orgtheory.net

does piketty replicate?

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Richard Sutch reports in Social Science History that Piketty does not replicate very well:

This exercise reproduces and assesses the historical time series on the top shares of the wealth distribution for the United States presented by Thomas Piketty in Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty’s best-selling book has gained as much attention for its extensive presentation of detailed historical statistics on inequality as for its bold and provocative predictions about a continuing rise in inequality in the twenty-first century. Here I examine Piketty’s US data for the period 1810 to 2010 for the top 10 percent and the top 1 percent of the wealth distribution. I conclude that Piketty’s data for the wealth share of the top 10 percent for the period 1870 to 1970 are unreliable. The values he reported are manufactured from the observations for the top 1 percent inflated by a constant 36 percentage points. Piketty’s data for the top 1 percent of the distribution for the nineteenth century (1810–1910) are also unreliable. They are based on a single mid-century observation that provides no guidance about the antebellum trend and only tenuous information about the trend in inequality during the Gilded Age. The values Piketty reported for the twentieth century (1910–2010) are based on more solid ground, but have the disadvantage of muting the marked rise of inequality during the Roaring Twenties and the decline associated with the Great Depression. This article offers an alternative picture of the trend in inequality based on newly available data and a reanalysis of the 1870 Census of Wealth. This article does not question Piketty’s integrity.

The point isn’t that income inequality hasn’t risen. Like most social scientists, I am of the view that, for various reasons, income inequality has risen, but it is important to get the magnitudes right, which can support or undermine other hypotheses about wealth accumulation. Sutch’s article shows that Piketty made a good effort, but it depends on some questionable choices. Let there be more discussion of this issue.

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Written by fabiorojas

November 13, 2017 at 5:44 am

monterey bay fish cam, seriously, just play

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Written by fabiorojas

November 12, 2017 at 5:36 am

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are lawyers dead meat?

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A recent article at Futurism.com suggests that life may be grim for many lawyers:

Law firm Baker & Hostetler has announced that they are employing IBM’s AI Ross to handle their bankruptcy practice, which at the moment consists of nearly 50 lawyers. According to CEO and co-founder Andrew Arruda, other firms have also signed licenses with Ross, and they will also be making announcements shortly.

Ross, “the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney” built on IBM’s cognitive computer Watson, was designed to read and understand language, postulate hypotheses when asked questions, research, and then generate responses (along with references and citations) to back up its conclusions. Ross also learns from experience, gaining speed and knowledge the more you interact with it.

Ouch! Why is this a problem? Basically, many lawyers make their money either doing document review, case review, or routine law. Document review simply means taking a big batch of documents obtained through discovery and looking for key words. Case review simply means reading prior law and decisions to see what is relevant. Routine law is what it sounds like – writing documents or providing advice on simple legal matters, like parking tickets, wills for most people, and divorces for people with no children and few assets.

What these things have in common is that you don’t need a lot of judgment or skill to do them. In other words, a computer could easily handle a large proportion of routine law and basic legal work. That’s bad news for many lawyers, as a big part of the legal labor market is exactly this kind of work.

My conjecture is that in the future, working lawyers will be like surgeons,  a very high skill area. If you make a good living as a lawyer, you are probably in a very complicated area of the law, like corporate mergers, or you are in an area where people skills are crucial, like arbitration. You might also be serving high income people, who have very complex legal issues. But for the many attorney’s who do things like wills and DUIs for average people, your time may be limited.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

November 10, 2017 at 5:32 am

levy book forum 2: political theory and the nature of society

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A few weeks ago, I began reviewing Jacob Levy’s new book Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom. The main point of the book is that you can’t have it both ways. A political liberalism that restrains the state can’t, at the same time, celebrate the civil sphere without qualification because civic associations themselves can become illiberal. Private groups can behave in fairly repressive ways that resemble what states do.

As I wrote, the book is lengthy and covers a lot of ground. In this part of the review, I want to delve a little into Part II, which examines how political theory has thought about the state. I think sociologists might enjoy this because it provides an alternative to how we think about states. In modern sociology, states, per Weber, are holders of legitimate force, or they are the place where ultimate authority is created and exercised. Perhaps a Bourdieusian might suggest that it is a place for statecraft, while a post-Bourdieusian view, like that espoused by McAdam and Fligstein (2012), would see it as an “ultimate” field that overlaps with other fields.

What does Levy draw from the discussion of states over the course of political theory? Perhaps most interesting to sociologists is the idea that modern states are not so much about violence, but rather the centralization of force and violence. Second is the response to centralization – things outside states are about self governance rather than governance by others. So, as we shifted away from the middle ages to modernity, we built big fat states, which encouraged people to assert independence in various forms (guilds, universities, etc.) There is much more to Levy’s analysis, but this captures a crucial starting point. Third, modern notions of freedoms are about trying to pull together all the concessions made to individual freedom by states during their formation. A lot of political theory is about trying to provide a more integrated account of freedom because in the middle ages freedom was defined in an ad hoc and disconnected way.

What should sociologists draw from this? One obvious lesson is that a crucial dimension of fields, such as states, is vestment in governance. In a particular field, or social domain, who has the authority? Is there a lot of self-governance? Centralized power? Or some sort of collegium model? Second, rights – political rights in Levy’s case – may be scattered or concentrated. Thus, in understanding fields, it is not about inequality or resources, but also about claims over resources and autonomy. As the case of political rights shows, rights can be broken up (e.g., right to trade, right to free speech) and effort (“institutional work” in modern jargon) must be expended to make the right more coherent in its context. The big lesson is that maybe field theory, and the sociology of states, focuses too much on resource inequality and should think more carefully about autonomy and control.

Next week, I’ll focus on Levy’s claims about the ills of private associations. Thanks for reading.

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Written by fabiorojas

November 9, 2017 at 5:01 am

open borders at florida state and west chester college

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On Thursday, November 2, there will be two open borders events:

  1. At Florida State, I will discuss whether open borders is good for the U.S. I think so! The details: 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm, Florida State University, Main Campus, HCB 102.
  2. At West Chester College, Philadelphia lawyer David Bennion will speak on open borders at 7pm at the Sykes Student Union Building.

Come say hello!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

November 1, 2017 at 9:34 pm

Posted in uncategorized

balkin critiques mclean

Andrew Koppleman, professor of law at Northwestern, offers a strong critique of Nancy McLean’s Democracy in Chains. The book argues that the economist James M. Buchanan was an enemy of the Brown decision and took Koch funding in an attempt to develop the intellectual tools to fight Brown. The book was discussed briefly on this blog.

On the “Balkinization” blog, Koppelman takes McLean to task, arguing that the book simply got the story completely wrong. He is not alone. There are numerous critics, ranging from personal friends of Buchanan to independent historians, who have argued that the major claims of the book are simply wrong. For example, GMU’s Phil Magness has reported on his blog that, among other things, there is ample documentary evidence that Buchanan and his colleagues did not support segregation.

Koppleman steps back and takes a look at the big picture. The problem isn’t that you can’t criticize economists or libertarian intellectuals with respect to their racial positions. Indeed, as a person who thinks that markets are very important, I think we need to be very critical of libertarians who have openly associated with racists, like Rand Paul, or Murray Rothbard, who actively relied on the political ideas of Southern politicians. However, as far as I can tell, James Buchanan was not like that. To quote Koppelman,

Democracy in Chains has been testing the proposition that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  There has been an explosion of documentation that MacLean gets facts wrong, misunderstands her sources, and invents quotations or pulls them out of context to mean the opposite of what they said.  You can find all this easily if you just google the book’s title.

Koppelman then puts his finger on the real issue: People have dropped their standards because the author has the right politics. You are definitely allowed to criticize Buchanan, the Kochs or anyone else – but you aren’t entitled to twisting the facts:

MacLean states a valid and important complaint against the Kochs. They threaten to impose a new quasi-feudal hierarchy in the guise of liberty.  But a work of history is supposed to be more than a denunciation of bad political actors.

Koppelman then reviews the piles of errors and odd inferences in the book. How can people openly support a book so rife with error? Koppelman again:

The nomination bespeaks a new low in polarization: if you write a readable book denouncing the Kochs, we love you, and we don’t care whether anything you say is true.  The prize is being used to make a political statement, like Obama’s 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded less than nine months after he took office.  Even he found that embarrassing.  Party solidarity now overrides all other considerations.  This is, of course, the kind of thinking that led otherwise thoughtful Republicans to vote for Trump.

Critique is good and I support it. But we should also demand quality.

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Written by fabiorojas

October 30, 2017 at 4:02 am

Posted in books, fabio, uncategorized

bill evans plays israel

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome

Written by fabiorojas

October 29, 2017 at 5:46 am