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Barkley Rosser

Barkley Rosser

I remember how loud it was. I was a young Economics undergraduate, and most professors didn’t really slam points home the way Dr. Rosser did. He would bang on the table and throw things around the classroom. Not for the faint of heart, but he definitely kept my attention and made me smile. It is hard to not smile around J. Barkley Rosser, especially when he gets going on economic theory. The passion comes through and encourages you to come along with it in a truly contagious way. After meeting him, it is as if you can just tell that anybody who knows that much and has that much to say deserves your attention.

Articles by Barkley Rosser

RIP Oliver Williamson

3 days ago

RIP Oliver Williamson

Oliver Williamson died yesterday at age 87, I do not know of what. He was famous as the main developer of New Institutional Economics, following the influence of Ronald Coase, which emphasizes the role of transactions costs in the formation and development of economic (and some other) institutions.  He received the Nobel Prize in 2009, along with Elinor Ostrom, but his influence was really quite vast for a man from a working class background, born in Superior, Wisconsin.
I checked, and although there may be another one ahead of him, as near as I can tell at his death only one other living economist had more Google Scholar citations. Andrei Shleifer has about 295,000 (h has a problem getting that trip to Stockholm because of his

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Maybe This Is Not (Technically) A Recession?

6 days ago

Maybe This Is Not (Technically) A Recession?

Here I am using what is the journalistic definition of a “recession,” also used in many nations although not officially in the US, where these things are determined ex post by an NBER committee.  Anyway, that “journalistic” definition is that there be two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth.  Today in the Washington Post I saw a story on global carbon emissions, which are very closely correlated with GDP, if not perfectly. Anyway, it appears that global carbon emissions hit bottom on April 7 and have been slowly rising since then (not sure about US separately, although US somewhat behind most other nations on the covid curve and so on the economic impact as well). I note that April 7 is one week into

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“Obamagate!”

7 days ago

“Obamagate!”

I know, I should probably not waste everybody’s time commenting on this nonsense, but the push on it has been massive, with it seeming to influence a lot of people it should not, so I have decided some push back is called for, even if those who should see it do not.   I am partly triggered in this by getting defriended on Facebook yesterday by a generally intelligent libertarian academic economist I know who started massively linking to every crackpot pushing this nonsense, and when I pointed out some serious problems with all of it and declared the whole thing to be “insane,” I was told that my “TDS was showing” and was defriended.  As far as I am concerned, TDS is people who believe lunatic lies by Trump, showing as a result their own

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How Likely Is A Second Wave Of SARS-CoV-2?

15 days ago

How Likely Is A Second Wave Of SARS-CoV-2?

Dr. Anthony Fauci has testified before a Senate committee that he is worried that there may be a serious “Second Wave” of the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in the United States.  The basis for this fear is the experience over a century ago with the Spanish flu, still deadlier than the current pandemic.  It came in three full waves, and of those the second was easily substantially larger than the other two.  The lag between the first and second was several months, and as of now no nation that has had its first wave essentially get under control, has not had it under control for as long as that gap. So we are not yet in a position to see if this pandemic can or will imitate that former pandcmic.
Nevertheless, there

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What Is the Shape Of This Cycle As A Letter: V, L, W, J, U, Or Maybe A Lazy J or Wiggly W?

18 days ago

What Is the Shape Of This Cycle As A Letter: V, L, W, J, U, Or Maybe A Lazy J or Wiggly W?

For some time now it has become commonplace for people to describe business cycles by how they resemble one letter or another, although obviously this amounts to a lot of hand waving. But it does provide bright images.  Thus Trump and crew seem to believe that the US will experience a V recovery, one that will boom up as rapidly as it fell down, so the sooner we can reopen America the sooner he can get that boomy upturn to guarantee his reelection. Somehow he fails to understand that if he gets it going too soon, the uptrun is more likely to get sideswiped by a serious Second Wave of the coronovirus that would turn the upturn back into a downturn, making it into a

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RIP John Horton Conway

19 days ago

RIP John Horton Conway

I am late to issue this RIP as John Horton Conway died on April 11, 2020, having been born in England, Dec. 26, 1937. He died of coovid-19.  I was aware of his death when it happened, but have since become aware of things he did that I did not know about that have pushed me to post this.
Conway was one of the world’s best known mathematicians, most famous for creating the Game of Life a half century ago in 1970, which was publicized by Martin Gardner in Scientific American.  It is what I knew of him mostly about, as the canonical cellular automata model that generated simulation models capable of generating chaotic and unpredictable emergent outcomes within a Turing complete framework, the sort of thing that goofy complexity

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A Very Grey Swan

20 days ago

A Very Grey Swan

Keynes and Knight famously simultaneously in 1921 identified the concept of fundamental uncertainty as a situation not understandable by using a probability distribution, an idea popularized by Nassim Taleb just as the 2008 crash happened as a “black swan.”  Taleb defined white swans as situations describable by Gaussian normal distributions.  For situations not full uncertainty or white swans Taleb coined the idea of “grey swans,” situations exhibiting “fat tails” and more generally lots of extreme outcomes, but yet possibly describable by probability distributions allowing more readily extreme outcomes.
I think this is what we are dealing with, although I claim no special expertise here.  Indeed, for me the issue is whether or not this

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Donald Trump Goes Absolutely Bonkers Over China

25 days ago

Donald Trump Goes Absolutely Bonkers Over China
(Last Thursday) President Trump erupted with a series of demands and threats against China, focusing on various claims about its role in the current pandemic.  I have here noted some issues with China’s conduct, but Trump makes it completely impossible that there will be any of the much-needed cooperation between the US and China to overcome this virus.  He has gone absolutely bonkers.

He has now threatened to remove China’s sovereign immunity so people can sue it, with a former lawyer of his organization, George Sorial, now of Berman and Associates, cooking up a class action suit against China; a threat to stop paying interest on US bonds held by China, which he probably will not do because it occurs to him

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 Which Nations Have Most Rapid Rate Of Increase In Deaths Per Million from SARS-Cov-2?

28 days ago

Which Nations Have Most Rapid Rate Of Increase In Deaths Per Million from SARS-Cov-2?

As of earlier today, 4/29/20,. according to “Our World in Data” ourworldindata.org/coronavirus, there are currently nine nations that based on looking at the three-day rolling average, have rates of increase of more than 5 per million per day.  They are in order with their rates:
Belgium 15.97
Ireland 10.73
UK 9.2
Spain 9.01
Sweden 8.38
Italy 7.82
France 7.32
USA 6.2
Netherlands 6.13.
For what it is worth, many of these are declining, although source only showed this over time for a sub-sample of these (not including Sweden, but including Canada, whose rate of increase is accelerating)..
Barkley Rosser

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Where Are People Dying Most Intensively Now of SARS-Cov-2?

April 27, 2020

Where Are People Dying Most Intensively Now of SARS-Cov-2?

More than a century later, we still do not  know the origin of the Spanish flu, with at least three currently scientifically supporte origins out thers: North America (possibly Kansas), China, and British soldiers in France. This will not be resolved.  I suspect that this may become the outcome of the current debate over the origin of our current pandemic.  While mostly this seems to have become a matter of random infection from animals versus an accident in a lab in Wuhan, upon further study this seems more complicates on all sides of this, with crucial data missing forever.  I fear the outcome of this debate will be no more resolved a century from now than the matter of the Spanish flu is now.

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Prairie du Chien Selects Jill Karofsky Over David Kelly!

April 16, 2020

Prairie du Chien Selects Jill Karofsky Over David Kelly!

I have previously posted on the highly swingy politicsal nature of southwestern Wisconsin, symbolized by the town there at the mouth of the Wisconsin River, French-founded Prairie du Chien (named for an Indian cheif, it turns out, who was “Dog of the Prairie” in English).  It seems that how SW Wixsonsin goes, so goes the whole state, at least in 2012, 2016, and 2018.
Now we can add an election in 2020, that for a seat on the state Supreme Court, where liberal Dem Jill Karofsky from Madison clobbered incumbent super conservative Justic David Kelly by 11%.  And, yes, SW Wisconsin went for her, along with some areas not expected, such as traditionally conservative counties in the Northeast that

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Trump Defunds WHO and USPS: Will Motherhood and Apple Pie Be Next?

April 16, 2020

Trump Defunds WHO and USPS: Will Motherhood and Apple Pie Be Next?

Yes, Trump is out to cut the roughly half a billion $ US contribution to the $6 billion budget of the World Health Organization (WHO).  It seems that he now sees his path to reelection to be based on blaming China for the coronavirus and the WHO for supposedly supporting China in their supposedly nefarious conduct, alloeing hin to wallow in  fit of xenophobia as well as accusations against Joe Biden for being “soft on China.”  Certainly China was slow to act against the virus, although not as slow as Trump and his team here in the US, and the WHO may well have been too soliciitous of China and its interests. But the WHo remains the central organization for  coordination the global

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Trump All Over The Place On Oil Prices

April 15, 2020

Trump All Over The Place On Oil Prices

Indeed, are we surprised? But POTUS has reached a new level of hypocrisy on all this.
So a while ago when oil prices began falling sharply, Trump bragged about how much this was going to help consumers, and he should get credit for it, of course.
More recently, since WTI crude and even Brent fell below $30 per barrel (with WTI just over 20 right now, and Brent just over 30), he became worried about his pals in the oil patches of Texas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, with Putin and MbS openly declaring they want to put US frackers out of business, oh dear.  So Trump piled in to strong arm Putin and MbS into supposedly making a production cut deal, maybe 10 mbpd, although unclear either of them actually following through

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Something Good From The Panemic? Maybe A Cease Fire In Yemen

April 12, 2020

Something Good From The Panemic? Maybe A Cease Fire In Yemen

Yes, in the midst of deaths and deep recession there may be someting good that may come from this pandemic.  Saudi Arabia’s leaders have announced a cease fire in Yemen after five years of war, one also accepted by its ally, the recognized government there.  Unfortunately so far the Houthi enemies of the Saudis and the recognized government have not so far accepted this proposed cease fire, and in fact it is not the first time the Saudis have called for one, with the previous efforts having failed.
However, this time maybe it will stick.  So far there are no officially recognized cases of covid-19 in Yemen.  But tens of thousands of Yemenis are returning home from KSA, thrown out as low oil

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The D Word

April 3, 2020

The D Word

Yes, depression, and not the psychological type, although the economic type leads to the psychological type, whether ot not it is the other  way around (see Keynes’ “animal spirits).
I often make fun of Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post, but in Washington Post today he raised the possibility that we are going into a depression, not just a bad recession.  On TV this evening I heard Austen Goolsby throw it out as well.  I suspect we are going to hear it a lot more.
The problem is not just that we have seen the highest increase in joblessness ever, but the increasing prospect that there will not be a quick recovery once the virus is under control. This is partly due to the global nature of this pandemic and the economic decline that has

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In 2020 A March Of Madness

April 2, 2020

In 2020 A March Of Madness, Econospeak
Just before the end of February, President Trump declared that there were only 15 Covid-19 cases in the US, and that “they will soon go to zero.”  Deaths from COVID 19 now passed 3,000 (March 30th) and yesterday Trump declared that because we might have had over 2 million dead if nothing had been done, it would show “we did a good job” if deaths kept to “only” 100,000 to 200,000.  To do this “good job” he has extended his “social distancing” policy to the end of April rather than Easter, April 12 (my birthday). Also yesterday Virgina Governor Northam intensified a stay-at-home policy and extended it to June 10, the longest such period of any state.  All this on the next-to-last day of a month with more dramatic

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Is Pompeo The Worst Secretary Of State Ever?

April 1, 2020

“Is Pompeo The Worst Secretary Of State Ever?”, Econospeak, by Barkley Rosser
This is the title of a column in today’s Washington Post by Jackson Diehl. His answer is an unequivocal “yes,” and I must say on thinking about it I know of no others clearly worse than him, maybe not even any as bad as him.
Diehl focuses on some general incompetence but then focuses on two specific issues that I have posted on here previously. The most important one, which is getting more serious by the minute, involves Iran. It is increasingly clear that Pompeo is probably the lead figure in pushing for heightening sanctions on Iran and also increasing the chance of war with them. He was a key player in Trump’s initial exit from the JCPOA nuclear agreement and has argued that

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The Oil Price War

March 24, 2020

The Oil Price War

One consequence of the emerging global Covid-19 recession has been that it has helped push world oil prices down from the $60.77 per barrel range near the beginning of 2020 to $23.12 for West Texas Crude and $29.00 for Brent Crude, levels not seen since the end of 2008. But part of why that decline has been so sharp and deep has been thet Saudi Arabia has increased production while Russia has kept up production, despite the Saudis demanding that they cut production.  So there is an oil price war going on.
Of course this will tend to cushion the recession for oil consumers.  But the US has become a small net oil exporter, and reports have it that a subsidiary reason for the Saudis and Russians getting into this price war has been to tank

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The Coming Fiscal Crisis Of State And Local Governments

March 19, 2020

The Coming Fiscal Crisis Of State And Local Governments

Yesterday my wife Marina and I met with our personal attorney, a close friend also, to fix  some loose ends in our wills due to some recent family deaths, as well the current situation.  He also happens to sit on the Harrisonburg City Council, as well as having been Mayor for a  while and a longtime member of the city Planning Commission, someone whose competence we have great respect for.  Anyway, he noted that on April 14 the City Manager is to present a proposed budget to the City Council, and that it will have a giant hole in it given that taxes on restaurants are a significant source of revenues for the city, and while not completely shut down, restaurants are now seriously restricted in their

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To Slow Spread Of Coronovirus, End Iran Sanctions

March 17, 2020

To Slow Spread Of Coronovirus, End Iran Sanctions

On 3/13/20 in Foreign Policy Focus, Ariel Gold and Medea Benjamin argue that to improve the global coronavirus problem, sanctions on Iran should be lifted, quite aside from the fact they should never have been imposed in the first place as Iran was adhering to the JCPOA nuclear deal.
The effect of the sanctions has been to tank the Iranian economy, including its health care sector, much worsening the coronavirus epidemic in Iran, thus making it more likely to spread to the global pandemic. The Iranian rial has fallen by 80 percent, making it far harder to purchase medical equipment from abroad.  This has not only aggravated the coronavirus situation but also that of many other diseases as well. As of March

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Who Wins Prairie du Chien Wins the White House

February 27, 2020

Who Wins Prairie du Chien Wins the White House

That would be Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, whose French name means “prairie dog,” and which is located where the Wisconsin River empties into the Mississippi River, third oldest town in the state founded by Europeans (the French) after Green Baay (originallly Fort Nicolet) and Portage, also located at crucial spots long used by the Native Indians for river transport.  It is also the county seat for Crawford County, with Grant County just across the Wisconsin River.
Many argue that Wisconsin is the ultimate swing state, based on that if all the states go as they did in 2016, Trump would stilll win if he loses PA and MI, but wins in WI.  It might be that Bernie in particular could swing AZ because of his

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Who “Got” Iraqi Oil?

February 25, 2020

Who “Got” Iraqi Oil?

Not the US.
Dick Cheney collaborated with US major oil companies in a plot to at least take over operating the oil production in Iraq, OPEC’s second largest producer and exporter, if not get to own the oil itself outright (which has not happened as oil in the ground was and remains owned by the Iraqi government, which is the way it is in pretty much all OPEC members).  Of all people, Juan Cole and many other progressives agreed that the war was all about controlling Iraq’s oil.  So the US overthrew Saddam Hussein, but then what followed was civil war and discombobulation, and oil production was seriously disrupted for a long time, with those US oil companies not getting any business for a long time.
Of course, Donald Trump has

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What Is “Democratic Socialism”?

February 22, 2020

What Is “Democratic Socialism”?

Probably the best answer is whatever Bernie Sanders says it is as he is by far the most famous person ever to adopt this term as a label for his beliefs.  There is a group  in the US bearing that name, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which has been in existence since 1983.  But while its membership has since then generally fluctuated between 4,000 and a bit over 6,000 through 2016, its membership had surged to over 45,000 by 2019, clearly responding to Bernie’s identification with the term, even though as near as I can tell, he has not been a member of the DSA.
If one goes to the Wikipedia entry  on “democratic socialism,” one finds claims that it originated with the utopian socialists and chartists in the

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Engel Criticizes Trump On Soleimani Assassination

February 16, 2020

Engel Criticizes Trump On Soleimani Assassination

Juan Cole reports that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Eliot Engel (D-NY) has criticized the administration for its assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in response to a report fresh out of the DOD that said the attack was for past activities by Iran in attacking tankers and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia without any mention of a threat against US personnel in Iraq, the ostensible reason and the only legal reason for doing this.
Cole also reminds that Soleimani had been in Baghdad to negotiate peace with Saudi Arabia at the  invitation of the Iraqi prime minister.  He also reminds us that the Iraqis are denying that the original attack that killed the American contractor and initiated

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Do Dirty Tricks Make 2020 Like 1972?

February 12, 2020

Do Dirty Tricks Make 2020 Like 1972?

The dirty tricks in 1972 were sustained attacks based on faleshoods by the Nixon CREEP against the most popular possible Dem opponent, Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, who was finally brought to tears in public, which fatally damaged his campaign, opening the way for George McGovern to get the nomination and take only DC and Massachusetts in the general election.  Today Trump and his many allies, both in Congress and on Fox News, have peddled a false story that Joe Biden fired a Ukrainian prosecutor because that prosecutor was investigating Biden’s son, Hunter.  They said repeatedly during the impeachment trial, and just last night I heard Sean Hannity at it again vociferously, with those on the show all nodding their

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Is Iraq About To Switch From US to Russia?

February 8, 2020

Is Iraq About To Switch From US to Russia?

Today Juan Cole reports from a newspaper in Iraq that since Mohammed al-Allawi has become the new prime minister in Iraq, there has been a meeting in Baghdad between the Russian ambassador and the Iraqi milirary Chief of Staff, and the Iraqi president, Saleh, will be visiting Moscow shortly. A variety of issues and possible areas of cooperation apparently are being discussed, but the biggie apparently is that there is serious discussion of Russia replacing the US in providing air support for the Iraqi military for its ongoing campaign against the remnants of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.
It looks like the new PM is very much a part of the move in the Iraqi parliament to get US troops out of Iraq, something that those in

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Will The “Impeachment Charade Fade Quickly”?

February 4, 2020

Will The “Impeachment Charade Fade Quickly”?

We have not yet had all the final speechifying where GOP senators attempt to justify their votes to make this the first US federal impeachment trial in history (there have been 15, mostly of judges) not to have any witnesses, as well as the foregone acquittal.  But the battle over how it will be viewed in both the short and medium and long runs is already going on.  A sign of this is a column in yesterday’s Washington Post by Hugh Hewitt entitled, “This impeachment charade will fade quickly,” with Hewitt viewing the “charade” part not to mean the refusal of the Senate to have witnesses, but the entire trial itself, which he Trumpisly declares to have consisted of “fake history,”  because Trump will be viewed

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Which Lie Is The Worst?

January 31, 2020

Which Lie Is The Worst?

With the conclusion of the Trump defense in his impeachment trial, the question arises as to which lie told by the defense is the worst?
Sean Hannity has been emphasizing four in particular.  In the first, he claims that there was no linkage between military aid and investigating the Bidens in the July 25 phone transcript.  But there it is in black and white that when Zelensky mentioned wanting more military aid, Trump immediately goes to “I need a favor though,” and with that immediately followed up by his demand for inveatigating the supposedly missing laptop with mention of investigating Bidens coming a bit later.
Then we have the true claim that Zelensky has never publicly said he felt “pressure” from Trump.  Indeed, but we

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Guns and Commas

January 25, 2020

Guns and Commas

I am glad that the large pro-gun rights rally in Richmond on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day ended without any violence as had been threatened by some people around the US.  That is nice, but it does not end the unpleasant situation legal situation that has arisen here in Virginia.  As of now 93 jurisdictions, mostly counties, have declared themselves “gun sanctuaries” where any gun control legislation passed by the Virginia government will not be enforced.  The bills currently having received majority support in the Assembly and Senate with support from Governor Northam include requiring uinversal background checks for all gun sales (while allowing intra-family gun transfeers without that), a one-gun per month limit on gun purchases, and an

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Covering Up The Coverup

January 23, 2020

Covering Up The Coverup

I keep thinking that Fox News cannot get worse, but there seems to be no bottom to how low they can go.  New lows are being exhibited in their coverage of the current Senate impeachment trial.  They are fully involved in covering up the Trump administration coverup of what Trump did regarding the articles of impeachment. Anybody getting their news on this trial from Fox will really have no idea what is going on or what the case is that the House managers of the prosecution are arguing.
I am not following the trial fully, and I am only occasionally popping to Fox News to see what they are doing, but I have seen enough.  The main thing they do, and I am seeing Sean Hannity do more of it after seeing Tucker Carlson also do it, is that

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