Thursday , May 28 2020
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

“Dr. Doom” At It Again: Predicts 10-Year Depression

5 days ago

That would be Nouriel Roubini of NYU who got his moniker back during the Great Recession, which he called pretty well in 2006.  He did this clearly yesterday in an interview in The Intelligencer, although he has been pushing something like this for some time now, bringing in all sorts of things like climate change and more pandemics to reinforce this long run forecasr, although he thinks in a decade there may be a sufficient restrucuting of the economy to improve the situation.  While he mostly does not talk about what should or could be done in the US, he seems to improve of a German type economy where the unemployment rate has risen only 1% in comparison to the massive increase towards 20%  we have sseen in the US.  Of course, Germany has managed the coronavirus much better than has the

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For The Record About These Ads

5 days ago

Yet again I am upset that we are getting ads for Trump here.  I have made an inquiry to a knowledgeable person, and I have not been given a clear explanation for why all these ads are appearing here, with there seeeming to be more and more of them all the time.  I do wish to say that I do not believe any of us are getting  any money for any of this; I certainly am not.  And I wish they would go away.  But I do not know how to do it, and nobody else around here that I have communicated with seems to know either, although I suppose it is possible somebody has done something to let this happen and is getting money.  But if they are, they are covering it up.So, I apologize to one and all who find the ads either annoying or, worse yet, downright offensive, which is how I view the Trump ones.

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RIP Oliver Williamson

6 days ago

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 infamous corruption problem involving Russia), while Ollie had

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Maybe This Is Not (Technically) A Recession?

8 days ago

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 closedly 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 the second quarter.This means it is very likely that at the global level we

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“Obamagate!”

11 days ago

I know, I should probably not waste everybody’s time commenting on this nonsense, but the push on it has been masssive, with it seeming to influence a lot of people it should not, so I have decided some pushback 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 derangement.As part of all this the Trump media push

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

15 days ago

Dr. Anthony Fauci has testified before a Senate committee that he is worried that there may be a serious "Second Wave" oof 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 ger 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 is some evidence about the possibility of more immediate, less dramatic, second

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The 75th Anniversary Of VE Day: Forgettable Or Boring?

19 days ago

My wife, Marina, as many of those reading this know, is from the Soviet Union, and takes extremely seriously the anniversary of the victory of the Soviet Union and its allies over Nazi Germany, which became official at 10:45 PM in Berlin on May 8, 1945, which was 12:15 May 9 Moscow time. So, while all of the rest of the world celebrates VE Day on May 8, now in Russia today is Victory Day, as it is called everywhere outside the US, although I just saw a clip from the day itself in London where Winston Churchill declared that what had happened was "Victory in Europe," although while UK did play a minor role in subsequent events in the Pacific, aside from the US for the rest of the allies VE Day was simply Victory Day in Europe.So, yesterday in UK there was a flyover of planes in celebration

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

20 days ago

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 handwaving. 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 uptrun 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 coronvirus tht would turn the upturn back into a downturn, making it into a W, or if, as I suspect, given that the douwnturn we have just seen pushing the unemployment rate upo 10% in two months is truly

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RIP John Horton Conway

21 days ago

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 modesl capable of generating chaotic and unprredictable emergent outcomes within a Turing complete framework, the sort of thing that goofy complexity theorists like me salivate over.  However, it inspired similar

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A Very Grey Swan

23 days ago

Keynes and Knight famously simultaneously in 1921 identified the concept of fundamental uncerainty 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 describably 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 current pandemic actually a black swan of fundamental

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Donald Trump Goes Absolutely Bonkers Over China

27 days ago

Yesterday President Trump erupted with a series of demands and threat 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 that this default on the US national debt might "damage the sacred standing of the

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RIP Robert May

27 days ago

Robert May died on April 28 at age 84 of unreported causes.  He has been described as "the grandfather of chaos theory," which I think exaggerates, but he was the second person to adopt the term after James Yorke first applied to a porticular type of irregular nonlinear dynamics subject to the "butterfly effect" of sensitive dependence on initial conditions (butterfy effect having been coined by the late Edward Lorenz to climate modeld, a reason we cannot make weather forecasts beyond a week or so usually), well ahead of May’s work.  But May was one one of the most influential people working on chaos theory as well as many other important dynamical issues in a variety of disciplines, including ecology, medicine (he modeled pandemics), as well as economics and finance.From Australia

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

29 days ago

As of earlier tody, 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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The Wide Open Origin Question Regarding SAR-Cov-2

April 25, 2020

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 centuury from now than the matter of the Spanish flu is now.I also note befor proceeding further that this discussion has become highly politically

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

April 22, 2020

I am putting this up because I have been hearing seeing people making claims about this that do not agree with what I have just seen at Statista for today, the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, for deaths per million according to the pandemic virus. I am not going to comment on the list further, although I am tempted, but the situation is changing so fast.Belgium
Spain
Italy
France
United Kingdom
Netherlands
Switzerland
Sweden
Ireland
USAOh, I suppose I should provide the same list for infections per capita, a less definite number due to testing variations, than the former.  Best I could do was a three day old list from Statista, but here it is.Spain
Belgium
Ireland
Italy
Switzerland
USA
France
Portugal
Netherlands
UKAddendum after 4 comments:  Here are top 15 in terms of testing

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Happy Sesquicentennial Birthday, Vladimir Lenin! (Oh, And Happy Half Century Earth Day)

April 22, 2020

A half century ago today was the first Earth Day, which I paerticipated in while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Although I did not know him well, I even met the founder of the event, then Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin.  While it is easy to be discouraged by the ongoing failure to deal with the global warming issue as well as the large amount of rollbacks of reasonable environmental regulations in the US by Donald Trump, with several happening very recently under cover of the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic, much has also been achieved, with vastly reduced air and water pollution of many types over the last half century in most nations.It is easy to forget that in 1970 there was no Enviromental Protection Agency and that most of the most basic laws regulating most air and water

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Negative Oil Prices

April 20, 2020

Yes, earlier this afternoon, very briefly, western Canadian oil was selling for $ -0.15.  At least I saw a report of this.  The price may have been there for only three seconds, but it is the first time I have ever heard of there being negative oil or energy prices ever.  Negative interest rates, which are now quite common are one thing, but negative oil prices?OTOH, some energy related assets have had negative prices before. I am thinking of abandoned coal mines and some highly polluting energy production facilities in certain locations with strict environmental laws that mandate that the owner of the asset pay for cleaning up the pollution coming out of it.  One location and period when and where I heard numerous reports of negative price sales of such asets was in the former East

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

April 16, 2020

Yes, Trump is out to cut the roughly half a billion $ US contribution to the $6 billion budget of the World Hea viruslth 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 response to thie situation.  This is simply stupid in terms of fighting the virus.And then we have him

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Prairie du Chien Selects Jill Karofsky Over David Kelly!

April 16, 2020

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 contain Green Bay, Appleton, and Oshkosh.  Milwaukee suburbs still went for Kelly, bur Karofsky

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Trump All Over The Place On Oil Prices

April 14, 2020

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 solidly (and some others, such as Oma, pumping it up all the way). This got

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

April 10, 2020

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 prices have strained the Saudi economy, with the numerous Yemeni guest workers taking the hit,

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Philip W. Anderson, RIP

April 5, 2020

1977 physics Nobel Prize winner Philip Warren Anderson has died at a Princeton nursing home at age 96, cause not reported.  He received his prize for work in "condensed matter physics," a label he coined.  His work, done at Bell Labs (later he was at Princeton U.), had relevance for the functioning of circuits in computers and other important uses.  He also did important work on antiferromagnetism, the Higgs particle, spin glassses, and several other topics, with several effects named for him ("Anderson localization effcct," "Higgs-Andrson effect").  I am not going to get into the detailed physics of any of these, but he is of interest here because he has had interactions with econoimists as well, with his work on spin glasses in particular important for work in econophysics..Let me note

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The D Word

April 3, 2020

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 come with it. A sign of what may be coming is

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In 2020 A March Of Madness

April 1, 2020

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 have now passed 3,000 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 Virginia Governor Ralph 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 changees for the world than any in a long time, certainly more than any that I can remember

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Is Pompeo The Worst Secretary Of State Ever?

March 31, 2020

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 making it harder for Iran to get medical equiopment even as they face a deepening epidmci with thousands

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The Oil Price War

March 22, 2020

One consequence of the emerging global Covid-19 recession has been that it has helped push world oil prices down from the $60-70 per barrel range near rhw 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 the US fracking industry in oil and natural gas,

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The Coming Fiscal Crisis Of State And Local Governments

March 19, 2020

Yesterday my wife Marina and I mt 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 awhile 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 activity, not to mention that students will not be returning this semester, and they provide a

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Has The Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Campaign Come To An End?

March 19, 2020

Quite possibly.In today’s Washington Post, p. A8, Robin Dixon and David L. Stern report that President Voloymyr Zelensky has removed anti-corruption General Prosecutor Ruslan Ryaboshapka and is replacing him with Uryna Venedkiktova.  She is associated with the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who has long been the main backer of President Zelensky and who had his control of a major bank removed previously.  Observers have long viewed Zelensky”s connection with Kolomoisky as a danger point in his up-until-now largely successful anti-corruption campaign, which had given much hope to many in Ukraine, where in the last year the economy had grown at a stron 4 percent annual rate.  Some obserers say that if Ryaboshapka had been able to last another six months, his removals of corrupt prosecutors

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To Slow Spread Of Coronovirus, End Iran Sancttions

March 16, 2020

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 13, there were 11,362 reported cases and 514 deaths.Of course this is aggravated by

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What Might That Compromise On Health Care Between Biden And Bernie Look Like?

March 14, 2020

As discussed in an earlier post it looks like there is an as yet undetermined compromise between the ACA plus public option with some other items supported by Joe Biden that unfortunately lacks the crucial matter of universal health care coverage (although he professes to support such) with the single payer plan supported by Bernie Sanders, somewhat modeled on the system of Canada, although more generous and less open to private insurance than Canada’s but definitely including universal coverage.  Obviously Biden’s plan has the problem of lacking universal coverage while that of Bernie appears to call for the end of private insurance, which might save money but also seems to be unpopular and thus damages his potential electability.It certainly looks like a possible compromise should be

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