Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Around the web and miscellany

Over at TAP, Richard Just has one of the best pieces on the State of the Union address. I think the following is exactly right:

President George W. Bush delivered two State of the Union
addresses last night: an unconvincing recitation of platitudes
about supply-side economics followed by a compelling -- even
grand -- articulation of America's role in the world... [I]t wasn't
just the policies of the first half of the speech that were unsatisfying --
so was the delivery, not to mention the prose itself. This was
the kind of speechmaking at which President Clinton excelled;
he made laundry lists of policy proposals come alive. Bush
doesn't have that gift... But then came Bush's transition
sentence -- "The qualities of courage and compassion that we s
trive for in America also determine our conduct abroad" -- and I
suspect that even the president's most skeptical critics would
agree that from that point on, he was masterful...It is not irrelevant
that Bush succeeded last night where Clinton had the most trouble
as a speechmaker. Clinton could make a bulleted policy list sound
inspiring, but when he tried to deal in broad themes and big visions,
his rhetoric sometimes felt flat, even empty.

I suspect that I agree with more of Bush's domestic agenda than Just does; but I agree entirely with this commentary on the style and feel of the speech. On the other hand, Just also says that Locke's

rebuttal was the finest opposition response in years to a State of
the Union... Someone should take note and put Locke on the fast
track to bigger and better things in the Democratic Party.

Locke struck me as a bland, inoffensive nice guy, giving a speech for student council president. The need to paper over Democratic divisions on the war of course hurt him. But the grandson-of-an-indentured-servant thing seemed appropriate for a personal campaign ad, not for the moment when Locke was supposed to be speaking on behalf of the party as a whole. The symbolism of having a governor speak this year was terrible. And the domestic agenda was reeeally uninspiring. Just and I watched the same SotU, but apparently not the same Democratic response.

Over at The Conspiracy: check out David Post on "the reverse tinkerbell effect." I wonder whether there's not a much more general kind of case at work in everyday market economics-- not just the specialized case of the efficient capital market hypothesis. The more people who think there's a killing to be made in x area of economic activity, the more will enter it-- gradually driving economic profits to zero. Crowdedness doesn't only apply to libraries and beaches; it applies to markets, too. That's basic to how markets work; from the system's perspective it's a feature, not a bug. It looks different from the perspective of the individual producer. And it looks very different if the market in question takes some time and preparation to enter. The more early-stage graduate students who think that there's room in the literature to make a striking contribution on a particular topic, the more books there will be trying to occupy that intellectual space 3-6 years hence, and the less of a splash any one of them will make. Kieran Healy notes that the idea of the self-defeating prophecy has a long history.

Mark Kleiman, Ted Barlow, and Kieran Healy, among others, are blogging actual empirical matters-- you know, the kind with numbers. How much does wealth (as distinct from income) contribute to the black-white education gap?

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