nhaliday + externalities   33

Harnessing Evolution - with Bret Weinstein | Virtual Futures Salon - YouTube
- ways to get out of Malthusian conditions: expansion to new frontiers, new technology, redistribution/theft
- some discussion of existential risk
- wants to change humanity's "purpose" to one that would be safe in the long run; important thing is it has to be ESS (maybe he wants a singleton?)
- not too impressed by transhumanism (wouldn't identify with a brain emulation)
video  interview  thiel  expert-experience  evolution  deep-materialism  new-religion  sapiens  cultural-dynamics  anthropology  evopsych  sociality  ecology  flexibility  biodet  behavioral-gen  self-interest  interests  moloch  arms  competition  coordination  cooperate-defect  frontier  expansionism  technology  efficiency  thinking  redistribution  open-closed  zero-positive-sum  peace-violence  war  dominant-minority  hypocrisy  dignity  sanctity-degradation  futurism  environment  climate-change  time-preference  long-short-run  population  scale  earth  hidden-motives  game-theory  GT-101  free-riding  innovation  leviathan  malthus  network-structure  risk  existence  civil-liberty  authoritarianism  tribalism  us-them  identity-politics  externalities  unintended-consequences  internet  social  media  pessimism  universalism-particularism  energy-resources  biophysical-econ  politics  coalitions  incentives  attention  epistemic  biases  blowhards  teaching  education  emotion  impetus  comedy  expression-survival  economics  farmers-and-foragers  ca 
april 2018 by nhaliday
Antinomia Imediata – experiments in a reaction from the left
https://antinomiaimediata.wordpress.com/lrx/
So, what is the Left Reaction? First of all, it’s reaction: opposition to the modern rationalist establishment, the Cathedral. It opposes the universalist Jacobin program of global government, favoring a fractured geopolitics organized through long-evolved complex systems. It’s profoundly anti-socialist and anti-communist, favoring market economy and individualism. It abhors tribalism and seeks a realistic plan for dismantling it (primarily informed by HBD and HBE). It looks at modernity as a degenerative ratchet, whose only way out is intensification (hence clinging to crypto-marxist market-driven acceleration).

How come can any of this still be in the *Left*? It defends equality of power, i.e. freedom. This radical understanding of liberty is deeply rooted in leftist tradition and has been consistently abhored by the Right. LRx is not democrat, is not socialist, is not progressist and is not even liberal (in its current, American use). But it defends equality of power. It’s utopia is individual sovereignty. It’s method is paleo-agorism. The anti-hierarchy of hunter-gatherer nomads is its understanding of the only realistic objective of equality.

...

In more cosmic terms, it seeks only to fulfill the Revolution’s side in the left-right intelligence pump: mutation or creation of paths. Proudhon’s antinomy is essentially about this: the collective force of the socius, evinced in moral standards and social organization vs the creative force of the individuals, that constantly revolutionize and disrupt the social body. The interplay of these forces create reality (it’s a metaphysics indeed): the Absolute (socius) builds so that the (individualistic) Revolution can destroy so that the Absolute may adapt, and then repeat. The good old formula of ‘solve et coagula’.

Ultimately, if the Neoreaction promises eternal hell, the LRx sneers “but Satan is with us”.

https://antinomiaimediata.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/a-statement-of-principles/
Liberty is to be understood as the ability and right of all sentient beings to dispose of their persons and the fruits of their labor, and nothing else, as they see fit. This stems from their self-awareness and their ability to control and choose the content of their actions.

...

Equality is to be understood as the state of no imbalance of power, that is, of no subjection to another sentient being. This stems from their universal ability for empathy, and from their equal ability for reason.

...

It is important to notice that, contrary to usual statements of these two principles, my standpoint is that Liberty and Equality here are not merely compatible, meaning they could coexist in some possible universe, but rather they are two sides of the same coin, complementary and interdependent. There can be NO Liberty where there is no Equality, for the imbalance of power, the state of subjection, will render sentient beings unable to dispose of their persons and the fruits of their labor[1], and it will limit their ability to choose over their rightful jurisdiction. Likewise, there can be NO Equality without Liberty, for restraining sentient beings’ ability to choose and dispose of their persons and fruits of labor will render some more powerful than the rest, and establish a state of subjection.

https://antinomiaimediata.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/flatness/
equality is the founding principle (and ultimately indistinguishable from) freedom. of course, it’s only in one specific sense of “equality” that this sentence is true.

to try and eliminate the bullshit, let’s turn to networks again:

any nodes’ degrees of freedom is the number of nodes they are connected to in a network. freedom is maximum when the network is symmetrically connected, i. e., when all nodes are connected to each other and thus there is no topographical hierarchy (middlemen) – in other words, flatness.

in this understanding, the maximization of freedom is the maximization of entropy production, that is, of intelligence. As Land puts it:

https://antinomiaimediata.wordpress.com/category/philosophy/mutualism/
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Unaligned optimization processes as a general problem for society
TL;DR: There are lots of systems in society which seem to fit the pattern of “the incentives for this system are a pretty good approximation of what we actually want, so the system produces good results until it gets powerful, at which point it gets terrible results.”

...

Here are some more places where this idea could come into play:

- Marketing—humans try to buy things that will make our lives better, but our process for determining this is imperfect. A more powerful optimization process produces extremely good advertising to sell us things that aren’t actually going to make our lives better.
- Politics—we get extremely effective demagogues who pit us against our essential good values.
- Lobbying—as industries get bigger, the optimization process to choose great lobbyists for industries gets larger, but the process to make regulators robust doesn’t get correspondingly stronger. So regulatory capture gets worse and worse. Rent-seeking gets more and more significant.
- Online content—in a weaker internet, sites can’t be addictive except via being good content. In the modern internet, people can feel addicted to things that they wish they weren’t addicted to. We didn’t use to have the social expertise to make clickbait nearly as well as we do it today.
- News—Hyperpartisan news sources are much more worth it if distribution is cheaper and the market is bigger. News sources get an advantage from being truthful, but as society gets bigger, this advantage gets proportionally smaller.

...

For these reasons, I think it’s quite plausible that humans are fundamentally unable to have a “good” society with a population greater than some threshold, particularly if all these people have access to modern technology. Humans don’t have the rigidity to maintain social institutions in the face of that kind of optimization process. I think it is unlikely but possible (10%?) that this threshold population is smaller than the current population of the US, and that the US will crumble due to the decay of these institutions in the next fifty years if nothing totally crazy happens.
ratty  thinking  metabuch  reflection  metameta  big-yud  clever-rats  ai-control  ai  risk  scale  quality  ability-competence  network-structure  capitalism  randy-ayndy  civil-liberty  marketing  institutions  economics  political-econ  politics  polisci  advertising  rent-seeking  government  coordination  internet  attention  polarization  media  truth  unintended-consequences  alt-inst  efficiency  altruism  society  usa  decentralized  rhetoric  prediction  population  incentives  intervention  criminal-justice  property-rights  redistribution  taxes  externalities  science  monetary-fiscal  public-goodish  zero-positive-sum  markets  cost-benefit  regulation  regularizer  order-disorder  flux-stasis  shift  smoothness  phase-transition  power  definite-planning  optimism  pessimism  homo-hetero  interests  eden-heaven  telos-atelos  threat-modeling  alignment 
february 2018 by nhaliday
Secular decline in testosterone levels - Rogue Health and Fitness
A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men: http://sci-hub.tw/10.1210/jc.2006-1375
Secular trends in sex hormones and fractures in men and women: http://www.eje-online.org/content/166/5/887.full.pdf
https://twitter.com/toad_spotted/status/984543033285898246
https://archive.is/dcruu
Small n and older sample, but interesting that while testosterone decreases have been large for men they’ve been even larger (in % terms) for women; wonder if this contributes to declining pregnancy and sexual frequency, rising depression.

https://www.labcorp.com/assets/11476
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/sperm-killers-and-rising-male-infertility/
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jul/25/sperm-counts-among-western-men-have-halved-in-last-40-years-study
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/08/most-men-in-the-us-and-europe-could-be-infertile-by-2060
Strangelove: https://youtu.be/N1KvgtEnABY?t=67

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sperm-count-dropping-in-western-world/
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14855796
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14857588
People offering human-centric explanations like cell phones: Note also that the sperm quality of dogs has decreased 30% since 1988.

mendelian rand.:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28448539
1 SD genetically instrumented increase in BMI was associated with a 0.25 SD decrease in serum testosterone
https://twitter.com/SilverVVulpes/status/857902555489341441

Ibuprofen linked to male infertility: study: https://nypost.com/2018/01/08/ibuprofen-linked-to-male-infertility-study/
http://www.pnas.org/content/115/4/E715.full

Tucker Carlson: "Men Seem To Be Becoming Less Male": https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/03/08/tucker_carlson_men_seem_to_be_becoming_less_male.html
Carlson interviewed Dr. Jordan Peterson who blamed the "insidious" movement being driven by the "radical left" that teaches there a problem of "toxic masculinity." He said ideological policies focus on "de-emphasizing masculinity may be part of the problem."

...

Those are the numbers. They paint a very clear picture: American men are failing, in body, mind and spirit. This is a crisis. Yet our leaders pretend it’s not happening. They tell us the opposite is true: Women are victims, men are oppressors. To question that assumption is to risk punishment. Even as women far outpace men in higher education, virtually every college campus supports a women’s studies department, whose core goal is to attack male power. Our politicians and business leaders internalize and amplify that message. Men are privileged. Women are oppressed. Hire and promote and reward accordingly.

https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:bd7b0a50d741
But it also hints at an almost opposite take: average testosterone levels have been falling for decades, so at this point these businessmen would be the only “normal” (by 1950s standards) men out there, and everyone else would be unprecedently risk-averse and boring.
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/852339296358940672
deleeted

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/943238170312929280
https://archive.is/p5hRA

Did Nations that Boosted Education Grow Faster?: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/10/did_nations_tha.html
On average, no relationship. The trendline points down slightly, but for the time being let's just call it a draw. It's a well-known fact that countries that started the 1960's with high education levels grew faster (example), but this graph is about something different. This graph shows that countries that increased their education levels did not grow faster.

Where has all the education gone?: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1016.2704&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/948052794681966593
https://archive.is/kjxqp

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/950952412503822337
https://archive.is/3YPic

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/862961420065001472
http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/schooling-educational-achievement-and-latin-american-growth-puzzle

The Case Against Education: What's Taking So Long, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/03/the_case_agains_9.html

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/
Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.
- Bryan Caplan

College: Capital or Signal?: http://www.economicmanblog.com/2017/02/25/college-capital-or-signal/
After his review of the literature, Caplan concludes that roughly 80% of the earnings effect from college comes from signalling, with only 20% the result of skill building. Put this together with his earlier observations about the private returns to college education, along with its exploding cost, and Caplan thinks that the social returns are negative. The policy implications of this will come as very bitter medicine for friends of Bernie Sanders.

Doubting the Null Hypothesis: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/doubting-the-null-hypothesis/

Is higher education/college in the US more about skill-building or about signaling?: https://www.quora.com/Is-higher-education-college-in-the-US-more-about-skill-building-or-about-signaling
ballpark: 50% signaling, 30% selection, 20% addition to human capital
more signaling in art history, more human capital in engineering, more selection in philosophy

Econ Duel! Is Education Signaling or Skill Building?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/03/econ-duel-is-education-signaling-or-skill-building.html
Marginal Revolution University has a brand new feature, Econ Duel! Our first Econ Duel features Tyler and me debating the question, Is education more about signaling or skill building?

Against Tulip Subsidies: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/01/read-the-case-against-education.html

https://nintil.com/2018/02/05/notes-on-the-case-against-education/

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2018-02-19-0000/bryan-caplan-case-against-education-review

https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/the-case-against-education/
Most American public school kids are low-income; about half are non-white; most are fairly low skilled academically. For most American kids, the majority of the waking hours they spend not engaged with electronic media are at school; the majority of their in-person relationships are at school; the most important relationships they have with an adult who is not their parent is with their teacher. For their parents, the most important in-person source of community is also their kids’ school. Young people need adult mirrors, models, mentors, and in an earlier era these might have been provided by extended families, but in our own era this all falls upon schools.

Caplan gestures towards work and earlier labor force participation as alternatives to school for many if not all kids. And I empathize: the years that I would point to as making me who I am were ones where I was working, not studying. But they were years spent working in schools, as a teacher or assistant. If schools did not exist, is there an alternative that we genuinely believe would arise to draw young people into the life of their community?

...

It is not an accident that the state that spends the least on education is Utah, where the LDS church can take up some of the slack for schools, while next door Wyoming spends almost the most of any state at $16,000 per student. Education is now the one surviving binding principle of the society as a whole, the one black box everyone will agree to, and so while you can press for less subsidization of education by government, and for privatization of costs, as Caplan does, there’s really nothing people can substitute for it. This is partially about signaling, sure, but it’s also because outside of schools and a few religious enclaves our society is but a darkling plain beset by winds.

This doesn’t mean that we should leave Caplan’s critique on the shelf. Much of education is focused on an insane, zero-sum race for finite rewards. Much of schooling does push kids, parents, schools, and school systems towards a solution ad absurdum, where anything less than 100 percent of kids headed to a doctorate and the big coding job in the sky is a sign of failure of everyone concerned.

But let’s approach this with an eye towards the limits of the possible and the reality of diminishing returns.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/#comment-101293
The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/
I have a problem in thinking about education, since my preferences and personal educational experience are atypical, so I can’t just gut it out. On the other hand, knowing that puts me ahead of a lot of people that seem convinced that all real people, including all Arab cabdrivers, think and feel just as they do.

One important fact, relevant to this review. I don’t like Caplan. I think he doesn’t understand – can’t understand – human nature, and although that sometimes confers a different and interesting perspective, it’s not a royal road to truth. Nor would I want to share a foxhole with him: I don’t trust him. So if I say that I agree with some parts of this book, you should believe me.

...

Caplan doesn’t talk about possible ways of improving knowledge acquisition and retention. Maybe he thinks that’s impossible, and he may be right, at least within a conventional universe of possibilities. That’s a bit outside of his thesis, anyhow. Me it interests.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/#comment-101492
I put it this way, a while ago: “When you think about it, falsehoods, stupid crap, make the best group identifiers, because anyone might agree with you when you’re obviously right. Signing up to clear nonsense is a better test of group loyalty. A true friend is with you when you’re wrong. Ideally, not just wrong, but barking mad, rolling around in your own vomit wrong.”
--
You just explained the Credo quia absurdum doctrine. I always wondered if it was nonsense. It is not.
--
Someone on twitter caught it first – got all the way to “sliding down the razor blade of life”. Which I explained is now called “transitioning”

What Catholics believe: https://theweek.com/articles/781925/what-catholics-believe
We believe all of these things, fantastical as they may sound, and we believe them for what we consider good reasons, well attested by history, consistent with the most exacting standards of logic. We will profess them in this place of wrath and tears until the extraordinary event referenced above, for which men and women have hoped and prayed for nearly 2,000 years, comes to pass.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/bright-college-days-part-ii/
According to Caplan, employers are looking for conformity, conscientiousness, and intelligence. They use completion of high school, or completion of college as a sign of conformity and conscientiousness. College certainly looks as if it’s mostly signaling, and it’s hugely expensive signaling, in terms of college costs and foregone earnings.

But inserting conformity into the merit function is tricky: things become important signals… because they’re important signals. Otherwise useful actions are contraindicated because they’re “not done”. For example, test scores convey useful information. They could help show that an applicant is smart even though he attended a mediocre school – the same role they play in college admissions. But employers seldom request test scores, and although applicants may provide them, few do. Caplan says ” The word on the street… [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy - American Economic Association
externalities outweigh benefits

Solid waste combustion, sewage treatment, stone quarrying, marinas, and oil and coal-fired power plants have air pollution damages larger than their value added. The largest industrial contributor to external costs is coal-fired electric generation, whose damages range from 0.8 to 5.6 times value added.
study  economics  environment  energy-resources  heavy-industry  cost-benefit  externalities  data  atmosphere  wonkish  econometrics  public-health 
march 2017 by nhaliday
Has creative destruction become more destructive? - Marginal REVOLUTION
However, we conjecture that recently the destructive component of innovations has increased relative to the size of the creative component as the new technologies are often creating products which are close substitutes for the ones they replace whose value depreciates substantially in the process of destruction. Consequently, the contribution of recent innovations to GDP is likely upwardly biased.
econotariat  marginal-rev  study  summary  commentary  economics  growth-econ  innovation  unintended-consequences  econ-metrics  speculation  automation  cjones-like  externalities  realness  metrics  measurement  stagnation  hmm 
march 2017 by nhaliday
Redistributing from Capitalists to Workers: An Impossibility Theorem, Garett Jones | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty
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february 2017 by nhaliday
List of games in game theory - Wikipedia
https://twitter.com/BretWeinstein/status/961503023854833665
https://archive.is/qLsD4
The most important patterns:

1. Prisoner's Dilemma
2. Race to the Bottom
3. Free Rider Problem / Tragedy of the Commons / Collective Action
4. Zero Sum vs. Non-Zero Sum
5. Externalities / Principal Agent
6. Diminishing Returns
7. Evolutionarily Stable Strategy / Nash Equilibrium
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february 2017 by nhaliday
How status competition killed German WWII fighter pilots | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal
During World War II, the German military publicly celebrated the performance of its flying aces to incentivise their peers. This column uses newly collected data to show that, when a former colleague got recognition, flying aces performed much better without taking more risks, while average pilots did only slightly better but got themselves killed much more often. Overall the incentives may have been detrimental, which serves as a caution to those offering incentives to today's financial risk-takers.
study  summary  economics  history  cliometrics  war  death  risk  incentives  status  mostly-modern  lived-experience  externalities  org:ngo  article  world-war 
january 2017 by nhaliday
Schumpeterian Profits in the American Economy: Theory and Measurement
The present study examines the importance of Schumpeterian profits in the United States economy. Schumpeterian profits are defined as those profits that arise when firms are able to appropriate the returns from innovative activity. We first show the underlying equations for Schumpeterian profits. We then estimate the value of these profits for the non-farm business economy. We conclude that only a minuscule fraction of the social returns from technological advances over the 1948-2001 period was captured by producers, indicating that most of the benefits of technological change are passed on to consumers rather than captured by producers.
study  economics  innovation  longitudinal  econ-productivity  usa  history  econometrics  technology  🎩  growth-econ  stylized-facts  industrial-org  anglo  wonkish  mostly-modern  externalities  cjones-like 
december 2016 by nhaliday
How Destructive is Innovation?
We conclude that creative destruction is vital for understanding job destruction and accounts for around one-fourth of growth. Own-product quality improvements by incumbents appear to be the biggest source of growth. Net variety growth contributes much less than quality improvements.
study  economics  innovation  business  econ-productivity  labor  variance-components  causation  🎩  stylized-facts  growth-econ  econometrics  industrial-org  roots  externalities  capital  cjones-like 
december 2016 by nhaliday
Overcoming Bias : Two Kinds Of Status
prestige and dominance

More here. I was skeptical at first, but now am convinced: humans see two kinds of status, and approve of prestige-status much more than domination-status. I’ll have much more to say about this in the coming days, but it is far from clear to me that prestige-status is as much better than domination-status as people seem to think. Efforts to achieve prestige-status also have serious negative side-effects.

Two Ways to the Top: Evidence That Dominance and Prestige Are Distinct Yet Viable Avenues to Social Rank and Influence: https://henrich.fas.harvard.edu/files/henrich/files/cheng_et_al_2013.pdf
Dominance (the use of force and intimidation to induce fear) and Prestige (the sharing of expertise or know-how to gain respect)

...

According to the model, Dominance initially arose in evolutionary history as a result of agonistic contests for material resources and mates that were common among nonhuman species, but continues to exist in contemporary human societies, largely in the form of psychological intimidation, coercion, and wielded control over costs and benefits (e.g., access to resources, mates, and well-being). In both humans and nonhumans, Dominance hierarchies are thought to emerge to help maintain patterns of submission directed from subordinates to Dominants, thereby minimizing agonistic battles and incurred costs.

In contrast, Prestige is likely unique to humans, because it is thought to have emerged from selection pressures to preferentially attend to and acquire cultural knowledge from highly skilled or successful others, a capacity considered to be less developed in other animals (Boyd & Richerson, 1985; Laland & Galef, 2009). In this view, social learning (i.e., copying others) evolved in humans as a low-cost fitness-maximizing, information-gathering mechanism (Boyd & Richerson, 1985). Once it became adaptive to copy skilled others, a preference for social models with better than average information would have emerged. This would promote competition for access to the highest quality models, and deference toward these models in exchange for copying and learning opportunities. Consequently, selection likely favored Prestige differentiation, with individuals possessing high-quality information or skills elevated to the top of the hierarchy. Meanwhile, other individuals may reach the highest ranks of their group’s hierarchy by wielding threat of force, regardless of the quality of their knowledge or skills. Thus, Dominance and Prestige can be thought of as coexisting avenues to attaining rank and influence within social groups, despite being underpinned by distinct motivations and behavioral patterns, and resulting in distinct patterns of imitation and deference from subordinates.

Importantly, both Dominance and Prestige are best conceptualized as cognitive and behavioral strategies (i.e., suites of subjective feelings, cognitions, motivations, and behavioral patterns that together produce certain outcomes) deployed in certain situations, and can be used (with more or less success) by any individual within a group. They are not types of individuals, or even, necessarily, traits within individuals. Instead, we assume that all situated dyadic relationships contain differential degrees of both Dominance and Prestige, such that each person is simultaneously Dominant and Prestigious to some extent, to some other individual. Thus, it is possible that a high degree of Dominance and a high degree of Prestige may be found within the same individual, and may depend on who is doing the judging. For example, by controlling students’ access to rewards and punishments, school teachers may exert Dominance in their relationships with some students, but simultaneously enjoy Prestige with others, if they are respected and deferred to for their competence and wisdom. Indeed, previous studies have shown that based on both self- and peer ratings, Dominance and Prestige are largely independent (mean r = -.03; Cheng et al., 2010).

Status Hypocrisy: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/01/status-hypocrisy.html
Today we tend to say that our leaders have prestige, while their leaders have dominance. That is, their leaders hold power via personal connections and the threat and practice of violence, bribes, sex, gossip, and conformity pressures. Our leaders, instead, mainly just have whatever abilities follow from our deepest respect and admiration regarding their wisdom and efforts on serious topics that matter for us all. Their leaders more seek power, while ours more have leadership thrust upon them. Because of this us/them split, we tend to try to use persuasion on us, but force on them, when seeking to to change behaviors.

...

Clearly, while there is some fact of the matter about how much a person gains their status via licit or illicit means, there is also a lot of impression management going on. We like to give others the impression that we personally mainly want prestige in ourselves and our associates, and that we only grant others status via the prestige they have earned. But let me suggest that, compared to this ideal, we actually want more dominance in ourselves and our associates than we like to admit, and we submit more often to dominance.

Cads, Dads, Doms: https://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/07/cads-dads-doms.html
"The proper dichotomy is not “virile vs. wimpy” as has been supposed, but “exciting vs. drab,” with the former having the two distinct sub-groups “macho man vs. pretty boy.” Another way to see that this is the right dichotomy is to look around the world: wherever girls really dig macho men, they also dig the peacocky musician type too, finding safe guys a bit boring. And conversely, where devoted dads do the best, it’s more difficult for macho men or in-town-for-a-day rockstars to make out like bandits. …

Whatever it is about high-pathogen-load areas that selects for greater polygynous behavior … will result in an increase in both gorilla-like and peacock-like males, since they’re two viable ways to pursue a polygynous mating strategy."

This fits with there being two kinds of status: dominance and prestige. Macho men, such as CEOs and athletes, have dominance, while musicians and artists have prestige. But women seek both short and long term mates. Since both kinds of status suggest good genes, both attract women seeking short term mates. This happens more when women are younger and richer, and when there is more disease. Foragers pretend they don’t respect dominance as much as they do, so prestigious men get more overt attention, while dominant men get more covert attention.

Women seeking long term mates also consider a man’s ability to supply resources, and may settle for poorer genes to get more resources. Dominant men tend to have more resources than prestigious men, so such men are more likely to fill both roles, being long term mates for some women and short term mates for others. Men who can offer only prestige must accept worse long term mates, while men who can offer only resources must accept few short term mates. Those low in prestige, resources, or dominance must accept no mates. A man who had prestige, dominance, and resources would get the best short and long term mates – what men are these?

Stories are biased toward dramatic events, and so are biased toward events with risky men; it is harder to tell a good story about the attraction of a resource-rich man. So stories naturally encourage short term mating. Shouldn’t this make long-term mates wary of strong mate attraction to dramatic stories?

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/07/cads-dads-doms.html#comment-518319076
Woman want three things: someone to fight for them (the Warrior), someone to provide for them (the Tycoon) and someone to excite their emotions or entertain them (the Wizard).

In this context,

Dom=Warrior
Dad= Tycoon
Cad= Wizard

To repeat:

Dom (Cocky)+ Dad (Generous) + Cad (Exciting/Funny) = Laid

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/07/cads-dads-doms.html#comment-518318987
There is an old distinction between "proximate" and "ultimate" causes. Evolution is an ultimate cause, physiology (and psychology, here) is a proximate cause. The flower bends to follow the sun because it gathers more light that way, but the immediate mechanism of the bending involves hormones called auxins. I see a lot of speculation about, say, sexual cognitive dimorphism whose ultimate cause is evolutionary, but not so much speculation about the proximate cause - the "how" of the difference, rather than the "why". And here I think a visit to an older mode of explanation like Marsden's - one which is psychological rather than genetic - can sensitize us to the fact that the proximate causes of a behavioral tendency need not be a straightforward matter of being hardwired differently.

This leads to my second point, which is just that we should remember that human beings actually possess consciousness. This means not only that the proximate cause of a behavior may deeply involve subjectivity, self-awareness, and an existential situation. It also means that all of these propositions about what people do are susceptible to change once they have been spelled out and become part of the culture. It is rather like the stock market: once everyone knows (or believes) something, then that information provides no advantage, creating an incentive for novelty.

Finally, the consequences of new beliefs about the how and the why of human nature and human behavior. Right or wrong, theories already begin to have consequences once they are taken up and incorporated into subjectivity. We really need a new Foucault to take on this topic.

The Economics of Social Status: http://www.meltingasphalt.com/the-economics-of-social-status/
Prestige vs. dominance. Joseph Henrich (of WEIRD fame) distinguishes two types of status. Prestige is the kind of status we get from being an impressive human specimen (think Meryl Streep), and it's governed by our 'approach' instincts. Dominance, on the other hand, is … [more]
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september 2016 by nhaliday
Why Information Grows – Paul Romer
thinking like a physicist:

The key element in thinking like a physicist is being willing to push simultaneously to extreme levels of abstraction and specificity. This sounds paradoxical until you see it in action. Then it seems obvious. Abstraction means that you strip away inessential detail. Specificity means that you take very seriously the things that remain.

Abstraction vs. Radical Specificity: https://paulromer.net/abstraction-vs-radical-specificity/
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september 2016 by nhaliday
Too much of a good thing | The Economist
None of these accounts, though, explain the most troubling aspect of America’s profit problem: its persistence. Business theory holds that firms can at best enjoy only temporary periods of “competitive advantage” during which they can rake in cash. After that new companies, inspired by these rich pickings, will pile in to compete away those fat margins, bringing prices down and increasing both employment and investment. It’s the mechanism behind Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

In America that hand seems oddly idle. An American firm that was very profitable in 2003 (one with post-tax returns on capital of 15-25%, excluding goodwill) had an 83% chance of still being very profitable in 2013; the same was true for firms with returns of over 25%, according to McKinsey, a consulting firm. In the previous decade the odds were about 50%. The obvious conclusion is that the American economy is too cosy for incumbents.

Corporations Are Raking In Record Profits, But Workers Aren’t Seeing Much of It: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/07/corporations-are-raking-in-record-profits-but-workers-arent-seeing-much-of-it/
Even Goldman Sachs thinks monopolies are pillaging American consumers: http://theweek.com/articles/633101/even-goldman-sachs-thinks-monopolies-are-pillaging-american-consumers
Schumpeter: The University of Chicago worries about a lack of competition: http://www.economist.com/news/business/21720657-its-economists-used-champion-big-firms-mood-has-shifted-university-chicago
Some radicals argue that the government is now so rotten that America is condemned to perpetual oligarchy and inequality. Political support for more competition is worryingly hard to find. Donald Trump has a cabinet of tycoons and likes to be chummy with bosses. The Republicans have become the party of incumbent firms, not of free markets or consumers. Too many Democrats, meanwhile, don’t trust markets and want the state to smother them in red tape, which hurts new entrants.

The Rise of Market Power and the Decline of Labor’s Share: https://promarket.org/rise-market-power-decline-labors-share/
A new paper by Jan De Loecker (of KU Leuven and Princeton University) and Jan Eeckhout (of the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics UPF and University College London) echoes these results, arguing that the decline of both the labor and capital shares, as well as the decline in low-skilled wages and other economic trends, have been aided by a significant increase in markups and market power.

...

Measuring markups, De Loecker explained in a conversation with ProMarket, is notoriously difficult due to the scarcity of data. In attempting to track markups across a wide set of firms and industries, De Loecker and Eeckhout diverged from the standard way in which Industrial Organization economists look at markups, the so-called “demand approach,” which requires a lot of data on consumer demand (prices, quantities, characteristics of products) and models of how firms compete. The standard approach, explains De Loecker, works when it is tailor-made for particular markets, but is “not feasible” when studying markups across many markets and over a long period of time.

To do that, De Loecker and Eeckhout use another approach, the “production approach,” which relies on standard, publicly-available balance sheet data and an assumption that firms will try to minimize costs, and does not require other assumptions regarding demand and market competition.

...

Markups, De Loecker and Eeckhout note, do not necessarily imply market power—but profits do. The enormous increase in profits over the past 35 years, they argue, is consistent with an increase in market power. “In perfect competition, your costs and total sales are identical, because there’s no difference between price and marginal costs. The extent to which these two numbers—the sales-to-wage bill and total-costs-to-wage bill—start differing is going to be immediately indicative of the market power,” says De Loecker.

Markup increases, De Loecker and Eeckhout find, became more pronounced following the 2000 and 2008 recessions. Curiously, they find that economy-wide it is mainly smaller firms that have the higher markups, which according to De Loecker is indicative of widely different characteristics between various industries. Within narrowly defined industries, however, the standard prediction holds: firms with larger market shares have higher markups as well. “Most of the action happens within industries, where we see the big guys getting bigger and their markups increase,” De Loecker explains.

http://www.janeeckhout.com/wp-content/uploads/RMP.pdf

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2017/08/marching-markups.html
The authors are correct that this can easily account for the apparent US productivity slowdown. Holding real productivity constant, if firms move up their demand curves to sell less at a higher prices, then total output, and measured GDP, get smaller. Their numerical estimates suggest that, correcting for this effect, there has been no decline in US productivity growth since 1965. That’s a pretty big deal.

Accepting the main result that markups have been marching upward, the obvious question to ask is: why? But first, let’s review some clues from the paper. First, while industries with smaller firms tend to have higher markups, within each small industry, bigger firms have larger markups, and firms with higher markups pay higher dividends.

There has been little change in output elasticity, i.e., the rate at which variable costs change with the quantity of units produced. (So this isn’t about new scale economies.) There has also been little change in the bottom half of the distribution of markups; the big change has been a big stretching in the upper half. Markups have increased more in larger industries, and the main change has been within industries, rather than a changing mix of industries in the economy. The fractions of income going to labor and to tangible capital have fallen, and firms respond less than they once did to wage changes. Firm accounting profits as a fraction of total income have risen four fold since 1980.

...

If, like me, you buy the standard “free entry” argument for zero expected economic profits of early entrants, then the only remaining possible explanation is an increase in fixed costs relative to variable costs. Now as the paper notes, the fall in tangible capital spending and the rise in accounting profits suggests that this isn’t so much about short-term tangible fixed costs, like the cost to buy machines. But that still leaves a lot of other possible fixed costs, including real estate, innovation, advertising, firm culture, brand loyalty and prestige, regulatory compliance, and context specific training. These all require long term investments, and most of them aren’t tracked well by standard accounting systems.

I can’t tell well which of these fixed costs have risen more, though hopefully folks will collect enough data on these to see which ones correlate strongest with the industries and firms where markups have most risen. But I will invoke a simple hypothesis that I’ve discussed many times, which predicts a general rise of fixed costs: increasing wealth leading to stronger tastes for product variety. Simple models of product differentiation say that as customers care more about getting products nearer to their ideal point, more products are created and fixed costs become a larger fraction of total costs.

Note that increasing product variety is consistent with increasing concentration in a smaller number of firms, if each firm offers many more products and services than before.

https://niskanencenter.org/blog/markups-market-power/
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/08/robin-hansons-take-rising-margins-debate.html

https://growthecon.com/blog/Markups/

Variable costs approach zero: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/variable-costs-approach-zero/
4. My guess is that, if anything, the two-Jan’s paper understates the trend toward high markups. That is because my guess is that most corporate data allocates more labor to variable cost than really belongs there. Garett Jones pointed out that these days most workers do not produce widgets. Instead, they produce organizational capital. Garett Jones workers are part of overhead, not variable cost.

Intangible investment and monopoly profits: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/09/intangible-investment-monopoly-profits.html
I’ve been reading the forthcoming Capitalism Without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy, by Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake, which is one of this year’s most important and stimulating economic reads (I can’t say it is Freakonomics-style fun, but it is well-written relative to the nature of its subject matter.)

The book offers many valuable theoretical points and also observations about data. And note that intangible capital used to be below 30 percent of the S&P 500 in the 70s, now it is about 84 percent. That’s a big increase, and yet the topic just isn’t discussed that much (I cover it a bit in The Complacent Class, as a possible source of increase in business risk-aversion).

...

Now, I’ve put that all into my language and framing, rather than theirs. In any case, I suspect that many of the recent puzzles about mark-ups and monopoly power are in some way tied to the nature of intangible capital, and the rising value of intangible capital.

The one-sentence summary of my takeaway might be: Cross-business technology externalities help explain the mark-up, market power, and profitability puzzles.

Why has investment been weak?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/why-has-investment-been-weak.html
We analyze private fixed investment in the U.S. over the past 30 years. We show that investment is weak relative to measures of profitability and valuation — particularly Tobin’s Q, and that this weakness starts in the early 2000’s. There are two … [more]
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march 2016 by nhaliday

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