The beauty of the English language

by Daniel on July 14, 2004

Given the number of irregular verbs in the English language, it’s nice to know that one commonly used phrase is at least well-behaved:

Some might argue that the modern meaning of the phrase “accept responsibility” is irksome in that it has only illocutionary significance; without the announcement that X has “accepted responsibility”, one would have the very devil of a job working out that it had happened. Might I suggest that what we ought to do is to coin a generalised version of Douglas Adams’ useful neologism “dogdyke” from his excellent book, “The Meaning of Liff”:

Of dog-owners, to adopt the absurd pretence that the animal shitting in the gutter is nothing to do with them.

Onward to hell we all go …

Radio edit

by Henry Farrell on July 14, 2004

We introduced an innovation a few weeks back and completely forgot to announce it. We’re a group blog which frequently has quite lengthy posts. Thus, when one of us does a post of more than a paragraph or two, it’s usually excerpted on the main page, so that the reader needs to click on “read more” in order to finish reading it. As far as we can tell, most readers prefer this ‘radio edit’ – it means that posts don’t disappear rapidly to the bottom of a very long page. However, some don’t. For the latter, we’ve created the Crooked Timber “Extended Play Mix”:, which publishes each post in its entirety to the Crooked Timber main page (you still have to click for comments). If you prefer not to have to click through to read full posts, you should bookmark this version instead (it’s also available in the left sidebar as ‘full post version’).

Is economics an empirical science ?

by John Q on July 14, 2004

Tyler Cowen[1] lists a number of economic propositions which he formerly believed, but has abandoned in the light of contrary evidence. Most of these propositions were elements of the economic orthodoxy of the 1980s and 1990s, variously referred to as Thatcherism, neoliberalism, the Washington consensus and, in Australia, economic rationalism. They include the efficacy of monetary targeting, the beneficence of free capital movements and the desirability of rapid privatisation in transition economies.

Following in the same spirit, I thought I’d list a couple of propositions on which I’ve changed my mind in the face of empirical evidence. These are elements of the Keynesian orthodoxy of the 1950s and 1960s, on which I was trained. Following Cowen, I’ll list them as false claims I used to believe

* There is a long-run trade-off between unemployment and inflation

* Keynesian fiscal policy is a powerful and reliable instrument for stabilising aggregate demand

On both these issues, I’ve come to accept that Milton Friedman was largely right, and his Keynesian opponents largely wrong.

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Public and Private Health Care

by Kieran Healy on July 14, 2004

Brayden King notes that the “Wall Street Journal”: is concerned about ever-rising health care costs in the United States. I’ve been looking at data on national health systems for a paper I’m trying to write. It turns out that there’s a lot less theoretical work done on comparative health systems than you might think, certainly in comparison to the huge literature on welfare state regimes. Here’s a figure showing the relationship between the “Publicness” of the health system and the amount spent on health care per person per year. Data points are each country’s mean score on these measures for the years 1990 to 2001.

*Update*: I’ve relabeled the x-axis to remove a misleading reference to ratios.

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