks that made the whole thing fashionable in the forties and fifties are amazing, and pretty impressive technical developments out of the standard cocktails that were around at the time. Nowadays you're more likely to find tiki drinks that amount to 151 proof rum mixed with grenadine and some canned pineapple juice, which is horrifying. But the originals are genuinely impressive on a Old Fashioned/Martini/Manhattan/etc. level.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:12 PM
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I went to the Trader Vic's in Chicago once and ordered a . . . gin rickey, I think? Chosen because it was a favorite of Bertie Wooster. The bartender said, "NO." No??? "That is not a good drink for you. You are too small." And to my deep discredit, I let him them tell me what kind of drink was ok for me to drink.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:21 PM
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I have been to the Tonga Room in SF, and it was delightful.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:24 PM
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Also more generally I dunno I would push back on the "all a bit of kitsch without much real connection to Polynesia". I think that tiki culture is pretty directly tied to the super fucked up and racist violence and degradation inflicted on Pacific cultures by the west that started in the eighteenth century and continues on to today, a pattern of violence that the US & Americans are involved with in various ways - blackbirding, the annexation of the independent Kingdom of Hawaii, the use of the Marshall Islands as test grounds for nuclear weapons and the subsequent fucked up shit that happened to the affected islanders, etc.

(I'm probably more sensitive to this than most.)

And the modern day people who're real into tiki seem to be pretty racist. So I dunno, yeah, I'd err pretty far on the safe side on this one - but also I'm pretty sure that leaves lots of space for rum-based drinks and 1950s records.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:24 PM
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What is the ruling on those tiki-head ceramic cups?


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:24 PM
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And the modern day people who're real into tiki seem to be pretty racist.

Boy that is not my impression of tiki enthusiasts here in the Bay Area.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:27 PM
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"That is not a good drink for you. You are too small."

What the actual fuck?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:28 PM
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Less internal volume means it's bad to fill up on soda water?


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:29 PM
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In terms of bartender sexism, I suppose it is better than the "make the women's drinks stronger" variant? But still.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:30 PM
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See, it's the very real stuff in 66.first that worries me. European and USian colonialism in the Pacific have been really horrible. The extent of the connection between that horribleness and the tiki-bar phenomenon is, well, I don't know what it is.

The most into-tiki-bar (white) people I've met are not particularly racist, but I haven't met many such people.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:31 PM
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70: I can't remember the name of the drink. Gin something. He is very fond of them in one book. I feel like the name is woozle or schnozzle (OK, no, not those) but something odd, and possibly starting with a g?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:32 PM
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72: It seems to me that going to Hawaii as a tourist would be more problematic than having a tiki themed party at home, and I don't know anyone who'd give you grief for that.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:34 PM
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While acknowledging Keir's sensitivities and insight, I'd say you're good, given that the tiki thing was imaginary goofy exoticism that probably should be covered by a statute of limitations. I vaguely recall reading a passage in Vassily Aksyonov's American travelogue In Search of Melancholy Baby in which he visits a tiki bar someplace in Maine and says something about how it represents American multiculturalism. Uh, no.

I wouldn't put slack key on the stereo, though, because that crosses the inauthentic/authentic streams. Better go with something like Esquivel or Pink Martini, or find a Shibuya-kei playlist on YouTube.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:34 PM
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If you watched the episode where the Brady family went to Hawaii, you're racist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:36 PM
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66 -- pretty sure that this is a NZ vs US (but US including Hawaii) difference. We have actual Hawaiian residents here sometimes who can speak on the issue but that culture is a total melting pot and I believe that there is near zero genuine anger from native Hawaiians about standard 50s tiki kitsch in mainstream US culture. I mean it's kind of a joke but everyone knows it's a joke and it's not an actually offensive joke, including in Hawaii. NZ obviously has a much more tense culture around this exact issue.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:36 PM
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Et puis ju fume.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:37 PM
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Je. I can type. Not like people say.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:37 PM
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I feel like I should have an opinion about this, but I don't really. Except to reiterate that tiki-bar culture seems to me to be kind of unrecognizably distant from any actual Polynesian culture I was familiar with in Samoa, barring bits of decor (things woven out of palm fronds and so on). I'd be kind of surprised if anyone in a position to be offended was in fact offended, but I'm not myself qualified to give anything the stamp of approval as guaranteed harmless.

If I were going to guess, I'd go with Keir in 62, and not worry about it much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:39 PM
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I dunno, I've seen some pretty pissed off indigenous Hawaiians write about the kitsch appropriation of their culture. Also, tiki isn't specifically Hawaiian - "tiki" is the Māori form of the word, and there's lots of tiki culture that draws on other parts of the Pacific that have a different relationship with the States/colonialism compared to Hawaii.

I mean I don't think you're a bad person for having a party with mai-tais and pineapples and stuff, but I think that the tiki stuff crosses the line pretty quickly.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:40 PM
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Or: I think tiki culture is fucked and racist, but so is everything, and if you can salvage some drinks and some music you're not really hurting anyone, but it's probably worth being very cautious about what you salvage.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:45 PM
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That looks like a reasonable line to draw -- all the drinks, palm fronds, aloha shirts, surfboards and slack-key guitar ("Tiny bubbles...") you like, but steer clear of bullshit versions of polynesian carvings.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:47 PM
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Have you thought about having a tiki party and hosting in blackface?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:47 PM
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80: Ahem.


Posted by: Opinionated Overwhelming Task | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:47 PM
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There are modern day people who're real into tiki? Have we been transported into a comments section from 1960?

I also don't trust "Esquivel" as a representative of Latino culture.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:49 PM
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Man, I miss living someplace with eight-foot tall hibiscus hedges. The ones on the road up to my school had peach-colored flowers, instead of the more usual red ones.

(I don't really miss it. I didn't actually enjoy living in Samoa much. But bits of it were great.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:49 PM
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The one time I was in Hawai'i I was taken to a sacred site located on private land and the brief exchange between my Hawai'ian host and the rep of the landowner was exquisitely formal, polite and TENSE. Wow. Also, when I deviated from the parallel tourist universe of beaches things were very tense until it was clear I was brought there by a Hawai'ian, I think she also tossed in my negligible NAness which was embarrassing. But that was years ago, perhaps things are more relaxed now (would surprise me). My general impression was that there's quite a bit more tension in play than usually acknowledged to mainlanders.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:50 PM
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85: I meant during working hours. It's ten to nine and I'm done for the day. (But I do appreciate the nagging.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:50 PM
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Yeah. They say things like "Really, the food that existed on Polynesian islands was very primitive, and no American would want to eat poi [mashed taro root]."


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:56 PM
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LB-- Do you have to stay home for this storm?

Ironically one mountain I went to got 7-12", and the others are dry for the season. Heading back from a trip out west and returning to snow.

I hope that there won't be any delays by Thursday.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 6:58 PM
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Yep, but the stuff I have to work on, I can do from home. It's not ideal, and the office had better be back open Wednesday, but I'll manage.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 7:02 PM
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90: Definitely, a racist way of putting it. I will say that after two years in Samoa, I am unsurprised that I've never heard of a restaurant serving authentic, traditional Samoan food in the US; some of it was good, but there wasn't much that was both interesting and appealing to an American palate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 7:11 PM
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Although palusami was really good. That's the first time I looked for a recipe and found one that looked right; I'm sure the spinach/corned-beef version is traditional someplace, but it's not what I remember.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 7:25 PM
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This comment is gonna sound angrier than it is, and it's the ultimate sucker's game to even get involved in these kinds of conversations as a white dude, but it's a little annoying to take the (for real, genuine, no joke) tensions that are involved in the history of Hawaii and then graft it onto an imaginary controversy that AFAICT no actually-existing native Hawaiian cares about re having a 50s-style tiki party. I mean, sure, there's a connection between tiki culture and the pretty bad (but extremely interesting and complicated) colonial history of Hawaii, but we're in a weird place as a culture when we're literally inventing pretend hypothetical imaginary sensitivities to get worked up about. (As I say it's different for Keir because it's very clear that these issues are different and play differently in NZ.) But at some point fake twitter-activist outrage just becomes a kind of trolling and talking for the sake of talking and the eye-roll does become an appropriate response. For whatever it's worth, as someone basically sympathetic to doing whatever people ask for in order for them to feel comfortable, I'm at that point here.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 7:27 PM
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Have you ever thought about -- I mean really thought about -- whether or not it's OK to have a Pinata at your kid's birthday party?


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 7:31 PM
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Do you mean, like, a racist violent one or a fair trade certified pinata made by native artisans which is cooperatively opened by the whole party following a discussion of non-violent ways to achieve mutual benefit?


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 7:34 PM
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Anyone who's thinking about handcrafting their own should be aware that paper mache is remarkably difficult for the average six-year-old to bash through. I made a Finding Nemo-esque clownfish one year that had to be stomped to death by adults before the candy could be extracted. ("Mommy, why are you kicking Nemo in the face?")


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 7:36 PM
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Yeah, we had one (at a 3 year old birthday, the kids could barely make contact with the pinata) that it took 2 Marines and me about 10 minutes to break.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 7:39 PM
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Definitely I get that this issue plays differently in Hawaii than elsewhere in the Pacific, and I'm not the arbiter of whether or not it's racist in any of these places either.

For me I would say that even if it's ok for indigenous Hawaiians it's still kinda fucked in relation to other places, and given that there's a lot of non-Hawaiian cultures that are involved in tiki it's probably best to err on the side of caution in assuming that it's best not to engage in that sort of appropriation of cultural artefacts/parodying.

But this doesn't cover mai-tais and pineapples and palm fronds and that sort of stuff - I doubt that there is anyone who feels offended by that and even if there are it's not like they're going to know about you doing it so.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 7:51 PM
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I wouldn't put slack key on the stereo, though, because that crosses the inauthentic/authentic streams.

I think some authenticity is good. For example, you should definitely serve your guests spam.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 8:02 PM
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Actually for real you should go to L&L Barbecue (there's got to be one up there) or something similar. The barbecue mix is not at all racist, as far as I know.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 8:05 PM
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it took 2 Marines and me about 10 minutes to break

You should have let the Marines finish it in 9.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 8:06 PM
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whether or not it's OK to have a Pinata at your kid's birthday party?

The pinata, the perfect indoctrination tool for capitalism. Break it, push others aside and grab everything you can.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-26-15 8:45 PM
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Didn't DD sell his overpriced London house, and doesn't he plan to retire to Devon to become a country squire and public intellectual a la Montesquieu? & doesn't he have a book coming out, which all of you are honor-bound to buy?


Posted by: gnoLeD darB | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:26 AM
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105. I have his book on the table next to me. It's written as short pieces and I pick it up and read one when I'm depressed, which is quite a lot these days. At the moment, DD is taking his family round the world, which sounds like an excellent thing to do if you can afford it. He reports back every so often at CT.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:30 AM
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I didn't even buy Von Wafer's book. I just checked it out at the library.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:31 AM
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So you got a temporary remission in your cholera.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:36 AM
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That would explain the pooping.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:38 AM
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Krugman:

If anything, the problem with Syriza's plans may be that they're not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity would reduce the economic pain, but it's doubtful whether they are sufficient to produce a strong recovery. On the other hand, it's not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it's prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn't ready for that.

Still, in calling for a major change, Mr. Tsipras is being far more realistic than officials who want the beatings to continue until morale improves. The rest of Europe should give him a chance to end his country's nightmare.

I wonder if anybody will listen to him.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:40 AM
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DD's book isn't in the library yet.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:46 AM
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ILL it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:47 AM
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112: We don't speak your rap lingo.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:49 AM
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Maybe it isn't out in America yet. It doesn't show up at all and Amazon says wait until March.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:50 AM
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OK, LizardBreath, what is a good authentic Samoan recipe we can make when we have resisted the temptation to pay $165 to have 3 lb. of tofu shipped to Kansas City?

http://store.hodosoy.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=1


Posted by: GnOlEd DaRb | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:54 AM
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nworb's book wasn't in the library either. Maybe our librarians are Anglophobic. Or maybe I'm doing it wrong. I don't use the part of the library that has the books very often these days.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:54 AM
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$165 is 264 cans of Yuengling, for comparison sake.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:58 AM
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I dunno about Greek politics, but I spent some time with a consultant to the Merkel cabinet on EU policy about 2.5 years ago, and, to the extent this guy represents German elite opinion, German policy makers are mostly trying to figure out how they can kick Greece out of the Eurozone while still hold Greece accountable for all her debts. He also was down with debt forgiveness to Italy if there was a clause in the agreement that Italy could never again elect Berlusconi as PM. Spain is most likely to probably get outright debt forgiveness.

With the Tiki thing, I agree that if you spin it as a 60s era tropical themed party and avoid overt Tiki stuff it would probably be fine.



Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 7:25 AM
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German policy makers are mostly trying to figure out how they can kick Greece out of the Eurozone while still hold Greece accountable for all her debts.

Germans have weird humor.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 7:35 AM
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115: I linked an authentic recipe for palusami la'au in 94 -- living in CA, you might actually be able to buy fresh taro leaves. Making it properly would be a huge hassle -- making your own coconut cream is very annoying, but it is different from the canned stuff. Or if you want marginally authentic, google palusami and make any of the less accurate versions that are basically canned coconut cream, spinach, and canned corned beef hash baked in a casserole. I love the real stuff, but haven't ever tried the spinach/corned beef version.

Mostly, on Samoan food though, the stuff I liked was so simple it wasn't identifiably Samoan (really fresh fish, either fried or cooked in broth), and the stuff that was identifiably Samoan was not to my palate. (And now back to work.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 7:41 AM
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Come to think Oka is good, and might be easier. It's raw fish 'cooked' in lime juice, like ceviche, only with coconut cream. No guarantee on the specific recipe linked.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 7:44 AM
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OK, LizardBreath, what is a good authentic Samoan recipe we can make when we have resisted the temptation to pay $165 to have 3 lb. of tofu shipped to Kansas City?

The midwest is literally full of soy. Surely you can get tofu locally.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:05 AM
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They have tofu, but no limes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:14 AM
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110: I wish dsquared would directly take on Krugman's argument, and vice versa. Dsquared's value judgments seem wildly skewed to me, but I'm not sure I'm getting his point.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:32 AM
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118.1 would be a neat trick.

Cabinet announced a short while ago (can't find an accurate list in English). Looks like just Defense for ANEL, as expected, so hopefully that signals a limited role for that party in social/economic policy if the coalition remains stable (gulp). bob's BFF Varoufakis got finance, also expected. Lots of new blood, a number of picks don't even have βικιπαίδεια pages yet. Surprise low-profile pick for Justice (criminal law professor), meaning of which is unclear, his background doesn't appear to have anything to do with financial crimes as far as I can tell--but there's an entirely separate anti-corruption portfolio, and the guy they gave it to is a career financial crimes prosecutor. Foreign minister an academic and prominent anti-troika polemicist. Should be interesting....


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:33 AM
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||

In retrospect it may have been a mistake to ride out the blizzard at my folks' place out on LI (they're in FL). I'm looking at well over 20 inches of snow with more coming down. Also stuck here with my brother the pilot who tried to pick up a trip out of JFK the other day but just missed it. Last night we fought over whether to watch American Sniper (me - adamantly con, he after a few drinks - belligerently pro. Then he proceeded to overload the fireplace with wood as is his wont and bent the fireplace grate. Expecting a repeat performance today.

I hear NYC didn't do to badly out of the storm.

|>


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:33 AM
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If you put the fireplace grate in upside, it will be bent back into the original shape.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:35 AM
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Looks like just Defense for ANEL

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to keep a lid on the Colonels...


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:39 AM
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125: You have to admit, it's a big step up for a guy who just a few years ago was crunching the numbers on sales of virtual novelty hats.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:47 AM
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127 Haha. That's EXACTLY what he did. Wait for the fire to die down a bit then turned it over with the tongs. And then he built it right back up. I've never seen the fireplace that filled with wood - almost up to the flue. I thought it was nuts but there was really no stopping him.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:50 AM
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Let me tell you about the difference between wolves, sheep, and sheepdogs.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:59 AM
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130: Christ, he's trying to burn down your folk's house.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 9:23 AM
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130: We used to do that when we were in high school, to see how warm we could get the living room in the winter. It was a big room with a lot of window area, but we could jack the temperature up to 80 degrees (we had one of those blower units in the grate). It's a wonder we didn't have a chimney fire.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 9:40 AM
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102: Is this close enough? BBQ beef plate lunch (drool)...


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 9:45 AM
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102, 134: There's an actual L&L in the Financial District.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 10:01 AM
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132 He's kind of notorious for doing this but last night was the worst I've seen. We're going to have a repeat performance tonight, with the fire and the fighting over watching American Sniper, I'm sure. He just inspected the fire grate and poked at the ashes and there are still some glowing embers. Now to dig out .


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 10:13 AM
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I might get a plate lunch (or, the meat part of the plate) today.

This piece from James Galbraith on Greece is a really nice counterpoint to Dsquared's. They share essentially all the same factual and analytical premises, but it's written from the moral perspective of "let's figure out how to help the people of Greece and Southern Europe, who have been royally fucked over for years" rather than "let's try to have you naifs understand things from the point of view of EU and German bureaucrats, ps here's also how I think large financial institutions could make money from this." Actually the difference is relevant to the topic of the OP, I suppose.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 10:19 AM
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Yeah, I often get annoyed by Dsquared's rhetorical posture of "let me explain why of course I am the only one who is right about this, referring to facts and arguments that should be common knowledge but of course most of you people don't know." It's a common British educated-class thing, and it's really dazzling for us Americans who didn't have the same rhetorical training. But it wears thin. Dsquared is really smart, unlike some practitioners of this rhetorical strategy, but his "smartest asshole in the tutorial" (or whatever they call it) thing eventually becomes tiresome. He also some weird moral and institutional commitments, and unfortunately his smartest-asshole shtick seems to keep him from ever questioning them.

(Losing the shtick would probably lose him most of his American audience, however. We are like masochists for that kind of argumentation. Finance people would also probably stop paying attention to him for the same reason.)


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:59 AM
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138: Does he have a significant audience to lose? I would have guessed he just had a few dozen groupies/fans in our tiny little nook on the internet.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 12:07 PM
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139: Felix Salmon linked to him the other day on Twitter.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 12:13 PM
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He's right behind you. Sssh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 12:17 PM
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137 is nice, thanks.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 12:18 PM
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Yeah, I often get annoyed by Dsquared's rhetorical posture of "let me explain why of course I am the only one who is right about this, referring to facts and arguments that should be common knowledge but of course most of you people don't know."

I'm probably just an American masochist, but this (usually) doesn't bother me because he walks the walk - he really does know a lot more than I do about the subjects he writes about. And if you're patient, you can often tease out of him the underlying facts that "should be common knowledge but of course most of you people don't know."

But yeah, his explanation of how the Greeks have victimized the poor Euro-bankers is incomprehensible to me, and his Medium piece could be the ur-text for why analogies ought be banned.

Or so it seems to me. On the other hand, maybe I'm just to ignorant to appreciate his subtle knowledge of the situation.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 12:19 PM
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bob's BFF Varoufakis got finance

Well, it is kinda an economics thread

He has posted three times on his blog since getting the appointment, although told (by someone) to stop. One of the post was "why I won't stop posting."

I liked Global Minotaur because the Minotaur is America, and eveeell. I liked Modern Political Economics (the second half is GloMin) because among other things, Varoufakis doc and post-doc work was in game theory, and he painted a good picture of how Nash-Arrow-von Neumann etc created a new foundation for mathematicized economics, and why it is flatout nuts. Otherwise he is just a very good lefty economist with Marxian influences, I don't have a favorite.

Going thru my terrible notes on MPE:

The French thinker Condorcet put this point nicely at a time of another great convulsion of history, back in 1794, when he suggested that 'force cannot, like
opinion, endure for long unless the tyrant extends his empire far enough afield to hide from the people, whom he divides and rules, the secret that real power lies not with the oppressors but with the oppressed'.

[italics mine; not fucking "should lie", but "does lie," as in labour creates capital and capitalism]

Condorcet 's Secret poignantly illuminates much of what makes societies tick. From the fertile agricultural lands which underwrote the Pharaohs' reign to the astonishing cities financed by surplus production in the Andes; from the magnificent Babylonian gardens to Athens' golden age; from the splendour of Rome to the feudal economies that erected the great cathedrals; in all that is today described as 'civilisation' , the rulers' command over the surplus and its uses was based on a combination of a capacity to make compliance seem individually inescapable (indeed, attractive), ingenuous divide-and-rule tactics, moral enthusi­asm for the maintenance of the status quo (especially among the underprivileged), the prom­ise of a preeminent role in some afterlife and, only very infrequently, small-scale brute force.

... No V is not quite a Keynesian. I don't use the word "radical"

Keynes believed that he had a simple solution to capitalism's tendency to stumble, fall and refuse to pick itself up without a helping hand from the state. He thought that through judicious fiscal and monetary adjustments it was possible to prevent, or at least mend, depres­sions. He was wrong. Capitalism cannot be civilised, stabilised or rationalised. Why?
Because Marx was right. Increasing state power and benevolent interference will not do away with crises. For the more the state succeeds in bringing about stability, the larger the centrifugal forces that will eventually tear that stability apart. Crises cannot be massaged out of capitalism because, as Marx pointed out, labour creates the machines which then auto­ reify, take over the human spirit and turn into its manic slave. Moneymaking reifies its
own premises and the means become the end. When that happens, capitalism itself is desta­bilised. The liberal state, at that juncture, can only look on in stunned disbelief as the whole edifice falls apart, and gleaming machines end up idle while workers keen to labour remain jobless.

Marx too thought that he had a simple answer for capitalism's troubles. Convinced that its own deep contradictions would, effectively, force it to commit suicide, he believed that a new rational order (one that does not constantly undermine itself, by turning workers and capitalists into capital 's slaves and confining generations of workers to the unemployment scrap heap in the process) was inevitable. He, too, was wrong. Capitalism will not just go away under the strain of its admittedly titanic incongruities. Why? Because it has Keynes (or someone with similar ideas) on its side. In its bleakest moments, Keynesian interventions give capitalism a second wind; and a third and a fourth, if need be. Regulation and state intervention do save capitalism from itself, in the limited sense of preserving property rights and buying time for capital to overcome the authorities' renewed ambition to rein it in.
...
The capital flows that the Minotaur thrived upon and heightened, created the conditions for a remarkable hybrid: a global monetary system in which good old public money was coexisting with private money created almost at will by the financial sector on the back of the Minotaur-induced capital flows.

Public money traces its history in IOUs; pieces of paper on which a jeweller would certify that Jill had left with him a quantity of gold. In contrast, our private money grew out of con­tracts that were, in essence, bets on other people's debts. The addition of private money to the pool of ublic money made available by governments was enough to preserve global demand at htgh levels, to oil the old-fashioned machinery strewn all over the globe and to generate great levels of surplus value.

....

They are good books, but I read so many like them I am not the best judge.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 12:51 PM
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143.3: I didn't read everything he's written here, but what I've read struck me as a bizarre reading of the history.

This is how risk management worked in German banks. A trading desk is given a maximum level of risk that it's allowed to take on. A basic principle of risk management is that you can lower your risk by hedging, so if you take on a bunch of risk that puts you over the maximum level, you can put yourself back under that level by hedging. Higher-ups at the banks decided that the debt of different European countries were perfect substitutes for each other. So if you bought a bunch of Greek debt, which had the highest interest rate, you could hedge it by selling a bunch of German debt (or equivalently, buying German CDS), which had the lowest interest rate. It doesn't require an economist explaining how people respond to incentives to guess what trades the German banks made then.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 12:55 PM
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In other words, "The beatings will cease when your behavior fits our models."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 1:21 PM
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For the record, L&L Drive Inn (n/k/a L&L Hawaiian Barbecue) is a species of local food, not Hawaiian food. Two completely different things.


Posted by: DaveLHI | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 1:24 PM
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143 I'm probably just an American masochist, but this (usually) doesn't bother me because he walks the walk - he really does know a lot more than I do about the subjects he writes about.

dsquared has tried his schtick on me (in comments here, along the lines of what Bave describes) while talking about subjects where he doesn't know as much as I do, so I tend to assume he's always bullshitting. But I generally have the impression that most commenters here hold him in much more esteem than I do, and maybe he really does know what he's talking about most of the time.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 1:31 PM
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Hmmm. The CT piece was extremely informative, if trolly. The Medium piece seems to have crossed some invisible line into actively misleading and pernicious.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 1:32 PM
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I'm always speaking the truth in measured, reassuring tones.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 1:32 PM
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I mean, I don't claim actual knowledge or expertise re the Greece crisis. But the analogy is terrible and misleading on its face.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 1:34 PM
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and misleading on its face.

And implicit analogies are the worst of all.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 1:37 PM
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They're like rain on your wedding day.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 1:50 PM
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Yeah, I often get annoyed by Dsquared's rhetorical posture of "let me explain why of course I am the only one who is right about this, referring to facts and arguments that should be common knowledge but of course most of you people don't know."

It generally seems to boil down to either

"Contrary to public opinion, bankers are not stupid, and they realize that this thing that seems both impossible and inevitable is in fact impossible."

or

"Contrary to public opinion, bankers are not stupid, and they realize that this thing that seems both impossible and inevitable is in fact inevitable."


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 1:53 PM
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The conclusion of Dsquared's Medium piece is that someday fiscal union will happen in the EU and all will be forgiven. Really? How soon? Under what terms? It would actually become more likely if Greece left both the euro and the EU itself, along with a few other weak economies.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 2:15 PM
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Well, right, not to mention the plan seems to be "stick with our awesome awesome plan to date of 25% unemployment and near-complete social collapse and at least one full lost generation of professionals and chopping down trees in parks to burn logs to warm your apartment indefinitely, because someday in the way remote future your debt will be voided entirely when we merge into the EU, just trust us it'll work out and I've known because I've seen the future." As Atrios says in something else I read, at the current level Greece is fucked enough to make anything an improvement -- make DogeCoin the currency, whatever.

In the Medium piece there's not even any mention of the stuff that Greece has actually been through and might not want to be going through again (but we get a Wodehouse reference so we're supposed to be like "all is forgiven").


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 2:24 PM
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That wasn't my most coherent comment, nor is this a subject I know a lot about, but come on, that Aunt Agatha analogy sucked it.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 2:25 PM
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I didn't read it either piece. I don't understand how anyway expects any Greek government to be able to pay that debt under current conditions without being murdered or murdering thousands of their own citizens.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 2:27 PM
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To be fair, I think a Greek government has done second in living memory.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 2:28 PM
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He also fails Wodehouse - if any aunt were to give loans on generous terms, surely it would be Dahlia.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 2:45 PM
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And now I've just wasted some time re-reading the classic ESP thread, just to check that I'm not being too unfair to dsquared. It's hard to tell where his stance in that thread comes down on the axis between "disingenuously argumentative" and "belligerently stupid," but it was definitely somewhere in there.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 2:46 PM
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Surely not Extra-Sensory Perception.

Actually, I think I half-recall the thread you mean, although maybe not.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 2:56 PM
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Davies tailors style and manner to audience very very well.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 3:16 PM
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This is how risk management worked in German banks. A trading desk is given a maximum level of risk that it's allowed to take on. A basic principle of risk management is that you can lower your risk by hedging, so if you take on a bunch of risk that puts you over the maximum level, you can put yourself back under that level by hedging. Higher-ups at the banks decided that the debt of different European countries were perfect substitutes for each other. So if you bought a bunch of Greek debt, which had the highest interest rate, you could hedge it by selling a bunch of German debt (or equivalently, buying German CDS), which had the lowest interest rate. It doesn't require an economist explaining how people respond to incentives to guess what trades the German banks made then.

I'm not sure if this is a quote or a paraphrase of dsquared or something else entirely, but in the broadest terms it's pretty much entirely accurate*. Though it wasn't so much the higher ups as the regulators, which the higher-ups didn't care to prudentially gold-plate, because it would hurt their return on equity.

*I mean, there were plenty of other problems with the risk management of German banks, but they were mostly related phenomena, namely leveraging up on low risk-weighted debt, simply because it was had a low balance sheet cost, without any real consideration of the economic risk in a downturn.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 3:20 PM
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164: The point is that it's an important underlying fact, one that D^2 elides (because it reflects badly on bankers rather than Greeks*) and that Germans refuse to acknowledge even when faced with it.

*slightly unfair but whatever


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 3:24 PM
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158 - Davies' point is precisely that the loan will never be paid off - he's arguing that it operates as a political tool of control, and that also because it's never going to be paid off it effectively represents a major wealth transfer from the creditor governments to the Greek governments.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 3:32 PM
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But if Greek is running a government surplus now (and it is), the current wealth transfer is going the other way.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 3:34 PM
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Not really. The Greeks were given a lot of money which they then spent / consumed / whatever. They were supposed to give that money back, but it turns out they can't, and so someone has to wear that loss.

Roughly speaking, the rest of Europe has assumed the loss. They're using it as a way to control Greece right now, right? They're saying "do as we say, or we call in the debt and then you're fucked". The argument is that they don't really think they're ever going to get all that money back, they are just using it as a tool of control.

The things they want Greece to do are partly good and partly absolutely evil.

But it's also the case that if they never get paid back for the debt they've taken a huge chunk of the loss - i.e the Greeks were given a lot of money and get to keep it. So there's a large, one-off, wealth transfer coupled with an ongoing small one.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 3:42 PM
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166 -- yes, but he's also saying (particularly in the Medium piece) that the political control is more-or-less justified and a price that the Greeks should just suck up and pay, because it's their best alternative.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 3:42 PM
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because it's their best alternative.

Also because it's the ethically correct thing for the Greeks to do.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 3:51 PM
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Roughly speaking, the rest of Europe has assumed the loss.

And that's part of business. Target just shuttered 140 (?) stores in Canada, taking massive losses. Canada didn't steal this money from Target, even though many Canadians did, in fact, receive money that Target is now taking as a loss.

The Germans lending to Greece weren't doing it out of altruism (no Aunt Agatha they), they were doing it as private bankers trying to turn a profit. Guess what happens sometimes when you lend people money for profit?

And if you turn and say, "Well, Greece isn't some tech start-up or restaurateur," then you've got to the part where the whole Eurozone was created on a pile of hand-wavey bullshit that didn't hold together. Fiscal union in 1999 would, aside from being politically impossible, have meant that the Greek people would have been in some position to pay back their debts, because adjusting their balance sheet wouldn't have involved crippling the economy (as always, see Florida, run roughly as badly as Greece, yet not mired with 25% unemployment). But without that fiscal union being possible, everyone just clapped louder, then acted all shocked when their Rube Goldberg currency zone couldn't withstand crisis.

None of this is to absolve the Greeks for their tax avoidance, stupid budget priorities, and apparently genuinely bad civil service policies. But the Greeks have been paying a fucking price - the troika has been bleeding them dry for 5 years now. What pain have the rest of Europe undergone on their behalf? I can tell you Germany isn't suffering one whit. Their banks made bad bets, and the only pain they suffer is from shoulder strain patting themselves on the back.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 3:57 PM
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Also because it's the ethically correct thing for the Greeks to do.

And the ethically correct thing for the troika to do is to cause massive suffering with no end in sight? What ethics is this?

I say a dying patient owes no fealty to a leech doctor who's already bled him near dry.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 3:59 PM
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171 is nicely said.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:01 PM
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171 is nice. 172.last is banned.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:04 PM
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172: Don't shoot the messenger! I'm merely relaying dsquared's position from the Medium piece.

I still wouldn't regard it as prudent, even if one ignores the morality of short-changing a beloved aunt.

Beloved Aunt Germany!


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:06 PM
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I don't think he is saying that. (Good grief I can't believe that I'm engaged in a close-reading of an Aunt Agatha analogy about the Greek debt crisis but anyway.)

I actually think the underlying views in that piece are pretty left and pro-Greek - one, the debt is a tool for economic control, two deficit spending may be a positive step if you can get the creditors to let you, three this is difficult because the creditors are maintaining a facade of heartlessness, four maybe the Greeks should engage in some outright hardball to get to the deficit spending space, but five, it might not be worth it because hopefully there'll be an almost total debt write-off at some point in the future, which would be a really good thing for the Greeks.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:07 PM
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171 - you can't argue that taking losses is just part of business and then turn around and condemn Germany for playing hardball. If taking a loss is just part of lending and borrowing, why shouldn't the Greeks bear it?


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:13 PM
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176 is a pretty insane reading, although I agree the "ethical obligation" point isn't DSquared's main one. His main argument is that the Greeks should (and probably will) suck it up and wait it out because political control is their best option and they don't have a lot of leverage vis-a-vis the EU.

For an article with similar premises about the facts on the ground (but with a different moral attitude towards the creditors, and thus a different strategic recommendation and overwhelmingly different tone) that gets you closer to something like the actual conclusion in 176, see the piece by James Galbraith I linked to in 137 above.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:16 PM
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And 177 is affirmatively moronic. Because they're a country, dumbass, not a bank, and because their people are suffering.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:17 PM
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177: No, but if you're playing hardball, spare me the bullshit about "ethical obligations" and morality plays about virtuous Northerners and lazy Southerners*.

The German public and, from everything I've read, the German elite believe themselves to be heroes in a morality play, but that's not close to the reality. If they'd cut the posturing crap, maybe we could have some sort of honest negotiation. Like one that acknowledges that the ECB is impoverishing the entire continent to satisfy German anti-inflation mania.

*directed at Germany, not you or pf


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:20 PM
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179 - so the suffering should instead fall on the German taxpayer? Have fun selling that one in Berlin - which is Davies' point: everyone knows that the debt's a write-off but we can't say that, so until then the best strategy is to run as pro-growth an economic policy as you can without alienating the line of credit keeping you afloat until such time as the debt merges into a general EU debt or goes away. The alternative, of bilking the creditors and running those pro-growth policies, might also work but would incur costs, costs which could be avoided by limping it out into the indefinite future.

I note that the US isn't offering an alternative more generous financing scheme for the Greek government to adopt - there's a rather unpleasant flavour of spending other people's money here.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:26 PM
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181.last was somewhat uncharitable of me.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:27 PM
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If Greece is running a primary surplus of 4.5%, which is all going to creditors, why don't they just default on everything? They don't need credit if they're running a surplus, as Krugman notes that 4.5% going back into the economy would radically boost growth.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:37 PM
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No, you jackass, the point was your idiotic moral reasoning. From the Greek government's perspective, it's under no obligation whatsoever to not condemn Germany for "playing hardball" and Germany *as a country not a creditor* has (or should have) an interest *as part of the purported European Union* in seeing a country with enough long-term growth to be able to pay it off for the long term.

The moronic conflation of these issues with personal debt, which is what you (and other idiots) are doing, conflates the fact that these are countries and people that are at stake.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:37 PM
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It isn't bilking. The Greeks too loans that they could not repay. It has happened throughout history.

And not paying creditors sure worked a fuck of a lot better for Iceland than whatever they have been doing in Greece has worked for Greece.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:38 PM
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Anyway, at least I like the word "Grexit." It has a nice sound.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:39 PM
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184 was probably too aggressive but the combination of actually-stupid faux sophistication and lame moral reasoning on the backs of suffering people is always guaranteed to really piss me off.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:40 PM
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I think where the reasoning fails is when "as pro-growth an economic policy as you can without alienating the line of credit keeping you afloat" means a 16% economic contraction.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:44 PM
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the "ethical obligation" point isn't DSquared's main one

True enough - at least it wasn't his main overt point. But there's a reason he chose Aunt Agatha and her nephew instead of Louie the Loan Shark and his hard-luck client.

Over at CT, he divided responsibility for the Greek predicament 70/20/10, with 70 representing the Greek 99%, 20 representing the Greek 1%, and 10 representing the country's creditors.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 4:44 PM
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I note that the US isn't offering an alternative more generous financing scheme for the Greek government to adopt - there's a rather unpleasant flavour of spending other people's money here.

As noted above, the US made huge transfer payments to Florida, California, Nevada, and other states that got screwed in the same financial meltdown.

I would get a kick out of the European reaction if the US negotiated to make Greece a US state/territory. Absent objections from the EU (and other practical concerns, I suppose), I think it's possible that even US Republicans could be persuaded to offer the Greeks a better deal than the EU.

And meanwhile, it's not that Germany is refusing to spend money to help the Greeks. Germany is refusing to spend money to help itself. The German economy would be in a lot better shape if the Germans weren't intent on sinking the EU. The US motive for failing to cut Florida loose isn't altruism -- it's the Germans who are making sacrifices for a higher cause.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:02 PM
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189.last: and over there in comments to JQ's post, he helpfully explains that it's not the troika's fault that people are dying in Greece, it was the Greeks themselves that agreed to slash health spending from 9% of GDP to 6%. Presumably that was completely freely and not under any troika-imposed constraints, and nobody could have predicted that pushing healthcare spending down that far, that fast, would mean grossly inadequate healthcare resources.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:06 PM
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I don't really know that much about the situation in Greece, but I think what is important to remember is that if we all try to stop hating each other, the terrorists can never truly win.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:25 PM
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You have been killed by a Grexit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:26 PM
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Now I feel bad for bitching at Keir, but seriously the analogies to personal finance are SO LAME.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:26 PM
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it was the Greeks themselves that agreed to slash health spending from 9% of GDP to 6% not to take that French class at the community college.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:27 PM
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187: not *always*...


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:32 PM
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190 is a banned analogy isn't it? Also would you believe but there's internal transfer payments within Germany - why should economically depressed Thuringia bail out Greece?

185 - yes, the Greeks could have defaulted (although the Icelandic government didn't - they still have a very large debt). But if they did, no one else would lend them money - I mean, no one would lend them money anyway. So if they didn't keep a line of credit with the EU then they would have had to adopt an immediately balanced budget which would have been just as painful - the troika have been less painful than default to date.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:35 PM
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194 - I wasn't the one that made an analogy to personal finance - that was JRoth. I made the point that analogies to personal finance don't help the Greeks - they've got off much more lightly than if this was a case of commercial "you take risks when you lend money".


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:39 PM
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they've got off much more lightly than if this was a case of commercial "you take risks when you lend money".

Well, there's something we can look at concretely - how much of their debt was ever actually written off, as opposed to just assumed by governments and put on easier terms? How would we compare it to bankruptcy proceedings?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:43 PM
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197 last as stated is certainly wrong, though they almost couldn't have done so while remaining in the Euro. If you keep spouting off authoritatively about macroeconomics that you obviously don't know, while continuing to be a moral idiot, I'm going to have to get bitchy again.


Posted by: Tim "Ripper" Owens | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:47 PM
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I freely admit that I know nothing whatsoever about Greece, Germany, or the debt/austerity/etc crisis.

But I am really curious what people think of this finding from the Pew Global Attitudes survey.

Normally that survey is pretty reliable, but I have to admit that I am kind of shocked that they asked a question so likely lend itself to nationalistic stereotyping, and very shocked at the homogeneity of the responses. What's going on?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:48 PM
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The "why are you hitting yourself?" approach to international political economy.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:49 PM
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199 - eh? If the Greek state had gone bankrupt then the debt goes away but austerity still happens - there's not an option for renounce debt and run a deficit because there was no way to finance deficit spending.

I'm not a bankruptcy lawyer but when commercial entities go bust isn't it conventional that the shareholders lose everything? Obviously the Greek government isn't a limited liability company so the entire analogy is daft but the underlying point is similar - the Greeks lose it all, everyone else takes a haircut, and German bailiffs sell off the Parthenon.

Here the troika has negotiated a deal where the Greeks don't default, get reasonably favourable terms on the debt, and in return have to do some fucking stupid stuff, plus some reasonably sane stuff.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:51 PM
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I'm not sure what's wrong with "if you want to run a deficit someone needs to be prepared to lend you money". Sure you can just finance deficit spending by running the printing presses but that's not really a sustainable solution.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 5:56 PM
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Sure you can just finance deficit spending by running the printing presses but that's not really a sustainable solution.

IT'S AN ILL WIND THAT BLOWS NOBODY GOOD


Posted by: OPINIONATED WEIMAR WHEELBARROW MANUFACTURERS | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:12 PM
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197.2: I think I actually argued that, or agreed with somebody who was arguing that, several years ago. If you are still borrowing more money, you don't have many choices. But Greece has been running a primary budget surplus for a few years now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:17 PM
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201: I think it was hilarious.

Having watched a whole of Japanese (who are also considered hard-working), and quite a few subversive German movies, I think it has a lot to do with a consistent and highly valued self-presentation.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:20 PM
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If Greece is running a primary surplus of 4.5%, which is all going to creditors, why don't they just default on everything?
Simply put, because even if the government is running a surplus, the banking sector can only fund itself via the ECB, using government bonds (or government guaranteed bank debt) as collateral. So if Greece defaults, its banking system collapses. See Cyprus.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:35 PM
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206 - right - once the Greek government is no longer dependent* on the EU for day-to-day finance then it's "no longer actively suicidal" for them to default, as Davies puts it. At that yes, it starts to become a possibility to repudiate the debt and go off into the wilderness. But at this point Greece doesn't get to start running deficits - it still has to run a balanced budget: which is precisely what austerity to date has been.

This is the point Davies argues that while that's an option, it's better to stay within Euroland and wait for the debt to fade away - the same way the debts of the various states got sucked up into the federal debt. I don't know if that's what I'd do if I were the Greeks.

Also, to 184 - Davies point is precisely that the Greeks can never pay off their debt and that there's no point talking about "how to pay off the debt" because it's not going to happen. Instead the Germans are going to have to wear the loss - but we can't say that yet because it's politically unpalatable to the man in the Berlin or Paris street.

* I don't know if that's now or in the future - it's not clear if Greece would have access to other sources of money right now.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:38 PM
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They need to get out of the Euro. You can't have monetary union without fiscal union. You get 25% unemployment.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 6:51 PM
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dbk #204 just posted a longish comment over at the CT thread that is worth reading. 25 years in Greece...

They need to get out of the Euro.

Like I said, I don't like telling anybody what to do.

But the Greeks are European, like the Spanish. And the Greeks got seriously fucked over for a generation after WW II at American behest and/or indifference. Just as to an extent, Italy did and Spain as pawns in the Cold War.

In any case, I am sick of the smug North, that got breathing room and help to become rich social democracies.

I want to see Germany and Finland and Scandanavia and Luxemburg and Cameron lose this economic war and see some fiscal consolidation on terms favorable to the Mediterranean this time.

But not really my fight.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 7:33 PM
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dbk explains that the Greek shipping industry is mostly registered in Britain for tax purposes.

Fuck all City fucking banksters.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 7:37 PM
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They're moving the Holocaust Center to the strip mall with the liquor store. That will make it much more convenient for me. Anyway, that strip mall was already a compilation of reasons to drink. There's a food bank, a kiddie dance lesson place, a daycare, and a view of a cemetery.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 7:47 PM
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Still less depressing than when the Hollywood Video was there.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 8:59 PM
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That's been a long time. I don't think I ever had an account there.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 9:00 PM
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NMM to Charles Townes.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 9:15 PM
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And just six months shy of triple digits.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 9:19 PM
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||

Vox first up against the wall, &cet., but court documents often tell interesting stories of fraudsters, and this is up there.

|>


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 10:39 PM
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Oh, I doubt Vox will be first up against the wall; surely Oz and Duncan, at a minimum, will be in front of them. Also dsquared.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 10:56 PM
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On Duncan specifically, this part is particularly rich:

For these "misleading" and "deceptive" acts, he has been sued by the attorney general's office in his home state, Texas. That's because Duncan only has "alleged degrees" in naturopathy from the non-accredited, distance-learning college that was "named on a list posted by The Higher Education Coordination Board of 'Institutions Whose Degrees Are Illegal to Use in Texas.'"

Texas!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:10 PM
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As for Oz, he appears to be an MD/MBA from Penn, of all places, which should tell you all you need to know.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:12 PM
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I know that Penn has a bad reputation in certain circles, but it's a bit surprising that Texas would ban the use of its degrees...


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:21 PM
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Heh. Different circles, I think, but I haven't looked at the list.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:22 PM
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I'm sure Vox's CMS will have vaulted it into first against the wall when the time comes.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:23 PM
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I would like to sneer sophisticatedly along with teo, but I actually am told very little by Oz's degree's being from Penn. What's the story?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:26 PM
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MD/MBA seems like an inauspicious combination.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:27 PM
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226, plus Wharton is kind of notorious as a hotbed of business-school ridiculousness among people who are familiar with Philadelphia-area universities (granting that this may not make it particularly exceptional among business schools overall).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:32 PM
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Basically:

Wharton:Philadelphia::Hoover Institution:California::University of Chicago:USA


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:51 PM
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201 is wonderful, especially on Italy, which rates Germans as most hard working, Romanians as laziest, and Italians as least trustworthy


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:51 PM
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229 is indeed awesome. "Yeah, seriously, don't trust us. We don't even trust each other." [Says Berlusconi as he holds an orgy with underage prostitutes surrounded by looted antiquities.]


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:57 PM
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"With good reason!"


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 01-27-15 11:59 PM
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something something Cretan something


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 12:08 AM
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201 is wonderful, especially on Italy, which rates Germans as most hard working, Romanians as laziest, and Italians as least trustworthy

We deal in deception here. What we do not deal with is self-deception.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 12:10 AM
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229, 201. Lovely little chart. Two things though: everybody putting Greece as "least hardworking" is BS; the Greeks work as hard as most people, they just won't and don't pay any taxes (this is what underlies D^2's allocation of 70% of the blame to the Greek 99% - if there wasn't a structural culture in Greece of people withholding government revenue they'd be no worse off than Spain and it would be a lot easier to point the finger at the 1%, because for a start they wouldn't have needed those dishonest loans in the first place.

An Irish friend of mine, who knows from corruption and tax evasion having been trained in those ways from his cradle, lived in Greece for 20 years and said it was absolutely gobsmacking watching people openly paying off tax collectors in the pub and then going back to whatever they were doing.

Second thing: Germans hardest working/ I don't think so. What's the average working week in Germany? Most efficient in time usage, probably, but that's another matter.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 5:23 AM
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I would seriously consider rating Britain least trustworthy*. I don't think it's unreasonably to be clear eyed about thee things.

Might not in the end. I haven't a scoobie about e.g. Romanian trustworthyness one way or another.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 5:28 AM
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if there wasn't a structural culture in Greece of people withholding government revenue they'd be no worse off than Spain

"No worse off than Spain" doesn't exactly support the argument that the bulk of Greece's problems were caused by the Greeks, since Spain's problems approach the size of those in Greece.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 6:42 AM
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Spain's problems approach the size of those in Greece

They did, but they're much closer to sorting them in terms of the bottom line. They do of course still have 50%+ youth unemployment and there's a lot of work to do, but nobody questions their solvency any more, so it's at least in theory possible to address it if there's a government that wants to. Spanish problems came from a very different source at the time of the crash from Greek problems.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 7:03 AM
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why should economically depressed Thuringia bail out Greece?

You make a tremendously powerful argument of a sort that is often used to devastating effect in the US. Why should teachers or union members or others be making so much money when other taxpayers don't?

Me, I'd propose that the answer for Thuringia is for Germany to engage in monetary and fiscal policy that lifts up Thuringia. But that would also help Greece, so the real underlying problem - Greece's excessive wealth compared to Thuringia - isn't solved.

A race to the bottom inevitably leads to the bottom. That's why the whole Euro area, and not just Greece, is sinking.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 7:37 AM
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238.1 is the rightest thing ever.
238.3 is also right.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 7:41 AM
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Anyway, every time somebody mentions Affirmative Action or a minority set-aside or something, it takes exactly two seconds for somebody to shout "POOR WHITE PEOPLE, POOR WHITE PEOPLE, POOR WHITE PEOPLE."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 7:48 AM
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225. Oz's degree being from Penn isn't a very interesting part of the story. What's interesting is that he skates right on the edge of stuff that's banned by (e.g.) the AMA, but never (as far as we know) goes beyond giving a platform to the snake-oil salesmen. If he invested in any of them himself he might possibly be toast. Making all your money from promoting them, without actually investing in them is apparently perfectly all right. As the article says, it's really pretty hard to lose your license to practice medicine. Even doctors who have repeated shown complete professional incompetence often managed to retain their licenses forever.

Maybe they have courses on how to "skate on the edge" at Wharton. If so he obviously paid close attention.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 7:51 AM
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201. The global attitudes survey-- many Europeans take foreign vacations within Europe on budget-priced package tours. The tour company chooses lodging, arranges transport, some meals, and arranges a price for these with the locals. Lots of these packages have Greece as a destination.

The tourist isn't the client, the tour company operator is, so the local Greek business might cut corners with the individual tourists. They themselves may run indifferent to rude, since they're naive travelers not interested in the new place in a big group.

This is on top of a visible and apparently widespread culture of tax evasion there.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 8:00 AM
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I'm not going to be able to commercial TV in 2016.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 8:15 AM
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212: Nobody tell bob about my friend's sibling the Greek shipping broker in the City.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 01-28-15 8:15 AM
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What's this nonsense about Spain? The inclusion of Spain - which was running a surplus at the time of the crash - with Greece is precisely the tell that the whole morality play is a crock of shit.

Why was Spain in trouble? Capital flows before the crash and absence of fiscal union afterwards. Why is it still in trouble? Bloody-minded insistence on austerity and too-low inflation by the Germans for the past 5+ years. Neither Spanish hoi polloi nor Spanish elites "misbehaved" during the runup to the crash - German bankers lent them money at very favorable rates, and German tourists and vacationers spent their Euros at Spanish resorts and vacation homes, so Spaniards used low-interest German loans to build more of those things, and the Spanish government collected more in taxes than they spent on goods and services.

A central planner might have made different choices, but I'm pretty sure no one at the ECB has been advocating for more centralized planning of national economies.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-29-15 9:52 AM
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Delong does a very good job of MST3K'ing D^2's articles on Greece.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-29-15 11:32 AM
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All of the countries in the morality play have very different stories. Italy has a very large debt, but they ran it up pre-Berlusconi, and they had been paying it down very slowly. They also didn't see big capital inflows in the 2000s, and they didn't experience a boom.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-29-15 11:54 AM
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246: "Why has that man covered himself in blue paint?"


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-29-15 12:02 PM
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I said:

Spain's problems approach the size of those in Greece

And chris y responded:

They did, but they're much closer to sorting them in terms of the bottom line.

I think that this explains why I haven't been able to understand dsquared's view. When I talk about Greek's predicament, or Spain's problems, I'm talking about economic stagnation and massive unemployment. I see the victims as being Greeks and Spaniards, and I see the two countries as being roughly comparable.

Chris y, though, shares dsquared's view: The predicament is debt, and the victims are the creditors. By that measure, Greece is, indeed, more culpable than Spain, and Spain's results - the "bottom line," as chris y says - are much better than Greece's.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 01-29-15 6:27 PM
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