Friday, August 7, 2020

Interpol Supports Murder Charge Against MbS

 In today's Washington Post David Ignatius reports that Interpol refused a request from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) to extradite Saad Aljabri to Saudi Arabia from Canada in 2017. MbS had been trying to entice Aljabri to return and had arrested his children, who remain arrested despite complaints from the US government and basically the entire rest of the world. Aljabri was the top aide of MbS's rival, the former Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN), who was overthrown by MbS in a coup. Aljabri and MbN were highly regarded by officials in the US of several administrations, as well as orther governments, and apparently was personally responsible for blocking a serious possible terrorist attack in the US.  

After Interpol refused to extradite Aljabri from Toronto, MbS sent a crew to kill him. This was two months after MbS sent such a crew to Istanbul to kill and dismember Kamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post.  Aljabri warned the Canadian government they were coming and the team was detained at the Toronto airport, where they were found to have exactly the same implements that were used to dismember Khashoggi.  

Aljabri is now suing MbS in US courts for trying to kill him.  MbS has claimed that Aljabri stole funds, but Aljabri says this is a false claim.  Ignatius notes that MbS will have to produce his claims, and the big deal here is that up until now the Interpol report was not public.  They refused MbS's extradition request on this claim, and their report makes it clear that much lies behind their decision, including massive violations of human rights in Saudi Arabia by the murderer, MbS.

Barkley Rosser

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Disaster That Lebanon Has Become

It is now on the front pages with a massive explosion of over 2000 tons of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse near Beirut's port, with over 100 dead and thousands injured and possibly more than 300,000 displaced from their homes.  Juan Cole reports that this had been dangerously sitting there since 2013, when it was moved off the Moldavan Rhosus, where it was apparently unsafely loaded after having been on its way to make fertilizer in Mozambique. But thanks to entrenched corruption and dysfunction in the Lebanese government nothing was done with it while the freighter has sat in the harbor.   Now it has exploded.

Just to add to the trouble, President Trump claimed that some people at the Pentagon had told him that this was a bomb, and that Lebanon was under attack by somebody.  Juan Cole reports that many in Beirut took this seriously and think that attacker is Israel, where PM Netanyahu is facing a corruption trial and would love a foreign policy distraction to boost his popularity.  The Saudis have encouraged some reporters in Riyadh and Dubai to claim that it was Hezbollah that did it, the Iranian-backed group that is powerful in what is left of the Lebanese government and that was charged by Netanyahu recently of engaging in a border incident, although Hezbollah has denied this latter charge.

However, Beirut-based CNN reporters communicated with people at the Pentagon who apparently all deny that anybody at the Pentagon told Trump that it might have been a bomb or attack. Now SecDef Epper has apparently publicly piled on with this, denying that it was an attack or a bomb, although ammonium nitrate certainly has been used as a bomb, from Sterling Hall in Madison, Wisconsin a half century ago to the Murrah building in Oklahoma City about half as much time as that ago.  It is pretty clear now that Trump has baselessly hyped an unfortunate accident into a possible causus belli.

As it is, this highly destructive explosion culminates what has been an accelerating economic collapse triggered by a long-running political gridlock between the many factions involved in Lebanese politics, with these largely defined by their religious affliiations. This collapse has become life threatening, with Juan Cole reporting that as many as half of the children in the nation are facing hunger, with Lebanon not having had a famine since WW I when it was under siege as part of the Ottoman Empire.  Massive inflation has reduced purchasing power by a massive 85%.  Lebanon is defaulting on its huge foreign debt, with the IMF and France refusing to lend it any money.

The economic pain is especially focused on the large refugee groups in the nation. Lebanon's over 16 different identifiable ethno-religious groups of citizens number 4.7 million.  But there are now 1.5 million refugees on top of that from the Syrian war, and over 400,000 Palestinian refugees that have been there for over 70 years.  Given all this it is amazing that this collapse has not hit Lebanon sooner.

Given its long civil war several decades ago, it is easy to forget that once upon a time Beirut was known as "the Paris of the Middle East." Those days are long gone, and just to add insult to injury, the tourism industry has also now collapsed, with a bad coronavirus situation simply putting the nail in the coffin on that. Maybe this awful explosion will bring about responsible conduct by the entrenched and corrupt leaders (who have also faced long-running street protests), but the recent past does not provide much hope.

Barkley Rosser


Team Trump on Susan Rice as Biden’s Running Mate

Next to Joe Biden, Susan Rice may be the most qualified person to lead our nation back from the utter disaster created by our allowing Donald Trump to pretend to be our President. So what is this from the camp of the Liar-in-Chief? Trump’s aides and allies accuse Rice — without delving too deeply into the evidence — of helping cover up crimes for two of the president’s favorite foils, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, making her just the kind of "deep state" villain who could fire up his MAGA base. “She is absolutely our No. 1 draft pick,” a Trump campaign official said. I suspect Team Trump fears who Rice would be in a national campaign so they doing a classic head fake. Don’t fall for it. Dr. Rice has committed no crimes and everyone (except for those MAGA hat wearers whose brains have rotted by now) knows it. What’s this? Four years earlier, she faced allegations that she misled Americans when she announced on national TV that the fatal attacks in Benghazi, Libya, occurred after spontaneous protests in response to an anti-Muslim video. That was determined to be inaccurate. On Monday night, Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host influential in Trump’s orbit, opened his show with a lengthy diatribe about Rice and her role in the 2012 Benghazi raid — strikingly similar to the attack Republicans lodged against Clinton in the 2016 race against Trump. This Benghazi BS is false so why highlight the rant from the racist liar Tucker Carlson? And unfortunately this Politico story continues with one false allegation after another. The real beef seems to be that Dr. Rice ably points out the many failures of the Trump Administration, which gets Team Trump all “energized”. So what? Democrats are supposed to cut and run when Team Trump goes off on one of their patented attack campaigns? Give me a break. The Republican rants about the lack of resources for our ambassadors in Benghazi were always pure hypocrisy Leahy said: “House Republicans have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on a partisan exercise. For that, and for blaming the Administration for failing to protect our diplomats, without acknowledging their own efforts to slash resources for embassy security, is pure, distilled hypocrisy.” BEFORE BENGHAZI: After Republicans took over the House in January 2011 -- before the Benghazi attack -- they proposed deep cuts for U.S. embassy operations and State Department programs across the board, including for diplomatic and embassy facility security. The House Republican Appropriations Committee cut $1 billion from the embassy security budget proposed by the Obama Administration in the two years prior to the Benghazi attack The Republican attacks back then were based on lies to shift responsibility from their own failures. Let the Republicans try this again and just keep reminding people about the true reasons for our current failures – the dishonesty and incompetence of Team Trump.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

From the archives: "The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties"

 With a minimum of editing or preface, I am reposting this one from February 2009. Next year will be the bicentennial of the publication this astonishing but undeservedly obscure pamphlet. One "event" that I am conducting to celebrate the anniversary is posting of around 65 questions that I have mined from the text. I hope that there will be others but that sort of depends on gathering a critical mass of audience.  
How is it that notwithstanding the unbounded extent of our capital, the progressive improvement and wonderful perfection of our machinery, our canals, roads, and of all other things that can, either facilitate labour, or increase its produce; our labourer, instead of having his labours abridged, toils infinitely more, more hours, more laboriously...?
Published anonymously in 1821, The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties, Deduced from Principles of Political Economy in a Letter to Lord John Russell was, according to Frederick Engels, "saved from falling into oblivion," by Karl Marx, who, in published writings up to the time of Engel’s remark, had scarcely mentioned the pamphlet in a cryptic footnote in Volume I of Capital. Engels acclaimed the pamphlet as “but the farthest outpost of an entire literature which in the twenties turned the Ricardian theory of value and surplus value against capitalist production in the interest of the proletariat.”

For his part, Marx declared in his unpublished notebooks that the pamphlet was an advance beyond Adam Smith and David Ricardo in its conscious and consistent distinction between the general form of surplus value or surplus labour and its particular manifestations in the form of land rent, interest of money or profit of enterprise. In commenting on the pamphlet, Marx returned several times to what he upheld as the "fine statement": "a nation is really rich if no interest is paid for the use of capital, if the working day is only 6 hours rather than 12. WEALTH IS DISPOSABLE TIME, AND NOTHING MORE." Marx noted that Ricardo had also identified disposable time as the true wealth with the difference for Ricardo, however, that it was disposable time for the capitalist that constituted such wealth, thus the ideal should be to maximize surplus value relative to total output.

One of those citations occurs in Marx's Grundrisse, immediately after the following characteristically revolutionary proposition: "Forces of production and social relations -- two different sides of the development of the social individual -- appear to capital as mere means for it to produce on its limited foundation. In fact, however, they are the material condition to blow this foundation sky-high." Indeed, in his reinterpretation of Marx's critical theory, Time, Labor and Social Domination, Moishe Postone placed the issue of disposable time at the "essential core" of Marx's analysis in Capital. Although Postone didn't emphasize the pamphlet itself, he highlighted a passage from the same paragraph in the Grundrisse that concludes with the pamphlet's "fine statement."
Just how successful Marx was in saving the 1821 pamphlet from oblivion remains to be seen. Obviously, the pamphlet was spared from total oblivion or I wouldn't be writing this. A copy of it was included in the microfilm Goldsmiths-Kress Library of Economic Literature. Routledge republished it in 2005 as part of a ten-volume collection of Owenite Socialism : Pamphlets and Correspondence edited by Gregory Claeys. Aside from the few references by Marx and Engels, there have been scattered mentions of the pamphlet but, to my knowledge, no sustained consideration, which seems odd considering the importance that Engels -- and in his manuscripts, Marx -- assigned to it.

Perhaps one of the difficulties has been the anonymity of its authorship. That problem would appear to have been resolved by a disclosure in the biography of the 19th century editor and literary critic, Charles Wentworth Dilke, Papers of a Critic, written by his grandson, Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke. The younger Dilke reported having found an annotated copy of the pamphlet, acknowledging authorship, among his grandfather's papers. Subsequent authorities on Dilke and on the literary journal he edited for [30?] years, The Athaeneum, appear satisfied with the plausibility of this attribution, given Dilke's writing style, his proclivity for anonymous and pseudonymous publication, his political inclinations and his subsequent career. There doesn't appear to have been any concerted effort to either definitively establish or to refute Dilke's authorship. So Dilke qualifies as the leading and, so far, only candidate for authorship.

If Dilke was indeed the author, this presents at least two rather significant bits of context to the pamphlet as well as several minor but intriguing ones. First, Dilke was an ardent disciple of William Godwin. The poet, John Keats, who was a close friend and next-door neighbor referred to him as a "Godwin perfectability man". He was said to have retained this political inclination throughout his life. Second, in his career as editor of the Athaeneum, Dilke campaigned famously against journalistic "puffery" -- the practice of publishers placing in literary journals, for a fee, promotional material for their books under the guise of independent reviews.

Both of these contextual items could be significant for an interpretation of The Source and Remedy precisely because the pamphlet lends itself comfortably to a reading as a Godwinist tract (rather than a pre-Marxist one) but also to a reading as a polemic against yet another brand of puffery -- political economic puffery. As for "turning the Ricardian theory of value against capitalist production," such an intention would hardly seem to fit an essay that on its closing page counts among the great advantages of the measures proposed therein that "their adoption would leave the country at liberty to pursue such a wise and politic system of financial legislation as would leave trade and commerce unrestricted [emphasis in original]."

The Source and Remedy of the National Difficulties appears to have had something to say somewhat distinct from the message Marx took away from it. In his various notes on the pamphlet, Marx seems to have paid closest attention to the first six pages of the 40-page pamphlet and to have glossed over the rest somewhat disparagingly or with an eye to the arresting quote. In his discussion of the pamphlet in Theories of Surplus Value, for example, the reader may wonder if Marx is actually still talking about the pamphlet after a few pages or has gone off on a tangent inspired by the pamphleteer having overlooked the impact of unemployment on wages. It has to be cautioned, though, that Marx's extended comments on the pamphlet appeared in manuscript notes that were published posthumously. They are not polished, fully thought out positions directly intended for publication.

Although the first six pages are indeed interesting, in the context of the pamphlet as a whole their function is to set the stage for the crucial pair of questions that appear on page seven. That is, after deducing from principles of political economy that capital, left to its natural course, would soon do away with further accumulation, the author asks why that seemingly inevitable result has never happened and how it is that with all the presumably labor-saving wonders of modern industry, workers work longer hours and more laboriously than ever before.

Dilke's answer was that government and legislation act ceaselessly to destroy the produce of labor and interfere with the natural development of capital. They do this indirectly by, on the one hand, maintaining "unproductive classes" at a constant proportion to productive laborers and on the other by enabling the immense expansion of "fictitious capital," based ultimately on protectionism and government finance. Government does these things so that it may raise an enormous level of revenues that it couldn't through direct taxation of the laboring population, because "it would have been gross, open, shameless, and consequently impossible." Instead, it makes the holders of this fictitious capital "particeps criminis" in a stratagem to exact a much-enlarged revenue. As partner in crime, the capitalist lays claim to a generous portion of the booty. Not surprisingly, war is a "powerful cooperator" in this relentless process of destroying the produce of labor and expanding the claims of fictitious capital.

As for the "natural" claims of surplus value exacted by the capitalist, Dilke viewed it as causing the laborer "no real grievance to complain of," a position at least apparently at odds with Marx's views of exploitation and almost certainly incompatible with Engels' assertion that the pamphlet turned Ricardian theory "against capitalist production." Not only was Dilke not opposed to capitalist production, he described it as leading to a Utopian condition of freedom if only it was left to unfold according to its nature. In his note, Marx objected that the pamphleteer had overlooked two things in coming to such a sanguine conclusion about the trajectory of capitalist accumulation. One was unemployment; the other Marx never got around to specifying.

Dilke's reasoning, although thought provoking, is far from airtight. He confesses in his closing pages that his argument "is not so consecutive, that the proofs do not follow the principles laid down so immediately as I could have wished. The reasoning is too desultory, too loose in its texture." Whether such regrets are heartfelt or simply an obligatory rhetorical gesture of modesty is hard to say. The subject matter itself is elusive and no treatment of it could be exempt some flaws. But, nevertheless, the case he presents is an original and important one that has as far as I know been overlooked by Marx and his intellectual heirs.

The part of the argument that Marx appropriated to his own analysis -- the author's consistent reference to surplus value as the general form underlying profit, rent and interest was ultimately incidental to Dilke's main points that nature places a limit on accumulation and that the surpassing of those natural limits occurs only as a result of government intervention, which, in effect mandates excess exploitation of labor.

There is a problem that arises from Marx appropriating the (for Marx) correct premise of the pamphlet without first having systematically refuted the author's own deductions from it. What if Dilke's deductions were either equally or more plausible than Marx's? Rather than being a focal point of class struggle, might not surplus value then be "no real grievance to complain of?" Rather than underpinning a contradiction fated to blow the foundation of capital sky-high, might not the tension between "things superfluous" and disposable time have the potential to be adjusted like wing flaps to help bring capital in for a soft landing?

By things superfluous, I refer, first, to the unholy trinity of fictitious capital, unproductive labor and inconvertible paper money and second, to their commodified expression as luxury goods. What I am suggesting is that for Dilke it seems that the primary contradictions of capitalism (to use Marx's expression) lay not so much between capital and labor as between real and fictitious capital, productive and unproductive labor, convertible and inconvertible money, necessities and luxury goods. This internalizing of the contradictions recalls Solzhenitsyn's observation in the Gulag Archipelago that, "the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts." Might we not ask if it's not only the line between good and evil that passes through every human heart but also the line between labor and capital, proletariat and bourgeoisie?

From the standpoint of the arguments presented in The Source and Remedy, a proletarian revolution would be entirely unnecessary. Ironically, the non-necessity of the revolution would arrive precisely at the moment in which such a revolution would have become possible.

How To Measure Quarterly Changes In GDP Can Make A Big Difference

We have had dramatic headlines and commentary in recent days since the BEA issued its initial estimate of quarterly changes in GDP, which they do not officially measure on an shorter time period. This is a measure of the average GDP in one quarter compared to the average GDP in the next quarter.  Looking at Q1 of this year and Q2 of this year, they reported the largest quarterly decline ever recorded, -32.9% on an annualized rate, about -9.5% on a quarterly rate. This is a sharper decline than seen either for any pair of quarters in the Great Depression or the immediate post-WW II demobilization, much less such later events as the Great Recession of 2007-09.  Of course this generated big headlines and much breathless commentary, including quite a few commentators who did not get it that the -32.9% number was the annualized rate rather than the quarterly rate, so we had quite a few of them foolishly talking about how the economy had "fallen by a third."  Yikes.

As I have noted in previous posts here, the economy has been doing a lot better than a lot of reporting and forecasts have let on, even as it is certainly slowing down now.  But if rather than looking at quarterly averages, which are heavily influenced by the fact that the economy did not "fall off a cliff" until mid-March, about 5/6 of the way through Q1 so that most of Q1 was at the high pre-fall level, one looks at where the economy was at the end of Q1 and compare it to where it was at the end of Q2, one gets a dramatically different story.  Over on Econbrowser Menzie Chinn has produced a figure from IHS Markit that estimates these shorter period changes. According to them the US GDP at the end of March (end of Q1) was at about $17.6 trillion annual amount while at the end of June it was at about $18.0 trillion, about 2.2% higher on a quarterly rate, which is about 9% higher on an annualized rate.  Needless to say, there is a dramatic contrast between -32.9% and +9.0%, but I have seen zero media commentary on this.

Indeed, growth has continued through July, although probably at a slower rate than in June, with a slower growth of retail sales of only 3.2% suggesting it has indeed slowed down quite a bit.  But in fact the economy has been growing for probably more than three months, something although "worst ever" stories seem to have ignored, and indeed the figure Menzie showed that went through May and June but not July sure looked a lot like a V, if just a bit flatter going up than down.

For anybody for whom this is just unacceptable to think about and you must think all is bad, well, unemployment remains high and indeed apparently the unemployed numbers have started going up again.  The economy may be ahead of where it was at the end of March, but it is still pretty far from where it was in February, and it is definitely slowing down, with its fate clearly closely tied to what happens with the coronavirus pandemic, which is not easily forecast..

Barkley Rosser

Monday, August 3, 2020

Trump's Churchillian Fight Against COVID-19

The push to open the schools, open up everything, ignore CDC gudelines, etc,etc:

It's Churchill  --- at Gallipoli!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Is The Latest Apparent Economist Suicide A Sign "Economics Is A Disaster"?

On July 23, 41-year-old Emmanuel Farhi, Professor of Economics at Harvard, a native of France with Egyptian Jewish ancestry, "unexpectedly" died a few hours after having a Zoom conference on how economics and economists can help the world (or something like that) with fellow Frenchmen, Nobelist Jean Tirole and former IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard.  No one has officially given a cause of death, but the entire internet has decided that it was a suicide, with a long thread with over 800 comments going on the infamous Economics Job Market Rumors (ejmr) about it with scads of speculation about it. On July 29, Claudia Sahm, formerly a Division Chief at Fed Board of Governors and now at Center for Equitable Growth, published a long post on her EconoMom blog called "Economics is a Disaster," in which she singled out what she called his "suicide" as a leading sign of the general "toxicity" of the economics profession, although most of her piece focuses on issues of sexism and racism in the profession, as well as giving bad advice to the public (more on her post below, although I note Fed Chair Jay Powell responded to a question about her blog post when asked by the media, admitting the Fed has had a problem with discrimination and is trying to deal with it).

Many are now saying there is a suicide epidemic in the economics profession, with Alan Krueger and Marty Weitzman (also of Harvard) doing themselves in last year, and Bill Sandholm of U-Wisconsin doing it quite recently. Farhi was a top math student in high school and later in France and many thought he would go into math or physics (which he won a prize for) with some saying he would be alive today if he had gone into one of those fields. But he got an MIT PhD in 2006 and tenure at Harvard by 2010.  He has been a leading mathematical macroeconomic theorist, following some ideas I am sympathetic with, such as agent-based modeling of macroeconomies and considering seriously heterogeneous capital and reconsidering the old Cambridge controversies in the theory of capital.  He has also been involved in some policy analysis and advising, proposing a "social VAT" for France as well as studying proposals for revising the international monetary system. Some claim that as Weitzman was depressed by not winning the Nobel Prize, Farhi may have been so for not getting the John Bates Clark Award for Best Economist Under 40, although he won many awards and was widely praised and respected.

Regarding Claudia Sahm's post I note I have never met her or directly communicated with her, and I am not going to comment in detail on her long post, most of which I either definitely agree with or think looks reasonable.  She recounts personal experiences at the Fed of being mistreated, accounts of mistreatment of RAs and grad students, especially women and minorities.  She also recounts bad or badly given advice by economists. She also names names of quite a few prominent economists she charges with bad behavior of one sort or another, including among others Dick Thaler, Larry Summers, Olivier Blanchard, James Heckman, Harald Uhlig, Lones Smith, and Bill Dudley, along with some who remain anonymous, including an especially unpleasant sounding "tormenter" at the Fed.  I shall make just a few comments on that.

At least one of those she criticizes has engaged in public behavior that is well known and notorious, namely Larry Summers, who is also notoriously arrogant, and some of these the charge of arrogance is a large part of her argument, indeed mostly towards those beneath them, as well as simply to rivals, with it being especially nasty when directed at women or minorities. The views of Summers on women are well known, and she reinforces what has been known. 

I shall defend one of these people, Lones Smith, who is at Wisconsin and whom I know quite well. She makes a vague accusation, no specifics, and none have since been provided near as I can tell in subsequent debates in various places, about mistreating women grad students when he was at Michigan.  I am pretty sure there has been none of that at Wisconsin, and he is personally a very nice guy, unlike several of those other people on her list.  He posts lots of stuff on various media and is known not to necessarily carefully censor himself, so may well say things that annoy people from time to time.  He also got Sahm angry during debates about Harald Uhlig on Twitter.  My observation on that is that I am not on Twitter and every time I hear about something an economist said there it seems to be embarrassing.

I could say more, actually a lot more, but I think this will do for now.  Anyway, although I did not know him (I did know Krueger, Weitzman, and Sandholm) I am sorry that Farhi has died so young, however it happened. RIP to Emmanuel Farhi, and indeed I agree with Sahm that economics and economists have some very serious problems to deal with.

Barkley Rosser

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Goodbye To The Last True Georgist Economist: Mason Gaffney

Mason ("Mase") Gaffney died on July 26 in Redlands, CA of Covid-19 at age 96.  He was both a great guy as well as arguably what the title to this says: "the last true Georgist economist," with such economists being followers of Henry George, whose 1878 book, Progress and Poverty, was the best-selling book on economics in the US during the 19th century.  George was a journalist who ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of New York.  His book, drawing on influences from Quesnay and Ricardo, advocated that there be a single ("site") tax on land, replacing other taxes.  Advocates of this view, such as Mase, argued that it brought about an economy that was both equitable and efficient.

Gaffney became a follower of Henry George in 1940 in his senior year of high school, when he read Progress and Poverty while convalescing from an accident.  He started at Harvard in econ in 1941, but dropped out from majoring in econ due to his disgust with the non-Georgist approach in the department there, joining the US military to fight in WW II.  He would later say that a virtue of an overseas military deployment was that it made one appreciate life as one felt they were living on "borrowed time."  In any case, he ended up having quite a lot of it.

After the war he attended Reed College and got his PhD at UC-Berkeley.  He worked in many places around the US, including at the US Dept. of Agriculture for awhile, but mostly in academic positions, ending up at UC-Riverside in 1976, where he remained until his retirement in 2012.  I think he stopped attending conferences after that, but I remember seeing him at some up to about that time, when, well into his 80s he was very lively and articulate and fun to talk with.

Unsurprisingly he became a major leader, maybe the major leader, of the organized Georgist movement in mid-century US, working the the Robert F. Schalkenbach Foundation on this and founding the long-running Committee on Taxation, Resources, and Economic Development (TRED), which had some prominent members including the late Nobelist, William Vickrey.  This group did a lot of lobbying and writing of letters to people in many nations and even religions (such as the Pope) urging the adoption of the single land (or site) tax.

He had at least some partial successes in some places, including New Zealand and Taiwan, among a few others.  While very few nations were willing to completely go with such a tax given that in modern economies with large governments they are unlikely to provide enough revenue to fund everything, in quite a few municipal areas there have been efforts to at least tax structures on land at a lower rate than the land they sit on, thus moving in a Georgist direction.  The old argument is that this discourages leaving land vacant and combats pure land speculation, among other things.  The main place in the US that did this for many decades, but eventually gave it up, was the city of Pittsburgh, where several urban economists claimed that it had the desirable effects argued for it.

If the land tax is so much better than the property tax, its great rival at the local (and more practical) level, why then do we see it so rarely used?  This actually goes back to my own PhD dissertation at UW-Madison on "Essays Related to Spatial Discontinuities in Land Values at the Urban-Rural Margin," which involved me gathering lots of data on sales of vacant land around Madison, both inside the city and outside.  I became aware that there could be administrative and just plain old data problems for the land tax in an urban area.  There are lots of sales of vacant land at or near the edge of a city where it is expanding and vacant formerly rural land is getting built on.  But in the interior of a built-up city there are many fewer, a thin market, with the upshot that prices on such sales can wildly vary for plots of land not too far apart and not all that different from each other.  One can scarf over such peculiarities of thin data coming from thin markets, but it involves the imposing of a certain amount of arbitrary judgment that can become subject to whim and influence from especially wealthy and powerful landowners in such downtown areas. The hard fact is that it is simply a lot easier to use a property tax given that there are so many more sales in central areas providing a reasonably reliable data base for property values, although even with these influence and corruption happen in the real world involving assessments of such valuable property.

Interestingly, in recent years since the crash of the real estate bubble starting in 2006 led to the Great Recession, there has been a revival of interest in Georgist ideas, and although I do not think there has been that much implementing of them in practice, I have seen quite a bit of economics literature on the topic that largely reinforces the old arguments for how such an approach might be both equitable and efficient.  Mase got a new burst of support near the end of his life.

As a final note I shall observe  something not mentioned in the various obituaries and commentaries I have seen on him following his passing.  This involves work he did on forestry economics, an unsurprising adjunct to his main interests.  There has been a long debate in that field over "optimal rotation of a forest," the question of how long one should let a tree, or a forest of similar trees, grow before harvesting them for timber (or more general uses, but the older literature focused simply on the timber value.  This is now largely resolved in the existing literature, but well up into the 1970s there was an old debate about this, with obviously what the real discount rate (or interest rate if you prefer) playing a crucial role, with generally speaking higher such rates implying shorter rotation periods, whichever formula being used.

For a long time in the English language literature the dominant solution was due to Irving Fisher from his influential 1905 The Theory of Interest, with the problem being one of his iconic ones in developing his theory.  His solution was neatly intuitive and simple: cut the tree (or trees) when its growth rate equals the real rate of interest (Fisher was the one who first emphasized the importance of real versus nominal interest rates). As long as the tree(s) is growing more rapidly than the rate of interest, the tree's owner's wealth is growing more rapidly than money sitting in a bank.  But once that growth rate falls below the real rate of interest then one gains more wealth by cutting down the tree and selling it for timber and then putting the money so gained into a bank to earn interest.

It turns out that despite having such an intuitively appealing solution, Fisher was wrong.  He left out an important part of the rotation question, in particular he failed to take into account the implication of replanting another tree (or trees in a forest) after the tree(s) is/are cut down, which is what is implied by the term "rotation," a patch of land on which trees grow, are cut down, are then replanted with more growth, and so on, in principle forever.  It turns out that this complicates the solution and implies a shorter rotation period than the Fisher solution as, assuming a positive real interest rate, one wants to get those new young and more rapidly growing trees into the ground sooner.  An actual analytical solution was in fact discovered in the 1840s by a once-little known German foresty economist named Martin Faustmann, who wrote the solution in an obscure pamphlet that would eventually be translated into English in the 1960s.  We do not need the details of this that are more complicated than Fisher's solution, but as noted it implies a shorter rotation period than Fisher's and can be generalized to account for non-timber amenities, and so forth.

In any case, it turns out that before Faustmann's pamphlet was translated and became known in the English language literature, there were two American economists who figured out that Fisher was not right and why, although neither of them went all the way to come up with the precise analytical solution.  One of those the late Armen Alchian.  The other was the now late Mason Gaffney, who always thought very seriously and deeply about the land and what it produces and how people use it.

Barkley Rosser

A Republican Idea for Onshoring Pharmaceutical Intangible Assets

Alex Parker reports on a proposal from Representative Darin LaHood:
As part of the next round of pandemic relief, House Republicans are pushing new incentives for companies to bring home offshore intellectual property — something that they contend could boost job growth but that critics see as another corporate giveaway … While the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act overhauled the federal tax code and eliminated many of the incentives for offshore income-shifting, it left the structures themselves intact, and companies have been reluctant to undo them as the law remains young.
I think we admitted this 2017 tax cuts for the rich was complex so permit me to slightly disagree with Mr. Parker’s excellent reporting. If the intellectual property (IP) were left offshore, the GILTI income would face a tax rate of only 10.5% whereas onshore IP would face that FDII rate of 13.125%. Why bring the IP back home and face the higher rate? But I interrupted Mr. Parker who basically notes all these nuances:
Current law gives companies plenty of reasons to onshore the intellectual property they spent decades pushing offshore in licensing and cost-sharing agreements. Income from intangible assets held domestically may qualify for a reduced 13.125% tax rate as foreign-derived intangible income. The same income, held offshore, may fall under the global intangible low-taxed income regime, which is meant to penalize companies for holding intangibles abroad. Those carrot-and-stick provisions ultimately ensure neutrality in decisions about where to locate IP, the TCJA's authors said when it was passed. The TCJA also included a deemed repatriation that allowed companies to bring home offshore income after it had paid a one-time transition tax. But the intangible assets that generated that income were not brought home with it, and they must be repatriated under the normal tax rules. And companies still face a potential tax charge when bringing a valuable asset home. Upon repatriation, if the property has gained value offshore, the company's taxable income will increase based on that gain for that year, depending on how it classifies the transaction. Even though it's a one-time payment, it could be enough to discourage the transaction.
Didn’t I say this was complex? Here’s the deal. Biopharma multinationals transferred their IP offshore at lowballed values generally based on some fancy disinformation posing as valuation reports. But now that we know that the profits are quite high, they might be asked to pay effectively a capital gains tax based on the true value of the IP. Of course, only a Republican could object to this:
LaHood's proposal would eliminate those tax consequences for repatriation of currently held intangible assets, although it would not apply to companies that sell those assets later on. The Senate version of the TCJA, passed in November 2017, included a similar provision that the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated would reduce revenues by $34 billion over the next decade. The provision was stripped from the final law.
We were right to strip this loophole from the 2017 but of course now Republicans want to sneak it into the tax code.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Managing A Zoom Conference

As of the end of this week I completed chairing the 30th annual international conference of the Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology and Life Sciences, with 54 participants from around the world.  It basically went well, and it was kind of cool to make introductory remarks at 8 AM during EDT, with somebody on at 6 AM their time in Montana and someone else on at 10 PM their time in Sydney, Australia.  It can be done, and even with parallel sessions happening.

Of course there were the usual snafus of people getting bad internet connections and disappearing or becoming mute while presenting, which does not happen in live sessions.  There were also some people who failed to present due to not being able to properly load or manage their slides or videos, although I have seen problems with this sort of thing even in live conferences.

Something I throw out there for anybody managing one of these involves how we managed the parallel sessions.  So we had both a co-host/moderator, who managed entry to a session, as well as a session chair who managed timing by speakers, with on this following the old incentive compatible strategy of usually having that be the final speaker in the session, giving them incentive to keep the earlier presenter in line on timing.  Indeed, in our wrapup session someone noted, accurately near as I could tell, that there may have been better adherence by speakers to time limits in this format than is often the case in live sessions. 

We also had it that each parallel session had its own Zoom link so that when somebody wanted to go from one to another, they would need to leave the whole conference and reenter. But that seemed to work, and it beat having breakout rooms because with those in Zoom if one goes into a breakout room, one cannot go back to the original space.

Of course we missed the direct personal interaction, no schmoozing in the hallways or over food and drink at reception or dinner.  We did have a social hour at end of first day, simply a wide-open joint session with people saying whatever, and some waved beer bottles around. But not the same thing as live.  Oh well. 

There was one time slot where there were some more serious problems and confusion with the sessions, but otherwise the problems were mostly garden variety.  We had our max attendance of 32 for our keynote speaker, Simon Levin, a mathematical ecologist at Princeton, with that going very well.  And indeed, in general things went better than I was worried they might, and I am glad to have it over and behind me.

Barkley Rosser

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Donald Trump's Only Chance

It looks like Donald Trump has finally figured out that his only chance is to actually act to help make the pandemic actually get better, and substantially better as in what has been going on in most of Europe and East Asia.  That is the only way he will get his sustained economic growth that he has had on his mind as the key to getting reelected.

So in his briefing last night he both stopped repeating fantasies about everything being great and the virus just disappearing, blah blah.  He actually admitted it is likely to get worse before it gets better. He also did probably the most important single thing he can do: he clearly and publicly supported the public wearing of masks, which indeed might actually get things under control, if his followers pay attention to him and start wearing masks.

Now, he undercut that by not wearing a mask himself when going out to the briefing, although he had one in his pocket to wave around at one point.  And he is still handing out fantasies about the availability of various kinds of covid-relevant medical equipment around the country. And while suddenly also making some noises about taking "responsibility," he also seems to still put most of it on governors. And we also have him apparently still supporting axing funding for testing and other such things, although there were hints in the briefing that he might back off that in the ongoing negotiations with Congress over the next, and probably final before the election, package.  So, he is not at all doing all he could and should to combat the virus.

But he did make a couple of big moves, especially on the mask issue.  If in fact the pandemic slows soon and actually gets seriously under control by November, with a booming economy by then, the race will be a lot closer than it is now, and Trump will have done the best thing he could to get reelected.  But it is a long way still to November, and darned near anything can happen. That is really the bottom line.

Oh, for the next two days I shall be totally occupied chairing the conference I announced in an earlier post that is happening online.

Barkley Rosser

Monday, July 20, 2020

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Irish Jobs Act

Brad Setser has more to say about how the lack of enforcement with respect to transfer pricing in the Big Pharma sector has not only cost us Federal tax revenues but perhaps in American jobs in his “The Irish Shock to U.S. Manufacturing?” (May 25, 2020):
America’s production of pharmaceuticals and medicines peaked in 2006, back before the global financial crisis. Output now is about 20 percent below its 2006 level. Pharmaceuticals tend to be capital not labor intensive. High quality pharmaceuticals aren’t made in sweat shops. Pharmaceuticals certainly weren’t the kind of industry that most economists expected to be on the losing end of trade liberalization twenty years ago. Yet America’s consumption of pharmaceuticals didn’t peak in 2006. Only U.S. output. Imports have increased substantially since 2006. Imports of pharmaceuticals have increased from $65 billion in 2006 to $151 billion in 2019. As a result, the trade deficit in pharmaceuticals has increased from $32 billion at the end of 2006 to $93 billion in March of this year. That is about 0.4 percent of US GDP, or just under 10 percent of the total trade deficit in manufactures. The bulk of these imports are from countries that pay high wages. The two biggest sources of imports are Ireland and Switzerland. Many of the usual arguments around the gains to consumers from trade don't really apply here. The imports are of patent protected goods, so they don't expand consumer choice. And U.S. pharmaceutical prices are notoriously high—imports from Ireland and Switzerland haven't brought U.S. pharmaceutical prices down to European levels. The bulk of the gains from trade here almost certainly go to the owners of the pharmaceutical companies who benefit from lower taxes. And the main loser is the U.S. Treasury. Right now, the United States pays the highest prices in the world for its medicines (many of which derive from NIH research) while U.S. pharmaceutical companies are often taxed at quite low effective rates.
I want to do two things here starting with an explanation of the Irish transfer pricing game and later a small complaint about his Swiss tale. He cites a story about an Irish affiliate of Pfizer by Tom Bergin and Kevin Drawbaugh:
Pfizer has used transactions between companies within its group to allow an Irish subsidiary based in Ringaskiddy - Pfizer Ireland Pharmaceuticals - to buy the rights to patents developed in the United States and then use them to make drugs which are sold back to U.S. affiliates. Even though the Irish and other overseas units pay $3.2 billion a year in royalties to use such patent rights, the higher prices at which Pfizer in the United States imports manufactured drugs from affiliates means almost all the profits from these drugs are reported overseas. Drugs which were discovered in the United States, manufactured in Ringaskiddy and sold back to the United States include anti-cholesterol treatment Lipitor - the best-selling prescription drug of all time - and epilepsy drug Lyrica, which generated revenue of over $5 billion last year for Pfizer … Pfizer does have manufacturing plants in the United States but filings for its overseas units show non-U.S. companies supply over 80 percent of U.S. sales. Those sales generate margins of around 40 percent for Pfizer’s overseas arm - earning it over $17 billion in 2013. However, Pfizer has reported losses on its U.S. business in each of the past five years.
Pfizer is not alone with very aggressive transfer pricing, which we will outline in an example based on its 10-K filing below. But let’s consider Switzerland in light of an interesting comment over at Angrybear which included this:
do we not want importation of cheaper pharmaceuticals as long as the US can adequately tax gains? Cheaper medicine is a necessary part of alleviating health care costs.
Brad notes Irish and Swiss wages are not exactly low but are those drugs we import from low taxed Swiss affiliates really produced in Switzerland? One of Pfizer’s competitors is a U.S. based multinational that has declared that its intangible assets are owned in Switzerland while production is actually performed in the Visigrad economies:
On the face of it, the Visegrad countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – are doing well economically. The data for GDP per head suggest a gradual convergence in living standards with Western Europe. They continue to attract a disproportionate share of inward investment in EU manufacturing, and their integration into EU-wide supply chains helps to explain why they are now collectively Germany’s most important trade partner, ahead of China and the US.
This other multinational relies on contract manufacturers in the Visegrad nations in order to take advantage of both low wages but also modest corporate tax rates. But most of the profits end up in Switzerland as the contract manufacturers and distribution affiliates receive only modest operating margins. The Swiss principle then pays the U.S. affiliate only a modest royalty rate for the use of U.S. developed intangible assets reaping the lion’s share of profits even though this Swiss entity employs very few people. Now to our illustration of how abusive the transfer pricing for Big Pharma gets based on Pfizer’s 2013 financials, which showed $50 billion in worldwide sales with 60 percent of those sales made by foreign distribution affiliates. Distribution costs represent 30 percent of sales and the typical transfer pricing policy leaves it with a gross margin = 35 percent so operating profits are only 5 percent of sales. Of that, $1 billion is captured by the U.S. distribution division with foreign distribution affiliates receiving $1.5 million. Production costs are only 20 percent of sales so consolidated profits represent 50 percent of sales or $25 billion. The contract manufacturers receive profits = $2.5 billion leaving “residual” profits equal to 40 percent of sales or $20 billion. One might think the appropriate royalty rate would be 40 percent of sales, which would mean the U.S. parent would receive $20 billion but in a lot of cases the royalty rate is only 10 percent so the U.S. captures only $5 billion in royalties with the remaining $15 billion left in the Swiss tax haven. In other words, this multinational enjoys both low production costs and an incredibly low effective tax rate. Now one might wonder how this transfer pricing abuse can be considered arm’s length. Well, there will be some law firm or accounting firm that will write some fanciful defense if the multinational pays them a lot to be their advocate.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Brad Setser on Offshoring Life Science Production and Transfer Pricing

I just posted a discussion of an interesting proposal from Biden written by Alex Parker who mentioned some February 5, 2020 testimony from Brad Setser. The gist of this testimony was noted back in a March 26, 2019 blog post entitled When Tax Drives the Trade Data:
I often hear that pharmaceuticals are one of America’s biggest exports. But that isn’t what is in the actual trade data (see exhibits 7 & 8). American firms (or formerly American firms, if there has been an inversion) may own the intellectual property behind many successful drugs, but the active ingredients themselves are often manufactured abroad. In fact, the (goods) trade deficit in pharmaceuticals now exceeds the surplus in civil aircraft. This trade isn’t obviously driven by differences in labor costs. The biggest sources of pharmaceutical imports, Ireland and Switzerland, aren’t exactly low wage countries. Trade here seems motivated in large part by the ability to use transfer pricing to shift profits to low tax jurisdictions. And the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act if anything looks to have made those games more not less attractive. The incentive to offshore intellectual property generally remains—the “GILTI” rate on profits shifted to no tax jurisdictions is the lowest rate in the tax code. And the lower tax on intangibles than on tangibles has created an incentive to offshore actual production and jobs as well—the more tangible assets abroad, the higher your deemed tangible income and the lower your tax on your intangible income (the same is true for firms that retain their intellectual property in the United States, as there is a lower tax rate on the export of intangibles than the export of tangibles). To be concrete, a firm with its intellectual property in the Caribbean believes it can reduce its effective tax rate to under 10 percent (a rate somewhat below the global "minimum"). It is too early to say definitively that these incentives drove the increase in the pharmaceutical deficit in 2018. But it doesn’t seem too early to say that there is no evidence that these kind of tax games have gone away after the tax reform.
Brad’s thesis is certainly going to be controversial. As I read what he is saying is that it is not just the GILTI provisions of the 2017 tax cut that led to the increase in the life science trade deficit over the years. Rather it was the weak enforcement of basic transfer pricing rules that allowed Big Pharma to massively evade U.S. corporate taxes and created these perverse incentives. While we were told that the 2017 Republican tax cut for the rich would close the transfer pricing loopholes and perverse incentives they clearly did not. I’m all for scrapping GILTI and FDII for a lot of reasons but these steps alone will not fundamentally change what Brad is suggesting unless we start actually enforcing good old fashion transfer pricing rules. Let’s hope Biden has this in mind.

Biden Proposes Ending the GILTI Loophole

Alex Parker covers an interesting and important tax policy issue:
Former Vice President Joe Biden's recent proposal to secure medical supply chains in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic includes tweaks to the 2017 federal tax overhaul, reigniting the debate about whether its international provisions are pushing manufacturing facilities offshore …Former Vice President Joe Biden's recent proposal to secure medical supply chains in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic includes tweaks to the 2017 federal tax overhaul, reigniting the debate about whether its international provisions are pushing manufacturing facilities offshore … the TCJA exempted most foreign income from taxation as part of a shift toward a more territorial tax system, similar to those used in Europe and much of the world. But it also enacted new provisions, including the GILTI tax and the base erosion and anti-abuse tax, which lawmakers said would block companies from shifting U.S. income abroad. Many of the structures for tax avoidance that have drawn public scrutiny and outrage over the past decade have involved intangibles, which are relatively easy to move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction to chase the lowest tax rate. But the very attribute that makes them difficult to tax also makes them difficult to define. Rather than attempt to pinpoint the intangibles themselves, the TCJA instead targets unusually high returns on tangible assets. Under the GILTI provision, the total foreign income of a U.S. company, beyond a 10% return on its offshore depreciable tangible assets, is taxed at 10.5%. That rate is half of the overall corporate rate of 21%. As the bill was passed by Congress in 2017, Democrats and outside critics quickly noted that the GILTI tax could encourage companies to shift investments in tangible assets abroad. Because the GILTI tax kicks in only at a 10% return on foreign tangible property, the more valuable that property is, the smaller the ultimate GILTI tax bill will be. Even further, because GILTI is calculated at the global level, in most cases it would not matter where new tangible assets were located; as long as they were offshore, they would decrease the GILTI tax. A reduced rate on foreign-derived intangible income, or domestic income defined through a formula similar to GILTI, also creates a similar incentive, critics contend. If a company has tangible assets at home, it will have less income defined as FDII, and less of the tax benefit.
The 2017 tax cut for rich people was written in secret by Republicans who had told us that it would somehow stop transfer pricing manipulation and would encourage onshoring. But when the details were released, a lot of economists including conservative economics were taken back by the complexity of the international provisions. Parker’s discussion is interesting even though he might be faulted for not defining FDII and GILTI. FDII stands for Foreign Derived Intangible Income while GILTI stands for Global Intangible Low-taxed Income where both are defined as profits minus a 10 percent return to tangible assets, which is a crude attempt to allow intangible profits sourced in the U.S be taxed at a 12.5 percent rate instead of the 21 percent corporate tax rate. A lot of the large life science multinationals have found a way of sourcing profits in a tax haven. Rather than vigorously enforcing our transfer pricing rules, the Republican tax cut for rich people decided to let them by taxed a 10.5 percent, which does not exactly discourage shifting profits abroad. But hey they did set up a complex set of rules that kept the Big Four accounting firms and international law firms gainfully employed trying to figure out how to manipulate these rules. But Biden’s first concern here was how these complex rules might actually encourage shifting production abroad. Parker also notes:
Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the former deputy assistant secretary for international economic analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department, has blamed the provision for a 20% increase in pharmaceutical imports since 2018. "The rise in pharmaceutical imports is likely, in part, a reaction to the incentives to offshore pharmaceutical production that were included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," Setser said Feb. 5 in testimony to the U.S. House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.
Brad has written a lot of very interesting things on transfer pricing so it is time to go read his latest on this issue as well.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

RIP Tonu Puu

Seems like more people I know are dying.  In this case it is a good friend of mine and occasional coauthor, the Swedish economist, Tonu Puu, who was born in Estonia of an Estonian father and a mother of German ancestry.  As it was, he ended up speaking a very large number of languages, as well as being very cosmopolitan in many other ways. He was 83 years old and had cancer for some time, which is what I presume he did of, although the announcement did not specify a cause, but it happened this past Saturday in Umea in northern Sweden, where he was at the university there for most of his career.

Before talking about his work in economics, I want to note that probably more important for him was music.  He made baroque instruments such as viols and harpsichords, and was so good at it that professional musicians had him make such instruments for them.  For many years he ran an annual Baroque music festival that attracted fine musicians from all over the world to Umea. I shall note here that an important characteristic of Tonu, which some of you may not like, was that he was deeply conservative in many ways. A sign of this in music is that he considered Beethoven to be the "worst thing that ever happened to music," at least I heard him say that.  He saw Beethoven as being ultimately responsible for there being rock concerts in Venice that knocked off parts of the roof of the opera house.  I happen to disagree with that, seeing that as a pretty shaky link, but this was the sort of long-run perspective that he took to many things, full of his own integrity that ignored popular and transient trends, even if those were centuries long.

As a segue to talking about his economics, I note that he focused most of his attention on writing books, which are his most cited works, and covered not only many areas of economics in them, but also wrote on interdisciplinary matters. Thus one of his later books, which went into a second edition, is Arts, Sciences, and Economics: A Historical Safari, Springer (almost all his books were published by Springer), 2006, 2015, with him also being a deep student of the history of technology.

As noted he wrote on many things, but he is probably best known for something I am also into: nonlinear economic dynamics, with him applying these ideas to various parts of economics, including industrial organization, urban and regional economics, macroeconomic dynamics, international and interregional trade, and even capital theory, with over 100 articles and into the teens of books, with several of them going into multiple editions. His most cited are Nonlinear Economic Dynamics (first edition, 1989, not sure how many of them), Attractors, Bifurcations, and Chaos: Nonlinear Phenomena in Economics (3 editions,first in 2000), Mathematical Location and Land Use: An Introduction (2nd edition, 2003, not sure when first was), and Spatial Economics: Density, Potential, and Flow, coauthored with the late Martin Beckmann in 1984 (this one by North-Holland).  In that one and in a few articles earlier, he presaged Paul Krugman in presenting rigorous and highly innovative models urban and regional models with economies of scale, work that Krugman never cited or recognized, although this was half of what Krugman got his Nobel Prize for.  Tonu's final book came out in 2018, Disequilbrium Economics.

His most cited articles were involved applying nonlinear dynamics to industrial organization problems, such as his 1995 paper on "The Chaotic Monopolist," which appeared in Chaos, Solitons, and Fractals, a journal he served as the first economics coeditor of..  He tended to publish his papers in odd journals, many of them not strictly in economics, such as Environment and Planning A and Geographical Analysis. I note that in that paper he followed up on Joan Robinson's 1933 point that monopolists may face non-monotonic marginal revenue curves.  While he was generally conservative, he paid no attention to ideology in his economics work and drew from many sources and inspirations.  I think that he supported the more conservative parties in Sweden, although those tend to be to the left of the US Democratic Party. In any case, most of his macroeconomic models drew on the nonlinear Keynesian ones by people like Hicks and Goodwin.

Besides his original work on nonlinear location theory models, and his chaos theory analysis of industrial organization, another original model he developed was the first analysis of the possibility of chaotic hysteresis in business cycles.  He more or less laid this out in the first edition of his Nonlinear Economic Dynamics book, his most cited work, but the full development of it appeared as the first artcle to appear in the journal Occasional Paper Series on Socio-Spatial Dynamics, which would later become Discrte Dynamics in Nature and Society.  The paper is "A Chaotic Model of the Business Cycle,"  1(1), 1-19.  Later I and some others would empircally find evidence for such a pattern in Soviet investment patterns, of all things.

He also founded the ongoing Nonlinear Economic Dynamics Society (of which I am Chair of its Executive Committee) and also CERUM at Umea University.  I am not sure what that acronym stands for precisely, but it is a center devoted to research in regional economics, and it was his final professional location. The announcement of his death came from its current director, Lars Westin.

I shall close this by quoting at length from his view on publishing and how it has changed, comparing how things used to be in Europe compared to now, especially under the influence of American academia, with this showing also showing both his integral conservatism and view of standards.This is from pp. 31-32 of his book, Arts, Sciences, and Economics: A Historical Safari, 2006 edition, and it also gives a flavor of his persona, I think.

"European university culture, until the 1960s, heavily depended on seminars, where various members of the staff, working with entirely different topics, communicated their results. For that reason, the staff members had to keep a broad perspective on their disciplines. Relatively little was regarded as being worth publishing, and national and local 'schools' were established, which made visits toother universities really interesting.

We tend to look down on the previous generation as they published relatively little. This fact, however, does not imply that the worked little or were less creative. It might just signify that they were more choosy about what they regarded as being significant enough to merit publication.

After large scale production ideals from the US overtook the European style, everything is produced for immediate publication, even the relatively insignificant ideas. If it is publishable, it is not insignificant, and the number of journals will expand to allow ever-increasing publications. The number of journals, which has exploded accordingly, conveniently provides for the space. We still have seminars, but we read already published or accepted papers, which we do not want to criticize, and we hardly expect anybody else at the department to understand our whole message. Travel and change of department only results in new personal relations, not new ideas; it may be that we would urgently need more interdisciplinary scientific fora in the future just in order to provide for encounters with the unexpected ideas we need to secure creativity."

I close by noting that an extreme example of his older view is shown by Piero Sraffa, who took 35 years to finally publish in 1960 his magnum opus, reportedly only after many efforts by Joan Robinson, the not-quite-even 100 page long Production of Commodities by Commodities: A Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory.

Anyway, RIP, my old friend, Tonu Puu (and there should be an umlaut over that "o" in his name.)

Barkley Rosser