Review: Destination Cosmos

A number of "immersive" experiences offer people a taste of spaceflight without leaving the ground. Jeff Foust reviews one such experience that takes people through the solar system and beyond from an old bank building in New York.

Review: When the Heavens Went on Sale

The early success of SpaceX helped enable a new wave of space startups, with varying degrees of success. Jeff Foust reviews a book that profiles four such companies and the diverse range of people working there who were geniuses, misfits, or both.

Review: Photographing America's First Astronauts

While it's been 62 years since Alan Shepard became the first American to go to space, the history books have yet to be closed on the Mercury program. Jeff Foust reviews a book that publishes previously unseen photos of the program taken by NASA's first photographer.

Review: The Possibility of Life

As the field of astrobiology matures, scientists are only now beginning to come to grips with the challenge of finding evidence of life beyond Earth. Jeff Foust reviews a book that explores the state of our understanding, or lack thereof, of prospects of life elsewhere.

Review: The Space Law Stalemate

International space law has struggled to keep pace with expanding space activity, posing challenges for companies and countries. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines those challenges and proposes ways to move space law forward.

Review: The Space Economy

The space industry has run into some headwinds with recent financial problems many companies have faced, including Virgin Orbit's bankruptcy. Jeff Foust reviews a book by an investor who remains bullish about the long-term prospects of the overall space economy, though.

Review: Off-Earth

The vision of humans living and working in space has been around for decades, but has more than just technical challenges to overcome. Jeff Foust reviews a book that explores some of the ethical quandaries posed by space settlement.

What glows there? What glows there?

NHC Atlantic Outlook

Atlantic 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Atlantic 7-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
800 PM EDT Mon May 29 2023

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 7 days.

Forecaster Kelly/Cangialosi

NHC Eastern North Pacific Outlook

Eastern North Pacific 2-Day Graphical Outlook Image
Eastern North Pacific 7-Day Graphical Outlook Image


Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
500 PM PDT Mon May 29 2023

For the eastern North Pacific...east of 140 degrees west longitude:

Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 7 days.

Forecaster Cangialosi/Kelly

Three astronauts ready for ride to China’s space station

Chinese space officials announced the identities of the Shenzhou 16 crew members just one day before their launch to the Tiangong space station. From left to right: Payload specialist Gui Haichao, commander Jing Haipeng, and spaceflight engineer Zhu Yangzhu. Credit: China Manned Space Agency

The next three-man crew to live on China’s Tiangong space station will launch Monday night on a Long March rocket, heading for a half-year expedition on the orbiting outpost to replace an outgoing team of astronauts set to return to Earth this weekend.

Led by veteran commander Jing Haipeng, the crew for China’s Shenzhou 16 mission will strap into their seats for a 10-minute ride into orbit following liftoff on a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan launch base in northwestern China at 9:31 p.m. EDT Monday (0131 UTC Tuesday). The launch time is set for the instant that the mission needs to take off to rendezvous with the Tiangong space station, when Earth’s rotation brings the launch pad under the path of the orbiting lab soaring about 240 miles (390 kilometers) above Earth.

The launch of the three-man Shenzhou 16 crew will, for a day, bring the total population of humans in low Earth orbit to 17, breaking the previous record of 14 people in orbit at one time. There are three Chinese astronauts already aboard the Tiangong space station, ready to be replaced by the Shenzhou 16 crew, and 11 people on the International Space Station — five Americans, three Russians, two Saudis, and one Emirati astronaut.

That will chance Tuesday with the scheduled undocking and return to Earth of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to complete a nine-day private astronaut mission managed by Axiom Space, returning the International Space Station to its regular crew complement of seven astronauts and cosmonauts.

Shenzhou 16 will dock with the Tiangong space station Tuesday, temporarily bringing the crew of the Chinese station to six. The three Chinese astronauts who have lived and worked on the Tiangong space station since November are slated to depart in their Shenzhou 15 crew capsule Saturday to head for re-entry and landing in China.

Chinese ground teams rolled the 191-foot-tall (58-meter) Long March 2F rocket to the launch pad May 22 in preparation for the Shenzhou 16 mission. Gantry arms enclosed the launcher as technicians completed final processing and inspections on the rocket. Loading of several hundred tons of toxic hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants into the rocket began Monday.

The three astronauts will climb into the Shenzhou 16 crew module about two to three hours before liftoff.

A core stage engine and four strap-on boosters will ignite to generate 1.4 million pounds of thrust, driving the rocket and crew eastward from Jiuquan in pursuit of the Chinese space station. The Long March 2F will consume thousands of gallons of toxic, corrosive propellants to accelerate the 8.5-ton Shenzhou 15 spaceship into orbit.

The second stage of the rocket will deploy the crew craft about 10 minutes into the mission. Moments later, Shenzhou 16 is programmed to unfurl its solar panels to begin producing its own electricity.

The spacecraft will fire thrusters to fine-tune its approach to the Chinese space station, culminating in an automated docking at the Tianhe core module later Tuesday. The astronauts will open hatches and float into the Tianhe core module to begin their work.

The Long March 2F rocket for the Shenzhou 16 mission rolled out of its assembly building to the launch pad May 22 at the Jiuquan spaceport in northwestern China. Credit: China Manned Space Agency

Chinese officials revealed the identities of the astronauts on the Shenzhou 16 mission Monday, about 24 hours prior to the scheduled launch time. In contrast to the U.S. and Russian space programs, China typically keeps its crew assignments secret until the day before launch.

The crew is commanded by Jing Haipeng, 56, a major general in China’s military and a former fighter pilot in the Chinese Air Force. Jing, who joined China’s astronaut corps in the first group selected in 1998, will become the first Chinese astronaut to launch on four space missions, following previous flights in 2008, 2012, and 2016.

In a press conference Monday, Jing said he has studied and memorized more than 70 flight manuals and thousands of operating instructions. He has logged 47 days in orbit on his three previous missions.

“At this moment, to be honest, I feel very peaceful because, as an astronaut, going to space is our main responsibility and main business, and winning glory for the country is our … mission,” Jing said in translated remarks.

The three-man Shenzhou 16 crew will replace the Shenzhou 15 astronauts, who launched Nov. 29 and are now wrapping up a half-year in orbit. Shenzhou 15 commander Fei Junlong and astronauts Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu took the place of the Shenzhou 13 crew.

Two spaceflight rookies will join Jing on the six-month expedition on China’s Tiangong space station.

Zhu Yangzhu, another Chinese pilot and military officer, will serve as spaceflight engineer. Gui Haichao is a payload specialist on the Shenzhou 16 mission, and will become the first civilian astronaut to fly in China’s human spaceflight program.

“As an aerospace flight engineer, under the leadership of the commander, I will complete the daily maintenance, maintenance and repair tasks of the space station assembly, carry out load care and actual tests, and ensure that the space station can be safe, stable, efficient and long-lasting,” Zhu said Monday.

Artist’s illustration of China’s Tiangong space station as it will appear after docking of the Shenzhou 16 spacecraft, with three pressurized permanent modules, two Shenzhou crew vehicles, and one Tianzhou cargo ship. Credit: CASC

Gui will be responsible for overseeing the scientific experiments on the Tiangong space station, which consists of the Tianhe core module and two attached pressurized lab modules. China completed the initial assembly of the Tiangong space station last year, and the complex is transitioning from construction to a new phase of scientific utilization.

China launched an piloted cargo ship to the Tiangong space station earlier this month to deliver food, supplies, experiments, and other hardware for use by the Shenzhou 16 crew.

“This mission is the first manned flight to the Chinese space station after it entered a new stage of application and development,” Jing said. “As you can see today, a brand new (crew) combination also made its debut. Our crew is composed of the pilot, the first aerospace engineer and the first payload expert, which also means that we will undertake more complex, arduous and arduous tasks.”

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

‘Lisa’s Final Act

Trailer for a new documentary from The Verge:

Sabotage, hired goons, and a landfill in Utah: this is a story about the life, death, and afterlife of Apple’s most pioneering computer, the Lisa. A major inspiration for the Macintosh, Steve Jobs championed the Lisa, then turned against it. In Lisa’s Final Act, The Verge unearths a new spin on this tale. We discover the outsider who gave the maligned computer another chance… before Apple closed the door on the Lisa forever.

Full documentary debuts tomorrow.


Links 5/29/23

Links for you. Science:

Evolutionary characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariants adapted to the host
CDC Study Suggests Adults Without an Updated COVID-19 Booster Shot Have ‘Relatively Little’ Protection Against Hospitalization
Development of a Definition of Postacute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 Infection
Pathogenicity, tissue tropism and potential vertical transmission of SARSr-CoV-2 in Malayan pangolins
Fall’s COVID Shots May Be Different in One Key Way
AI Is Unlocking the Human Brain’s Secrets


‘The Court’s Position Is, No One Can Tell Them What to Do’: CounterSpin interview with Ian Millhiser on Supreme Court corruption
Florida Man: Examining the life and career of Ron DeSantis, whose record of supervising torture and stifling free speech mean he should be kept far, far away from executive power. (the Gitmo stuff is awful)
Henry Kissinger, War Criminal—Still at Large at 100
As long COVID turns three, Americans play disability roulette
The Good, Bad, and Ugly in MPD’s Cultural Assessment. A new 314-page report provides a road map for the Metropolitan Police Department’s next chief.
House Dems in No Labels-allied caucus are livid with No Labels (the left-ish side of the caucus is loyal to the party even if moderates are too fucking stupid to see it)
Optimus Prime Speaks To Defend Georgetown Transformers Sculptures, But Suffers Defeat
You Can’t Fix What You Can’t Face. How Our Education Governance System Is Failing Us.
DeSantis Holding State Budget Hostage While His Staffers Solicit Donations to His Presidential Campaign from Lobbyists
8 Celebs Who Have Struggled With Long COVID
DeSantis’s shameless defense of the Amanda Gorman fiasco is revealing
Cowardice Is As Common As Sand
You Want Better City Councils? Pay Them More. One Redmond City Council Member Makes $12 a Month, and It’s About to Get Worse
When Racial Justice Meant Universal Social Benefits. The left used to believe that reducing inequality across the board was the best way to combat racial injustice. What happened?
DeSantis-Sacks ’24
Biden Must Remake His Candidacy
We Need to Talk About Netflix’s Ad Numbers
The Killing of Banko Brown Shows What San Francisco’s Real Crisis Looks Like
Oh, Rats: Hamptonites Are Freaking Out Over Vermin
Anti-Trans Legislation Is Becoming a National Security Issue
Biden releases new strategy to tackle rise in antisemitism, says ‘hate will not prevail’
How to Fight the Right’s Moral Panic Over Parental Rights
A Strangler in a Strange Land: Daniel Penny killed Jordan Neely with his bare hands on video, but every institution in New York seems to be on Penny’s side. Why?
Our Media Is Fueling Vigilantism Against Homeless People
Dowd’s Newsroom Nostalgia Is Management Propaganda
Scientific American Condemns Ron DeSantis
Outsiders, strivers: New museum presents complex story of D.C. region’s Jews

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‘Succession’ Finale

Alan Sepinwall, writing for Rolling Stone:

A lot happens over the course of the 90-minute Succession series finale, “With Open Eyes.” Alliances are made, broken, and made again. Votes happen, fortunes rise and fall, losers become winners, and vice versa.

For all intents and purposes, though, the only part that matters is a five-minute sequence toward the end.

I’m always wary of recency bias, but at the moment I’d put Succession in the hall of fame for the best TV shows ever. Four great seasons, a rich ensemble of vivid memorable characters, never a bad episode, and a truly great finale.

See also: Sepinwall’s ranking of the top 25 characters on Succession, from least to most despicable.


The Talk Show: ‘One True HIG’

Neil Jhaveri, founder and lead developer of Mimestream, the terrific new native Mac email client for Gmail, joins the show to talk about email, Mac apps, and indie software development.

Sponsored by:

  • Trade Coffee: Let’s Coffee Better. Get a free bag of fresh coffee with any Trade subscription.
  • Memberful: Monetize your passion with membership. Start your free trial today.
  • Rocket Money: Stop throwing your money away. Cancel unwanted subscriptions and manage your expenses the easy way.

Adam Engst: ‘Why I Use Mimestream for Gmail’

Adam Engst, writing at TidBITS:

Where Mimestream shines is in its attention to visual form and functional detail — the small interface elements and features that make working with email feel familiar, fluid, and fast. I spend hours per day in email, and while I’m willing to tweak my working habits slightly to match what an app can do, I prefer it to accommodate my idiosyncrasies.

For instance, I seldom delete messages. My Google account has plenty of space, and Gmail’s performance doesn’t degrade with massive email stores, so I prefer to keep everything for posterity and focus my attention on unread and starred messages. So it’s vital that my email client supports that approach rather than pushing its own concept of Inbox Zero or whatever philosophy it might have.

I can’t predict what refinements and affordances will make working with your email a joy, so I want to share some of what I find compelling about Mimestream. Many of these aren’t unique, they’re just very well done, and the result is that using Mimestream feels like driving a well-engineered automobile instead of a low-end car that feels like it was assembled from cheap, off-the-shelf components.


*The Corporation and the Twentieth Century*

The author is Richard N. Langlois, and the subtitle is The History of American Business Enterprise.  551 pp. of text.  I’ve taught Ph.D Industrial Organization for a good while now, and have always wanted a text that provides an overview and introduction to U.S. business history, with sophistication and good economics, and without being out of date.  This is that book, so I am happy indeed.

The post *The Corporation and the Twentieth Century* appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories



My thanks to Kolide for their continuing sponsorship support here at DF — they sponsored Daring Fireball last week, and they are the presenting sponsor at the upcoming The Talk Show Live From WWDC. They’re a great company with a great product.

Here’s an uncomfortable fact: at most companies, employees can download sensitive company data onto any device, keep it there forever, and never even know that they’re doing something wrong. Kolide’s new report, The State of Sensitive Data, addresses this issue head-on.

Kolide offers a more nuanced approach than MDM solutions to setting and enforcing sensitive data policies. Their premise is simple: if an employee’s device is out of compliance, it can’t access your apps. Kolide lets admins run queries to detect sensitive data, flag devices that have violated policies, and enforce OS and browser updates so vulnerable devices aren’t accessing data.

To learn more and see Kolide in action, visit


Recession Watch Update

Way back in 2013, I wrote a post "Predicting the Next Recession. In that 2013 post, I wrote:
The next recession will probably be caused by one of the following (from least likely to most likely):

3) An exogenous event such as a pandemic, significant military conflict, disruption of energy supplies for any reason, a major natural disaster (meteor strike, super volcano, etc), and a number of other low probability reasons. All of these events are possible, but they are unpredictable, and the probabilities are low that they will happen in the next few years or even decades.
emphasis added
Unfortunately, in 2020, one of those low probability events happened (pandemic), and that led to a recession in 2020.
2) Significant policy error. Two examples: not reaching a fiscal agreement and going off the "fiscal cliff" probably would have led to a recession, and Congress refusing to "pay the bills" would have been a policy error that would have taken the economy into recession. 
That was written in 2013, and it appears once again that we've avoided the "default" policy error.
1) Most of the post-WWII recessions were caused by the Fed tightening monetary policy to slow inflation. I think this is the most likely cause of the next recession. Usually, when inflation starts to become a concern, the Fed tries to engineer a "soft landing", and frequently the result is a recession.
And this most common cause of a recession is the current concern.
Talk of a recession increased last year.  For example, from ECRI a year ago (May 26, 2022): Opinion: It’s time to prepare for a recession (ht SV).  However, I wasn't even on recession watch!

A key mistake some analysts are making is ignoring distortions caused by the pandemic.  See Pandemic Economics, Housing and Monetary Policy: Part I and Part II

In December 2022 I went on "recession watch" for only the 3rd time in the 19 years that I've been writing this blog, but I noted I didn't see a recession coming yet.  The other two times were in early 2007 (housing bust / financial crisis), and in March 2020 (pandemic).

In the FOMC Minutes released last Wednesday, the staff predicted a "mild recession" later this year:
The economic forecast prepared by the staff for the May FOMC meeting continued to assume that the effects of the expected further tightening in bank credit conditions, amid already tight financial conditions, would lead to a mild recession starting later this year, followed by a moderately paced recovery. Real GDP was projected to decelerate over the next two quarters before declining modestly in both the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year.
emphasis added
And the FOMC members have been essentially projecting a recession for some time (although they avoid using the word "recession"). Here are their March projections for GDP and unemployment.

GDP projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Change in Real GDP1
Projection Date202320242025
Mar 20230.0 to 0.81.0 to 1.51.7 to 2.1
1 Projections of change in real GDP are from the fourth quarter of the previous year to the fourth quarter of the year indicated.

Since Q1 real GDP growth was at 1.3% on a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) basis, and Q2 GDP is tracking 1% to 2%, the FOMC is essentially projecting GDP will decline over the last 2 quarters of 2023.

And on unemployment:

Unemployment projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Unemployment Rate2
Projection Date202320242025
Mar 20234.0 to 4.74.3 to 4.94.3 to 4.8
2 Projections for the unemployment rate are for the average civilian unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of the year indicated.

Since the unemployment rate was at 3.4% in April and depending on the growth of the civilian labor force in 2023, the FOMC is projecting between 800 thousand and 2 million jobs lost over the last two quarters of 2023.  That is a clear employment recession.

Two key leading economic indicators are suggesting a recession this year.

10-Year Treasury Constant Maturity Minus 2-Year Treasury Constant MaturityOne of the leading indicators for recessions is the yield curve. Here is a graph of 10-Year Treasury Constant Maturity Minus 2-Year Treasury Constant Maturity from FRED.

Click here for interactive graph at FRED.

When the yield curve turns negative - the 2-year yields more than the 10-year - that suggests investors think interest rates will decline, usually indicating a coming recession.  However, economist Campbell Harvey (yield curve inventor) noted last year:
My yield-curve indicator has gone Code Red. It is 8 for 8 in forecasting recessions since 1968 —with no false alarms. I have reasons to believe, however, that it is flashing a false signal.
The yield curve has now inverted for a ninth time since 1968. Does it spell doom? I am not so sure.
One of my favorite models for business cycle forecasting uses new home sales (also housing starts and residential investment).  The purpose of the next graph is to show that these three indicators generally reach peaks and troughs together. Note that Residential Investment is quarterly and single-family starts and new home sales are monthly.

Starts, new home sales, residential InvestmentThe arrows point to some of the earlier peaks and troughs for these three measures - and the most recent peak.

New home sales peaked in 2020 as pandemic buying soared.  Then new home sales and single-family starts turned down in 2021, but that was partly due to the huge surge in sales during the pandemic.   In 2022, both new home sales and single-family starts turned down in response to higher mortgage rates.   Residential investment has also peaked.

This decline in residential investment would usually suggest a recession is coming.

YoY Change New Home SalesThis third graph shows the YoY change in New Home Sales from the Census Bureau.  Currently new home sales (based on 3-month average) are up 4% year-over-year!

Usually when the YoY change in New Home Sales falls about 20%, a recession will follow.  An exception for this data series was the mid '60s when the Vietnam buildup kept the economy out of recession.   Another exception was in late 2021 - we saw a significant YoY decline in new home sales related to the pandemic and the surge in new home sales in the second half of 2020.  I ignored that downturn as a pandemic distortion (I am not a slave to any model).  Also note that the sharp decline in 2010 was related to the housing tax credit policy in 2009 - and was just a continuation of the housing bust.

The YoY change in new home sales in late 2022 and early 2023 would usually suggest a possible recession.  However, another feature of new home sales is that it usually leads the economy out of recession (an exception was following the housing bust, but I was able to correctly anticipate the recovery anyway).

Because of the low level of existing home inventory, new home sales are starting to pick up, and that suggests a possible recovery!

Heavy Truck Sales
Another indicator I like to use is heavy truck sales.  This graph shows heavy truck sales since 1967 using data from the BEA. The dashed line is the April 2023 seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR). Note: "Heavy trucks - trucks more than 14,000 pounds gross vehicle weight."

Heavy truck sales were at 563 thousand SAAR in April, up from 486 thousand in March, and up 23% from 456 thousand SAAR in April 2022.  

Usually, heavy truck sales decline sharply prior to a recession, however sales were strong in April.

A short term leading indicator I'll be watching is the 4-week average of unemployment claims.

This has increased recently and if this increases further, we might be entering an employment recession.

The FOMC is in a tough situation.  The primary transmission mechanisms for Fed policy are usually housing followed by vehicle sales (a distant second).  This time vehicle sales were more suppressed by supply chain issues (a pandemic distortion) and have increased recently, and it appears new home sales might have bottomed!

Fed policy is currently restrictive, and keeping policy at this level will likely bring inflation back to the target of 2%.   Further rate increases would likely be a policy error and increase the odds of a recession.  The current target range for the federal funds rate is 5 to 5-1/4 percent, well above r* + target inflation.   Note: r* is an estimate of the real rate of interest.

My sense is growth will stay sluggish in 2023, but the economy will avoid recession.   Monetary policy is restrictive, the fiscal policy will be a slight drag if the recent agreement passes the House and Senate.   Vehicle sales will probably increase this year, but new home sales will stay low - but increase year-over-year for the remainder of 2023.

There is downside risk if the FOMC overtightens, or Congress forces a debt default (although this seems less likely now).  Since two of the best leading indicators are suggesting a recession, I'll stay on recession watch, and I might change my view on a recession in a few months. 

Monday assorted links

1. Claims about semaglutide.  Not to be taken as endorsement of the claims, one way or the other, but worth further investigation.

2. “In the debate over the value of a college education, the value of the experience students gain from holding officer positions in campus clubs is underrated.

3. Claims that lab-grown meat are worse for the environment.

4. Becky G and Peso Pluma.

5. Ada Palmer on progress.

6. Are AI-threatened jobs held mostly by women?

The post Monday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




Public Service Announcement

So I had a minor moment of panic this morning when I saw this–after getting up and drinking a glass of water:

Water alert

Fortunately, I’m not in the affected area, which appears to be Woodridge and Fort Lincoln (possibly parts of Langdon too).

I hope everyone has a safe Memorial Day (with potable water).

Housing May 29th Weekly Update: Inventory Increased 2.1% Week-over-week

Altos reports that active single-family inventory was up 2.1% week-over-week.

Altos Home Inventory Click on graph for larger image.

This inventory graph is courtesy of Altos Research.

As of May 26th, inventory was at 433 thousand (7-day average), compared to 424 thousand the prior week.   

Year-to-date, inventory is down 11.8%.  And inventory is up 6.8% from the seasonal bottom six weeks ago.

The second graph shows the seasonal pattern for active single-family inventory since 2015.
Altos Home Inventory
The red line is for 2023.  The black line is for 2019.  Note that inventory is up from the previous two years (the record low was in 2022), but still well below normal levels.

Inventory was up 21.1% compared to the same week in 2022 (last week it was up 25.4%), and down 53.5% compared to the same week in 2019 (last week down 53.3%). 

It appears likely inventory will be down year-over-year in late June.

Mike Simonsen discusses this data regularly on Youtube.

Further progress on course allocation, by Budish, Gao, Othman, Rubinstein and Zhang

 Here are some new developments in the course allocation mechanism used initially in Wharton and now elsewhere.  It turns out that strategy-proofness in the (very) large doesn't imply strategyproofness in samples of realistic size, but this seems to be fixable (and profitable manipulations were not easy to find). The paper concludes with some far ranging thoughts on the econ-cs interface.

Practical algorithms and experimentally validated incentives for equilibrium-based fair division (A-CEEI)   by ERIC BUDISH, RUIQUAN GAO, ABRAHAM OTHMAN  AVIAD RUBINSTEIN, and QIANFAN ZHANG

Abstract: "Approximate Competitive Equilibrium from Equal Incomes (A-CEEI) is an equilibrium-based solution concept for fair division of discrete items to agents with combinatorial demands. In theory, it is known that in asymptotically large markets:

•For incentives, the A-CEEI mechanism is Envy-Free-but-for-Tie-Breaking (EF-TB), which implies that it is Strategyproof-in-the-Large (SP-L).

•From a computational perspective, computing the equilibrium solution is unfortunately a computationally intractable problem (in the worst-case, assuming PPAD≠FP).

We develop a new heuristic algorithm that outperforms the previous state-of-the-art by multiple orders of magnitude. This new, faster algorithm lets us perform experiments on real-world inputs for the first time. We discover that with real-world preferences, even in a realistic implementation that satisfies the EF-TB and SP-L properties, agents may have surprisingly simple and plausible deviations from truthful reporting of preferences. To this end, we propose a novel strengthening of EF-TB, which dramatically reduces the potential for strategic deviations from truthful reporting in our experiments. A (variant of ) our algorithm is now in production: on real course allocation problems it is much faster, has zero clearing error, and has stronger incentive properties than the prior state-of-the-art implementation"

Here's an intriguing passage:

"In Section 6 we use our manipulation-finding algorithm in combination with our fast A-CEEI finding algorithm to explore the plausibility of effective manipulations for students bidding in ACEEI. Originally, we had expected that since our mechanism satisfies the EF-TB and SP-L properties, it would at least be practically strategyproof — if even we don’t really understand the way our algorithm chooses among the many possible equilibria, how can a student with limited information learn to strategically bid in such a complex environment? 

"Indeed, in 2 out of 3 schools that we tested, our manipulation-finding algorithms finds very few or no statistically significant manipulations at all. However, when analyzing the 3rd school, we stumbled upon a simple and effective manipulation for (the first iteration of) our mechanism. We emphasize that although the manipulation is simple in hindsight, in over a year of working on this project we failed to predict it by analyzing the algorithm — the manipulation was discovered by the algorithm

"Inspired by this manipulation, we propose a natural strengthening of envy-free (discussed below), which we call contested-envy free. We encode the analogous contested EF-TB as a new constraint in our algorithm (specifically, the integer program for finding optimal budget perturbations). Fortunately, our algorithm is still very fast even with this more elaborate constraint. And, when we re-run our manipulation-finding experiments, we observe that contested EF-TB significantly reduces the potential for manipulations in practice."


"Conclusion:  In this work, we give a significantly faster algorithm for computing A-CEEI. Kamal Jain’s famous formulation “if your laptop cannot find it then neither can the market” [Papadimitriou 2007] was originally intended as a negative result, casting doubt on the practical implications of many famous economic concepts because of their worst-case computational complexity results. Even for course allocation, where a heuristic algorithm existed and worked in practice, Jain’s formulation seemed to still bind, as solving A-CEEI involved an intense day-long process with a fleet of high-powered cloud servers operating in parallel. The work detailed in this paper has significantly progressed what laptops can find: even the largest and most challenging real course allocation problems we have access to can now be solved in under an hour on a commodity laptop. 

"This significant practical improvement suggests that the relationship between prices and demand for the course allocation problem—and potentially other problems of economic interest with complex agent preferences and heterogeneous goods—may be much simpler than has been previously believed and may be far more tractable in practice than the worst-case theoretical bounds. Recalling Jain’s dictum, perhaps many more market equilibria can be found by laptops—or, perhaps, Walras’s original and seemingly naive description of how prices iterate in the real world may in fact typically produce approximate equilibria. 

"Our fast algorithm also opens the door for empirical research on A-CEEI, because we can now solve many instances and see how the solution changes for different inputs. We took it in one direction: empirically investigating the incentives properties of A-CEEI for the first time. For course allocation specifically, this faster algorithm opens up new avenues for improving student outcomes through experimentation. For instance, university administrators often want to subsidize some 6 group of students (e.g., second-year MBA students over first-year MBA students), but are unsure how large of a budget subsidy to grant those students to balance equity against their expectations. Being able to run more assignments with different subsidies can help to resolve this issue."


Earlier related posts:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Monday, August 3, 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

China sets sights on crewed lunar landing before 2030

An artist conception of the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), post-2030.

China’s human spaceflight agency has stated its goal to land astronauts on the moon before the end of the decade.

The post China sets sights on crewed lunar landing before 2030 appeared first on SpaceNews.

Scattered Severe Storms Possible in Central U.S.; Flood Watch in the Sierra Nevada


Beautiful! | Aeon Videos

Two filmmakers, awaiting the result of a pregnancy test, take turns recording their experiences in this honest, intimate short

- by Aeon Video

Watch at Aeon

The art of rules

The art of rules | Aeon Essays

Conceptual art often confounds. The key is to understand the rules of the artwork and the aesthetic experiences they yield

- by Sherri Irvin

Read at Aeon

Two Podcasts

Two podcasts I have enjoyed recently, First, The Social Radars, headed by Jessica Livingston and Carolynn Levy, co-founder and managing director of Y Combinator respectively. Jessica and Carolynn bring a lot of experience and trust with them so the entrepreneurs they interview open up about the realities of startups. Here is a great interview with David Lieb, creator of Google Photos and before that the highly successful failure, Bump.

I’ve also enjoyed the physician brothers Daniel and Mitch Belkin at The External Medicine Podcast. Here’s a superb primer on drug development from the great Derek Lowe.

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Pristina, Kosovo bleg

Violence permitting, I will be there soon.  So what should I see and what should I do?  I thank you all in advance for your wise counsel.

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The strange recession that is Czechia (from my email)

From the very perceptive Kamil Kovar, these are his words I will not double indent:

“Seeing your recent brief post on recession I was wondering whether you are thinking about writing a longer post on the topic of recessions in general? I find the recent macroeconomic developments very intriguing, as they challenge my previous notions of what is a recession and what pushes us into recession, and would be very interested in hearing what you think.

To be more specific, let me use European developments, which I think are even more thought-provoking from this perspective than US developments. Take an extreme example of Czechia, which combines following facts:

  1. GDP has contracted for two quarters in a row, each time around 0.3% non-annualized. It is still below its pre-pandemic peak.
  2. Consumption has contracted for 5 quarters in a row, cumulatively 7.6%.
  3. Fixed investment has decreased in last quarter as well, albeit after strong recovery throughout the previous year and a half.
  4. The reason why GDP did not drop more is because net exports surged from their extremely low values reached during the pandemic period. In last quarter government consumption also helped a lot.
  5. Despite all the weakness, labor market is tight, with unemployment rate close to its pre-pandemic historical lows (in case you don’t know, it is ridiculously-sounding low at 2.1%), and employment continuing to grow.

(This as of March; more recent data continued in these trends, albeit GDP overall increased a tad bit. Also, Germany is going through something similar, albeit at much smaller scale). 

It feels like this combination just does not fit in together in terms of standard macroeconomics – if you would tell me only about consumption (2) I would say the country has to be in recession, but investment (3) and labor market (5) are clearly saying no recession. If it would be just labor market, then I could accept that it is case of labor hoarding distorting the picture, but investment also remaining robust is just hard to reconcile with recession. 

So I was wondering in what way, if any, did the last update your beliefs about “what is a recession and what pushes us into recession” in the light of the puzzling macroeconomic data of last year or so…

P.S.: In case you want to read more on the case of Czechia, or my take on what it all means, I had a blog post few months back:

My way of reconciling the data with my mental models is that got real shocks pushing us into RBC-style recession, but for whatever reason we did not get the typical demand shocks that lead to a more standard recession.”

TC again: Worth a ponder!

The post The strange recession that is Czechia (from my email) appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




India launches first in new generation of navigation satellites

India’s GSLV Mk.2 rocket lifts off Monday with the NVS 01 navigation satellite. Credit: ISRO

An Indian Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle lifted off Monday with the first in a new generation of upgraded regional navigation satellites designed to be interoperable with other countries’ global navigation networks.

The GSLV Mk.2 rocket deployed the NVS 01 satellite into orbit to join India’s fleet of navigation spacecraft covering the Indian subcontinent and neighboring regions, augmenting coverage provided by global navigation satellite fleets operated by the United States, Russia, China, and Europe.

The nearly 170-foot-tall (51.7-meter) rocket took off at 1:12 a.m. EDT (0512 UTC) from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center, located on Sriharikota Island on the Bay of Bengal approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Chennai. Liftoff occurred at 10:42 a.m. local time at the launch site.

The 27-hour countdown began Sunday. Ground crews filled the rocket’s second stage and four liquid-fueled boosters with storable hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants, according to the Indian Space Research Organization. In a reversal of the design of most launchers, the GSLV’s core stage burns pre-packed solid propellant, while its strap-on boosters consume liquid fuel.

The GSLV’s cryogenic third stage received its load of super-cold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in the final hours of the countdown Monday ahead of liftoff of India’s fourth orbital launch of the year.

The sole payload aboard the GSLV Mk.2 rocket was the 4,920-pound (2,232-kilogram) NVS 01 navigation satellite, an Indian-built spacecraft heading for a position in geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator. The rocket’s hydrogen-fueled third stage injected the NVS 01 satellite into an on-target elongated transfer orbit, and the spacecraft will use its own propulsion to circularize its orbit in the coming weeks, ISRO said.

NVS 01 is the first in a second-generation series of satellites for India’s domestically-developed regional navigation system, called Navigation with Indian Constellation, or NavIC. The network is also called the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System.

India launched nine first-generation navigation satellites from 2013 through 2018, with each one flying on the country’s smaller Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The second-generation NVS satellites are larger in size and mass, requiring use of the heavier GSLV.

The GSLV Mk.2 rocket’s third stage released the NVS 01 satellite into orbit about 18 minutes after launch. Data from the rocket confirmed the GSLV Mk.2 placed its payload into a good orbit, according to S. Somanath, chairman of ISRO.

India’s NVS 01 navigation satellite before encapsulation inside the payload fairing of its launch vehicle. Credit: ISRO

ISRO confirmed the NVS 01 satellite unfurled its power-generating solar panels a few minutes after the spacecraft separated from the GSLV Mk.2 rocket. NVS 01 is heading for geosynchronous orbit at an inclination of about 5 degrees to the equator, where it will join the operational satellites that make up the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System.

ISRO said in 2021 the NVS 01 satellite will replace the the IRNSS 1G satellite, which suffered problems with its navigation payload.

Six of India’s first-generation navigation satellites are currently providing positioning and timing services. One was lost in a launch failure in 2017, and two more encountered technical problems with their atomic clocks, which the satellites use to time-tag their L-band navigation signals to help measure distance between the spacecraft and a user on the ground.

The new NVS satellites will debut a new Indian-made atomic clock design to replace the Swiss-made clocks on older satellites, and the new generation of spacecraft will incorporate a new L-band signal, called L1, alongside the existing L5 signal.

In remarks after Monday’s launch, Somanath said the new-generation satellites have more secure navigation signals and will be more civilian-friendly.

“This is one of five series of satellites in this new configuration that are to be launched,” Somanath said.

“The launch of NVS 01 is an event which all of us in the navigation community have been looking forward to for quite some time because of two reasons,” said KVS Bhaskar, ISRO’s satellite director for Monday’s mission. “One is we are including the popular civilian band L1, and the inclusion of this band will make us interoperable with international operators. The second, and the most important reason, is we have included our very own indigenous atomic clock.”

“We are going to make this NavIC system fully functional and operational for the benefit of this nation,” Somanath said. “There’s a huge amount of opportunity that is waiting for us to exploit in the future.”

The launch Monday was the 15th flight of India’s GSLV Mk.2 rocket, which has been upgraded since its debut in 2001 to use more powerful engines and an Indian-built upper stage to replace the Russian unit used on the initial GSLV flights. It was also be the first launch of a GSLV Mk.2 rocket since a launch failure in 2021.

Investigators probing the 2021 launch failure determined a leaky vent and relief valve on the GSLV Mk.2’s cryogenic third stage diminished pressure levels in the upper stage’s liquid hydrogen fuel tank. The third stage engine failed to ignite, and the rocket and its Earth observation satellite payload fell back to Earth.

“I’m very happy that the corrections, the modifications, in the cryogenic stage that we have done in this phase, as well as the lessons that we learned out of it to make our cryogenic stage more reliable, have really made benefits,” Somanath said.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Giant cosmic networks

Sometimes dramatic events are needed to create something stunning. This beautiful structure of filaments and clouds in the southern constellation of Vela are all that remains of a massive star that died in a powerful explosion known as supernova. This is a small section of a larger image taken using the wide-field camera OmegaCAM at the VLT Survey Telescope (VST). Hosted at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Chilean desert, the VST is one of the best telescopes in the world to take large images of the sky in visible light.

Even though bright stars populate this image, it's hard to not be captivated by the pink gaseous clouds filling up the frame. Some tiny, others thicker, the filaments stretch outwards like tentacles. As they intertwine and cling together, an intricate network is formed which mixes with blurred clouds. But how did they come to be like this?

Around 11 000 years ago, a massive star exploded as a supernova, ejecting its outer layers. The explosion also generated shock waves which traveled outwards, compressing the gas around the star and creating the intricate network visible in the image. The result of such explosions are called supernova remnants. At 800 light years away from Earth, the Vela supernova remnant is one of the closest known to us.

Acemoglu on the Turkish polity and economy

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Wikipedia Article Titles

I would never stoop to vandalism, but I'm not above discreetly deleting the occasional 'this article contains excessive amounts of detail' tag.

Monday 28 May 1660

Called up at two in the morning for letters for my Lord from the Duke of York, but I went to bed again till 5. Trimmed early this morning.

This morning the Captain did call over all the men in the ship (not the boys), and give every one of them a ducat of the King’s money that he gave the ship, and the officers according to their quality. I received in the Captain’s cabin, for my share, sixty ducats. The rest of the morning busy writing letters. So was my Lord that he would not come to dinner.

After dinner to write again in order to sending to London, but my Lord did not finish his, so we did not send to London to-day.

A great part of the afternoon at nine-pins with my Lord and Mr. Hetley. I lost about 4s.

Supped with my Lord, and after that to bed.

At night I had a strange dream of … [bepissing – L&M] myself, which I really did, and having kicked my clothes off, I got cold; and found myself all much wet in the morning, and had a great deal of pain … [in making water – L&M] which made me very melancholy.

Read the annotations

The debt ceiling deal: What was the whole point?

It feels a bit strange to type these words, but over the last three years I became a lot more optimistic about U.S. politics. Covid relief bills in 2020 showed that Congress could take effective, bipartisan action in an emergency. The bipartisanship continued under Biden, with the infrastructure bill and (more importantly) the CHIPS Act. Meanwhile, the 2022 midterms weren’t characterized by an angry backlash “wave”. On foreign policy too, there was an unusual amount of accord — the GOP leadership remains steadfastly supportive of Ukraine, while Biden and the Dems have agreed on the need to resist growing Chinese power.

The recent fight over the debt ceiling, however, seems more like a return to the pointless obstructionism and grandstanding that characterized politics in the 2010s. There was absolutely zero reason for the House GOP leadership to use the debt ceiling — they could have just forced a deal through the normal appropriations process. Few people actually believed that the country’s leaders would let the U.S. default on its sovereign debt due to a random minor budget fight — I certainly didn’t. So the net effect of using this tactic seems to have been to make the U.S. look like a dysfunctional clown show in front of our allies, at a time when we need to be projecting an image of dependability.

Anyway, it appears the crisis is over — or at least, close to being over — with the announcement of a deal between the Biden administration and the House GOP leadership. The main elements of the deal appear to be:

  • A freeze on non-defense discretionary spending in 2024 and a 1% increase in 2025

  • A 3% increase in defense spending

  • Expanding work requirements for SNAP (food stamps) and some smaller welfare programs

  • Resumption of student debt payments (though no alteration to Biden’s debt relief plan)

  • Reducing IRS funding

  • Clawing back unused Covid relief money

  • Some very minor changes on permitting

Remember that because inflation is still running at over 4%, a 1% increase in nominal spending actually represents a modest cut. In fact, if inflation doesn’t fall further in the next year, even the 3% increase in defense spending will represent a cut in real terms.

Now, if you forced me to have an optimistic take on this deal, it would be something along the lines of:

  1. Yay, the U.S. won’t have a sovereign default over absolutely nothing! (A fairly low bar, but OK.)

  2. Across-the-board restraints in nominal spending are actually a good way to cut spending (in fact I suggested this earlier).

  3. The House GOP had initially demanded large cuts in nominal spending, which would have been pretty destabilizing to a lot of essential programs (research, infrastructure, etc.). These demands might have been just an initial negotiating tactic, or their absence might speak to Biden’s negotiating ability, but anyway it’s good that they didn’t make it into the deal.

  4. Clawing back unused Covid funds and resuming student debt payments are both good moves. The pandemic is over, and these are emergency measures that are no longer needed.

  5. SNAP benefits will have expanded work requirements, but there will be expanded access for veterans and the homeless, which is good.

  6. Any progress at all on permitting reform is good.

But as I said, that’s what I would write if you held an armed quadcopter drone to my head and forced me to have an optimistic take. In fact, I’m free to have whatever take I want, and honestly this whole episode has deflated some of my budding optimism about the effectiveness of the American political system.

First of all, it doesn’t include any tax increases. In fact, the House GOP apparently originally wanted to include tax cuts in the deal, which if you ask me is pretty crazy to include in a package of measures designed to limit the federal debt. Thankfully there aren’t any explicit tax cuts in the deal, but in practice the partial defunding of the IRS could make it harder to collect on existing taxes, and will thus raise the deficit. In any case, taxes are an important part of austerity, and without them, the power of this deal to limit government borrowing will be greatly reduced.

Second, the overall spending cuts will be modest. Only about 27% of our federal spending is classified as “discretionary”; about 65% is “mandatory” spending, which only means that it doesn’t go through the appropriations process. (The remainder is interest on the debt.) The spending restraint in this deal will affect only the “discretionary” portion, leaving the “mandatory” majority untouched. Here’s what we include in “mandatory” spending:

Source: CBO

The obvious thing to cut here would be Biden’s student loan cancellation, which is included here as a $482 billion charge — almost 2% of GDP. But that was left untouched. It would also be possible to slow the growth of government health benefits like Medicare; this is politically very difficult to do, but will be increasingly unavoidable in the years to come.

A third problem with the deal is that because the discretionary spending freeze is pretty indiscriminate, it could scuttle attempts to revitalize federal research spending. Here’s Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute:

Whatever the exact details, it seems pretty likely that the big increase in federal spending on science and innovation isn’t going to happen as set out in the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act passed last year. Now things won’t be as bad as if the bill passed by House Republicans—it would reduce discretionary spending by more than $3.5 trillion over the coming decade—were to actually happen. In that case, according to science budget analyst Matt Hourihan, federal science investment would decline by 19 percent, or $442 billion, through 2033 versus a baseline scenario in which spending increases with inflation.

That’s really bad news for the nascent attempt to shore up America’s technological competitiveness vis-a-vis the hard-charging China. Once again, the U.S. government is proving more adept at promising big sums of money than at actually delivering tangible results. Hopefully science and technology funding will get carved out of the spending restraint in the final deal; there are things worth spending a lot more money on, and this is one of them.

A fourth problem with the deal is the work requirements for SNAP. It’s not a huge change — the age limit for work requirements will reportedly be raised from 50 to 54 — but that will be enough to kick a number of needy people off the program. That’s the finding of Gray et al. (2020):

Work requirements are common in many U.S. safety net programs. Evidence remains limited, however, on the extent to which work requirements increase economic self-sufficiency or screen out vulnerable individuals…[W]e find that work requirements reduce SNAP participation by 52 percent. Very low-income and homeless adults are disproportionately screened out. We statistically rule out employment increases of more than 2 percentage points.

Americans really, really love work requirements for welfare programs; this has been true since the time of FDR. People argue back and forth about the overall effectiveness of these requirements in actually getting people to work, but it seems unlikely that making 54-year-olds work for their food stamps will have much of an incentive effect; if “not being poor enough to need food stamps” isn’t already enough of an incentive to go get a job, it’s unlikely that the threat of having your food stamps revoked will suddenly change your calculus. And indeed, this is exactly what Gray et al. find. So really, this is just kicking a bunch of middle-aged people off of food stamps — a little bit of cruelty for a paltry bit of government savings.

But perhaps the most underwhelming aspect of the debt ceiling deal is that it had a chance to address America’s inability to build critical infrastructure…and it didn’t take that chance. Here’s the White House’s explanation of what the bill does:

Streamlining the agency process for submitting environmental review might represent a very modest increase in state capacity. But as Alec Stapp, Joshua Siegel, and many others have pointed out, this doesn’t include either a limitation on people’s ability to sue projects to make them do more NEPA reviews, or deadlines limiting how long those reviews can take. Those were the two major items that advocates of permitting reform have sought; without either, this deal will mainly be window dressing.

And as for giving electricity transmission special treatment in the NEPA process (as we currently give some types of fossil fuel infrastructure), this was dropped altogether in favor of a study — no actual policy! — of one narrow aspect of the issue:

Remember that without a lot more transmission, it will be impossible to complete the transition to green energy, and the Inflation Reduction Act will largely be an exercise in futility.

Apparently House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has promised to work with Biden on permitting reform in a separate bill, so hopefully that will pan out. But the fact that it was cut from the debt ceiling deal just makes that deal even more ineffectual.

In other words, the debt ceiling deal has a little bit of positive, a little bit of negative, and a whole lot of disappointing “meh”. Normally, a bill like that would be nothing to write home about; I probably wouldn’t even bother with a blog post, even on a slow news week. But what frustrates me about this nothingburger of a result is how incredibly costly it was to produce. The House GOP went through months of dramatic, high-stakes negotiations, forced the administration to consider the Fourteenth Amendment and the trillion dollar coin, got the media talking seriously about the prospect of a U.S. sovereign default, and made America look like a dysfunctional circus in front of our allies at a time when China is looking for any excuse to declare that the West is failing…and all that for a little bit of discretionary spending restraint, a few added work requirements for food stamps, and a little defunding of the IRS? Seriously?? It’s like if a guy walked into a restaurant with a ticking bomb demanding to blow everyone up if he didn’t get a free peppermint!

Look, I try to stay optimistic. This isn’t a bad deal, and I still hold out hope that now that McCarthy has convinced the GOP base that he’s just as much of a tough guy as Republicans were in the days of yore, he can get back to creating the same kind of actually useful bipartisan legislation that we saw in Biden’s first two years. But this whole debt ceiling saga really just has me rubbing my face in my hands.

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Two Quick Links for Sunday Afternoon

I like the Tom Wambsgans triple play theory of how Succession is going to end. (And remember, the first episode of the series featured....a softball game.)

Finally, they've ported Tetris to a Chicken McNugget. The plastic nugget handheld is available at Chinese McDonald's restaurants for around $4.25.


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Mastodon feed.

Talking Stock

We now know the basics of the deal between Biden and McCarthy and a vote is set.

Let’s take stock of where we are.

First, just to catch us up on earlier posts, the deal is broadly what was leaked at the end of last week. It’s a much better deal for White House than I think almost anyone expected. It’s roughly what you would have expected if the two sides had engaged in a normal budget negotiation this fall.

Here are a few points to consider.

The Tipping Point: In negotiating this deal, McCarthy accepted he’d lose the bulk of the House Freedom Caucus. Those votes would need to be made up by Democrats whose support Biden likely assured him of. But there’s a tipping point somewhere past losing 50 Republicans votes where it could all fall apart for McCarthy. I don’t know how far past 50 it is but it’s before you get to 100 Republican “no” votes.

One problem is that the more GOP votes he loses the more Democratic votes are needed. But that’s not the biggest problem. The problem is that once a substantial block of Republicans vote against the deal the dangers of voting for it start going up quickly. If almost half the Republicans vote against it they’re going to be going on Fox, Newsmax, Ben Shapiro’s podcast and a bunch of other places making this bill into a RINO Bill of Rights. At some point there’s a rush for the exits where no one wants to get left holding the bag for a demonized compromise.

I’m not saying this is going to happen. I don’t think it will happen. I’m trying to give you a sense of the risks involved for him if the number of ‘nos’ rises to a certain level. One big advantage McCarthy has is two friends: Jim Jordan and Marjorie Greene. Both have put themselves squarely on Team Kevin. They both carry immense credibility on Tea Party/MAGA orthodoxy. Jordan has expressly voiced his support. I haven’t seen a specific quote but it seems very likely Greene will too. I’m sure McCarthy is telling waverers that if they get crap for this vote Jordan or Greene will come to their districts and say they’re awesome.

What Does This Guy Know?: One big mystery here is why McCarthy is doing this and why he seems so confident he’s going to be Speaker after this bill passes. We know that McCarthy runs the House at the sufferance of the Freedom Caucus. He had to agree to rules which let any one of them call for a revote on his speakership any time they want. Just a handful of them can end his Speakership by withholding support on that vote. Here they took the debt ceiling hostage and didn’t get anything beyond what they would have gotten in a normal budget negotiation. And they agreed to tied their hands when that negotiation comes up in the fall. So they got jack. The House GOP extremists should be pissed and ready end McCarthy’s Speakership. But he doesn’t seem very worried about that.

One obvious possibility is that he is toast and he’s just putting on a brave face. He wants to pass his deal and he’ll deal with the next hurdle when it arrives.

Another possibility is the nature of the Republican extremists themselves. They don’t really care much about policy. They’re into performative dominance. Like Trump they may prefer whining about McCarthy’s purported betrayal more than actually trying to throw the House into upheaval by overthrowing him. It’s always important to remember that there’s really no other plausible candidate or probably even anyone who wants it.

Yet another possibility which isn’t inconsistent with the first two is that McCarthy is trying to isolate and defang the hardcore couple dozen freaks who make up the rightward flank of the caucus. He can probably make an argument to many of his caucus that even if the deal kinda sucks it’s back the deal or be ruled by Matt Gaetz forever. If they aren’t willing to overthrow him suddenly their bluff is called. Again, I don’t know the answer on this one. But it’s one of the right questions to ask.

I don’t have a great answer to this one. But it’s a good question. McCarthy got a very thin deal at best. Biden basically stood them down. Yet he seems pretty confident that he’s going to get his deal passed and not face an immediate rebellion over it. What does he know that we don’t?

Is It Really a Good Deal?: This morning I read David Dayen’s write up on the deal in his X Date newsletter at the Prospect. He starts by saying this: “The second that Joe Biden agreed to negotiate with House Republicans on the debt ceiling, the results were going to be bad.” But then he says that harm was “kept to a minimum in the final agreement.”

In other words – and here I paraphrase this piece and the rest of what David’s written over the last 72 hours – Biden shouldn’t have agreed to negotiate. But given that he did agree to do so, this as basically the least bad deal he could have ended up with. Or the best deal he could have ended up with, depending on how you want to phrase.

Needless to say, I was emphatically against negotiating at all. So I hardly disagree with a portion of this argument. I stand by everything I’ve written on this issue over the last six months and really over the last dozen years about debt ceiling hostage taking. David’s argument is that this is a pretty good deal or the least bad deal, once you treat it as a given that Biden agreed to negotiate. Point being, don’t agree to negotiate!

But there’s critical element of context David leaves out. Something like this set of concessions was more or less baked in the moment Republicans won control of the House. We will have to live with the consequences of having negotiated again over the debt ceiling which is that this hostage remains available for taking in the future. (You can’t safely or sanely run a country on the basis of parliamentary terrorism.) But there was always going to be a budget negotiation this fall that shifted fiscal policy to the right. Again, baked in as soon as Republicans won the House.

That’s why to me this is a very big win both in policy and political terms. In fact, such a big win that I’m still not totally clear how it came about. Once Biden started negotiating and appeared to rule out extraordinary measures, I was sure he was going to get taken to the cleaners. Somehow he didn’t. Score another one for Dark Brandon.

Links 5/28/23

Links for you. Science:

Personalized RNA neoantigen vaccines stimulate T cells in pancreatic cancer (remember, this was the original objective of mRNA vaccines)
What Number Comes Next? The Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences Knows.
Genetic Determinants Underlying the Progressive Phenotype of Beta-lactam/Beta-lactamase Inhibitor Resistance in Escherichia coli
Cognitive dysfunction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant in Shanghai, China
Urgent measures are needed to shore up NIST’s crumbling facilities: Researchers must cope with flooding, power surges, and other difficulties.
COVID-19 vaccines may undergo major overhaul this fall. As Omicron persists, consensus grows for abandoning the ancestral coronavirus strain to improve immune responses


You Can’t Just Put Rich Guys In Prison
Investigators detail years of alleged misconduct by Texas AG Ken Paxton in stunning House committee hearing
Movies Have A Reality Disease. ‘Sisu’ Is The Cure
Ending Zero-Covid Coming Home To Roost For China
Judges rebuke Social Security for errors as disability denials stack up
What MPD’s own report says is wrong with MPD: Officers and outside experts report serious problems within DC’s police force
The People’s Filter: Going back to the office amidst COVID and wildfire smoke? Here’s a do-it-yourself guide to air filtration.
3 Years on From George Floyd’s Death, What’s Changed in American Policing?
Target’s surrender to MAGA rage shows how anti-wokeness really works
A Hospital Visit Reveals Medieval Secrets Hidden in Books
Clarence Thomas should resign from the supreme court, for the good of the court: By acting as if Thomas has done nothing wrong, chief justice John Roberts looks pathetic and enabling of unethical behavior
Now’s the time to think about just how bad a DeSantis presidency would be
A Defense of ‘La Sombrita,’ LA’s Much-Mocked Bus-Stop Shade. The designers of the now-notorious transit pilot respond to the backlash that greeted the project, and reflect on what it reveals about the city’s infrastructure challenges.
1) Not Getting Bombed By Henry Kissinger
The Path From The Tea Party Through Jan. 6 To Today
Dismissing Anything From The Left
Sen. Tuberville makes openly racist remarks on Don Jr.’s web show (“Tuberville says lots of racist things, but his appearance with Don Jr. did expose how racism often works for the Republican Party: as an attack on labor.”)
Samuel Alito’s Assault on Wetlands Is So Indefensible That He Lost Brett Kavanaugh
Twitter’s collapse is imminent, here’s what’s next
Leaked Brownstone Institute Emails Reveal Support for Child Labor, Underage Smoking
Why is the world running out of sand?
More American Cities Considering Free Public Transportation
Supreme Court curtails Clean Water Act
Twitter Is a Far-Right Social Network
The Case for Taxing Vehicles by Weight
On Anniversary Of George Floyd’s Death, Biden Vetoes Congressional Attempt To Block D.C. Police Bill

Ligeti at 100

American classical organizations have mostly ignored György Ligeti's hundred birthday, but events have been plentiful in Europe. The Vienna Philharmonic, Dresden Philharmonic, Gürzenich Orchestra, and Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic are all playing his music today. The Dallas Symphony is one of very few American groups marking the anniversary. I devoted a column to Ligeti in 2001 and wrote this notice when he died, in 2006. I treasure the memory of meeting the great man, in 1993, even if I asked a stupid question.

w/e 2023-05-28

A pleasantly uneventful week.

Five very open flowers, each having four pale pink petals and a cluster of yellow stamen. The focus is shallow and the dark background contains blurry leaves and some more flowers.
Clematis flowers in the garden
  • We’ve been enjoying the perfect weather (sunny, low 20s (ºC)) in the garden that’s overflowing with green and flowers. Mary picked a good week in which to begin retirement.

  • I’ve made some progress in organising and ticking off the pile of low-stakes, mundane To Dos that have been piling up recently, which is a relief.

  • Spent a lot of time staring into the little pond. Since we extinguished the weed and algae (with Algofin, the “eco” barley-based solution we tried first having achieved nothing) the water is clear and we can see all the life: at least seven newts, a similar number of chunky tadpoles (some with little back legs), and many beetles of various sizes swimming and diving.

  • Getting back to going to the gym does not, yet, seem successful in terms of seeing some actual people, given I’m often the only person there. But, still, having a short drive somewhere two or three times a week helps with my driving confidence, and it’s good to be back doing a wider variety of exercise.

  • Talking of driving: on Friday I drove to Gloucester and back – just over an hour each way – with Mary as co-driver, which must be the furthest I’ve driven in more than twenty years. No objects, people, or animals were harmed.

  • We watched season two of Perry Mason which continued to be pretty good.

That’s it. I hope you enjoy your Succession Bank Holiday, in territories where such a holiday is available.

Read comments or post one

In 1970, Alvin Toffler Predicted the Rise of Future Shock—But the Exact Opposite Happened

Back in 1970, Alvin Toffler predicted the future. It was a disturbing forecast, and everybody paid attention.

People saw his book Future Shock everywhere. I was just a freshman in high school, but even I bought a copy (the purple version). And clearly I wasn’t alone—Clark Drugstore in my hometown had them piled high in the front of the store.

The book sold at least six million copies and maybe a lot more (Toffler’s website claims 15 million). It was reviewed, translated, and discussed endlessly. Future Shock turned Toffler—previously a freelance writer with an English degree from NYU—into a tech guru applauded by a devoted global audience.

Toffler showed up on the couch next to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. Other talk show hosts (Dick Cavett, Mike Douglas, etc.) invited him to their couches too. CBS featured Toffler alongside Arthur C. Clarke and Buckminster Fuller as trusted guides to the future. Playboy magazine gave him a thousand dollar award just for being so smart.

Toffler parlayed this pop culture stardom into a wide range of follow-up projects and businesses, from consulting to professorships. When he died in 2016, at age 87, obituaries praised Alvin Toffler as “the most influential futurist of the 20th century.”

But did he deserve this notoriety and praise?

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Future Shock is a 500 page book, but the premise is simple: Things are changing too damn fast.

Toffler opens an early chapter by telling the story of Ricky Gallant, a youngster in Eastern Canada who died of old age at just eleven. He was only a kid, but already suffered from “senility, hardened arteries, baldness, slack, and wrinkled skin. In effect, Ricky was an old man when he died.”

Toffler didn’t actually say that this was going to happen to all of us. But I’m sure more than a few readers of Future Shock ran to the mirror, trying to assess the tech-driven damage in their own faces.

“The future invades our lives,” he claims on page one. Our bodies and minds can’t cope with this. Future shock is a “real sickness,” he insists. “It is the disease of change.”

As if to prove this, Toffler’s publisher released the paperback edition of Future Shock with six different covers—each one a different color. The concept was brilliant. Not only did Future Shock say that things were constantly changing, but every time you saw somebody reading it, the book itself had changed.

Of course, if you really believed Future Shock was a disease, why would you aggravate it with a stunt like this? But nobody asked questions like that. Maybe they were too busy looking in the mirror for “baldness, slack, and wrinkled skin.”

Toffler worried about all kinds of change, but technological change was the main focus of his musings. When the New York Times reviewed his book, it announced in the opening sentence that “Technology is both hero and villain of Future Shock.”

During his brief stint at Fortune magazine, Toffler often wrote about tech, and warned about “information overload.” The implication was that human beings are a kind of data storage medium—and they’re running out of disk space.

Alvin Toffler
Alvin Toffler

It’s not clear that Toffler invented either of those terms—“future shock” or “information overload.” Back in 1963, the former phrase had shown up in a talk delivered to a group of educators by Charles Weingartner and Neil Postman. They defined “future shock” as the “social paralysis induced by rapid technological change.” Two years later, Toffler published an article in Horizon magazine entitled “The Future as a Way of Life,” which showcased some of the key points.

Here Toffler announced the arrival of this new affliction. Future shock was the inevitable result of a “second industrial revolution” sweeping the world. “But it was “bigger, deeper, and more important” than the previous industrial revolution. Here, too, he looks at technology as a threat.

Toffler points out that there were now 15,000 academic journals, publishing maybe a “million significant papers in them each year.” Who could keep up with all this progress? (Of course, that assumes that the contents of 15,000 academic journals represent progress—but that’s a different discussion.)

I find it curious that Toffler spoke so much about technological change, and so little about sociological change. When he published Future Shock in 1970, the US had just experienced a tumultuous decade, but the disruptions weren’t coming from machines. The real sources of shock were the people themselves, the masses were unleashed.

Instead of Future Shock, Toffler should have written a book called Future Numbness or Future Couch Potato. That would have hit the mark with a bullseye.

The real forces of change in that era were the sexual revolution, liberation from censorship, the rise of alternative lifestyles, vocal protests, and the overturning of inherited values of all sorts. But Toffler looked for disruptive change elsewhere, and pointed at “air travel and space flight, television, the development of nuclear energy, the invention of the computer, the discovery of DNA with its possibilities for the control of evolution,” and other trends of that sort.

You might think that Toffler, writing in 1965, would focus on the assassination of the President or the Civil Rights movement. But instead he devotes more attention to attempts to detect radio signals from Jupiter.

But does the existence of space travel really put us in a state of shock? Is air travel a danger to our psyches and organisms? 

And what about television? I have a friend who can’t fall asleep unless the TV is on in his bedroom. To my mind, that provides a much better metaphor for consumer technology. It doesn’t shock us—not at all.

It numbs us.

As I look back on Future Shock with the benefit of 50 years of hindsight, I see this everywhere in his book. Things turned out the exact opposite of what Toffler anticipated. Instead of Future Shock, he should have written a book called Future Numbness or Future Couch Potato. That would have hit the mark with a bullseye.

People today aren’t put into shock by all their tech devices. They are numbed and hypnotized. They’re addicted and won’t put them down. These folks haven’t been invaded by the future. If these machines are the future, they can’t get enough of it.

It’s the past that people have lost. They don’t care about it. They don’t understand it. They don’t want to understand it.

We live in cities that embody thousands of years of human labor, ingenuity, and imagination. Perhaps this might be shocking and anxiety-provoking if people thought about it—and especially if they focused on how fragile all this is. History tells of other cultures that created amazing technologies and then collapsed. Thinking about that might actually cause some real shock.

But that’s not how the dominant mindset right now views city life or digital devices—or any other legacy of the past. The reality is that people don’t think about much of anything at all, because technology turns them into passive receptors.

Nobody is “invaded by the future.” The citizenry is entirely absorbed by the present moment—to the exclusion of everything else.

Just watch them on the street or subway with their devices, and see that empty look on their faces. Like zombies in those horror films, they might have had a real life once, long ago, but they’ve forgotten what it’s like.

“It’s the past that people have lost. They don’t care about it. They don’t understand it. They don’t want to understand it.”

And what about information overload? That has to be true, no?

Ah, the reality on the street is much different. As I noted in my recent article on “The State of the Culture, 2023” people sip that information with a very narrow straw.

Your data stream is like a morphine drip at the hospital. And with the same result—you want to make sure you’re always hooked to the machine that provides the drip.

TikTok and Instagram, for example, can be described in many ways. But “information overload” or “future shock”aren’t the words I’d use. Consumers have become very skilled at blocking out information—maybe too skilled. That’s what happens when your interactions with the real world are reduced to 10 or 20 second video snippets.

Nobody is overloaded with information not in the year 2023. Not even students—or especially not students.

If we turn away from technology for a moment, and look instead at culture, we absolutely do not find rapid change. We see the exact opposite.

Movie studios keep releasing the same stories with the same characters. The hottest Hollywood star at the Cannes festival this year was Harrison Ford, age 80. Last year it was comparative youngster Tom Cruise, age 60. Both showed up to pitch sequels in which they played the same character they originated four decades ago.

Musical genres don’t change much from year to year, or even from decade to decade. A recent survey found that the most popular song has been the same for three years.

Many of the biggest names in commercial music are the same ones who were popular when Toffler peddled his Future Shock concept back in the 1970s. For example, here’s what a search engine told me when I asked about the bestselling rock artists in the year 2023.

So even if tech devices are evolving rapidly—and I’m not entirely convinced of that—the culture is stagnating. It needs more change, not less.

Yet Toffler was correct about one thing. People are getting sick.

Rates of depression are up. Suicide rates are up. Self-harm and eating disorders and mental illness are rising everywhere. Drugs kill millions of individuals—and it’s not always illegal drugs. Addictions of all sorts plague society, and ‘recovery’ programs of all sorts are big business. And so is ‘anger management’—a vocation that didn’t even exist in Toffler’s day. People can’t control their anger, and lash out at the slightest things. Violence is at a high point; tolerance at a low point.

Toffler saw something of this sort coming—in fact, he probably underestimated it. If you look through the index to his book, you won’t find suicide, depression, addiction, or other such topics. But you will find numerous references to the “nervous system” or “pace of life” or “adaptation.”

He clearly envisioned an anxious world on the go. People would travel in space ships. We would be operating complicated machines like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times. But that’s not the world we live in now.

People aren’t flying in spaceships. (Well, a few billionaires do that, but there are no tickets for us.) In fact, people are barely interested in getting a driver’s license nowadays. Hey, there’s so much entertainment just sitting at home with that tiny screen.

That’s what Toffler missed. The future came and it didn’t shock us with its complexity. They simplified everything so we can manage by swiping left or right, or just clicking on a button.

It’s “information underload” nowadays—and huge corporations work to deliver it. They ensure that our digital lives have no shocks or surprises. Their algorithms are designed to deliver today something almost identical to what they gave us yesterday. And tomorrow will be no different.

As a result, the future has fallen from view, replaced by a sense of stasis. And so has the past, which ought to be a resource but has become so weightless that it might as well not exist at all. All this is causing real sicknesses, and we don’t need to invent new names for them. They’ve been around a while, only now they’re much worse and afflicting more people.

In a situation like this, we ought to reverse Alvin Toffler’s advice. We need more change, not less. And it ought to be centered on the areas of greatest numbness and disconnectedness. I’m talking about the culture itself, not the technology.

This isn’t the place to spell out the necessary agenda—that’s a huge issue beyond our scope here. But I can tell you one thing. The kind of change we need isn’t going to happen on an app.

The One About Powerful Organizations

In our 74th episode, I swear we are only talking about one Important Thing, but I may be AI hallucinating.

Enjoy it now, or download for later. Here’s a handy feed or subscribe via Overcast or iTunes.

Sunday assorted links

1. Mines and other issues related to potential naval conflict near Taiwan.

2. Midjourney dreaming.

3. Schmidhuber on the future of AI.

4. Chess coming to cable TV.

5. Dutch euthanasia and autism.

6. TikTok viral videos in decline?

7. Ross Douthat recommends fantasy novels (NYT).

The post Sunday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




A Good Summary

For your Sunday reading, I’m going to suggest you read David Dayen about the debt ceiling (boldface mine):

With one potentially major exception, the relative harm and help was kept to a minimum in the final agreement. It will only be a little bit easier to commit wage theft, or to sell defective or poisoned products. It’ll only be a little harder to get rental assistance or tuition support. Only a few people will be freer to pollute the environment; only a few will find it more difficult to get food. The Internal Revenue Service will only be a little worse. A lot of things will stay the same. Almost nothing will get any better

Imagine a world where we were a normal country with no debt ceiling, but everything else was exactly the same. Thanks to gerrymandering and the malpractice of the New York Democratic Party, Republicans still have the House, and the budget for the current fiscal year still expires on September 30. Republicans and Democrats would still have to negotiate that budget, and one likely outcome of that would be that negotiations fall apart, that there’s just no way to reconcile what both sides want. In that case, either the government shuts down or a continuing resolution is struck, which means that the government would operate at the current funding levels for a period of time. Maybe we’d live under a CR for the entire two years of this Congress.

That’s approximately what happened in this agreement. The funding levels for fiscal year 2024 on the non-defense discretionary side are at FY2023 levels. House Republicans are saying they clawed things back to FY2022, but a number of funding shifts—most prominently the return of tens of billions of dollars in unspent COVID aid—backfill the non-defense discretionary budget to get it to around FY2023.

What this deal really does is hurt the government’s capacity. Clean air and water, consumer product safety, labor laws, public lands, agricultural conservation—most of the stuff we think of as “the government” will be hit by this. “’Flat spending’ implies a further reduction in real government funding per person after a decade of Obama-Boehner austerity, followed by Trump’s assaults on the administrative state,” wrote Jeff Hauser of the Revolving Door Project.

If we lose funding for second generation COVID vaccine development, that will be penny wise and pound foolish, especially in light of recent studies about the prevalence of long COVID–and work requirements for single, middle aged people who need SNAP hits the group most likely to get COVID the hardest.

I also have some thoughts about this on the horrible Twitter machine.

A new wave of mass migration has begun

What does it mean for rich-world economies?

Fedus Ex Machina?

Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell testifies before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on 'The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress', at Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, July 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

From TPM Reader RC

You were wondering how Biden was able to get such a good deal; in the end all this drama just amounted to getting the budget-negotiation process started early, with the GOP’s main takeaway being something (spending freeze) that their control of the House already guaranteed them via the tool of passing continuing resolutions.

Joe did a far better job than anyone imagined he could, for about the 79th time in a row.  But that said, the key thing to recognize is that Biden’s hand was much stronger than anyone I read seemed to understand.  What the media got right is, if a default destroyed the economy, that would hurt Joe/Dems in the general; even if people in some sense knew it was the GOP’s fault, they’d still mostly follow the heuristic “if things are going well, I’ll vote for the incumbent; if not, throw the bums out!”

But consider this: what if a default _isn’t_ devastating for the economy?  And what if Joe and Kevin both know it?  Well in that case, default is fine for Biden, because he can then blame whatever economic difficulties occur between now and Election Day on the GOP-created default!  Of course not all such blame will stick, but the point is, if the default _doesn’t_ meaningfully damage the economy, then it’s a net positive for Joe’s re-election chances, because it means he’ll get at-least-a-little-bit reduced blame for whatever bad things (recession, slow wage growth, inflation, etc.) were going to happen anyway.

Presumably at this point you’re thinking, “sure, in that hypothetical Joe’s hand is strong, but we all know that a default would be a catastrophe surrounded by a disaster, wrapped in a calamity.”  But do we?  Take a look at the stock market — was it falling in fear of a crash as the deadline loomed?  Not so much!  Even better, look at the volatility index, or VIX, where investors can speculate on the probability that things get riskier.  It’s near the lowest level since before the pandemic.  The press focused on the fact that short-term Treasury bills reflected a significant default probability, but this is, in combination with the quiescent stock market and VIX levels, _comforting_ news.  It suggests we’re not in the situation that default would be catastrophic but it’s unlikely.  Rather, it says, sure, default might happen, but it won’t croak the market.  Because if default is reasonably likely, as the T-Bill rates suggest, and default _would_ croak the market, then we’d have seen stocks drop and implied volatility rise.  Since we didn’t see those things, it suggests the market thought default wouldn’t be a huge issue.

Now, by itself that’s not enough; financial markets aren’t always right.  Though surely the disconnect between the panic in the press and the total calm of the markets was worthy of a great deal more investigation than it received.  Journalists should have been asking themselves, “what do the markets know, or think they know, that we don’t?”  Here’s a likely answer: if all else fails, the Fed can solve the default problem, and they don’t need a platinum coin to do it.  All the Fed needs to do is… buy the defaulted bonds!

I know this seems so sinple as to be almost silly, but remember, buying bonds is something the Fed does on a regular basis; such activity is commonly referred to as “quantitative easing” or QE.  It’s just absolutely normal for the Fed to make bond purchases.  Of course traditionally QE meant buying the world’s safest assets, which is to say, rock-solid US Treasury bonds.  Whereas _defaulted_ Treasury bonds are somewhat riskier.  But not all _that_ much riskier, after all, everyone knows this debt limit thing will eventually get resolved.  And ever since TARP and all the other activities surrounding 2008 and it’s aftermath, it’s become quite normal for the Fed to buy _risky_ bonds, corporate bonds and the like; the TA in TARP stood for Troubled Assets.  Recall also that the Powell Fed committed to buy risky corporates during covid.  It just wouldn’t be weird at all for the Fed to say: if you have a $1000 bond maturing June 15 and the Treasury doesn’t pay it, we’ll buy it from you for face value.  the same with coupons. 

In truth the Fed might well get fancier and just commit to _lend_ the face value of bonds to people, collateralized by defaulted Treasuries.  There’s no doubt this is legal because this is _exactly_ what the Fed did during the recent regional-bank bailouts.  Indeed a cynic might say they did it precisely so that no one could say, come June, that such an action is novel or legally sketchy — it literally just occurred a month or two ago and no one had any problem with it.  I think the engineers call this a “smoke test.”

Now of course no one knows what the Fed would do in a default scenario.  Certainly Joe would not actually _prefer_ to default and find out.  But that said, I mean, can we really imagine Jerome Powell letting the global financial system collapse on his watch when he could easily address the problem employing tools he’s been using regularly since he took office?  Almost for sure he would step up.  The uncertainty is large enough to bring Joe to the negotiating table, but the near-certainty the Fed would save the day means Joe was holding aces.  He could say to McCarthy: look, I’m boring old Joe, so you know I’m not _hoping_ for default.  But if it happens, it’ll help me a bit in the general with 98% probability, and that’s sufficient to keep me from giving it all away in this negotiation.  Rather, I’ll give you just enough so you can tell your supporters you won, and bring a reasonable fraction of the GOP House caucus.  I’ll deliver the rest of the votes, and we’ll get back to business as usual.” 

Although this email has been long by 2023 standards, recognize that it’s hugely oversimplified.  The Fed bond purchases or loans do not, on their own, fully solve the problem; the Administration would need to take additional steps as well.  But it would solve the bulk of the problem, and other needed steps are well understood; e.g. continuing “extraordinary measures,” issuing Treasuries to pay Social Security and Medicare under the 1996 law that allows borrowing above the debt limit for this purpose, and so forth.

The Administration had access to a layered defense which includes paying the bonds while shutting down the government as a stopgap, just paying everything and saying he had to choose between breaking one law or another and chose the less damaging option, and other approaches, with the Fed as a final backstop.  But the Fed’s potential role is, I think, the key element left out of most discourse.  Understandably the Fed wants the President and Congress to work this out so will swear up and down until the last minute that they cannot help.  But this is obviously untrue; in fact the WSJ had a piece that glancingly mentioned how the Fed wargamed this scenario back in, IIRC, 2014.  It’s an option, and security prices suggest Wall Street knows it, which means Biden and McCarthy know it.

And that, plus Joe Biden being a talented people person who’s been getting deals done in Washington for half a century, is good at it and knows he’s good at it, will, assuming this deal passes Congress, be the reason he once more made fools of all the doubters.

The debt ceiling deal

Ho hum.  Political bargaining, so what else is new?  Kicking fiscal problems down the road, so what else is new?  True permitting reform?  We’ll see how much they end up doing away with judicial review.

As I stated long ago, I don’t favor either having a debt ceiling or using such a debt ceiling for strategic purposes.  But this deal is not very different from what would have resulted from the normal appropriations process, is it?  All in all, not worth monkeying with the Constitution for, with such dubious elements as minting the coin, invoking the amendment, and so on.  The influence of Donald Trump really is spreading, isn’t it?  There may yet be a final round of drama, but the people who treated this event as the nothing burger it is were on the right track the whole way through.

The post The debt ceiling deal appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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WordPress Turns 20

It’s funny what gains traction for the long haul, and what turns out, in hindsight, to be a flash in the pan. I, for one, never would have predicted that WordPress would grow to become, by far, the most popular CMS in the world, and the foundation of a thriving company whose primary goal is making the web a better platform.


Hotels: Occupancy Rate Down 1.5% Year-over-year

From STR: STR: U.S. hotel results for week ending 20 May
U.S. hotel performance increased from the previous week and showed improved comparisons year over year, according to STR‘s latest data through 20 May.

14-20 May 2023 (percentage change from comparable week in 2022):

Occupancy: 67.5% (-1.5%)
• Average daily rate (ADR): US$158.53 (+3.6%)
• Revenue per available room (RevPAR): US$106.98 (+2.1%)
emphasis added
The following graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four-week average.

Hotel Occupancy RateClick on graph for larger image.

The red line is for 2023, black is 2020, blue is the median, and dashed light blue is for 2022.  Dashed purple is for 2018, the record year for hotel occupancy. 

The 4-week average of the occupancy rate is slightly above the median rate for the period 2000 through 2022 (Blue).

Note: Y-axis doesn't start at zero to better show the seasonal change.

The 4-week average of the occupancy rate will move mostly sideways for the next several weeks until the summer travel season.

How do (should?) economists study repugnance?

 Here's a recent paper by Peter Cserne that looks at different ways that economists study repugnance:

Cserne, P. (2023). Economic analyses of repugnant market transactions: A modest typology. Journal of Institutional Economics, 1-14. doi:10.1017/S1744137423000139

"Abstract: Economic accounts of repugnance concern two broad questions: the rationalisation of sentiments of repugnance (do emotional and visceral reactions of repugnance track valid reasons for not engaging in or condemning certain (trans)actions?) and institutional design (how to institute, regulate, or restrict markets in response to reasonable objections). If repugnance expresses valid practical reasons for regulating or limiting markets, our institutions should acknowledge and express these. If attitudes of repugnance are not rationalisable in the sense of instrumental or moral values, we should disregard or eventually counteract or reduce them. Focusing on a special case of repugnance, when commodification, i.e., the sale of goods or services for money meets societal disapproval, this paper identifies three characteristic ways to combine conceptual, empirical, and normative arguments and map repugnance into a disciplinary ‘epistemic frame’ of economics: repugnance as taste; repugnance as proxy for market failures or moral reasons; repugnance as hypocrisy or contingent cultural fact. Correspondingly, economists advise to (1) work around; (2) make sense of; and (3) explain away people's sentiments of repugnance."


"In recent decades, the economic discourse on repugnance has become rich and dense. While the moral limits of markets have been discussed in philosophy and various social and policy sciences for centuries, in the last decades, repugnance as a possible limit to markets has been increasingly subject to technical economic analysis as well (Khalil and Marciano, Reference Khalil and Marciano2018; Roth, Reference Roth2007; Tirole, Reference Tirole2017: 33–50). To be sure, from a longer historical perspective, economists have always been concerned with moral sentiments, including repugnance.


"Regarding the moral limits of markets, there is a range of (a) substantive views. For the purposes of this paper, we roughly distinguish three stances: commodification, anti-commodification, and anti-anti-commodification. These are expressed in different (b) conceptual categories: as moral preferences; moral externalities or merit goods; and hypocrisy or cultural facts. Together, they allow to express the substantive concerns in (c) analytical frameworks, in other words, they provide the technical terms for economists to, respectively: work around; rationalise, i.e., make sense of; and explain away people's repugnance. Thus, I suggest distinguishing three substantive stances on repugnance in economics, combining conceptual choices and normative commitments into analytical frameworks.

"First, economists may conceptualise repugnance as a taste or (moral) preference. Following the dictum de gustibus non est disputandum (Stigler and Becker, Reference Stigler and Becker1977), they engage in technical normative analysis and institutional design in an engineering mode (Roth, Reference Roth2002). Normatively, they orient themselves in favour of commodification, i.e., extending the scope of markets. Correspondingly, their analytical strategy is to propose policies to ‘work around’ social sentiments of repugnance.

"Second, economists may conceptualise repugnance in terms of (moral) externality or merit goods, i.e., as versions of or proxies for market failures. In doing so, they make sense of sentiments of repugnance, in terms of ordinary economic analysis. Correspondingly, they propose policies to justify limiting or regulating markets. They engage in the rationalisation of anti-commodification sentiments in terms of public reasonableness.

"Third, economists may conceptualise repugnance as an expression of hypocrisy or as a cultural fact of no independent normative weight. Normatively, they engage in demystifying repugnance either by naturalising it or philosophically debunking sentiments of repugnance as unreasonable ‘romance’; their analytical strategy could be characterised as anti-anti-commodification insofar as they aim to explain away anti-commodification arguments as irrelevant for policy debates around institutional design."

Identify a Market Failure and Win Prizes!

The University of Chicago’s Market Shaping Accelerator, led by Rachel Glennerster, Michael Kremer, and Chris Snyder, is offering up to two million dollars in prizes for new pull mechanisms and applications.

Our inaugural MSA Innovation Challenge 2023 will award up to $2,000,000 in total prizes for ideas that identify areas where a pull mechanism would help spur innovation in biosecurity, pandemic preparedness, and climate change, and for teams to design that incentive mechanism from ideation to contract signing.

Participating teams will have access to the world’s leading experts in market shaping and technical support from domain specialists to compete for their part of up to $2 million prize during multiple phases. Top ideas will also gain the MSA’s support in fundraising for the multi-millions or billions of dollars needed to back their pull mechanism.

…Pull mechanisms are policy tools that create incentives for private sector entities to invest in research and development (R&D) and bring solutions to market. Whereas “push” funding pays for inputs (e.g. research grants), “pull” funding pays for outputs and outcomes (i.e. prizes and milestone contracts). These mechanisms “pull” innovation by creating a demand for a specific product or service, which drives private sector investment and efforts towards developing and delivering that product or technological solution.

One example of a pull mechanism is an Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which is a type of contract where a buyer, such as a government or philanthropic organization, commits to purchasing (or subsidizing) a product or service at a certain price and quantity once it becomes available. This commitment creates a market for the product or service, providing a financial incentive for innovators to invest in R&D and develop solutions to meet that demand.

The first round of prizes are $4,000 for an idea!

The submission template asks applicants to identify a market failure where the social value exceeds private incentives and where we know the measurable outcome we want to encourage (e.g. the development of a vaccine, capturing carbon out of the air, etc.). Submissions are accepted from individuals 18 years and older and organizations around the globe whose participation and receipt of funding will not violate applicable law.

See here for more.

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Do tax increases tame inflation?

Here is a new AER article by James Cloyne, Joseba Martinez, Haroon Mumtax, and Paolo Surico.  After an extensive data analysis, they arrive at this conclusion:

Based on US federal tax changes post–World War II, our answer is “yes” if personal income taxes are increased but “no” if corporate income taxes are increased.

Of course this is consistent with the view — no longer so commonly admitted — that higher corporate tax rates do have negative supply side effects.  There is an ungated version of the paper here.

The post Do tax increases tame inflation? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Selective reporting of placebo tests in top economics journals

Placebo tests, where a null result is used to support the validity of the research design, is common in economics. Such tests provide an incentive to underreport statistically significant tests, a form of reversed p-hacking. Based on a pre-registered analysis plan, we test for such underreporting in all papers meeting our inclusion criteria (n=377) published in 11 top economics journals between 2009-2021. If the null hypothesis is true in all tests, 2.5% of them should be statistically significant at the 5% level with an effect in the same direction as the main test (and 5% in total). The actual fraction of statistically significant placebo tests with an effect in the same direction is 1.29% (95% CI [0.83, 1.63]), and the overall fraction of statistically significant placebo tests is 3.10% (95% CI [2.2, 4.0]). Our results provide strong evidence of selective underreporting of statistically significant placebo tests in top economics journals.

That is from a new paper by Anna Dreber, Magnus Johannesson, and Yifan Yang.

The post Selective reporting of placebo tests in top economics journals appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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More Details

Now we can say the following. There is a deal. Both sides are presenting it to their members. McCarthy announced plans to hold a vote on Wednesday. Details of the deal are dribbling out. Broadly they seem to conform to reporting over the last 72 hours. The big sticking point at the end was work requirements. There are changes to SNAP and TANF. But they seem pretty limited, mainly focus on able-bodied recipients without children between the ages of 50 and 54.

These concessions are not nothing. But they’re basically what you would have expected if the Republicans had never played with the debt ceiling in the first place but had done a regular budget negotiation. On the merits this is a very good result because it means we won’t have the financial chaos of a debt default and we appear to have far more modest concessions than almost anyone was anticipating. In other words, the hostage taking was a fail. If you walk into Denny’s, pull out a gun and “say gimme the money,” but then you end up just getting served breakfast that means you failed. And that’s kind of what happened here.

NASA and Boeing say preparations continue for July Starliner test flight

Starliner CFT preps

NASA and Boeing said May 26 they are still working towards a July launch of the CST-100 Starliner on a crewed test flight despite “emerging issues” and concerns raised by a safety panel.

The post NASA and Boeing say preparations continue for July Starliner test flight appeared first on SpaceNews.


Bloomberg News is reporting that Biden and McCarthy have a deal.

Mimestream 1.0

After a few years in public beta, Mimestream 1.0 is out, and it’s fantastic. Mimestream is a Mac email client specifically for Gmail. They’ve got plans to expand to iOS, and plans to perhaps expand to IMAP (and JMAP) email accounts in the future, but as it stands today, Mimestream does one thing and does it incredibly well: it’s a true Mac app for Gmail. It’s both a great Mac app and a great Gmail client. $5/month or $50/year, with a two-week free trial.

Jason Snell:

Apple Mail is free. Gmail in a browser window is free. But after two years with Mimestream, I couldn’t put down my credit card fast enough.


Swiss company selects Arianespace to launch first space debris removal mission

Artist’s concept of ClearSpace’s spacecraft approaching a piece of space debris from a previous Vega rocket launch in 2013. Credit: ClearSpace

Swiss-based in-orbit servicing startup ClearSpace has contracted Arianespace to launch its first debris removal mission to capture and deorbit a 100-kilogram (220-pound) piece of space debris.

Europe’s Vega C will launch the ClearSpace-1 servicer spacecraft to low Earth orbit (LEO) from French Guaina in the second half of 2026 as a secondary passenger to a larger payload that has yet to be announced.

The spacecraft will be injected into a sun-synchronous from where it will rendezvous, capture and deorbit a spent upper stage which was part of the Vega launcher’s second flight in 2013.

ClearSpace claims to demonstrate a range of new technologies as it captures the debris object using its quartet of robotic arms before attempting a controlled reentry to burn up both the servicer and the 112-kilogram VESPA (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) in the atmosphere.

“We are very enthusiastic about this deal with Arianespace,” said Luc Piguet, CEO and Co-founder of ClearSpace. “This secures access to orbit for our trailblazing space debris removal mission which represents a real turning point for the space industry.

“The world is putting objects into space quicker than they are being removed and we urgently need to bring solutions to this fundamental problem. We are looking forward to this European collaboration and the potential for more challenging future missions with multiple captures per flight.”

Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, added: “Above us, there are currently more than 34,000 pieces of space debris measuring more than 10 centimeters each, as well as about 6,500 operational satellites in orbit, a number expected to rise to more than 27,000 by the end of the decade.

“These figures demonstrate the need to find innovative solutions for preserving the benefits of space for humanity and life on Earth. At Arianespace, we are honored to deliver this mission with Vega C, thus supporting a sustainable use of space.”

In 2019, ESA selected ClearSpace from a field of more than a dozen candidates to lead the first mission to remove an ESA-owned item from orbit. Supported by ESA’s new Space Safety Program, the mission is being procured as a service contract with a startup-led commercial consortium, to help establish a new market for in-orbit servicing as well as debris removal.

Established just five years ago in 2018, ClearSpace has also won funding of £2.2 million ($2.7 million from the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to develop CLEAR (Clearing of the LEO Environment with Active Removal) for a mission which aims to collect and bring defunct satellites back to Earth while also facilitating the development of advanced space technologies like complex robotics and AI-based algorithms.

Europe’s Vega C successfully performed its maiden flight last July, but the rocket, which can launch about 2,300 kilograms to a reference 700-kilometer polar orbit, has been grounded since its second mission failed in December. Arianespace plans to return Vega C to flight by the end of this year after putting the launch failure down to an eroded nozzle component.