Thursday, August 22, 2019

Does anyone have the right to sex?

Does anyone have the right to sex? [pdf]

The article raises a lot of what I think are good questions, without offering answers. Sex is weird! Just a snippet:
Yet it would be disingenuous to make nothing of the convergence, however unintentional,between sex positivity and liberalism in their shared reluctance to interrogate the formation of our desires. Third and fourth-wave feminists are right to say, for example, that sex work is work, and can be better work than the menial labour undertaken by most women. And they are right to say that what sex workers need are legal and material protections, safety and security, not rescue or rehabilitation. But to understand what sort of work sex work is – just what physical and psychical acts are being bought and sold, and why it is overwhelmingly women who do it, and overwhelmingly men who pay for it – surely we have to say something about the political formation of male desire. And surely there will be similar things to say about other forms of women’s work: teaching, nursing, caring, mothering. To say that sex work is "just work" is to forget that all work – men’s work, women’s work – is never just work: it is also sexed.

h/t to Crooked Timber

Monday, August 05, 2019

Young men and guns

How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion — mandatory 48-hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he's about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, an ultrasound wand up the ass (just because). Let's close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.

It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?

— Anonymous

This passage has been incorrectly attributed to Gloria Steinem.

This version
Slightly edited version

Math limericks


Sunday, August 04, 2019

Baker's dozen

A Baker’s Dozen of Reasons Not to Worry about Government Debt

Real-economy arguments for more public borrowing:
  1. The economy generally operates below potential
  2. There are long run forces pushing down demand
  3. Potential output is mismeasured; we are still well below it
  4. Recessions and jobless recoveries have occurred repeatedly in past, will occur again in the future
  5. Monetary policy is not effective at maintaining full employment
  6. It’s hard to ramp up public spending quickly in recession
  7. The costs of getting demand wrong are not symmetrical
  8. Weak demand may have permanent effects on potential output

Financial arguments for more public borrowing:
  1. With low interest rates, debt does not snowball
  2. There is good reason to think interest rates will remain low
  3. With hysteresis, higher public borrowing can pay for itself
  4. Federal debt is an important asset for financial markets
  5. Federal debt is an important asset for the rest of the world

The Fed and inflation

I want to single out a statement in Dean Baker's recent article, The Dangerously Irresponsible Arguments of the “Responsible” Budget Gang: " I have some differences [with MMT]. In particular, I am not willing to give up having the Fed as a check on inflation."

This statement is false in part and true in part. MMT does not ask us to "give up" the Fed's role in checking inflation; instead, MMT scholars present considerable evidence that under ordinary circumstances, the Fed (or any central bank) cannot control inflation. According to MMT (and other theories), bank money is endogenous. The quantity of money in an economy is determined not exogenously by the Fed but endogenously by profit-seeking banks and firms creating loans.

Moreover, firms' investment spending is inelastic with regard to interest rates: if a firm believes they can make a profit by expanding, they will borrow at the prevailing interest rate. As long as banks believe firms can invest productively, they will provide the loans that firms want, and why not? Banks are profit maximizing entities. The Fed has very little choice but to provide the reserves that banks need: the alternative is to allow some banks to simply fail. Having the Fed's thumb on banks' self-destruct buttons is a kind of control, but it is not the same as sitting behind the wheel.

Similarly, as we have seen in Japan since the 1990s and the rest of the developed world since the global financial crisis, central banks can do very little to increase inflation. The Fed can shovel reserves to the banks, but regardless of the amount of banks' reserves, they can't lend if firms don't want to borrow, i.e. if firms believe investment will not be profitable, and banks won't lend if they don't believe investment will be profitable.

The Fed can check inflation. However, the only tool they have is to abruptly raise the Fed Funds rate high enough to choke off investment spending and cause a recession; the resulting unemployment will eventually bring inflation down. But we should find ways other than massive unemployment and suffering to fix systemic economic problems such as inflation. It is not MMT per se but ordinary morality that asks us to give up this tool.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

The "danger" of MMT

The Dangerously Irresponsible Arguments of the “Responsible” Budget Gang According to Dean Baker, deficit hawks
are pushing propaganda, not serious analysis.

I got a taste of this propaganda effort first hand earlier this year when I was asked by an editor at the Washington Post to write a piece on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). . . . [After several edits,] [t]he editor wanted me to include a needlessly snide remark from a MMT critic and had me referring to the theory as “dangerous.”

That comment left little doubt that they wanted a different column than the one I had written. MMT is dangerous? . . .

Just like the millions who mindlessly pledge allegiance to Donald Trump, [the Post's editors] will push the austerity line they have always pushed regardless of the evidence.

This really undermines the integrity of the mainstream liberal, mainstream Democratic-party economic narrative. When is criticism of MMT honest economic opinion, and when is it at best selection bias and at worst individual dishonesty?