Visualizing Income Distributions

Clive Crook describes a very interesting visualization exercise for understanding income distribution. The article is in the latest, September 2006, Atlantic Monthly. An excerpt is available on the website. Here’s a long quote that starts the story and describes the visualization. In 1971, Jan Pen, a Dutch economist, published a celebrated treatise with a less-than-gripping title: Income Distribution. The book summoned a memorable image. This is how to think of the pattern of incomes in an economy, Pen said (he was writing about Britain, but bear with me).

Lords of War

Even the movies I’ve been watching, not to mention the news I’ve been reading, have been about violence lately. This weekend it was two approaches to the same problem: the industry of killing. First up was Lord of War, a recent Nicholas Cage flick about a young Ukrainian man who emigrates to the United States and becomes an arms dealer. What better way to make money, huh? America is, indeed, the land of opportunity.

The Middle East, Empire, Etc.

I don’t have much to add to the current discussions in the blogosphere about the crisis in the Middle East. So instead I’ll link to some of recent reading: Matthew Yglesias on the Green Lantern theory of politics in action Michael Totten tries to sympathize but gets eaten by the conservative undead. Stirling Newberry on the violence tax It’s all about sex and violence, read the Update II part especially.

Education Won't Save Us

I recently wrote about the common canard that education will allow us all to get good jobs in a world where outsourcing and globalization are the dominant economic paradigms. There are so many loads of bunk inside of that idea that it’s hard to know where to begin. Brad DeLong recently posted some thoughts on this very issue. He wrote, in response to Greg Mankiw. I don’t think this works particularly well.

So Sick it Makes You Laugh - Follies in Political Rhetoric

Whenever I take an interest in politics it’s usually to look at the language and rhetoric that is used to make arguments. When I see other people take an interest in the same issue I’m usually willing to read. Here are some posts on political rhetoric, all from a liberal perspective, that I’ve found interesting over the last few days. Glenn Greenwald and Dave Neiwert have been consistently good about following the eliminationist rhetoric that regularly emanates from the conservative blogosphere.

On Independence

It’s the fourth of July and America is celebrating Independence Day. I can hear people setting off fireworks. The windows are open and summer is in full swing. The National Archives has a very nice web page on the Declaration of Independence. There’s also an essay on the history of the declaration and one on the rhetoric. Independence of thought and expression are two great gifts which the United States has demonstrated to the world.

The "More Education" Blinder

The March-April issue of Foreign Affairs contained an article by Alan Blinder on “Offshoring: the Next Industrial Revolution?” He begins the article by discussing the kerfluffle over Greg Mankiw’s 2004 remarks about offshoring. Mankiw essentially reasserted the standard economic thinking that the offshoring is a good thing because it means that more things are tradable now than in the past. It’s the standard comparative advantage argument, if a country can produce something cheaper than another country then it is only natural for the market to shift to the cheaper country.

The Sheer Radicalism of Democracy

Henry Gould wrote the following it about the radical nature of democracy.: But the question got me thinking. Perhaps democracy is only realistic as a radical commitment. By that I mean one must be - thoroughly - a committed believer in popular sovereignty and the intelligence of the common person and ordinary opinion - radically so, despite the debilitating processes & events so conducive to despair & cynicism. Because only such a commitment is strong enough to say nay to the centuries - millennia - of elite thinking on politics (from before Plato, to Plato, to Macchiavelli, etc.

Piracy and the Democratization of Creativity

An intriguing interview with Jim Griffin at the Register about the intersection of technology in the form of wireless, piracy and creativity. He begins with a very promising start, at least to my ears: We have to start with the a priori notion that we must democratize access to art and knowledge. That’s a baseline notion of a civilized society. We have libraries that will get you any movie, and any song, and any book; and price or money should not stop you hearing those songs.

Is it Possible to Change a Person's Mind?

One of the recurring questions raised around the Democratic political campaign is whether it is possible to change another person’s mind? Arnold Kling was so outraged by a quote from Eli Pariser “Changing people’s minds is overrated, most of the people in this country are with us, and it’s a matter of getting them active and getting them informed.” (taken from Politics of the Web: Meet, Greet, Segregate, Meet Again; by Amy Harmon, New York Times) that he decided to pen an entire column at TechCentralStation: The Downfall of the Anointed.