Krugman’s blog, 6/23/15

There were three posts yesterday.  The first was “More on Slavery’s Shadow:”

Harvard’s Maya Sen points me to a recent paper with Avidit Acharya and Matthew Blackwell, The Political Legacy of American Slavery. They show a strong relationship, at the county level, between the slave share of the population in 1860 and political attitudes today:

We show that contemporary differences in political attitudes across counties in the American South in part trace their origins to slavery’s prevalence more than 150 years ago. Whites who currently live in Southern counties that had high shares of slaves in 1860 are more likely to identify as a Republican, oppose affirmative action, and express racial resentment and colder feelings toward blacks.

Remarkably, the slave share in 1860 is a better predictor of attitudes than the share of African-Americans in the population today. They attribute this surprising fact to what happened after the Civil War, when

Southern whites faced political and economic incentives to reinforce existing racist norms and institutions to maintain control over the newly free African-American population.

It seems relevant, then, to note that the “Confederate” flag we’re now focusing on was not, in fact, the flag of the Confederacy; it was a battle flag, but it became a standard emblem of the South thanks to its adoption by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists.

The second post yesterday was “Talking Britain:”

OK, I somehow missed this, but here’s the panel Martin Wolf, David Hendry, and yours truly did about Britain today. Martin is tougher and harsher than I am!

Yesterday’s last post was “Cowboys, Aliens, and Stimulus:”

Some years ago I facetiously suggested that we should invent a fake threat from space aliens as a way to break the destructive obsession with deficits and get the fiscal stimulus the economy needed. (It was actually an episode of The Outer Limits, not The Twilight Zone.) My suggestion was not followed up.

But something along the same lines is now going on in Texas. Texas is, of course, a Medicaid-rejection state, unwilling to accept billions of federal dollars to help its less fortunate. But money for a largely pointless border-protection project? Now you’re talking:

In Rio Grande City, named for the river that splits the U.S. from Mexico, footpaths cut from the brush by drug-smugglers and illegal immigrants have a new look, rehabbed into family-friendly hike-and-bike trails.

Now that the state has authorized $800 million to ratchet up security on the Mexico line, more troopers are on their way to deliver another shot to what might be the biggest stimulus program this needy part of Texas has ever seen.

It really is Keynes and burying bottles in coal mines: spending that actually helps people is unacceptable, but pure waste is OK.

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