Saturday , August 24 2019
rosserjb@jmu.edu

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

“Tougher On Trade Than Trump”?

3 days ago

This is how the NY Times has presented things day before yesterday, apparently lamenting that the Dem candidates are going to have a tough time presenting themselves as "tougher on trade than Trump."  This somehow presumes that this is what they must do to win the election, and at least one has been making virtually this claim: good old Bernie.  A few have mumbled vaguely about Trump hurting farmers in the Midwest, but not too loudly as it seems that hardly any of them have anything that can be called clear positions on the  trade issue. Really the only one so far more than Bernie is Elizabeth Warren, who at least is tying trade deals to strong environmental and labor conditions, including imposing border fees on other nations with lower taxes on carbon emissions than the US.  Of course,

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Have We Been Blocked?

14 days ago

I just tried to read Econospeak and was told it was blocked due to "porn content."  Has  anyone else run into this?  Are we being hacked and suppressed?  It said "contact system administrator if this is wrong." Can this get fixed, please, somebody?As it is, I am on vacation in Door County, Wisconsin right now.Barkley Rosser

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A Serious Problem For Dems

22 days ago

It is that progressive Dems some time ago glommed onto the idea that protectionism is "progressive."  It has been going on so long and has become so ingrained that Bernie Sanders has been running around bragging about how he is more protectionist than Trump.  Elizabeth Warren has been a bit more subtle about it, calling to renegotiate all existing US trade agreements to make them super strong on labor and environmental standards.The problem is that one of the biggest disasters of the Trump presidency has been his trade wars, now pushed further with his latest move to raise tariffs on another $300 billion in Chinese imports.  Stock markets and oil markets took huge dives all over the world on this.  The Fed has just cut interest rates to offset the negative effect on the world economy of

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Origin of the 2 Percent Inflation Target

25 days ago

I have made most of these comments as comments on Econbrowser and Angry Bear (an excellent post by Robert Waldman), as well as on Econbrowser in response to a serious post by Jeffrey Frankel. I note that pgl has added useful comments on this matter in the other blogs.So it was 1990 that the New Zealand central bank became the first in the world to impose an inflation target of 0-0.002.  It worked out pretty well for NZ, and in general it has not done too badly in general where applied, well beyond the US.  Of course, global inflation has declined, with a handful of exceptions.In the mid-90s the US grew better than it had  previously, and in the middle of the decade there was an important moment regarding policy.  There was no inflation directive but Fed Chair Greenspan was facing a de

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Degeneration of Bipartisan Blog Sites: Econbrowser

July 24, 2019

This is probably just a whiny complaint of well-known and long running issues.  Indeed for a long time most blog sites (not to mention most twitterspheres and Instogram Idiotspheres) have been mono-partisan in those who participate in their discussions/debates. This has been true for a long time for most sites in the Econoblogosphere, including this site, which clearly tilts "left," even though we have always been open to comments from a wide variety of views.I have in mind here a particular blog site that I respect and have been spending a lot of time and attention at for some time. It is Econobrowser, initially set up by Jim Hamilton, now at UCSD, and a leading time-series econometrician, long viewed as a nonpartisan technocrat. Some years ago he brought in Menizie  Chinn of UW-Madison

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Hannity Calls For/Predicts War With Iran

July 20, 2019

OK, sorry if this is just over the top, but this evening Trump’s close pal, Sean Hannity, has gone over the top both predicting and clearly supporting a full blown attack on Iran, "take out all their nuclear facilities."  Curiously a sign of how over the top this is was given by one of his guests, a colonel, warned that it would take nuclear weapons by the US to fully take out the most deeply buried  Iranian capabilities.I am reasonably certain that part of why Hannity was sounding the war trumpet rather than his usual "investigate Hillary and the Steele dossier" baloney is that today Trump put himself into a difficult contradictory situation, having gone doubtful last night on his followers in NC chanting "Send her back" to supporting those chanters today. So, much easier to distract

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Fox News Is Calling The Persian Gulf “The Arabian Gulf”

July 19, 2019

Yes.  For centuries throughout the entire world that crucial body of water has been called "the Persian Gulf," even though in 1935 the nation of Persia changed its named to "Iran."  I became aware several decades ago when I was in Saudi Arabia that they have a really big fuss that it should be called "the Arabian Gulf."  I think maybe their fellow Arab GCC members have been supporting this nonsense as well, but nobody else did, certainly not the US.But now here it is, and I had noticed in some other US media outlets recently. Is this yet another payoff to the murderous Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) for funneling piles of money to Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization?  I mean, Fox News does what Trump and his flunkies want.  So, not only are we not punishing MbS for his

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Eliminate The Debt Ceiling

July 19, 2019

Two days ago in WaPo, Catherine Rampell published a highly reasonable column calling for eliminating the century-old US debt ceiling, something no other nation has ever had, a position supported by a wide array of economists including such a conservative GOP stalwart as the recently deceased Martin Feldstein, a former CEA Chair for Reagan.  I have made numerous posts here on this in the past, but the issue is hot again as once again the debt ceiling is being rapidly approached.The latest story is that the "adults in the room," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, may be very near an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, Reportedly Pelosi has been open to eliminating the ceiling, but in the current circumstances I certainly understand why she might be

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Will Kim Jong Un As Head Of State Move More Towards Markets?

July 18, 2019

This may be.  In April DPRK leader Kim Jong Un was finally named "Head of State," more specifically Chair of the Commission for State Affairs.  Implicitly until now that position had been held by his late father, although he has long held certain crucial ruling positions such as head of the ruling party and commander-in-chief.  Nkeconwatch now reports on a July 12 announcment that at the same time in April there was also a rewrite of the North Korean constitution. Nkeconwatch sees certain changes that indicate economic systemic changes.The crucial wording change relates to how state-owned corporations should operate to determine the production and distribution decisions.  The former wording was that this should be based on "work team system," which is interpreted as following directives

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A Half Century Since Apollo 11 Launched To The Moon

July 17, 2019

On July 16, 1969, a half century ago today, a Saturn 5 rocket launched from Cape Kennedy on its way to the moon, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would land on the moon on July 20 before returning successfully to earth.  Recent books have made clear just how close a call it was with many things nearly going wrong that would have doomed them, including such oddities as Aldrin using a felt tipped pen to adjust a minor switch that was needed for them to return.  My late father played an important role in that event, which I have posted about here before.  At that time he and I had many disagreements, but on this matter we were in agreement, and I was pleased to watch the famous landing with him.The recent book, _One Giant Leap_ by Charles Fishman, argues that JFK was motivated to push

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Does Turkish Lira Decline Mean Turkey Leaves NATO?

July 13, 2019

Probably not, but Turkey is about to receive Russian S-400 missiles against US demands.  More signifigantly the US will kill high level US F-35 agreements, and will not fly US planes over Turkey if it uses the Russian systems.  This threatens Turkish membership in NATO.The immediate result of this in financial markets has been a substantial decline of the Turkish lira over the last several weeks.  While pushing off the US has costs, there will be gains from favoring Russia, from Russian tourist business to other economic deals, as well as cooperation with Russia not only in Syria, but also with respect to Iran, where both Turkey and Russia disagree with US policy to pull out of the JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, which has led to a very bad state.More deeply we see the limits of the

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The Condition Of North Korean Conventional Weapons

July 11, 2019

This is based on essentially gossip, or if you prefer, a rumor.  I have dining in Washington again and someone there who is in fact both well known and very well informed, but whom I shall not name made a comment about the state of conventional weapons in DPRK and also said that this has not been publicly known.  According to this person their condition is much worse than publicly believed.  So out of date and out of condition are they supposedly that North Korea no longer can seriously threaten Seoul with a conventional attack as has long been taken for granted as being possible and looming over the situation there. The supposed implication of this, if indeed it is true (which it may not be, and this is simply not easily checked on), would be that the DPRK needs its nuclear weapons more

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The Expansion Of Assets With Negative Nominal Interest Rates

July 9, 2019

Buried in the Weekend section of the Financial Times is a report that the aggregate value of assets that earn negative nominal yields has substantially expanded since the beginning of 2019 and has reached a new high.  So on January 1, 2019, the value of these assets was at $8.3 trillion.  As of six months later it had reached $13 trillion, a more than 50 percent increase.  There are fewer assets around that have negative yields than a few years ago, but the amount of money in them has grown, and the depth of some of the negative interest rates has deepened.  It used to be said that -0.5 percent was a lower bound, but some Swiss franc bonds are down to -0.8 percent.  The main ten year German government bond’s yield has fallen to -0.4 percent.This reflects a general decline of interest

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Iran Nuclear Deal: Better Late Than Never?

July 2, 2019

Today has seen a curious coincidence that I have seen nobody else comment on regarding the  status of the JCPOA Iran nuclear deal.  On the one hand Iran has apparently now officially violated the agreement in terms of the amount of low level enriched uranium it has, going over the allowed limit, although it remains very far from obtaining in nuclear weapons. On the other the EU, more specifically and especially France and Germany, have gotten their alternative payment mechanism, Instex, operational.  This has been set up to allow European companies to deal with Iran without using dollars or the US-controlled SWIFT clearing system.However, it is only initially going to deal with non-sensitive items like food and pharmaceuticals, not other goods, at least not now.  The Iranians have made it

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Rice Prices Rising In North Korea

June 29, 2019

According to nkecon, on April 30 the price of rice in the DPRK was 4070 won per kg, but as of June 25 it had risen 26 percent to 5147 won per kg, the highest in many years.  The price of corn has also sharply risen although not quite as high abovee recent levels as has the price of rice.  However, the price of pork has fallen, reflecting standard corn-hog relations, and per capita incomes appear to have fallen.  Crop failures have now been passing through to consumers in higher prices.And in the meantime Kim Jong Un has sent an "excellent letter" to Donald Trump, who is traveling from the G20 summit  in Osaka with South Korean President Moon, who would like there to be another Kim-Trump summit. Apparently Trump will visit  the DMZ, the most heavily fortified place on earth, which Trump

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Whither The Price Of Oil?

June 26, 2019

I do not know, which is a kind of silly way to start a post, but pretty obviously this is an opening to talk about some other matters, especially the US-Iran situation.  However, I want to point out some things  that have been on my mind.  In particular, while oil price volatility has not been super extreme recently compared to some movements in the last decade and a half, the degree of uncertainty and confusion about what is going on in the oil markets has become extreme.  This is heavily a subjective judgment based on following Oilprice.com on a daily basis, which links to several stories a day, along with what has been happening to prices themselves.  In particular what has struck me for some time has been how  frequently I see completely contradictory stories on a given day, one

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Will Libra Destroy Cryptocurrenciees Or Vice Versa?

June 20, 2019

Yesterday Facebook released a While Paper (https://libra.org.en-US/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2019/06/LibraWhitePaper_en_US.pdf ) on their planned supposed cryptocurrency, Libra, which has apparently long been under development.  This triggered two stories in the New York Times, as well as lots of commentary by lots of people, including several posts by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution, who is moderately favorable to the proposal.  This is supposed to become an international currency backed by a reserve account provided initially by 27 major corporations such as Uber and VISA, which will be tied in value to a basket of currencies.  While tied to Facebook, it is supposed to have a firewall separating FB’s data on individuals from data arising from anybody’s activities in connection with

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Learning The Origin Of “Duality”

June 16, 2019

Yesterday I learned that the person who first used the term "duality" in connection with linear programming, indeed with anything in economics, was John von Neumann in a private conversation with George Dantzig in 1947, the "father of linear programming."  That was the year Dantzig published his paper showing the simplex method for solving linear programming problems, bot their primals and their  duals.  Von Neumann wrote a paper on it the same year but did not publish it, with it only appearing in his Collected Papers in 1963, 6 years after he died. It is not really surprising that it would be von Neumann as there are deep links between oprimizing programming and game theory.  This would be seen in 1951 when David Gale, Harold Kuhn, and Albert Tucker invented nonlinear programming.  Kuhn

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The North Korea Food Shortage Deepens

June 15, 2019

Yeah, I know, the Iran situation is more in the headlines, but nobody knows anything and everybody is shooting off their mouths.  I shall comment on that one when things settle down a bit.Instead I shall provide info less widely reported coming out of nkecon on the still-unreported-in-MSM story about the increasingly bad food situation in North Korea (DPRK). There are multiple reports.  Drought has hit the principal rice growing area in DPRK.  Also, there is now a serious situation regarding potatoes, the old backup for wheat and rice failures. and generally a widely relied upon staple for DPRK diets.The latest hot story regarding potatoes is that a couple of people have been arrested and sent to labor camps for stealing potato seeds.  Reportedly this often goes on at this time (actually

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Robert J. Samuelson Goes Whole Hog Against Dems On Social Programs

June 14, 2019

I want to follow Dean Baker in dumping on the Robert J. Samuelson Monday, 9/11/19 WaPo column on "The Democrats’ fairy-tale campaigns."  He may be right that lots of proposals have been put forward with no clear accounting of how much all of them will cost, but RJS also fails to recognize some might save money, such as a properly structured universal health care program that might move us more towards the costs we see in other nations.  Of course, RJS regularly uses this column to call for cuts in Social Security benefits, so that some of these candidates dare to call for increased such benefits has him really riled up.  How dare they!?!?Aside from reminding that RJS has regularly been misguided on Social Security projections, he goes after  him for not noting the role of patents and

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75 Years After The Longest Day

June 7, 2019

Yes, I am watching "The Longest Day" on TMC.  Have not seen it for decades, but this 75th anniversary of D-Day seems to be the time to do it.  This will be a rambling post all over the place.  I note that according to the film, it was German Field Marshall Rommel who is depicted calling it "the longest day," the day before it happened, seeing it coming.I have been there several times, first in Fall 1953 when I was young and it was cold and rainy.  Three times in1994, 1997, and 2002 I and my wife, Marina, took students to visit the site, always impressive and moving, especially the famous cemetery.  In 1994 my late mother was with us and went around thanking veterans, who were visiting in large numbers as that was the 50th anniversary.Unsurprisingly President Trump has been trying to get

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Tariffs and Monetary Policy: Moral Hazard and Rent Seeking

June 6, 2019

President Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico over immigration has pushed Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell to say that if the tariffs lead to economic growth slowing, the Fed will cut interest rates.  While the bump may be about to end, this announcement was followed by a  solid global surge of stock markets on June 4 followed by smaller increases the next day.  This sets up a moral hazard situation for Trump where if he behaves irresponsibly on trade policy (with even GOP senators basically freaking out), the Fed might bail him out with interest rate cuts.How is rent seeking entering into this?  I note a point just made by Dean Baker, that all these tariffs Trump is imposing on his own without any Congressional approval offer him the option of allowing specific exemptions from

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North Korean Near-Famine Leads To Dead Nuclear Negotiators

June 1, 2019

It has not been officially reported by the North Korean govt, but long running rumors are now being reported by various  serious media that Trump’s big pal Kim Jong Un has recently killed the top 5 officials of his govt who set up his  failed summit with US President Trump.According to sources I watch there has been a massive crop failure this year in the Democratic Peoples’ Republic (DRK). The big issue there is if the local, semi-allowed private markets in ag will save the population from outright starvation. At this time this is not  known.So this difficult situation may be partly responsible for Kim Jong Un killing the top five negotiators with the US on nuclear weapons for the summit in Hanoi.  In addition, reportedly five more senior officials have been sent to rural labor, or

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Will China Play The Rare Earth Card In The Trade War?

May 30, 2019

The rumor that China might play its "rare earth card" was the rumor today that helped push down both stock and oil markets according to a variety of reports.  The trigger for this seems to have been a visit on May 26 by China’s president, Xi  Jinping, to a rare earth facility, along with some rumbling statements associated with that visit.  They may not do it, but the possibility of blocking exports to the US of exports of rare earth metals shows that China has potential weapons if Trump follows through with more vigorous trade barriers.  How serious is this threat?It is probably not as serious as it might  have been a decade ago.  In 1990 a solid majority of these critical elements were produced outside  of China, with the US being a major source, particularly California.  But production

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Emoluments As Grounds For Impeachment

May 26, 2019

I have said this before, but am saying it again.  The clearest grounds for impeaching Donald Trump are not his obstruction of justice on which so much attention is being focused, but in my view his blatant and unequivocal acceptance of emoluments from foreign governments, with this most clearly evident at his hotel in Washington, with these emoluments the basis of lawsuits by the governments of Maryland and D.C. going forward slowly.  But somehow none  in Congress pushing impeachment have raised this issue as grounds for impeachment, even though this is something expressly forbidden in the Constitution of presidents.  What clearer grounds for impeaching a president could there be?I think there are four interrelated reasons we have not seen much discussion of this matter.  One is that

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Khamenei Denounces Rouhani For Negotiating Nuclear Deal

May 26, 2019

This has been reported by Juan Cole.  Apparently Supreme Jurisprudent, Ali Khamenei of Iran in a speech to a large number of university students has seriously denounced President Hassan Rouhani for having negotiated the JCPOA nuclear agreement with the United States and other powers.  During the negotiations Khamenei played a mixed role, raising doubts about the negotiations, but allowing them to continue and for the agreement to be adopted and implemented.  As all know, Iran has until now kept its part of the agreement, whereas President Trump withdrew the US from it and has imposed even more serious economic sanctions on Iran than were there before the agreement, with other powers unable to substantially offset the US actions, even as their governments have continued to nominally

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Sanctions On Iran Are Hitting Hezbollah (!)

May 19, 2019

That is the top headline, upper right corner front page, of today’s Washington Post, a quite long article by Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous.  WaPo has been much criticized by Trump and his supporters for alleged "fake news" critical of his leaving the Iran nuclear deal while Iran was compliant and not only reimposing the sanctions put on by Obama to get Iran to the negotiating table for that deal, but adding more and yet more leading to a military escalation that may have peaked.  So, now maybe WaPo is rewarding Trump for saying he does not want a war with Iran (I approve of that) by headlining this story that has long been pushed by his fans as a justification for all this sanctions imposing on Iran.  Maybe Iran has been well behaved on the nuclear deal (while wickedly testing ballistic

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TDS vs ODS vs BDS

May 18, 2019

This is motivated by running on in the econoblogosphere to Trump supporters who when confronted with hard facts they cannot refute revert to name calling that those stating actual facts are suffering from "Trump Derangement Syndrome" (TDS).  I have recently seen it thrown out "liberally."  What is going on here?The beginning of this odd label dates to the George W. Bush era, specifically 2003 when the late Charles Krauthammer, a supporter of W. upset by widespread criticism apparently coined the term "Bush Derangement Syndrome" (BDS). to describe persistent W. critics, apparently especially Barbra Streisand.  As it was, while the term was out there it was not that  frequently used during Bush’s presidency as later, although it was used enough to become established as a legit term.When

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Who Needs Critical Thinking?

May 16, 2019

Apparently not thr US military."Critical thinking" has long been a buzz phrase of US higher education.  There was a time when I could not hear a speech by a higher administrative person at my or other higher ed institutions that did not tout critical thinking as a really important goal of higher ed.  We were all supposed to be teaching it all the time.  I got a bit tired of these incessant speeches, but in fact I agreed with that and continue to. I have not heard these speeches for some time, but critical thinking remains officially a goal in widespread statements in writing throughout higher ed.However this may be changing in a disturbing part of higher ed.  I was at a dinner in Washington last evening.  Attending this was someone who teaches at the National Defense University who

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Justice Stevens Shoots At Gun Decision

May 16, 2019

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, now 99 years old, has written a book, The Making of a Justice: My First 94 Years. Apparently he considers the  District of Columbia versus Heller decision to be the worst of all those that was made during his time on the Supreme Court, that one on  a 5-4 vote.  That decision upended the interpretations of the Second Amendment that had been in place since the amendment was adopted, with Stevens noting that in fact this longstanding interpretation reflected gun laws from even the colonial era.  That interpretation allowed for gun control legislation for civilians as it was always assumed that the opening phrase about "maintaining a militia" (by state governments) meant that the second phrase about "the right to bear arms shall  not be

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