I've only been aware of that for a year or so...and this overstates the case.
The virtue of excellence
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
I've only been aware of that for a year or so...and this overstates the case.
Should lunch counters have been allowed to stay segregated? No—but the question is how to disallow it. Bigoted businesses shouldn’t face threats of legal force for their racism. They should face a force much fiercer and more meaningful—the full force of voluntary social organization and a culture of equality. What’s to stop resegregation in a libertarian society? We are. Using the same social power that was dismantling Jim Crow years before legal desegregation.
He didn't say it, so I will. Brave black individuals like MLK and Rosa Parks stopped segregation. Then a bunch of pansy-ass lawyers came along, passed a law after the fact, and claimed credit. Let's all call bullshit on that, and lionize the moral leadership of MLK.
Aretae commentary: Monopoly is THE problem. Faster, please.
UPDATE: My favorite line:
The idea that it is essential for a nation to have a single legal system applying to everyone within its borders is, so far as I can tell, a modern one–there are non-Muslim examples as well of polylegal systems.
Does that mean we can get the formalists and reactionaries behind polycentric law?
UPDATE II. Really, read the whole comment thread, especially David Friedman's points. Should fix most people's confusions about law.
If you finish high school and keep a job without having children before marriage, you will almost certainly not be poor. Period. I have repeatedly felt the air go out of the room upon putting this to black audiences. No one of any political stripe can deny it. It is human truth on view. In 2004, the poverty rate among blacks who followed that formula was less than 6 percent, as opposed to the overall rate of 24.7 percentIQ is not the problem. Patience/ability to defer gratification/culture is.
- Light is what is being purchased, not power.
- The word "merely".
Monday, August 30, 2010
- Best headline ever, not from the Enquirer: MAN EATING GIANT SQUID DEVOURING FISH STOCKS. Really.
- Joel Grus points us at Philip Greenspun who dramatizes the libertarian plight in political argument.
- Tyler Cowen links to Ezra Klein writing about the fiction of individual candidates. It's FAR less of a fiction here than in Europe.
- Rod Long explains the left-libertarian notion of vulgar libertarians.
- Zombie starts a series on the school wars.
- Hanson takes Bryan's market failure question and (as usual) expands it.
- TJICistan points us at TNR reviewing this book by Amy Wax. TNR says Wax is convincing in arguing that government can't fix/help on the race issue.
- There is no doubt whatsoever about the healthiest diet in the world. It's Calorie Restriction (Eating 20+% fewer calories than you naturally would, but with good nutrition). CR is all but certain to not only keep you healthy, but slow aging as well. In darn near every creature tried, including monkeys, CR has massively extended lifespans. In controlled trials, female rats on CR diets were able to have babies after ALL (!!!) the rats not on such a CR diet were dead of old age. Biosphere 2 gave further credence to the idea, when checking biological age-markers of the accidentally CR'd participants.
- However, folks who are moderately overweight (according to BMI calculations) live, on average, notably longer than folks who are "normal weight", underweight, obese, or super-obese.
- Alcohol causes cirrhosis of the liver. And several types of cancer(Esophogal & others) .
- However, Heavy drinkers live longer than teetotalers like myself. Moderate drinkers live the longest.
- However, Mormons and 7th Day Adventists live extra-long on a drink-free life.
Foseti says: nonsense, Moldbug lays out the class distinctions better.
I think that Moldbug has mostly just laid out the details better than half-sigma, but they are suggesting the same thing. The Tea Party is an awakening of class consciousness among the folks doing "real work", or as Moldbug calls them, the Vaisya.
Essentially the claim from both Moldbug and Half-Sigma is that Palin may be the ONLY politician in recent memory who is NOT of either the corporate aristocracy or from the collegiate clerisy. Rather, she is a smart, effective member of the working classes, who is leading a rebellion.
Redoing a distinction:
- The formalists, conservatives, and reactionaries tend to believe that the aristocracy is fit to lead, because god knows the intelligensia is not.
- The modern liberal/progressive tends to believe that the intelligensia is fit to lead, because god knows the aristocracy was a disaster.
- The libertarian agrees with both. Neither the intelligensia nor the aristocracy are fit to lead. Both screw things up 97 times out of 100. Devolve authority.
- Arnold Kling thinks he's mostly talking about economics:
I suspect that a big reason that mathematics took over economics is that it gives you a sense of mastery. Indeed, it may give you a false sense of mastery. As you learn mathematical economics, you realize that you are getting really good at doing something that only a small group of people is able to master. And you get the sense that because you completed a mathematical proof that you accomplished something. It is very seductive.However, this is as true of String Theory, Climate Science, and a number of other fields.
- Don Boudreaux links to an article with a telling title: The Dodd-Frank Act: Creative Destruction, Destroyed. Key line:
Still, it is useful to put down some markers about the recently adopted Dodd-Frank Act (DFA), which looks to be the most troubling--maybe even destructive--single piece of financial legislation ever adopted.Aretae's line: Oh, look! They just screwed up the financial feedback system.
- Seth Roberts continues his discussion of more animal fat and better heart health. Good epistemology, followed by this:
This explanation makes a prediction: If you greatly increase your animal-fat intake, your heart scan score should improve. A commenter said what he’d read on paleo-diet forums supported this prediction: “If you hang out in the paleo/low carb forums, you see this kind of thing a lot.”
- Falkenstein is depressingly funny:
Isn't a more 'European style' economy what Obama wanted? Alas, when we create an American Europe, we don't get to choose what parts transfer.
- Best article I read yesterday: GNXP on India. Here's the beginning, and then it gets informative:
Will Wilkinson has dubbed a related phenomenon the “UN Fallacy” — the error of assuming that two areas can be usefully compared simply because they are nation-states. So, for instance, you hear nonsense related to how “China has overtaken Japan.” Of course, on a per capita basis China remains poorer than El Salvador. Yet because the Chinese have aggregated themselves into a relatively large political unit, we think of the Chinese as “getting rich” and the Salvadorians as “poor.” We think of India as surging ahead, though it has more poor people than Africa.
- Foseti links to Dalrymple, who is in large part agreeing with and then expanding the Aretaevian position on ethics over time Life is CLEARLY getting better, even by the MORAL standards of old. The interesting discussion is that in the past, there was a discussion of natural evil AND personal evil. At this point in the rich world, natural evil is almost dead, and Dalrymple says "Nor can one say that no moral advance occurred because of the Enlightenment." However, evil is still here. Dalrymple is mildly wrong about the evils of the 20th century though. Mao wins. Then Lenin. Then Hitler. And Pol Pot was far worse on a per-capita basis even than any of them.
- UPDATE: One more. Sheldon Richman gives us the lessons of the 1974 Oil Embargo:
The embargo was a flop.
The terrible seventies, then, were not the result of anti-American oil sheiks shrewdly manipulating the U.S. economy for political or religious purposes. The injuries were self-inflicted – or U.S. government-inflicted, to be precise.
The lessons from that decade, then, are these:
- Don’t interfere with the price system, and
- Don’t worry about embargoes.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
- The question of truth is poorly defined. Ask about methods of prediction, and then facts applied to the methods. The probability of being true is less than one ( p <>
- For ALL useful non-statistical predictions outside the physical sciences (F=ma), the probability of their being true is much less than 1 ( commonly abbreviated p <<>
- Example: The space shuttle, one of the harder pieces of engineering in recent memory, failed on 2/130 missions...a nearly 2% failure rate, which is itself a better rate than the Apollo program.
- Since problems involving biology, people, or social systems are MUCH harder than problems with engineering, it's wise to consider the space shuttle's 98% success rate an unattainable high point...and hope to beat 50%, after lots of tests.
- Because error is ubiquitous, the primary issue in ALL systems is error-management.
- Error-management is almost identical to feedback systems. How well do systems respond and get better WHEN (not if) the errors happen. (And how well do the feedback systems get better).
- Mostly, this is unrecognized because people do not have statistical analysis engines, but instead status-driven monkeybrains.
- Monkeybrains equate failure with lower status, and so do not admit of failures, in order to protect status rather than improving.
- Wealth is a measure of how much one can get of what one wants. It is also basically equivalent to total crystallized practical (useful) knowledge.
- Wealth is the social system success metric (wealth can be exchanged for ALMOST anything, happiness included. Often it buys something else instead of happiness.)
- When people are wealthier, they do spend more of their wealth on things besides material goods, including increased health, decreased violence, increased environmental protection, increased care for the poor, and such.
- Therefore, increasing wealth is better than ALL other social options, almost all the time, particularly given that growth rates are exponential, not linear.
- In social/economic systems, the god-particle of feedback is exit. (I choose to buy from Comcast because AT&T sucks...or else vice versa)
- High feedback allows consumers to switch to higher-value choices, thus creating further gains from trade, but also leads to high business-turnover.
- Monopoly/Cartel prevents exit, and is the prime evil. Basically all social ills are caused by monopoly power preventing exit.
- Force/Violence is the primary cause of monopolies, and the almost exclusive cause of cartels.
- Government is an effective monopoly over force, and therefore both the normal cause of monopoly, and almost the only cause of cartel (CAFE, etc. killed the chance for revolutionary small automakers).
- Government's activity is best understood using public choice analysis, and the nominal form of government really doesn't predict much.
- Prediction: ALL government legislation everywhere (+/- 3%) decreases competition by circumventing the natural feedback system, thus increasing the profits of the incumbents in an industry. Especially true of rules regarding political action.
- Education is no different. Feedback dominates.
- If the time between acting and getting information about success is long, nearly no learning happens.
- If the teacher gets no feedback on method, nearly no improvement happens.
- If the school system has no feedback (via exit), the system never improves.
- Healthcare is no different. Feedback dominates.
- If the doctor isn't compensated based on success, success doesn't improve.
- If the consumer doesn't have different costs for different choices, costs don't decrease.
- The late separation between liberalism and progressivism (HT: Ridley):
Neither the failure of the environmental apocalypse to arrive nor the steady improvement in environmental conditions over the last 40 years has dampened the ardor of those eager to make hair shirts for others to wear.
- Friedman on University Admission Sales: Why don't they? Steve Sailer has a different position: They do.
- Wilkinson is customarily brilliant mocking fictional libertarian American history (Home ownership promotion is ahistorical):
Government programs to promote homeownership are American as flag-flavored eagle pie. The first clue is that there are so many goddamn subsidies for homeownership in democratic America. The second clue is that these subsidies are so goddamn popular with Americans, probably because American culture really does relentlessly assault Americans with the American idea that owning an American house is an essential American part of the best and most authentic American way of American living.RTWT.
- Robin asks What is Politics About? Complex question.
- Don Boudreaux mocks the Drug Czars fears of doom from legalizing marijuana:
Marijuana was perfectly legal throughout the United States until the city of El Paso first outlawed it in 1914, a move that was followed in the same year by national criminalization with the Harrison Act.
- Then Don corrects a common fable about Henry Ford:
Ford raised workers’ wages for two reasons, neither of which had anything to do with raising consumer demand for his automobiles. The first reason was to reduce worker turnover. [...] Second, because the $5 wage was conditioned upon Ford’s workers learning English, as well as their steering clear of alcohol and gambling [...] the higher wage was an incentive for workers to be more reliable and productive while on the job.
- TJICistan has a grammar confusion with the following sentence in The Boston Globe:
A reporter tried to track down the Russian spies who infiltrated Cambridge in a country run by leaders who believe in secrecy and state control over everything.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
There is a level of confidence that comes from being good at everything when you're young that is truly impossible to duplicate.
Branden's definition of self-esteem:
the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and being worthy of happinessIn other words, self-esteem consists of 2 parts:
- Self-efficacy -- The belief that you're competent
- Self-worth -- The belief that you're worthy
- Mom -- Independent contracting book-keeper/para-legal runs the books for dozens of folks over the last 30 years...almost entirely independent almost all the time.
- Dad -- Independent business side of several different software businesses. Has not really taken orders from anyone since 1985.
- Sister -- Independent environmentalist -- serves as effective director of non-profit environmentalist stuff.
- Uncle -- HP Engineer -- HP told him that he was too valuable/irreplaceable to ride a motorcycle in Oregon's permanent rainy-season. Uncle said "bite me", still rides motorcycle, still employed.
- Uncle 2 -- Has run, for 30 years, tree planting and surveying operations through the pacific northwest. No one ever tells him what to do
- Aunt -- Medical Transcriptionist ... independent, kinda works for several doctors in Colorado
- Aunt 2 -- 5'0" 95 pound Trucker -- known to quit jobs when folks tell her what to do too much.
- Aunt 3 -- College Admissions Councilor with NO effective boss. In theory, she has a boss. In reality, boss doesn't know what she does.
- Aunt 4,5 -- Seem to be properly corporate
- Grandfather, Grandmother -- Principal & Teacher -- telling folks what to do, ignoring folks who tell them what to do.
- Grandfather 2 -- Apollo Mission engineer
- Grandmother 2 -- Homemaker for 7 kids, then corporate book-keeper.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Many more quotable sentiments in there too:
It’s no wonder “free enterprise” and “free markets” have fallen into such ill repute among broad sections of the American public. You can thank their most vocal defenders. If “free markets” meant what the folks at FreedomWorks and AEI meant by them, I’d hate them too.
Fortunately, though, they don’t. Free markets — genuine free markets, without subsidies or protections for big business — are the enemies of corporate power. But you’ll never see anyone saying that on CNBC or the Wall Street Journal editorial page.
The people who talk most about “free enterprise” and “free markets” in American political discourse, far from actually favoring those things, have appropriated the label “free enterprise” for their system of corporate welfare, corporate protectionism, and crony capitalism.Libertarians mostly don't count, not being really IN the American political discourse.
I'm not a Macroeconomist. My epistemological position is that if it's not making predictions, and validating predictions, it ain't science...and it's questionable as truth. Macro falls into that category for me. I will no longer be talking Macro. If you want Macro...read Scott Sumner...and some others on the days he doesn't blog 10,000 words.
Similarly, I've been getting too excited about linking to everything that C4SS puts out. While I like almost everything they have to say...I'm NOT going to continue linking to everything. C4SS is a tremendous link, read them there. Almost uniformly good, especially for us left-libertarian / anarchist types.
- Isegoria finds Tony Schwartz discussing 6 factors in excellence. I'm linking it, because it's so close to what I've been saying for years. I have only minor quibbles:
- Pursue what you love
- Do the hardest work first.
- Practice intensely
- Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses
- Take regular renewal breaks
- Ritualize practice
- Bryan Caplan answers Bill Dickens on education as signaling.
- Warren Meyer doesn't call Obama fascist.
- Patri Friedman explains poverty up close and personal (India now, Everywhere 200 years ago). Must read.
- Instapundit links to The Economist praising Brazilian agriculture.
- Orin Kerr at Volokh has a WEIRD legal question.
But he's out of time. We sleep on the top floor of a raised split-level, with 5-half stories from the basement to the top floor. Great Danes only live about 7 years...and as expected, the 8 year old horse of a dog is running out of juice in a typical Great Dane fashion. His hips are giving out. He falls down our stairs 1 day in 3, because his hips won't take him down properly...and can barely make it around the block any longer. My wife can't lift him...and he's slept downstairs for the last week. For the first time in his life, he's not with his family at night.
So, I called the vet today to schedule an appointment to put him out of his misery...next Tuesday. And now I'm crying over a stupid moose of a dog. Returning to your regularly scheduled programming sometime soon.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
- Over under on how long it takes before evangelicals are using this (HT: Slashdot) against radiocarbon/uranium dating reliability, and arguing that it makes young earth plausible? More from Pournelle and more from Slashdot.
- Matt Crawford on how to address fears of terrorism. Good advice.
- Mark Thoma on why government is the solution. Arnold Kling on why Thoma's question is wrong. David Henderson adds more reasons.
- David Friedman quotes Jehu, (occasional commenter here) commenting on Robin Hanson's blog:
This is probably because they interact socially with a far less age-segregated set of people (our public school system is really quite unique, and profoundly unnatural that way, it is as if someone read Lord of the Flies and decided it was prescriptive rather than descriptive).
- Robin Hanson notes that corporate status drives FDA drug approval rates
- Borepatch tries to scare us all with stories of automobile worms. It works.
- TJICistan, in the context of the feds bailing out flood plain houses for 10x the value of their houses, reminds us:
Government exists to provide benefits to politicians and the politically connected – no other reason.
- Brutus on the police.
- Coyoteblog discusses regulation in CA. Has anyone done a paper analyzing a random set of regulations passed by ANY entity. The public choice hypothesis is that about 97/100 of those regulations serve, in reality, to protect incumbents in industry...the new entrant rate, and the firm turnover rate should drop.
- More on people not liking do-gooders.
- How to tell if someone's serious about a prediction. Don Boudreaux offers a $5,000 bet against peak everything.
- Fabulous discussion of a simple economic topic: how the market moves around price floors.
- Mark Thoma appears to endorse a piece suggesting that the Stimulus really sucked, and a simple TVA hiring folks to dig holes and fill them back in would have worked better. I agree.
- Wikileaks as Courageous.
- Sumner just keeps insulting the mouth-breathers at the fed, who he insists are playing precisely the same game as caused the post-'33 part of the Great Depression (that lasted to '41).
- Foseti links to an education article about Michelle Rhee and the racial politics of education.
- I didn't know I shared Hayek's opinion on this too:
Now it is certainly true that of the trio “Prosperity, Liberty, Democracy,” Hayek puts prosperity first and liberty second–or, rather, that freedom of contract needs to be more closely safeguarded than freedom of speech, for if there is freedom of contract then freedom of speech will quickly reappear, but if there is no freedom of contract than freedom of speech will not long survive. But the passage above makes me wonder whether democracy has any place in Hayek’s hierarchy of good things at all.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
- Original purpose of school: Teach obedience for factories and armies. Established not only as the explicit purpose by schooling in Prussia, but further cemented both by Gatto's amazing essay and assorted Robin Hanson writings. Unschoolers like myself are simply not teaching our kids the skills necessary to be obedient workers. Some of us never learned it in the first place.
- This is hard to overestimate in importance in determining the school structure.
- This is not necessarily a negative for some kids. Learning to be obedient MIGHT be better than not learning that, if the delta-salary is $30K/y (true for higher IQ Minorities).
- Nominal purpose of school: Teach/Learn. This is roughly laughable before Grad school. Especially if you've ever seen a kid learn about stuff they wanted to know
- Current driver of school policy: The Education Cartel aka Teacher's unions.
- I've often heard the teachers unions compared unfavorably to the teamsters in terms of enlightenment.
- I've often heard the teachers unions compared unfavorably to the teamsters in terms of enlightenment.
- Original reason for mass public schooling in USA: Get the Catholic kids away from the private Catholic schools who will take over the country for Rome. Horace Mann. Good job.
- Reason for compulsory schooling in USA: Get the kids out of the workforce, so we get better wages (Union pressure).
- Reason for school to stay public: Propaganda. If you don't control the schools, how do you successfully get folks to believe the horse puckey you're serving?
- Primary value of school to parents: Babysitting until 18.
- Primary value of school to employers: It's not a litigable offense to ask for a diploma or GPA, unlike prior work history, IQ, criminal record. Also...indicates good obedience, IQ above the amphibians.
- Primary value of school to students: Signaling. Everyone else does. To be competitive, you should too. Otherwise you look like a high-risk to employer non-conformist.
- Secondary value of school to students: It's a non-family environment, where you can grow into the self, rather than being self-in-family.
Reasoned public deliberation, passionate rhetorical jousting, and bullshit heritage mongering are all among the selection pressures that shape the course of cultural evolution. Foster’s worry about my sort of libertarianism isn’t really that it’s a “rationalist” ivory tower abstraction remote from the lived experience of the allegedly natively libertarianish American tradition. It’s that the application of any rational scrutiny (libertarian or not) to the efforts of conservative elites to construct bullshit American-heritage narratives tends to get in the way of elite conservative political aspirations.Translation: The conservative "good old days" is mostly a fiction.
Feedback systems win. Monkeybrains adapt slowly.
Given: most of the world is living in a world in which force, graft, nepotism, poor property rights, low trust, and low marginal value to getting richer are the state of the world.
Therefore: most of the world has evolved norms in order to deal with this hideous state of affairs, and will act accordingly until they get re-normed.
Further: in order to re-norm a populace towards trading values, thus massively increasing human wealth and well-being, it is necessary to forcibly stop the prior restraints. Enforced, low transaction cost property rights, hardcore free trade, and anti-governmental corruption activity (hang misbehaving government officials) are things the government can do that will massively shift the norms over time
Therefore: given a horrible situation (most of the world), the proper response is to deploy government in order to remove the current governmental and non-governmental detriments to economic growth.
However: While the state may be necessary in order to build the apparatus in order for spontaneous order to occur, but over time, we would prefer (expect?) the state to wither away.
- Kling: Guessing the trigger point for a sovereign debt crisis.
- Barnett: Step 1 of the unconstitutionality argument against Obamacare is won. It's clearly unprecedented. Law is interesting: 100% persuasion...0% truth.
- Borepatch re: a car. "I hear it comes with a factory installed cop on your ass, though."
- DeLong argues for a cyclical unemployment picture of the current crisis, with data. I'm waiting for Kling's recalculation story response. (HT: Thoma)
- Sumner, on 3 historical macro situations that looked like what we've got now. He despairs that there's no one who is both highly respected and looking at things in a proper (Friedman I) way. In the comments, Sumner says: "My point is that it’s not an automatic thing, as it was during all the previous recessions during my life. We need either easy money, or luck."
- Brutus on Marijuana laws and minorities.
- Robin on sports. Status accrues to sports that show typically male activities (hunting related). NO status accrues to sports that show traditionally female activities (gathering). Comments response: Shopping is the gathering/female sport. Aretae: DUH. Men are preferred first for status. Women are preferred first for beauty. Of course historical trends gave us sport as a male status activity. The fact that in the last 30-60 years women have also entered sport in large numbers doesn't make sport any less of a male activity...just now girls are doing it too. Check back in 200 years to see if we evolve anything.
- IOZ on Digby on Ron Paul. Look...someone stands up for free speech, and the Democrats attack because he also doesn't kowtow to the Dem line. IOZ: "[Conservative Mosque protesters'] superficial anger at Islam is insignificant compared to Barack Obama's real and actual policies toward Islam, which is to bomb the living shit out of it every day."
- Seth Roberts and John Pepple both discuss the NYT article on changing peer review. They are substantially unimpressed.
- John: "It goes almost without saying that the article quotes from the dinosaurs who are going to obstruct changes."
- Seth: "Anything to distract attention from the real change: The more education you can get from the Web, the less you need to get from professors."
- John: "It goes almost without saying that the article quotes from the dinosaurs who are going to obstruct changes."
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
UPDATED THE ONE SENTENCE.
- Falkenstein on regulation :
When you try to micromanage a complex system, the most important virtue is humility.
- Kling on Fannie and Freddie:
Markets achieve a spontaneous order. The opposite of order is disorder. Price controls in the oil market created disorder, to the point where fights broke out in lines at gas stations.
Government interference in housing markets, which helped produce the disorder known as the financial crisis, is still producing disorder
Wherever there are strong property rights, there is wealth and happiness.
Wherever there are no or weak property rights, there is overuse, destruction, and misery.
- Scott Sumner on Milton Friedman vs. the WSJ:
when I researched the Great Depression, I was shocked at how the conservative Wall Street establishment hated dollar devaluation, despite the fact that the stock market obviously loved it. I noted (to myself) that “at least the modern WSJ is much better; they often use the market reaction to policy announcements as a way of establishing their likely effects.” I guess the WSJ has reverted back to the primitive pattern of the 1930s. “Yes, the markets are screaming for easier money, probably because it will boost the economy. But we can’t have that because it might make Obamanomics look successful. Plus ca change . . .
- Scott Sumner on The Federal Reserve contains Idiots:
This isn’t rocket science. When the AD curve shifts to the left then NGDP falls (relative to trend, as in the excellent Cowen/Taborrok textbook.) That’s an adverse demand shock. We have seven members of the Fed who don’t even seem to understand the basics of AS/AD theory. Who have concocted all sorts of bizarre structural theories to explain away their failure to boost NGDP enough for a robust recovery. This is EXACTLY what happened at the Fed in the Great Depression.
- Scott Sumner on The Enormous success of Liberaltarianism:
Sure the recent crisis has created setbacks, such as the government takeover of GM. But the long run trend around the world has been strongly liberaltarian, and will almost certainly remain so for the foreseeable future. Just the other day Denmark decided to cut unemployment benefit eligibility from 4 years to 2 years. Think about what that means. Two French researchers (Algan and Cahuc) found that Danes had the most liberal/civic-minded attitudes on Earth. They argued that Denmark was the country most suited to have social insurance programs, because the non-deserving would be less likely to abuse the programs in Denmark than in any other country. Yet even in ultra-honest Denmark it was found that a large number of workers mysteriously found jobs immediately after their unemployment benefits ran out. So they are cutting back. Denmark already has the freest markets in the world, and now they are shrinking their welfare state. No wonder the Danes are so happy, despite dreary weather.
- Michael O'Hare spouts pompous progressive nonsense at an intro class at Berkeley (HT: Mark Thoma). The start isn't so bad. I tend to agree with this:
The bad news is that you have been the victims of a terrible swindle, denied an inheritance you deserve by contract and by your merits. And you aren’t the only ones; victims of this ripoff include the students who were on your left and on your right in high school but didn’t get into Cal, a whole generation stiffed by mine. This letter is an apology, and more usefully, perhaps a signal to start demanding what’s been taken from you so you can pass it on with interest.But then he starts into the details. And it's ...deserving of a fisking really. But I'm not sufficiently angry to do a proper fisking. Rather than blaming government parasites, public unions, and schools which are now VERY well paid, but delivering crappy results...he blames folks who want to keep the money they earn. If California's public spending hadn't increased by something like 4x the inflation*population growth increase that it has, there MIGHT have been a case. As it is, the ONLY possible explanation is that government SUCKS money and wastes it.
- Jonah Lehrer at Wired Science has a great discussion of the 10K hours to mastery that we like so much here Chez Aretae. Roughly...practice tends to dominate talent, until everyone's near the same level of (useful/good) practice. Lots of other good stuff there.
Monday, August 23, 2010
I went off and read the blog for a bit. I concluded that he was a liberal who hadn't found Masonomics.
Then I went back and read Gibson who says:
Based on Wilson’s string of posts, he fits squarely into what Arnold Kling describes as the MIT mantra: markets fail, let’s use government.
However, a lot of his posts seem blissfully unaware of public choice problems, almost as if there could never be government failure or democratic fundamentalism. I begin to wonder–is Wilson willing to apply his model of human behavior to regulating government failures? Hard to ascertain, which is too bad, because his thinking here seems better adapted to what Kling calls the GMU view of economics: sure, markets fail, but let’s use markets.I'm getting suspicious of whether anyone who argues for government action but isn't familiar with the public choice topic shouldn't just be laughed out of the room.
I buy “organic” food because it tastes better and I can, but I feel guilty about reinforcing all the kinds of delusion and superstition and viciousness that are tied up in that label. We simply cannot feed a world population of 6.6 billion without pesticides and factory farming and GMOs and preservatives in most bread; now, and probably forever, “organic” food will remain a luxury good.
Try telling its political partisans that, though. Hyped on their belief in their own virtue, and blissfully ignorant about scale problems, they have already engineered policies that have cost thousands of lives during spot famines. The potential death toll from (especially) anti-GMO policies is three orders of magnitude higher.
- Excellence: Private manned spacecraft being launched by private danish team.
- Education: Bryan reminds us that education is a net cost with significant negative externalities, and therefore ought (for efficiency) to be taxed in order to reduce the quantity consumed...but then points at the even more important point that it oughtn't (for freedom) be taxed.
- Epistemology: Borepatch talks what we should believe on Global warming
- Eating and Exercise: Seth Roberts shows that Saturated Fat DECREASES (!!!) risk of stroke.
- Epistemology: David Friedman asks a question answered well by both heretical Objectvist Epistemologists and by Eliezer Yudkowsky. Also...the super-simple explanation: It's used in both ways in order to persuade and doesn't map well to truth.
- Persuasion over Truth: Bryan again. He recognizes it well.
- Economic Growth: CoyoteBlog sez that Government that gets what it wants SUCKS to the order of -25% (+15% vs. -10%) growth on S&P 500. Unified government, more power is BAD.
My list is a consolidation of two directions:
- Expect Error
- Feedback dominates
- Wealth is the metric
- Scarcity defines power
- Monkeybrains!!! Always and everyone
- Status drives monkeybrains.
- Persuasiveness is orthogonal to truthiness
- Error Management
- Envy / Status
- Evolutionary Systems
- Exponential Growth
- Eating and Exercise
- GNXP gets all economic, and discusses why Israel (mostly) and China are so poor, given all their ability-based advantages. Short version: Institutions kick ability's butt up down and sideways. Not surprisingly, there is great agreement with the Aretae position: whoever gets Anglo-Saxon systems wins. Whoever doesn't doesn't. Trust also pops up as essential. Also fascinating was a Tino post I'd missed, showing success rates of various immigrants in America. I am concerned, though, that the GNXP post is insufficient in allowing for time. Israel is a young country...one should not expect it to be as rich as the States.
- Instapundit links approvingly to the NYT arguing at least mildly against IP.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
A few years ago, Peter Gray blogged a provocative set of claims:
Foragers don’t distinguish work and play.
Foragers kids learn without being taught:
This same “free school” approach works today:
Modern childhood and schools arose for other reasons:
Gray is mostly right: forager kids learn all they need when free to play all day, forager adults work all they need without toiling, and kids can learn modern skills this way today. But there is no movement toward free schools, and I expect a wholesale move would be a disaster. Yes, it works for some students, including those who stay until graduation, but parents probably soon pull kids for whom it doesn’t work. School isn’t about learning “material”, school is about learning to accept workplace domination and ranking, and tolerating long hours of doing boring stuff exactly when and how you are told. Others seem to agree with me:
There used to be thousands of “free” schools back in the 1960s and 1970s, … The number has waned since, although … many of their ideas are used in public alternative schools and by some homeschooling families. … There are about 200 “democratic” schools around the world, including the Sudbury schools. … Many say the Sudbury model is not — and shouldn’t be — for everyone. “It’s a great model for some students — but I would say that for every kind of education.” (more)
- Sudbury was a substantially different kind of "free school" than at least most of the other thousands. Summerhill was the only one I saw that was close.
- Sudbury has a democratic model with all students and all staff having 1 vote, which is integral to its functioning.
- Sudbury doesn't buy the whole "consensus" thing.
- Sudbury was a free school, not a school where you were propagandized to learn critical consciousness and system-smashing, like many other "free schools" were.
- The leaders of the Sudbury school were truly exceptional people.
- As always, the fundamental question in schooling is 1st -- what kind of person are we trying to raise: A wage-slave who takes orders? That's what teacher directed systems are primarily good for. Or do you want a person who is self-reliant, and self-directed. That's what unschooling and similar systems are good for. Over the last 20 years I've spent in teaching, this has become more and more the question which dominates...with other issues like "How much math did they learn" coming a distinct second. I don't expect most readers to (a) accept this uncritically, or (b) accept the impact this has on them. Think about it. For a couple weeks.
I'm not well versed in methodological individualism, but I suspect this is the critical point, often overlooked for its uncomfortable implications....Long story short: Individual abilities and motivations matter a lot.
- Socialization. While it remains true that school is an atrocious (verging on evil) social environment, it remains true that the primary task of children between ~8 and ~18 is to become social beings that play well with others. The far and away #1 error made by homeschoolers everywhere is insufficient attention to the social NEEDS of their kids. By 14 or so, it becomes intolerable, and they frequently begin to attend school because of the gap. It's a reasonable assumption that a 15 year old needs 8+ hours a day of social interaction with peers, and that 15 is near the peak for most kids....falling to maybe 3 hours at 10 or 20. While online friends and interactions can substitute for part of it, it's very important to find ways to get kids in person with peers for LOTS of hours, most every day.
- Boredom. This is 100% essential to becoming self-directed, independent learners. I've seen it take a year after exiting the school system before someone got their hiney up off the couch and decided to learn something herself...but it happens. Boredom is the mind-expander. Allow boredom, and DO NOT intervene to prevent it. Interestingly, both video games and TV are significant boredom-mitigators, and seem quite able to make this process longer...while making folks more irritable. Especially, if someone has only limited access to TV/Video Games, they can eat HUGE amounts of boredom. It may be the case that unlimited access will eventually bore a person out of the approach, but both TV and Video Games are increasingly designed for addictiveness (Farmville, WoW, Lineage).
- Isegoria finds a
John Derbyshire[OOPS!!!] Theodore Dalrymple discussion of snobbery that appears to this reader beautifully ambiguous. While it's words suggest one thing, it's tone suggests something somewhat different. Regardless, in the first part of the essay he explains how noble orders in general, and colonialism in particular, were destroyed by status issues.
- Then Robin Hanson posts a theory of status and the lower classes. Signalling is a way of getting better behavior from the higher ranks, and it has no impact on the lower ranks (whatever ranking scheme you get). The best 5 athletes compete harder, in order to be the best, while the worst athletes don't even pretend to try. Ditto on attractiveness. Ditto on intellecual activity. Ditto on general civilized behavior.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
- What are the 10 largest countries by population (top 3 are easy)?
- What are the 10 largest countries by geographical area?
- What are the 10 largest economies?
- What is wealth? The ability to get stuff (goods and services).
- How is money related? It's a marker for wealth. Frequently, though, it is bad at comparing wealth over time.
- How should we measure wealth? Cost in hours to get something you want. This is a very important point. In general, a person doesn't want a light bulb but rather a light source.
- How has 1st world wealth increased over time? Romer's discussion of light-purchasing power vs. median wage is pretty impressive (page one of this pdf). In 10,000BC, you couldn't buy light. In 0 BC, an hour of light cost more than a day's wages for many folks. In 1800, you could almost buy an hour of reading light for an hour of work. And today it takes 6 seconds of work to buy an hour of reading light.
- What is responsible for wealth increases? Growth in practical knowledge.
- What causes growth in practical knowledge? Incentives and property rights. The best incentive is the chance to get rich/increase status.
- What stops wealth increases? Bad risk/reward ratio for trying new stuff and outright prohibition. Licensure, trade restrictions, monopoly/cartel, regulations in general, uncertainty (violence or regulatory), high escape velocity (How much money do I need to make before I'm "set" -- high taxes and extended families both cause a problem here)
- What about the idea that America is getting poorer? Horse puckey. Innovation is dwarfing the other issues.
- Is our declining manufacturing base a problem? If it were declining, probably still not, but it's not declining.
- Huh? What we have now is a case where 200 years ago, 95% of the population worked in agriculture, and 5% did other stuff...now 2% of the population work in agriculture, and we produce 100x (or some such) as much food. It's only 2%, but we make more stuff. In 1950, 25% of our population worked in the manufacturing sector. IIRC, it's now about 8%, but we produce 10x as much stuff. Basically, it takes less work to produce stuff now because we've learned to make stuff more efficiently.
- What's the effect of Trade? Identical to a labor saving device. Trading with Japan: sending out corn chips and getting back microchips has the EXACT same effect on wealth as inventing a machine that converts corn chips to microchips. They're both very very good things.
Friday, August 20, 2010
- Pournelle has some stuff that sounds scary about pre-hacked Chinese counterintelligence (search chinese) via IT hardware. This is a job for a security expert. Borepatch?
- Pournelle also links to a topic that is among my favorites. Most studies are wrong. And if you don't know your statistics, or you read them uncritically, you're just screwed. Remember: Arguments are about persuasion, not truth and Bayes is our savior...but if you don't understand the statistics, you'll get bamboozled by those too:
Supposedly, the proper use of statistics makes relying on scientific results a safe bet. But in practice, widespread misuse of statistical methods makes science more like a crapshoot.Of course most people have a successful strategy there as well. Ignore all the evidence and any statistics that doesn't conform to your preconceptions, and then claim that the other side's science is suspicious.
- Isegoria on bear warnings had me rolling.
- Kevin Carson points out that having authority makes you stupid.
- Arnold Kling links to a 200 page paper on the Mortgage crisis that will bury you in data...also to a WSJ oped by the same guy. Summary: It took 30 years, but the government managed to cause the crisis by a LONG sequence of policies that created the sub-prime market, and then actively expanded it. Other countries that didn't do this didn't have this problem. Page 161 of the paper summarizes in only 3-4 pages.
- Thomas Knapp Brings the class war and reminds us that there are 2 classes: the government and the rest of us. A quote:
Left unsaid, but becoming increasingly clear even to those who generally take little interest in matters political, is the fact that every operation of government is, by definition, an exercise in “class warfare” — a raid by a political class whose very survival depends on its continued ability to loot your wallet, your wealth, your work.
Like everyone else, the political class has to eat.
Unlike everyone else, the political class proposes to eat us.
- Tabarrok finds the article on teacher effectiveness I linked to yesterday, and links to a couple other articles. Most entertaining is this (from here):
the optimal system--given our current knowledge and the importance of teacher effects--is to hire a lot of teachers on probation and then fire 80% after two years, yes 80%.My God! It's as if a feedback system is the only decent solution.
- Robin Hanson mocks the rationale given for most conflicts. I think he doesn't mock hard enough. The rationale isn't important for truth...it's only important for persuasion. The truth value is ACTUALLY irrelevant.
- Foreign Policy magazine mostly signs up for the Charter City bit. Nation States are dead, but they don't know it yet. This AFTER Newt Gingrich argues for Charter Cities in National Review yesterday. LaTNB linked to both.
- Small organizations (cities) are more agile than big ones(states/nations), more able to do what their population wishes, more subject to exit (which gives the people more power and the government less), and generally less bellicose. Forget reactionary-ism to 1800...let's talk 500BC.
- I think this goose is cooked. It's time to prepare for it, not to discuss whether it's happening. Singapore and Hong Kong are of course the model. 3:1 says one of the first 10 charter-city-like organizations will make Signapore's 8% annual growth, or Botswana's 9% look like tiddlywinks.
- It will also solve 90% of the "problems" we face in the US today when the Californians and Texans stop trying to tell each other what to do....and just do their own region. Heck, San Diego, San Jose, and Fresno are as far apart culturally as any 3 states, and would do well to separate. So are Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio.
Fundamentally, value is ALWAYS a question of value to whom.
What is the value of a strawberry is the same as the question: what would you give up for the strawberry.
The super-beautiful thing about trade as a mechanism is that different people find different things valuable.
For instance, my little girl thinks 1 blackberry is worth about 3 strawberries.
My little boy thinks that 1 strawberry is worth about 3 blackberries.
This works great. If I give them each a bowl of mixed berries for dessert, somehow all the strawberries end up in K's bowl, while all the Blackberries end up in L's. The beautiful thing: BOTH kids think they got the better deal, because they both gave up stuff that they liked less than the things they gave up. Indeed, any state of affairs between trading 1 Blackberry for 3 Strawberries and trading 1 Strawberry for 3 Blackberries will make BOTH kids better off than leaving the situation the same.
When more than 2 people are involved, it gets more complicated...and when there are hundreds, or billions of people involved, it becomes impossibly unwieldy. Money is the result...and money may be the most beautiful thing ever invented. It allows for trades between folks where only one person has what the other wants. What's super-cool about money is that if I want the coconut milk that some guy in Thailand can make...I can offer $3 for a box of coconut milk...and when I give my grocer that $3, both he and I are happier than when we started. Then when he offers $200 to the Thai Importers for a case of 100 boxes, both he and the importers are happier than when they started. And when the importer offers $10 for 10 boxes to the coconut milk squeezer...both parties are happier...and when he buys the 50 coconuts for the 10 boxes of milk for $2 from a coconut farmer, they're both happier as well. EVERY trade that happens makes at least 1 person happier...and 1 party no worse off....but usually both are happier.
The HUGE factor about trade-based behavior is that it effectively guarantees that every party to every transaction is better off than they were before the transaction. Unfortunately, gift-based exchanges are not so lucky. I've been given innumerable wool sweaters in my life, which cost someone some amount of time and money to make or buy. And I think I've worn one once beyond the obligatory pictures. Too much itch.
Sweetness and pleasantness aside, trade makes the world go round, and is mostly responsible for our living like American Kings as opposed to dirt-eating Haitians. In case you hadn't noticed, worldwide, the richest countries tend strongly to be ones WITHOUT much in the way of natural resources...the ones that get ALL their value from trade, rather than thinking they can cheat and do it some other way.
Wages are a form of trade normally characterizing 2 additional constraints. First wages prevail when the transaction cost of market transactions are comparatively large. Second, wages prevail when the relative power of the employer is higher.
Generally, if an employer needs task X done every day for a year, he or she prefers to enter into a wage-agreement because finding someone to do the task each day is costly. Find someone to do it every day for a year, agree...no more search transaction costs. Generally, if a worker is concerned about feeding himself or his family, he tends to accept wage-based positions also because most folks prefer stability when raising a family. His transaction costs, including uncertainty, are higher looking for work than having a stable cash-flow. Occasionally, some folks prefer the freedom to the transaction costs of looking for work, but it's not many of us.
Four trends are coming along that I see impacting the future.
- Governments are interfering heavily in transaction costs. Indeed, they've interfered more in the transaction costs of having a job than in the costs of contracting. I expect some smart entrepreneur to come along soon, and build a system which drops the transaction costs of contracting sufficiently to benefit companies, but doesn't require the whole jobbing thing, and thus jobs will start dying as a form of work. Partnerships + Contract work.
- The means of production are getting cheaper. While Mark Horning is correct about Capitalism from about 1850 to about 1980, Kevin Carson rightly points out a paradigm shift occurring presently. It hasn't been true since independent home-based suburban British peasant weavers created the industrial revolution (from whole cloth?) that the individual could properly own the means of production. HOWEVER, what with folks getting richer, and the means of production getting cheaper...I can spend (honestly) $400 on a lovely laptop that is BETTER than the machine I use at work...and as a software guy, I'm then golden. I own my own means of production...and I rent a domain where I can publish my stuff + sell it. Homebrew machine tools, 3d printers, and such are changing things, and fast.
- The individual is getting richer. Wage work comes partly from power differentials, and frequently from a person's preference for money over leisure. As folks get richer, leisure becomes a higher priority, and folks will choose to work less (buy more leisure for you economists)...which mitigates against a standard wage system.
- The Singularity is coming. We are not THAT far away from the age when your home 3D printer can print food. And that will just about break everything in our current system...except trade. Status and monkeybrains will still drive LOTS of stuff...but absolute material wealth isn't going to be an issue, which will turn jobs into something that barely resembles anything we see today. Read Nancy Kress's Beggars series, Stephenson's The Diamond Age, and Halperin's The First Immortal for 3 views of what that might look like.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The path to making [government] smaller is to make it more devolved (most policy decided at the metro-region level), responsible (restricted suffrage), accountable (ending civil service laws), and coherent/hierarchical (an "independent" agency is an unaccountable agency).The Aretaevian position is suspiciously close to the Friedman III/Romer position, but probably differs in some respects.
- More devolved -- This is the KEY factor. It's key for 2 reasons.
- Smaller units of government are more accountable to the citizenry, regardless the nominal power structure.
- Smaller units of government are easier to exit from, and exit brings government that competes for citizens
Imagine what would happen if education policy were decentralized. In order to have influence, a self-styled education expert would have to convince families that the expert has helpful ideas about how their children ought to be educated. And in order for unprofitable education programs to receive funding, a self-styled charitable giving expert would have to convince donors to support those programs. Instead, what we have is a political process. To get your preferred education policy adopted, you ignore individual families and donors and instead go straight to Congress. If the results are clumsy and wasteful, so be it. "We" must have these policies, just as "we" must have government-guaranteed mortgages. Any other point of view is beyond the pale.
One fundamental paleo-learning is that carbs are basically identical. A Bagel is as good as a slice of Chocolate Cake. IF you're going to eat a sugar/grain thing, don't pretend it's healthy because it's dry toast or sandwich bread, but rather recognize that you're eating junk food. The stable state for that, of course, is that if you are going to eat crap, make it count -- I have no weakness at this point for bread, pasta, or rice. OTOH, chocolate cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate bars all tempt me strongly and sometimes effectively.
There is room for debate on fruits, though.
IOZ: There's always a visceral undertone of rage when some State Department goon or White House porte-parole is forced to concede that Hamas or Hezbollah or the Taliban or whomever provides material assistance and humanitarian aid to the generally down-and-out people that they each claim to rule, defend, represent, liberate, whatever. The nice American in his made-for-teevee tie and lapel pin stresses the point: they only help to further their own goals; they are buying loyalty with food; the distribution of aid by such groups is purely political. Unlike, by implication, our own, which is distributed out of a deep moral well of universal beneficence. Gurl, pleeze.
Falkenstein: [Krugman's] argument would be tenable if it were 1936 and people never tried it, but it has been tried over and over and if a government could spend itself to prosperity and stability, a couple such countries would demonstrate this. Instead, we have the examples of the contrary, where fiscal restraint and modest automatic stabilizers were consistent with the wealthier countries post WW-II.
Roderick Long: I’m not saying that the anti-mosqueteers are literally in the pay of al-Qaeda. But they might as well be.
Wired Science: According to a new study, that difference between European American and Korean customs is so powerful that it shapes the expression of biology: A genetic profile linked to empathy and sociability yields two very different behavioral outcomes, depending on the culture. --- I'm personally waiting for the GNXP take on this.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I've also (later) discussed how monkeybrains should make us more suspicious of consensus-supporting data:
Anyone supporting high-status positions, in or out of science (Climate Science, Relativity, any consensus) needs their credibility downgraded. Monkeybrains wish to be high status, and wishes alter observations, not just conclusions.Now along comes a post ridiculing Keynesian economics in the context of the stimulus:
The entire ethical structure of the free market was destroyed so that Sheila Bair could be spared the inconvenience of euthanizing crippled, syphilitic ghouls like Citigroup and Bank of America....and I realized...Keynesian economics is a perfect storm of consensus opinion that serves both the status and the monetary interests of the folks in charge and the liberal academy (which is >50% funded by the government, even in the "private" colleges and universities). It basically says that government should give money to their cronies in big business and big labor (actual effect, not pretend effect).
Free market claims supporting actual free trade, on the other hand, do nothing but support the status of a pile of folks (libertarians) who are so outsider as to not be able to find the inside. The free market claim being that the government shouldn't be handing out goodies...and that their doing so is the big problem.
Of course, Republicans don't represent free trade any better than Democrats do (Clinton vs. Bush II?), nor Fiscal Discipline (Clinton vs. your choice), though they seem to pass less regulation (Shrub was the least regulating of the last several presidents, while Obama seems the worst/most)...
Basically, we've got a 4-party system:
Conservatives who want to keep the things that work.(more stability)
Progressives who want to make things better for the poor (more equality)
Libertarians who want to be less regulated (more freedom)
Governmentarians who want the government to do more.
Everyone in DC (+/- 3) is a governmentarian, though some are progressive governmentarians and some are conservative governmentarians. Libertarians are the opposition to the governmentarians.