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Peter Dorman



Articles by Peter Dorman

In Ukraine, Use the Weapon the Russians Can’t Match

April 28, 2022

In Ukraine, Use the Weapon the Russians Can’t Match

It’s nowhere near as expensive as it sounds, and much more humane: offer every Russian soldier who defects $100,000 and the right to settle in any EU/North American country of their choice.  It might not work, especially if Russia uses deadly force against soldiers who lay down their arms or violent reprisals against their families back home.  But if a large enough portion of their troops accept the offer, the Russian war effort would be crippled.

Of course, Putin will claim that this is an inducement to the worst sort of betrayal, selling out your country’s fundamental values and interests in exchange for a bribe.  If this were really what’s at stake in the war, he’d be right.  But if not just

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In Ukraine, Use the Weapon the Russians Can’t Match

April 27, 2022

It’s nowhere near as expensive as it sounds, and much more humane: offer every Russian soldier who defects $100,000 and the right to settle in any EU/North American country of their choice.  It might not work, especially if Russia uses deadly force against soldiers who lay down their arms or violent reprisals against their families back home.  But if a large enough portion of their troops accept the offer, the Russian war effort would be crippled.Of course, Putin will claim that this is an inducement to the worst sort of betrayal, selling out your country’s fundamental values and interests in exchange for a bribe.  If this were really what’s at stake in the war, he’d be right.  But if not just a few, but thousands, including whole units, opt for the deal, it sends the message that Putin’s

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Misunderstanding of Climate Change and Why it Matters: The Energy Price Spike

March 13, 2022

Misunderstanding of Climate Change and Why it Matters: The Energy Price Spike

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered a spike in oil and gas prices worldwide.  A natural response is for countries with untapped reserves to expand production as quickly as possible, but doesn’t this contradict the pledges they have also made to combat climate change?  This issue is covered at some length in a New York Times article today, and the entire discussion—the arguments used by government officials and energy experts and the assumptions of the journalists who quote them—is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how atmospheric carbon causes global warming.

The claims and counterclaims in the article are about whether short term increases in carbon

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Misunderstanding of Climate Change and Why it Matters: The Energy Price Spike

March 10, 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered a spike in oil and gas prices worldwide.  A natural response is for countries with untapped reserves to expand production as quickly as possible, but doesn’t this contradict the pledges they have also made to combat climate change?  This issue is covered at some length in a New York Times article today, and the entire discussion—the arguments used by government officials and energy experts and the assumptions of the journalists who quote them—is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how atmospheric carbon causes global warming.The claims and counterclaims in the article are about whether short term increases in carbon emissions will make it easier or hard to reach a net zero target decades into the future.  That would be the right

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Monetary Sovereignty, Sanctions and Russian Economic Policy

March 5, 2022

Monetary Sovereignty, Sanctions and Russian Economic Policy

The central role of economic sanctions in the US/EU strategy against Russia has returned international political economy to the center stage if it had ever left it.  Here are some thoughts occasioned by Adam Tooze’s interesting analysis of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) as perceived by the Russian economic policy apparatus, connected to the role of monetary reform in the anti-colonial struggle of the 1930s as documented by Eric Helleiner in Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods.

Let’s start with MMT.  This is usually presented as a set of claims and recommendations that follow from acknowledging the implications of monetary sovereignty: countries whose central banks issue internationally

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Monetary Sovereignty, Sanctions and Russian Economic Policy

March 4, 2022

The central role of economic sanctions in the US/EU strategy against Russia has returned international political economy to center stage, if it had ever left it.  Here are some thoughts occasioned by Adam Tooze’s interesting analysis of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) as perceived by the Russian economic policy apparatus, connected to the role of monetary reform in the anti-colonial struggle of the 1930s as documented by Eric Helleiner in Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods.Let’s start with MMT.  This is usually presented as a set of claims and recommendations that follow from acknowledging the implications of monetary sovereignty: countries whose central banks issue internationally accepted (hard) currencies and can therefore borrow without foreign exchange constraints can treat debt

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In Defense of National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor*

January 17, 2022

On January 13, the US Supreme Court, by a vote of 6-3, blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.  The policy took the form of an emergency OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standard and would have required all firms with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccination or a testing regime as a condition for remaining employed.  The conservative majority on the court argued that this measure was too far from the original intent of the law to warrant the deference that is normally given to administrative flexibility.Quite aside from the practical significance of the standard, which I’ll get back to, I think the court was right.  The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which created the OSHA administrative apparatus, was centered on protecting workers.  It

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A Racist Screed in the New York Times

December 8, 2021

Peter Dorman, Econospeak, A Racist Screed in the New York Times

Really bad, misguided, even malicious writing serves a purpose, showing in extreme form the faults that, more subtly expressed, can pass under the radar.  That’s my reaction to this execrable column from today’s New York Times on the violation the author felt when her front lawn mini-library was perused by a white couple.

In a nutshell: Erin Aubry Kaplan lives in a historic black neighborhood, Inglewood just outside LA, and wants to sustain it against the forces of gentrification.  She also loves books.  Uniting these passions, she places a small library-on-a-post in front of her house, the sort that passers-by can scan, add titles to or take titles from as they wish.  She hopes it

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A Racist Screed in the New York Times

December 7, 2021

Really bad, misguided, even malicious writing serves a purpose, showing in extreme form the faults that, more subtly expressed, can pass under the radar.  That’s my reaction to this execrable column from today’s New York Times on the violation the author felt when her front lawn mini-library was perused by a white couple.In a nutshell: Erin Aubry Kaplan lives in a historic black neighborhood, Inglewood just outside LA, and wants to sustain it against the forces of gentrification.  She also loves books.  Uniting these passions, she places a small library-on-a-post in front of her house, the sort that passers-by can scan, add titles to or take titles from as they wish.  She hopes it would provide a sense of community among her black neighbors.  But then she sees two young whites stopping to

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The Rittenhouse Verdict and the Future of Vigilante Violence

November 21, 2021

The Rittenhouse Verdict and the Future of Vigilante Violence

There are typically two levels in a case like Rittenhouse’s, the individual issues of justice and accountability, and the social implications of the crime and its judicial resolution.  I want to spend a moment with the second.

America faces an impending crisis of vigilante suppression of democratic rights.  In the past year we’ve seen militias openly threatening violence in takeovers of state capitals, the Capitol Building in Washington and the streets that have seen protests against police brutality and similar issues.  Militias have brought guns to their own protests against vaccination, mask orders, and other public health actions by state and local government.

Maybe this is the

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The Rittenhouse Verdict and the Future of Vigilante Violence

November 20, 2021

There are typically two levels in a case like Rittenhouse’s, the individual issues of justice and accountability, and the social implications of the crime and its judicial resolution.  I want to spend a moment with the second.America faces an impending crisis of vigilante suppression of democratic rights.  In the past year we’ve seen militias openly threatening violence in takeovers of state capitals, the Capitol Building in Washington and the streets that have seen protests against police brutality and similar issues.  Militias have brought guns to their own protests against vaccination, mask orders and other public health actions by state and local government.Maybe this is the highwater mark of the militia movement, but maybe not.  There will certainly be flashpoints in the coming years

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Anti-Racism and Democracy in Our Schools

November 10, 2021

Anti-Racism and Democracy in Our Schools

 It’s generally conceded that Terry McAuliffe’s statement “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” was a big blunder that contributed to his defeat last week.  The context was a debate with his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, who had used his party’s playbook on Critical Race Theory and the “leftist” takeover of education.  Not surprisingly, Youngkin hammered McAuliffe with this quote in TV and web ads.

So what should McAuliffe have said instead?  Imagine a response like this:

“My opponent wants our schools to take wide detours around any mention of racism in history, politics or economics.  He says this is how parents can take back control of their kids’

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Anti-Racism and Democracy in Our Schools

November 10, 2021

Anti-Racism and Democracy in Our Schools

 It’s generally conceded that Terry McAuliffe’s statement “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” was a big blunder that contributed to his defeat last week.  The context was a debate with his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, who had used his party’s playbook on Critical Race Theory and the “leftist” takeover of education.  Not surprisingly, Youngkin hammered McAuliffe with this quote in TV and web ads.

So what should McAuliffe have said instead?  Imagine a response like this: “My opponent wants our schools to take wide detours around any mention of racism in history, politics or economics.  He says this is how parents can take back control of their kids’ education.  I

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Money Illusion in the Twenty-First Century

November 9, 2021

Money Illusion in the Twenty-First Century

The starting point for any consideration of inflation is that wages (and interest, profits, and rents) are prices.  Every transaction has two sides, and one person’s price is another’s income.  In the aggregate, leaving aside international complications, inflation can’t have either a negative or positive effect on aggregate real income.  After this, you can explore issues of distribution, inflation’s effects on planning, and so on.

Money illusion is the name given to the failure to recognize the income-expenditure identity.  Your introductory economics textbook, if you were exposed in high school or college, defines the problem as one of recognizing changes in your nominal income but not the prices of

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Money Illusion in the Twenty-First Century

November 9, 2021

Money Illusion in the Twenty-First Century

The starting point for any consideration of inflation is that wages (and interest, profits, and rents) are prices.  Every transaction has two sides, and one person’s price is another’s income.  In the aggregate, leaving aside international complications, inflation can’t have either a negative or positive effect on aggregate real income.  After this, you can explore issues of distribution, inflation’s effects on planning, and so on.

Money illusion is the name given to the failure to recognize the income-expenditure identity.  Your introductory economics textbook, if you were exposed in high school or college, defines the problem as one of recognizing changes in your nominal income but not the prices of

Read More »

Money Illusion in the Twenty-First Century

November 8, 2021

The starting point for any consideration of inflation is that wages (and interest, profits and rents) are prices.  Every transaction has two sides, and one person’s price is another’s income.  In the aggregate, leaving aside international complications, inflation can’t have either a negative or positive effect on aggregate real income.  After this you can explore issues of distribution, inflation’s effects on planning, and so on.Money illusion is the name given to the failure to recognize the income-expenditure identity.  Your introductory economics textbook, if you were exposed in high school or college, defines the problem as one of recognizing changes in your nominal income but not the prices of the goods you buy.  It leads to the mistaken view that inflation makes you better off.But

Read More »

Money Illusion in the Twenty-First Century

November 8, 2021

The starting point for any consideration of inflation is that wages (and interest, profits and rents) are prices.  Every transaction has two sides, and one person’s price is another’s income.  In the aggregate, leaving aside international complications, inflation can’t have either a negative or positive effect on aggregate real income.  After this you can explore issues of distribution, inflation’s effects on planning, and so on.Money illusion is the name given to the failure to recognize the income-expenditure identity.  Your introductory economics textbook, if you were exposed in high school or college, defines the problem as one of recognizing changes in your nominal income but not the prices of the goods you buy.  It leads to the mistaken view that inflation makes you better off.But

Read More »

Anti-Racism and Democracy in Our Schools

November 8, 2021

It’s generally conceded that Terry McAuliffe’s statement “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” was a big blunder that contributed to his defeat last week.  The context was a debate with his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, who had used his party’s playbook on Critical Race Theory and the “leftist” takeover of education.  Not surprisingly, Youngkin hammered McAuliffe with this quote in TV and web ads.So what should McAuliffe have said instead?  Imagine a response like this: “My opponent wants our schools to take wide detours around any mention of racism in history, politics or economics.  He says this is how parents can take back control of their kids’ education.  I say exactly the opposite.  Everything we’ve seen—opinion polls, demonstrations, and

Read More »

Anti-Racism and Democracy in Our Schools

November 8, 2021

It’s generally conceded that Terry McAuliffe’s statement “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” was a big blunder that contributed to his defeat last week.  The context was a debate with his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, who had used his party’s playbook on Critical Race Theory and the “leftist” takeover of education.  Not surprisingly, Youngkin hammered McAuliffe with this quote in TV and web ads.So what should McAuliffe have said instead?  Imagine a response like this: “My opponent wants our schools to take wide detours around any mention of racism in history, politics or economics.  He says this is how parents can take back control of their kids’ education.  I say exactly the opposite.  Everything we’ve seen—opinion polls, demonstrations, and

Read More »

Norway’s Climate Dilemma

September 13, 2021

Norway’s Climate Dilemma

Carlos Joly, a finance-and-climate consultant, has a piece today on the upcoming election in Norway, one of the world’s major exporters of oil and gas.  To its credit, Norway puts its earnings in a fund to support future generations after its deposits are exhausted, known to economists as the Hartwick Rule.  That’s great for economic sustainability in Norway, but what about the threat its fossil fuel industry poses to the entire world?

Joly notes that the mainstream parties consider only domestic fossil fuel consumption, with the Labor Party proposing to go “carbon neutral” on that front by 2050.  (The neutral qualifier is highly problematic, as I show in my forthcoming book, Alligators in the Arctic and How to Avoid

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Norway’s Climate Dilemma

September 10, 2021

Carlos Joly, a finance-and-climate consultant, has a piece today on the upcoming election in Norway, one of the world’s major exporters of oil and gas.  To its credit, Norway puts its earnings in a fund to support future generations after its deposits are exhausted, known to economists as the Hartwick Rule.  That’s great for economic sustainability in Norway, but what about the threat its fossil fuel industry poses to the entire world?Joly notes that the mainstream parties consider only domestic fossil fuel consumption, with the Labor Party proposing to go “carbon neutral” on that front by 2050.  (The neutral qualifier is highly problematic, as I show in my forthcoming book, Alligators in the Arctic and How to Avoid Them: Science, Economics and the Challenge of Catastrophic Climate

Read More »

Spending and Producing

September 7, 2021

Spending and Producing

When a framing becomes ubiquitous you forget it’s a framing.  This is what popped into my head when I read a headline this morning about the infrastructure bills pending in Congress: Democrats Hit the Road to Sell Big Spending Bills as Republicans Attack.

Yes, they are proposals to spend money; that’s one way to look at it.  But they are also proposals to produce infrastructure and social services—the spending is for something.  Opponents have every reason to emphasize the spending side, as in the phrase “tax and spend liberals”.  If you were thinking of buying a new car and I wanted to dissuade you, I would probably make a big deal out of how much money you would be putting out.  If I were on the other side and wanted to

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Spending and Producing

September 5, 2021

When a framing becomes ubiquitous you forget it’s a framing.  This is what popped into my head when I read a headline this morning about the infrastructure bills pending in Congress: Democrats Hit the Road to Sell Big Spending Bills as Republicans Attack.Yes, they are proposals to spend money; that’s one way to look at it.  But they are also proposals to produce infrastructure and social services—the spending is for something.  Opponents have every reason emphasize the spending side, as in the phrase “tax and spend liberals”.  If you were thinking of buying a new car and I wanted to dissuade you, I would probably make a big deal out of how much money you would be putting out.  If I were on the other side and wanted to convince you to do it, however, I would talk about what the car could

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Analytical Bias

September 5, 2021

Analytical Bias

The world is made up of systems.  Our body is a system, or in fact a system of systems.  What we call “society” is another system of systems, as is the natural environment.  And all these meta-systems are themselves elements in even more encompassing systems that interconnect them.  

But these systems are very complex, difficult to explain or predict.  One successful strategy, which has had a revolutionary impact on how we live, is analysis.  This approach segments complex entities into smaller parts in order to study them individually.  Medical researchers don’t study the body as such, but perhaps kidney function or particular blood cells.  Social scientists may specialize in the effect of lobbyists on legislation, labor market

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Analytical Bias

September 4, 2021

The world is made up of systems.  Our body is a system, or in fact a system of systems.  What we call “society” is another system of systems, as is the natural environment.  And all these meta-systems are themselves elements in even more encompassing systems that interconnect them.  But these systems are very complex, difficult to explain or predict.  One successful strategy, which has had a revolutionary impact on how we live, is analysis.  This approach segments complex entities into smaller parts in order to study them individually.  Medical researchers don’t study the body as such, but perhaps kidney function or particular blood cells.  Social scientists may specialize in the effect of lobbyists on legislation, labor market patterns among immigrant communities or changing

Read More »

“Do Your Research”

August 23, 2021

“Do Your Research”

Is it my imagination, or do vax- and mask-hesitant people, reported in news stories about the Covid Divide, almost always say they “have done their research” or something like that?  The medical people and public health advocates that get interviewed rarely seem to use this phrase, at least not in the first person.  More research, more unhinged beliefs—how does that happen?

There are many parts to this story, but one is summed up in the word “research” itself.  In high school, students are taught to use the internet or general bibliographic indexes to find articles about their topic, take notes, and use them to “support” their thesis by showing that there are others, prominent enough to get published, who agree with them.  If

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“Do Your Research”

August 22, 2021

Is it my imagination, or do vax- and mask-hesitant people, reported in news stories about the Covid Divide, almost always say they “have done their research” or something like that?  The medical people and public health advocates that get interviewed rarely seem to use this phrase, at least not in the first person.  More research, more unhinged beliefs—how does that happen?There are many parts to this story, but one is summed up in the word “research” itself.  In high school, students are taught to use the internet or general bibliographic indexes to find articles about their topic, take notes, and use them to “support” their thesis by showing that there are others, prominent enough to get published, who agree with them.  If they’re lucky, these students will go on to college and come

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Politics and the Pandemic: Why I Think Paul Krugman Is Wrong

August 13, 2021

Politics and the Pandemic: Why I Think Paul Krugman Is Wrong

 Krugman has a piece in the New York Times today that offers an explanation for why Republicans oppose every measure—vaccination, masking, limits on indoor gathering—that could reverse the pandemic.  He says it’s because the Democrats support them and that Biden would take credit for reduced caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths.  Since owning the libs is the guiding philosophy of Republican politicians and their minions, such actions have to be fought at all costs.

The problem is that pandemic denial is a feature of the far right worldwide.  You can find it in England, France, Germany, Poland, Brazil and points between.  Explanations based on US political dynamics are insufficient

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