In New York, armed robbery and drug dealing (among many other crimes) will now be misdemeanors.

People say that social sciences aren’t real sciences because they are unfalsifiable. But literally all the stuff we are seeing today was predicted 20 years ago. Every day I’m experiencing massive deja vu. No public schools, no police, an explosion in street crime, a massive degradation in living conditions. This was all predicted because that’s where the logic of events trended.

Movie Notes: Being the Ricardos

I tried watching the Amazon movie about the stars of I Love Lucy, and oy vey. It’s horrid. I’m even looking forward to the Dean’s meeting because it can’t be that much worse.

First of all, the actors are way too old. Not only that but they look freakish because of the outlandish amount of plastic surgery they’ve had. Lucy and Desi were comedic actors with a large variety of facial expressions. You can’t play them of your face doesn’t move.

Kidman is no actress, and it’s especially obvious when she tries to play somebody who was a talented comedian. All that Kidman does is stand around, looking devastatingly elegant (something that Lucille Ball was definitely not) and frozen. Kidman is a woman who couldn’t make anybody crack a smile to save her life. Her best roles are like the one in Big Little Lies where she plays a fake, plastic caricature of a “suburban mom.”

Bardem is a great actor but this role is so not for him. He’s Spanish, not Cuban. He gets the accent right but his body just doesn’t move like a Cuban’s, especially at his age. When he tries to teach Kidman dance the rumba, she’s actually better at it than he is (and she’s horrid at it).

In the absence of roles they are capable of playing, Kidman and Bardem play themselves. And since he’s about 10 galaxies more profound than she is, the movie becomes even more skewed. The original TV show worked so well because the actors clicked. They played off each other. In the movie, it’s like the actors never met, let alone had sex.

This debacle reminded me of how a famous Russian filmmaker recently made an ecranization of Anna Karenina, and of course he had to give the starring role to his postmenopausal wife. To make her age stand out less, he cast sexagenarians in all roles. How these old women all managed to give birth so easily with the reproductive technologies of the 19th century remained unaddressed. You could just see the poor Vronsky’s rheumatic joints creak as he tried to pick Anna’s handkerchief from the floor. But this was about the complexity of the filmmaker’s personal life. What motivated the insane casting of Being the Ricardos is a mystery.

After a half hour of watching this movie, I turned it off and watched some real I Love Lucy to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

P.S. I’m at the Dean’s meeting now, and OK, it’s actually worse.

More Crazy from Quebec

The Quebec government wants to introduce vaccine passports for buying alcohol and cannabis. There’s a government monopoly on alcohol sales in the province.

I tried to come up with something snarky to say about it but at this point I’m running dry. No pun intended.

The rest of Canada must now be really sorry that the independence referendums failed.

Book Notes: Cornel Ban’s Ruling Ideas

What a great book, my friends. I can’t recommend strongly enough because it’s rare that a book on economic history is written in such a clear, jargon-free style that a non-specialist can understand and enjoy.

Ruling Ideas: How Global Neoliberalism Goes Local traces the development of neoliberalism in two countries that were ruled by authoritarian regimes in the twentieth century, Spain and Romania. These countries achieved democracy after their authoritarian regimes couldn’t be sustained any more and both neoliberalized. This happened at different times, obviously, and different forms of neoliberalism were implemented.

I found absolutely fascinating the discussion of how, in spite of the autarchy, Franco put no limits on how freely different economic ideas were debated. By the mid-1960, pretty much everything that Marx and Engels ever wrote got published in Spain, let alone the anti-Keynesian stuff of the nascent neoliberal theory. And contrary to a widespread opinion, the technocrats were developmentalist, not neoliberal.

Franco himself was, of course, not neoliberal. But he did nothing to prevent these ideas from becoming very popular among establishment economists either. In Romania things were different. The ideological control was real and hardcore. As a result, when neoliberalism finally came (as it did everywhere), adapting it to local needs and specifics was a lot harder for Romanians than for Spaniards.

There’s a lot more fascinating stuff like this. The most important takeaway is that neoliberalism is extremely flexible. Extremely! Got it? This means that we don’t have to live with the ugly, nasty version of it that’s been shaping up since 2008. It has gigantically good parts, and we can keep those while throwing away the garbage ones, such as the incessant woke screeching of Twitter and Nike. (This isn’t in Ban’s book. It’s my attempt to improve upon his analysis).

In short, great book. Reads like a detective novel. Not overburdened with footnotes, and most importantly, the author blissfully keeps value judgments and political manifestos to himself.

No Practical Purpose

In a strange twist, I now often find myself defending the COVID vaccine from the vaccinated.

“You are vaccinated! You are protected!” I respond gently to wails of “I don’t want to die” and “what we need is to lock everything down immediately.”

They do believe in the vaccine but more as a spiritual matter. It has no practical purpose for them but a deep emotional meaning.