The Shards of My Heart

                                                                                     "Wolf," by Spencer Miles Kimball, 2008    If you want to use this image for any purpose, you need to include a link back to , where  the original of this post  can be found.

                                                                                   "Wolf," by Spencer Miles Kimball, 2008

If you want to use this image for any purpose, you need to include a link back to, where the original of this post can be found.

My wife Gail has appeared in one previous guest post here: "Marriage—Not for the Faint of Heart." In this post, she beautifully and poignantly addresses the death of our son Spencer by suicide—a topic I haven't known how to broach on this blog. I have referenced his death obliquely with posts about depression around the anniversary of the day of his death, and on one such occasion a post with my science fiction story "Ragnarok" that Spencer encouraged me to complete. 

Spencer still has a blog of his own in existence. He is the author of a book of poetry, You Owe Me This, published by Redbeard Press, which was named after Spencer's red beard. You can see the book here. 

Gail's words below first appeared on her blog The Resilience Conspiracy, at

On September 21, 2009, our son Spencer wrote a suicide note and overdosed on his antidepressants.  He soon thought better of this and called his girlfriend who summoned both an ambulance and his parents.  We rushed to Spencer's side in the emergency room.  He was still alert enough to tell us he was sorry.  Hours went by as the overworked emergency room staff researched what to do for the particular antidepressant cocktail Spencer had taken.  

We eventually left his bedside that evening feeling gut-punched by Spencer's choice, but certain he would live.  We were wrong.  On Saturday, September 26th, after spending five days in a medically induced coma, Spencer's temperature soared due to the massive amount of serotonin from his antidepressants.  Spencer died that evening.  He was 20 years old.

Our daughter, Diana, wrote of her brother:  "Spencer was a writer and a poet. Music and reading were his solace and joy.  He believed in the power of fiction and the elegance of truth. He loved his family and his friends fiercely, and was loyal to a fault." He was all of this, and he was our beloved son. 

When you have a child you have a visceral, nearly cellular urge to keep them from harm's way. You protect them from open stairways, busy streets, head injuries, angry siblings, stray dogs, poison ivy, and sunburn.  It is one of the horrible truths of death by suicide that the victim is also the perpetrator.   When someone dies young, blame comes into play and we lean into explanations extra hard for solace and closure.  When your child dies by their own choice, where do you place the blame?

I felt my heart was shattered, sharp shards of it waiting to bring fresh wounds any time I thought about Spencer.  Endless "What ifs?" became my thought companions during a siege of chronic insomnia that still troubles me to this day. I am grateful for a good therapist, great friends, and a life companion who has suffered with me and held onto me when I was in danger of drowning in our shared sorrow. 

Grief is a beast.  It howls and tears at your equilibrium. When it's not active, you feel its presence next to you and you become afraid to wake it.  Will its next active phase unmoor you once again? The answer is always, yes.  It will unmoor you and send you flailing after answers and stable ground on which to stake your intentions and hopes.  

Grief is a gift, wrapped in the worst possible package. It shows you who you are, and teaches you lessons you would never have learned otherwise. Your compassion for others is magnified. Your understanding of what motivates people sharpens. You are grateful for small wonders and embrace happy moments as never before, because you know—you are absolutely clear about this—that you must celebrate when you can and while you can. Grief has taught you not to take these moments for granted.  You become an open invitation for wonder.

Spencer would have turned 29 years old on April 21st. I wonder, as you might expect, what he would be doing if he had lived. He would have loved some of the movies that have come out since 2009.  He would have loved many of the books that have been written.  I would have loved to read the books he could have written.

A few weeks ago Miles and I took a piece of art to be framed.  I told the framer that our son, Spencer, who had died too young, had made this piece. For many years after his death, and through a move from Michigan to Colorado I could not look at this piece without feeling undone. Miles and I are ready to look at it now.

Instead of the searing pain it once caused, I look into the yellow eyes of the wolf and see a fierce desire.  Depression robs its victims of so much. In this piece, Spencer created a watchful, knowing creature with a question I'm ready to hear:  How will you live your life bravely, authentically, and truthfully?

I begin by picking up the shards of my heart and owning the shattered aspect, the lessons of the fissures that will never go away.  

Why You Should Worry about Cancer Promotion by Diet as Much as You Worry about Cancer Initiation by Carcinogens

Many people are obsessed with avoiding carcinogens. But what makes cancers grow may be just as important as what gets cancer started. T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II argue that what food we eat can make a difference for how well cancer grows.

In this post, I don't want to put too much emphasis on the particular dietary danger they discuss; I mainly want to emphasize that what fuels the growth of cancer is just as important a question as what gets cancer started. Let me quote from Chapter 3, of their book The China Study: "Turning Off Cancer." First, on pages 40 and 41, they delineate three stages of cancer: initiation, promotion, and progression.

Cancer proceeds through three stages: initiation, promotion, and progression. To use a rough analogy, the cancer process is similar to planting a lawn. Initiation is when you put the seeds in the soil, promotion is when the grass starts to grow, and progression is when the grass gets completely out of control, invading the driveway, the shrubbery, and the sidewalk. So what is the process that successfully “implants” the grass seed in the soil in the first place—that is, initiates cancer-prone cells? Chemicals that do this are called carcinogens. These chemicals are most often the by-products of industrial processes, although small amounts may be formed in nature, as is the case with aflatoxin. ...

At this point in our lawn analogy, the grass seeds have been put in the soil and are ready to germinate. Initiation is complete. The second growth stage is called promotion. Like seeds ready to sprout blades of grass and turn into a green lawn, our newly formed cancer-prone cells are ready to grow and multiply until they become a visibly detectable cancer. This stage occurs over a far longer period of time than initiation, often many years for humans. It is when the newly initiated cluster multiplies and grows into larger and larger masses and a clinically visible tumor is formed. But just like seeds in the soil, the initial cancer cells will not grow and multiply unless the right conditions are met. The seeds in the soil, for example, need a healthy amount of water, sunlight, and other nutrients before they make a full lawn. If any of these factors are denied or are missing, the seeds will not grow. If any of these factors are missing after growth starts, the new seedlings will become dormant, while awaiting further supply of the missing factors. This is one of the most profound features of promotion. Promotion is reversible, depending on whether the early cancer growth is given the right conditions in which to grow. This is where certain dietary factors become so important. These dietary factors, called promoters, feed cancer growth. Other dietary factors, called anti-promoters, slow cancer growth. Cancer growth flourishes when there are more promoters than anti-promoters; when anti-promoters prevail, cancer growth slows or stops. It is a push-pull process. The profound importance of this reversibility cannot be overemphasized. The third phase, progression, begins when a bunch of advanced cancer cells progress in their growth until they have done their final damage. It is like the fully grown lawn invading everything around it: the garden, driveway, and sidewalk. Similarly, a developing cancer tumor may wander away from its initial site in the body and invade neighboring or distant tissues. When the cancer takes on these deadly properties, it is considered malignant. When it actually breaks away from its initial home and wanders, it is metastasizing. This final stage of cancer results in death.

Second, from pp. 46-48, some results of rat experiments:

Foci are precursor clusters of cells that grow into tumors. Although most foci do not become full-blown tumor cells, they are predictive of tumor development. By watching foci develop and measuring how many there are and how big they become, we could learn indirectly how tumors also develop and what effect protein might have. By studying the effects of protein on the promotion of foci instead of tumors, we could avoid spending a lifetime and a few million dollars working in the lab. ...

Animals starting with the most cancer initiation (high-aflatoxin dose) developed substantially less foci when fed the 5% protein diet. In contrast, animals initiated with a low-aflatoxin dose actually produced substantially more foci when subsequently fed the 20% protein diet. A principle was being established. Foci development, initially determined by the amount of the carcinogen exposure, is actually controlled far more by dietary protein consumed during promotion. Protein during promotion trumps the carcinogen, regardless of initial exposure. ...

The most significant finding of this experiment was this: foci developed only when the animals met or exceeded the amount of dietary protein (12%) needed to satisfy their body growth rate. That is, when the animals met and surpassed their requirement for protein, disease onset began.

It is very difficult to reduce exposure to carcinogens to zero. So most of us have or have had cells with the potential to bloom into cancer. The decisive difference between getting full-blown cancer may come from providing cancers with an abundance of their favorite nutrients. We had better get the research done to figure out exactly what is most nutritious to cancer. It is especially valuable if we can identify nutrients that are much more important to cancer than to the normal workings of the body. I discuss this idea more in these two posts:


Don't miss these other posts on diet and health and on fighting obesity:

Also see the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life."


John Locke's Smackdown of Robert Filmer: Being a Father Doesn't Make Any Man a King

In many economic departments, there is a sense that professors who publish many papers in good journals should have extra weight in department decision-making. But research and strategic vision and good sense are different skills. I wouldn't be surprised if they are positively correlated skills. But there are many impressive researchers whose views on department decisions should be politely disregarded most of the time. John Locke argued that the consent of the governed, not any other attribute, makes someone a legitimate ruler. In department politics, that means a legitimate leader is someone who either canvasses other members of the department to see what they want and effectively aggregates those desires, or someone who genuinely persuades other members of the department of the wisdom of a course of action. 

In John Locke's own day, he had to fight the idea promoted by Robert Filmer that a divine right of kings had been passed down from Adam and that fatherly authority was not only a good model for kingship but a solid basis for it. But fatherhood and kingship are not the same thing at all. In Chapter VI, "Of Paternal Power" in his 2d Treatise on Government: “Of Civil Government”, John Locke does a good job in criticizing Robert Filmer's claims. 

First, John Locke relied on the sexism of his audience back then to recoil at the parallel idea that the right to rule was based on motherhood. This line of argument can be seen in sections 52 and 53, as I discussed here:

 It can be seen again in sections 64 and 65 and later on in the chapter on paternal power:

 §. 64. But what reason can hence advance this care of the parents due to their offspring into an absolute arbitrary dominion of the father, whose power reaches no farther than by such a discipline, as he finds most effectual, to give such strength and health to their bodies, such vigour and rectitude to their minds, as may best fit his children to be most useful to themselves and others; and, if it be necessary to his condition, to make them work, when they are able, for their own subsistence. But in this power the mother too has her share with the father.

  §. 65. Nay, this power so little belongs to the father by any peculiar right of nature, but only as he is guardian of his children, that when he quits his care of them, he loses his power over them, which goes along with their nourishment and education, to which it is inseparably annexed; and it belongs as much to the foster-father of an exposed child, as to the natural father of another. So little power does the bare act of begetting give a man over his issue; if all his care ends there, and this be all the title he hath to the name and authority of a father. And what will become of this paternal power in that part of the world, where one woman hath more than one husband at a time? or in those parts of America, where, when the husband and wife part, which happens frequently, the children are all left to the mother, follow her, and are wholly under her care and provision? If the father die whilst the children are young, do they not naturally every where owe the same obedience to their mother, during their minority, as to their father were he alive? and will any one say, that the mother hath a legislative power over her children? that she can make standing rules, which shall be of perpetual obligation, by which they ought to regulate all the concerns of their property, and bound their liberty all the course of their lives? or can she inforce the observation of them with capital punishments? for this is the proper power of the magistrate, of which the father hath not so much as the shadow. His command over his children is but temporary, and reaches not their life or property: it is but a help to the weakness and imperfection of their non-age, a discipline necessary to their education: and though a father may dispose of his own possessions as he pleases, when his children are out of danger of perishing for want, yet his power extends not to the lives or goods, which either their own industry, or another’s bounty has made their’s; nor to their liberty neither, when they are once arrived to the infranchisement of the years of discretion. The father’s empire then ceases, and he can from thence forwards no more dispose of the liberty of his son, than that of any other man: and it must be far from an absolute or perpetual jurisdiction, from which a man may withdraw himself, having licence from divine authority to leave father and mother, and cleave to his wife.

In sections 66-70, John Locke distinguished between the duty of "honoring one's parents," which he endorses, and any duty of obedience to parents, which he denies that adult children have:   

§. 66. But though there be a time when a child comes to be as free from subjection to the will and command of his father, as the father himself is free from subjection to the will of any body else, and they are each under no other restraint, but that which is common to them both, whether it be the law of nature, or municipal law of their country; yet this freedom exempts not a son from that honour which he ought, by the law of God and nature, to pay his parents. God having made the parents instruments in his great design of continuing the race of mankind, and the occasions of life to their children: as he hath laid on them an obligation to nourish, preserve, and bring up their offspring; so he has laid on the children a perpetual obligation of honouring their parents, which containing in it an inward esteem and reverence to be shewn by all outward expressions, ties up the child from any thing that may ever injure or affront, disturb or endanger, the happiness or life of those from whom he received his; and engages him in all actions of defence, relief, assistance and comfort of those, by whose means he entered into being, and has been made capable of any enjoyments of life: from this obligation no state, no freedom can absolve children. But this is very far from giving parents a power of command over their children, or an authority to make laws and dispose as they please of their lives or liberties. It is one thing to owe honour, respect, gratitude and assistance; another to require an absolute obedience and submission. The honour due to parents, a monarch in his throne owes his mother; and yet this lessens not his authority, nor subjects him to her government.

  §. 67. The subjection of a minor places in the father a temporary government, which terminates with the minority of the child: and the honour due from a child places in the parents a perpetual right to respect, reverence, support and compliance too, more or less, as the father’s care, cost, and kindness in his education, has been more or less. This ends not with minority, but holds in all parts and conditions of a man’s life. The want of distinguishing these two powers, viz. that which the father hath in the right of tuition,during minority, and the right of honour all his life, may perhaps have caused a great part of the mistakes about this matter: for to speak properly of them, the first of these is rather the privilege of children, and duty of parents, than any prerogative of paternal power. The nourishment and education of their children is a charge so incumbent on parents for their children’s good, that nothing can absolve them from taking care of it: and though the power of commanding and chastising them go along with it, yet God hath woven into the principles of human nature such a tenderness for their offspring, that there is little fear that parents should use their power with too much rigour; the excess is seldom on the severe side, the strong bias of nature drawing the other way. And therefore God Almighty when he would express his gentle dealing with the Israelites, he tells them, that though he chastened them, he chastens them as a man chastens his son, Deut. viii. 5. i. e.with tenderness and affection, and kept them under no severer discipline than what was absolutely best for them, and had been less kindness to have slackened. This is that power to which children are commanded obedience, that the pains and care of their parents may not be increased, or ill rewarded.

  §. 68. On the other side, honour and support, all that which gratitude requires to return for the benefits received by and from them, is the indispensible duty of the child, and the proper privilege of the parents. This is intended for the parent’s advantage, as the other is for the child’s; though education, the parent’s duty, seems to have most power, because the ignorance and infirmities of childhood stand in need of restraint and correction; which is a visible exercise of rule, and a kind of dominion. And that duty which is comprehended in the word honour requires less obedience, though the obligation be stronger on grown, than younger children; for who can think the command, Children obey your parents, requires in a man, that has children of his own, the same submission to his father, as it does in his yet young children to him; and that by this precept he were bound to obey all his father’s commands, if, out of a conceit of authority, he should have the indiscretion to treat him still as a boy?

  §. 69. The first part then of paternal power, or rather duty, which is education, belongs so to the father, that it terminates at a certain season; when the business of education is over, it ceases of itself, and is also alienable before: for a man may put the tuition of his son in other hands; and he that has made his son an apprentice to another, has discharged him, during that time, of a great part of his obedience both to himself and to his mother. But all the duty of honour, the other part, remains nevertheless entire to them; nothing can cancel that: it is so inseparable from them both, that the father’s authority cannot dispossess the mother of this right, nor can any man discharge his son from honouring her that bore him. But both these are very far from a power to make laws, and inforcing them with penalties, that may reach estate, liberty, limbs and life. The power of commanding ends with non-age; and though, after that, honour and respect, support and defence, and whatsoever gratitude can oblige a man to, for the highest benefits he is naturally capable of, be always due from a son to his parents; yet all this puts no sceptre into the father’s hand, no sovereign power of commanding. He has no dominion over his son’s property, or actions; nor any right, that his will should prescribe to his son’s in all things; however it may become his son in many things, not very inconvenient to him and his family, to pay a deference to it.

  §. 70. A man may owe honour and respect to an ancient, or wise man; defence to his child or friend; relief and support to the distressed; and gratitude to a benefactor, to such a degree, that all he has, all he can do, cannot sufficiently pay it: but all these give no authority, no right to any one, of making laws over him from whom they are owing. And it is plain, all this is due not only to the bare title of father; not only because, as has been said, it is owing to the mother too; but because these obligations to parents, and degrees of what is required of children, may be varied by the different care and kindness, trouble and expence, which is often employed upon one child more than another.

In section 71, John Locke points out that many fathers are not kings, and yet have whatever authority over children is proper to being a father:

  §. 71. This shews the reason how it comes to pass, that parents in societies, where they themselves are subjects, retain a power over their children, and have as much right to their subjection, as those who are in a state of nature. Which could not possibly be, if all political power were only paternal, and that in truth they were one and the same thing: for then, all paternal power being in the prince, the subject could naturally have none of it. But these two powers, political and paternal, are so perfectly distinct and separate; are built upon so different foundations, and given to so different ends, that every subject, that is a father, has as much a paternal power over his children, as the prince has over his: and every prince, that has parents, owes them as much filial duty and obedience, as the meanest of his subjects do theirs; and can therefore contain not any part or degree of that kind of dominion, which a prince or magistrate has over his subject.

Then in section 72, John Locke turns economist, presaging Doug Bernheim, B. Douglas, Andrei Shleifer, and Larry Summers's 1985 paper “The Strategic Bequest Motive,” by pointing out that adult children may obey their parents in hopes of getting more of an inheritance: 

  §. 72. Though the obligation on the parents to bring up their children, and the obligation on children to honour their parents, contain all the power on the one hand, and submission on the other, which are proper to this relation, yet there is another power ordinarily in the father, whereby he has a tie on the obedience of his children; which though it be common to him with other men, yet the occasions of shewing it, almost constantly happening to fathers in their private families, and the instances of it elsewhere being rare, and less taken notice of, it passes in the world for a part of paternal jurisdiction. And this is the power men generally have to bestow their estates on those who please them best; the possession of the father being the expectation and inheritance of the children, ordinarily in certain proportions, according to the law and custom of each country; yet it is commonly in the father’s power to bestow it with a more sparing or liberal hand, according as the behaviour of this or that child hath comported with his will and humour.

In section 73, he points out that inheritance of property is the source of an important illusion about political duties being inherited:

  §. 73. This is no small tie on the obedience of children: and there being always annexed to the enjoyment of land, a submission to the government of the country, of which that land is a part; it has been commonly supposed, that a father could oblige his posterity to that government, of which he himself was a subject, and that his compact held them; whereas, it being only a necessary condition annexed to the land, and the inheritance of an estate which is under that government, reaches only those who will take it on that condition, and so is no natural tie or engagement, but a voluntary submission: for every man’s children being by nature as free as himself, or any of his ancestors ever were, may, whilst they are in that freedom, choose what society they will join themselves to, what commonwealth they will put themselves under. But if they will enjoy the inheritance of their ancestors, they must take it on the same terms their ancestors had it, and submit to all the conditions annexed to such a possession. By this power indeed fathers oblige their children to obedience to themselves, even when they are past minority, and most commonly too subject them to this or that political power, but neither of these by any peculiar right of fatherhood, but by the reward they have in their hands to inforce and recompense such a compliance; and is no more power than what a French man has over an English man, who, by the hopes of an estate he will leave him, will certainly have a strong tie on his obedience: and if, when it is left him, he will enjoy it, he must certainly take it upon the conditions annexed to the possession of land in that country where it lies, whether it be France or England.

Finally, at the end of the chapter on paternal power, John Locke has to admit that in small groups, fathers are often chosen as chiefs by the consent of the governed, so that fatherhood is sometimes correlated with governing power even over adult children. But the fact that children sometimes consent to be governed by their fathers or grandfathers even in adulthood does not alter the logical distinction between being a father and being a ruler. 

  §. 74. To conclude then, though the father’s power of commanding extends no farther than the minority of his children, and to a degree only fit for the discipline and government of that age; and though that honour and respect, and all that which the Latins called piety, which they indispensibly owe to their parents all their life time, and in all estates, with all that support and defence is due to them, gives the father no power of governing, i. e. making laws and enacting penalties on his children; though by all this he has no dominion over the property or actions of his son: yet it is obvious to conceive how easy it was, in the first ages of the world, and in places still, where the thinness of people gives families leave to separate into unpossessed quarters, and they have room to remove or plant themselves in yet vacant habitations, for the father of the family to become the prince of it; [Locke references here the quotation from Hooker at the bottom of this post] he had been a ruler from the beginning of the infancy of his children: and since without some government it would be hard for them to live together, it was likeliest it should, by the express or tacit consent of the children when they were grown up, be in the father, where it seemed without any change barely to continue; when indeed nothing more was required to it, than the permitting the father to exercise alone, in his family, that executive power of the law of nature, which every free man naturally hath, and by that permission resigning up to him a monarchical power, whilst they remained in it. But that this was not by any paternal right, but only by the consent of his children, is evident from hence, that no body doubts, but if a stranger, whom chance or business had brought to his family, had there killed any of his children, or committed any other fact, he might condemn and put him to death, or otherwise have punished him, as well as any of his children; which it was impossible he should do by virtue of any paternal authority over one who was not his child, but by virtue of that executive power of the law of nature, which, as a man, he had a right to: and he alone could punish him in his family, where the respect of his children had laid by the exercise of such a power, to give way to the dignity and authority they were willing should remain in him, above the rest of his family.

  §. 75. Thus it was easy, and almost natural for children, by a tacit, and scarce avoidable consent, to make way for the father’s authority and government. They had been accustomed in their childhood to follow his direction, and to refer their little differences to him; and when they were men, who fitter to rule them? their little properties, and less covetousness, seldom afforded greater controversies; and when any should arise, where could they have a fitter umpire than he, by whose care they had every one been sustained and brought up, and who had a tenderness for them all? It is no wonder that they made no distinction betwixt minority and full age; nor looked after one-and-twenty, or any other age that might make them the free disposers of themselves and fortunes, when they could have no desire to be out of their pupilage: the government they had been under, during it, continued still to be more their protection than restraint; and they could no where find a greater security to their peace, liberties, and fortunes, than in the rule of a father.

  §. 76. Thus the natural fathers of families, by an insensible change, became the politic monarchs of them too: and as they chanced to live long, and leave able and worthy heirs, for several successions, or otherwise; so they laid the foundations of hereditary, or elective kingdoms, under several constitutions and manners, according as chance, contrivance, or occasions happened to mould them. But if princes have their titles in their father’s right, and it be a sufficient proof of the natural right of fathers to political authority, because they commonly were those in whose hands we find, de facto, the exercise of government: I say, if this argument be good, it will as strongly prove, that all princes, nay princes only, ought to be priests, since it is as certain, that in the beginning, the father of the family was priest, as that he was ruler in his own household.


Note 1. It is no improbable opinion therefore, which the arch-philosopher was of, that the chief person in every household was always, as it were, a king: so when numbers of households joined themselves in civil societies together, kings were the first kind of governors amongst them, which is also, as it seemeth, the reason why the name of fathers continued still in them, who, of fathers, were made rulers; as also the ancient custom of governors to do as Melchisedec, and being kings, to exercise the office of priests, which fathers did at the first, grew perhaps by the same occasion. Howbeit, this is not the only kind of regiment that has been received in the world. The inconveniences of one kind have caused sundry others to be devised; so that in a word, all public regiment, of what kind soever, seemeth evidently to have risen from the deliberate advice, consultation and composition between men, judging it convenient and behoveful; there being no impossibility in nature considered by itself, but that man might have lived without any public regiment. Hooker’s Eccl. P. lib. i. sect. 10.


For links to other John Locke posts, see these John Locke aggregator posts: 

Alexander Trentin Interviews Miles Kimball on Next Generation Monetary Policy

I have been pleased with all of Alexander Trentin's interviews of me. The previous interviews are here:

Also, let me highlight this piece by Alexander:

My post "Improvements in Productivity Need to Be Accommodated by Monetary Policy" prompted Alexander's latest interview. Our discussion ranged widely, centering around the recommendations for monetary policy that I give in my paper "Next Generation Monetary Policy." Below the line is the edited text of the interview in English. I am grateful for permission to mirror these texts here. The links to the text of the interview on the original website are above under the screen shot at the top of this post.

This is Alexander's summary: 

Miles Kimball, professor of economics at the University of Colorado Boulder, is one of the main proponents for deep negative interest rates as a monetary policy instrument. In an interview with «Finanz und Wirtschaft», he argues that central banks are misguided when the try to smooth the path of interest rates. Monetary policy should be more active with large swings in interest rates. His view is that «stable prices and low unemployment are the things which matter for economic welfare» – not stable interest rates. Miles Kimball publishes a popular economics blog, «Confessions of a Supply-side Liberal».

Professor Kimball, you argue for deep negative interest rates as a tool for monetary policy. Now the Fed has moved to raise rates. Do you think it is regrettable that the pressure on central banks to innovate in monetary policy has gone?
Central banks still should keep working hard thinking about how to expand the monetary policy toolkit. It is their job to be ready for the next recession. They shouldn’t just pat themselves on the back that the economy finally climbed out of the Great Recession and its aftermath. Things might have been worse if it hadn’t been for monetary policy innovations such as Quantitative Easing, QE. But in absolute terms it was a terrible performance for monetary policy with very bad outcomes. Next time such a performance would be totally unacceptable. I worry that central bankers think that now they figured everything out—that it is good enough to use the same approach next time.

Why was it that Quantitative Easing was implemented relatively quickly, but not deep negative rates?
The conceptual framework for Quantitative Easing was already sitting there in 2008, but the framework for deep negative rates was not ready. I hope I contributed somewhat toward getting the conceptual framework for deep negative rates ready for the next time it is needed. I worry that the concept of deep negative rates has to compete with QE in the future. If the concept had been ready in 2008, things might have played out better.

In Switzerland we have quite low interest rates already. Is the Swiss National Bank ready to go deeper?
The Swiss National Bank is very sophisticated in its understanding of negative rate policy, including what needs to be done to effectively implement deep negative rates. When I visited the Swiss National Bank in late 2016, they demonstrated a thorough understanding of my approach and my arguments. But, as they emphasized, the Swiss National Bank operates under serious legal and political constraints. That there could be a referendum on anything is very much on their minds.

In June Swiss people will vote on such a referendum. The proponents of «Vollgeld» – similar to 100%-reserve banking – want to prohibit banks from creating money when issuing new loans. What is your opinion on that?
I don’t have any objection in principle against this initiative. In theory, as long as the central bank creates enough base money to keep the overall money supply the same, such a proposal can work. Fractional-reserve banking is mainly a way to throw seigniorage to the private banks. In 100%-reserve banking, the government keeps all the seigniorage for itself. Implementing such a reform will take an adjustment process. There are unknowns, but to experiment with theoretically reasonable things might be valuable. On the other hand, there is more cautious and also reasonable view «If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.»

I think the Swiss people might not like the idea to be part of an experiment in monetary policy.
Presumably somebody thinks there is an upside to 100%-reserve banking, or they wouldn’t be advocating it. Why do people advocate a «Yes» vote on this referendum?

One argument is that it makes the financial system safer as bail-outs of banks would not be necessary anymore.
I wish they would devote their energies to something that can do a lot more for the safety of the financial system than that! If you want to make the banking system safer, you should advocate dramatically higher capital requirements. I explain this to my students with toppling dominoes. You can compare the ratio of capital to a bank’s balance sheet to the width of a domino. If a bank has only 3% equity relative to your balance sheet, that’s comparable to a very thin domino and it falls over easily. If you have 30% equity, that would be a very fat domino which would not fall over easily. Even if one falls over, it will not propagate the same way, as other dominoes will not be affected so easily.

You argue for a very active monetary policy which could result in large swings of interest rates. Would it not make sense to aim for stable interest rates?
The goal for monetary policy is not to stabilize interest rates, but to stabilize prices and employment. Stable prices and low unemployment are the things which matter for economic welfare. Forward guidance by central banks is much less necessary if they say that there could be large swings in interest rates for short periods of time whenever needed. Central banks have a desire to smooth interest rates – and I strongly believe this is misguided.

But financial markets react strongly even to small changes in rates.
Central banks are cognitively captured by the financial industry in their concern with having smooth interest rates. Those in the financial industry want to have a placid life. They would have to get used to large movements in rates. The economy overall ought to be more stable after people get used to this new style of monetary policy. If interest rates move, it would be for a short period of time. Once people understood that, they would react less strongly to any given movement in interest rates.  Today every quarter point move signals a big changes in the path of interest rates for the future. In my proposal, people would infer less for the future path of interest rates from interest rate movements now. They would not have to read the tea leaves so carefully.

What role does the exchange rate play in your ideal monetary policy framework? The SNB is looking at the exchange rate when conducting monetary policy.
What applies to the interest rate also applies to the exchange rate. It should not be a goal for monetary policy. When there are shocks to the exchange rate because of capital flows, a central bank would need to react to that. But this is not because of what happens to the exchange rate, but because of what happens to prices and unemployment.

In one of your papers you argue that monetary policy should take technological progress into account. Why should central banks think about such long-term developments as technological progress?
Shocks to technology, which are defined as unpredictable movements in productivity, can matter in the short term. Real business cycle theory is an extreme which argues that business cycles are mostly caused by technology shocks. I don’t believe that. But I think technology shocks matter in the short run. There are substantial fluctuations in technology.

How can that be?
One might think that technology improves only gradually. The data seems to say otherwise. There can be speedy changes in technology. What shows up as a technology shock in the aggregate data is  not the invention of new things, but rather the adoption of a new approach by a large share of businesses in some sector of the economy. Economists define technology very broadly. It doesn’t have to be high tech, it can be any new way of organizing production that allows more output to be produced with the same inputs or the same amount of output to be produced by fewer inputs. Adoption follows an S-shaped curve: First there are only a few early adopters, but later on the adoption curve becomes very steep.

That means at one point in time there can be rapid changes in technology?
Robert Solow said in 1987, you can see the computer revolution everywhere but in the productivity statistics. But the productivity growth was coming later. For example, the spread of e-mail allowed a bigger span of control. One manager could have more direct-reports. As a result, companies didn’t need as many levels of managers, and many mid-level managers became obsolete.

Another nice example of a big change in technology that is easy to understand is the containerization of shipping. Having standardized containers that could go straight from ships to the back of a truck dramatically improved the efficiency of transporting goods.

What is the right response of monetary policy to an improvement in technology?
If you need less factor inputs to produce the same economic output, you can have the same output with fewer people, which would create unemployment. Or you can produce more with the same level of employment and overall, people are richer. Monetary policy determines if a major technology improvement leads to unemployment or not.

So the effects of technological change on employment can be neutralized by central banks?
Even if monetary policy is done right, there will be shifts in employment and pains of adjustment. Some people need to find new jobs as sub-sectors made obsolete by technological improvements need less labor. Some people’s wages will go up and some people’s wages will go down. But it is completely unnecessary for technological improvement to create more unemployment overall. If there is an increase in unemployment overall after a technogical improvement, the central bank hasn’t done enough to increase aggregate demand when facing increased aggregate supply.

Did central banks do this wrong in the past?
In theory, improvements in the efficiency of producing machines should result in a stronger boom, because investment should increase. But the US data do not show this: There is a larger improvement if there is an improvement in producing non-durable consumption goods. One plausible reason for this is that the Fed was staring at the consumption deflator. If productivity in manufacturing nondurable consumption goods goes up, consumer prices fall and the Fed shifts to a more expansionary monetary policy. A comparable reduction in the prices of machines for factories didn’t show up as a decline in the consumption deflator, so the Fed underreacted, leading to unemployment.

So they did not do the right thing in response to improvements in the productivity of producing investment goods such as machines?
Right. Theory tells us that prices of investment goods should be more important for monetary policy than their share of GDP would seem to indicate. But a central bank staring only at the consumption deflator is treating investment goods as less important than their share in GDP would suggest.

Unfortunately, the literature on sticky prices, which is an important basis for monetary policy, have emphasized the importance of consumer goods prices and neglected investment good prices. Also, most models of optimal monetary policy don’t have investment goods in them at all. This is a big problem with these models.

So what has all this meant for how monetary policy is done in practice?
Central banks have to keep the price level stable. But what the US data shows is that after a technology improvement inflation typically went down. Inflation shouldn’t go down, if a central bank is doing the right thing. Inflation should be stabilized. It is a monetary policy mistake to have inflation decline after a technological improvement. There are a lot of early warnings that a technological improvement is coming if central banks look carefully. Due to the S-shaped adoption curve, you see early on when firms first start to adopt new technologies. You should be able to see early adoption a couple of years before the steep part of the S-curve when a technology quickly becomes widespread.


Magic Bullets vs. Multifaceted Interventions for Economic Stimulus, Economic Development and Weight Loss

                                               image source for the silver bullets above

                                            image source for the silver bullets above

In "Obesity Is Always and Everywhere an Insulin Phenomenon," and the podcast "Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation" I compared successful weight loss to defeating inflation. In this post I reverse the direction of the analogy and compare successful weight loss to providing what it would have taken to get out of the Great Recession, as I laid out in "America's Big Monetary Policy Mistake: How Negative Interest Rates Could Have Stopped the Great Recession in Its Tracks."

Sometimes there is an intervention so powerful that it can solve a particular type of problem regardless of the specific causes of the problem and with only minimal assistance from complementary tools. For example, when economic stimulus is called for, deep enough interest rate cuts can provide the needed stimulus. As the posts linked in "How and Why to Eliminate the Zero Lower Bound: A Reader’s Guide" explain, for a smart, independent central bank, there is no effective lower bound on interest rates. So interest rate cuts can be the magic bullet for providing economic stimulus. Like any type of economic stimulus, too much is inflationary, but whatever is the right amount of stimulus, interest rate cuts can provide it. My detailed argument for the essentially unlimited power of negative interest rates to provide stimulus can be found in:

Just as negative interest rates are the magic bullet for providing economic stimulus, for those who can tolerate it, fasting—periods of time with water but no food—is the magic bullet for weight loss. Like negative interest rates, many people rule fasting out of bounds as a weight-loss tool, and end up instead with a complex set of recommendations that don't work very well individually, and are only halfway effective even in combination. Instead of ruling negative interest rates out of bounds, people should concentrate on making them work as smoothly as possible when they are needed. Instead of ruling fasting out of bounds, people should concentrate on making fasting as easy and painless as possible. 

The secret to making periods with no food as easy and painless as possible is to eat foods that raise one's insulin index relatively little when one does eat. On how to do that, see my post "Forget Calorie Counting; It's the Insulin Index, Stupid." If you do that, you will be surprised at how painless it is to go for, say, 20 hours without eating. It is still important to arrange things to make it easy not to think about food by staying away from food as much as possible and having distractions from food such as work or a good TV show, but if you eat food low on the insulin index when you do eat, you will feel a lot less bodily hunger during fasting than you expect. 

One thing I don't know is how long a period of time you need to have eaten low on the insulin index before fasting will become easy. Keto folks say it takes some time for your body to get used to generating energy from food that is not as easily digestible as sugar and other carbohydrates that have an insulin kick. In particular, the idea is that eating enough dietary fat can train your body to be able to generate energy from its own fat. If your body is good at processing its own fat, then there is a limit to how hungry you will be while fasting: once your blood sugar and insulin levels get low enough, your body will start turning your own fat into energy. If you get close to running out of body fat, you would have a problem, but most of us aren't that close to running out of body fat. 

Here is my own experience: for the last half of 2016, I tried eating only 600 or so calories every other day without otherwise modifying my diet. I managed to do it, but that was hellish. In early 2017, I went off sugar, potatoes, rice and bread for several months. After that I started skipping meals and found it was easy. Also, I notice that when I cheat a little and eat some easily digestible carbs or other food high on the insulin index, I get hungrier and the fasting is harder.

Unlike negative interest rates, there aren't many people disputing the idea that fasting will help you lose weight. Instead, they claim that fasting is dangerous or hellish. I discussed hellish above. What about dangerous? Here I keep going back to this: surely human beings must be physically designed to go extended periods without food. Otherwise, how did our ancestors survive to become our ancestors? It just wasn't that easy to always have plenty of food handy two hundred thousand or thirty thousand years ago. 

One important thing about a magic bullet is that it can work even if the set of all the things that affect something are complex. Many other things besides fasting can affect weight loss and weight gain. For example, in "A Conversation with David Brazel on Obesity Research," I mention the idea that keeping it cold—say keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 72 degrees Fahrenheit—might aid weight loss. But fasting is such a powerful weight loss tool that you might not need to know every detail such as that. So I end up disagreeing with Marc Bellemare's very interesting post "Is the Study of Obesity Like Development Economics?" You may remember Marc from his guest post here: "Marc F. Bellemare's Story: 'I'm Bad at Math'" I am grateful for his permission to mirror "Is the Study of Obesity Like Development Economics?" below. Here are Marc's words:

I received a new book titled The Obesity Code last week, written by Canadian nephrologist Jason Fung.

Over the last year, I had read a few things by Dr. Fung on his clinic’s blog, but one of the things he says about obesity in his book made me believe that the study of obesity has a lot in common with development economics. Specifically, on p. 216 of his book, Dr. Fung writes:

The multifactorial nature of obesity is the crucial missing link. There is no one single cause of obesity. Do calories cause obesity? Yes, partially. Do carbohydrates cause obesity? Yes, partially. Does fiber protect us from obesity? Yes, partially. Does insulin resistance cause obesity? Yes, partially. Does sugar cause obesity? Yes, partially. All these factors converge on several hormonal pathways that lead to weight gain, and insulin is the most important of these. Low carbohydrate diet reduce insulin. Low-calorie diets restrict all food in there for reduce insulin. Paleo and [low-carb, high-fat] diets reduce insulin. Cabbage-soup diets reduce insulin. Reduced-food-reward diets reduce insulin. …

Obesity is a multifactorial disease. What we need is a framework, a structure, a coherent theory to understand how all its factors fit together. Too often, our current model of obesity assumes that there is only one single true cause, and that all others are pretenders to the throne. Endless debates ensue. Too many calories cause obesity. No, too many carbohydrates. No, too much saturated fat. No, too much red meat. No, too much processed foods. No, too much high-fat dairy. No, too much wheat. No, too much sugar. No, too much highly palatable foods. No, too much eating out. It goes on and on. They are all partially correct. …

Without understanding the multifactorial nature of obesity–which is critical–we are doomed to an endless cycle of blame.

In his book, Dr. Fung proposes a multi-pronged strategy to fight obesity. It looks as though he knows what he is talking about, since he has apparently helped several patients return to a normal weight.

Having long toyed with the idea of developing a model of individual weight dynamics wherein an S-shaped fat accumulation curve leads to there being two equilibria, much as in the modified Solow growth model with poverty traps, what the above excerpt made me think of is the equally multifactorial nature of poverty. Indeed, one of the first things I teach students when I teach a development course is that persistent economic under-development–poverty, that is–is the result of multiple market failures. The corollary of that statement is that there are no silver bullets in development. So unless you tackle all the problems at once, you might make a small, temporary dent in poverty, but people will tend to slide right back to where they were–much like people who, say, cut their calories tend to lose weight in the short run, but tend to go right back up to were they were after a few months.

In practice, this means that in situations of persistent economic under-development, microfinance will not magically lift people out of poverty. Nor will an input subsidy program. Nor will a micro-insurance scheme. Nor will any single intervention not aimed at resolving multiple market failures at once. And lest you think this makes me an advocate of something like the Millennium Villages Project, it does not. At least not in its current form, which does not lend itself to rigorous impact evaluation.

(By the way, this is why I had a hard time with Why Nations Fail: Because the authors are some of the smartest people alive today, yet their rhetoric seems to suggest that economic under-development has a single cause: extractive institutions. The journal articles on which they base the book are a lot more nuanced, so I imagine a publisher asked them to be slightly more polemic in order to make the book make an argument that sells better.)

If it were so simple as simply providing people with micro-loans, poverty would be a thing of the past. Similarly, if it were simply a question of “eat less, exercise more,” obesity would be a thing of the past as well. But whenever someone is suggesting a simple solution to a persistent problem, it is a safe bet that you are probably being sold snake oil.

I don’t know if Dr. Fung is the originator of the claim that obesity is multifactorial. But my intuition is that the claim is correct, and I certainly hope it gains traction with the publication of Dr. Fung’s book. As to what Dr. Fung advocates to treat obesity, you will have no doubt guessed that he does not advocate any single thing. Rather, The Obesity Code advocates doing all of the following:

  • Reducing one’s consumption of added sugars
  • Reducing one’s consumption of refined grains
  • Consuming a moderate amount of protein
  • Increasing one’s consumption of natural fats
  • Fasting for periods of 24, 36, even 48 hours
  • Getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night
  • Meditating

Of this list of things Jason Fung recommends, I argue that fasting is the centerpiece. The other things will help. And the low consumption of added sugars, refined grains and moderate consumption of protein is a key to making the fasting experience reasonably pleasant. But fasting is the big one. 

Afterword: Returning briefly to economics, I really like what Marc says about economic development needing many interventions at once. I think that is right. Economic development can only be done in complex ways. Economic development is like getting healthy—something that requires many more elements than just weight loss. By contrast, economic stimulus, like weight loss, is best kept simple. There are many monetary policy papers talking about how to deal with the lower bound on interest rates, many advising things that are otherwise bad ideas. It is simpler and better to just eliminate the lower bound on interest rates! (See for example "The effective lower bound and the desirability of gradual interest rate adjustments," Sebastian Schmidt and compare this to my argument in "Next Generation Monetary Policy.") 


Don't miss these other posts on diet and health and on fighting obesity:

Also see the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life."






My Organized-Tweet Stories, In Order of Popularity, in Their Flight from a Dying Storify to the Haven of Wakelet

For me, Twitter has been and remains a good way to see what other people think about ideas I care about. For me, a good argument is when I either prevail or learn something. By that standard, I have had many, many good arguments on Twitter. The art of having a civil argument, and the even more difficult art of replying civilly to someone who is being uncivil, is something in short enough supply these days, that it has often seemed worthwhile to preserve a Twitter discussion as a story of organized tweets. For almost six years, I did that using Storify. But Storify is being abandoned by its parent company.

Fortunately, Wakelet has taken up the torch of providing a free website where tweets and other material can be organized into stories. Staff at Wakelet were good enough to transfer all of my Storify stories over to Wakelet. I should make clear that they chose the pictures at the top of each story, and I have decided to leave those pictures be. The most misleading result is that almost every story with "electronic money" in the title has a picture cryptocurrency symbols. When I talk about electronic money, I am talking about the checks, credit cards and debit cards that are already in common use. The key idea, as explored in everything you can see in "How and Why to Eliminate the Zero Lower Bound: A Reader’s Guide," is to make dollars in the bank—and more directly those dollars in the bank that are backed by reserves at the central bank—the unit of account rather than paper currency dollars.

I am probably kidding myself, but one of these stories may even have had a good effect on the world. I like to think that my story "The Marginalization of Economists at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau" had some small effect in the strong status that economists now have in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I visited in 2016 and now think very highly of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and very much hope it survives the political siege it is under. My post "On the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau" is a philosophical defense of what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is trying to do. In general, I am far to the the right of Elizabeth Warren in my political views, but I honor her for two important contributions: pushing for the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and pushing for much tougher capital equity requirements and stricter leverage limits on financial firms in order to avoid another financial crisis. 

To make sure all of my organized-tweet stories remain accessible, I list everything moving over from Storify to Wakelet below, in order of the number of pageviews it received, as listed after each title. Each title links to the Wakelet page for that story. Remember that you can search within this blog post using the normal text search command (Apple F on a Mac) for any particular title you are looking for.

Even if you never click on any of the links, I think you will learn a lot just by reading through the titles. First, the pageview data gives a window into what people are interested in. Second, scanning through the titles will give you picture of my views and concerns about a wide range of topics; including topics I have never written a regular blog post on.  

  1. A More Personal Bio: My Early Tweets 2962
  2. How the Mormons Became Largely Republican 2575
  3. Did the Gold Standard Help Bring Hitler to Power? (Twitter Round Table) 2009
  4. Noah Smith, Miles Kimball and Claudia Sahm on Math in Economics 1245
  5. How the Calories In/Calories Out Theory Obscures the Endogeneity of Calories In and Out to Subjective Hunger and Energy 961
  6. Miles Kimball and Brad DeLong Discuss Wallace Neutrality and Principles of Macroeconomics Textbooks 819
  7. Roger Farmer, Noah Smith, Miles Kimball, Tony Yates and Others on Math in Economics 736
  8. Umair Haque on Liberalism 676
  9. Why Does the Left Hate Markets? 672
  10. The True Marginal Product of Studying Hard and the Perceived Marginal Product of Studying Hard 657
  11. Jonathan Portes, Brad DeLong and Noah Smith Set Me Straight When I Praise John Cochrane's Shoddy OpEd 646
  12. The Marginalization of Economists at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 618
  13. Does the Fed Really Want 2% Inflation? 615
  14. The Time Miles was Called a "Neoliberal Sellout" by Matt Yglesias and was Glad for the Compliment in the End 565
  15. Why the Nominal GDP Target Should Go Up about 1% after a 1% Improvement in Technology 560
  16. Miles Kimball and Noah Smith on Balancing the Budget in the Long Run 552
  17. Noah Smith's and Matthew Yglesias's Unpopular Opinions That I Mostly Agree With 552
  18. Critiques of Economics 535
  19. Putting the Perspective from Jason Fung's "The Obesity Code" into Practice* 521
  20. Daniel Altman and Miles Kimball: Should We Expand Government or Expand the Nonprofit Sector? 495
  21. Brad DeLong on the Six James Buchanans 480
  22. Miles Kimball, David A. Levine, Robert Waldmann and Noah Smith on the Design of a US Sovereign Wealth Fund 471
  23. On Schools of Thought in Macroeconomics 457
  24. The Paul Ryan Tweets 453
  25. Narayana Kocherlakota and Miles Kimball Debate the Size of the US Output Gap in January, 2016    441
  26. Should We Have Tight Monetary Policy in Order to Help Virtuous Savers? 425
  27. Which is More Radical? Electronic Money or a Higher Inflation Target? 415
  28. Noah Smith on Multiculturalism and Assimilation 405
  29. On the Freshwater Style of Using Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium Models 402
  30. Unlearning Economics, Sanders Wagner and Miles Kimball: Nature, Nurture and Individual Agency 390
  31. Is Hari Seldon a Bad Influence on Macroeconomists? 383
  32. If You Had to Choose, Would You Want Your Employee to Know Some Statistics or Know Some Calculus? 382
  33. Is Math Used to Illuminate or Obfuscate in Economics? 381
  34. Claudia Sahm on Reforming the Refereeing Process in Economics 378
  35. Twitter Melee on Minimum Wages 364
  36. Chris Blattman on Lab Experiments and Field Experiments 361
  37. Noah Smith and Company: What Economic Things are Better Now than They Used to Be? 360
  38. Tomas Hirst Recoils at the Starkness of Efficiency Wage Theory 350
  39. Do Nordic Countries Do Well Because of Democratic Socialism or Because of Nordic Culture? 330
  40. On the Deregulation of Social Science Research 328
  41. Business Cycles: A Shocking Discussion 327
  42. Jason Smith and John Cochrane on the Refereeing Process in Economics 327
  43. Miles Kimball Debates Danielle DiMartino Booth and Her Friends about Monetary Policy 322
  44. Daniel Altman and Miles Kimball: Is It OK to Let the Rich Be Rich As Long As We Take Care of the Poor? 320
  45. On Fighting Obesity 318
  46. Miles Kimball and David Andolfatto Defend John Cochrane Against the Wrath of John L. Davidson 318
  47. Miles Kimball's Comments on the Scott Sumner/David Andolfatto Debate 306
  48. Noah Smith: California Shows the Racial and Ethnic Future for the US 299
  49. Where is the Republican Party on Monetary Policy? 285
  50. What is Consumption for the Purposes of a Consumption Tax? 282
  51. Noah Smith, Brad DeLong and Miles Kimball on Wallace Neutrality 279
  52. The Balance Between Persistence and Finding Your Own Comparative Advantage 279
  53. Sticky Prices, Sticky Inflation and the Cost of Inflation as Reflections of Cognitive Costs 277
  54. Gender Roles, Economics and the Labor Market 277
  55. Stephen Williamson and Miles Kimball Debate Nominal GDP Level Targeting 272
  56. Genes vs. Hard Work in Learning Math 271
  57. Matthew C. Klein and Miles Kimball on the Effects of Negative Interest Rates on Savers 264
  58. Anti-Construction is Anti-Poor 261
  59. Noah Smith's Tweetstorm on Making Everyone a 'Math Person' 257
  60. Twitter Debate on Monetary vs. Fiscal Policy: Take 1    257
  61. Edward J. Epstein, Miles Kimball, Brad Delong, Alex Bowles and Ramez Naam: Was Edward Snowden a Spy? 256
  62. Monetary Policy and Financial Policy Discussions Sparked by the Kimball and Konczal vs. Peter Schiff HuffPost Live 251
  63. Responses to the Great Recession 249
  64. Showing How Charles Murray is Wrong Instead of Shouting Him Down 249
  65. Preaching in the Temple: Presenting "Breaking Through the Zero Lower Bound" at the Fed 248
  66. Socialism and Capitalism: A Conversation of Miles Kimball, Unlearning Economics, Adam Gurri and Daniel Hart 245
  67. What is Monetary Policy? 243
  68. Are Central Banks Scared to Admit that the Zero Lower Bound is a Policy Choice, Not a Law of Nature? 241
  69. Why I Won't Join the AARP 239
  70. Beatrice Cherrier on the Weaponization of the Lucas Critique 235
  71. On Bringing the Questions and Concerns of Sociology into Economics 234
  72. Tomas Hirst and Miles Kimball on Fiscal Stimulus vs. Negative Rates 234
  73. Immigration Tweet Day, February 4, 2013: Archive    233
  74. Twitter Round Table on Targeting Core Inflation 230
  75. Why Wasn't There Massive Inflation or Massive Deflation During the Great Recession? 229
  76. College as a Marriage Market: A Twitter Discussion 229
  77. High Bank Capital Requirements Defended 228
  78. Noah, Richard, Miles and Jake Talk about God and SuperGod 222
  79. Is There Any Excuse for U-Shaped Average Cost Curves? 221
  80. Electronic Money, Nominal GDP Targeting, and the Transmission Mechanisms for Monetary Policy 221
  81. Daniel Altman and Miles Kimball on the Long-Run Target for Inflation 220
  82. Eliminating the Zero Lower Bound: An Introduction 215
  83. Twitter Round Table on Our Disastrous Policy of Pegging Paper Currency at Par 211
  84. Rich People Do Create Jobs 208
  85. Adam Ozimek, Miles Kimball and Neal Hockley on Paternalism and Other-Regarding Preferences 206
  86. Miles Kimball, Roger Farmer, Stephen Williamson and Joe Little on Recent Japanese Monetary Policy 204
  87. Minimum Wages vs. Wage Subsidies 203
  88. John Dearie, Miles Kimball and Others Debate High Equity Requirements for Banks 200
  89. TakingHayekSeriously on Neo-Kantianism on Campus 200
  90. JP Koning and David Beckworth on Negative Interest Rates in the Repo Market 195
  91. Paper Currency Policy: A Primer 193
  92. The Vicious Self-Fulfilling Prophecy That You Can't Do Math 193
  93. Negative Interest Rates, Helicopter Drops and NGDPLT-- Matthew Klein, David Beckworth and Miles Kimball 192
  94. On Religion and Conservative Ideology in Collision with Colleges 192
  95. Seignorage and Fractional-Reserve Banking 192
  96. The Moral Case for Immigration Reform 191
  97. Ritwik Priya's Estimates of the Cost of Paper Currency Storage (and Miles Kimball's Discussion of Izabella Kaminska's... 186
  98. Anat Admati Defends High Bank Equity Requirements 186
  99. The Politics of Electronic Money: Take 1     184
  100. Gold, Electronic Money, and the Determinants of the Prices of Storable Commodities from the Ground 183
  101. Defending Negative Interest Rates Against All Comers 182
  102. Taking Care of the Poor and Troubled Without Getting Tied Up in Knots About Race 180
  103. Allowing Construction of More Housing Units Within a Quick Bus Ride of Jobs as an Imperative of True Social Justice 177
  104. Arguing about Gay Marriage 176
  105. Why Equity Requirements for Financial Firms Should Be Dramatically Increased 176
  106. David Beckworth on the Zero Lower Bound as a Price Floor 175
  107. The Historical Effects of Monetary Policy Mistakes 173
  108. Miles Kimball, Marc Andreessen and Others on Head Transplants and Cyborgian Immortality 173
  109. Reihan Salam and Miles Kimball Disagree on the Right Benchmark for Judging the Progressivity of a Value Added Tax 173
  110. Against the Mortgage Interest Deduction, Zoning as a Tool of Exclusion, and Occupational Licensing 172
  111. Noah Smith and Miles Kimball on Exploring the Mystery of Consciousness and Bokononism 170
  112. Noah Smith on Why Economists Need to Take Racism Seriously* 169
  113. How Neoliberalism Got Itself Into Political Trouble 168
  114. David Aron Levine and Miles Kimball on the Effects of Low Interest Rates on Pension Funds 166
  115. Neutral Monetary Policy as Part of the Foundation for a Free-Market Economy 165
  116. Are Rape and Sexual Assault About Power and Lust or Only About Power? 165
  117. A House Mystery: Why Does House Construction Go Up in Booms and Down in Recessions? 165
  118. Diego Espinosa and Miles Kimball on Bitcoin and Electronic Money 165
  119. Answering Skeptics about Negative Rates 163
  120. 'Forget Calorie Counting. It's the Insulin Index, Stupid' in a Few Tweets 159
  121. Tom Nichols and Eric Weinstein on the Public's Attitude toward Experts 159
  122. Do the Minimum Wage and Other Labor Market Rigidities Hamper the Assimilation of Immigrants? 157
  123. Velocity 157
  124. Debating 'Forget Calorie Counting; It's the Insulin Index, Stupid' 156
  125. Twitter Round Table on Contrarian Sovereign Wealth Funds as a Way to Tame the Financial Cycle 156
  126. Miles Kimball and 'Jimmy Madison' Debate the Minimum Wage 156
  127. Twitter Melee Over Negative Interest Rates 156
  128. Ontology and Cosmology in 14 Tweets     155
  129. Twitter Debates Sparked by Miles's and Yichuan's Second Quartz Column on Reinhart and Rogoff 155
  130. A Discussion on the Politics, Ethics and Psychology of Immigration Policy 154
  131. Q&A about Negative Interest Rates--The Centre for Monetary Advancement and Miles Kimball 153
  132. Cyptocurrency Conference Tweets 153
  133. The New Abolitionists Discuss Tactics for Immigration Policy 153
  134. Tweets about How to Turn Every Child into a "Math Person" 152
  135. Electronic Money, Helicopter Drops and Seignorage 151
  136. Don't Discriminate against Asian Americans in College Admissions; Emulate Them in Study Habits 150
  137. Adam Posen, Miles Kimball, Ritwik Priya and Tomas Hirst on Electronic Money vs. Central Bank Asset Purchases 150
  138. Why I Am Not a Neoliberal—In Tweets 148
  139. Does Economic Stability Inevitably Lead to Financial Fragility? 148
  140. Twitter Roundtable: Will Donald Trump's Administration Be an Economic Disaster or Only a Moral Disaster? 148
  141. David Beckworth Recommends RATS--"Regression Analysis of Time Series" Software--for Vector Auto Regression 147
  142. Greg Ransom on Hayek and Modern Macro Models 146
  143. Implementation Issues for Electronic Money 144
  144. Technique and Substance in Economics 143
  145. Noah Smith on the Idea of a Colorblind Society 143
  146. Representative Agent Defends Negative Interest Rate Policy by Citing a Non-Representative Agent Model 143
  147. Twitter Round Table on Consumption Taxation 142
  148. On Rent Control in San Francisco 142
  149. Can Electronic Money Stimulate the Economy Even When Banks are Running Scared? 142
  150. Twitter Roundtable on Deep Negative Interest Rates 141
  151. Will Negative Rates Cause Malinvestment? Will They Harm Banks? 141
  152. Eric Lonergan and Miles Kimball Discuss the Transmission Mechanism for Negative Interest Rates 141
  153. Miles Kimball and JW Mason on the International Role of the Dollar 141
  154. Twitter Discussion of Inequality 140
  155. Noah Smith: No Group of Americans is the Problem; Ideas Are Problems, Organizations Are Problems, Systems Are Problems 139
  156. Are Low Short-Term Interest Rates Bad for the Middle Class? 139
  157. The Politics of Electronic Money: Take 2      135
  158. Soncharm Scolds Me for Sounding Too Sure of Myself 135
  159. Noah Smith Teaches Miles the Difference Between Vouchers and Charter Schools 133
  160. Narayana Kocherlakota on the Stimulative Effects of Cutting Interest Rates 133
  161. Exchange Rate Interventions as QE 133
  162. Climate Change Science and Climate Change Orthodoxy 129
  163. Analogies Between Economic Models and the Biology of Obesity 126
  164. Danielle DiMartino Booth, Michael Lebowitz and Miles Kimball on the Dominance of the Fed by Economics PhDs 124
  165. Ensuring Safety from Rape and Sexual Assault is Beautiful 124
  166. Miles Kimball, Steven Verner and James Feldman Debate School Choice 124
  167. Wikipedia, Linguistics and the Price System 124
  168. Debating Higher Capital Requirements in the Light of the End of the Zero Lower Bound 121
  169. Does the Online World Allow Us to Change the Past? 121
  170. Miles's Queasiness about Current Ways of Modeling Financial Frictions 120
  171. TakingHayekSeriously and Miles Kimball on Macroeconomic Experiments in History 118
  172. Monetary Policy in the Light of Likely Nominations of Marvin Goodfriend and Randal Quarles to the Federal Reserve Board 117
  173. Confirmation Bias in the Interpretation of New Evidence on Salt 114
  174. Twitter Convo: Do Blogs Enhance Public Debate about Economic Research? 114
  175. Underneath What Looks Like Discontent with Central Banks is a Lot of Discontent with the Financial System 113
  176. The Fed Should Not Raise Rates Again Until It Says It Would Lower Rates Promptly If Later Data Suggests It Should 113
  177. Twitter Roundtable on Federal Lines of Credit and Monetary Policy 111
  178. Europe Needs Negative Rates, Higher Equity Requirements, Balanced Budgets and Supply-Side Reform 111
  179. A Bit of Personal History of Thought: Zero Lower Bound-->Quantitative Easing-->Electronic Money 110
  180. Up for Debate: There Is No Such Thing as Decreasing Returns to Scale 109
  181. Miles Kimball and Soncharm on Jesus in Politics 108
  182. Bringing Social Justice to Home Owners' Associations 106
  183. Miles Kimball, Jason Becker and Jordan Weissmann Discuss Affirmative Action 106
  184. Noah Smith on Racial Politics 105
  185. A Debate on Monetary Policy Primacy: Tomas Hirst, Miles Kimball and Christopher Cordeiro 104
  186. Vaidas Urba Stress Tests Sovereign Wealth Funds 103
  187. The Twitter Campaign for Repealing the Zero Lower Bound: September 2013     102
  188. Miles Kimball, Matt Yglesias, Brad DeLong and Ryan Decker Talk about Mitt Romney 102
  189. David Andolfatto, Miles Kimball and Mike Johnson: What Ails Housing Construction? What about Monetary Policy? 100
  190. Is Having the Young Pay for the Old 'Insurance'? 99
  191. The Argument that the Free Market Will Rectify Discrimination as a Guide to Business Opportunities 98
  192. Amod Agarwala and Miles Kimball on Equity and Debt Finance 98
  193. The Tweets on Faith 97
  194. On Abolishing the Penny 96
  195. Mormon Afterlife Tweets 96
  196. How The Talent Code Gave Colman Reilly a Myelin-Induced Toothache 96
  197. Noah Smith: Material Deprivation is Declining Because of Redistribution and Decolonization 96
  198. Reaching for Yield 94
  199. Heather Mac Donald is Wrong: Discrimination Is Not Just in People's Imaginations 93
  200. TakingHayekSeriously and Miles Kimball on Open Borders 93
  201. Everyone with a College Degree Should Be Equipped to Give the Arguments for Reasoned Discussion and Free Speech 92
  202. Twitter Roundtable on Insider Trading 92
  203. Doubting Tomas: Electronic Money in an Open Economy with Wounded Banks 89
  204. Charles Goodhart—Central Banking: Past, Present and Future 88
  205. Could Donald Trump Be Forced to Choose Among Existing Federal Reserve Governors for Chair If He Replaces Janet Yellen? 88
  206. Narayana Kocherlakota: Negative Rates are the Cleaner Economic Solution 87
  207. Bonnie Kavoussi's Tweetstorm on "Restoring American Growth" 86
  208. Richard Florida on the Level of Competition in Physics 86
  209. Are Negative Interest Rates a Drug That Requires Ever-Increasing Doses? 86
  210. Miles Kimball and Noah Smith on Job Creation 85
  211. Miles Kimball and John L. Davidson on CEO Pay 85
  212. Supply-Side Reform: A Portfolio of Tweets 83
  213. Twitter Convo About Miles's Dustup With Paul Krugman About the Dangers of Debt 82
  214. Twitter Roundtable on Jeffrey Friedman's 'Public Choice Theory and the Politics of Good and Evil' 82
  215. What is "the West"? 81
  216. Defending the Principles of Western Civilization While Excoriating Bad Behavior Then and Now 80
  217. Twitter Debate on "Politicism" (Political Prejudice) 79
  218. Twitter Roundtable on the Power of Negative Interest Rates Compared to Other Stimulative Policies 79
  219. On the Future of the Economics Blogosphere: Running Tweets by Audience Members 77
  220. How Electronic Money Can Eliminate Inflation 76
  221. A Perspective on the Mormon Church's Official Twitter Feed 75
  222. Negative Rate Policy in Switzerland, December 2014-September 2016   73
  223. Michael Martinez: If Banks That Tricked Consumers into Fees Were Eliminated, There Wouldn't Be Any Banks Left 72
  224. On Exercising Free Speech to Express Bearish Opinions about the Stock Market and the Best Approach to Regulation 72
  225. Jag Bhalla and Miles Kimball on the Idea of Economic Distortions 72
  226. Twitter Roundtable on Monetary Policy Tools and Targets 72
  227. John L. Davidson on Persuasion of Juries and Voters 71
  228. The Ethics of Immigration Policy, Revisited 70
  229. Miles Kimball and Anat Admati Argue for Higher Capital Requirements 69
  230. Could Andrew Jackson Have Averted the Civil War? 69
  231. The Role of Nonprofits in Dealing with Inequality and Other Problems 68
  232. Who Should Foster the Public Weal? Weighing National Government, State and Local Government, and the Nonprofit Sector 67
  233. Discussion of John L. Davidson's Guest Post "The Institutional Realities of House Construction" 67
  234. On the Relationship Between Government and Financial Firms 66
  235. Peter Conti-Brown on the Effect of Ideology on the Federal Reserve Board 65
  236. Discussing the Virtue of Scientific Disrespect 63
  237. Noah Smith on the Lack of a Forward-Looking Center-Left Agenda 63
  238. Miles Kimball and John L. Davidson Debate Economic Freedom 63
  239. The Reproducibility Crisis in Biomedical Research 60
  240. Denmark's Brilliant Stabilization Policy 59
  241. Don Luis Espinal on the Hatred of People with an Accent 58
  242. John L. Davidson Disses Economists and Resists Increasing Saving as the Best Route to More Balanced Trade 57
  243. Anonymity for Central Bank Digital Cash? 56
  244. Miles Kimball, Chris Oestereich, John Horton and Wayne Vernon on New York's War on Airbnb 56
  245. L. Naples on the Human Potential Movement 54
  246. Miles Kimball and Mike Johnson: Can We Make a Difference for Climate Change? 53
  247. On John Locke and Land Claims 53
  248. Dan Abrams on the Politics of Occupational Licensing Reform 47
  249. Thirumaran Defends Narendra Modi's Reputation 45
  250. Umair Haque and Miles Kimball Discuss Stagnation 44
  251. The Interest Rate as an Intertemporal Transportation Cost 43
  252. Technocracy vs. Political Passion 39
  253. Larry Summers and the Zero Lower Bound 38
  254. One-Tweet Wonders 35
  255. Integrity as the Foundation of Freedom 33
  256. Christianity is Not Helpful for Those Who Want to Look Down on Foreigners and Other Races 33
  257. Jason Smith and Miles Kimball: Technical Difficulties for Boost-Phase Interception of Missiles 29
  258. Proclamation of Immigration Tweet Day: Monday, February 4, 2013     29
  259. David Eli and Miles Kimball on Health Care Policy 25
  260. Christine Porath: A Lack of Basic Civility in the Workplace Takes a Big Toll on Productivity 21
  261. Tweets Too Flattering and Nice Not to Save 19
  262. Legal Counterfeiting as a Way to Enforce a Ban on Paper Currency 14
  263. Tweeted Reviews, April 14, 2013—      6
  264. Miscellaneous Maxims 3
  265. A Tour Through the Topical Sub-Blog Links on My Sidebar 2

Podcast: Miles Kimball Explains to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal Why Losing Weight Is Like Defeating Inflation

                                                               Link to the podcast

                                                            Link to the podcast

I was delighted to get a chance to talk to Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal about diet and health and in particular about fasting as the key tool for defeating obesity. The result is the Odd Lots podcast "An Economist Explains Why Losing Weight Is Kind Of Like Defeating Inflation." One of the key things I say in this podcast is that using fasting to fight obesity is like a central bank engineering a recession to fight inflation, except that recessions are horrible, while fasting is not that bad an experience at all, if you do it right. 

All around, I think this is a very high-quality podcast, thanks to the Odd Lots team. I hope you will try listening!


Don't miss these other posts on diet and health and on fighting obesity:

Also see the last section of "Five Books That Have Changed My Life."


John Locke Explains 'Lord of the Flies'

Many readers think of William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies as a pessimistic take on humanity in general. But John Locke, who is an optimist about the rational inclination toward justice of adults is a pessimist who doubts the inclination of youngsters toward justice. In section 63 of his 2d Treatise on Government: “Of Civil Government” (Chapter VI. Of Paternal Power), he writes:

The freedom then of man, and liberty of acting according to his own will, is grounded on his having reason, which is able to instruct him in that law he is to govern himself by, and make him know how far he is left to the freedom of his own will. To turn him loose to an unrestrained liberty, before he has reason to guide him, is not the allowing him the privilege of his nature to be free; but to thrust him out amongst brutes, and abandon him to a state as wretched, and as much beneath that of a man, as their’s. This is that which puts the authority into the parents’ hands to govern the minority of their children. God hath made it their business to employ this care on their offspring, and hath placed in them suitable inclinations of tenderness and concern to temper this power, to apply it, as his wisdom designed it, to the children’s good, as long as they should need to be under it.

This resonates with me. At least in my own, relatively fortunate life, I was much more frightened of the possibility of physical harm from other youngsters when I myself was young than I have been of physical harm from other adults now that I am an adult myself.

It is also true that a large share of crime is committed by those who, while they might have reached the age of majority in our culture are still relatively young adults. At least in relation to the danger that they might commit bodily harm, age tends to mellow most people. 

Another important correlation is between criminality and having difficulty reasoning. Criminals are often caught because they make stupid mistakes. And the crimes they commit in the first place are often stupid mistakes. For example, some commit crimes because they are not good at thinking about the future, when penalties such as being thrown in jail might fall upon them. Not all crimes come from a lack of rationality, but many do. So there is something to what John Locke is saying. 


For links to other John Locke posts, see these John Locke aggregator posts: