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why i don’t teach polanyi

Marko Grdesic wrote an interesting post on why modern economists don’t read Polanyi. He surveyed economists at top programs and discovered that only 3% had read Polanyi. I am not shocked. This post explains why.

For a while, I taught an undergrad survey course in sociology with an economic sociology focus. The goal is to teach sociology in a way interesting to undergraduate business and policy students. I often teach a module that might be called “capitalism’s defenders and critics.” On defense, we had Smith and Hayek. On offense, we had Marx and Polanyi.

And, my gawd, it was painful. Polanyi is a poor writer, even compared to windbags like Hayek and Marx. The basic point of the whole text is hard to discern other than, maybe, “capitalism didn’t develop the way you think” or “people change.” It was easily the text that people understood the least and none of the students got the point. Nick Rowe wrote the following comment:

35 years ago (while an economics PhD student) I tried to read Great Transformation. I’m pretty sure I didn’t finish it. I remember it being long and waffly and unclear. If you asked me what I was about, I would say: “In the olden days, people did things for traditional reasons (whatever that means). Then capitalism and markets came along, and people changed to become rational utility maximisers. Something like that.”

Yup. Something like that. Later, I decided that the Great Transformation is a classic case of “the wiki is better than the book.” We should not expect readers to genuflect in front if fat, baggy books. We are no longer in the world of the 19th century master scholars. If you can’t get your point across, then we can move on.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

April 6, 2016 at 12:05 am

the black democratic primary vote is completely predictable

There is a lot of punditry about Bernie Sander’s inability to make a dent in the Black vote. This is crucial because a lot of Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead comes from massive blowouts in the Deep South. Even a small movement in the Black vote would have turned Sander’s near losses in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Missouri into narrow wins.

My approach to this issue – Sanders’ poor performance among Blacks is entirely predictable. Post-Civil Rights, the urban black population became heavily integrated into the mainstream of the Democratic party. The connection is so tight that some political scientists have used the African-American vote as a classic example of “voter capture” – a constituency so tightly linked to a party that there is no longer any credible threat of moving to another party and the party takes them for granted.

If you believe that, then you get a straight forward prediction – Black voters will overwhelmingly support the establishment candidate. Why? Black voters are the establishment in the Democratic party. As a major constituency, they are unlikely to vote against someone who already reflects their preferences. Here’s some evidence:

The exceptions:

The pattern is exceptionally clear. Black voters overwhelmingly support establishment candidates. The only exceptions are when you have an African American candidate of extreme prominence, like Obama the wunderkind or Jesse Jackson the civil rights leader. And then there’s a tipping point where almost the entire voting block switches to a new candidate. So Bernie is actually hitting what a normal challenger hits in a  Democratic primary but that simply isn’t enough to win.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

March 25, 2016 at 12:01 am

hillary v. trump – who would win? i have no idea

A common question – should Trump win the nomination, would he beat Hillary Clinton? There are two contradictory answers:

  1. According to decades of political science research, incumbent parties do well if the economy is doing well. Unemployment is low and GDP is positive, though modest. We also have few casualties in foreign wars. And Trump has really, really bad negative ratings. Conclusion: Hillary Clinton will win.
  2. The bungler – Hillary Clinton is not a very effective campaigner. Her infamous campaign of 2008 was bankrupt and chaotic. She lost to a first term Senator with no name recognition. In 2016, she’s pulling ties in big states against a geriatric commie after spending hundreds of millions. One can imagine her losing the entire South, maybe even Florida, and some how screwing up a big Midwestern state. That would be enough for a Trump win.This is similar to Gore winning the popular vote in 2000 and screwing up by losing his *home state* of Tennessee.

Use the comments to spin out other fanciful tales.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

March 22, 2016 at 12:03 am

the coming progressive explosion in the democratic party

Right now, it is clear that the Republican party is experiencing internal conflict. But I believe that there is a coming blow up in the Democratic party. Maybe not this cycle, but definitely by 2020. Right now, the Clinton-Sanders competition is being framed as Clinton’s successful defense against a challenge from the base.

There’s a good chance that this narrative will turn out to be correct. But it overlooks some serious trends that indicate the DLC coalition, Bill Clinton and other centrist Democrats of the 1990s, is slowly losing its grip on the Democratic party, in much the same way that the Nixon-Bush establishment lost its grip in 2016.

For example, look at the Massachusetts’ 2016 Democratic primary. Correctly, it is described as a much needed, but narrow, win for Hillary Clinton. But look at the long term trend:

In sense, 2016 is even worse than it appears in that Hillary Clinton got only 50% of the vote  against a single far left candidate. But the pattern is clear. Massachusetts, the bastion of Democratic party liberalism, is slowly sliding away from the establishment and toward challengers.

I don’t know why. It might be cohort change or a Tea Party style anger toward the establishment. But the trend is clear – the progressives aren’t going to take it anymore. The only question is how long it will be until the storm arrives.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

March 3, 2016 at 4:03 am

should i read my old posts more often? predicting the tea party president

Like most folks, I thought Donald Trump was similar to, say,  Herman Cain or Michelle Bachmann, long shot candidates who were doomed to failure. But maybe I should have read one of my old posts about the damaging impact of the Tea Party on the Republican party. In a 2012 post called “The Upcoming Tea Party President,” I argued that the Tea Party had mortally wounded the Nixon/Bush establishment. By washing out so many older politicians, the Republican Party was now susceptible to take over by a Tea Party candidate sometime after 2012:

My prediction: This is the last presidential election cycle where establishment Republicans are in charge of the ship. The establishment’s “bench” has been decimated by defections and primary bump-offs. Those who remain are probably cowed by the Tea Party. In other words, if Romney loses, the successors will be Tea Party adherents. In a system where power see-saws between parties, that means were going to have a Tea Party president within the decade. Start preparing now.

I thought it was going to be Scott Walker or someone similar. Turns out Trump is that guy.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

March 1, 2016 at 12:19 am

the democratic primary is going exactly as planned

Long time readers know that I made an incorrect prediction in 2007 – I was convinced that Barack Obama would lose to Hillary Clinton. I made that prediction not out of spite, but merely based on the correct premise that those supported by party elite do well and the incorrect assumption that Hillary Clinton was prepared to fight off a challenger if she did poorly in a few of the early states.

If you want to know my mental model of presidential politics, it is the Democratic primary of 2016. A low turnout primary has resulted in two major wins for the insider candidate, including a 50% blow out, and one marginal win. As of today, Hillary Clinton will have a delegate lead in the race that I suspect will just grow and grow.

This is the way it is supposed to play out. If you look at the South Carolina primary wiki, you see that “insider” candidates usually win by huge margins. In contested primaries, the GOP insider has won 6 out of 8 elections. The Democratic insider candidate has won 3 out of 6 contests. Hillary Clinton’s win is only surpassed by Al Gore’s whumping of Bill Bradley in 2000 with over 92% of the vote.

This is not Sander’s “fault,” though the South Carolina result is definitely a sign of poor planning. This is the way the system is designed.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

February 29, 2016 at 12:02 am

the rubio/cruz chicken game

In game theory, the “chicken game” involves two people, a clock and a deadline. The first person to blink loses the game. But if the players reach  deadline before anyone blinks, they both die. If they both blink, they get to tie. The GOP race has now entered the chicken game phase.

Currently, the major issue is that by consistently getting about 30%+ of the Republican vote, Trump wins states so long as the remaining two major contenders, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, keep splitting the anti-Trump vote. If either drops out, Trump wins. The first to drop allows the other to win second place and be the front runner in a future nomination contest.

Anecdotally, neither seems to be looking into dropping. Cruz is the sort of person who alienates people as he wins. Thus, if he drops out, he’s unlikely to be tapped by party leaders for a second run. Rubio is the remaining establishment choice. If he drops and lets Cruz surge to a strong second place, another person will be picked to be the establishment guy in the next cycle. So both want to stay in as long as possible.

Add your predictions in the comments.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

February 23, 2016 at 12:01 am

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