Local Hero, unsung hero

A few observations on the last week:

1.  The Foreign Policy 100 Global Thinker’s list seems to be taken very seriously.  I got more congratulatory emails from colleagues last week than in the previous 4 years.

2.  The Foreign Policy people in DC are extremely kind and helpful.  They put on an impressive show.

3.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to have the dinner in a museum.  There is no place to sit, and you have to wait in long lines for small plates of food.  The food is fine, but clumsy people like me have trouble holding a plate, fork, and drink at the same time, and then trying to engage in conversation.  And it was very hot.

4.  Had very interesting conversations with Jonathan Haidt (who is very charismatic), Bjorn Lomborg (also charismatic, wore a black tee shirt), Luigi Zingales, and Richard Muller.

5.  Most of the people at the party were not part of the 100 list.  I only met a half dozen winners, but I was told that 30 to 40 were there.

6.  During the day I attended a bunch of foreign policy panels.  It was interesting to see what these are like, although I can’t really process foreign policy discussion very well.  It seems like lots of words, without clear meaning.  I couldn’t tell you why we intervened in Libya and not Syria, except I gather that it’s complicated.  There doesn’t seem to be a model, but then maybe there can’t be a model–I certainly don’t have any suggestions.

7.  My favorite speaker was Google’s Sebastian Thrun Thune, who remarked that California was wasting a fortune on a train that would connect two obscure Central Valley towns in 2020, by which time self-driving cars would be more energy efficient (and convenient) than high speed rail.  His friend remarked that in-vitro meat could cut agricultural greenhouse emissions by 95%.  (I doubt it.)  Both seemed to think policymakers in Washington were clueless about technology.

8.  Hillary Clinton is an impressive speaker, but not likable.  I have nothing to say about her views on foreign policy. But in response to a final question on drugs (from a Latin American reporter), she said drug legalization would do no good because drug dealers are really bad people, and they would simply do other crimes.  No discussion of how America’s murder rate fell in half after alcohol was legalized in 1933.  I think she’d be even worse (from a libertarian perspective) than Obama–and that’s an already low bar for a Democrat.

9.  Before she entered the room there was a hushed feeling, like the President was about to appear.  People in Washington seem to worship power.

10.  They polled people (using electronic clickers) on all sorts of questions.  When they discussed the euro-crisis they gave 5 options, none of which would do much good.  Monetary stimulus (the most effective solution) wasn’t even offered as an option.  There’s still lots of work to be done on educating the public.

11.  I’ve never been able to absorb the idea that I’ve had some sort of impact on policy.  I’m not saying it’s impossible–some magazines have suggested a link—just saying I can’t really accept the idea.  It seems too far-fetched.  But even if I have, it’s not obvious that I’m the most important person in my family.  My wife works for a small biotech company that has a promising drug in development, which can treat all forms of flu in animal models.  If it works, it could save millions of lives if there’s another 1918 flu, or if bird flu mutates and spreads among humans.  Her job is to develop it so it can be manufactured, which is extremely tricky for this sort of product.  She works much harder than me, in a more important job, and gets no praise.

12.  Speaking of “local hero,” that’s one of my favorite underrated films.  Just the other day I was thinking about underrated directors for recent decades (English-speaking films of course; almost all the great recent foreign language directors are underrated.)  Here’s a list I came up with, and a few films from each.

1.  Bill Forsyth  (Local Hero, Comfort and Joy, Breaking In.)

2.  Nicholas Roeg (Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth)

3.  Whit Stillman  (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco)

4.  John Dahl (Kill Me Again, Red Rock West, The Last Seduction.)

5.  Wim Wenders (Paris Texas,  Until the End of the World, The End of Violence)

6.  The Quay Brothers (Lots of short films)

Who am I forgetting?  I’d like to add some obscure directors from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  Please help me.


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37 Responses to “Local Hero, unsung hero”

  1. Gravatar of mbk mbk
    3. December 2012 at 07:19

    Scott,

    “People in Washington seem to worship power.” What surprises me is that a LOT of people worship power, and academics too. I believe it’s the lure of hushing policy advice that the powerful person will then translate into action – power for the academic but without responsibility. A dream. Think Bryan Caplan’s comment on how great it felt to talk to policy makers in Singapore – you can sense that it’s that lure, the elevation of oneself by being taken seriously by “higher-ups” than oneself.

    You seem to be immune to all that – you hope your policies will be followed but you don’t seem to dream of standing behind the scenes pulling strings in the shadows… I like your stance, obviously.

    Your director and film list makes me sob. Some really great movies in there. My obscure director contribution:
    Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (movie recommendation: Kaos, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaos_%28film%29 ).

  2. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    3. December 2012 at 07:51

    One interesting thing about Local Hero is that the village is an east coast of Scotland village, while the beach is on the west coast. (I’ve been to the beach.)

    There’s a similar thing in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when a charge starts on a Tayside moor and ends at Castle Stalker in Argyllshire. Of course, these things are present in films all the time, but when one’s familiar with the locations in question (I practically grew up in Doune Castle, given how often I visited it, where many of the interior and some of the exterior castle shots were done) it’s pretty funny.

  3. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    3. December 2012 at 07:53

    Local Hero surely deserves credit for being one of the simultaneously most sympathetic, humourous and accurate portrait of a major capitalist. Characters like Danny (speaks about six languages, none of them Gaelic) are also very true to life.

  4. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    3. December 2012 at 07:54

    * Portraits.

  5. Gravatar of RPLong RPLong
    3. December 2012 at 08:23

    “Before she entered the room there was a hushed feeling, like the President was about to appear. People in Washington seem to worship power.”

    No surprises here.

  6. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    3. December 2012 at 08:43

    How about an obscure director from the late 60s;

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063456/

  7. Gravatar of Bill Mill Bill Mill
    3. December 2012 at 09:21

    I think you mean Sebastian Thrun, not Thune? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Thrun

  8. Gravatar of ChacoKevy ChacoKevy
    3. December 2012 at 09:32

    A quick story, kind of related to #8. I did my Peace Corps service in Bolivia in ’03-’05. Relations had been funky for a while due to a number of things, the drug war certainly not least among them. The coca leaf grows easily in Bolivia and is legal so long as it is produce within certain limits and doesn’t get used in cocaine production. It also carries tremendous cultural value, so it was a perfect way for volunteers to “get in” with our communities.
    By the end of my service, however, the embassy ordered that volunteers could no longer chew coca leaves or risk termination. They figured we couldn’t have volunteers enjoying coca while agents were destroying fields of the crop. Not surprisingly, the Peace Corps program pulled out of Bolivia in ’08.
    State Department just doesn’t get it.

  9. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    3. December 2012 at 09:48

    So were the central bankers not there, or did you not get to meet them? Who was the most famous person that did show?

    Also, I think your wife then would agree with Alex Tabarrok’s latest post: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/12/marcia-angells-mistaken-view-of-pharmaceutical-innovation.html

    Certainly people like your wife deserve public praise as well as whatever they are getting paid. But only David Henderson seems to do things like that: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/10/tribute_to_an_a.html

    Did your wife go to school in America, by any chance?

  10. Gravatar of Brian Brian
    3. December 2012 at 09:55

    There’s got to be a reason for that train connection. The folks in D.C. are pretty disconnected but come on, that’s just silly.

  11. Gravatar of Mr. Sumner Goes to Washington – Unofficial Network Mr. Sumner Goes to Washington - Unofficial Network
    3. December 2012 at 09:59

    [...] Mr. Sumner Goes to Washington Posted on December 3, 2012 by admin Scott Sumner has posted an interesting story about his trip to Washington last week. Some highlights along with my comments in square brackets: [...]

  12. Gravatar of Mr. Sumner Goes to Washington – Unofficial Network Mr. Sumner Goes to Washington - Unofficial Network
    3. December 2012 at 09:59

    [...] Mr. Sumner Goes to Washington Posted on December 3, 2012 by admin Scott Sumner has posted an interesting story about his trip to Washington last week. Some highlights along with my comments in square brackets: [...]

  13. Gravatar of Donald Pretari Donald Pretari
    3. December 2012 at 10:25

    My Hometown is about in the middle of that Central Valley Train Route. That’s all I have to say about that. About Local Hero, I also love the Soundtrack and listen to it often. I find the ending of Local Hero very moving.

  14. Gravatar of Doug M Doug M
    3. December 2012 at 10:44

    Regarding #3, Learning to balance a glass and a plate while using a fork, talk, eat and drink while standing — it is a skill, and like all skill comes with practice. Most of the DC regulars probably don’t even think about it.

    regarding #10, the ECB must craft monetary policy for a dozen countries. What is right for Italy may not be right for Germany. While you may be right, that the EZ need more monetary stimulus, how do you balance the, frequently opposing, political forces?

    With the Spanish banking sector crippled by their mortgage crisis, would monetary easing in the EZ find its way to Spain. i.e. if Spanish institutions don’t loan money to Spanish enterprises, then does the Spain get an NGDP boost? The ECB may be able to lift NDGP for the Eurozone and not lift it for the countries that are hurting.

    Now, from the time the EZ was created, I thought that each country has an incentive to see inflation locally but not inflation through the system. If Luxembourg is inflating and Germany and France are not, then the standard of living is increasing in Lux. The Germans don’t seem to share this view.

  15. Gravatar of Josiah Josiah
    3. December 2012 at 11:01

    Both seemed to think policymakers in Washington were clueless about technology.

    Understatement of the year.

  16. Gravatar of Scott N Scott N
    3. December 2012 at 11:51

    Regarding number 11, you are wrong. The most important thing on the entire planet right now is to get monetary policy right, particularly U.S. monetary policy. This is because bad monetary policy causes immense, unnecessary suffering. To the extent you are able to shift policy in the right direction (NGDPLT) you are doing everyone a MASSIVE service. A new flu drug is nice, but creating and maintaining solid economic growth is much, much more important.

  17. Gravatar of ricardo ricardo
    3. December 2012 at 14:00

    I always thought Walter Hill was underrated. John Carpenter too.

    How about Donald Cammell? Co-directed “Performance” with Roeg, but check out “Wild Side” instead.

  18. Gravatar of rubin pham rubin pham
    3. December 2012 at 14:35

    one thing i learn while living in the usa is that the US MEDIA LIES!

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. December 2012 at 14:58

    mbk, Yes, I have no interest in power, or even fame in the broader sense of the term. (I’m happy to be well known in the econ blogosphere–not elsewhere.)

    W. Peden, Thanks for the info. I liked Scotland during my only visit (1986)

    Patrick, That’s one I’ve never heard of.

    Thanks Bill, I’ll change that.

    Chacokevy, Good story.

    Saturos, I only saw a handful of people other than the four I named, and I didn’t know who they were. I believe the Google executive was the most famous of those I saw.

    My wife got masters degrees in both China and the US.

    Brian, The very long run goal is to link LA and SF, but I doubt it will happen. By 2020 they’ll link two central valley towns–I think one is Fresno, but am not sure.

    Doug, Merkel recently called for fiscal stimulus in Germany! What does that tell you about the appropriateness of the ECB policy for the average country in the eurozone? They almost all need stimulus now.

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. December 2012 at 14:59

    Scott, Some people think a mutated bird flu virus could kill millions.

  21. Gravatar of wufwugy wufwugy
    3. December 2012 at 15:07

    Count me as somebody who started reading this blog because of the several articles that claimed Scott’s revolutionary ideas have been influencing monetary policy in gradual yet significant ways

    I know little about foreign directors, but three of the best films I’ve seen are foreign language

    Harakiri http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056058/

    The Celebration http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0154420/

    Evil http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338309/ ignore the title, it’s a terrible translation of the theme

  22. Gravatar of Doug M Doug M
    3. December 2012 at 17:21

    Regarding Europe, I have a wildly un-orthodox view that the Europeans need to be realistic about their bad debts (public and private) and write them off. Until they do so, any money that the ECB creates will be litteraly be “good money after bad.” I don’t know why this veiw is considered to be radical, but it is.

  23. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    3. December 2012 at 18:59

    10. They polled people (using electronic clickers) on all sorts of questions. When they discussed the euro-crisis they gave 5 options, none of which would do much good. Monetary stimulus (the most effective solution) wasn’t even offered as an option. There’s still lots of work to be done on educating the public.–Scott Sumner.

    At the risk of beating a dead horse, this is a reason for central banks to not be independent, and to be transparent.

    How can the public be expected to know much about a central bank that is oblique, opaque and which is run by obscure people who are appointed, rather than serve at the pleasure of elected officials (the President, in this case)?

    To bring the monetary debates into the public sphere, broadcast FOMC meetings on CSPAN followed by a one hour Q/A session moderated, and put the Fed into the Treasury department.

    It is crazy–thanks to Scott Sumner, I become convinced that monetary policy is the most important macroeconomic policy going, but I have no way to vote on monetary policy. This is democracy?

    Yet among the hoariest, encrusted shibboleths of the economic profession is that central banks should be independent.

  24. Gravatar of ChargerCarl ChargerCarl
    3. December 2012 at 19:09

    I believe the first part of the CAHSR plan is to link LA to Fresno, which would also include bakersfield.

    Eventually the plan is to have it running from SF to San Diego, I think.

  25. Gravatar of Nick Rowe Nick Rowe
    3. December 2012 at 20:16

    W Peden: “There’s a similar thing in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when a charge starts on a Tayside moor and ends at Castle Stalker in Argyllshire.”

    That army charge, right at the end? That was filmed a few miles north of Stirling University, on the road up towards Sherrifmuir. (I’m the knight with the golden eagle helmet!)

  26. Gravatar of A Potpourri | This is your brain on economics A Potpourri | This is your brain on economics
    3. December 2012 at 20:22

    [...] has a nice report from Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers conference. He writes: My favorite speaker was Google’s Sebastian Thrun , who remarked that California was wasting a [...]

  27. Gravatar of W. Peden W. Peden
    3. December 2012 at 20:55

    Nick Rowe,

    Yep, that’s the spot.

    Another example: I can see the crags where they shot the Tim the sorceror scenes from my house. Then everytime I go up the Falls of Dochart I’m reminded of the scene from Casino Royale (the OTHER Casino Royale) which is a less humorous experience. Basically, as you recall living in Scotland is like living in a big film set, except wetter.

    If I may be so bold, you might be the only person on here to get this reference: my home town (Callander) was the town used for the outside scenes in Dr. Findlay’s Casebook.

    I’ll have to look out for you next time I watch MPGH!

  28. Gravatar of Bonnie Bonnie
    3. December 2012 at 23:02

    Benjamin Cole:

    Title 12 USC Section 242:

    “…Upon the expiration of the term of any appointive member of the Federal Reserve Board in office on August 23, 1935, the President shall fix the term of the successor to such member at not to exceed fourteen years, as designated by the President at the time of nomination, but in such manner as to provide for the expiration of the term of not more than one member in any two-year period, and thereafter each member shall hold office for a term of fourteen years from the expiration of the term of his predecessor, unless sooner removed for cause by the President.”

    Fed independence is an illusion when the members of the BoG can be removed by the POTUS. The Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act also provides a legal obligation for the Fed to cooperate with the political system instead of running at cross purposes – all that is needed is for Obama to enforce it so we can stop with the tail wagging the dog. I mean really, this episode with the Fiscal Cliff is really just a result of the Fed having wandered off the reservation and it seems rather embarrassing.

  29. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    4. December 2012 at 00:35

    Scott and Scott, there’s also climate change, global food security, nuclear weapons, and for those taking a far view, biohazards, nanohazards, and the Singularity…

  30. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    4. December 2012 at 00:36

    And by biohazards I mean things much scarier than the bird flu, which is scary enough as it is.

  31. Gravatar of Scott Sumner on Hillary Clinton « Thought du Jour Scott Sumner on Hillary Clinton « Thought du Jour
    4. December 2012 at 00:38

    [...] Sumner, “Local Hero, unsung hero“, The Money Illusion, 3 December [...]

  32. Gravatar of Saturos Saturos
    4. December 2012 at 00:42

    Nick, wow awesome, did you get to meet any of the Pythons?

    Can anyone spot Nick in this clip?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA0xZv0Hx9g

    Is he one of those getting arrested?

  33. Gravatar of Morgan Warstler Morgan Warstler
    4. December 2012 at 03:44

    “I’m fond of reminding PIMCO’s Investment Committee that you can’t buy GDP futures – at least not yet.”

    http://www.pimco.com/EN/Insights/Pages/Strawberry-Fields-Forever.aspx

  34. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. December 2012 at 04:35

    wufwugy, The Celebration is excellent–he has a new film coming out.

    Chargercarl, That’s not correct.

    Nick, I was already in awe of you, and now this. Next you’ll be telling me you were a character in Fawlty Towers too!

    Saturos, Yup.

  35. Gravatar of Nick Rowe Nick Rowe
    4. December 2012 at 06:17

    Saturos: unfortunately, I tripped on the heather when the charge started, fell flat on my face, and got trampled by the rest of the army. I think that’s me at far right at 1:24:22. But I can’t prove it, since I was wearing a full helmet! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOfI88NKRzY

  36. Gravatar of Mark D Mark D
    5. December 2012 at 19:59

    wufwugy-I saw “Evil”. Couldn’t remember the title,though. Thanks for reminding me. It was excellent.
    You’d probably like “Character” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119448

    ssumner-How about John Sayles for an underrated director? His movies Matewan; Men with Guns; Lone Star & Limbo were all very good.

  37. Gravatar of Adrian Monck Adrian Monck
    7. December 2012 at 06:20

    Hal Hartley (The Unbelievable Truth, Trust)

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