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September 03 2013

Science Policy Podcast - Jon Vernick and Rebecca Peters (3 Sept 2013)

Science's Meghan Sachdev interviews Jon Vernick and Rebecca Peters about the book "Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis"..

August 23 2013

Four short links: 23 August 2013

  1. Bradley Manning and the Two Americas (Quinn Norton) — The first America built the Internet, but the second America moved onto it. And they both think they own the place now. The best explanation you’ll find for wtf is going on.
  2. Staggering Cost of Inventing New Drugs (Forbes) — $5BB to develop a new drug; and subject to an inverse-Moore’s law: A 2012 article in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery says the number of drugs invented per billion dollars of R&D invested has been cut in half every nine years for half a century.
  3. Who’s Watching You — (Tim Bray) threat modelling. Everyone should know this.
  4. Data Mining with Weka — learn data mining with the popular open source Weka platform.

July 31 2013

Four short links: 31 July 2013

  1. How to Easily Resize and Cache Images for the Mobile Web (Pete Warden) — I set up a server running the excellent ImageProxy open-source project, and then I placed a Cloudfront CDN in front of it to cache the results. (a how-to covering the tricksy bits)
  2. Google’s Position on Net Neutrality Changes? (Wired) — At issue is Google Fiber’s Terms of Service, which contains a broad prohibition against customers attaching “servers” to its ultrafast 1 Gbps network in Kansas City. Google wants to ban the use of servers because it plans to offer a business class offering in the future. [...] In its response [to a complaint], Google defended its sweeping ban by citing the very ISPs it opposed through the years-long fight for rules that require broadband providers to treat all packets equally.
  3. The Future of Programming (Bret Victor) — gorgeous slides, fascinating talk, and this advice from Alan Kay: I think the trick with knowledge is to “acquire it, and forget all except the perfume” — because it is noisy and sometimes drowns out one’s own “brain voices”. The perfume part is important because it will help find the knowledge again to help get to the destinations the inner urges pick.
  4. psd.rb — Ruby code for reading PSD files (MIT licensed).

May 20 2013

April 10 2013

Four short links: 10 April 2013

  1. HyperLapse — this won the Internet for April. Everyone else can go home. Check out this unbelievable video and source is available.
  2. Housing Simulator — NZ’s largest city is consulting on its growth plan, and includes a simulator so you can decide where the growth to house the hundreds of thousands of predicted residents will come from. Reminds me of NPR’s Budget Hero. Notice that none of the levers control immigration or city taxes to make different cities attractive or unattractive. Growth is a given and you’re left trying to figure out which green fields to pave.
  3. Converting To and From Google Map Tile Coordinates in PostGIS (Pete Warden) — Google Maps’ system of power-of-two tiles has become a defacto standard, widely used by all sorts of web mapping software. I’ve found it handy to use as a caching scheme for our data, but the PostGIS calls to use it were getting pretty messy, so I wrapped them up in a few functions. Code on github.
  4. So You Want to Build A Connected Sensor Device? (Google Doc) — The purpose of this document is to provide an overview of infrastructure, options, and tradeoffs for the parts of the data ecosystem that deal with generating, storing, transmitting, and sharing data. In addition to providing an overview, the goal is to learn what the pain points are, so we can address them. This is a collaborative document drafted for the purpose of discussion and contribution at Sensored Meetup #10. (via Rachel Kalmar)

April 05 2013

Four short links: 5 April 2013

  1. Millimetre-Accuracy 3D Imaging From 1km Away (The Register) — With further development, Heriot-Watt University Research Fellow Aongus McCarthy says, the system could end up both portable and with a range of up to 10 Km. See the paper for the full story.
  2. Robot Ants With Pheromones of Light (PLoS Comp Biol) — see also the video. (via IEEE Spectrum’s AI blog)
  3. tabula — open source tool for liberating data tables trapped inside PDF files. (via Source)
  4. There’s No Economic Imperative to Reconsider an Open Internet (SSRN) — The debate on the neutrality of Internet access isn’t new, and if its intensity varies over time, it has for a long while tainted the relationship between Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Online Service Providers (OSPs). This paper explores the economic relationship between these two types of players, examines in laymen’s terms how the traffic can be routed efficiently and the associated cost of that routing. The paper then assesses various arguments in support of net discrimination to conclude that there is no threat to the internet economy such that reconsidering something as precious as an open internet would be necessary. (via Hamish MacEwan)

January 15 2013

Four short links: 15 January 2013

  1. Electronic Gadgets in the NZ Consumer Price Index — your CPI is just as bizarre, trust me. (via Julie Starr)
  2. Captive Audience: Telecom Industry and Monopoly in the New Gilded Age (Amazon) — Foo camper and former Washington insider, now truth-teller about broken telco industry in the US. From Time’s review of the book and interview with her: Meanwhile, Comcast has sharply reduced its capital expenditures, which have now fallen to 14% of revenues from over 35% a decade ago, even as it enjoys a whopping 95% profit margin on its broadband service. “They’re not expanding and they’re not enhancing their service,” Crawford says. “They’ve done their investment, now they’re just harvesting.” Not surprisingly, Comcast’s stock price increased over 50% in the last year, and nearly 200% over the last four years. “Shareholders are doing well,” Crawford says. “The rest of the country, not so great.”
  3. Barclays Cut Software Expenditure 90% With Open Source (The Inquirer) — “We’ve been making significant savings in our technology platform by doing a lot of the work in-house to develop and launch our own applications rapidly,” he said. “It means we can write new applications once and then develop them using an open source model, rather than rewriting them again for legacy systems.” (via The Linux Foundation)
  4. Lenovo Has a 27″ Tablet Due This Summer — USD1700 and I want one. The label “tablet” is a tough pill to swallow (ho ho) but it’d make an awesome table. That you could never put anything on. Hmm.

November 14 2012

An innovation agenda to help people win the race against the machines

If the country is going to have a serious conversation about innovation, unemployment and job creation, we must talk about our race against the machines. For centuries, we’ve been automating people out of jobs. Today’s combination of big data, automation and artificial intelligence, however, looks like something new, from self-driving cars to e-discovery software to “robojournalism” to financial advisors to medical diagnostics. Last year, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote that “software is eating the world.”

Computers and distributed systems are now demonstrating skills in the real world that we once thought would always be the domain of human beings. “That’s just not the case any more,” said MIT research professor Andrew McAfee, in an interview earlier this year at the Strata Conference in Santa Clara, Calif.:

McAfee and his research partner, MIT economics professor Erik Brynjolfsson, remain fundamentally optimistic about the effect of the digital revolution on the world economy. But the drivers of joblessness that they explore in their book, Race Against The Machine, deserved to have had more discussion in this year’s political campaign. Given the tepid labor market recovery in the United States and a rebound that has stayed flat, the Obama administration, given an opportunity for a second term, should pull some new policy levers.

What could — or should — the new administration do? On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of speaking at a panel at the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institute to talk about what a “First 100 Days Innovation Agenda” might look like for the new administration. (Full disclosure: earlier this year, I was paid to moderate a workshop that discussed this issue and contributed to the paper on building an innovation economy that was published this week.) The event was live streamed and should be available on-demand in the future.

In the meantime, below are recommendations from the paper and from professors McAfee and Brynjolfsson, followed by the suggestions I made during the forum, drawing from my conversations with people around the United States on this topic over the past two years.

Ideas from Brookings

Quoted below is the executive summary of the recommendations from the Brookings Center for Technology Innovation. The paper itself goes into more detail on each one.

  • We need better metrics for measuring worker productivity in the 21st century economy. Past approaches based on worker hours or total employees in relation to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ignore the transformational nature of digital technology.
  • We should encourage entrepreneurship by expanding Small Business Administration credit for start ups, adding entrepreneurial skills to school curricula, and making changes in immigration policy that encourage entrepreneurs to come to America.
  • We need governments that learn to innovate and collaborate, and develop new approaches to service delivery, transparency, and participation. This includes placing more data online and employing data analytical tools, social media, mobile technology, and search results that improve decision-making.
  • We should strengthen infrastructure by investing in broadband, data centers, and mobile cell towers, and improving access to spectrum for wireless applications.
  • We should protect vital digital assets by updating the Federal Information Security Management Act and developing procedures for monitoring threats to critical infrastructure.
  • We need to improve knowledge transmission through faster adoption of digital textbooks, more widespread use of creative commons licenses for instructional materials developed with taxpayer dollars, and policy changes that speed education innovation.
  • We need to increase technology transfer and the commercialization of knowledge from universities and federal laboratories so that public and private investments translate into jobs and economic activity as well as better health, security, and well-being.
  • We should harmonize cross-border laws to promote global innovation and freedom of expression.

Recommendations from McAfee and Brynjolfsson

“Everything I’ve learned during and after Race Against the Machine has left me incredibly optimistic in all important areas except one,” wrote McAfee in an email earlier this week.

“Digital technologies are increasing our productive capacity and ability to innovate, they’re bringing good things to our lives, and they will continue to do all of the above, probably at accelerating rates. As we wrote in the book, however, as technology races ahead, it is leaving a lot of workers behind. Computers and robots are acquiring human-like skills and abilities, which means that the ‘market share’ of people in the workforce — the areas where they are superior to machines — is going down, and will continue to do so. Dealing with this trend will be one of the main challenges, if not the greatest one, that we face over the next generation.”

What to do? “The cure-all to any economic woe is economic growth,” he said, in our previous interview at Strata. Even if that’s happening, McAfee emphasized, the cohort of mid- to lower-wage knowledge workers whose jobs stand to be automated is still going to be affected.

In response, he recommended that policy makers, schools and universities rethink current educational methods and system.

“We’re turning out industrial-era workers and industrial-era skills,” said McAfee. Instead of fact-based learning methods, he suggests focusing on developing the abilities of students to do problem definition, exploration and solving, working with machines.

“Reskilling and retraining are a big part of the answer,” he said. “We’re putting the wrong skills out there. Let’s rethink that. Let’s bring government, industry, and the educational institutions together and put together a curriculum that will actually deliver valuable skills out there.”

Brynjolfsson and McAfee made a list of 19 recommendations from Race Against The Machine that are worth considering, including: measuring performance in education, extending school hours, encouraging the immigration and retention of skilled workers, teaching entrepreneurship, investing in the country’s communications and transportation infrastructure, reforming the patent system and revisiting a host of tax subsidy and regulatory policies. While not all of these recommendations could be addressed in the first 100 days, they are all worth adding to the discussion about the choices ahead of the new administration and Congress.

My suggestions

Where do I sit? To unlock more innovation in the economy, the administration should consider:

  • Making evidence-based investments in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and experiential learning programs, with measurements against which teaching methods are working and where. Continue to embrace the maker movement.
  • Focusing on skills matching between millions of open jobs and coordination with industry to determine the training needed to fill them and community colleges and grad programs to create curricula that are relevant.
  • Continuing to invest in basic research and development, particularly in biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials science and alternative energy.
  • Pushing through immigration reform that enables the best and brightest entrepreneurs and researchers to come to the United States to build businesses, study and to stay here after graduation. Make the political compromise to get that engine moving quickly. Simplify visa applications, in accordance with the digital government strategy, so that innovators can build better civic interfaces to provide expedited e-services.
  • Creating more access to early seed-stage capital for startups and small businesses. That means pushing the Security and Exchange Commission to finalize the crowdfunding rules from the JOBS Act.
  • Releasing more open government data from regulators and federal agencies, particularly high-value datasets that are in demand from startups. Catalyze the growing data economy by engaging entrepreneurs and venture capitalists — and respond to their feedback about quality, availability and standards. Collaborate with states and cities on creating open standards for urban data.
  • Putting more code, research and other intellectual property created with taxpayer dollars into the public domain.
  • Using the power of government procurement to encourage small business, once Project RFPEZ is completed.
  • Releasing more spectrum and creating incentives for “last mile” broadband access to enable more participants in the innovation economy.
  • Making libraries digital hubs for communities, enabling them to provide job training, broadband access, open data curation and even as maker spaces.

Your ideas?

When I asked for feedback online before the panel, Robert Bole, director of innovation for the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, commented that the administration should make “block grants of digital services and open data to states.”

Additionally, suggested Bole, the administration should “expand Code for America and Presidential Innovation Fellows. Reform Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), adoption of RFP-EZ (and ilk). Reform of Universal Service fund for broadband infrastructure expansion. Improve libraries and schools to provide media literacy skills. Investment of career STEM at community colleges. Aggressive restructure & auction of spectrum (with smart public use requirements).”

After she commented during the Brookings forum, I asked Gwynne Kostin what the real issues are for innovation in the federal government. Kostin, who serves as the Director of the Digital Services Innovation Center in the Office of Citizen Services & Innovative Technologies at the U.S General Services Administration, responded by putting at least some of the onus on Congress:

Imagine, for a moment, that President Obama is up late in the White House in the next month and comes across this post when he’s reading his iPad.

What change(s), policy or other action would you recommend to him in these first 100 days? Would you support any of the items from the list above? Why? Or make other ones? If you have ideas, please add them below in the comments.

June 21 2012

Four short links: 21 June 2012

  1. Test, Learn, Adapt (PDF) -- UK Cabinet Office paper on randomised trials for public policy. Ben Goldacre cowrote.
  2. UK EscapeTheCity Raises GBP600k in Crowd Equity -- took just eight days, using the Crowdcube platform for equity-based crowd investment.
  3. DIY Bio SOPs -- CC-licensed set of standard operating procedures for a bio lab. These are the SOPs that I provided to the Irish EPA as part of my "Consent Conditions" for "Contained Use of Class 1 Genetically Modified Microorganisms". (via Alison Marigold)
  4. Shuffling Cards -- shuffle a deck of cards until it's randomised. That order of cards probably hasn't ever been seen before in the history of mankind.

January 11 2012

June 29 2011

Four short links: 29 June 2011

  1. Billion Prices Project -- rather than wait for official inflation figures, the BPP from MIT scans online retailer prices from around the planet. (via The Economist)
  2. Readings in Education -- Dan Meyer has linked to some of the best papers he's been reading at grad school. If you have opinions about education, or are thinking of doing something to "fix education", you have to read Public Goods, Private Goods (PDF). It brilliantly, concisely, and clearly sums up the reason that conversations about education are so broken. The other papers Dan linked to are equally wow. Another paper (PDF) on the difference in mindsets between educational researcher and practicing teacher says: The initial [teacher] impulse is still to intervene and fix the problem, or critique the actions of the teacher who made the mistake. It also often leads students to frame their own research around educational success stories. The idea is to pick an intervention that promises to improve education—a new teaching technique, curriculum approach, instructional technology, reform effort, or administrative structure—and study it in practice. The desired outcome is that the intervention works rather well, and the function of the study is to document this and suggest how the approach could be improved in the future. This often leads to an approach to scholarship (and eventually to a kind of scholarly literature) that is relentlessly, unrealistically, sometimes comically optimistic—one that suggests that there is an implementable answer to every educational problem and that help is always on the way. He could be writing about every educational startup.
  3. Truthy -- a research project that helps you understand how memes spread online. With our images and statistics, you can help identify misuse of Twitter. (via Pete Warden)
  4. Hackers Are Being Radicalised By Government Policy (Guardian) -- As long as it seems that direct action is more effective than democratic engagement, it's clear that the former will appear a more attractive option to many. The official line that the internet is a dangerous territory to be subdued is responsible for an alarming radicalisation. This is not just an issue for the tabloids' oddballs and nerds, it's an issue for everyone who believes in the fundamental importance of freedom. The Internet uprising is not causing bad regulation; bad regulation caused the Internet uprising. (via Gabriella Coleman)

February 18 2011

Four short links: 18 February 2011

  1. DSPL: DataSet Publishing Language (Google Code) -- a representation language for the data and metadata of datasets. Datasets described in this format can be processed by Google and visualized in the Google Public Data Explorer. XML metadata on CSV, geo-enabled, with linkable data. (via Michal Migurski on Delicious)
  2. Why is Evidence So Hard for Politicians -- Ben Goldacre nails how politicians go about "evidence-based policy making": So the Minister has cherry picked only the good findings, from only one report, while ignoring the peer-reviewed literature. Most crucially, he cherry-picks findings he likes whilst explicitly claiming that he is fairly citing the totality of the evidence from a thorough analysis. I can produce good evidence that I have a magical two-headed coin, if I simply disregard all the throws where it comes out tails.
  3. Celery: Distributed Task Queue -- asynchronous task queue/job queue based on distributed message passing. It is focused on real-time operation, but supports scheduling as well. MIT-style licensed, written in Python, RabbitMQ is the recommended message broker. (via Joshua Schachter on Delicious)
  4. pixelfari -- Safari hacked to look like it's running on an 8-bit computer. This sense of playfulness with the medium is something I love about the best coders. They think "ha, wouldn't it be funny if ..." and then can make it happen.

August 17 2010

Four short links: 17 August 2010

  1. Demo of Stemming Algorithms -- type in text and see what it looks like when stemmed with different algorithms provided by NLTK. (via zelandiya on Twitter)
  2. Crowdmap -- hosted Ushahidi. (via dvansickle on Twitter)
  3. Opinions vs Data -- talks about the usability of a new gmail UI element, but notable for this quote from Jakob Nielsen: In my two examples, the probability of making the right design decision was vastly improved when given the tiniest amount of empirical data. (via mcannonbrookes on Twitter)
  4. The Next Silicon Valley -- long and detailed list of the many forces contributing to Silicon Valley's success as tech hub, arguing that the valley's position is path-dependent and can simply be grown ab initio in some aspiring nation's co-prosperity zone of policy whim. (via imran and timoreilly on Twitter)

August 13 2010

Four short links: 13 August 2010

  1. The Myth of Scientific Literacy -- I'd love it if there was a simple course we could send our elected officials on which would guarantee future science policy would be reliably high quality. Being educated in science (or even "about science") isn't going to do it. It's social connections that will. We need to keep our elected officials honest, constantly check they are applying the evidence we want them to, in the ways we want them to. And if the scientific community want to be listened to, they need to work to build connections. Get political and scientific communities overlapping, embed scientists in policy institutions (and vice versa), get MP's constituents onside to help foster the sorts of public pressure you want to see: build trust so scientists become people MPs want to be briefed by. (via foe on Twitter)
  2. Three Papers on Load Balancing (Alex Popescu) -- three papers on distributed hash tables.
  3. Meridian -- iPhone app that does in-building location, sample app is the AMNH Explorer which shows you maps of where you are. Uses wifi-based positioning. (via raffi on Twitter)
  4. Fixing What Apple Won't -- the jailbreakers are releasing security patches for systems that Apple have abandoned. (via ardgedee on Twitter)

August 12 2010

Four short links: 12 August 2010

  1. A Review of Verizon and Google's Net Neutrality Proposal (EFF) -- a mixture of good and bad, is the verdict. I am ready to give Google credit for getting Network Neutrality back on the regulatory agenda, whether or not this proposal was a strawman.
  2. Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information (Sunlight Foundation) -- We have updated and expanded upon the Sebastopol list and identified ten principles that provide a lens to evaluate the extent to which government data is open and accessible to the public. The list is not exhaustive, and each principle exists along a continuum of openness. The principles are completeness, primacy, timeliness, ease of physical and electronic access, machine readability, non-discrimination, use of commonly owned standards, licensing, permanence and usage costs.
  3. What If the Web Really Worked for Science? Reimagining Data Policy and Intellectual Property (video) -- a talk by James Boyle on IP and science policy.
  4. Winners of the Apps for Army Challenge -- more Android apps than iPhone in the winners. (via Alex)

July 21 2010

Four short links: 21 July 2010

  1. The Men Who Stare at Screens (NY Times) -- What was unexpected was that many of the men who sat long hours and developed heart problems also exercised. Quite a few of them said they did so regularly and led active lifestyles. The men worked out, then sat in cars and in front of televisions for hours, and their risk of heart disease soared, despite the exercise. Their workouts did not counteract the ill effects of sitting. (via Andy Baio)
  2. Caring with Cash -- describes a study where "pay however much you want" had high response rate but low average price, "half goes to charity" barely changed from the control (fixed price) response rate, but "half goes to charity and you can pay what you like" earned more money than either strategy.
  3. Behavioural Economics a Political Placebo? (NY Times) -- As policymakers use it to devise programs, it’s becoming clear that behavioral economics is being asked to solve problems it wasn’t meant to address. Indeed, it seems in some cases that behavioral economics is being used as a political expedient, allowing policymakers to avoid painful but more effective solutions rooted in traditional economics. (via Mind Hacks)
  4. Protege -- open source ontology editor and knowledge-base framework.

June 23 2010

Four short links: 23 June 2010

  1. Ira Glass on Being Wrong (Slate) -- fascinating interview with Ira Glass on the fundamental act of learning: being wrong. I had this experience a couple of years ago where I got to sit in on the editorial meeting at the Onion. Every Monday they have to come up with like 17 or 18 headlines, and to do that, they generate 600 headlines per week. I feel like that's why it's good: because they are willing to be wrong 583 times to be right 17. (via Hacker News)
  2. Real Lives and White Lies in the Funding of Scientific Research (PLoSBiology) -- very clear presentation of the problems with the current funding models of scientific research, where the acknowledged best scientists spend most of their time writing funding proposals. K.'s plight (an authentic one) illustrates how the present funding system in science eats its own seed corn. To expect a young scientist to recruit and train students and postdocs as well as producing and publishing new and original work within two years (in order to fuel the next grant application) is preposterous.
  3. jQTouch Roadmap -- interesting to me is the primary distinction between Sencha and jQTouch, namely that jQT is for small devices (phones) only, while Sencha handles small and large (tablet) touch-screen devices. (via Simon St Laurent)
  4. Travel Itineraries from Flickr Photo Trails (Greg Linden) -- clever idea, to use metadata extracted from Flickr photos (location, time, etc.) to construct itineraries for travellers, saying where to go, how long to spend there, and how long to expect to spend getting from place to place. Another story of the surprise value that can be extracted from overlooked data.

April 16 2010

Achieving Financial Reform

The unholy alliance between Washington and Wall Street exposed.

February 24 2010

02mydafsoup-01
Elmar Altvater
aus Wikipedia, der freien Enzyklopädie

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Elmar Altvater auf einer Ringvorlesung an der Freien Universität Berlin zum Thema "Solidarität und globalisierte Konkurrenz"

Elmar Altvater (* 24. August 1938 in Kamen) ist ein deutscher  Politik- wissenschaftler, Autor und emeritierter Professor für Politikwissenschaft am Otto-Suhr-Institut der FU-Berlin. Nachdem er zum 30. September 2004 emeritiert wurde, blieb er in Forschung und Lehre weiter am Institut aktiv. Des Weiteren ist er Mitglied im wissenschaftlichen Beirat von Attac und er war im Jahr 2006 Vorsitzender des Ständigen Volkstribunals gegen europäische transnationale Unternehmen.
Elmar Altvater – Wikipedia

December 29 2009

"The Fairness of Financial Rescue"

Brad DeLong says the undesirable act of bailing out those who helped to cause the financial crisis is justified by the greater good that came from this policy, but the public does not see it that way:

The Fairness of Financial Rescue, by J. Bradford DeLong, Commentary, Project Syndicate: Perhaps the best way to view a financial crisis is to look at it as a collapse in the risk tolerance of investors in private financial markets. ... [W]hen the risk tolerance of the market crashes, so do prices of risky financial assets. ... This crash in prices of risky financial assets would not overly concern the rest of us were it not for the havoc that it has wrought on the price system... The price system is saying: shut down risky production activities and don’t undertake any new activities that might be risky.
But there aren’t enough safe, secure, and sound enterprises to absorb all the workers laid off from risky enterprises. ... Ever since 1825, central banks’ standard response in such situations – except during the Great Depression of the 1930’s – has been the same: raise and support the prices of risky financial assets, and prevent financial markets from sending a signal to the real economy to shut down risky enterprises and eschew risky investments.
This response is understandably controversial, because it rewards those who ... bear some responsibility for causing the crisis. But an effective rescue cannot be done any other way. A policy that leaves owners of risky financial assets impoverished is a policy that shuts down dynamism in the real economy.
The political problem can be finessed: as Don Kohn, a vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve, recently observed, teaching a few thousand feckless financiers not to over-speculate is much less important than securing the jobs of millions of Americans and tens of millions around the globe. Financial rescue operations that benefit even the unworthy can be accepted if they are seen as benefiting all – even if the unworthy gain more than their share of the benefits.
What cannot be accepted are financial rescue operations that benefit the unworthy and cause losses to other important groups – like taxpayers and wage earners. And that, unfortunately, is the perception held by many nowadays, particularly in the United States.
It is easy to see why.
When Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp attacked ... the Clinton administration’s decision to bail out Mexico ... during the 1994-1995 financial crisis, Gore responded that America made $1.5 billion on the deal.
Similarly, Clinton’s treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, and IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus were attacked for committing public money to bail out New York banks that had loaned to feckless East Asians in 1997-1998. They responded that they had not rescued the truly bad speculative actor, Russia; that they had “bailed in,” not bailed out, the New York banks, by requiring them to cough up additional money to support South Korea’s economy; and that everyone had benefited massively, because a global recession was avoided.
Now, however, the US government can say none of these things. Officials cannot say that a global recession has been avoided; that they “bailed in” the banks; that – with the exception of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns – they forced the bad speculative actors into bankruptcy; or that the government made money on the deal.
It is still true that the banking-sector policies that were undertaken were good – or at least better than doing nothing. But the certainty that matters would have been much worse under a hands-off approach to the financial sector, à la Republican Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon in 1930-1931, is not concrete enough to alter public perceptions. What is concrete enough are soaring bankers’ bonuses and a real economy that continues to shed jobs.
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